- February 6, 2022
The Incarnations: The Incarnal War (Chapter 12)
The Mercy of War, the Remains of Destruction, the End is Nigh
The Duke of War has been following the destruction his long-time rival has left in his wake. He has been after the Duke of Destruction for weeks, and with the upcoming end on the horizon, today is his last chance to dispatch his target.
The Duke of Destruction has been on a warpath through the lands of several Incarnations. He hasn’t set out to find them, but only to raze their lands to the ground, making sure that volcanic ash mars their homes while they’re away. The Duke of Destruction’s transformative capabilities have made it quite difficult to catch up to him, so the Duke of War has taken to abandoning his army and chasing after his rival alone.
In the already dying Grasslands of Gratitude, the Duke of War rides atop his mighty steed, trotting through the ash.
The lands are now volcanic. Molten lava rolls down the hills, clouds in the sky have turned black, and a hill spouts rock so high that anyone from any direction can see.
The Duke of War looks oddly at home, with his silver plated helmet covering the gruesome appendages of his face.
With his helmet topped off with three sharp spikes and two black holes where the light doesn’t touch his eyes, he appears as if he would relish in this hellscape.
Then there’s his breastplate and the plating that hide a massive frame underneath. The whole armor themed in bones and menacing points seems fit for a land of molten magma, but yet he is not at home.
As the Duke of War moves from upon his steed, a steed armored much like him, he shifts in his seat. He grows uncomfortable as he feels the temperature rise as he walks closer and closer to the active volcano ahead of him. Every now and then he feels quakes in the ground, each stronger than the last, and knows his rival has stopped running.
It takes some time to traverse to the base of the volcano, and when he reaches it he knows his steed should no longer follow him.
He climbs off of the saddle and pets the animal’s nose. He takes his mace and puts the tie around his wrist. The Ravager, a short mace, not round in its tip, but serrated in a star. It will cut open someone’s skull if it’s trajectory fails to split it.
The Duke turns his steed around and slaps its behind to get it to canter away. Then he turns back towards the volcano and begins to walk the thankfully gradual elevation. I realize that his steed had to leave due to the lava running slowly down the volcano, and less because of its steepness. The Duke can plough through the molten better on his own.
As he begins his slow walk up the side of the mountain, the temperature continues to rise higher, and the air becomes even less hospitable. The air is not necessary to survive, but enough smoke will scratch even the Duke’s throat. The Duke then motions his hand over his mouth, and summons his mouth plate to cover it. A silver plate now covers fiery red beard of his lower jaw.
When he reaches halfway to the volcano, he meets the lava, and while his metal boots make a sizzling sound, they don’t melt or give in under the heat. The Duke merely trots through it as if it were mud, paying some attention to his footing.
When the peak becomes more than a distant thought, the Duke of War begins to hear the mad cackling of his rival. The Duke of Destruction takes enjoyment in mercilessly destroying all the lands he touches, and all of that around him. The lack of meaning behind any of the destruction does nothing but anger the Duke of War.
The Duke of War finally reaches the peak, and he views inside of the volcano to see its surface.
He sees a platform of molten rock with a moat of lava encompassing it. In the middle of the molten rock stands the Duke of Destruction, fascinating himself with a design of animalistic servants of which to unleash upon the lands.
The Duke of Destruction appears unlike any other Incarnation. His exterior molten rock, lava coursing between the solid pieces of his torso, arms, and legs. It’s as if his veins are always bleeding onto his hard skin.
The Duke of Destruction hears the Duke of War when he knocks a pebble into the lava surrounding his platform. The Duke of Destruction turns his upper torso to look up at his guest, and sees his old rival. His face is molten rock like his torso, leaving only his eyes visible as pulsating blue fires.
His mouth only becomes visible when he smiles, a smile that literally reaches both ears, with his mouth leaking volcanic fluids along with blue spouts of flames.
“War, I’ve been waiting for you,” the Duke of Destruction says through his wildly voice.
The Duke of War, in his thicker, heavier tone, “That’s Duke to you.”
The Duke of Destruction’s smile waivers to seem more condescending, but joyful nonetheless. He stretches his upper half all way up to War on the edge of the volcano so they can talk face to face. “Your title is as meaningless as everything else. You are War, and I am Destruction, so if you would cease your attempts to place petty titles and labels on everything, it would be greatly appreciated.” Then he pulls back to where his legs still remain.
The Duke of War grunts angrily, then takes one hop over the lava and the volcano’s walls. He lands with a thud on both feet. As the Duke walks towards Destruction, whose title he does not need apparently, Destruction finishes building a pole of volcanic rock.
The Duke retorts to Destruction that, “You speak of things as being meaningless, and all you have done during this war is commit wanton mayhem, where’s the meaning in that?”
Destruction ignores him and starts on about, mountains. “Have you ever noticed that Incarnations don’t like mountains? I’ve been scouring our worlds for one to make this volcano, and I had to burn down half a dozen before I found this one. Justice had mountains, but well, Lord Dread cut the tops off of those, so what can you do? I would have made one, but I didn’t have the time.”
As Destruction speaks without purpose he reveals that not only was he not running from the Duke of War, he was just fulfilling an urge brought on by plain insanity. That enrages the Duke, to think that Destruction truly pays him no fear or apprehension.
The Duke demonstrates this by shoving Destruction aside and clobbering the gestating new servant of Destruction. Then he turns to slam the Ravager down upon Destruction. The mace smashes Destruction’s form into pieces, but as the pieces collapse and dissolve they begin to come together with most of the lava around the molten platform.
They rise and create an enlarged version of Destruction’s upper half, complete with its ability to amplify his sadistic laughter.
“I see that you didn’t come to drink mead and beer,” Destruction says in poor jest. “Too bad, so sad, I was really mixing together something that would knock your pants off.”
