The snow beat against the side of the mountain, the heavy wind rustling the branches of the pines and upsetting the soil below. The crystals of ice covered the soil and the trees, creating a thick mat of the white as the dark skies overhead allowed the night lights to touch the earth below them. The mountainside overlooked a dark canyon, the updraft bringing up the dark clouds below. Lighting crackled below the mountains, as brief flashes below matched the intensity of the stars and the broken moon above. It almost created a sense of vertigo, if it had not been for the ground below and the trees above.
Along the mountainside, a steep drop marked its place with the brush growing close off the edge and the snow-laced stone and grass. However, this did not deter a group of six beings who stood precariously close to the edge.
Their footprints ran up to the edge, and formed a wide circle along it. Seven beings stood in a circle, six of them crouched as they held their weapons out in front of them for support. The winds knocked around their cloaks, their marks and their coats. Snow stuck to their armour and their personages, as a few of them were sent shivering. All of these personages had floating objects above their shoulders, projecting a beam of light into the circle. The seventh being stood standing, arms held behind his back as he turned his head slowly to analyse the beings in front of him.
The being kept a straight face behind his heavy helmet, as he looked to the two beings who he saw were shivering the most. He spoke in his heavy Russian accent, gesturing to both of them as he said: "Teash, Alrick! I see you are eager to prove yourselves! Into the circle, show me what you have learned!"
The two Guardians on opposite sides of the Titan stood up, nodding to him as they placed their weapons into the snow. One Warlock stood, along with one Hunter as they slowly made their way to the centre of the group. The Titan had taught them proper etiquette to a brawl between two Guardians, how to respect one another before they engaged in training. The Hunter offered a hand to shake, the way to properly commence a brawl.
The Titan knew the Hunter would, but he doubted that the Warlock would. And of course, she stood her ground. She took a stance, refusing to take the hand of the Hunter to shake. The Titan announced loudly: "Shake the hand, Teash!"
The Warlock glanced in his direction, shaking her head before she took the hand of the Hunter. They shook only once, before Teash pulled away her hand from Alrick. The Hunter took his stance, raising his fists and he watched the Warlock do the same. The Titan nodded his head, before raising his hand into the air. Snow curled into the palm of his fingers, brushed across by the quick wind as all attention shifted to him. Teash looked away, while Alrick kept his helmet turned to the Titan's hand.
The Titan counted, before dropping his hand down with a cutting motion: the universal signal for starting a fight. Alrick looked back towards Teash, trying to make the first swing at the Warlock—but he was put at a disadvantage because Teash hadn't been looking at the Titan's hand, she had been concentrated on the Hunter. She unleashed a burst of energy from the palm of her hand, not even needing to make contact with the Hunter. Alrick was knocked back, hitting the ground as he preformed a roll to gain his footing again.
Alrick drew his Hunter's knife, standing back up as he twirled the blade between his fingers. The other four Guardians watched on, kneeling as they created the boundaries for the arena for Alrick and Teash. Teash rolled her arm, waiting for Alrick's move. Alrick threw his knife towards Teash's shoulder. Naturally, the Warlock moved out of the way—but she thought the knife was meant to hit her. Instead, Alrick charged and slammed his fist into her right cheek. The knife sailed right in front of one the Guardians helping to create the boundaries of the arena, as the she jumped in surprise.
The Warlock sounded in surprise, as Alrick used the rest of his momentum to tackle the Warlock. Alrick and Teash rolled onto the ground, as the Warlock found her hands around the neck of the Hunter. Alrick still tried to keep a pin on her, but Teash was proving to be successful in her attempts to force him off of her. Kicking Alrick to one side, Teash regained her footing. Alrick rolled over to a spot in the corner of the ring, before taking one knee.
The Titan watched on, smiling as he noticed the flaw in Teash's plan—she just gave Alrick back his knife. The Warlock walked over confidently, preparing to slam her palm into the back of Alrick's head. But instead, right as she got close enough—Alrick swung around and sunk his knife into Teash's knee. The Warlock screamed in pain, as Alrick drove the knife even more into the Warlock's knee.
The movement was similar to uprooting a tree, as Alrick dragged his knife upwards as he slammed Teash into the ground again. Withdrawing his knife, he brought the knife back down with the intention to stab her midsection. Teash grabbed Alrick's hand just in time, stopping the momentum of the blade as she jerked his hand to one side, throwing her left palm into the head of the Hunter. Alrick's head snapped back, sending him upwards as he landed roughly back into the gravel and the snow. Dropping his knife at Teash's side, the Warlock seized it as she attempted to gain her footing.
Her leg tripped, as her knee slammed into the gravel and snow as she cried sharply. Alrick slowly tried to stand back up, but collapsed again due to his disorientation. The Titan watched carefully, waiting to see which one of the two would be the first to recover and take the advantage. Teash seemed to be the first, as she stumbled over slowly. Alrick tried to stand, but found that this action led to his own knife being thrown through a joint between his neck and shoulder. The Titan unfolded his arms, watched carefully as Alrick cried in pain.
