2. Samurai of the San Juan
For them the blood was already on the ground. Surrounded by the fiercest remnants of the hick clans whose frustration at their impotence in the battle drove them to murder. Just a few feet away lay the bloody mess that was Kayl and Derik’s clan-mate, Jona. He had been separated from the two and beaten so severely his head lay collapsed like an empty sack on the sandstone.
Jer’im watched as he and the rest of the clans moved to surround the last of the hicks and progress the battle closer to its end. He found no hope for the two young warriors who had excelled in battle over even the most practiced fighter. In enemies dispatched and valor, they had won their tribute. There would be a celebration in their honor tonight. Just as these thoughts cemented themselves into Jer’im’s mind he noticed that the young warriors were not stalling, the hicks were. One of the young men was now shouting something that sounded more like a boast than a farewell to this Earth. The hicks hesitated their advance just for an instant and it cost them.
Tearing out of their defensive formation, the two young men split a hole into the hick’s ranks that widened like it was struck by a cannon ball. In what he had taken as luck and dumb valor earlier, Jer’im now found the most remarkable technique he had ever seen. Relentless as a dust devil they reached out with every inch of their length defending less than they attacked against the force that outnumbered them at least 20 to one. The pop of a broken jaw died under the dull bawl of reinforcements engaging a staggered enemy.
Though they fought viscously, the last hick fell, unconscious with a curse for the wind before a quarter hour had passed.
In the calm before the chaos that was about to erupt, the two warriors could now be seen. They were tall but other than height carried little size to them. Red headed, wild-eyed brothers with the look of ravenous wolfs too long from the last kill. They wore the typical city wear, loose denim jeans with their thin pvc armor underneath, a t-shirt under their skeletal like chest piece, also crafted of painted pcv piping. For real blades, it did little but for protecting their collarbones, ribs and hearts in this battle, it was perfect. Their chest pieces were colored blood red and their shoulder guards were green with brown leather knots holding then together. Thick forearm guards were a typical piece of defense. Theirs were dirty and painted black with a ridge of three sword breakers across the outside. The bulk of the guards took away the impression that their thinness made them frail.
Derik was the larger of the two, but not by much. His face was splattered with blood and his left eye was swollen nearly shut. The deep black bruise that covered a quarter of his face gave him the appearance of a demon. Kayl looked unharmed. Both men were covered in sweat; the heat had been ruthless this day.
Kayl watched his brother with concern, the bruise looked painful and besides that, his brother’s field of vision had been cut in half. A quarter of their defensive line of site had been lost. Now their former alliances were broken and soon they would be target of every geezer who wanted to prove his vitality.
“C’mon, we need to find some friends,” Kayle said grabbing Derik by his arm and pulling him towards some clan mates in the distance. “Jona won’t mind a few more hours in the sun.”
“They didn’t have to kill him,” Derik pulled back against his brother breaking the weak grip Kayl had on him. “Did you see how they beat him? He was just a fucking kid.”
“He was a year older than me.” Kayl grabbed Derik by the forearm again and pulled him off, a bit staggered at first and then turning and running in the same direction. “Only 6-months younger than you.”
“But he didn’t grow up under the same circumstances.” Derik reached up and felt his face for the first time since Vog nearly crushed his eye. “We’re in a lot of trouble.” They were running thorough small groups of warriors, most of who slapped them on the back and cheered their victory as they passed. Derik knew they were being sized up. Weighed against the most prominent warrior. It was he, after all, who had bested former-Matsu Vog even after taking what should have been a felling hit. His head throbbed now thinking of the blow.