What does that even mean?
“I guess you’ll just have to settle for small appetizers to earn your main course.”
The Duke of War should be disappointed for having inspired Destruction to take such an enlarged form. He now towers above the Duke and makes his once impressive frame feel small.
Instead the Duke complains sarcastically, “And to think I ever missed your terrible attempts at jokes.” With a forthcoming attitude the Duke readies his mace and gestures for Destruction to come at him. “Well, what are you waiting for?! I’m here, and I’m ready. I have been waiting for this chance to end you.”
Destruction tilts his head and responds, “You must not really like me, and I thought we were close. At least now you can tell me how drowning and burning at the same time feels.”
Destructions aims his massive hands over the Duke, and spews molten lava all over him. The lava encompasses the Duke, wrapping around him as a river would around any mortal. Unlike a mortal though, the Duke fights against the current with shocking ease, both to me and Destruction.
Destruction’s attack ceases and the lava hardens around the Duke. He shatters the rock around him with one charge of his power, and takes a step to stand on the now hardened lava.
When Destruction looks upon the Duke befuddled, the Duke asks, “Did you really think it would be so easy? That was nothing.”
“Nothing you say? I’ve drowned your previous Reincarnations before, left them to burn to cinders or left them as statues across worlds.” One such statue still stands in Destruction’s own lands. “What’s different now?”
“What’s different, you ask?” the Duke responds rhetorically. “Are you so consumed in yourself that you’ve forgotten the world around you? Currently, there is a war between Life and Death. Incarnal armies, endless in manpower have been clashing for sometime, creating the greatest conflict to ever wreak upon Creation. Incarnations clashing in mortal combat alone creates more warbound energy than anything the mortals could produce. You seriously can’t fathom why I would be more powerful than ever? Do you forget my name?”
Destructions response sounds so truthful I fear he actually means it. “Infertility? I don’t know, I don’t really like you. I’ve just been trying to spare your feelings.”
The Duke growls and wraps his fingers around his mace ever so tightly. He announces to the giant above him, “War, I am War! And never before have I been fueled by so much power! Today I shall need no one’s help, today I will see your head mounted on my steed’s ass!”
As the Duke of War grows angry with his foe’s belittlement, he summons power around his mace in the form of violent winds, and with a swing of the Ravager, he sends them flying into Destruction’s jaw.
There is a loud crack when the powerful gusts connect with Destruction’s chin, going so far to cause pieces of his molten rock exterior to fall apart and reveal magma beneath. Destruction rubs his chin, and for once in this confrontation, actively grimaces.
Destruction threatens the Duke, “If you want something to hit, I’ll offer something.” Then he places his massive hands flat on the ground, and summons forth minions. “Why don’t you meet the projects I’ve been working on all day. They’re killer.”
I’m groaning right now, painfully so, heaven almighty I might actually hate Destruction.
From underneath Destruction’s palms, monstrosities crawl out. Beasts similar to ursidae, minotaurs, and large felines, all with volcanic rock for exteriors and magma in their veins. The more frightening in appearance are the many more fodder servants who resemble humans or Regamorphs. They’re in a volcanic state and move as if their limbs were falling apart.
The Duke of War claps his mace into his palm over and over again. “About damn time.”
Then the monstrosities begin to charge at him, and he yells heartily as he charges towards them. He alone faces a small army and shows no fear, and for good reason.
A feline beast takes point and aims to pounce upon the Duke from the front, a fatal mistake. When it jumps upon the Duke, the Duke loses none of his momentum and slams into the body of the feline beast. As he continues to charge, he grabs it with his left hand and uses it as a battering ram to trample over several creatures before tossing it against another beast.
As the mortal-like monstrosities move in the Duke’s way, he cracks one’s head apart with a swing of the Ravager, and then swings again to crush another to pieces.
He hears a beast pounce behind him, and faster than the blink of an eye, he turns on his heel and brings his mace down over his head.
The strike of the mace comes down perfectly upon the center of the beast’s head, shattering it into chunks of volcanic rock.
The mortal monstrosities then think to swarm the Duke, if they’re actions can be considered thinking. They grab and hold onto his arms, but as easily as swatting a fly he swings them off. With swift speed and accuracy he bats away a mortal monstrosity, sending it barreling towards the others, causing them to fall and trip over each other in explosive piles.
From the Duke’s left he is charged by a molten minotaur, rearing his horns, and from his left a heavy beast without horns or spikes. As they run at him at the same time, the Duke sidesteps the minotaur, allows his mace to sling around his wrist, and grabs both of the minotaur’s horns.
He lifts the molten minotaur off its feet and swings him straight into the ursidae beast, horns first.
Before either monster can even lift a clawed paw to the Duke, the minotaur’s horns are used as weapons to stab into the ursidae’s side, lift it up off the ground, and then flipped over the Duke’s head.
The Duke follows through to slam the minotaur onto its stomach. He puts the overmatched beast in a headlock to struggle to place his sharp armor gauntlets into its jaw. As this happens, mortal and feline monstrosities clamber onto the Duke’s frame to no avail, not even weighing him down.
As the Duke focuses on the minotaur, he grips the beast’s jaws, and begins to pull them apart. It takes mere seconds for the minotaur’s jaw to split, and the Duke rips it out to slap a feline beast chopping down on his left arm. He then lifts the minotaur’s corpse to spin around with as a pole to knock away several attacks.
Then with a burst of power and a mighty flex he sends all of the small attackers on him flying.
One would think that Destruction would be alarmed by how little damage his monsters are dealing to the Duke, but he’s to be paying attention for that to even be possible.
The Duke then grips the Ravager once again, and looks to see what enemies are left. As mere mortal monstrosities and feline monstrosities barrel towards him, the Duke finds them lacking. He was hoping for a challenge and has found none. And during his battle he noticed Destruction, not even paying him attention as he tickers with another beast.
