The Judge and the Hermit in the Corridor

Papa Sizwe muttered under his breath, twisting his staff in his hand, waking the snake spirit within it, the staff hissing and writhing in his hand. “The Great Truth Sayer.”

“In mine own most eminent flesh,” the pair stood completely still. While others might circle in the grass or the dirt, they stood their ground watching one another. Asala bin Qalam raised an eye brow, cocking his head to the side, “The serpent strike staff? A hermit then?”

“In the south I am known as Papa Sizwe, though the spirits know me by other names,” Sizwe snatched a guard from the end of his snarling staff, cracking it open, running the red liquid inside across his face, tasting the fermented blood on his tongue, feeling the strength of the spirits flow into his veins, “Me estes la bestoj de la nokto.” I am the beast of the night, Papa Sizwe beseeched the spirits for guidance, asking them to fill his body, to ride his soul into battle with the legendary warrior.

Asala bin Qalam raised his scimitar above his head, humming an ancient Dokkaebi hymn under his breath as he backed a step further down the hall way, “You appear to be under the impression that these ululations and incantations would impress some shred of terror and horror upon my person. A peculiar impression which you hold in a state of absolute falsehood.”

“We shall see.” Before the words had left his mouth, Papa Sizwe’s snake strike staff struck, slipping suddenly sunward, sinking fangs shallowly into Asala’s side. The Judge struck back, bringing his great scimitar down onto Sizwe’s muscled arm, biting deep into the sinews, spraying his own blood across the corridor, splatters of it joining the purpled blood that decorated his face.

The two quickly paced backwards, retreating from one another in tandem. No words now, only near animal snarls at their lips. Sizwe held his wounded arm tight to his side to try to staunch the blood flowing from his opened veins.

Asala shifted his scimitar to his left hand, drawing out his wand, the club like weapon that all Dokkaebi made from their own tail’s which they cut off ritually upon adulthood. Then he strode forward, slashing with the scimitar, a blow basely blocked by Sizwe’s staff. Then the club clocked the Hermit on the head, a ringing beginning in his ears.

Sizwe struck back, three lightning quick staff strikes that met with scimitar, club, and finally skin. Once more the serpent staff sunk fangs in, venom piping forward into the Dokkaebi Judge’s blood. bin Qalam called out in pain, in shock, in swift setting agony. Then thrust his scimitar forward at the Hermit once more.

The dance of blade and wand and staff went on. Sizwe swung feebly several times, long arcing strikes and limp jabs, his blood trailing down to the floor from his mangled arm. bin Qalam swung his scimitar like a scythe in long level swaths, jabbing with his club, backing him down, buying time for Mettel to escape the tunnel’s end with the Truth Stone.

“You are slowing, Truth Sayer.” Sizwe smiled, showing his brilliant teeth.

“This may be as you say,” Asala responded, brushing his grayed fur aside from his face.

“Can you not recognize a truth when it is spoken without your stone? Can you not feel the venom from my staff? Can you not feel your blood slowing? Soon I will strike a final blow and finish you, old man.”

Asala laughed a hearty laugh, “How many years since you’d the occasion to use that particular epithet?”

“More than I can count,” Sizwe smiled as he dove forward, driving his staff into the Truth Sayer’s shoulder.

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