Description: Two former Kombatants get a chance for conversation now that they are not trying to actively kill one another.
Zach Glenn had had a rough week or two, between the absolute thrashing he had received at the hands of Daniel Little, and the aftermath of what he had done to survive the encounter. He was on the mend, and while he had spent a lot of that time holed up in a cave near the beaches, he had needed light and air for a moment.
To that end, he had found a rock to sit on, and was meditating on the events of the tournament, trying to put it all together in a way that did not drive him insane. He's dressed in combat gear, two pistols sitting in his lap. His eyes are close, but it's unlikely he is unattentive.
The climb down the stairs from the palace was an enjoyable light excursion with a wondrous view of the sea, perhaps the most pleasing of sights available on the island. Several hundred steps were a trial for some of her retainers and many chose to make excuses for why they would not be joining her; a mixture of their own laziness as well as an assuredness there was nothing to gain or observe in watching the Princess walk to the shore and back.
Descending as a speck of fluttering sky blue against the cliff-face she raises a hand to brush against the banner posts and waving banners themselves as she passes; Fifth legion, Edenian Kingsguard, Shokan royal crest and more, many more. Each banner was representative of a host or the hero who embodied or led that strong arm of the Empire. The banners representing the Arch-sorcerer Shang Tsung were over represented but this was his home and his palace, expecting the man to set aside his pride and assume some humility with Mortal Kombat being hosted here was a foolish expectation. Yet another reason for her to add to her dislikes and mistrust of the man, he showed little honour and respect for his allies.
The woman who sets bare feet into the soft sands does so after descending all those harsh and hard labour carved stairs, luxurious feeling to wiggle her toes in the sand before making her way to the water's edge. Fluttering blue colour that was so visible and out of place on the island that of a bright and unadorned dress, it catches the wind and billows around her legs where the dress is slit to her knee. Bound tightly to her waist and slung over her shoulder like some upside down hanging flower made of chiffon.
It was not her prettiest or most luxurious and unlikely to impress anyone but she loved the dress and the colour. They reminded her of what she got to wear when she was a child, when even clothes could be picked out because they were pretty or fun to wear rather than appropriate to the situation or as decorum dictated.
She wasn't always alone when she came to the shoreline here but everyone always maintained their distance and she was always left alone, she tended to pay the other occupants of this rare and only slightly relaxing spot the same courtesy.
The Princess Kitana. Heir to the throne of Outworld and daughter of a mythical, terrifying and powerful warlord who was a conqueror and dominator of realms; She accelerates her pace and fair jogs over to run ankle deep into the water and splash about.
Zach, for his part, notices the running woman. He hears the splashing footprints, and cracks an eye open to regard her for a long moment. He doesn't say anything because he recognizes the running for what it is; in some ways it is exactly what he is doing.
His reaction is not much of one: he unfolds his legs into a more ready position. His pistols are still within ready reach, but he makes no move for them just yet. He has certainly noticed her, and he's not certain the reverse is true just yet.
He is wary, but not combative. Or even kombative. The situation does not really call for it just yet, but he's not certain if she'll see things the same way.
Sea air, salt air but with a faint undercurrent of wrongness to it, It's not as much a delight on the nose as it was as a child or as it was in Edenia but then again this was The Lost Sea and what it was mixed with or what lurked in its depths probably only theologians troubled their minds with. There was a faint stench probably relating to the corrupt magic's of the island itself being washed back onto the shores. Pollution of the natural state the island should exist in -- had existed in! Before the sorcerer moved into residence.
Kicking her heels in the water she lets the waves wash over her bare feet, raising a hand to comb away hair that was straying into her face it might even appeal idyllic but for the fact she was turning her head and glaring back hard at the source of movement and interruption. She follows through and completes the movement, but it's only a fraction of a second later that she is folding her arms across her chest and turning to regard the apparition.
This was not the first time she'd seen the dead return and seek her out.
"Some vengeful apparition is it?"
Usually it was a simple matter to have the spirits exorcised or cast down into some hell form which it would take an eternity to return. She knew that face though, specifically she dimly recalled carving it into three separate pieces! That face belonged to the one and only man she had killed on this Kahn forsaken island. He was and had not been immortal, that was the price paid for admittance to the tournament. This was a spirit man she had killed or one of his kin who bore a striking similarity.
