A Matter of Honor
In a dark room in an abandoned building far from Moperville, Noah was sitting in meditation when a humming in the back of his mind, which until then had been so omnipresent that he'd stopped noticing it, announced itself by going silent. My master has been defeated. I must fly! He meant this literally; he stepped onto the balcony, then stepped off it and took off like a rocket.
Abraham was carrying Ellen from the school when he sensed it. A power at the periphery of his senses, heading his way. He did not think, he just acted in accordance with instincts which had been ingrained in him deeper than those of the blood over the course of a long and brutal lifetime; he dropped Ellen and lifted his shield, an action which saved his life as his shield was struck right in the boss by the tonfa of a cloaked figure. The impact sent them both flying backwards. Abraham dug his feet into the ground and ended up tearing grooves in it, whereas Noah's trajectory took him into the air; he landed smoothly on his feet. How much of that was strength, and how much of it was sheer speed?
"And what reason do you have to attack me, a total stranger?" Abraham demanded.
"You killed my master," said the cloaked and shadow-wreathed figure. The shadows weren't natural; this was someone who took great pains to conceal his identity.
"The elf? He's still alive; I endeavor not to harm the innocent in my quest, as there is enough blood on my hands as it is."
Thank God, thought Noah; what would he have done without Raven, his mentor, guide, and the closest thing he had to a father? But he did not let relief distract him; even as these thoughts made their way across the back of his mind, the front of it teamed up with the bit that was attached to his mouth and said: "And yet he did fight you, presumably to prevent you from abducting that girl from his school," he gestured.
"She is a monster that I am honor bound to destroy."
"If she was a monster, my master would have known, and he would not allow anyone or anything in this school that was a threat to the students. Ergo, she cannot be a monster. QED. Besides which, I happen to be honor bound to avenge my stricken master."
"A journeyman—which I presume you are—would face a foe his elf wizard elder master could not defeat?" Abraham asked.
"The elf—er, I mean, my master was my superior in strength and skill, I admit, but he would have extended you every opportunity to surrender, reasonable or not," Noah countered. "I do not have that failing. This is your one chance to leave this place in peace and health; if we fight, you will die."
"I see," said Abraham, and he believed it, or rather that the boy meant it; he had introduced himself with an attack which would have killed a lesser warrior than the elderly wizard. "I, of course, shall endeavor not to kill you, but destroying this monster takes precedence; if I have to kill you to get to her, I shall simply be forced to pray for forgiveness afterwards."
"Well, it seems—" Noah suddenly attacked in the middle of his own sentence.
Abraham moved to block. He was fast; Noah was faster. Noah drove the tonfa into Abraham's chest as he brought his sword down on what was now Noah's wrist. Even Noah couldn't do much with the time he had, so he twisted his wrist around, interposing the short end of his tonfa, which was then driven into his wrist with a snap like of green wood. He dropped the weapon from his now-useless hand, but Abraham fell.
"—we are at an impasse, though not for long," Noah finished his sentence through gritted teeth, and noticed with not a little bit of awed surprise that the old man was still alive; he drew back his left tonfa, preparing to brain the wizard something fierce.
Abraham moved, and there was a blast. Noah dodged, and interposed his broken right arm and his tonfa between himself and the blast; even that might not have been enough to save him, had he been unlucky. Noah fell on his back, rolled over backwards, and found his way to his feet. Abraham, quite impressively, was standing.
Abraham stood, clutching his chest from a blow that should have killed a dragon but with his sword pointed steadily and expertly at Noah, and said: "Tell me, child—what happened to you to make you so willing to kill?"
It was clear to Abraham by this point that the challenge of this fight would be almost the mirror image of that of the last. In the elf he had an immensely powerful foe, but one who in his heart of hearts was not willing to kill if it could be in any way avoided, whereas this child did not have that type of power but, while Abraham sensed that the child wasn't evil (evil people don't, as a general rule, risk their lives to save random classmates), he demonstrably most definitely was willing to kill.
