Chapter 6 - Enter Uwei.  The test of wills!

Chapter 6 - Enter Uwei. The test of wills!

A Chapter by TOF_Matt
"

Escape is so close that Noal and Ella can practically taste it. Unfortunately there is just one obstacle standing in their way - Captain Uwei Dalmasacus, the warrior genius.

"

Threads of Fate


Chapter 6

Enter Uwei.  The test of wills!

Noal’s first instinct was to flee, but that option was quickly snubbed out with a quick look behind them.  Uwei’s towering partner Bloc stepped out from behind the wreckage to block their path back into the city.


             “I must apologize for our encounter earlier.  The first time we met I simply didn’t think a boy of your… stature… was capable of such an auspicious reputation,” Captain Uwei stated coldly from the darkness beyond. 


Ordinarily such a quip would have Noal gunning for the throat, but an anchor of dread held him firm.   The genius of März approached slowly into the dim light of the street lamps.  As the lights flickered they intermittently cast him in ominous shadow, all except for those crimson eyes that pierced all darkness.  They were unblinkingly trained on Noal.  The group was pincer-locked between the two Luppitans now, yet Noal found himself retreating toward the mammoth Bloc and away from his much smaller captain.


        “What, you’ve nothing to say this time?  When we last met you were practically a songbird.”  Noal didn’t answer; he couldn’t answer, so the captain turned his attention to Cil instead.  “And you my dear, come now.  You did promise to come with us willingly didn’t you?  I can’t imagine the state would be very happy with you attempting to escape like this.” 


The captain took a step forward and held out an open hand to the young princess.  Fighting every self-preservation instinct, Noal nervously slid between the two.


“Oh?”


The captain sneered, cocking his head.  When they’d met earlier, Uwei seemed passive and disinterested, but this was hardly that same man now.  Now, the closer he stood, the heavier Noal felt.  The man practically bled raw intensity, as though such a thing were as easy to exude as common body odor.  Noal could feel the weight of it pressing down on his shoulders, nearly forcing him to his knees.  And still those unblinking red eyes did not avert their gaze.


He’s just trying to intimidate you.  It’s just a cheap scare tactic, he told himself.


              “So you want to protect her?  I must say, that’s not quite what I expected from someone who fancies himself the Human Hurricane.  You’ve caused quite a problem for my government tonight you know " coming into my house, besting my men, stealing my property.”


                “Hey, if you know what’s good for you you’ll back off, unless you want him to add defeating a Luppitan captain to that list,” Ella chirped.  That’s right, Ella was here wasn’t she?  Noal could hardly think straight through this smog of anxiety.


                “Oh I’ve heard the stories.  Something about leveling cities, sinking ships, fire and brimstone, and all that.”  The captain smiled.  “Embellished tales, nothing more.”


“And yours aren’t?” Ella snapped back.


“Well that depends who you ask.  Mere storytellers would be fortunate to have seen even a quarter of my ability.  As for my enemies, well, they’d certainly be able to testify more accurately " if they weren’t all dead.”


He’s just trying to get under your skin.  He’s trying to end this before it even begins, Noal repeated over and over in his mind, squeezing his eyes shut.


Ella’s competitive spirit was only egging the captain on.  Without even a single traded blow, it was obvious that this man was but a stone’s throw from the invincible caricature that the guards had joked about back in the villa.  There was no mistaking that this was a man whose profession was war.  If he was a true Märzian then it was probable his entire life was devoted to the study and perfection of war.  He could’ve had dozens, even hundreds of victories under his belt " hard earned victories.  Meanwhile, how many of Noal’s own victories were owed to a roll of the dice " to the will of The Power? 


No, that’s what he wants you to think.  He wants you to take yourself out of it.  He wants you to think you don’t stand a chance.


“Now, I’m nothing if not honorable, and as a Luppitan soldier I am obligated to submit to you an opportunity to surrender.  Hand over the princess and I shall let you go free,” the captain offered.


