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Small Huts

"The Gauntlet": Challenge for Arbiter General of Equilism [IC]

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Mist faded and the avatar of a small old man, dressed in simple homespun cloth and bearing a walking stick appeared before some small huts. This iteration walked barefoot, wore a rice paddy hat and bore a staff. He spoke with a small voice and distinction.

"I make this call for what is just and what is right. I make this call because it is my right. I call a Cage Match"!

Birds suddenly alighted upon the air, wings in a mad scurry to depart. Soon all was in stillness. The old man made his call.

"I call The Equilism Opponent to the Office of the Arbiter General. I call the Grim Reaper. Come before me and do battle. Fight for the right of the title of Ideal AG Candidate".

He took a breath. And waited.

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Moments passed.

Then seconds.

Then minutes.

The mist waxed

and waned

as it pulled away.

The wind hissed a little,

and sang a little,

and drew back a little.

Rays of light licked at the ground,

yet the ground was still,

for even the insects had given up the soil.

What a surprise. Moody lighting. Cold mist. Total silence.

Perfect for a little cage match. The world seemed to shudder at the challenge, its breath forming the surrounds of the quickly silenced soil that would form the arena for this meeting.

And out of the mists come Death, silent, in his dark robes. His staff was one of icy contempt, cold pragmatism, and a blade of steel protruding from its end - the scythe from which Death took his name, the Grim Reaper.

This was not, perhaps, a perfect arena, but it would do.

His voice seemed to issue not from the robes that appeared, drawn out from the shadows like a paintbrush letting tar drip away into a sickly pool, but from the soft waves of mist that surrounded the arena.

"It is not my place to hasten Death.

That honour goes to you.

What are the terms you lay down to me, mortal?"

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The predictable chill shuddered up Tush' spine. He knew it would come, but it turns out that it was true that one is never quite ready for Death. Terms indeed. It also seems that one really can't cheat him either.

With a slight smile, raising one arm and waving away the huts, Tush said, "These forms only in solo combat with one weapon of choice. I claim the power of chi which you may match. And you may also begin". Tush assumed a fighting stance.

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The shadow of a smile appeared on the shadow of Death.

"Fair enough."

His scythe seemed to glint, the dew collecting like drool, murmuring for fresh meat. The glittering steel that formed its blade almost instantaneously rusted over, turning a sickly blood-red, before fading away into a mottled, brittle rust - its speckled surface blending with the light, and the mist cover.

The staff itself whistled, opening up minute stigmata - living sap flowed from them, for just a moment, dripping like golden honey, before melting away into the wind, whistling through the cracks of the quickly decaying wood. Ash-grey. Smoky black. Finally, the cracks in the wood shone through, showing a resilient...ivory? Bone...a flecked white core, giving and taking the momentum of the wind.

"I assume that you want to make things fair."

Two bony hands issued forth from the shadows, the darkness crawling over the polished white - the almost reflective surfaces seemed to recoil and strain against the bondage of darkness as they tore into every joint and pulled, tugged, ate away at the cartilage. The wind itself seemed to die a little as Death's touch was encased in gloves of silence.

"It would not do to take your soul until you've given it to me."

As Tush stood firm, his stance impressive and clearly well-trained, or at the very least fortified with a force of mind that hardly belied a mortal spirit, Death tapped his chin. His chattering teeth issued lightly throughout the arena, from all around, slowly pulling around the arena, letting the mist play as nature intended, until it faded away completely - for a moment, all that could be heard was Death's single footstep.

The wind now blew as it pleased - no mind, mortal or immortal, could impose its will on nature, and it was not Death's place to question the laws of nature, for his requisition had passed.

He almost tiptoed towards Tush, his voice, hands, body, and scythe all as corporeal as his opponent. And yet, he moved with unnatural silence, and glacial pace.

His first strike was hardly an attack, but a Reaping - his scythe's blade lingering in the air as it eased its way through the air to, presumably, split head from roots as the reapers of wheat do.

Yet, Death's lazy grasp did not seem to even expect the strike to land.

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Watching Death form himself into something corporeal was nauseating. "Note to self; never eat before battle with one of the Endless", Tush thought. A fearful fatalism had appeared before him and was walking his way. All that was to do was let the oncoming waves of despair in his advance wash over him and react when the right moment came. Tush presented a target for Death to aim for. He was a powerful entity, but noone is without weakness. Tush was wagering that Death's was his inactivity. He didn't get called to combat like this, it was beneath him and maybe it was or maybe it wasn't. Tush was about to find out.