They had just met their first hick party of the day. Six of them set to guard the outer ring of their defensive posture. The stoutest warriors were generally set as the first line of defense. Samurai take pride in marathon battles; sometimes duels would go on for 6 or more hours when death hung undetermined. The warriors fighting in the outer defense were ready to fight till they couldn’t stay on their feet. Using a technique to draw the enemy in Kayl and Derik compressed their arms and legs into their bodies as they ran to meet the enemy. Then at the last moment before their foes attacked the brothers burst out of their posture using their length and explosive power to crush the first unfortunate soul they encountered. Following them into battle was Jona, Derik’s best friend and the reason they found a clan in the city. Jona was a capable fighter but lacked the speed and power essential in a rumble for Matsu. Blades cut; wood and blunt weapons had to break, crush and knock out. Jona would have won great honor with a blade but today he left mostly bruises that would fade.
“The jaw,” Derik called to him. “Snap their heads, knock them out or break their arms!” Derik had just rammed the point of his wooden sword in the gut of a tank like man who fell to his knees, puking violently, before Derik brought his sword across the mans unprotected head sending him face first, unconscious, into his own sickness.
Kayl was tied up with two ugly hicks. Their armour was made from thick leather, reinforced with thin steel plates hidden underneath. Kayle landed a fierce stroke to one of his foes collar bones which staggered him enough to expose his jaw which Kayle struck at, ducking a wild swing from the other hick, connecting with the mans nose and cheek instead. Blood sprayed into the face of his partner. The distraction just enough for Kayle to capitalize on the man’s lose of balance. A clean hit to the base of the jaw sent him to a violent dream full of red headed demons.
Jona fought and connected several times while in combat, many killing strikes, disemboweling strokes and jabs that would penetrate the lungs. He broke several ribs but a busted rib was not enough to keep a samurai down. Jona had no fear, he felt the blunt weapons were toys and that this was just an excuse to practice at full pace in a major training exercise. He was prepared for a broken jaw, arm or leg, possibly a fractured skull. So, when the trio met Vog’s party in combat he chose brazen valor over strategic awareness and was punished ruthlessly for getting separated from his friends. He sliced his way into the thick of the party and their smell infected his nose. Anger and frustration was in the air and by the time Jona realized the danger he was in it was too late. Kayle and Derik were locked in a fierce battle 20 yards away and weren’t able to worry about his plight now that he needed them most. A dull crack filled Jona’s ears and his last conscious sight was a right arm bent straight down, bone protruding from torn flesh and Vog’s fierce eyes looking into his as he swung the final blow to put Jona’s lights out. He survived the first hit but being separate from any of his allies, his unconscious body was an easy target for the frustration the hicks felt.
Derik saw him first. The moan Jona let lose when his arm was snapped pulled him out of the battle for just an instant. Just long enough to watch his friend go down under Vog’s measured swing. There was worry but not fear until the hicks circled his unconscious friend. Vog’s gaze locked with Derik’s for just an instant before the hick party started stomping, striking with sword and staff, and spitting on Jona’s doomed body.
Instinct caused Derik to pull his head back narrowly avoiding a violent swing. This near miss brought him back to the reality of him and his brother’s dilemma. They had gotten jumpy and rushed the hicks with no concern for safety in numbers and now the hicks were in a murderous rage. Jona was dead, thought he couldn’t see his body there was no way to survive such a beating. Fear and sorrow gave way to rage. An intense heat boiled through Derik’s back, the hair on the back of his neck stood as the world slowed and a red tint colored his vision. It was as if he was feeling all around him without sight. He yelled some vague curse to Kayle while he dispatched the men in front of him and charged to where Jona went down.
Kayle heard his brother’s scream but had no idea what it meant. He turned his attention to Derik and rushed off after him breaking the arm of one attacker and ramming the butt of his sword into the nose of another. He could see desperation in Derik’s form but overshadowing that was rage. Five hicks had fallen from Vog’s party before Kayle could reach his brother. The two men had been training together since they could lift swords and fell into a deadly rhythm instantly. They thinned the hicks, littering the ground with unconscious or broken men. Then it was down to Vog and his chief warriors. Two brutish men wearing thick leather armor, not being slowed a bit but the weight or the heat. Then Kayle saw Jona. Laying, crushed against the sandstone. He was unrecognizable; his head had been crushed and crushed again. Stomach acid churned and Kayle almost got sick standing before these three monsters of warriors.
