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Ashur Look and behold the ruin! Half the city lies wasted, a sprawling graveyard on burning sands; the roads are split like burst veins, hundreds of edifices opened and bleeding. The fires of that night have been extinguished, but still the smell of it lingers like corpse-rot -- a choking, burning smoke, strongest at the corpse-pyres established in the smoldering wreck of the refugee tent-towns on the city's southeast border, where the dead have been gathered and set alight in numerous piles.

On the outskirts, distant enough that the ghastly fires are but fireflies on the burning horizon, Ashur stands. Before him is gathered a procession of mostly young men, ashen-faced, grave-hearted, looking upon him with haunted eyes and resolute hatreds. They are dressed in the local garb, mostly tunics, armed with a variety of melee weapons and firearms.

Ashur himself stands shimmering in his white-gold toga and mountainous cloak, unarmored save for the Legion war-mask that sets his profile to that of Mars.

Sandbags and low concrete walls establish the borders of this pockmarked training camp, set in the gouge between two faint hills bursting with shrubbery and cacti. The gathered youth are sweating. They nurse bruises and bloodied scrapes.

"You are weak," the former Legionnaire intones, as one raises a trembling hand to fire a pistol at him. He grasps the barrel and spins the arm, twisting the gun down until a sickening crack snaps the finger on the trigger, and disarms the boy, knocking him on his ass with a shove to the chest. "And that is why they died."
Daniel Smoke and ashes -- a familiar sight in the Wasteland, particularly to those who have themselves spent a lifetime burning and pillaging. Moving with the caution of an old man in a young man's profession, Daniel belly-crawls to the top of a low rise some distance away from the crowd gathering outside of New Rome. It is the size and nature of this crowd that's dropped him down, and he keeps his profile low as he studies Ashur and the others.

After several moments, the former Raider decides that this isn't true combat. He rises to his feet with a deceptive ease, adjusting his rifle's combat sling so that it hangs easily across his chest, and begins to amble toward the ruined town. He keeps his hands out away from the weapon, though no one appears to be looking in his direction just yet. His brown eyes are narrowed slightly, head tracking side-to-side as he takes in the scope of the ruins. Drawing nearer to Ashur, he stops about fifty meters away, letting the younger -- and even larger -- man notice him before drawing any closer.
Mafuane Amongst the men was the dainty Mafuane, she looks battered and dusty like the men, but she's applied bandages to herself at the very least. She's focused today, with her bow hung on her shoulder, her honey eyes look down when Ashur mentions the consequences of being weak. She seems ready to defend this strange new, yet tattered home of hers.
Ashur The broken-fingered youth lets out a cry of pain as he strikes the dirt and coughs, clutching his chest. "A-asshole," he sputters, looking up at Ashur with eyes painted fearful and bitter. "How am I supposed to shoot li--"

His voice is cut off by the behemoth of a man lurching forward and driving a foot into his solar plexus. There's a whush of forced-out air and the twenty-something instinctively coils into a ball, clutching himself, choking and gasping and throwing up the paltry remnants of his lunch.

"You speak only when I ask you a question," he reminds them. "Pathetic. Can you not squeeze a trigger with a broken finger? If the pain is too much, lack you a second hand? You're a waste of your father's seed, Janus."

The bull steps back and spreads his hands wide, watching the seething expressions grow; so rich with resentment! "Look around you! Look at what the Enclave did! With their bombs and their guns, they slew us; they slew your parents, your friends, your brothers! They came to our home and made a mockery of us!"

He drops his arms and stares at them all. "I will not allow it. Even if the rest of you die, I will see one made a warrior, and he will accompany me to their great sky-fortress. There we will avenge ourselves upon them, and secure honor lost; there we will break their men, and rape their women, and any tongue that speaks the name Enclave again will be ripped out."
Daniel His scarred brow wrinkling, presenting a rather unintelligent appearance, Daniel ambles closer as he listens to Ashur's speech. He's watching the crowd, his gaze briefly fixing on Mafuane -- he looks away a little hastily, harrumphing softly to himself. Before long, he's standing just outside double-arm's length from Ashur, both a courtesy and a precaution.

Though he is almost as tall as the resplendent Roman, Daniel presents a far less imposing figure, standing there in his battered armor, what hair he has left long since faded to gray. He folds his arms across his chest, head canting briefly to one side.

