“You’d look better if you had lost the coat,” Niselt muttered as they walked along. He still seemed a little bitter about the young man’s rejection of the helmet. Not only had Harken forgone the helmet, but he was also wearing his ragged coat over the top.
“Not going to happen,” Harken told him, pulling the collar of the coat up to draw the fabric closer. Niselt just shook his head and gathered his own coat, one that he had been planning to cast off when it was time. Auron hadn’t bothered. He displayed his armour proudly as he strode behind Harken. The other desolates that sat around the wall in the shad stared at him. He ignored them.
“I’ll get the one in the window,” he told Niselt as he glanced up to where he knew that the man was going to be. Even from here, now that he knew who it was, it was just so obvious. The Hunter hadn’t even bothered to remove his uniform as he lounged on the windowsill and swept his gaze along the dirt road. “You take the one on the wall. Harken, are you able to handle the one pretending to be a desolate?”
Harken nodded. His target was another that seemed so obvious for those that knew how to look. He sat on the ground with a bowl for collections in front of him. The ragged cloak that he wore covered his armour, but did almost nothing to hide the bulkiness of it. That was fine for hiding from regular civilians, they never spared a glance for the desolate anyway, but those that he was hiding amongst knew, and they showed it. All of them had their backs to him, and refused to pay any attention to the man. They displayed that he wasn’t one of them.
“Now that I’m thinking about it, what should we call ourselves?” Niselt asked. He stopped suddenly and looked over at the other two as his face lit up at the thought. Auron and Harken both slowed to a stop themselves and looked back at him. Now that he thought about it, Auron hadn’t really considered it either. “I mean, I’m not really one for theatrics, but we are going to announce something when we start this fight, aren’t we?”
“I never gave much thought to it,” Harken shrugged as he gave another small yawn. He still had some lethargy from his long sleep. “There hasn’t really been a moment where I’ve stopped to consider it. You’ve been planning this for a while, haven’t you? Surely you must have some ideas.”
“I may have a shortlist,” Niselt admitted sheepishly. His face reddened slightly at the smirk that Auron gave him. “Alright, why don’t we go with ‘The Collective’ for now, we can always just change it if we need to.”
“You didn’t want to go with ‘The Resistance’?” Auron asked. He knew that he was supposed to be better than this, but he couldn’t resist the opportunity to put Niselt on the back foot. “Or how about ‘The Uprising’?”
“Well that’s two off of the shortlist,” Niselt muttered sullenly.
“Wouldn’t have mattered anyway, those two are already taken,” Harken told them. The others looked at him in surprise, they hadn’t considered that Harken would have known much about organisations like that. The disconnect that he used to practice gave off the impression of ignorance about the rest of the world.
“And how would you know?” Auron asked slowly.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve looked into fighting against the Hunters you know,” Harken told them nonchalantly. “The groups have since been destroyed, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want the stigma of the past groups failures on our name.”
“The Collective it is,” Niselt shrugged. The three of them continued again; Harken ahead, the other two just behind. Once they reached the small plaza that the shack lay to the side of, the two behind Harken couldn’t help but shift a little as the number of eyes that stared at them gradually increased.
“We’ve lived under the fear of the Hunters for so long,” Harken called out. He could see from the corner of his eye that the Hunters had switched their attention from the shack to the three of them. They were rightfully concerned that they were going to be the target of a group, and they had already started to prepare for it. “I’ve watched as they dragged our friends into the streets, beat them in front of us and then left them to bleed on the dirt. I’ve stood by as they slaughtered our people in cold blood, not because they did anything, but because they were afraid that they might. I’ve felt their hands as they bruised me, broke me. And why? Because they were scared of my eyes, because I was different. I’m done with just letting them do what they want, and I’m going to stop them.”
As the last words left his mouth, Niselt cast away his coat as well. Energy crackled as the chains rose up from his armour and began to twist through the air. Across from him, Auron drew his bow from his back, giving it a brief shake to extend it fully and started to draw moisture from the air to form the beginning of his arrow. Harken looked straight at the Hunter that was dressed as a desolate, and began to walk towards him.