This drives the Duke of War to rage.
He walks over to Destruction’s massive form, swatting the leftover molten beasts as if they were flies.
Then as he walks closer and closer he grows faster.
As the Duke heads towards Destruction, the chimera monster that he is toying with grows threatened and senses the incoming danger. It then breaks from Destruction’s grasp, much to his childish annoyance.
The chimera, the tail of a snake, the head of large feline, and the body of another reptile barrels towards the Duke on all fours. The Duke and the chimera run towards each other head on.
Right when the chimera pounces, the Duke swings his mace with both hands to crack the chimera’s jaw. The chimera then falls over the Duke and flips over onto its side.
As the Duke turns around, the molten chimera’s snake tail is already moving on its own, snapping and biting at the Duke’s the shoulder. It eventually chomps down, but its fangs cannot pierce his armor.
The Duke in turn can wraps his arms around the snake tail, and pulls the chimera as he does so. He spins around and around, pulling the chimera by its tail, causing the body to tumble over the ground.
Finally the tail comes apart from the rest of the body, and the reptilian feline tumbles across the molten rock. The Duke throws the tail across the ground and charges the chimera, mace in hand. The chimera stands on its hinds legs and raises its fists over its head. The chimera times itself perfectly to bring its arms down upon the Duke.
The force of the chimera’s arms cause the ground below the Duke to crack, but the Duke loses no momentum or strength. He shoves the chimera’s arms to the side, off of his head, and swiftly cracks the Ravager against the chimera’s left wrist. The wrist is half blown away, and the chimera howls in pain as it holds its wrist in its other hand.
The Duke then leaps onto the chimera’s shoulder, and digs his spiked gauntlets into its arms as he climbs up its side.
When the Duke climbs onto its left shoulder it tries to reach for him with its free hand, and the Duke slaps it away with bursts of power. Then he whacks the chimera’s head with the mace.
When the chimera doubles over, the Duke jumps atop of its head, and proceeds to mercilessly beat down upon it, with mace and fist.
With each blow the beast’s exterior cracks and shatters, lava spewing everywhere, and the howls of the chimera dying with its flames.
He keeps beating upon it. Even once the beast falls over onto its stomach, he continues to beat it for good measure.
When the Duke of War finally finishes his beatdown of the beast, he’s in blood lust, looking for another to kill, but there is nothing, so he yells in an animalistic rage at the sky.
After holding his lava covered hands and mace towards the heavens, he howls and finally calms.
Destruction looks on with his chin in his hand, unimpressed.
“Are you done?” the foul Incarnation asks, “because you owe me another one of those. That project took up a lot of my free time. It’s going to take me a whole half hour to build another!”
Destruction’s complaints are really childish considering the slaughter of his servants. He’s never cared for them in the way another Incarnation would. They are nameless fodder to him.
The Duke yells to Destruction, “Fight me, coward! Show me that you are worthy of all of my effort! I do not see any worth among the trash littered about.”
Destruction narrows his eyes upon the Duke, and turns his neck to the side, cracking it. I don’t know why he cracked it, he could only have done that on purpose for some reason. Then he looms higher, higher than the peak of the volcano and announces to the Duke, “If you wish to meet Death so badly, allow me to-”
The mad Incarnation’s words are cut short, thankfully, as he is beheaded. His massive head rolls off his body then across the molten platform. His body flails about as it tries to find the missing head. From above the headless giant, a figure with a sword sparkles above, and comes plummeting down, fist first with grace.
The Duke of War is not surprised, I warned him of this threat beforehand. The Duke greets his new challenger. “I was beginning to wonder when you would appear, Madam Honor.”
Madam Honor stands up, not tall nor proud, but with a hungry slouch. The gash through her armor left by the Lord Dread is still there, stained with dry blood.
She aims her infected longsword towards the Duke, and grumbles, “You were expecting me?”
The Duke nods, and informs her, “Life had given me fair warning.”
“So he is good for something,” she insults. I’m beginning to wonder if there is a single female Incarnation who doesn’t associate me with uselessness, maybe Love. “I’m sure he has told you why I am after you.”
The Duke answers, “You believe that defeating me will reclaim you your honor. I am here now to tell you it won’t.”
The Madam scowls, and bares her teeth as she readies into a battle stance. She spews words not of hate, but fueled by it. “You’re wrong. When I defeat you, I’ll have back my honor, and the means to my family. Duke, it is time you died once again.”
The Duke of War does not raise his mace to the Madam, even as his body is being pushed to do so by the adrenaline he still feels. He seemingly growls to himself, constraining himself as to not take his body’s own bait, and refuses to attack the Madam.
The Madam demands to know, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“We do not need to fight, Madam Honor. There is no need to add your soul to the too many already dead,” he reasons. He clenches his fists, and holds them at his sides to cement his refusal to fight.
The Madam does not take kindly to this action. She yells at him, “Are you a coward?! Do you fear fighting me? You had no reservations of killing Destruction, but suddenly you have a conscience?!”
The Duke strongly reasons that, “Destruction is a filthy animal, actually worse than that. He is one who wishes only pain and suffering upon others, and that’s why he must go. You are Honor, why would I want to see such a thing lost at all?”
The Madam lowers her sword for a moment to look towards the Duke with an expression of confusion. “You’re a fool, War, we are enemies, we are on opposite sides of a war, and that means that either I must kill you, or you must kill me. That is the law, the nature of things.”
In more angry tone, the Duke of War twists his neck at an uncomfortable angle, reining in the bloodlust that grows with her insults.
He tells Madam Honor, “Do not try to teach me about War. I know that just because two are on opposite sides, that does not make them enemies.”
“That, is where we disagree,” the Madam states coldly.