In lieu of answer, Noah attacked again. He charged; Abraham brought his shield up to block; Noah jumped over him, landed in a crouch, and drove his remaining tonfa up, aiming for Abraham's heart from behind and below. It should have been a lethal blow, but then, so should the last; Abraham cried out in agony, and Noah struck again. Abraham managed to get his shield behind him this time, and turned in time to block a third attack.
With a small, detached part of his mind Abraham thought briefly of what happened when the elf got him to turn his back on the murder shroud. You do your master proud, boy; I'm still standing, however. The cloaked boy shrouded in darkness was standing entirely too close for his own good; Abraham kicked him in the balls. Noah doubled over, and Abraham slapped him in the back of the chest with the flat of his blade. He moved back a step to get out of the boy's reach in case he try something and get back on the offensive, and did it again. Another step back, and he brought his sword up from underneath this time, hitting the boy in the solar plexus with the flat of his blade.
"You are indeed more pragmatic and ruthless than your master, I grant you that." Thwack. This one was to his back. "It might have been enough to make up for the difference in our strengths, if by the time I was your age I hadn't of spent the previous five years hunting werewolves." Thwack. "I may prefer an honorable duel to a barroom brawl, and I may not be all that smart, but underneath, I am more pragmatic and devious than you can ever hope to be in your wildest nightmares." Thwack. This time again the blow hit Noah in the solar plexus, and he was forced from his feet by the impact and landed on his back. A groan escaped the cloaked figure's lips. "Face it, boy, you are seriously outmatched. I know you won't surrender, however, so all I can tell you is…" the elderly former-apprentice-wizard lifted his sword above his head in both hands "…that I shall endeavor not to cause brain damage when I knock you out."
Abraham brought the pommel down, aiming at Noah's forehead, but Noah's hands snapped out, quick as vipers. The bad one blocked, the good one, which happened to be the left one, grabbed Abraham's sword arm. Abraham noticed that the cloaked figure's arm was singed from the fireball; so his spell resistance wasn't quite as strong as he'd assumed, then. And yet he's still got enough strength to fight me off; amazing.
For Noah's part, he realized that the only thing keeping him at anything like parity in this fight was his speed advantage, which had little pull in the current grappling match; his prospects, in short, weren't good and wouldn't improve unless he broke the grapple, fast. He attempted to knee the elderly wizard in the nuts; Abraham, however, sensed his motives and jumped with his lower body while keeping his arms intent on forcing their way to Noah's head.
This, however, meant that Abraham's only purchase on the ground was through Noah, and Noah, taking advantage of this fact, rose to his feet with Abraham still balanced above him and then slammed the wizard bodily into the ground. Where's my tonfas? Oh, right—gone. Noah briefly wondered if it would be worth giving Abraham time to recover as he re-summoned his weapons, but this brief moment of hesitation was all the time Abraham needed, and he jumped back to his feet, charged, and swung his sword at Noah.
Noah wasn't there by the time the sword reached him, of course, but his course of action was clear. Faster than Abraham he may be, but not by enough of a margin to go up against a powerful wizard without a weapon, especially with the superior reach the wizard's weapon afforded him. Noah ran into the trees, summoning his weapons. Come on, come on! Noah felt the air change behind him, and dodged to the side just in time to avoid being hit by a throwing axe; barely a second later, he found he had to repeat the performance.
Terror was welling inside the deepest depths of Noah's soul. He was fighting someone with enough skill, power, and treachery to defeat Raven, he had no weapon, and the need to summon a new one meant he couldn't concentrate entirely on the fight. A single misstep could spell defeat.
Abraham had no intention of waiting for a misstep, however, any more than he had any intention of letting the boy arm himself again so that he could continue to try to kill the wizard. "Lasso," he intoned, and the summoned weapon appeared in his hands. He swung the magic lasso above his head, and then through the trees. Noah had felt the air and had thought that whatever the projectile was, it would miss him, not realizing until it was too late that it wasn't a projectile at all, and his arms were pinned to his sides by golden rope. Abraham tugged one way and sent Noah flying into a tree. Abraham tugged the other way and sent Noah flying into another tree.
