Born of Battle
It was a cold grey day in December. The sun hid behind a blanket of ebony, granite sky rolling in from the south. Snow was beginning to fall gently from the sky, slowly covering the sheet of ice below. All around lay the ruins of a once mighty nation. Buildings stand hunched in the cold, windows blown out and all life drained long ago.
Nothing seems to move, nothing seems to be able to survive in the arctic wilderness. Somewhere in the distance, bells chime slowly as a fearsome gust of wind tears through the city. The remains of a beautiful clock tower are just visible in the blizzard, surrounded by a ring of brickwork buildings.
This is what remains of London. No more politics. No more sense and logic.
No more mercy.
Somewhere below the buildings, a duo appears from within a ruin. They seem lost amongst the snow and ice, dwarfed by the remains of the capital city. Yet, they seem to belong. The two stroll calmly through the veins of the city, huddled within great woolen coats that are tucked up below their ears. One is taller than the other, despite being hunched over in the cold. This one walks slightly before the other, large boots crunching the snow beneath his feet. Not too far behind walks the second figure, who stoops low to protect his face from the elements.
Both are wearing sodden leather rucksacks, presumably crammed full of supplies.
"Remind me please Jonathan, why is it we are braving the elements at such a time?" the second man was well spoken, a rather upper class sound to his voice.
The leading figure stopped and turned briefly, "Because, my dear friend, I can't be arsed with waiting around all day for them to make a decision."
This one, evidently, was born and raised in the city before the world ended. The second man shrugged, before he continued to follow Jonathan.
"I am sure they have a perfectly good reason for being so worried Nightingale, after all…" he seemed to look around, shivering, "The Paladins have turned up."
Nightingale turned again, face pulled into one of disgust.
"You really fear them? Those so-called 'Paladins' are trained to kill, not to fight. There is a big difference between the two my friend."
Again, they went on their way.
"You really should not dismiss them so passively. You know what happened to Blackwell."
"He fought off a hundred bandits, escaping with all but a single scratch on his left arm…" Nightingale mocked, as though talking to a small child.
"I know what happened to Blackwell, Achilles, but he is not a Paladin, he is one of us."
"Was one of us," corrected Achilles, "The Architect changed that a month ago, if my memory is a good as I claim it to be."
Nightingale may have sighed, although it would have been hard to tell due to the blizzard.
"I still see him as my brother Achilles. If you do or not is up to yourself, not me."
Despite Nightingale's rough and ready appearance and accent, his choice of words often seemed to belong to a wise old man, not some drunk from London.
The two were approaching a faint glow down the street, seeming unable to melt away the snow and ice. Frost covered a sign that hung limply in darkness.
This was possibly one of the only areas that remained at ground level, not quite reached by the tidal wave of ice that had managed to find the rest of the city.
Nightingale trudged to the door, cautiously peering through the frosted glass.
He held up a hand, putting Achilles on alert.
"What?" Achilles whispered, incase the situation happened to be a little more serious than he thought.
Nightingale remained to be silent, still in the darkness.
One word was all Achilles needed to hear to know they were in for a fight.
Nightingale whirled, narrowly avoiding a glint of steel near his eye. His eyes were gleaming, a moment of silence present before all hell broke loose.
Achilles bolted through the door, drawing his sword in a single, swift action. The first man to meet him in battle was young, probably not an actual Paladin, but a squire.
This was proved when Achilles felled the man in a single stroke, slitting the young man's throat in a torrent of blood.
At this point, Nightingale joined the fray, wielding a fierce looking bowie knife. Their new opponent stood tall and proud, armour gleaming beneath a snug looking robe that hung loosely around him. Battle hardened eyes bored holes through Achilles' soul, even seeming to startle the fearless Nightingale.
"Last words, gentlemen?" Well-spoken men were the Paladins, fierce warriors who saw no fear or pain in battle. They had no fear of dying, only wanting to take as many men with them as possible before hand.
"I hope this is painful." And with that, Nightingale lunged, knife destined for the Paladin's leg. He must have expected this, dodging to his left in time. However, he had not taken into account that Achilles was stood waiting.
The tribesman locked his arm around the Paladin's neck, kicking his knees from beneath him.
Nightingale approached, but took a large boot to his groin. The Londoner howled, clutching desperately at his crown jewels in pain. Achilles was sent soaring through the air, falling victim to a Paladin's sheer strength.
Fortunately, Nightingale had ignored the pain, recovering quick enough to roll from beneath Achilles.
Jonathan lunged again, parried by the Paladin. He followed up with a kick at the warrior's knee, before planting his elbow into the Paladin's exposed neck.
By this time, Achilles was back on his feet and fuming. A quick lunge from his blade found the Paladin's thigh, only removing a grunt from the brute. Somehow, the giant mustered the strength to stand up sharply, throwing Nightingale against the far wall, lashing out with his own blade, meeting Achilles' gauntlet. The Apache pushed forwards, grasping the Paladin's hand in both of his, twisting sharply to gain a shriek from the veteran.
"Let's see you fight with one hand."
The Paladin shot a fearsome look at Achilles, grunting.
He stood tall once more, bringing his sword round for a final blow.
Then he howled, gazing down at the blade that now protruded from his chest. Achilles ran forwards, punching his own blade into the brute's chest from the front, severing the arteries connected to his heart.
With one final gurgle of blood, the Paladin reluctantly fell to the floor in a pool of his own blood.
"You forgot the black man, mate." Nightingale stood, wiping blood from his nose.
Achilles slumped, taking back his breath.
"Paladin's don't fight, Nightingale?" He looked up quizzically, before returning his gaze to the corpse.
Nightingale shrugged, "They don't usually fight, they slaughter. We gave him a run for his money, I'd say."
Achilles laughed, "Really? If it were just one of us, the outcome would have been quite different my friend."
"Not, if you divert their attention." Nightingale was scavenging from the Paladin, going to un-clip his boots and scabbard.
"He has a mighty fine sword Achilles… do you want to try it for a while?" Nightingale held up the blade, which was so beautiful, even Achilles found it hard to admit that the sword was better than his own.
He did not admit however.
Achilles turned, alert.
"More will be here soon Nightingale, we need to get moving rather sharpish. Chances are Blackbriar will be with them."
At this, Nightingale stood, mind made up.
"Alright then, let's get moving on… I'd hate to be around when the other Paladins show and discover what we did to their little friend here."
After a few short minutes of scavenging, the two left the building as the sun began to rise.