Before he even realized it, Noal found himself giving that option serious consideration.  He always hated to fight, but usually it was because of a constant fear of what The Power might do.  This time he simply did not want to fight this man.  That was, until he looked over to Cil.  The soft pinks had long vanished from her face and her characteristic smile was lost somewhere out beyond this sea of dread.  The best she could muster was a pursed grimace, not even enough to keep her chattering teeth at bay.  Hadn’t she shared a car with this man?  She had been nowhere near this frightened when they’d first met in the street.  That seemed like eons ago now.  Perhaps it was due to her almost uncanny intuitiveness, but somehow the captain’s changed aura was affecting her even more than them.  And yet even though her face confirmed all his fears and suspicions, there was something in it that sparked the tiniest fire inside him. 


Can you really walk away from this without even putting up a fight?  How can you ever hope to face the real tattooed man if you can’t even face this man now?


The golden thread reappeared to him, as if to cheer him on, charting a path right through the captain.  Was Fate telling him he could win this?  He had to at least try, didn’t he?  How could he let this Luppitan captain defeat him on words alone? 

Noal looked over to Ella, unsure how to communicate his thoughts, but a nod of her head told him she already understood.  She may not have gotten off to a great start with Cil, but he could always count on her to back him up.


“Well, what say you?” Uwei asked, impatiently.


                “Not a chance.” 


Uwei grinned; a grin that was a hundred-fold more frightening than all his words and posturing up until now.


“Excellent.”


That’s when Noal realized he’d gotten it wrong.  This was never about intimidating him into defeat.  This was a test of his resolve.  And he’d just passed.

 


Uwei covered the ground between them like a bullet, slamming into Noal with enough force to push him across the sand.  The captain’s body twisted, sending a fist and then a knee his way.  Noal leaned around the punch, letting the knee just barely graze his nose, before rolling back and putting some distance between him and his attacker.


                “Impressive,” Captain Uwei mused.


                “Not too bad yourself,” Noal replied between a gasp of breath.


The two took another swing at each other.  The captain was disciplined and precise " his reputation was clearly well-earned.  He didn’t waste a single movement.  Every missed opportunity fueled a new attack such that his flurry was near constant.  But Noal was hardly a slouch himself.  One didn’t survive in a rough environment like the Fringe without learning to hold his own.  While the captain was obviously more powerful than him, Noal was quicker, wilier.  He slithered around the captain’s strikes and delivered his own flurry of fast jabs and swift kicks.  His confidence grew with every dodge, hit, and reversal.


                “You’re clearly more skilled than the average riff-raff,” Uwei commented in mid-stride.


                “And you’re clearly more skilled than the average soldier.”


Uwei raised an unappreciative eyebrow that made Noal grin.  The fight was strangely liberating.  The weight from earlier had lifted from Noal’s shoulders for he had no time to pay it heed.  Anxiety melted away as the flame of his resolve grew from a small ember into a roaring fire.  Here he was standing toe-to-toe with Märzian " a culture infamous for their fighting prowess.  Noal’s blood was flowing, his adrenaline pumping.  He hit every beat in the rhythm of the battle.  Uwei may have been a Märzian genius, but Noal was now the one with the upper hand.


                “I’ve shown you but an ounce of my true self.  You cannot win,” Uwei boasted.


                “Oh yeah?  There’s more to a fight then punching and kicking,” Noal smirked.


Directly behind Uwei, the leather strap on a wine cart suddenly snapped.  That was Noal’s cue.  He leapt away just as hundreds of pounds of wine barrels tumbled out and smashed over the arrogant captain, splashing their innards across the sand in a raucous explosion.  Noal pumped his fist triumphantly in the air and by the time he landed the only thing left where Uwei once stood was a mound of splintered, alcohol soaked wood.  Noal looked over at Ella, who was still holding Fate threads attached to the cart, and smiled.  She had set the snare, Noal had funneled the prey, and Uwei had fallen right into their trap. 


