He flexed his neck, rolling it from side to side, so recently torn tissue stretch for the first time, testing the bonding of old and new. He felt knots in his shoulders, a slight pain as he flexed the thick muscle of his bicep, a slight strain above his right bicep.
Perhaps sleep had not healed all wounds, though he had slept as if deprived of its warmth for millennia, awoken a man reborn to the smell of a warriors feast. Food and sleep could only do so much, he was aware of that, yet his mind felt primed, a triumphant young cub fresh from his first hunt, in the body of an old timer, grizzled and worn.
He stretched his arms, the vest covering his muscular torso stretching over the thick muscle as he reached down to the axe loop at his waist, fishing the larger of his two axes, to hold before him blade pointed to the ground as he bowed to his opponent.
The hetat was monstrous, a giant of a man bare chested, the sweat of his previous battles glistening upon his skin, the glorious sheen of the victorious rolling off his muscles, though he seemed unfatigued, the battles before however testing or praiseworthy making him no wearier, just as ready for the next challenge. A slight smile glimmered across the Hetat's face as the matched his greeting, the old custom amusing him even as he returned the gesture, the emotion failing to touch his eyes even as the pair began to circle.
Daruk held low to the ground the battleaxe flittering between both hands with casual grace, the lapsidasical switching of hands at odd with the hungry desire seering in his eyes. It burned deep within him, a unfufilled lust for battle or a longing for acceptance or dominance he could not tell, yet the blood had begun to pound, through his veins, the aches rolling away as he stopped the circle, axe suddenly raised in one hand.
The pair stopped, the hetat's eyebrow raising slightly at the peculiar grip the ponderous axe seeming to teeter backwards in the dwarfs tiny fist. Nesrin's mouth opened to speak, even as Daruk's lip flickered, a lion revealing a single deadly canine as he exploded forward, the axe pinwheeling, whistling through the air as he hefted it towards the hetat's bare ribs.
The axe exploded upon empty air with the sound of a gong inches from the hetat's torso the axe clattering to the ground, the dwarf closing the gap with a loud roar of anger, a single bare hand gripping the pendant at his chest feeling the flames warm his palms the flame furies reaching out too him and he gave second snarl as he threw a fist out towards the broadsword clasped in nesrin's hand. Fire furies reached out,little hands outstretched towards the metal the atoms vibratiing as they strained to reach out to link with the furies.
A grunt from the hetat, the blade clattering to the floor even as Daruk leapt, diving to take the bulky midriff, clasping his arms, momentum sending them both to the floor. He was in control, straddling the hetat fist balling, suddenly he was flying, the momentum rolling him and he felt his back hit the floor, the wind bursting out of him even as the hetat slammed his arms to the ground, fingers in the dirt, he felt the furies and he reached out to them, their strength enfusing with his and he felt the hetat's strength melt away as he wrenched his arm free, the burly chest suddenly exposed, arm thrown wide as he picked his spot, feeling the furies build in his fist, the bones hardening, flesh becoming granite even as he drove a fist deep into his solarplexus.
The hetats body exploded under the impact, body twisting to land on his feet, body crouched, huge frame seeming to unravel even as Daruk sprung to his feet snatching his axe from the ground as he closed in upon the hetat, who raised a hand.
He felt it rather than saw it, the great blade behind him , out of sight, out of mind, yet he felt the metal coursing towards him, the metal furies of the outer steel baying for blood and he threw himself flat even as the blade whipped over his head, slapping firmly into Nesrin's mighty palm, the hetat upon him even as he regained his footing. Blade cracked against axe haft, swept through empty air as Daruk retreated under pressure, his defence a mixture of agility and strength as he struggled to regain composure, to find an edge to tip the battle.
A flaming ball of fire fizzled and hissed as it was extinguished by water, a stone fisted strike pushed astray by a gust of air, his blade constantly meeting the great longsword as he strived to find the extra edge, the inch he would need to turn the battle.
Even as he was forced to retreat once more, ducking under a great sweep of the blade, he dropped to the earth, and pulled it forth feeling the earth furies twirl to his touch, retreating a receeding as the ground split before them a great crevice opening between the pair, Daruk kneeling, Nesrin one foot upon empty air as he struggled to maintain his balance.
Quick as a flash the throwing axe was in his hand, his battleaxe discarded, a blade wreathed in flame arcing towards Nesrin's exposed form. He could feel something changing, something of his earth craft was unravelling from the depths of the darkness, from the deepest darkest depths of the earth something was awakening, being pulled forth from the very earth he had made receed.