That familiar tenseness and wariness creeps back into her as her attempt to seek even a modicum of comfort spoils around her.
"I have little interest in vengeance, the past or your life story. Haunt me at your own risk."
"None of the above, Your Royal Highness," Zach calls out clearly with a /very/ slight nod. Respect? Possibly. "I'm flesh and blood." He pauses. "Besides." He shrugs. "I've got my own haunting to deal with, and it's incredibly annoying. I'm not about to inflict that on someone else if I can help it. Seems rude."
"I met one of your handmaidens, not too long ago," he says, frankly. "She was incredibly loyal to you, personally, if not the sorcerer running this tournament." His eyes narrow thoughtfully. "Seems like that was an attitude she picked up from somewhere."
Kitana does not return the gesture, she is used to bowing and scraping in her presence. Some measure of respect form an adversary past or present is noted, measured. His words more so.
"You speak of..."
Her eyes narrow as she starts putting pieces together, Only one of her 'handmaidens' she had brought with her was in any way loyal. The attacker who had assaulted Jade and demanded her life or the souls within her soul gem? Was he the one? She knew him capable of fighting Jade. Her confidence in her friend and bodyguard was high, in many ways jade was stronger than Kitana and more like a mentor or older sister figure who was always watching out for her. In the very least he seemed to be implying he had been there.
He was a foe.
"Personal opinions do not factor into loyalty to ones allies and being faithful to your comrades."
She did dislike Shang Tsung though she would not disrespect the man enough to do other than speak her mind to her father. She would have to watch her tongue and be more mindful if others were speaking her thoughts because they were picking up on them.
"My 'loyal' handmaidens know it would be expected of them to give their lives rather than lend strength to an enemy; A worse sin still to betray their mistresses' thoughts to enemies."
Jade, what foolishness was this? Even if she had died Kitana would have used her soul shard to-- ...
"So that is it! Someone on this island cared enough or thought you important enough or useful in the tournament. You were revived at great cost."
She approved of the tactical decision, it was a strong and decisive move. He was formidable, what part or role he might continue to play she had no idea. The combatants that were left in the tourney were dwarfing her own strength; there was no longer a place for her in it. No impact she could make in the tournaments outcome.
The surge of negative emotions is hard to choke down, she was feeling useless and the man she had slain someone had valued enough to bring back form the dead.
She did not understand.
"Maybe a little of both," he agrees with a soft grin. "Don't hold it against her," he says quickly. "She didn't out and say anything like it, but I've a bit of a talent for discerning motivations. And it was an excellent fight." He considers for a moment, propping his elbows on his knees, his hands dangling in front of him. Something is going through his mind.
"If I had told you," he says slowly, "That I had learned of the concept of Kombat well before I came to this island, that I had encountered someone from Outworld even before this tournament and exchanged blows with them. Would you believe me?"
His eyes are firmly on Kitana; the answer clearly matters to the psion.
There's a slight hitch as her mouth starts to form a sentence that's cut off before his mention specifically of meeting someone from Outworld in his own realm. That requires some thought, but there's also suspicion and worry regarding her thoughts on that. Many people she encountered kept saying similar things and yet the ACTUAL expeditionary force that was performing reconnaissance and looking for allies within the Earthrealm was actually taking great pains to remain undetected and quiet.
Her response is a period of quiet while she draws a calming breath and orders her thoughts. Dredging through her memory for titbits about the Earthrealm and the previous tournaments.
"For your realm? Your guardian deity specifically associates with some religious sects on your world. Warriors are raised over their lifetimes to compete in the tournament with full knowledge of what it entails, but he is neglectful and overconfident in them. The Sorcerer Shang Tsung as one also from Earthrealm is free to seek out and invite competitors to participate and it is he who probably invited the majority of your camp to this tournament."
Their neglectful god did not show an abundance of faith in them, just the prized pets he raised to worship and fight for him.
"-Among those on earth there are those who will seek to bring together their own teams for their own ends; The champion of Mortal Kombat receives the favour and protection of the Elder gods until they can compete in the next tournament. It also affects which of our realms is dominant and the ease of travel between realms."
