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Cause [1.4.1]

“Right. Since we’re out in the Reaches, there’s every possibility that we’ll run into a lost one.” announced Yasen. Zack, Serafina and Kushel looked up from their wrist phones.

“A lost one?” asked Serafina.

“Quite.” Yasen replied. “Sometimes, Zionids and Voidians forget to remain on the paths of physicality, and they end up split amongst hundreds of planes and dimensions, and it’s a pretty painful process. Imagine the pain of dying… but constantly. In thousands of realities. At the same time.”

“Ouch.” Zack said, wincing. Yasen nodded.

“A lost one is a being experiencing that. You’ll see them crawling out of the colours sometimes. They’re belligerent and they want to make us like them. The only kindness we can give them is destroying their physical forms, ending their suffering. It sounds brutal, but it’s the only good we can do.”

“I see.” Serafina replied. “So… what do we do, specifically?”

“We kill them. It’s good to have something to take your mind off all the crazy things happening anyway, and this journey is going to be pretty long, so we need something to do. Which is why myself and, uh, Raziel, will be training you with the spear as we journey.” Yasen said. She glanced at Kushel, who nodded.

“That’s a good idea.” he said. “Since I am slightly more advanced than you, perhaps I should lend the children my spear and you train them first. If they show aptitude, I will take over.”

“Splendid plan.” Yasen said. Kushel handed Zack his spear, and Zack took it reverentially. It was a whitewashed wooden pole with a gold and white metal plate that formed the spearhead, and it stood just up to Zack’s eyes. It was lightweight, but there was a raw power behind it.

“Wow…” he breathed.

“Stop lollygagging!” barked Yasen. “We’re training now. Uh, Serafina, was it?”

“Yeah.” Serafina said.

“Keep an eye on what Zack does. And listen to my advice – you’ll be next after this.”

She stood on the middle of the island and faced Zack, with Serafina and Kushel sat to one side. Zack held the spear loosely by his side.

“Spears are all about the offensive. They aren’t particularly good on the defensive, but their piercing power is unmatched. All you want to do when fighting with a spear is maximise how strongly you punch through a foe’s armour whilst minimising the time spent in their range. Ducking and weaving, striking and retreating… that’s how you fight with a spear.

“First point – holding your weapon. Since you may want to go on the attack at any time, you shouldn’t hold it like that, with the point facing down. Hold it pretty loosely, but with the point facing up,” Yasen said, showing Zack how she was holding it, and watching him mimic it. “And that way, you can thrust horizontally without much issue. See?”

She did a practise lunge, and Zack nodded.

“Excellent. Next, attacking. Since the lost ones aren’t particularly combat-ready, you don’t need to know how to block just yet. I’d like you just to try thrusting accurately. Try and jab me in the centre of my-”

She fell silent as her fingers rested on the centre of her breastplate, and she saw Raziel’s slain form in her mind’s eye.

“Sorry. Try to jab me in the centre of my breastplate. I’ll not block, so be gentle.”

Zack held the spear and jabbed it forward. He found that it was a lot harder than he had been expecting to aim accurately, as the heavy spearhead was unbalanced the further away he lunged. He went wide the first time, and his second jab fell low and glanced off one of Yasen’s greaves. She tutted. “You need to curve your shot upwards. Don’t stab directly forwards, but try and stab higher than you intend to.”

Serafina saw Zack grit his teeth in determination and, behind the safety of her shades, rolled her eyes. He really did have a hero complex, didn’t he? What Cassie saw in him, she’d never know.

Zack lunged forward again, this time aiming upwards rather than directly forwards, and the spearhead pressed gently into Yasen’s breastplate.

“Not bad.” she said, and Zack grinned. “Ordinarily, I would’ve easily blocked that. You need to keep doing it, but try doing it faster. Your forward jab should be one of your fastest approaches.”

It took two more attempts to even hit the breastplate again, but Zack was slowly growing used to the feel of the spear. His next jab touched the breastplate, and was quite fast. Yasen nodded in appreciation. “Excellent.”

“I think I’m getting it.” Zack said. “The weight distribution is weird.”

“It is supposed to be.” Kushel replied. “The spear is lightweight for the wielder, where it is held, but a bit heavier at the spearhead, to drive through an opponent’s armour with ease and cause as much damage as possible.”

Raziel’s chest, oozing with blood, appeared in Yasen’s mind again, and she involuntarily flinched.

“Yes, alright, K-Raziel. I think we all get it.”

“OK. Let me try again.” Zack said. His next jab was quite accurate, hitting almost the centre of the breastplate with impressive speed for a novice.

“Not bad. Let’s see if you can’t do more. I’m going to block your approaches this time. I’d like you to try swinging the spear at me as if it was a sword. The goal is to have your spearhead approaching my neck; not past my neck, nor in front of it. Spears are all about accuracy and poise.” Yasen replied. She held her spear at arms, and Zack matched the pose before approaching. He lifted the spear and swung it sideways, aiming for Yasen’s face. She lifted the spear and almost effortlessly knocked it aside.

“That would’ve gone past my neck either way. You need to be a good judge of distance for this; try standing further back, just a few steps.”

Zack took a step or two back and tried again, swinging from the left this time. Yasen blocked the blow, but nodded in approval. It would’ve hit her otherwise.

