Description: Zach Glenn seeks answers about the Mortal Kombat tournament from the only source he knows how to reach. Stakes are established, and the mending of fences started.
Shang Tsung's Keep is something of a place of terror to the uninitiated. For those sensitive to the flow of souls and spirits, it is infinitely moreso. Zach Glenn has spent the entirety of his free time here trying to find a place where the surroundings did not scrape against the inside of his skull, or barring that some place where it scraped /less/.
Zach had found one place where the latter applied near one of the dormitories set aside for the servants. Once there, he sat himself down in an alcove between two statues with his legs folded and the backs of his hands against his knees in a posture that is almost meditative. Another second to align his thoughts, and a Scottish claymore rippled into existence in the waiting hands. Zach grips the hilt of the weapon and twists at it for a moment, unscrewing the pommel. Two tightly compact rolls of money slide out, allowing Zach to slide his index finger into the space to draw out a long eagle's feather. He sets this aside, and slides the money back inside the weapon before resetting the pommel. Taking the feather in one hand, he regards the thing warily before speaking a single word.
As it was promised, so it is done.
The name of Raiden's Disciple is spoken into the eagle feather and a faint electricity is felt in the air. A suitable herald for those that have cast their allegiance with the thunder god.
Though nothing happens immediately, the ex-Marine will know that the enchantment is cast as it is the same energy that was felt when he first spoke with the messanger. A faint wind and the sensation of another presence later, and Zach will then hear a familiar voice.
"Do you believe the stories now, Zach?"
A wolf with dark fur and brown eyes peeks from behind a statue, staring at the kneeling Zach. Though the wolf is not moving his snout to speak, his voice would be heard as clear as day by the Earthrealm warrior, as if by magic. Though unnerving to some for sure, at least Zach should be no stranger to hearing voices of others inside his head.
Zach grips the sword lightly as he stands to turn and face the wolf. He gestures away from the messenger, the sword scattering into a spray of golden motes of light before fading into the ether. His cynicism is still there, his willingness to question even the obvious things is still present. "Questions about the invasion," Zach asks calmly, "Or your boss? Because Metro City opened a lot of eyes about impending dooms from other worlds" Zach grips his left shoulder in his right hand before rolling the shoulder. "Still not sold on your boss being exactly what he claims to be. Lot of people claiming godhood running around lately."
Nightwolf cannot fault Zach for his utter unwillingness to take anything at face value. For one, Zach was not born and bred to fight Outworld like the shaman was, and for two; that is the best chance that mortals have to stay sane in the face of the invasion. Start to believe everything you see and you'll soon find yourself worshiping the wrong Gods.
For the messenger of Raiden, that is another brownie point Zach gets. A sign that Earthrealm is being well represented.
The black wolf emerges from behind the statue and in a poof of green smoke, the wolf vanishes and is replaced by a muscled Apache brave. "Hello to you too." The shaman smiles rather sardonically at Zach's urgency, even if he understands it. Right now is not the time for humor.
"You do well to question your surroundings. Lord Raiden does not wish to be seen as a God as others that may fight for Outworld would. He is merely the protector of our realm, a guardian to be looked up to rather than worshiped." Explains the shaman before he nods to Zach's concerns about what is going on.
"What would you like to know? I will explain as best as I can."
"If he is supposed to be a guardian," Zach says carefully, "He's got a funny way of doing his job, unless he is one of those types that helps people who help themselves." He does not bat an eyelash at Nightwolf's transformation; he expected it. He's actually /grateful/, to an extent to move the conversation to spoken language. He cuts to the chase.
"Why is Raiden, who by everything I am hearing is /supposed/ to be here, mysteriously absent?" he asks. "And is it something that can be fixed?"
Of course, the question of the hour.
Where -is- Raiden???
It is something that the shaman was expecting to be asked, no doubt everyone would be very concerned about the disappearance of the Thunder God. So much was he bracing himself for that question in fact that Nightwolf even sighs and shakes his head, almost as if he were disappointed. Questioning Lord Raiden's nature is to be expected, but doubting his devotion to Earthrealm?? Let's just say, Nightwolf can see why a lot of Earthrealmers chose to fight for Outworld.
"Real talk, Zach." The shaman drops the flowery language for a moment and stares at the ex-Marine with those blank pupil-less eyes of his. "Outworld is naught but one of the many dangers that threaten Earthrealm. As the guardian of this world, Haokah is responsible for defending us from not one but all of the inter-dimensional dangers."
Nightwolf starts pacing around, thumbs in the inside of his belt buckle. "Surely you must have heard of the Darkstalker 'The Butcher' and of course let us not forget the incident at Metro City. There was more at play that you and I could have seen from our limited mortal perspective."
He exhales. "Lord Raiden has done much for us already. Including preserving my personal continued existence and that of many innocents lives that would have otherwise been left to the cruelty of mortals." Then, he is staring back at Zach. "Do not be so quick to cast judgment. If Haokah is not here it must be because his attentions are required elsewhere where it is more dire."
"The least we can do to pay him for his efforts is to fight our own battles."