Noah jumped away from the tree, and then launched himself into the air. And kept going, until he pulled Abraham off the ground. "You can fly?" Abraham demanded incredulously, then began climbing the rope. "Damn, I've got to learn that trick," he added under his breath.
Noah flew him through branches. Then into a trunk. Then into another trunk. Then he spun the wizard in a great circle, using the coreolis effect to brutal advantage, but still Abraham held on, and still he climbed.
But the summoning had taken hold; Noah had his tonfas. He couldn't move his arms much, and his right hand had just barely enough strength to actually hold the weapon, between the burn and the fractures between the wrist, but Abraham couldn't use his sword on this rope, so the reach advantage was his. Noah climbed, steeply and quickly; he climbed like he was looking to achieve hyper ballistic orbit.
Abraham knew what he was trying to do. "No! We'll both die!"
"If I lose we both die; if I win, just you," Noah corrected.
I cannot allow this. Abraham shook his head, let go of the lasso, and plummeted to the earth. If the boy wanted to continue this fight, he'd have to resort to less suicidal tactics. Assuming, of course, that Abraham survived his trip to the ground; he didn't know how quickly they had been ascending, after all. Noah felt his load lighten, and the lasso disappeared as soon as Abraham wasn't touching it anymore; he took a moment to get his right tonfa into his belt so that he could use it as a spare if needed.
Abraham landed and rolled into a crouch. He groaned, stretched, and bones cracked. "I am getting too old for this sh—" His eyes widened in alarm, and he dodged suddenly to the left, just in time to avoid Noah, who was standing on his left tonfa like an upside down stilt, holding the end of the long end in his hand. Where the tonfa hit ground, there formed a crater a foot and a half deep.
Noah emerged from the crater and searched the trees around him frantically for his foe. He was limping, and silently cursed this fact. Damn it. I know I've been giving as good as I've been getting—at LEAST as good as I've been getting—and yet the old man's still fine, while I'm dying by inches! What the hell is he MADE of? "Where are you, old man? Have you run out of tricks, wizard?" Noah was then struck in the back of the head by a thrown shield. He stumbled, struggling not to lose his footing.
"A wizard never runs out of tricks. It's sort of in the job description," Abraham said gravely. "Shield," and his shield disappeared and reappeared in his hand, having been re-summoned; Noah marveled at the casual expenditure of magic.
Noah glared, and limped in Abraham's direction.
"You injured yourself in your last attack, you are dazed, and your great speed means nothing with a broken leg! Give up, son; you have no chance of winning now." Abraham was simultaneously commanding and pleading with this statement.
Noah's legs lifted off the ground and he rocketed at Abraham, tonfa extended. Abraham interposed his shield, and was driven backwards by the force of the impact. Oh, right; he can fly. Noah rose into the air, and dived at Abraham again; Abraham dodged. Noah tried another swooping attack, which Abraham dodged again; the third time Abraham had to dodge a flying attack, he decided that a change of tactics was in order.
For his part, Noah was also contemplating a change of tactics. He was currently eating magical energy faster than Abraham was, which was never a good thing when your opponent was stronger than you in the first place. He spotted the wizard down in the trees.
"Where are you, you flying menace?" the old man shouted. Right here, Noah thought as he flew at his opponent, aiming a tonfa at his kidney. And passed right through him. Illusion! As he thought this, he felt something close around him—that damn lasso again! I'm getting REAL sick of having my arms pinned to my sides. He flew up, felt the lasso jerk, and saw that Abraham had tied it around a tree.
"You cannot escape," the real Abraham said. "The magic lasso is unbreakable. You may be strong, and powerful in magic, but you don't have the sheer physical strength to uproot a tree." He'd picked the strongest tree he could find on short notice, just to be sure of that. "Also, the lasso makes you incapable of telling a lie, for some reason."
"Yes, but what happens if you let go?" Noah asked pointedly.
Abraham looked dumbly at the length of golden rope in his hand, realizing that he'd just effectively tied himself to this tree as well as his opponent. "Oh."