“Try hitting me several times in a row. Mix up some jabs in there too.”

Zack nodded, and went on the offensive. He swung from the right, and when it was blocked, he quickly switched to the left, but again, without even moving her feet, Yasen knocked the weapon aside. Zack took a step back and jabbed quickly, but the thrust was knocked out of the way by Yasen’s spear, and Zack tripped. He stared into the muddy colours in front of his eyes, and the brighter colours seemingly above him, and realised that he had almost fallen into the unsafe part of the Reaches. He scrambled up to the centre of the island.

“Do you see what happened there?” Yasen asked. Zack shook his head. “Nothing besides you defeating me.”

“I used your momentum against you. I moved your spear so that rather than aiming for my breastplate, you were aiming past me. Before you had time to correct that movement, you were lunging past me and fell over.” Yasen explained.

“I see.” Zack replied. “And, uh, is there anything I can do about that?”

“You must understand your own movements. The swing is quite useful, but easily blocked. It doesn’t really cause any negative consequences, though. However, the jab is much faster, but if it blocked, you’ll be at a disadvantaged, even if you don’t fall over.” Yasen said, swinging her spear like a teacher’s ruler. “Not to worry. We’ll learn some more approaches now.”

“Right.” Zack said.

For another hour or so, Yasen schooled him in various spear-fighting techniques, and by the end of it, he’d made a considerable improvement; it was not noticeable, though, since Yasen still hadn’t been hit once by him. After he’d tried his hardest and survived two minutes before being knocked down, Yasen breathed out heavily and gave a hint of a smile.

“Enough, enough. You’ve done alright. Serafina, get up here.”

Serafina stood up and grinned at Zack. He smiled back and sat down, breathing hard after all the combative exercise and the falling over he’d done. “Time for me to get beaten up, then.”

“Most likely.” Yasen replied with a smile. “I’d expect a girl to be more competent, though. Most females outclass male Zionids when it comes to spear-fighting.”

“Lot to live up to, then.” Serafina replied, picking up the spear left by Zack on the centre of the island. Yasen cocked her head as she waited for Serafina to hold her spear correctly.

“Good. Since you were observing Zack, you are going to get a bit less time to learn these things. Jab my breastplate; try to get used to the feel of the spear.”

“I think a better demonstration is coming up.” said Kushel, pointing to just beyond their island, in the direction that the island was going in. Coming up were two lost ones.

They were horrific figures. They seemed to have once been Zionids, but they were warped and twisted. The first thing Zack saw was the eyes – they were completely white, but where the pupil should have been, there was a spinning vortex. They had eyes that watched without seeing, cried without understanding and observed without comprehending. Every few seconds, a random body part disappeared and reappeared, like the eyes, mouth, arms and legs. They lacked all their body parts anyway – one was limping on one leg, whilst the other was legless and dragging itself along with just the arms.

There was a strange shriek coming from them both, regardless of whether their mouth was visible or not; it was a cry of help, Zack reasoned, if they were suffering as Yasen said. Sometimes, the bodies of the creatures would flicker, and for brief seconds the lost ones existed in another plane – their bodies became a projection into forever, or time, or some other complex concept. It was mind-bending simply to watch them slowly advance, but it also scared the kids horribly. Yasen, who was also not familiar with the Reaches, was shaken.

“That’s a lost one in the flesh, huh?” she whispered. “Alright, Serafina. You and I shall take them. Yes?”

“Of course!” replied Serafina with boundless energy that hid her fear quite well.

The island moved inexorably onwards, and the lost ones began to scrabble at the edge of the island, crawling onto the more stable colours and advancing slowly on the pair, whilst Zack and Kushel sat on the opposite end, observing.

The two-armed and legless lost one advanced on Serafina, whilst the limping one went for Yasen. With a flick of her spear, Yasen knocked it back with the pole end, then span around, swinging into the lost one with impressive force. It stumbled and fell, and in that moment Yasen drove the spear through the creature’s head. It let out a sigh and began to crumble into the dust, but as it did, several parts of it vanished instantly, disappearing forever into another plane of existence.

Serafina, meanwhile, hadn’t the compulsion to kill yet, and she simply stabbed the lost one. This caused the creature no pain, however, and it gripped her leg with a reedy gasp. Serafina shrieked uncharacteristically in fear and pointed her free hand at the lost one, shaking her leg to try and dislodge it.

There was a blast of fire from her hand and a small, controlled explosion engulfed the lost one, reducing it to cinders in a matter of seconds. The smoke cleared quickly, leaving everyone staring at an embarrassed Serafina.

“…That’s different.” Zack said to the Officials, in awe at Serafina’s display. “She’s never been able to control where and how the fires start.”

“…Yeah…” Yasen replied, eyes wide in shock. “Y-you know what? You probably don’t need to learn the spear if you can just turn someone into paste by pointing at them.”

Serafina grinned somewhat awkwardly. “I’m not sure what happened there, but apparently I can now control my pyrokinesis! I’ve gotta tell Cass!”

Yasen and Kushel glanced at one another, and they knew what the other was thinking: these kids may be not be expert spear-fighters or warriors, but they were certainly dangerous.

Cause [1.3.9]
Cause [1.4.2]

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