Stroking the side of her neck the princess turns her eyes toward the horizon as she continues unwilling to look him in the eyes but also seemingly relaxed at least in her body language.
"I am very skeptical of your claim. It is the gods themselves who enforce the rules and expel intruders. Broken rules would be grounds for penalties in the following tournament and that is something we would not risk. Not when we are so close to the tenth straight victory! As for our worlds mixingc there have always been travels between our worlds, refugees and people who have sought fame and power or adventure coming to us. Some of your ancient texts make reference to what I assume were settlers from c'eden?' References made to the cities of Nirvanya or Haven."
It was also possible for a spirit to reach or pierce the veil enough to view her beautiful world She had no real appreciation for the bizarre descriptions the books had of Edenia but there were many similarities to the actual places.
"If you were forewarned by whatever means then that is good. You were given time to prepare. It is your own gods and your own masters of your world who hide such knowledge from you. For us this is sacred and serious, proving which world has the stronger culture and produces the strongest warriors. As a mortal, I can only assume these laws were set in place by the elder gods to better ensure that the culture best suited to surviving and propagating a new, stronger world would gain unfettered access to another realm."
Zach listens. He learns. If what Kitana says is true, then that would mean that the Dahlia... could conceivably achieve a form of long life. There would be... consequences to such a thing. "That might explain some things, then," he finally says. "Metro City had been teleported, I guess, to a place called Majigen. Which I guess technically would not be Earthrealm? I'm not sure." He ponders this for a moment. "He was a being of immense psychic power, wore a lot of green. He very nearly killed me and someone who was working with me. I did not get his name; we were too busy fighting each other. He knew who /I/ was, though. Picked a good place for an ambush, too. If I had to guess, he was there to kill me."
Zach stands up, catching the pistols by the barrels as they slide off of his lap. In the same motion, he returns them to their waiting holsters before stretching himself out a bit. "Raiden mentioned a woman from a place called Tarkatan, who was involved in an incident on Earth. She attacked, and hospitalized a very high profile fighter. The event made the news in a lot of places. Again, if I had to guess," he continues, "Someone may not be breaking the rules, but is certainly taking advantage of the grey areas of them to further a plan."
Kitana shifts her stance, the patter of water underfoot emphasizing the fact she set her feet, and still no sign of those defensive weapons of hers. She recognised nothing about what the human fighter was speaking, she was aware of none of these events though a gleam appears in her eye at mention of Metro City. She disapproves greatly regarding whatever her thoughts turn to when the city's abduction is spoken of. The mysterious attacker in green who was a powerful psychic; it likewise meant nothing to her. Not even her recollection of the rogues gallery that required hunting and those who were trying to escape the Kahn's law or were desperate enough to flee to Earthrealm matched such description.
She does toss him a bone though it is a meaningless scrap.
"The Takartan are a nomadic people who go where they will, loyal to those stronger than them. A -female- Takartan attacking a talented male fighter was probably... attracted to them."
She didn't really want to consider that too much. The takartan were a people she abhorred having contact with. Their ferocity was ever-present and they tended to be tactless to the point of being blunt, vulgar in their dealings and never around when needed. A monster who slipped through the net and found her way to new hunting grounds. Of no consequence or worthy of more thought. The stray would be purged back to Ourworld or destroyed outright on the Earth.
"I have answered your questions, perhaps more fully than you will ever realize. I ask a simple one of you in return. Who had you restored to life?"
She was infinitely curious, hungering to know but at the same time she did not particularly want to run afoul of whomever it was. One who inspired loyalty in and cared about keeping someone around who was capable of nearly killing her was someone to be cautious of and optimally avoid.
Zach shoves his hands in his pocket in a relaxed manner as he watches Kitana's reaction. He tilts his head to one side, and looks at her as if he can see /through/ her. "Your handmaiden. The one that I fought," he says. "She knows the answer to that question. She threatened them to try to provoke me." Zach's eyes narrow as he straightens up. "I very nearly killed her for it, after I had defeated her." There is nothing of regret or mercy in that statement. No bragadoccio, no swagger. Just cold, hard fact. "Had it not been for the intervention of someone I consider a friend, your handmaiden would have died in that graveyard."