"Problem is," he says to Ashur casually, "They think killin's a thing to work up to. Like it's important." He looks over the crowd again. "What if I was one of those Enclave fucks?" Perhaps he is, though he certainly doesn't look the role. "Which one'a you would do something about it?"
Lowry      With the news of New Romes destruction the cowboy made time to detour one of his trips. Weather sneaking away from his job as caravan guard or simply prolonging a delivery of chems is not certain. Regardless, Lowry has arrived on the scene to scavenge the ruins.

     Seeing the crowd he slows his horses pace and slowly approaches. When fairly close he reigns in his steed and pulls a flask from beneath his poncho. After a health swig is taken he looks to Ashur. "Got ya' a lil' assault force here, I see." He looks over the group and chuckles. "Right sure, ya' got yer' work cut out for ya'." He replaces the flask and jumps down from his horse. Pulling a canteen now he let the water dribble out for 'Despair' the ornery companion to lick from. After a moment the horse shakes his head and neighs violently. "He's allergic to cunts and pussies." Lowry says over his shoulder with a laugh before turning to face the others. "So what's the haps? Heard Rome got raized." Looking around now as he puts fingers in his belt loops he lets out a 'woooo'. "Worse 'en I expected."
Mafuane Mafuane looks to the spectacle of men here a bit confused. The mini-Ashur that challenges the group is looked at with most of the confusion and the man arriving on the horse also puzzles her. She'd not been around so much talkative masculinity in a while, since the assault on New Rome Mafuane's been dealing with the wounded, and they far too wounded for such talk and displays of strength.
Ashur Masked Ashur turns his entire body when Daniel arrives, staring down at him through red-lensed eyes. The sun glimmers off the golden bull horns of the helmet, the tips looking as though wreathed in flame; indeed, the whole of him bears that eye-catching shimmer, his opulent wealth worn upon his figure.

"Indeed. What if he were Enclave?"

Ashur reaches down and grabs an iron rod leaning against some nearby sandbags. With it, and a slow walk, he draws a large circle in the center of the dirt, some fifteen feet in diameter.

He points the rod at Daniel and then Janus. "The two of you enter the ring. The rules are simple: hand to hand. The fight continues until one submits or leaves the circle.""

Cradling his hand and staring daggers, Janus enters.

Ashur, for his part, stares at Lowry. "Dismount. You'll face the winner."

That leaves only Mafuane left unattended. Ashur stares at her, expression unreadable beneath that ornate mask.
Daniel Daniel looks at the masked figure for a long beat, then smiles a singularly ugly smile. Certainly not ugly in any cruel or mean-spirited way, but -- merely ugly. He's missing a few of his lower teeth, perhaps associated with the scar splitting his jawline. Carefully unstrapping his rifle, then unholstering his pistol, he lays both outside the circle. There is a faint stiffness in the way he straightens up, hand going to the small of his back as he winces. Age, that cruel enemy.

When he enters the ring, his features retain that same ugly, amiable, expression. But instead of greeting Janus, or even acknowledging the other man with a nod, he merely steps forward and lets fly with a casual backhand. The contempt in the gesture is, perhaps, undeserved -- it connects with Janus's chest, rather than his face, and causes the younger man to stumble back a step -- fortunately for him. Daniel's follow-up, a knee toward the younger man's groin, misses entirely and now he's no longer smiling.
Ashur The knuckles to his chest irritate the bruise Ashur had left on Janus; but it's the memory of that humiliation more than the pain that causes him to grit his teeth and focus, hopping out of the path of the knee. "Dirty move, old man," the red-haired youth spits, throwing a clumsy haymaker that goes wild. He's a clear amateur, his movements wide and flashy - but never let it be said a newbie's sheer unpredictableness can't hurt.