Using the knife as a hook, Teash began to drag Alrick slowly towards the edge of the arena and towards the mountainside. Stumbling towards the Titan, Teash almost ignored the presence of the trainer of the two as the Titan seized her arm. Teash tried to break free, but the Titan then used the grab he had on her arm to twist it behind her back. She cried sharply, as the Titan spoke coldly: "There is no leaving the arena."
"I'm finishing my enemy, it is what you told us to do Avgust!" Teash replied sharply.
"He isn't your enemy, he is your training companion. Now let go of the knife."
"In this demonstration, he is my enemy!"
Avgust broke the hold the Warlock had on the knife she had placed in Alrick, rolling her over his back as he slammed her flat back onto the snow floor as Teash cried in surprise. The rest of the Guardians stood up, watching the situation as one moved to help Alrick recover. Teash tried to push Avgust away, but this led to a much stronger resistance from the Titan.
As the other Guardians helped Alrick to the ground, Avgust kept Teash pinned to it. "You done struggling?" Avgust asked, as Teash ceased her movement. Thinking this to be a sign she is done, Avgust released his grasp on one of her arms. But much to his surprise, Teash struck him with a push. The energy between them lifted the Titan to his feet. As Teash moved to stand, he saw her intention to charge towards Alrick. He bit his lip, as he charged forward.
Teash turned around, but not soon enough as Avgust struck her in the abdomen. She lurched forward, as he rolled and seized her left arm. Twisting it in front of him, he slammed his armoured elbow into hers as he heard the snapping of bone. Teash cried out in pain as Avgust grabbed her other arm, before twisting it at an odd angle as he snapped it.
He pushed her to the floor, as the rest of the Guardians looked on with shock and horror. Teash weeped in pain as Avgust rolled his arms, before he lifted the Warlock off the ground and threw her over his right shoulder. She couldn't even dare to struggle now as he walked further into the forest away from the rest of the Guardians. Approaching a small clearing, he stepped up to a stone as he rested her onto it.
"You broke my arms!" Teash protested, as she rolled away from the Titan.
"They heal, you know this already." Avgust replied, "Now you mind telling me why you intended to head towards the cliff face?"
"I was going to throw him off, finish the fight!"
"Breaking the boundary rule, then. You do know you are not allowed to throw your fellow Guardians off the edge during training of unarmed."
"I thought you were supposed to teach us how to fight out in the wilds, beyond the City wall! Are you telling me we can't throw the Fallen off the edge?"
"That isn't the point. The point is, you are given a space you are meant to stay within. You wanted to violate that rule, and I punished you for it. When you didn't like that, you tried to fight me. That is another rule, and as to why I broke your arms. Now do you intend to behave rationally?"
"I was going to win that fight, and you stopped me from winning!"
"Then next time," Avgust replied coldly, "play by the rules."
Teash sat silently in response, as Avgust waited for a reply. After a minute or so passed, Avgust considered that the Warlock had nothing else to say. Turning around, he found her staring straight at him. She then spoke slowly, and coldly: "Are there rules out there, then?"
Avgust furrowed his brow, tilting his head down toward her as he stepped over slowly. Teash adjusted her head as the Titan approached, staring straight into his helmet as he did hers. He shook his head, before speaking with a commanding voice that Teash seemed to shrink under: "Yes, there are. You want to know why there are rules out there, Teash?
"Because if you don't follow rules, or you decide to do something on your own or go against a planned action then you put not only you, but everyone else around you at risk. I've know two people across two of my own Fireteams that decided to break the rules, you want to know what happened to everyone else?"
"What?" Teash asked.
"Their actions led to the deaths of the third member. You want to know their names? Yurami-3 and Orur Zeh. They killed them, Teash because they decided not to follow the 'rules.' Their actions also left me injured. Despite this, you know what I had to do?"
Teash remained silent, as she lowered her head. Avgust took this as a cue to continue, "I had to kill the one that killed Orur. The one that killed Yurami-3? Managed to get away. So if you want to be that one to betray everyone else in your Fireteam because you don't believe you should follow the 'rules,' then understand it will be the duty of everyone else to find and eliminate you. Don't do this again, or you will follow a path that these two followed."
"Well then maybe they were right." Teash muttered, "Threatening young Guardians to stay in line?"
Avgust stopped. He turned back around towards her as he sized up, as he brought his hands up to his helmet and twisted it off. He lowered himself down onto his knee as he stared directly as Teash, his cold eyes seemingly melting through her helmet. Teash looked to the right side of his head, noticing that he was missing his right ear.
"Threatening young Guardians...' You know what you are protecting, Teash?"
"The Last City."
"Very good. You know that we are protecting the Last City. The Last Safe City. These two Guardians I told you about, betrayed not only us—but the City. The simple fact is, Teash, is of we continue to have Guardians like the ones I just told you about not only are we at risk, but every innocent person in that City is at risk. So I will tell you one last time. Follow. The. Rules."
Avgust stood back up, as he placed the helmet back over his head as he looked down at Teash. "You have had enough time to heal. Stand up. We are done."