Something is not sitting right with Zach. "I have another question, if I may, ma'am," Zach says after that moment passes. "This is the tenth of these tournaments. It is a pivotal one, as I understand it. Is there any logical reason at all Raiden would not be present for it, given its import?"
Kitana frowns, that fact wasn't something Jade had chosen to share with her. Just how far out of the loop was she on what was going on? The worry kitana was beginning to foster turns to a genuine fear for her friend. If word of all these heaping failures got out then they would destroy her only childhood friend.
"I will allow and answer on one condition. You will never speak of that handmaiden again, to anyone. The weight of her failure is her own to make up for and you increase the burden."
She owed this man absolutely nothing. She herself wished that jade had chosen to die rather than betray. With her loyalty proven and her life able to be saved the woman would have been much respected for it. Now she was in danger because of making the wrong choice.
"Yes, the tenth is potentially the final tournament deciding the fate of your world. All the fighters who have leave to participate are already present. I would have expected him to have entered himself but the ways of gods are difficult to understand. I was not raised in a realm that had any gods and as powerful and immortal as my father is? He is a man and not a deity who is worshipped without merit."
People followed Shao Kahn for as many reasons as there were people doing so.
"Of the scraps of the you have seen and been exposed to. Nothing can prepare you for our Champions. Nothing but seeing with your own eyes when the time come, can convey the size and power of Outworld and its armies."
Picking a path carefully she advances closer toward Zach. Inexorably crossing a distance between them she extends an arm either side, everything she represented stood beside and behind her... so much bigger than she was. Gods were not immune to the forces being wielded. Her pace slows and stops, nine tenths the distance to him and lowers her hands. She was so very close to him.
"Your god may be looking desperately for a way to flee, to win or even be hiding amongst you in disguise. He did seem to enjoy behaving so. Going back more than Nine tournaments ago the champions of the tournament have been from your world. Each of those champions has died, or they have joined us. Two such former champions stand on this island, the third and current champion awaits his challengers."
She was almost tired of watching this, always and every time these people failed, turning on one another and killing their own, wasting all their strength and thinning their numbers.
"Always, you fall at the same hurdle. I was not expecting to receive mercy as I did in this tournament; such a great strength but you seem to only grant it to your enemies. We stand as your opponents, but it is your people who are killing one another. YOU! cif you were not so zealous and convinced your poisonous world were worth saving, damning everyone. I had my life staked on the fights outcome, if you had tried to give me another measure of your mercy I would have ended my life by my own had to avoid bringing any shame to my father."
She raises finger to the side of her throat in a straight line, a horrendous cut which would have severed the arteries in her neck and it would not have been a clean or quick death.
"Your battle will only get worse from here, much worse. Nine of ten times your people have made the same mistakes your force as a whole is making now."
Nine hundred years, few beings lived long enough to have born witness to so many tournaments. She had. Surely someone who had a second lease on life would be more properly motivated and inclined to step back and take a long hard look at how things had reached this point.
"Done," he agrees to Kitana's request. "Never got her name anyway."
Zach hops off of his rock, landing lightly on his feet. He closes the gap between the pair, hands still in his pockets. "As I recall," he says quietly, refusing to rise to her baiting, "We both staked our lives on our fight. It played out the way that it did. The person who brough me back did so for more than just a strategic gain. I doubt it would happen a second time; the stakes /are/ increasing. Bringing someone back from the other side carries a huge cost, and it is becoming harder to afford such a thing as matters progress."
Zach tilts his head to one side, concern evident on his face. "But obviously, I had someone who wanted me back," he says quietly. There is no scorn or mockery in the question, but compassion and concern for the woman in front of him. "Can you honestly say the same?"
No pause, zero hesitation.
"Honestly is it? If I were to fail and fall then my sister would take my place. The value placed on my life is not mine to know. How attached my subordinates or those who stand with me value my presence or aide since it is freely given, I cannot know another's mind. If such a way existed to resurrect me if I fell then it would be those who cared to weigh the value in my life against the price."
She was many things; most important of all of them was that she was the daughter of Shao Kahn and it was a very public position. The events of this tournament had taught her painful lessons regarding her pride. An assassin and warrior who had never known defeat or lost a single battle and now her usefulness here was barely discernible.
"If the cost were too great I would rather remain dead as I was than to directly harm my subjects or family."