When the swing came it wasn't hard to find the resolve to move quickly. The blade was ghastly and even moreso when it cut the air so close above his ducking head. Tush reacted so quickly that he had to wait a moment for his weight to rest into his now crouching shape. Once that had finally happened he could strike. A strike to the ankle should slow his opponent's future advances.

The staff whirled swiftly in Tush' expert hands, well aimed to make its mark. He had always wondered what would happen if he could break one of those bones. Maybe he would find out.

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These things are often unexpected.

Tush's new stance? Part the course for a mortal - so unwilling to take a blow in stride. Ah, but such experience - a veteran of many fights. Yet, this is no ordinary fight - it is rare for anybody to have experience playing in an arena like this, with Death himself.

The swing at the ankles? Perhaps slightly less expected - still, one must roll with the punches. A strike like that to the ankle is enough to unbalance someone. A blow like that to someone's weak spot is enough to bring even the mightiest down.

Better to humble yourself. Learning to pick yourself up is a surprisingly useful tactic.

Death himself was, seemingly, felled by a single staff attack, falling to his side...as the staff strikes him?

Not quite.

Did he...fall over the staff?

As he fell to his side, he braced himself, crumpling down onto the ground over the staff, in front of Tush. His scythe waved unpredictably, given over to the forces of nature to carry it, the blade hopefully enough to give Death time to recompose himself and strike with a little more assuredness.

By the time he hit the ground, his feet were already coiled and ready to push off, hidden behind his robes.

Relish the unexpected. It makes things...so much more interesting.

Edited by The Grim Reaper

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A skilful feint if ever there was one. How could he expect less. It was time for the first combination.

The dangling blade had forced Tush sideways putting some distance between the two combatants. It was not what was best for Tush. He wanted to stay way from the scythe blade above all else. It was dangerous, but it was limited. It wasn't as effective in close range. He would have to close the distance and as the dark one was just gaining his footing again, Tush moved.

Dragonfly Staff would undoubtedly be sidestepped or retreated from but it would give him time to gain momentum and start closing in, flowing immediately into an Advancing Reverse Spinning Backfist which should force the defender to block his upper body leaving him vulnerable to the Flying Monkey Sidekick!

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Interesting technique.

Honed through experience, yet again. Not at all put off, it seemed.

C'est la vie.

Death watched Tush come at him forcefully as he slowly straightened up.

With a smile, Death lowered his head and pushed off his steady foot, unbalancing himself as he fell towards the ground - moving to tackle Tush under the belt, with one hand coming off the scythe, leaving it hanging almost by his fingers.

His light frame wouldn't give him much force, but for just the moment a punch like that one would be a little difficult to recover from.

Death seemed to roll over as he made a half-hearted attempt to leap towards Tush as his fist came towards where he predicted Death would stand, outstretching one arm to deflect the inside of Tush's arm as he went for a bearhug.

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A miscalculation. Death was remarkably sure footed.

No, he couldn't allow himself to be contained. Planting his staff and whirling his body around it directly in front of his opponent, the whole man whirled like a clock face in front of the cloaked figure. One whole 360º turn later and finding his feet again firmly planted on the ground he continued the momentum, changing the direction rotating horizontally now extending his staff to strike Deaths rib cage with Wizard Smooths the Water.

He felt a disappointment. He did so love doing his Flying Monkey Sidekick.

His staff struck it's mark but so much energy had been dissipated by the spinning and twirling that the rest of the force was absorbed by the folds of Death's cloak. There was hardly a strike left by the time it reach a bone (was it a rib or a vertebrae?). All it was was a distraction and all it would do is buy some time. Not much, enough to get behind the cloaked figure and try and figure out what to do next. The fight had just started and he was already running out of options.

Edited by Small Huts

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A wince.

These old bones really aren't built to take a hit like they used to be. The Death of Revelations and the avenging angel turned away by lamb's blood was in the past - since the destruction of Haven and the birth of the new sinkers, the nature of mortality took quite a turn.

And so too did the nature of immortality.

It may not have broken the rib that it glanced off, but it resonated throughout the dark energy encapsulating his old bones, and warm waves of momentary victory flowed through his cloak.

A strike on Death himself.

As the staff pulled back, Tush moved behind him. Hmm.

Death was now the pivot to this system of two bodies - he considered the situation to its basics. A pivot and an orbiting body, a straight staff, and a scythe with a hooked blade.

The Reaper did not even try to track Tush - he figured that, by the rules of physics, he should be able to follow Tush. Tush was covering more ground to get around him. But in the time it took for him to start a turn, Tush would already be in an advantageous position.