The Duke tries to reason one last time, but I can tell by the way his fingers stretch and recoil near the Ravager that he is losing his patience. “Madam, you will die. You cannot win, not in this state. In another context, when you are at your peak, I would gladly test my metal against you, but this is not the place nor the time.”
The lines on the Madam’s forehead grow intense as she grows enraged, believing him to be treating her with a delicacy reserved for a Lady.
She growls at the Duke, “You think this is a game? A friendly sparring match? This is to the death!”
Then the Madam aims to raise Excalibur towards the Duke once more. “I am no feeble female that you can pass aside. I am the pinnacle of sword skill, and the prime example of an experienced warrior!”
“And I fear in your depressed state, and Excalibur’s poisoned condition, I will be witness to none of those facts,” the Duke pleads and compliments. “I beseech you, one, last, time, do not try to fight me. Yield.”
The Madam moves her right foot back to prepare to lead with her right. She responds with cold assurance, “I yield to no one.”
If I were there I would point out how she yielded to Lord Dread.
The sharp gauntlets wrap around the Ravager’s handle, and his feet move apart in a defensive position. The short but deadly mace is raised between him and the Madam.
The Duke of War then says with finality, “So be it.”
Madam Honor charges the Duke head on at first, with the Duke staying his place to hold his ground. When she is only a few yards from him, she leaps above him, spinning to give her longsword momentum.
The Duke lifts the Ravager, grasping it at both ends over his head so the metal grip blocks the strike from Excalibur.
This is a mistake, Excalibur should cut the mace in half. When the powerful slice of the sword meets the mace’s metal bar though, the mace holds.
The eyes of the Madam open wide, and her mouth stands agape for a moment as her feet fall to the ground and even the force of her blow does not budge the Duke. The Duke stands like a stone, an immovable object, and the Madam begins to realize that she is not an unstoppable force.
“You should have cut my mace in half,” the Duke tells her. He even adds, “I should have budged.”
The Madam ignores him to pirouette on her left foot. With blinding speed, she swings her longsword around and down upon the Duke’s foot tendon.
His armor stops her blade from sinking into his foot.
She is beginning to realize that it is not merely the Duke’s power fighting against her, but another, her weapon.
As she thinks to herself and becomes distracted, the Duke swings his right arm with his mace in hand. Instead of hitting her with his mace, he backhands her, knowing the mace would decimate her with such a direct attack.
The Duke’s backhand, while containing the same level of power as Lord Dread’s, is held back and does not launch her like a pebble. The Madam is knocked to the ground, and drudges a path for a few yards before rolling into a recovery.
Thankfully for her, no magma comes to the surface to burn through her armor. She does taste blood in her mouth, and spits it against the ground. The color is not its normal red, but black. She wonders for a second if the Duke had poisoned her, but realizes that to be ludicrous.
She thinks to consider Lord Dread, but the Duke explains to her, “You are poisoned, not by any other but yourself. Excalibur is sickened by your wish for death and dishonor, and poisons you for it.”
The Madam makes an expression of angry annoyance, not trusting in the words of her designated enemy. She ignores him once more, and charges him again.
This time she thinks to target his weak spots, those where his armor does not protect him.
Of all of her disadvantages and hindrances, her speed is not one of them. She surprises the Duke by first feigning another attack on his head. He moves to block in the same fashion as before, only for her to twirl Excalibur backwards away from him, and to swing upwards to slice the side of his thigh, which is only covered by cloth.
The Duke hisses, a reflex to his pain and his surprise.
He aims to dash away from her, but it was a mistake to think she would allow itt.
As he raises his arms in his backwards dash, she swings upward, and catches him under his left arm in his bicep, where he lacks armor.
The Madam then believes she sees her opportunity for a swift end, believing him injured enough and herself past his guard.
As the tip of her sword is over his arm, but with a clear trajectory to his neck, she attempts to slice inward.
In the same second she should have sliced his neck, he releases his power. Not only from his hands, but from his entire body as an outward blast, pushing her away.
Now the Duke of War goes on the offensive. As she finds herself in the opposite position not even seconds before, the Duke swings his mace to her right, and she barely lifts her longsword in time to block.
There is a screeching noise and a clank as their weapons connect.
He then uses a backhanded swing, only to have her barely block with her sword in time, but forcing her sword aside.
He leaves her open while his left hand is free to move and not blocked by his right.
He punches forward, hitting her dead in the chest, sending her body backwards. She stands in her form as her feet tear the molten rock.
The Duke dashes after her to bring the Ravager down upon the Madam in a two handed swing, which she nearly sidesteps.
When he moves slightly past her, she slashes at him, but her attack clangs off of his armor.
He attempts to hit her with his backward swing again, but she ducks and stabs upward towards his face.
She almost stabs his jaw from under his helmet, but he bucks his head backwards just in time. Her sword only catches the inside of his hellish helmet’s mouth guard, and knocks it off.
When the Madam swings up, the Duke swings down, and their weapons lock. Their weapons shake and clang as they hold against each other. The Madam bores into the Duke with nothing but fury. He responds to that fury by taking his left hand and punching her across the jaw, forcing her backwards.
As she stumbles back stunned, he walks towards her and swings the mace with magnificent speed.
The Ravager clangs against the metal of her breastplate, likely to bruise.
He reverberates her breastplate by smacking it with his mace several times more. On the fourth, she lifts Excalibur to block and merely stumbles backwards several more steps. She then attempts to slash with her sword several times, but only makes contact with his mace, causing their weapons to clang and recoil back, but she attempts to strike again.
As the Madam sustains more and more blows, she finds herself growing slower and slower, and the Duke striking at her faster and faster.
It becomes clear that he is not giving his all, swinging his mace with one hand, not in any stance. The Madam is now tiredly and constantly shuffling her feet and sustaining blows between everyone one that she blocks.