“What the fuck,” Kayle managed to utter between swallows of bile and short breaths from his nose.
Derik stood next to Kayle and stared intently at the remaining three warriors. “C’mon bro, we’re not done.”
In the distance, Kayle could see a few small groups of hicks moving towards them to reinforce Vog. “Lets destroy these fuckers.”
Vog was standing behind the brutly warriors but looked like he should be one of them. Standing near 6-foot tall and built like a small tank. Thick suntanned arms stuck out of his bloodstained brown leather chest armor, the mess of scars like white maggots on brown flesh covered his exposed flesh. He wore two thick straps around his forearms obviously concealing metal plates underneath. Like most hicks, Vog wore dark leather pants and boots with a flat flexible sole for mobility and grip. On top of a thick ropelike neck sat a broad square head covered by a burly beard and shoulder length ropelike knots of hair hanging lose about his face. Vog had lived a hard life and his face told the tale. A nose that had been broken too many times; twisted two different ways and flattened over a wide thin mouth full of broken teeth behind the thick brown beard. Despite his appearance, people feared his gaze. Silver eyes, deep set under thick eyebrows. Vog carried the look of a rabid dog ready to tear its family to shreds.
“Kill them,” Vog said looking disinterested and unimpressed by the two warriors feats so far. “Send them to join their friend.”
The two warriors attacked and engaged the brothers with a roar. The blood was already boiling on each side so when the first of the brutes went down under a pair of swords to the either side of his skull Vog raged and lunged knocking Derik back. Kayle was fighting off an onslaught from the reaming brute and couldn’t help Derik. The hit that took out the first brute had been luck, Vog and his remaining warrior were skilled and strong. Kayle had been beaten backwards for the first time this day and Derik was barely able to defend against Vog. Then it happened.
A crack different from wood on wood echoed in Derik’s ears. His world went from red to black and the feeling of flight took over all other sensations in Derik’s body. Eternity had passed before the hard sandstone ground brought his thoughts back to the present. As Derik’s eyes cleared those fierce eyes were all he could concentrate on. The hit had knocked him back and should have ended his day but something told him to fight. Kayle was gaining the advantage over his adversary but Derik knew he was on his own. Instinct again saved him, driving his right arm up to protect his face Vog’s sword slammed into Derik’s armguards so fiercely that he snapped his own head back with the palm of his hand. He didn’t know where his sword was, he barely knew where he was but he followed the momentum of the hit and rolled backwards miraculously finding his sword a few feet behind him. Like a spring, Derik’s long legs caught their footing rocketing him into Vog swinging with everything he could muster he connected with his nemesis’s left arm, breaking it with a snap that echoed across the battle field. Vog, half in disbelief half in excruciating pain, howled like a coyote and countered low catching Derik by the leg, flipping him nearly onto his head. Derik being the cunning warrior rolled to his enemies left springing to his feet and connecting his forearm into Vog’s unprotected face. From there, the assault was ruthless. Vog, unbalanced and unable to protect his left side fought viscously but to no avail. Blow after blow Vogs face swelled like a balloon until he could no longer keep his head straight and Derik finished him off with a fully extended swing directly to his jaw, snapping it clear to the other side of his face.
Panting and bloody he watched as Kayle finished off his enemy with a thrust into his gut followed by an upswing into his throat. Vog was down and Derik was going to kill him but the reality of the situation quickly pulled him from his murderous intent as he realized the remaining hicks had surrounded them.
“We have bested the great Vog and we will destroy and hope of victory for you disgusting hicks! You killed our family, our friends, and now pain is in your future!” The words erupted from Derik and as if he were speaking word for word for Kayle they charged the wall breaking it like a tornado.