Noah flew at him, backwards, right leg extended; Abraham dodged the kick, but Noah extended his tonfa as far as he could in this position and managed to cuff him upside the head as he flew past. "Ow!" said Abraham, rubbing his head, but Noah came at him again.
Abraham dodged, tying the end of the lasso around a belt loop. "Sword." Sword and shield appeared. Noah attacked again; Abraham interposed his shield; Noah tried to get around it, but Abraham shield bashed him into the ground so hard that he bounced. Noah did not hit the ground a second time, but rather took off under his own power. He flew around the tree, gaining speed.
"You're just shortening your own leash, child!" Abraham shouted, interposing his shield for the kick. Abraham flew backwards; Noah flew around the tree the other way. "What do you hope to acc—" Noah kicked. Abraham interposed his shield. Abraham flew beyond the reach of his "leash," and the belt loop was torn off of his pants. The lasso vanished; Noah was free. I just can't get a break, can I? Abraham demanded of an uncaring universe.
The cloaked boy flew above the trees. He was losing power, yes, but he knew it, and Abraham knew that this would only make him more desperate, which would make him more unpredictable, which would make him more dangerous than ever. In other words, it was getting past time he end it.
"Illusion," said Abraham, and was suddenly standing between two copies of himself. "Lasso," said one; "bow and quiver," said the other, and the summoned weapons appeared in their hands.
Noah hovered high in the sky. He was losing this fight. He knew he was losing. It was time for something utterly reckless—Noah concentrated his magical energy. Speed. That is my one advantage in this fight. I've already milked it for all that it's worth, and now it's time to milk it for MORE than it's worth.
He looked down. The old man was three. Another illusion spell. Noah sped for the ground, and covered a hundred feet in the blink of an eye. He went for the lasso-wielding wizard first; his tonfa sailed right through him. Illusion. He went for the sword-and-shield wielding wizard next; he dodged, but Noah felt pain in his bad arm as the bow-and-arrow-wielding wizard shot him. It hurt, but now Noah knew which one was real. He attacked the bow wielder…and his tonfa passed right through him, as well. What? Then he was captured by the lasso, pulled against a tree, and tied to it.
"But…how?" Noah demanded. "They were both illusions."
"Yes, they were," Abraham said. "Their weapons, however, were not."
"How is that possible?"
"Magic?" Abraham answered rhetorically.
Abraham sighed. "You have fought valiantly, my young opponent. I have to admit that this is the first time I've ever had to use that tactic on a single foe, at any rate! You are incredibly powerful for your age and do your master credit with your skill and honor. There is no shame in losing to one such as myself, however."
"Except that it means you're going to kill one of my classmates, or have you forgotten?" retorted Noah, struggling against the unbreakable ropes.
"Er, right. That," Abraham conceded.
"Please reconsider. Ra—my master would not allow anything in that school that would threaten the students. You are mistaken, and you are about to murder an innocent girl," Noah pleaded.
Abraham sighed. "My course is set, the die has already been cast, and I am afraid what is about to happen must happen. I made a vow to God. I must admit that my heart is heavy for you, son—it will not be an easy thing to have guilt on your conscience over things you have no control over, as I know from experience. But I have sworn an oath, and my hand cannot be stayed by such compassion."
The cloaked figure hung his head, defeated. "Did I even stand a chance of stopping you?"
"No," Abraham said gently. Is it so terrible that part of me wishes you had? "And now, I cannot risk you following me, so…sleep." He cast the spell, and the figure who was shrouded in darkness no longer was. He was so terribly young. He decided. "Heal." The boy would not awaken before the day was out, anyway. He would not heal himself just yet; it was the practice of a lifetime to never assume he was out of danger, and if he wasn't, he might need that mana.
Abraham returned to the girl, picked her up, and walked into the forest, grim of purpose.
"…and so I do this with a heavy heart, but do this I must. I have sworn a holy vow; may God have mercy on my soul," Abraham said, and lifted the axe. He struck; the axe rebounded. "What in the—" Abraham suffered a blow to the face. Some sort of kinetic blast! It was not quite as strong as the boy's blows with the tonfas, but it was still quite strong enough to turn the bones of men into fine dust…men not as resilient as Abraham, at any rate. The fairy doll flew, and attacked him. He dodged, and chopped the doll in half. But how? The elf! Of course—the boy had to know that a mere journeyman had no hope of defeating a master; he was buying time for the elf to recover!