Noal now set his sights on Uwei’s mountainous Lieutenant Bloc, who seemed strangely unfazed by the ease of his superior’s defeat.  Noal looked back to Ella quizzically, but she was acting strangely now too, motioning wildly and mouthing something to him.


                “Behind… you?”


“It’s been a long time since someone forced me to use my flicker step,” a voice beckoned from behind him.


Noal turned around just in time to have the wind knocked from his lungs.


* * *


“Noal!”


It was a technique unlike anything she’d ever seen before " ingenious in both its simplicity and elegance.  A split second before Ella brought those wine caskets down on his head, the captain threw himself against a slew of nearby Fate threads and used their natural tension to slingshot himself out of harm’s way!  Ella could only stand slack-jawed at his resourceful use of Fate.  It was abundantly clear now that Uwei was a very different kind of opponent from any they’d ever faced before. 


Noal was obviously bewildered.  To a Fate-illiterate like him, it would’ve appeared as though Uwei had instantly flashed from one spot to another.  The Luppitan captain now taunted him, openly loafing about.  Each time Noal tried to swing back the captain simply flashed out of the way.  Captain Uwei must have been a fortune teller; it was the only explanation for these abilities.  But she’d never seen a fortune teller fight like this before. 


Generally, fortune tellers preferred to stay at a distance where they could use Fate to their advantage.  Trees, fences, or in her case, carts of rum-filled barrels, were all potential weapons.  Close range thread manipulation was considered impractical due to the fortune teller’s potential exposure to his own attacks.  But Captain Uwei seemed to be both an adept hand-to-hand fighter and a skilled, to say nothing of creative, fortune teller.  It could take someone a lifetime to master one or the other, so how did he find the time to train himself in both?  There had to be some trick to his ability and they were going to have to figure it out fast.  At the rate he was getting knocked around, Noal wouldn’t last much longer. 


* * *


                “Come on!?  Is this really all you have!?” Captain Uwei shouted, disappointed.

Noal’s head was spinning, still trying to wrap itself around what had just happened here.  How had Captain Uwei escaped their tandem attack?  Noal could have sworn he saw those barrels bury the captain with his own eyes.


“I don’t understand,” Captain Uwei said, loathsomely.  “No man could have garnered a reputation like the Human Hurricane with such pitiful abilities as this.  You’re holding back your true power.  Why!?”


Barely a bead of sweat graced the captain’s forehead, yet Noal was gasping for air.


                “That power you’re looking for, it isn’t mine.  You don’t want to see the monster I can become,” Noal warned.


                The captain sneered.  “Become?  My dear boy, look around you.  Do you truly believe anyone can become anything in this world of ours?”


“What do you mean?”


“I mean, do you think I became the warrior I am today by some random chance?  Can a baker become a warrior?  Can a scholar?  No.  You cannot become something without the proper tools; your environment, your culture, your will.  These are not things you can simply obtain.  These are things that are given to you.  They are a part of your very core, set into you from the moment of your conception to the day you die.”


“Given to you… by who?”


“Isn’t it obvious?  Fate.  Don’t you see?  Our destinies are all determined from birth.  Who you are is nothing more than a combination of the talents you possess and the mindset with which you wield them!  You could do all the exercises, you could study all the texts, you could train for a hundred years and still you would be helpless against someone like me " I, who was born with the fire, the genius, and the talent.  I have every conceivable advantage over you.  We are what we are; you cannot change that anymore than you can change the outcome of this battle.”


“That’s ridiculous!” Noal countered.  “You can’t honestly believe in that.  Where’s the challenge in life if you just give into circumstance!?”


As if on cue, a crate suddenly dive-bombed the captain from behind, but he side-stepped it without so much as a batted eyelid.  Noal looked over to Ella, now surrounded by a congregation of mesmerized spectators.


                “Don’t listen to him Noal!” she shouted, more genuine than he’d ever heard her before.  “He’s talking nonsense!”


                “Bloc, would you please stifle those interruptions,” Uwei ordered.


