Khepri is not like the other Endbringers.

Those had been the words that stuck the most in Writ's mind from Legend's brief speech before the sandstorm descended upon Las Vegas. She supposed that she hadn't taken them too seriously at first.

This wasn't her first Endbringer fight by any means, and Writ doubted that Khepri was somehow worse than the hollow screams of the Simurgh. In hindsight that had been an arrogant belief, one that now haunted her steps as she tried to make her way through the sand-clouded streets.

The wind blew the fine grains hard enough to start stripping the skin away from the muscles beneath, and Writ knew that if it weren't for her power she would've been flung away long ago. Even so it was difficult to get around, all sound overshadowed by the howling storm. It was dark too, like late twilight, and she could barely see more than a few meters in front of her.

She is not the classical monster that her older siblings are. She is the slasher horror, hiding in the shadows and waiting to strike.

Breathing was difficult through the thick masks that had been issued to them, but she knew that the sand would've drowned her had she not worn it. More pressing was the worry she had for her teammates. All of them, in some way, were vulnerable to the conditions Khepri brought with her, although it would be a lie to imply that there were many who were not.

Her scarabs would swarm out from the sand, a writhing mass of chitin and jaws that surrounded the victim. Writ had seen one man, a local villain, scoured down to the bone in seconds before the swarm disappeared back into the darkness. She was especially worried about Colin, knowing that Khepri liked to target Tinkers, and the brave if unconventional leader of her division would not let that stop him from trying to face Khepri head on.

She will target the strongest capes. Those with the most potential. The ones who stand above the rest.

Writ came to a crossing and paused, unsure and unfamiliar with the city. The roads had been wrecked, half melted in places and simply gone in others. She caught sight of a long, thick gouge through the wall of the closest building. A great wash of wet blood accompanied it, as well as the bisected remains of a cape.

A wave of relief passed through her when she didn't recognise the poor soul, followed by one of guilt for the thought. The Endbringer carried a Khopesh, as long as Writ stood tall, and used it with preternatural speed. The Thinkers were unsure if it was part of her or not, but so far no one had been able to separate them. The scene brought her fear back into the fore, the last time she had seen her team running through her mind. Khepri sometimes gave her targets a warning, to unnerve them, by scraping the tip of her sword along the ground.

The sound had echoed strangely, and none of them had been able to pinpoint where she was. The next moment she was amongst them, weapon swinging. Velocity had dodged, barely, and the follow up slash impacted against Dauntless' shield with a great thrum of thunder. Writ had been thrown back and her teammate was only saved by Alexandria sweeping down, doubtlessly alerted by the explosive noise, and catching Khepri with a low-slung punch to the stomach.

The Endbringer had shifted in time for it to be only a glancing blow but was distracted enough that Legend could bring his lasers to bear. Alexandria followed up with another punch, one strong enough to send a ripple out in the sand and almost deafen Writ, but Khepri had seemed to have had enough by that point and called her sand to her. What had once been a thick veil became a blinding torrent, and by the time it lifted Writ was alone with no one in sight.

Her most dangerous attribute is not her most obvious one. It is not the storm, nor the swarm. It is not even the sword. It is the fact she is a Stranger. If she chooses not to make a sound, you will not hear her. If she chooses to hide behind her sand, you will not see her. You will never know she is coming.

Writ was reminded of that only when the blunt end of the Khopesh was hooked round her torso and used to smash her into an abandoned car. Her paper armour saved her, and came to life, great sheafs of it blurring out in a futile attempt to shred the Endbringer.

Tiny pieces too, so that she could sense and see via the outline of everything they came to rest against. She turned, neck hurting in an alarming way, in time to see the casual swipe that tore through her attack. Sand followed up, snatching the paper around them and dragging it far away, leaving Writ almost defenceless.

Khepri stood tall, dwarfing any normal human, around nine feet in all. She was long limbed, with golden scale-armour covering much of her body. There were thickly armoured parts around the chest and shoulders, as well as along the thighs, chunky and squared pieces that looked more decorative than functional. It spread out into an armoured skirt too, a long one in the ancient style that went to her knees, and her bare legs and feet under it was what could've passed for normal and slightly tanned human skin.

Khepri's hair was black and thick with a luscious sheen, similar to Writ's own, that fell to the small of her back. What stood out most those was the smooth white mask that covered her face, with the only marking on it a single tear under the left eye in a lapis blue. Writ could see human-looking eyes through the mark's holes that were a distinctive green colouring. The Endbringer had a bearing of pride about her, head held high and confidant. The returning conqueror, resplendent and strong.

Khepri stood still for only a moment, as if to let Writ appreciate her glory, before a blink-quick lunge of the khopesh split the car that Writ had been lying on in half. She had only managed to dodge by using all of her remaining paper to push herself away. Left in nothing but her under suit, a tight synthetic weave for moments like this, she knew that there was little else she could do to defend herself.

Sometimes she is merciful and leaves those she has defeated alive. With others she will be cruel and kill slowly, piece by piece. You might be wondering why it is we fight her. It is because if we do not – if we ignore her games, her challenges - she will bury the city in sand and her scarabs will devour every remaining person within twenty miles. Millions dead, if we do nothing. So we fight.

Writ lay prone on the floor, waiting for that final swing. She matched gazes with the Endbringer, unwilling to show fear or back down, and Khepri…faltered. There was no other word for it, for the hesitation was clear as day. The khopesh was lifted, brought under her chin to tilt Writ's head up and the sand above cleared long enough for the desert sun to shine down upon her bare face.

The moment stretched out even as both of them remained still, Writ frozen in place and unsure. Eventually, even reluctantly looking, Khepri lowered her weapon and took a step back. She shook her head as though she was trying to wake up, a quick and jerky movement. The Endbringer spared Writ one more glance before turning and loping off into the sandstorm.

The opening above remained, however, and Annette Hebert lay there for a long while in the sun, confused and shaken.

They told her afterwards that it was a good day, that Khepri was driven off after barely an hour. That cape casualties were light, and Dauntless' arm was only shattered and not lost, easy enough for Panacea to fix when they got home. It did not escape her notice that Khepri had vanished right after their confrontation, a twisting thought that sank low in her gut and kept her awake that night as she lay in her room in the Rig, thinking of green eyes, black hair, and a too-empty bedroom.