Zach's eyes narrow when Nightwolf mentions to Butcher. That... /thing/ was the reason the two men had met in the first place, and Nightwolf is talking as if Zach were unaware. It /might/ be intentional. Might not be. "I've heard of the thing," Zach says judiciously. "And I /went/ to Metro City when Jedah Domah turned the place into his own personal playground. I am /more/ than aware that there are things that go bump in the night," he says as he straightens himself up a little more, raises his chin in a gesture of pride and almost defiance. "It's my job to stand between them and those they would prey upon."
"But the vibe I have been getting since I arrived was that this... Mortal Kombat," he says, "Is one of his main areas of concern. Maybe he's off doing something else, or maybe the guy who calls himself Shang Tsung just timed things well. He's running /some/ kind of game, I just don't know enough to figure out what it is." Zach looks away from Nightwolf.
"Another question, related to the first one. What /is/ Raiden's role in these tournaments?"
When Zach raises his chin in a show of pride and defiance, all Nightwolf does is lean his head inward and give him a stare. "Then you are already doing what Lord Raiden wishes of you."
The shaman raises his head and takes a more gentle tone, a hand out whilst the other is kept by his belt buckle. "It is easy to misunderstand the ways of Haokah and think of him as an uncaring guardian, satisfied with seeing us struggle from afar."
"But to know the truth, one must know the history of mankind, before the tournament of Mortal Kombat even existed. Back to the days where Earthrealm was just another version of Outworld."
"You see, Zach." Yes, it is story time it seems, that is bound to happen when one summons Nightwolf. "Much before history as we know it was ever recorded, humanity was naught but the plaything of cosmic forces. When Darkstalkers roamed free and we humans knew them as Fey Ones and Outworld was known by many names such as the Unseelie Court, we humans were completely powerless. Naught by victims to be preyed by whoever was stronger than us.. which was essentially everything that was not human."
"It was then when beings such as Raiden rose up and challenged the Elder Gods, decreeing that humanity deserved a chance to fight back. A chance to show our strength."
Nightwolf then narrows his eyes at Zach's last question. "Lord Raiden's role in Mortal Kombat has always been that of a guide. It would be very easy for him to enter the tournament and clean house with the forces of Outworld, he has such power." The shaman seems to scoff. "But that is not the point of this tournament. For Raiden to win Mortal Kombat would mean that he'd be our monarch, he would be just like Shao Kahn rules Outworld and make slaves of us all."
"Mortal Kombat is a chance for us mortals to fight back. To show that we do not need the Gods to baby us around."
"This is /our/ fight, not Raiden's."
"It has always been our fight, not just Mortal Kombat. Jedah, the Butcher.. it is up to us to defeat them."
"It is up to us to Choose Our Destiny."
Zach scowls a bit at what he is hearing. Not out of any kind of disbelief or disrespect, but he is taking in the information and processing it as best as he can. "Fine then," Zach says finally. "Then we fight. I don't have a problem with that." It's not like Zach is a stranger to fighting in deadly earnest. "Anything you can tell me, that you think I should know?" he finally asks. His stance is pretty non-confrontational, his left hand rolling the quill of the eagle's feather between thumb and index finger in an almost nervous gesture.
Nightwolf nods in satisfaction. It is fine if Zach wishes to deny everything he sees to the end of his days. All that truly matters is that he fights for Earthrealm and keeps this world free from demonic invasion. "Yes, there are a few things that you should know." Says the shaman as a matter of factly, raising his index finger. "I am certain you already know of the Soul Shards that are being implemented in this Tournament. But there are a few more subtle rules to the Tournament that you may want to know."
"Firstly, you are well within your right to challenge anyone at any point in the island." Nightwolf leaves out the fact that Zach could potentially challenge other Earthrealmers if he wanted to, the last thing the shaman wants to do is start any in fighting. "If you see an Outworlder you are confident you can take out, do so."
"Secondly, you are never obligated to accept a challenge from anyone you are sanctioned to fight no matter what they tell you. If an Outworlder is taunting you into an unfair battle do not feel that you have no choice but to accept the challenge."
"Thirdly, Outworld never fights fair and assassination and foul play is well to be expected. Always be on your guard around here, even if that means sleeping with one eye open."
Zach blinks once at the mention of Soul Shards. It's... Reptile's use of a Soul Shard left an empty space in his memory a few seconds wide, and try as he might, he still cannot find what lies in that space. He's not even certain that this 'Soul Shard' was responsible for what was essentially a psychic flashbang.
"What can you tell me about the Soul Shards," Zach asks. "I... think I've seen one used, but I can't be sure." Zach's expression is concerned about that. He had been paying attention to the fight between Reptile and Cassie Cage, but there's that blank spot. "There was a point in the fight during the banquet," he says quietly, "Where I still can't remember what happened. In the /middle of the fight/," he says with more than a little worry. "It was like someone aimed a high-power flashlight right in my eyes."