The captain’s giant lackey appeared from nowhere to grab Ella by the wrist.  She fought back forcefully but he easily restrained her.  He then walked over to Cil, who was still in shock, and slung her over his massive shoulder.


                “Hey!  Leave them alone!” Noal yelled.


             “Fate has given you the tools; they are fixed, immutable.  But you can only achieve true greatness if you embrace them to their full potential.  That is the true challenge of life; to take your Fate-given gifts to their highest level!  Trying to throw them away is pointless futility.  If you were meant to be a monster, then that is what you are and ever will be!”


                “I can’t.  You don’t know what it’s like to live with a curse like this.  These tools aren’t mine!  I never asked for them!  Even if it takes me my entire life, I will get rid of them!”


Uwei sighed disappointedly.  “Then I have no choice.  I will offer you this one last chance.  Force me to use my flicker step again, or I guess I’ll have to fight one of your friends instead.  Will you force me to kill them, just like I killed your friend from earlier?”

His friend"?  Suddenly the image of that bruised and beaten bartender reappeared in Noal’s mind.  Flashes of his frightened, tear-filled eyes looking up, those horrible scalds on his chest and back, and his pleas for help just moments before his body dropped limply on his chains, assaulted Noal in a non-stop flurry.


                “You-- You were the one that did that!?  How could you!?  He was just some guy!  He wasn’t even the real Human Hurricane!  Why take his life!?”


                Uwei just smirked.  “Killing him brought you to me, did it not?  It started the sequence of events that led us to this very moment in time.  I should tell you that I am a warrior and a pragmatist, but not a monster.  I will not harm your friends without cause, but I also don’t fight meaningless battles.  So the question is: what do I need to do to make this battle meaningful to you?”


Now Noal knew he was in trouble.  This man wasn’t driven by orders or duty.  He was driven by the fight itself.  That meant this could only end one way…


                “What... do you want from me?” Noal asked bitterly.


                “A challenge!”


Noal glared deeply into Uwei’s blood red eyes, and Uwei glared back without unblinkingly.  He wasn’t bluffing.  This was it then.  Noal had this one chance to find Uwei’s weakness.  He wiped the blood from his lip and jumped without hesitation into the tiger’s den.  From leaping kicks to spinning sweeps, direct thrusts to deceptive jabs, Noal broke the book.  The captain was more involved this time, but he still dodged Noal’s attacks without fear.  Noal did his best to stay calm; panicking would only make things that much worse.  He had to buy some time until he found a pattern, an opening, anything at all that could give him an edge. 


Uwei’s own attacks were forceful and direct, but also very deliberate in their movement; almost too deliberate, as if he was striking with a purpose other than actually hitting Noal.  Come to think of it, Uwei’s eyes didn’t seem to be exclusively on Noal at all.  Sometimes he watched Noal dodge, other times he just stared off in another direction completely, as if he was expecting Noal to be there instead.


Wait... was it possible?  Could that be the reason!?  But then that would mean he had no choice but to...


A sharp pain pierced his side, forcing the air out of his lungs so fast that it popped his mouth.  Noal hit the ground rolling end over end before scraping to a dusty stop.  Before he even took his next breath, a thickness in his throat climbed up and he coughed it out.  Looking down he was horrified to find blood on the sand instead of mucus.  He could barely move now.  It seemed the captain was done playing around.  The sound of footsteps on gravel closed in, stopping mere inches from his head.  No, not like this!  Not when he’d finally figured out the trick to his technique!  Moments later, Noal felt a firm hand squeeze around his throat and hoist his body into the air.


                “That’s the problem with children.  You think you can accomplish anything if you just ‘put your mind to it.’  You live on potential.  You breathe it like oxygen, but all you exhale is hot air.  Potential is nothing without execution.” 


Noal gurgled as he tried to force breaths through his enclosed windpipe.  He kicked his legs in the open air, but it did little to loosen the captain’s vice-like grip.  In the distance he saw Ella and dozens of other spectators watching.  Could he really risk putting them all in danger?