With more power, the Duke of War finally swings against her shoulder, creating a strong blast of wind. He sends her tumbling yards away, while he merely stands and waits for her.
The Duke tries to convince Madam Honor one more tie. “Stand down, there is no chance for you, even less than there is reason for you to continue.”
The Madam with great rage, ignores his words, and yells something unintelligible as she charges him once again. He releases a heavy sigh, and instead of using his mace, he forces his left hand open and blasts her with razor sharp winds.
She is stopped in her tracks when the force confronts her, slicing her in her ribs, arms, and cheek as they remain unprotected by armor.
The wind doesn’t let up, and she sustains more cuts loses more blood as it goes on.
She uses her anger, and self doubt to call upon the last of what she believes to still be her once great power. She pools it into Excalibur, ignoring how the weapon wishes to deny her, and uses it to strike downward and disperse the wind.
Then she dashes forward, and with only a yard between them and she jumps with her sword over her head.
The Madam plans to cut him in half with all of her might, and in the milliseconds that the Duke has to block her attack, all he does is raise his palm to her.
He doesn’t put any power behind his hand, he uses his natural strength and dexterity. She finds herself insulted as she swings, so she screams in anger.
They both watch with different expectations.
The longsword stops right where it is upon the Duke’s flat palm. As the power slams against the Duke’s hand, naturally it makes gusts of wind explode from the collision, causing the Madam’s hair and battle skirt to fly wildly.
As the Madam looks forward in shock, the Duke is anything but surprised as his hand easily holds up against her empowered sword.
As they stare at each other, one in shock and the other in grim understanding, the Duke of War tells the Madam, “If this sword were truly as sharp as it should be, if you were as powerful as you should be, I would have one hand.” He tilts his head to watch as Madam Honor’s face falls to t the ground. He finishes, “Yet I do not, and you must realize that this is over.”
Then he wraps his fingers around Excalibur’s blade, and easily wrenches it from the Madam’s hands causing her to fall forward onto her knees. Once again, she finds herself vulnerable to another Incarnation, awaiting a blade to come down over her head.
As she stares at the ground, her arms at her sides, all she can say is, “I give up.” Then she looks up at the Duke, and says, “I’m ready.”
The Duke asks, “Ready for what?”
The Madam grimaces, fearing a fate similar to the one Lady Love and Lord Dread forced upon her. Another fate of dishonor and living.
“My end, death. Please don’t leave me to grovel, to live without my honor. Take my sword, my life, everything, just kill me. Dying is the last honorable thing I can do.”
The Duke looks away from her, shaking his head, growling to himself in anger. He holds her sword in his left hand, he holds Excalibur and tosses it up lightly in the air to quickly grab hold of its grip. The Madam believes that her end is near, and bows her head, showing him the nape of her neck.
In a scream of anger, he raises Excalibur, and slams it down.
She feels the slight chill of air as the longsword passes next to her face into the molten rock. She has been spared yet again.
“There is nothing honorable about dying in the dirt for no good reason at all,” the Duke of War speaks, a voice and tone layered in anger driven by experience. “I will not end your life, no matter how much you think you deserve it, no matter how lacking in honor you may feel, I know what kind of person you are, and that’s not one who deserves to die by her own sword. Your sword wishes to kill monsters, fighting a good fight, not one that condemns its wielder’s soul.”
Madam Honor turns her head to look up with nothing but spite and rage. She accuses the Duke, “You dare wish to speak to me, about honor? To lecture me of what it means?”
The Duke kneels down, and grasps the Madam by her cheeks roughly. He brings her face in close to assure her, “Yes, I do.” Then he releases her to stand, and turns his back to her. He proceeds to walk away, to leave her to despair and fate yet again.
In fear of his words, that she may not truly understand what she stands for anymore, in fear of herself she screams for him to, “Wait!”
He stops in his tracks, and turns to look back at her. The Duke looks towards the ground, then back at her. He offers her a truth. “Madam, heed my words. I go now to finish what I started, and kill Destruction, to end his madness, not only because Life asked me to, but it needs doing. You should join me, killing monsters is what you picked up a sword to do.”
Before he can turn his back to her again, the Madam stands to her feet, and calls to him to ask him, “Why? Why do you do as Life asks? Why are we enemies?”
“We’re not enemies, you should realize that by now,” the Duke is swift to answer.
“Then tell me why, why did you pick your side?”
The Duke doesn’t answer right away, instead he looks upon her, not expressing what he is feeling. Without transition, he tells her, “I fight for Life, not because I want war, nor because I think he is a better Creator. I want to see peace. Not the kind of Death’s future, where the will to do anything has died out from immortality and suffering.
“That peace is forced. I want peace that is born from the will of the living, something that has been worked for and earned.
“I wish to die one day from Absentness, because I want a world where people no longer fuel my presence.”
“Ugh,” Destruction interrupts to grunt. Suddenly, the rolling head begins to disintegrate. As he does his head begins to grow back out of his torso.
The Duke of War turns towards Destruction’s still incredibly large body as it begins to reform its head. “It appears that my enemy has finally stopped playing dumb.”
As Destruction’s head reforms, he explains, “It seems that I have been found out. I admit, I wanted to watch you two kill each other more than I wanted to join in.” Then he leans on his shoulders and scratches his head in a face of embarrassment. “I’m not proud of it, but I must admit that I have been lazy. I figured if I pretended to be disabled you would kill each other for me. Now I believe I must do it myself. You always have to do it yourself, don’t you?”
The Duke challenges Destruction, “Are you finally going to fight me, or continue to send mere toys to fight your battles for you?”
Destruction mockingly pretends to think before condescendingly responding, “No, I don’t think that would be worth my time. I am currently thinking along the lines of just finishing what I started.”
When Destruction does not immediately reveal what he means, Madam Honor calls to him, “Well?”