Reactions are not always in tandem with actions - rather, reaction opposes action.

The Reaper jumped towards the strike, now jumping away from Tush. His scythe was erratically jerked around him, away from Tush, as the Reaper spun his scythe around him to give him momentum to turn, hoping but not quite sure that the blade of the scythe, while not being swung with enough finesse to do much damage to an opponent as clearly quick as Tush, would manage to contact his staff under the arm, and put the blade too close for comfort.

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As Tush readied his stance he saw Death turning with that awesome scythe leading. Tush' strike, mild though it was was enough to keep Death from gaining tempo, but not enough to harm or even unbalance him. The scythe whirled around and Tush again stepped in toward his opponent to avoid the edge. This would be an easy block with the staff braced on the ground with Bamboo Forest by the Mountain. It looked like it was Death's miscalculation this time.

From this position Tush could strike with a low kick to the knee or ankle and potentially even break one if he could find it. That robe of his provided good defence against such aims. Tush was about to lift his leg for such an action when he was stopped, arrested by a presence, a sound. It was that ghastly blade as it reached up beside him. He could hear it just over his shoulder. He could hear it. Was it ringing? No, was it singing?!… no, it was calling to him, whispering sweetly promises of relief, an end to woe. He began to succumb to its enchanting lure. He could almost feel the emptiness upon him and then fear. That's what saved him from giving in. So it was a healthy fear after all.

That same fear which saved Tush, which revitalised him, autonomically sprang his eyelids open and turned his face toward his opponent. There was no simple fear then. There was an unnameable set of horrid emotions as he saw what none has ever lived to tell. He saw within the cowl of the dark angel, and what it was that he witnesses chilled him to his core and threatened to unseat his sanity for he stood now nose to 'nose' with Death.

Edited by Small Huts

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This is getting annoying.

The taste of life is a warm draught against his cold bone, his hood oscillates against the breathe of his opponent. Death mixed with life, as, for a moment, they looked face to face.

Death clenched his teeth, as the draught cleared away from what was left of his eyes. That kiss of life against his dread 'nose', the spirit breathed into Equility by God himself and passed down throughout his descendants, direct, indirect, spiritual.

It was that tang of heat,

of spice,

of passion,

of a goal

with a deadline.

Tush's heart beat with his breath. The moment seemed to last forever - time almost stood still for Death as he faced his opposite. In that moment, he hears sound and feels wind. The beating of a heart and the breath of a mortal. It seemed, maybe, that they intertwined...for just a second, Tush's heart worked with his conscious breathing. For just a second, Death was without goal.

Tush had no time to waste. He had a goal.

Death has no goal. Not right now.

It was that taste of life that made him falter, for just a moment.

There's something to be said for this mortal. But, Death has time.

And so, Death waited, face to face, nose to nose.

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He was a fool.

Tush had thought that once Death had a physical form, he would be subject to physical effects like any other foe. Now, however, in this moment as close to oblivion as anyone ever was, he was realising this could never be so. He felt suspended for what seemed an unending time in this moment of dread and relief. The emptiness in Death's eyes seemed to bear another emptiness, so much deeper than the pits themselves. As he peered into the empty emptiness he could see the infinite variations of the possible fight ahead of him. He could't strike at the bulk of Death's body because the robes absorbed the blow. Using enough force to make deep contact would over extend him and leave him vulnerable. He could focus his attention on the hands and head, but Death was too fast, too light. Even a hit in these areas would only sting his opponent if he could even make contact. The only other target was the scythe itself and Tush felt certain now that this blade was not a weapon so much as an entity and one he had no way of imagining how to defeat.

And in that endless emptiness of despair and jubilation Tush felt something else. It was cold but soothing, as if someone had put ice on a burn which he didn't know he had. Ice which was loving and infinitely sharp. He gasped slightly, not at the realisation of loss but at how willing he had been in that last moment to embrace it. After being caught in het infinite gaze of Death it was easy to submit, to relent, to expire. Without his being aware of it Death had simply slid the blade along Tush' staff toward himself, finishing the combat. The avatar of Tush fell in a heap at death's feet and out of that heap rose another avatar of a small old man in homespun with a walking stick. The new Tush looked down at the old avatar crumbling away to nothingness.

"Wow, that was easier than I expected", Tush commented, then looked up into the Death's hood again, "I… I guess you win. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I should have chosen a contest of riddles, but even then, you've probably heard them all haven't you"?

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