A great beast leapt forth from the crevice, an ape with arms of granite, sprung from the crater to snatch the axe from the air, landing before him even as he struggled to rise, to react to this new assault. A great fist smashed him backwards, blackness enveloping him momentarily, his mind briefly stunned as he flew through the air.
Impact with the ground brought him back to consciousness, mind in warrior mode though it reeled drunkenly even as he struggled to regain his feet, only to find a great granite fist clenched around his throat. He was struggling, thrashing barehanded, like a child against his parents, the situation humiliating, his anger boiling as he struggled to free himself from its unshakable grip.
He could see nesrin floating gently across the crevice, his broadsword held lazily at his side as he landed before the pair, eyes filled with pride, the slightest tinge of concern upon his features as he watched the dwarf continue to struggle
"Though you would fight for a millenia master dwarf, you know my duty... I will not be found wanting"
The words in the tongue of his forefathers stopped his struggles eyes wide at the old custom. Even the lightest spar in the depths was fought til concession or death. Nothing however loathsome or foul was beyond limits for our enemies would not be so noble.
With a grim shake of his head the dwarf spoke in his home tongue
"This battle is done. All hail to the champion."
A beaming smile split the Hetat's face a blast of proud sunshine through the cloudst of defeat. The smile stretched wide yet it was the comfort in his eyes that showed him it was more than pride in their battle, in his skill and his valour but something more. A tinge of kindred, equal dedication to their upbringing to the traditions of their kindred so far from home.
"Champion? No Daruk, not champion. There are those within these halls that would send me to my chambers chastised and mewling like a babe. I am your instructor nothing more, nothing less."
The booming voice lowered as he leaned in almost conspiratorially his home tongue a welcome breeze upon his ears
" The timing of your strike was excellent. Your earth powers are strong, stronger than mine were I must admit when I was at the level you are now. But I must balance praise with caution, your fiery spirit is one that you must learn to control. Composure in the face of battle is more useful than blind fury."
The voice boomed again even as Daruk bowed his head, eyes lowering, the words sinking deep both praise and advice.
"Well done all the same, a challenging bout that I look to repeat in the future."
It was odd to think he was bonded to them now... so long he had fought alongside them but not with them, an outsider on the inside.
Now they felt him, through bonding they accepted him as one, his mind and soul an open book. It was odd at first emotions constantly in the back of his head, a subtle awareness of their presence, of their actions, of their dreams and desires, the sense of oneness melded with a sense of defilement.
He liked his space, liked his own company yet now they were with him whenever and where ever he went, constant companions he could not shake. It was unique, they were a family, not a unit, not a squad, aye they had a head, yet they bunked together, ate together, fought together, days spent in each others company, hours spent battling as one, forms and formations, moves and preferences.
Through battle it became clearer the sensations in his head, becoming more like images, from the centre surrounded by swirling dust and dirt, blinded by particulate and sediment, he could still see the windwalkers striding pushing the beasts towards the deadly maw at their heart.
Night after night they returned home earth sodden and shattered, bodies broken, beds their only desire, fighting til the moment they could fall down as one.
It was comforting to be at one, to learn of the others to feel true togetherness with a unit, devestating as a battlefield piece, a qualm in true harmony, yet nonetheless it suffocated him.
Men and Elves around him at all times, knowing how he felt, perhaps even his secrets, the secrets of his people, those that dwelled below the ground... was it betrayal in its own way... to be so close to those that had once been foes?
He was relieved for a day on their own, his summoning to study at the hand of a Hammerfist, a name of strength, a name of solidarity, a dwarf without doubt. A day in the hands of a dwarven smith more than enough to cleanse his pallet of the claustrophobia that was oozing through his veins.
Even as he strode through the passageways, a spring in his step and the slightest whistle on his lips, he Zacarish at the other end of the corridor. A dark elf with a passion that matched his own, a skilled metal walker and an able swordsman that seemed to revel not in the victory yet in the moment, taken by the sheer chaos of slaughter. A brother of battle and an able ally at the centre of formations yet he could feel the tightness in his shoulders with every step the dark elf took towards him.
Even as the Hammerhand opened the door, impressive frame stripped to the west, jet black hair streaming across burly shoulders he found himself wondering... would he ever be free again.
kudos to lillian thorne for the awesome sig