He steps back quickly, wary, favoring his left hand.
Lowry      Lowry scowls as he reaches back under the poncho for his flask. Unscrewing it he stares at Ashur and polishes it off. "I ain't one 'o them there Lackeys. You think you-" Then, 'Despair' the horse starts to neigh viciously. The cowboy turns and squints. "Yea?" He says in consoltation with his companion. Then, he removes his hat and outer garment. "When in Rome?" He laughs at his little joke and goes inside his satchel. A crude hammer is drawn forth. Hefting and testing the weight he flips it around in his hands. Then, he rolls up his sleeves while he watches the first bout. With the connection of the back hand he grins. "Looks like the ole' timer's 'ona teache him a lesson." Then he sees the egyptian looking lady and approaches. At her side now he says, "Got you a curious look there." He may have never seen a person of that ethnicity. The look he gives her leaves no confusion for interpretation. But he leaves it at that as he goes back to watchingg.
Daniel "That's the point, kid. No such thing. Dirty, not dirty --" In the middle of Daniel's lecture, he launches his next attack. The first is a straight-armed jab, flicking up with surprising speed, his massive fist sticking right into the point of Janus's chin. The blow apparently surprises Daniel as much as it does Janus because, once again, the smaller man's stumble saves him from a brutal follow-through. Daniel's hook catches nothing but the air in front of Janus's nose. The big man smiles gormlessly at his opponent. "The important thing is killing."
Ashur Panting, aching, and the sting in his broken finger more painful than ever, Janus lets out a bellowing roar and throws himself wildly at the larger man, limbs flailing. For all the feral strength behind it, the untrained fist does little more than thud impotently against Daniel's outfit.. and when it's done, Janus collapses, that engine all outta steam. "I.. fucking hell. I give up."
Daniel His expression still full of kindly contempt, Daniel looks down at the New Roman youth. "Right," he says softly. "You lying down, that's the part where I stomp on your throat and fuck your woman." His gaze lifts briefly, sorting through the crowd, lingering for a moment on Mafuane before continuing. "If I was a villainous sort, that is," he drawls. And then, softening somewhat, he says "When it comes down to it, son, you can't never just.. lie down. That's what your fancy friend here is trying to teach you."
Ashur No sooner has Janus thrown in the towel than Ashur has crossed the edge of the ring and batted his hip with the iron rod. There's a loud thwack of flesh and immediately an angry red welt rises on the exposed skin. "Stand up, boy," Ashur commands, "and get out of my ring. No, shut your fucking mouth, the dead can't speak."

Janus' mouth, opened to protest, snaps shut, and the boy slinks off like a beaten dog, dripping sweat and trying to catch his breath.

It is at this point the tyrant notices the hammer in Lowry's hands, and with a quiet pause, he turns and stalks to a few nearby supply crates near a tent. He rummages through them and withdraws a machete, the blade polished and only faintly nicked. He turns, and tosses the blade into the ring, near Daniel's feet...

And then Ashur steps within it opposite both him and Daniel.

"Watch, you mongrels, and see what made your fathers better men than you."

It might occur to those gathered that these boys, given the settlement, are quite possibly sons of former Legionnaires. Legionnaires who likely died in the attack.
Ashur Ashur stands on his edge of the circle. He is unarmed and unarmored, wrapped in cloak and red-eyed mask. "Come at me."
Daniel Daniel leans down and scoops up the machete, glancing aside at Lowry for a moment. He seems more cautious now, as if something in the unarmed Roman's confidence has alerted him. But he also doesn't hesitate, taking this new threat at his word and advancing with the machete held low and easy. His strikes come fast and without warning, just as with Janus -- a quick thrust, and then a cut when that thrust catches nothing but air. The movements are competent, but utterly inadequate, and he's already backpedaling in anticipation of Ashur's assured retaliation.
Lowry      The cowboy says, "Looks like I'm up." He t hrows a little wink and a nudge to the egyptian girl and walks swiftly to the circle. He wastes no time with the ex-legionaire having been almost killed by him before. Three quick steps are taken and the hammer is swung, spar or not he aims for the mans head with a shout!
Mafuane All this action is riling Mafuane up, the men next to her seem all too content in watching to spare themselves a trip to the makeshift clinic at Eden's med-bay, but she has other plans. She's traded her piercing arrows for sanded down knobby arrowheads earlier thankfully, as she slinks her way to a dishonorable yet strategic spot outside of the ring. She wasnât going to wait her turn to shoot at bottles with the other handful of gunslingers here, she'd rather have a large distracted target like Ashur instead.
Mafuane Even with the good spot, the surprise advantage, and taking a moment to aim, the slinky girl's arrow simply flits past Ashur and into the dirt. Her face bows briefly in shame, but she looks to Ashur with renewed determination to hit him and revitalize the archery skills she trained for years in her past life.
Ashur Ashur is graceful despite his size; the war-masked brute might have the strength of a bull brahmin, but he moves with a wildcat's grace, circling around each swipe of the machete with quick and precise twists. It's the hammer that catches up, though, one arm thrown up in defense to catch the handle, preventing a solid impact from the head by arresting its momentum - bruising him, no more, no less.

