<Untitled> Kyp the bladed fox, rested on a crate of bread as he slowly took in the city scene that unfolded on the street corner across from him. A soft cool breeze blue threw the streets of Durforge, kicking up wisps of dust from the sandy streets. All around the light industrial city, Legion workers bustled about doing various tasks as quickly as they could. A few warriors loitered about the street corners, resting from their training and discussing their previous battles. The warrior caste often made visits to the city streets, and in the Desert lynx tribe, it was required. Whether it was to promote fear or admiration in the lower working castes was unknown. When asked about the law, most of the commanders would say it was to keep warriors in touch with their reality and remind them of what they were to protect. Kyp always thought it was to help stimulate the economy. Money gained through war would return to the tribe’s home cities and find its way in the hands of the lower working castes. This money would help expand the businesses here that fueled the Legion war machine. Kyp was not here to study the economy nor, the working castes however. He was here to watch his opponent. Opposite the street from him surrounded by his fellow warriors sat Philus felhound. He was busy laughing at the recounting of one of his recent exploits, and the group laughed with him. Like a group of starving rats they just followed around the best warriors hoping some scraps might fall from the table. Kyp had no respect for their kind and noted each one of their faces. If he wasn’t able to give them what they deserved in the end, he would at least know who not to turn his back to. Kyp drew his Claymore of his back and pulled a soft hankerchief from his pocket. He slowly polished his sword as he thought through his plans. Philus felhound had outscored him in the last 3 campaign battles, despite the fact that Philus was a knave and a glory hog. The only way to rectify the situation without killing Philus outright would be to publicly humiliate him. Kyp would have loved to duel him right here, but dueling inside the city was not allowed without a Warlord’s permission. Also with so many of his cronies around, it would hardly be a fair fight; not that Kyp would mind the added challenge. In addition, challenging Philus to a direct duel would most definitely be seen as a sign of jealousy and bring sympathy to Philus making Kyp’s victory nearly hollow. No, somehow Kyp had to trick Philus into initiating the duel, but somehow managing to still keep his own terms. While having a dull brain, Philus was strong and tenacious. Fighting under Philus’ terms could be deadly. Even before he lifted his head, Kyp knew something was wrong. His acute hearing had sensed the change in the street corner’s conversation. Staring to the end of the block, Kyp saw the source of the disturbance. A trio of blasted ones slowly waded their way threw the crowd and down the street. The outcasts hunched under the heavy loaded sacks they had slung over their backs. Their bodies were rapped from head to toe in bandages; covering their disgusting, discolored, and pealing skin that hid underneath. The clothes were old, dirty, and tattered. And thing Kyp found strangest about them, was that their eyes were completely covered by cloth, yet they still somehow managed to see clearly. As the sickly wanderers traveled down the street the city citizens scattered. Everyone knew blasted ones carried all kinds of unimaginable diseases, and few were willing to risk even the slight chance of infection. Women rounded up their children and fled covering their mouth and nose with their hands. Men backed up into their doorways and uneasily stood their ground. The entire street had become eerily silent, no one raising their tone above a whisper. When the blasted ones reached the corner, the settled into an open area and laid down their sacks. A blanket unrolled and with a surprising quickness they laid out the wares they had for sale. Old weapons, strange technologies, ancient relics, and other various knick-knacks laid out in a neat array. When they had finished setting up, the backed off toward the edge of the building leaving some distance between themselves and their merchandise. Slowly the city’s working class built up confidence and approached the outcast merchants. They crowded in a wide circle around the blanket, the spoke in hushed tones to each other working up their courage to approach the diseased wanderers. As was tradition in the Legion culture, most civil disturbances could be controlled with a proper application of force. However, the Law prevented anyone but a Warlord from challenging the merchants of the blasted ones. It wasn’t that the infected ones could not be beaten. It was that fighting them brought disease to the ranks, and no Tribe would face the risk of a plague during a time of war. The Law also prevented the blasted ones from leaving the city empty handed. Well fed blasted ones were less likely to try raiding Legion cities. So the problem that remained was what if they didn’t have anything a citizen wanted. Durforge was not a wealthy city, and its working class could not afford to give money away with nothing in return. Slowly some of the citizens in the crowd were dispersing; a sign that the plagued merchants had not brought