Destruction becomes bewildered, as if he is just now noticing her presence. He finishes his thought by saying, “Ah, yes, well, I didn’t come here to waste time with either of you, though that is certainly and regrettably what I have done. I came to make a volcano erupt! And cover everyone’s realm in ash.”
Both the Duke and Madam become surprised by his ambitions, both in its scale, but also in the ambition to destroy not only the Grasslands of Gratitude, but every Incarnation’s home.
The Madam demands to know, “Why?! Why would you do such a thing?”
The molten rock over Destruction’s right eye shifts to show confusion over her question. He believes the answer to be obvious. “My name is Destruction. What else should I be doing than destroying everything and adding to my power? By the end of my one man apocalypse, I’d be surprised if I don’t become a Lord!”
The Duke is swift to point out, “I thought you said you didn’t care for titles.”
Destruction rolls his eyes before responding to his blatant sign of hypocrisy. “I don’t care for the title, I still want more power, and there’s no one able to stop me.”
The Duke finds it quite difficult to keep from baring his teeth at Destruction, who so clearly still does not perceive him as a threat. Destruction continues to insult by saying, “Let’s be honest with ourselves War, you have no power that can kill me. That’s been true every time we come up against each other, and it’s true now.”
“Maybe this time,” the Duke begins, “I came more prepared than you think.”
“And he does not do so alone,” the Madam declares. Both the Duke and Destruction turn to face the Madam as she pulls her sword from the ground, and inspects it. As she relays her desire to picks up her sword, Excalibur’s sickness seems less black.
As she walks to stand beside the Duke of War, he never takes his gaze off of her. He asks her, “I thought you believed me your enemy?”
“I’m, I’m not sure, honestly. What I am sure of is that Destruction is more dangerous and important than anything between you and me. If allowed to continue, he would end the war, and only because the Incarnations would have nothing left to fight for. So I think it safe to say that I have a home and allies to protect, so we can work together for now.”
The Duke upon hearing this reasoning, smirks, and turns his head back to face Destruction. Then he holds his hand out to the Madam. He offers her his power. “Take my hand, and borrow my energy. I have endless to spare, and you wasted it all against me. Can’t have you be tired cannon fodder for me to protect.”
The Madam looks down at his hand then to his helm with curiosity. She takes his hand to borrow his power and remarks, “My power was not wasted.”
“Of course it wasn’t,” he remarks sardonically.
Destruction watches on with a bemused smile on his face. He laughs and pokes insult, “Oh, how adorable. The enemies have become friends for me. I’m touched, and insulted. This changes nothing, even together neither of you have a chance.”
Destruction’s molten rock of a hide begins to recede over his torso and cover his exterior in lava, which would make most attacks against him ineffective. “Now that I’ve had the time to reconsider, I think I will fight you, just so you drown in the realization of your futility.”
The Duke suddenly raises his left hand to his mouth, and sticks his thumb and pointer finger in his mouth. He whistles loudly much to the other two Incarnation’s confusion. Then he replaces his mouth guard. When the Madam looks upon him strangely, he merely says, “It’s all part of the plan, trust me.”
A tall task of someone who only recently became a temporarily ally. The Madam now begins to hope that she hasn’t made a dire mistake. She has no chance to back out now though, as she must ready her stance along with the Duke as Destruction prepares his attempt to annihilate them both.
Without warning, Destruction holds his palms towards the two. From his hands rains down molten rocks with the speed of arrows and the impact of boulders.
The Madam thinks to move to deflect, but immediately notices the extreme increase in agility and speed of thought. She recognizes this as an effect of the power that the Duke has given her, and looks up to her right to see him looking at her. Realizing his expectations, she sidesteps in front of him, and holds her sword ready.
With reflexes she has only at peak power and relevance, she blocks and deflects the the molten rocks. They range from the size of arrowheads to the size of her head. She would change between blocking and cutting them in half to protect herself and the Duke from Destruction’s onslaught.
Eventually, Destruction sees the futility in his own attack, and becomes slightly peeved. He then raises his arms, and sweeps down the sides of the volcano and the molten platform to crush the Madam and Duke.
Like Lord Dread, Lady Hate or the Kings, Destruction has omnipresence, and hence the ability to transform to encompass anything or any form. Unlike them, he lacks omnipotence, and cannot maintain any great speed in his large size as they do.
As his arms sweep across the ground, the Duke turns to the Madam and says, “Jump over his left arm. When he attempts to crush me, I’ll act like cuffs and hold them together as you try to sever one.”
“He won’t crush you?” she questions the Duke.
“Not today,” he assures the Madam.
Amused by his confidence, her lips form a small smirk before she dashes in the direction of Destruction’s left arm.
The Duke stands in the middle, waiting for the arms to collide against him at the same time.
When the Madam comes close to the left arm, she leaps into a twirling arc over his arm.
When she is directly above Destruction’s limb, she stabs downward, though technically above her head, into the molten rock.
Destruction’s momentum is too strong for him to stop as his hands come to crush the Duke of War, who stands ready. When Destruction’s hands wrap around him, they immediately feel the sharp points of War’s fingers as the gauntlets stab through. The Duke then fuels power into himself, and releases his destructive bursts of wind to explode in Destruction’s hands.
Destruction screams out in pain, and questions, “I thought you were acting like cuffs?”
After a loud chuckle, the Duke retorts with a rhetorical question, “Why would I make a plan that you would hear?”
Then as Destruction raises his arms in pain, arms that lack complete hands, Madam Honor removes Excalibur from his molten hide, and falls parallel to Destruction’s forearm.
When she is about to hit his bicep face first, she raises her blade over her head and has trust that it will finally complete its task.
When she makes her timely strike, she severs his arm at the elbow, leaving him with a short stump for a limb. As the Madam falls to the ground she calls out to the Duke, “Attack his chest now before he can regain his arm!”