"Good," he praises, "neither of you hesitated to try and kill me."

He's surely smiling behind that impassive face of steel.

With a grunt, he pushes Lowry back, and fast as lightning seizes Daniel's wrist; there's a twist, a flare of pain, and his other hand has grasped the machete by the leather-wrapped handle and rolled it back out of his fingers, threatening to sprain one in the process.

Moments later, there's a crunch and a flare of pain as he slams his head, and that heavy metal mask, into Daniel's face - wrenching his twisted arm out of the socket and throwing the machete outside the bounds of the ring when he's dazed.

"Priestess. You've more balls than these louts watching. Be a good girl and stay; I'll beat you when the men are dealt with."
Daniel The machete goes flying, and a moment later, there is the horrific //pop// of his shoulder leaving its joint. Daniel roars, an old bear in torment, as Ashur's grip sends him staggering forward, half-bent over. But he wasn't speaking in vain to Janus when he advised the young man to never give up. Twisting as he stumbles forward, he snarls as he slams his left fist into Ashur's side in a powerful body-hook. It's a solid shot, but it's as though the mercenary has punched a brick wall for all the effect it seems to have.
Mafuane Ashur's comment makes Mafuane blink a few times and fumble a bit in reloading her blunted arrow. She pulls the string back, and fires! It hits Ashur right in the chest and bounces of to the ground to be trampled on by the three battling men. She smirks and pushes her shoulders back, feeling more confident she hasn't lost her skill.
Lowry      After the larger man shoves Lowry he takes a step back and lets the other guy get involved, or, more just backs off to let the others tussle. After spitting in the dirt he makes two large circles over his head and swings the hammer. Both blows miss wildly and he squares his boots in the dirt before doing anything else. "Damn." He mutters as he assesses the situation.
Ashur Ashur stumbles back in a moment of apparent vulnerability when Lowry comes in with those reckless swings; he rolls aside as one smash comes, fingers scrambling in the dirt to push him up, and narrowly dodges the second - just in time to fling that handful of dust and debris into Lowry's face, grab the hammer right beneath the head, and yank himself forward into him, driving one brutal knee into the pit of his stomach. The moment of weakness that follows sees him take the hammer and fling it, too, outside the ring.

Now all three men are unarmed.

Ashur turns, and walks in a slow circle, cloak drawn about that masked figure as tight as a lover's embrace, the hem brushing over his footprints.

"Better than the children. Not yet men."
Daniel Daniel's battered features are tight with pain, breath coming in sharp little grunts. His right arm hangs uselessly at his side. But at Ashur's words, the older man's head tucks down into his shoulders as he sets his chin. He waits for Ashur to turn away slightly before moving in, surprisingly graceful and surprisingly fast -- perhaps finally regaining his lost youth for a final effort. He sets his left shoulder and barrels into Ashur, trying to catch the man in the ribs and -- one can hope -- throwing the impressive figure off balance for once.
Lowry      With the hammer pulled and the knee to the gut Lowry backs off and catches his breath. HE wipes sweat from his brow and watches the older fella charge.
Mafuane Watching the fight roaring on, the petite priestess reaches in her quiver for another shot, but she stops herself. The thought of sticking around later with Ashur, and the gory mess between the older man and the cowboy, has her second guessing about continuing.

Her once crouched stance springs into a sprint, as the sinuous shy girl flees into the war-torn city of New Rome! Looks like she's pulling the playing hard to get card!
Ashur Mafuane's flight is a brief glimmer of movement in Ashur's red-painted sight; Lowry's withdrawal from the battle an insignificant gesture. There is but one man still standing before him with grit enough to be called that - the older, weathered brute, arm swollen out of the socket, breathing in staccato bursts, yet hurling himself forward with single-minded aggression.

As Daniel had told the naive Janus, you cannot simply lie down.

"As stubborn as a Praetorian," he applauds, an odd bit of genuine warmth in that otherwise cruel voice.