“I am done with being treated like I’m less than them, I’m done with having to put up with their prejudices, and I am done with being alone,” he spoke, aiming his words directly at the man, who jumped to his feet and glanced around at the other desolates that were now staring at him as well. “If they want to fight us, then we will fight. But I do not want to fight them alone anymore, it is time for us to become what we should have long ago, a collective that will fight together, not for supremacy, but for something that we should have been fighting for a long time ago; equality.”
The Hunter pressed a finger to a communications piece in his ear, the ragged clothes that he had been wearing fell away to show his body armour. Harken nodded to Niselt and Auron, then turned back to the man who still frantically muttered into his earpiece.
Auron shaped his arrow and loosed it in a moment. He had spent years honing his skills with a bow, and it showed in the shot. Barely taking a moment to aim, the projectile he had fired shot forward with a terrifying accuracy. It took the bottom of the terracotta pots out as it speared through them to strike the shoulder of the Hunter in the window. While it didn’t pierce his vest, the force of the arrow sent the man back into the shadows of the apartment.
Auron took a moment to for another arrow. He took the time to glance over at the others. Niselt had dashed forwards. runes glowed on his whole body as they empowered his limbs. It was what gave him the abilities that the humans feared so much. In a single bound he had been able to jump up half the distance to the top of the wall. Once the momentum slowed, two of his chains dug into the sandstone and held him there while the rest fended off the tranquiliser rounds that were being fired at him from above by the militia guards.
Harken still walked towards the other Hunter, who had since given up on the communicator and just watched his approach with trepidation. As the other desolates began to encroach on him as well, he started to back away, a futile attempt to keep his distance. The Hunter fumbled at his back and drew out a pistol to aim it at the young desolate.
Auron cursed under his breath and swung his bow around. He fired his second arrow in the violet desolate’s direction. The arrow whistled as it flew through the air. It closed the distance in an instant. The water arrow shattered the pistol on impact and made the Hunter flinch as the remnants of his weapon cut his cheek. The arrow continued past and hit the wall of a building.
The Water Pillar turned his attention back to his original target. he gave another light curse as he saw the rifle come to bear on him. He ran backwards to take cover behind the shack as the roar of the rifle sounded out. The bullets hit the hidden steel underneath the sheet metal that made up the false coating and rebounded off to hit the dirt nearby.
He heard a scream from above and looked up to see that Niselt had made his way up the wall. The Fire Pillar used his chains to vault over the top and land softly on his feet. It was with a sickening glee that the man charged forwards. his chains crackled as they swung in a deadly arc, the thin metal links sharp enough to slice through anything they touched. The militia were unable to defend themselves and found their numbers rapidly fall. Their shoddy, factory made armour was unable to stand up to his chains.
The Hunter was different, though, his armour had been made to withstand an attack like this. No training could have prepared him for the assault of one such as Niselt, however. As much as they were taught to counter the empowered desolates, no lesson could teach him the ferocity of one that had been oppressed for generations, and whose skills had been forged in the combat centric upbringing of the Fire Pillar.
The first strike sent him reeling, a scorching laceration appeared in his armour continued to glow from the heat that was left behind. Niselt paused. He was surprised that the man wasn’t in pieces yet. Another strike sent him onto his back out of sight. Auron chose to ignore the screams that followed as Niselt descended upon him.
Auron began to draw water out of the air again, and then cursed when he couldn’t draw enough moisture to create an arrow substantial enough. He pulled the stopper from one of the canisters. Water drifted out and into his hand before it reformed into an arrow of suitable size. He dashed back out of cover and fired another arrow. This one arced through the window at the Hunter who had just regained his feet and slammed directly into his forehead. The Hunter didn’t get back up.
Now it seemed that the only person who hadn’t yet dealt with their opponent was Harken. The violet desolate had approached him and stood mere feet from the now unarmed man. Backed into a corner, the Hunter gave a roar as he charged forwards. He swung his fist in a wide arc, straight into Harken’s hand. The soldier tried to pull away but the young man’s strength was unmatchable, so the Hunter sent his knee up at his opponent’s side. Another hand caught it.