The Duke nods in agreement and sprints towards Destruction’s massive figure, but Destruction has other ideas. In a rage of pain he yells and spews lava from his torso, quickly flooding the volcano and drowning the Duke, even over his head.
As the Madam lands to the ground, she finds herself running pointlessly away from the oncoming flood, knowing it to spell out her doom. Before the wave engulfs her, the Duke bursts from the wave unharmed from the lava, and wraps his arms around the Madam’s torso.
With her in his arms, he leaps up and away from the volcanic tidal wave. He leaps high and far across the volcano to slam his fist through the wall opposite of Destruction.
The Madam is quick to mention to him that, “Climb War, climb! The magma is rising!”
As he releases the Madam from his grip, she swings around to hang onto his neck from behind and he begins to climb.
As he does the Duke corrects her, “Technically it’s lava.” He is swift to feel a very tight grip around his throat. He decides to be quiet and climb.
As they try to escape, Destruction groans angrily and refuses to allow them to escape. He transforms his whole mass into a massive stream that defies gravity. He moves like a serpent over the rising lava and the end of the stream turns into a gigantic fist of molten rock. As the Duke and Madam are climbing over the end of the volcano, the fist slams into them, shattering a portion of the volcano’s peak, and sending them flying across the volcano’s side.
As the Duke skips across the ground, Destruction moves with great speed as a volcanic snake under him.
The snake then launches upward to bite the Duke’s leg. The volcanic snake then transforms into Destruction’s mortal bipedal form from earlier, and swings the Duke over his head against the ground.
Destruction turns the hand holding the Duke’s leg to lava and envelopes the Duke, encasing him in molten rock. He is about to add his right hand to the lava spewing when Madam Honor quickly comes to slice off Destruction’s left arm.
Destructions dashes backwards as the Duke punches the molten rock covering him.
Destruction screams out at the Madam, “What do you have against my left arm?!”
The Madam responds, “It’s attached to you.”
Before she can strike at him again, he lifts his right leg towards her, and extends it to kick her in the stomach.
It expands to follow through on kicking her up the volcano. At this time the Duke has freed himself from under the molten rock, and Destruction only looks on confused. “How is it that you can overcome me? How is that you are not dying as easily as so many times before?!”
“Have you not been listening?” the Duke retorts. Then he summons his power into his hand and throws it in an underhand throw up into Destruction’s face, blowing off the left half.
“I am at my most powerful! One blow between you and me, between Dread and Hate, and I become more powerful than any mortal war could make me. How many times do I have to say it?” Then he blasts Destruction again, obliterating his right arm and leaving his torso limbless. “You cannot simply drown me or melt me down. Not today.” He blasts Destruction several more times, while closing the walking distance between them to grab Destruction’s neck and what remains of his body. “Today, you die, finally by my hand.”
Destruction’s mouth and left eye are still intact, and Destruction’s demeanor ceases its lax expression. It hardens as if he is realizing that he must take the Duke seriously for the first time in his life. “Fine, it seems I can’t behave as if you’re the same as the previous Wars. You’re different, and less interesting, but stronger. Now, let’s go.”
With that, Destruction suddenly regenerates and melts all over the Duke’s arm. He entangles himself around the Duke’s arms and legs before the Duke has a chance to do anything.
In seconds the Duke is ensnared, and Destruction is coiling his new snake-like form around the Duke’s neck. He starts to squeeze, not to choke but to crush the neck and sever the Duke’s head from sheer pressure.
As the Duke of War begins to croak, Destruction forms lips in different parts of his snake-like body, and whispers to the Duke, “No more games. I think I’ll kill you here and now, then the Madam, and then everyone else. No more of this rebellion, of this childish mission of revenge or whatever it is to you.
“Now you just die.”
Then the with screeching war cry, Madam Honors severs the grip around the Duke’s neck, slashing and stabbing in a flurry to weaken Destruction’s grip on the Duke. She does this enough so that the Duke can release his power in a burst and blast Destruction into pieces.
He is quick to thank her. “I appreciate the assistance.”
“Consider us even from when you saved me from the tidal wave,” the Madam responds.
Then the ground begins to shake, and they realize that Destruction has yet to reform, which means he is about to attempt something different.
Unable to find Destruction with their sight, the Madam and Duke find themselves inching closer to each other, back to back, weapons raised. Little do they know, that works in Destruction’s favor.
Suddenly, they find themselves atop of a hand, one of molten rock that raises them off the ground and closes around them, trapping them in a tight grip. Then with a proportionally large body, Destruction’s head and torso erupts from the ground as he holds the two above his head.
“I said this is the end,” Destructions begins, “for the both of you.”
With that, Destruction’s palm turns to lava, and burns the two in his grasp. The Duke can withstand the onslaught, but the Madam cannot.
She screams in pain as the lava is quick to overheat her armor and burn through the cloth between them.
The Duke instinctively calls out, “Honor!”
Destruction begins to smile as the Madam’s demise seems so close, and then he hears galloping off in the distance. He moves the two Incarnations out of the way to see a horse, a steed galavanting in his direction. He brings his hand close to his face, and questions the Duke, “What is that?”
In a croak caused by his body being crushed, he responds, “My horse.”
Then the Duke begins to summon forth his power. He flexes his arms and fights against his binding to shatter the top two fingers holding him. As Destruction grunts in pain, the Duke turns around to protectively embrace the Madam in his arms. He swiftly releases his immense power from his body to free them both from Destruction’s grasp.
They fall to the ground, the Duke back first with the heavily injured Madam atop of him.
Her armor has burned against her skin, and the clothing underneath is gone to burn her body below her chest, being that’s where Destruction grabbed her.