“You bark but you do not bite.  A true warrior fulfills himself by taking his potential and using it to go out in the world and take hold of what he desires!  But you, you’re unfulfilled.  What can you ever hope to accomplish by squandering the potential Fate has given you?”


Something clicked inside Noal’s head.  What was he trying to accomplish?  Was it something as remedial as just escaping with his life?  No, that wasn’t it.  Was it about saving Cil?  In a way, yes, but he’d only met this girl a few hours ago. 


                “Is this the climax of your story?  Is this the moment your life has been building up to?  Does it all end with a Luppitan captain who defeats you in a small, insignificant city on the Fringe?  How pathetic.  In the tale of the Human Hurricane, I should have been no more than a footnote.”


The captain spoke with a calm wisdom that betrayed the intensity in his young face.  Somehow, it was as if Captain Uwei had known him his entire life.  Noal had forgotten why he’d done any of this.  There was no way he was going to let the last six years of his life build up to this moment.  Noal grabbed the brace on his left shoulder and tore off the lower portion. 


“This is no story book.  And I’m no hero!”


The Providence Eye sprang to life, twisting around Noal’s arm with a familiar burning sensation.  Not a second after, a sudden streak slashed vertically between them and Noal fell like a dead weight to the ground, hacking and coughing, gasping for air.  When he finally opened his eyes again, he found the captain no longer standing over him, but rather fifty feet away. 


Fifty feet in half a second. 


A feat only possible using the flicker step.




































Threads of Fate




© 2011 TOF_Matt


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Author's Note

TOF_Matt
I tried to make sure the driving force was more than just the physical action, but instead a battle of philosophies. As usual, please let me know what you think of the pacing and dialogue (I know the latter is a little heavy handed in this chapter).

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I thought it was generally interesting, but it seems very staged. I don't mind the dialogue, but the some of the explanations break up the flow of thought and aren't as elegant as yours usually are. It's also a strange place to break; Uwei's continual banter seems out-of-place, unless he's actually going to defeat Noal, capture him or Noal makes a come-back and defeats him (which would be a very expected but coherent and satisfying result.) Unless he's going to train him so that he can have more fun finally defeating him. I'm completely in favor of that (You can get great tension from working with someone the MC doesn't like) ....even though it makes no practical sense.

I think Ella's voice in this chapter is a little bit clunky.

Also, you said something about "charged ambience in the room" or something similar? I thought that it was incredibly awkward, considering the connotations that "ambience" has, I know you probably didn't want to say atmosphere, but avoiding cliches in a high-profile way can be just as distracting.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




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Come on let's fightvi want to see him kick his butt into next week. What jaw droper. I love this it is so awesome.

Posted 8 Years Ago


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I thought it was generally interesting, but it seems very staged. I don't mind the dialogue, but the some of the explanations break up the flow of thought and aren't as elegant as yours usually are. It's also a strange place to break; Uwei's continual banter seems out-of-place, unless he's actually going to defeat Noal, capture him or Noal makes a come-back and defeats him (which would be a very expected but coherent and satisfying result.) Unless he's going to train him so that he can have more fun finally defeating him. I'm completely in favor of that (You can get great tension from working with someone the MC doesn't like) ....even though it makes no practical sense.

I think Ella's voice in this chapter is a little bit clunky.

Also, you said something about "charged ambience in the room" or something similar? I thought that it was incredibly awkward, considering the connotations that "ambience" has, I know you probably didn't want to say atmosphere, but avoiding cliches in a high-profile way can be just as distracting.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on August 9, 2011
Last Updated on August 11, 2011
Tags: Threads of Fate, tof, Fate, fantasy, steampunk, anime, manga
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TOF_Matt
TOF_Matt

Canada



About
Matthew Chan grew up in the harsh Tundra of Ontario, Canada, braving freezing temperatures, taming wandering polar bears, and helping the local populace battle the occasional giant ice spider - in ot.. more..

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