He regards Nightwolf, the worry evident on his face. "What /are/ they? Is it going to be like that for me /every/ time someone uses one?" Because if people are going to be whipping these things out and using them all willy-nilly?
Zach's not certain he'll be of any use here if that is the case.
"You don't know of them??" Suddenly, Nightwolf's expression becomes awfully similar to that of Zach. His dead, blank eyes widen and worry sets on his face. For the first time, perhaps ever, Nightwolf falters, and his footing shifts.
"I.. umm..." The shaman blinks. It seems he's drawing a blank too. "I'm sorry, I just know that they exist. I am not yet strong enough that I can overcome the secrets of the Gods."
He lowers his head and begins scratching the back of his head. Suddenly, he's looking all too human for one who is a messenger of deities. "Damn it.. the least Haokah could have done was tell me what those blasted things do." Looks like Zach isn't the only one that isn't one hundred percent satisfied with the Thunder God's performance.
Zach frowns a bit. "I'm not explaining it well," he mutters. "I know that there are people running around with some kind of gemstone," he says. "I remember seeing one of Shang Tsung's warriors with one, but only after the fight was stopped. There was a moment in the fight," Zach stops, and takes a long breath to fight the shudder down, "Where something /happpened/."
"It was... the only way I can think of to try to describe it is if I had been hit with a flashbang grenade, but mentally," he says. "It's hard to explain," he says, "To someone who isn't psychically sensitive."
"I know what you're talking about." Nightwolf assures Zach with a wave of his hand. "I may not be physically aware as you are, but the spirits allow me to be aware of things that others do not."
"That said, my connection with them is not strong enough that I can overcome the magics that shield this place. What you saw or felt could have been a number of things, a spell from Shang Tsung that blinds the third eye, or even a psi-emitter attuned to disrupt. It would not be unlike the forces of Outworld to start employing technology of such nature."
The shaman rubs at his temple and adjusts his headband. "I was not invited to the tournament as you were, hence why I was not there in the official ceremony. I've also not spoken to Haokah in a long time which means that I only have very little information on what is actually happening. All I know of Mortal Kombat I've learned from books that speak of previous tournaments.. this whole Soul Shard business is completely new."
He shakes his head. "I'm sorry, I don't really know." The Apache rubs his chin. "I will try to investigate and see what I can find."
Zach frowns at this, tamping down hard on the frustration welling up in him. "Or maybe it has something to do with the energies running through this place," he finally says. "The souls of the dead and the damned would be thick in a place like this, where lots of people fought and hoped and lived and despaired and died." Zach takes another shuddering breath, "Enough of it leaves a... stain on a place."
Zach turns to regard Nightwolf. "There's no place in this castle that /doesn't/ feel like that, only places where it isn't as bad," he says carefully. "And I can't keep it all out."
Nightwolf makes a sickened expression at Zach's comment about feeling the souls of the dead. "Man, do not remind me." Speaks the Apache in an all too informal tone. It seems that Nightwolf has been away from the people for a long time, and in so doing so he's forgotten a lot of his flowery speech, almost appearing more brutal now. He's starting to show the first signs of being consumed by his Animality.. though that is perhaps something Zach wouldn't know. "I just finished hacking up the remains of the Butcher's curse in me. Why do you think I was gone for a year?"
Strangely, the Apache smiles softly at Zach's discomfort of being unable to keep all the bad energies away from him. "Now you know how I feel.. all the time." The path of the Sin Eater is not an easy one, but it does leave one with a lot of wisdom. Namely, that its never a contest of who's life has been the hardest.
"But if that gives you pause, perhaps thinking of it this way will renew your strength."
"If Earthrealm loses this tournament, this whole world will feel just like this castle."
Zach looks at Nightwolf for a long moment. "I think we /both/ feel like that all the time," he says after a moment. "My gifts don't really come with an on/off switch any more than I think yours do," he finishes. "I don't think either of us have the time, or the inclination, for us to be in a perpetual angst-off. I think we have a bit too much in common for that. We should be working harder to work together." He turns to fully face the shaman.
"If we cannot afford to lose, then we have to do what we can to win," he says as he extends his right hand to the taller man. "Whatever that happens to be."
Grimly does Nightwolf nods to Zach. "Indeed, we may be more alike than we suspect, my friend." If only every Earthrealm warrior was as willing to embrace a challenge with little reward as Zach. But then again, that is why Nightwolf truly loved Earthrealm, the chance to choose whatever you want to be, and not be like Outworld where everyone was subjugated by the so called Emperor.
Nightwolf accepts the handshake and he clasps the ex-Marine's hand with his own, allowing himself a smile towards the fellow fighter. "We fight and we kick some major ass, just like any other tournament."
"When you get down to it that's all there is to it."
Hands are shaken, and Zach pulls away, heading off to find some place to get some training in. He waves over one shoulder. "Fight hard, Sin Eater," he calls out by way of farewell.
The shaman shifts into a wolf and returns to the shadows, giving his own farewell. "Fight well, Warrior."
Log created on 18:58:42 09/10/2016 by Zach Glenn, and last modified on 22:19:41 09/10/2016.