Table of Contents: https://www.bungie.net/en/Forums/Post/244705039?page=0&sort=0&showBanned=0&path=1
[b]Chapter 10, Part 1 (continued(1))[/b]
As the last of the morning’s chill was melted by the dull rays of a midday sun, a figure strode across the refugee camp with an air of confidence, a rifle in his hand and several others in the arms of those at his back. His gait was quickened by the drive of purpose, and he cut from the crater’s edge to its center without any delay whatever, fully expecting that those who lay in his path should move rather than force upon him the inconvenience of a detour.
He was on a mission.
He had, in fact, been on a mission for the last four hours. Now, it was time that his efforts bear fruit.
As the figure reached the heart of the encampment, he halted, and glared at another who was seated before him. He swung the barrel of his gun to face in the other’s direction, but left it angled toward the ground.
The second figure stood and, attempting to disguise the fear in his eyes and in his tone by means of volume, spoke a single word: “No.”
“We’ve waited for your friend long enough, [i]thief[/i],” the boy with the gun stated in response, lending extra weight to the last of these words.
“Hardy…” the other pleaded, his voice weak. “Don’t.”
“Don’t [i]what[/i]?” Hardy returned, taking a step forward. A third boy, who sat on the ground beside the second, made as if to rise, and his hand grasped for a rifle that lay nearby. He abandoned this course of action, however, when Hardy raised his own rifle to point at his chest.
“We aren’t supposed to fight,” the second said hopelessly.
“Why would we?” his challenger questioned, keeping his rifle’s aim on the greater of the two threats as he advanced. “I’ve already won,” he added, “I just thought you should know.”
Looking for the first time to those behind his foe, the appointed authority saw that this claim was not a hollow one. He recognized, along with those of Hardy’s usual lackeys, the faces of many who had been chosen as his peacekeepers some hours ago. These were not the frightened children (those had surrendered their arms rather than take them up for either side in the impending conflict) but were instead their bloodthirsty fellows, who cared more for the indulgence of their desires than for the weight of their word. This left him, then, with only himself and his companion to command.
After allowing his adversaries a moment to reflect upon their plight, Hardy again advanced, and-ordering his fellows to train their rifles upon the two in place of his own-removed the gun from his less talkative foe’s reach.
This left the coup’s resistance with but one weapon in its possession, which was quickly put to use.
While Hardy was still stooped from the act of confiscating his companion’s rifle, the seemingly unarmed figure, who was elevated some distance above both his fellow and his foe due to a stone on which he sat, tossed back the cloak about him and sprang forth with a knife in hand. As he was to some extent unfamiliar with reliance upon his left hand, and hadn’t the use of his right, the attack was a clumsy one. This allowed Hardy to escape much of the blade, catching nothing more than a shallow cut down his right side and shoulder. He then responded by driving himself into his assailant, toppling him from his perch and sending both tumbling to the ground.
Once landed, Hardy easily wrested the dagger from his attacker-who was of decidedly lesser size and substance-and tossed the weapon away. This was no act of mercy, however-in fact, it was quite the opposite. Knives, Hardy had decided, would end things far too quickly.
Placing himself atop his smaller opponent, Hardy set into him with a series of blows that, while lacking in grace of form, were by no means lacking in force or ferocity. Within moments, he had drawn blood, and the struggle (if such a label could even be placed upon it, as there was truthfully little struggle at all) quickly became a spectacle. Hardy’s gathered supporters circled about the two prone figures, disregarding all else. Many began to cheer. A considerable number of neutral parties arrived to spectate as well, though most of these were silent. Among the onlookers, those of Locke’s peacekeepers who had thirsted for violence were most captured of all by the scene. Knowing that little resistance would be made on the part of their former leader, these simply watched, unblinking, and listened for the crack of bone.
It came-and as it did, Locke’s last remaining ally, who had watched as he was beaten for some time now, took the opening presented by his enemies’ distraction, and acted. Rather than spring for the forgotten rifle to his side, Mason made directly for the fray. Grasping Hardy ‘s wrist as he readied to deal a fresh blow, Mason pulled upward, and succeeded in separating the younger boy from his battered friend. He then threw himself to the earth, taking with him his confused opponent.
Though there had been a change in roster, the dynamic of the fight remained much the same: one participant, being of greater size and years, had a distinct advantage over his opponent. This disparity, however, was no longer in Hardy’s favor.
Mason did not use his edge, as had his adversary, for the staging of a show of savagery. With each blow-of which there were few-, he targeted not Hardy’s face (though this was indeed where his fist happened to land most often), but his pride. Once any charade of confidence had been wiped from his foe’s countenance, and the tears were left to flow as freely upon it as the blood, Mason stopped, stood, and dusted himself off. His bested opponent lay on the earth and groped blindly about himself in what seemed a vain attempt to rise.
Mason turned to leave, pausing to aid Locke in regaining his feet, and the crowd-which had since gone silent-parted before them in unconscious recognition of a victory that was, in truth, wholly symbolic. Had they acted otherwise, he could not have hoped to stand against their will. Lead, after all, is rarely hindered in its course by such immaterial protections as a sense of honor.
Steel, as it would happen, is of a similar mindset.
As Mason and Locke began their slow departure-for the camp’s edge, or for the wilderness beyond: for rest; for peace-, the figure who lay at their backs began again to stir, and, slowly, to stand. He turned, the dust upon his face streaked by tears and by trails of crimson, and struck forward with frightening speed.
His hand was not formed to a fist.
He held in his grasp some small object, and his knuckles were white with the gripping of it.
The shape in his fingers met the cloth at Mason’s lower back; did not stop there; plunged onward.
The sound of metal rending flesh filled the silence.
Hardy retracted his hand, which was pursued in its retreat by a spurt of crimson. He stared in horror at the knife raised before him, his eyes wide and unblinking. After some effort, he managed to drop it. His fingers, awash with the proof of his crime, felt numb…felt frozen. Hardy looked at his bloody hand as a villain at a follower who, having crossed a line that even he dared not approach, is ignorantly proud, not knowing such a line to have ever existed. He wished to be rid of it.
Then, he lowered his gaze to the body before him.
A body it was, and nothing more. Mason was dead.
Driven by rage, and by the vengeful spirit of his broken pride, Hardy had attacked with an incredible swiftness, given his condition, and had thrust his hand as far beyond the mouth of the wound as the blade that had opened it. Such a blow would not settle, as reward, for the creation of a mere scar in its memory. It demanded blood. Death. Sacrifice. It was denied none of these.
Hardy watched a moment as blood pooled about the corpse and about Locke beside it, who had finally succumbed to his wounds and to his shock at the moment of his striking the ground, and had fallen unconscious. The killer, still in a daze, stumbled forward on the previous course of his ill-fated foe. The others, who had again crowded to look at the spectacle, parted once more-this time in horror. He was given a much wider berth than had been offered to his predecessor. As he passed through the crowd, many eyes stared at him in disbelief. Others-these belonging to his previous supporters-were cast to the earth. He was treated as a leper.
Hardy shambled unthinkingly to the camp’s edge. There, he sat, and wept.
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