goods of adequate quality. Those laborers that remained began talking more furiously among each other. Someone had to buy something, or they wanders would never leave. Kyp slowly gathered himself up and began his stroll to the other side of the street. In times of trouble it fell to the warrior caste to resolve the problems of the tribe, using violent force if necessary. Kyp really didn’t care much about the distress of the citizens of Durforge, he got up partly to fulfill his responsibilities as a warrior. Mostly, he got up because Philus felhound had also gotten up; and Kyp would never allow Philus to outperform him on any duty. Especially if there was even a remote chance, a Warlord might be watching. Philus was standing in front of the blanket of wares holding a fistful of quarz crystals in his hand. “They tell me your eyes have the ability to see the aethers.” He sneered at them. “The magic of the aeons themselves.” The blasted ones had averted their eyes to the ground but one of them slowly nodded his head. “I’ll give you all these Quarz if you can tell me if I’ll be blessed by Aeons of not.” Philus continued grinning wickedly. “It is not our place to predict the will of the Aeons.” The blasted one replied meekly. “What do you mean!?” Philus burst out in rage. His free hand drew his pistol from the holster on his back and he leveled it at the blasted one’s face. Philus was about to continue his outburst when he sensed Kyp exit the perimeter of the crowd. Philus turned about and glared hatefully at him. “What is it you want?” Philus shot at him. Kyp slowly lowered his claymore to the ground and rested his arm on its hilt cockily. He smiled slyly at his rival, proudly showing the fox-like grin that had earned him his battle name. “Did you seriously think you could buy the blessings of Krath with a fistful of Quarz?” Kyp taunted. “Get lost!” Philus shouted angrily. He now waved his pistol at Kyp. The crowd of citizens had suddenly grown at the sound of the commotion. If a fight was about to happen, no one wanted to miss it. “You know it’s against the law to agitate the infected ones. The sooner they conduct their business, the sooner they will move on and let the city get back to work. So why don’t you take your prattling elsewhere and let everyone get on with life?” As he said that, Kyp tossed a Quarz onto the blanket of the blasted ones. It wasn’t that Kyp felt sorry for them, or wanted to help them. Kyp hated blasted ones as much as anyone else. However, Kyp knew the sooner they had collected their day’s money they would move on, and used the generous Quarz to emphasize his point. “Someone with as few victories as you should be careful to watch their mouth.” Philus taunted back. One of the blasted ones reached a swift hand out of his tattered robe and snatched Kyp’s Quarz crystal off the blanket with lightning dexterity. The movement startled Philus and he turned his pistol on the Destitute merchant. “Back off!” He scouted fully aggravated. The blasted ones suddenly knelt to the sand in a state of reverence. Philus was surprised at first by their reaction, but then regained his arrogance. “That’s right you filth, show your respects to a warrior.” He added snobbily. “Their not bowing for you, idiot” Kyp commented still smiling his trademarked grin. Philus turned and saw the crowd of citizens begin to part. Out from between them strolled Warlord Kyphus the resilient, guardian of Durforge. Philus trembled with shock and embarrassment, eating the words he had just spoken. Kyp bowed his head in reverence to his commander, still bearing his fox grin. The warlord turned slowly taking in the entire scene, but saying nothing. His face was calm and emotionless. Finally he turned his attention to the blasted ones. He slowly surveyed the wares on their blanket. He reached down and plucked a piece of stone off the dusty fabric. It was a relic of some sort, containing fragments of ancient writings left behind by some long dead race. No one could really read the writing, and a fragment of that size was hardly even worth anything to Legion scientist who worked so hard to try and decipher it. “Fifty Quarz for this relic.” The warlord said as he tossed the crystals to the desperate merchants. “Now pack up and go.” The blasted ones dexterous hands appeared once again and in a matter of seconds their wares were away and the blanket was rolled up. Kyp knew the warlord had no use for the relic, not even as a piece of art. The Warlord was merely trying to set an example. As the blasted ones began to leave, a slight grin appeared on the Warlord’s face revealing to Kyp that he had found a practical use for his rather expensive piece of rock. “You there.” The Warlord barked pointing at a farmer carrying a bundle of wooden rods. “Throw down that wood.” The farmer was caught off guard and hesitated. Kyp knew that hesitation before a Warlord was a fool’s death, and faster than anyone could blink the surprised farmer was sent sprawling into the dust over a yard from where he was originally standing. As a result of his flight, the farmer’s bundle of wood was scattered across the street. The warlord immediately returned to his relaxed state, as if his powerful blow to the dull farmer had not even happened. He casually tossed the worn piece of stone into the center of the scattered sticks, and