Harken lifted the Hunter up by the knee and slammed him back down into the ground. To Auron’s surprise, it actually looked as if the Hunter actually bounced a little before he rolled away from the violet desolate with a pained groan.
“Do you hear me?” he told the man as he walked to stand over the top of him. “I am done with you and your tyranny, so run home and tell your masters that we’re coming for them, and we won’t stop until they’ve answered our plea.”
“You are the ones that oppressed us first,” the Hunter spat back. His face twisted in anger as he looked up at Harken defiantly. “You lorded over us with your might, and failed to recognise how powerful we truly were. You deserve all that you’ve got.”
“Was that us that ruled, or was it our ancestors?” Harken retorted. “Why has their legacy carried over to us? We should be working together to avoid another power flip that will benefit no one, but instead you hide behind your cruel masters who are interested in nothing more than treating us like game to be hunted at will, or does your name have another meaning?”
“Shut your mouth, half-breed,” the Hunter roared furiously. “How dare you question our legacy. We are honourable knights that defend civilisation from your savagery. You are nothing more than the by-product of depraved humans that were willing to lay with animals!”
As soon as he had finished the sentence, all in the plaza held still. It was too late that the Hunter realised what he had just spoken in a space that was completely comprised of the creatures that he had just denounced. Just like the words that Harken had spoken, they had had enough.
With a surge, the crowd of desolates cried out as they swarmed the Hunter, pulling him to the ground as lights shone from within their robes. Every colour imaginable was visible as their fists rained down on him, the impacts breaking apart his armour and shattering his body underneath.
“Harken, the Hunters won’t hesitate in bringing down their might upon this place,” Auron shouted to the young man. “We need to leave, now!” Harken forced his way out of the crowd and turned to give a nod to his friend. He looked up and spied Niselt sitting on the edge of the wall, looking down at them.
“Your anger is wasted on this man,” Harken shouted out to the residents of the plaza. “We have a larger enemy than him. Flee from this place, and find your way to me if you want to take your lives and your homes back.”
Now that Harken had begun to head back to the warehouse, drawing his coat around him to conceal the armour underneath, Auron pounded his fist against the door of the shack. His knock caused a loud, booming sound of metal on metal that echoed both throughout the plaza and the hut within. Unable to wait, he began to pull the heavy door back
“Finally, someone who knocks,” the familiar voice called out from inside. Hadain pushed the door open the rest of the way and paused as she looked at Auron in surprise. “What are you doing here again? I’ve told you that I’m not interested in going with you.”
“Did you not hear what was going on?” Auron asked her in disbelief. She knocked her knuckles against the metal walls. The sound echoed out from only within the hut.
“Completely sound proof,” she said proudly. “Can’t let the Hunters hear me working after all. Why?”
“It hasn’t worked, the Hunters have been watching you for a while now,” Auron blurted rapidly, he wondered himself how he hadn’t tripped over his own words, but he needed to get the message through to her quickly. “We took the ones out that were here now, but there will be more on their way. It doesn’t have to be with us, but you need to leave.”
Hadain paused, her fingers turned white as she gripped the frame tightly. She gritted her teeth and look back inside the hut indecisively.
“I’m not leaving without my work,” she said finally. Her expression was determined. “They all mean too much to me, I can’t leave it behind.”
Auron heard a thud behind him as Niselt landed back on the sandy dirt. The Fire Pillar stretched as he stood up. His chains retreated back into the armour and hid themselves within the shabby confines again. He jogged to them hurriedly.
“Fine, we’ll take as much as we can, but you had better hurry,” Niselt growled, abandoning all of the sweetness that he had held in his tone before. He looked to be genuinely concerned. “Because at the moment, it’s a question of your work or the Hunters making a move and taking you.”
The woman pulled the both of them into the shack. The two of them stumbled as she took them off balance. Without even looking at them, she began to throw pieces of equipment into their arms.
“Then we had better get started then.”