He looked closely and indeed, "An automation. First the summon, now this. Elvish trickery.
Another fairy doll appeared. "Abraham!" it shouted—
And thus we return to the official record and the story continued as is recorded after this brief interlude, and none aside from Noah and Raven would know of the roll a figure wreathed in shadow and cloak played in the events of this day. It was a footnote in history, quickly forgotten; a tale left untold.
The reason I did this was simple enough: I thought a fight between Abraham and Noah would have been awesome. Knowing the bunnies as I do, I feel the need to justify a number of assumptions I made about their powers, tactics, and personalities.
Making Noah into a bloodthirsty little monster seemed justified at the time (it wasn't just a way to make the ENSU seem more relevant, trust me); we've only seen him in one fight, but in that one fight he fought to kill and claimed that as his intent right from the start ("I will slay the dragon," remember?). I was making a rather obvious miscalculation, however, having forgotten that Taurcanis Draco, being a summon, couldn't in any meaningful sense of the word die; summons can only be un-summoned, and thus using lethal force on one doesn't actually count as proof of one's murderous temperament. I realized this before writing the story, but decided to keep the trait anyway, because Noah needed something to create the appearance of parity.
Which brings us to why I think Abraham is so much more powerful than Noah in the first place. We all know how Abraham was an apprentice wizard when he created the Dewitchery Diamond and set everything into motion. Now the thing is that in medieval times they had an apprentice/journeyman/master system, and if wizardry followed the same pattern as, say, blacksmithing (and Abraham wasn't completely retarded, but he claims to have been a gifted apprentice), that would mean that Abraham started hunting monsters when he was prepubescent! As I hinted above. And he spends his down time frozen as a statue, so from his perspective he's been going directly from one disaster to another. For fifty years. Have you got any idea how freaking badass that is? Watch Supernatural; that's basically his life, only he managed it alone for five decades.
Does that necessarily mean that he's more powerful than Noah? (It damn well ought to.) He defeated Raven, who was Noah's master, a wizard, an elf, and had decades (or centuries) to gain power and train and yet had a young man's body. Yes, Abe used Flaw Exploitation in that fight, but remember where he was—on the floor, face-down, with Raven's sword in his jugular. It takes some serious balls to try anything from that position!
Oh, and he out-magic resistance'd Grace. You know Grace, the most powerful person in the entire main cast? You think there are other explanations for how he stayed awake during that sleep bomb other than muscling through it on sheer power? You're wrong; if you go back and look (23 August 2009) you'll see that he specifically says in his own thought bubble that that's exactly what he did. And Grace…didn't. If magic resistance scales with power level (which is implied, though there are probably other factors) that becomes strong evidence that he is more powerful than Grace!
So, yeah, Noah didn't have a prayer. Which didn't mean he couldn't go down in a blaze of awesome. Having something like this become canon would be awesome (say, have Noah reveal that he knows the exact nature of Ellen and Elliot's relationship, then BAM—flashback), though it would hasten Noah's becoming the Krillin of the set (especially since it would be two villains in a row he was completely ineffectual in defeating).
To conclude my list of things nit-picky bunnies might object to, I'm fully aware that if this actually happened, it would mean that Noah knew that there was something magical about Ellen and probably the exact nature of it, given his access to Raven's knowledge, and so would immediately deduce the exact nature of her and Elliot's relationship. I have reviewed his conversations with Elliot, and concluded that if he knew that Ellen was his clone, it would change nothing.
This could be why he knows of Ellen in the first place, or rather, why she registered on his radar enough for him to know who she is and her name. There are other possible explanations, of course (maybe he thinks she's hot; maybe he just knows of her relationship with Nanase and has a lesbian fetish (and really, what kind of heterosexual male doesn't?)), but still.
And yes, that was Wonder Woman's magic lasso Abe was using. What can I say? The idea amused me.