Teash took a while, but eventually she stood up sharply and pushed past Avgust as she walked back towards where the group of Guardians were. He shook his head, as his Ghost: Svarog reappeared over his right shoulder as it spoke: "You think we might have just seen who could be another Heinrich or Pariah?"
Avgust stood silently, before he replied quietly: "I don't know. I hope not. Traveler forbid we ever have anyone else like them."
"Hopefully she learns her lesson. I don't want to think about any other Guardians having to experience a corrupted one in their Fireteams."
Avgust nodded his head, as he understood fully what Svarog had meant. The Ghost had experienced what the Titan had, and had felt the same betrayal that he had. Avgust knew he couldn't stomach the thought of any more Guardians falling to the corruptive influence of the Darkness. This is why he hoped his training for these Guardians would teach them the lessons necessary to avoid the corruptive influence.
He hoped Teash has learned her lesson as Svarog had, because it would help avoid creating a lot of misery and hurt for their fellow brothers and sisters. Svarog floated away, towards the rest of the group as it spoke: "Anyways, we better head back to the trainees. Continue our duty."
"Yes, of course." Avgust replied, as he joined his Ghost in the path back to the rest of the Guardians. The snow stuck to the fur lining of his collar and mark, as it brushed against the rest of his armour. As he stepped from the forest, he saw the group of Guardians collected. Teash had removed herself from the rest of the Guardians, as the other five were stood in a circle. All of them turned towards him when he emerged, as he took a place between the two groups.
Alrick looked across the way at Teash as he rolled his wounded shoulder. The rest of the Guardians fanned out and formed a line, as was the usual way that Avgust expected them to. He thought quietly to himself, as he looked between Teash and Alrick. The Titan spoke loud enough for everyone to hear: "I have spoken to Teash already about this matter. But I do believe the point I have made to her is important to everyone."
The Guardians shifted their attention between Avgust and Teash as he spoke, the Titan walking down the line as he examined the formation. "What Teash has demonstrated, as lack of regard to the rules shown you all the danger of placing your fellow Guardian's lives at risk, whether intentional or not.
"You see, I long ago was much like you. Trained under the Lord of Iron himself: Saladin Forge. He taught me as I am teaching you, and shown us the importance of cooperating within Fireteams. I had earned friends under his training, two under the name of Yurami-3 and Pariah Vey. We learned the importance of the rules I have taught you all, not because it restricted the way we worked—but because it offered us the opportunity to prove ourselves. Break our enemies.
"As you may know, I served long ago in the Twilight Gap. Every Fallen House unified to destroy the City. Me and my Firetime fought valiantly along the Gap, proving our worth and ability to our enemy. Eventually, we received the order to exploit the break in the Fallen offensive to help end the battle. Lord Saladin provided me with the Thunderlord—the weapon of songs that carries the voice of Thunder."
Avgust withdrew his Thunderlord from transmat, holding the powerful machine gun in his hands as he allowed the Guardians to look at the blue-designed weapon. Activating the weapon, the Guardians jumped back in shock as electricity danced down the barrel of the weapon. Lifting it to the firing position, Avgust aimed the weapon into the sky as he primed the weapon and switched off the safety. Squeezing the trigger, the weapon fired as the roar of thunder emitted from the barrel of the weapon as the silver bullet shot off in the air, enveloped in arc energy. The Guardians jumped back in surprise, as Avgust smiled a bit under his helmet. He heard the whisper of one of the Guardians, ignoring it as he continued with his story.
"We pressed down into the valley, slaying the Fallen as the challenged us. We thought ourselves indestructible as piles of their bodies reached into the sky." Avgust paused, as he turned back towards Teash. He then looked back to the rest of the Guardians. "It was then we heard over the transmat that the Warlock: Osiris had abandoned the City with a collection of other Guardians.
"For a long time, Pariah Vey had considered herself a student of Osiris and his teachings. I could not understand why, as Osiris had dedicated his life to understanding the Darkness rather that fighting and defending from it. But when she heard this news, she believe she had heard the call to abandon the City. To abandon us. What happened next, lead to Yurami-3's death and my injury. Pariah Vey had ignored the teaching of the importance of the Fireteam, and had betrayed me."
The Guardians watched Avgust quietly as he reached the end of the line. He looked back at Teash, as he left the group and approached her. She seemingly looked at him defiantly, as he realised it would likely be ill-advised to place his hand on her shoulder.
He continued to speak: "Understand this if you will not understand anything else I have taught. Whatever you do, make sure it is in service of your brothers and sisters. Know that if you protect them, they should protect you. Know that if they are injured, you shall work to heal them so that they may fix your ills. Know that if they are struggling, it is on you to help them so that they may assist you. You all wield incredible talents and abilities, and I will advise you to use them. But use them to help your fellow Guardian, to protect them and the ones who cannot protect themselves. All there is to hope for rests in your hands, Guardians.
"Do what you can to make sure this hope remains for future generations. Because we are the only defenders of it. And if we fall to the influences of the dark and rely on infighting, then this hope shall die with us." Avgust said, glancing to Teash before he continued, "Let us all hope it doesn't come to that."