turned to walk away from the center of the crowd. “A challenge.” He began. “The only equipment allowed is clothes and sticks of wood.” The warlord paused and let out a slow breath. “Now someone bring me that relic.” Even before Kyp’s claymore fell over and hit the ground, he was in the center of the crowd picking up a wooden stick. Being a master of blades, the straight shaft would make Kyp an excellent tool for dispatching any opponents dumb enough to get between him and that hunk of rock. A young boy foolishly grabbed it first, being closer to the ground than his taller comrades. A mason worker soon dispatched him however with a powerful club to the chest. He snatched up the rock himself and surrounded himself with his five of fellow masons. The working class had some combat skill, but knew they were no match for a warrior unless they worked together. Still, most any strong citizen would jump at a chance to enter the warrior caste, and a challenge from a warlord was one such event. Kyp grinned his fox smile as he rushed forward, six foolish laborers would be no match for him. His wooden sword spun like lightning, catching mason workers off guard. They fell to the ground like wheat before a scythe and the relic gently found its way into Kyp’s palm. Philus was stuck in the middle of a squad of factory workers, but was aggressively cleaving himself a path straight for Kyp. Two of Philus’s goons however, were not so busy and made an attempt to cleave off Kyp’s head. Kyp caught the blow on his own stick, and retailed with a backward cyclone kick to warriors face. He snatched the fallen man’s stick with his free hand before his body hit the ground. As he landed on his free foot, he spun and hurled the shaft at his other assailant. It caught the man in the knees and a whirling blow to the back of the man’s head from Kyp’s wooden sword left the him unconscious. Seeing the relic in the hand of a skilled swordsman, most of the other contestants had already bowed out of the fight. However Philus had finally finished dispatching his own competitors and now stood alone in the ring with Kyp. Both warriors rushed forward, blood pumping with adrenaline and hate. Kyp ducked a blow and caught Philus in the legs but philus was strong and stood fast. He retaliated with a blow to Kyp’s chest that knocked the wind out of the swordsman. He left hand lost his grip on the relic and it tumbled onto the dusky street floor. Kyp took the opportunity to roll past his opponent and granted him a two lightning fast blows to each of his kidneys. Philus spun sharply and caught Kyp with an elbow to the side of his temple. The force of the blow blurred his vision temporarily, and Philus took the opportunity to bring his stick down hard on Kyp’s shoulder. However Kyp instinctively rolled into the blow and brought his own stick down on Philus’s hand. Philus lost his own grip and dropped his weapon. Kyp tried to back away to gain an advantage but Philus’s strong grip grabbed Kyp’s sword and snapped it in half. Kyp lashed out with two blows that connected to his opponents face, but Philus was stronger and slammed Kyp against the brick wall of the nearest building. Kyp knew he would not win in a brawling fight, and rolled up and tumbled past Philus again. Philus took the free opportunity to pick his stick off the ground, and kyp spun hastily in the dust looking for a new weapon. Finding nothing, Kyp ripped off his shirt and whirled into a whip. Both warriors were breathing heavily from their struggle, and the relic laid in the dirt between them. Philus now had the upper hand, but Kyp had waited months for this opportunity and was not about to have it turned against him into his own shame. He had to end this now. Philus roared and surged forward brandishing his wooden sword. He came down at Kyp with a devastatingly powerful overhead blow, but Kyp was fast and dashed to the side. Kyp whirled his shirt around and latched it on Philus’s wounded hand. The maneuver caught Philus of guard and Kyp pulled with all his might wrenching the wooden weapon from his opponent’s hand. Kyp caught the weapon in mid air, and spun it gracefully in his hand. Philus swallowed hard as he watched Kyps fox grin change to a smile of wicked pleasure. He searched franticly for a new weapon but it was too late. The swordsman unleashed with the full fury of his caged anger. Philus soon hit the dust with a heavy thump of unconsciousness. Kyp plucked the relic up from the dust and cradled it gently in his hand. “Is there anyone else who would like to challenge the bladed fox?” The warlord bellowed as a final challenge. No one moved a muscle. “Then I declare Kyp the bladed fox as the winner.” The warlord proudly exclaimed. He was smiling now, satisfied with himself. “Now everyone get back to work!” He shouted. “Anyone not healthy enough to finish his days work should report to the medicine man.” Kyp wiped the blood from his face and staggered over to the warlord offering the relic in his outstretched hand. “Keep it.” The warlord said still grinning as he turned to walk away. “You earned it.” As the crowd dissipated Kyp staggered back to his crate of bread and sat wearily on it. He looked down at his hands and studied the ancient stone. This was the best most valuable treasure he had ever earned.
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