Her father was the greatest of all men and leader of numbers beyond counting. Love for a daughter had to be measured against the price it would cost him, that was her assessment of her chances of being raised from the dead. All that was under her control was that she absolutely would not allow her life or death to be used against them. Her arms folding together firmly as a barrier between the two of them.
"Better an unenviable martyr than a despised traitor or weakling."
There was a deep enduring sadness there. Duty was far more important a measure of love that could be displayed and quantified than actually expressing as the peasants and young were allowed to.
Zach's face hardens a bit. "We both know duty, you and I," he finally says after considering. "It is a blessing, and it is a curse, and we both bear it willingly." He frowns and looks away. "For me, it's a liberating thing, knowing my purpose. You though?"
Zach glances at Kitana out of the corner of his eye. "You've made a cage of it, and you will never step out of it. I-"
Kitana may or may not notice the ripple in the ether. She might or might not see the man who looks a lot like Zach, aside from being about half a foot shorter. He looks intently at Zach. "You need to go," the shade informs the psion. Kitana might or might not hear the guardian spirit. "He's found her, they are fighting." The blood drains out of Zach's face when the words register.
"Where," he whispers hoarsely. "Where are they now?"
"At the pit. With the stone bridge leading into the forest," the shade answers. Zach considers. It seems unlikely he will make it in time to affect the outcome, but he also knows he has to /try/. He faces Kitana squarely.
"I have to leave now, ma'am," he says politely. "There may be another path for you, if you are willing to take it. I would help you with that, but there is some place I need to be as quickly as I can."
With that, Zach turns to leave.
Kitana can sense nothing of the byplay between the spirit and the man but does express an interest in the too faint to overhear whispering. He wasn't wrong-- It was a gilded cage, Prepared for her before her birth and garnished with the best and finest of servants and tutors for her to learn by example, to take her first impressions and expectations from as role models. For Kitana to live up to exceptional standard and nobility that people might to look to her as someone admirable and her actions might reflect on the throne.
"You begin to offer the most faint and slight understanding of what it is to be royalty. There may be hope for you."
Lead by example, let others know you by the quality of your word and actions and strive to never allow either to be tarnished. It was her way of life, she was still a woman but she was also a Princess of incalculable value no matter her faults, she had to remember that. Her eventual husband would stand above all but the Emperor.
Duty allowed no room for love, Duty allowed little room for any personal choice. She had been shaped into a tool and turned to a necessary and honourable task, if she failed or proved dull there was another waiting in the wings who could serve as she did. In a bloodier and more furious manner.
"You may leave."
Giving her permission was a matter of course, with a vague dismissive wave of her hand. It also meant she wouldn't stab him in the back the moment he turned. Her word was her bond, and it WAS a legitimate danger since she clearly had been trained to be an assassin.
Half turning her body back toward the sea she continues to watch him out of the dorner of her eye. She was naturally far too suspicious to allow an armed opponent to stand at her back, conditioning that had kept her alive for a great many years. She would pour back over the conversation just a little in time to come. She was no closer to really understanding the earthrealm warriors but she hoped the fools stopped killing one another. With the soul gems being used this time around the dynamic of the tournament had changed a little, perhaps it actually favoured this butchery and cannibalism in creating a few strong fighters.
But it wouldn't be enough, Shang Tsung supposedly commanded an army of souls... and he was one of the two 'former' champions she had mentioned earlier. She regretted it would come to this kind of conclusion, a thousand years of victory as your opponents defeated themselves.
Instead of thinking about that she'd rather focus on the sea though the conversation was a diversion! It left her fa rmore tense than when she had set out.
Zach smiles a bit and bows, ever so slightly, to the woman. His grin grows a bit in earnest.
"I've lead warriors to battle before," he says, "Though I am still comparatively young, it seems like leadership is leadership regardless of the form it takes." He nods once, and turns to look up the cliff face. "By your leave," he says over his shoulder.
Then the psion crouches. There is a tense gathering of power around the man, and then he rockets skyward to propel himself up the cliff in a manner not unlike a mountain goat with a trail of golden sparks.
Log created on 19:22:52 11/27/2016 by Zach Glenn, and last modified on 12:59:42 12/02/2016.