The Duke lays her down carefully on her side before rushing to his feet. As Destruction’s violent recoil ends, he is readying to slam his fists down upon his enemies. The Duke swiftly blasts Destruction with both hands extended, sending a massive wave of power to obliterate Destruction’s head.
This gives the Duke time to finally enact his plan. His steed comes right up beside him when he stabs into its heart with his hand. Unnaturally, the steed acts as if it feels no pain.
The Madam watches, her conscious fading away from her. She gasps, “What are you… doing?”
The Duke of War explains to her absentmindedly that, “My steed is made with my Pieces of Creation. It’s the only element I have that can kill a being such as him.”
Then he twists his hand the steed begins to screech, while at the same time holes of bright light begin to poke from its hide. Holes of multicolored light explode from it, but the horse does not revert back to its raw form as with Madam Sadness.
The Duke then removes his hand from the steeds chest, and lifts the steed over his head from its stomach.
He whispers to it, “I’m sorry.”
Then as Destruction’s form is still regenerating, he throws the steed into Destruction. Destruction’s chest is lava, so the steed flies straight into him, and begins to melt in his chest.
The Duke runs to the Madam and scoops her into his arms, only to begin running in the other direction. As they run she asks him, “What… what are you doing… now?”
As if in a hurry, the Duke says, “I broke down the Piece of Creation, but didn’t finish.” The Madam’s eyes open wide realizing what the Duke has done. She even scrunches up against him, prompting him to hold her tighter, knowing the force he is going to have to withstand with her in his arms.
Pieces of Creation, if not dealt with properly, will become severely unstable. They are literal unmade elements leftover from the beginning of time and space, so when partially broken down and exposed to complete matter, things grow ugly.
As Destruction regenerates and finds light exploding from his chest, he realizes what the Duke has done. As he watches the Duke of War run away with Madam Honor, he realizes just how doomed he is. As the lava on the surface of his skin begins to bubble, and he feels a heat in his stomach hotter than anything he’s ever produced, all the Duke of Destruction can say is, “Well played.”
Then he explodes only after light expands and consumes him in a bright fury. The explosion is not that much unlike a nuclear explosion in its shape, but much larger and brighter and with lighter colors.
The radius comes upon the Duke of War and Madam Honor quite quickly, prompting the Duke to hunker down to his knees, and enwrap the Madam as best he can. He faces his back to the explosion and takes the full brunt of it.
When it hits him, I imagine that there is no feeling like it. Having white light overcome him and blind his vision, to feel his literal matter separate from him and then disappear so fast that the atoms don’t have the time to cause explosions.
Somehow after the explosion annihilates the Duke’s armor with ease, his skin becomes a much harder endeavor to destroy. Molecules and atoms come apart, but he holds himself together, he doesn’t disappear, he doesn’t give in.
The power behind him ends everything it touches, but not him, he gives it his all, and survives, and protects the Madam.
His helmet burns away, revealing the scarred face underneath. The protruding bones on his cheeks, over his eyebrows, and over his chin. His ice blue skin even, marred by swords.
His hair though, shines red like fire. His hair starts to disappear from what once fell to his shoulders, and now burns to the length of his ears.
Then it is over. The burning sensation ceases, because the pulling of gravity begins.
Everything, all the light that disintegrated matter floods back to its origin point, dragging all strong enough to survive the initial attack along with it.
The Duke of War knew this would happen, and immediately sinks his right hand into the ground. As the gravity pulls harder on him than anything has before, he hangs on for dear life as everything recedes back to its origin point, which is now a black hole.
The Duke soon finds himself unable to hang on, lacking the power to stand against a force of nature beyond its natural strength. He begins to fly backwards, the Madam unconscious in his arms as they fly towards their ends. As they fly at great speeds he realizes they are about to enter the black hole, and he makes his peace.
The moment they are about to be consumed, he closes his eyes and accepts his fate.
And the black hole disappears.
Their momentum carries them as they fly and skid across the ground, or more really the Duke skids across the ground. His raw back is shredded against the ground several times before they finally stop moving. Cuts and gashes line his back, gashes that reveal muscle but no blood. Winds vibrate from his open wounds.
As the Duke lay on his back, and the Madam atop his chest, he can’t help but laugh. He narrowly escaped Death by mere luck that the black hole would disappear the moment before he would enter. But something else made him proud.
The Duke continued for half a minute before waking the Madam from unconsciousness. She looks around to see the crater that has replaced the violent volcano. She looks across the sky to see that the dark clouds have disappeared and the blue sky is all she sees, cloudless. Then she hears the Duke laughing and thinks to ask, “What has… you so happy?”
“I finally beat him,” the Duke says as if he never believed he would. Without belief and only doubt. He’s not sure if he’s not actually dead.
The Madam is quick to remind him, “You won with my help… remember? You still haven’t beat him by yourself.”
The Duke makes a playfully fake frown, and sarcastically complains, “Couldn’t allow me to have my fun, could you?”
“No, of course not,” she replies in tone too tired to assuredly be considered serious or comedic. “Now be quiet, and be my pillow…” She tries to close her eyes in exhaustion, to just allow herself to rest, but the Duke doesn’t have it.
He reminds her, “The black hole took our weapons you know.”
She opens her eyes and thinks about Excalibur. She closes them again and says, “I don’t believe my sword is destroyed… Lost maybe, but I’m sure I’ll find it again.”
The Duke becomes surprised as he still lays on his back, and asks, “How do you know?”
“Faith… I guess,” the Madam admits without opening her eyes. The Duke simply accepts it, and thinks he will follow the Madam’s lead and rest his eyes for a moment.
Then a rumble rings out that shakes the sky.
The grounds shake, all the lands shake.
All the skies and lands rattle with a violence the world has never known, and all Incarnations know what it heralds.
The beginning of the end.
The Duke mutters, “Death has taken the field. We should go.”