Daniel crashes into him, and in the moment before impact Ashur drives a fist straight into his liver; he clenches, near squeezing the organ, the muscle, hand twisted, as the sheer force of it threatens to lift him off his feet.

The next, breathless moment, the follow-up comes, the other hand slamming his teeth together, threatening to unhinge the jaw, and rattling the brain with enough force to strip away consciousness in a red haze of pain.

Ashur stands over the fallen man. "Rest, old timer. The rest of you, laps around the old race track. Go."
Daniel Daniel's head snaps back first, then his spine arches as his whole body follows the head backward. He rises up onto his toes, blood and spit spraying out of his mouth. For a moment, he's perfectly poised, the pink spittle still arcing upward -- and then he collapses, boneless, hitting the dirt with enough force to send up a cloud of dust aroun his frame. He doesn't move for a long few moments before finally rolling onto his back.

Lying there, staring up at Ashur, the older man tries stubbornly to rise. Unfortunately, he tries to roll onto his right arm and falls back, gritting his teeth to keep from crying out. A few deep breaths, before he manages "So... You hiring.. or what?"
Ashur Ashur lumbers away from the older man toward a cooler kept in the tent's shade; he rummages through it and withdraws an ice-cold Nuka Cola, one of the handful he has, and brings it to him. "Hold it to your face," he suggests, grasping it by the neck and extending it to him in a peace offering. It is at this point Ashur removes his masked helmet - exposing the silvering beard and bald head and bright eyes beneath.

"You fight well. In time, so will the boys."

The boys, at this point, have all grumblingly went off to do their laps at the old track west of here - a relic of New Rome's highschool, back when it was still pre-War Lordsburg.

"Bite something," he warns, crouching near the loose-hanging arm. He has enough experience with first aid to reset it. He is not gentle.

"A mercenary?"
Alasa Alasa and the kitties find there way into new rome...or really just rome, as she was never in the old its kinda silly to call this one new...really since its not new, its been around for a while. The little group moves along, just out for a day trip it seems...nice when one doesn't really have a job. She comes along, looking for excitement and adventure
Daniel Daniel takes the Nuka-Cola with his left hand and presses it to his chin with a grave nod. And then, as the other man advises him to bite something, he turns his head and bites into the buckle of his combat armor. There is a sickening pop and, afterward, it seems as though some of the color returns to Daniel's face. He breathes out slowly, controlling the exhale, and lies back. "Mercenary," he agrees.

Pressing the Nuka-Cola back to his face, finally sitting up, the old brawler looks toward Alasa and her kittens as they pass the running teenagers. "No offense," he continues mildly, "But if you're looking for revenge, those kids are just gonna get themselves killed." Not that Daniel did very much better. His gaze stays on Alasa as he speaks, head canting faintly. "I'm available at affordable rates for vengeance quests," he says with a certain formality.
Ashur "Ah, not a one of them will be with me when I go," Ashur remarks, staring toward the shrinking backs of the now distant youth. "The city lost good fighting men in the attack, and these beardless children need to be whipped into shape sooner rather than later. Vengeance is a good motivator."

He slides toward a barrier of sandbags near the circle in the dirt, plopping down on it with a whoosh of air as he sinks in. "The El Dorado Federation will put much of soldiery in. The militia, the Guardians, even a few of the Rangers in the area might come; others, too. But it wouldn't do to let them think they're unnecessary."

Reaching down, he picks up a canteen one of the foolish kids had left, and takes a swig from it. "I'll kill those bastards myself, once my armor's fixed, and we've got one of those vertibirds in working order."

It's during this conversation he spies Alasa and her pets, drifting along the borders of the half-ruined city, near enough to this training camp to be called out to. "Ave, Alasa," he greets, waving her over. "There have been better times to see the sights."
Alasa Alasa hmms, as she spies Ashur...and changes her direction..the bobcat and the lynx falling in behind her. "Oh, I don't know..I've seen worse out in the wastes...this isn't half bad. All things considered." As she comes to a stop nearby, her cape fluttering in the wind a bit. She looks at Daniel a moment, "What do we have here...a new recruit? I think you might want to look in a new barrel." She smiles and laughs a bit.
Daniel "If you ain't strong, you're dead. I understand." And Daniel does seem to grasp Ashur's motivation; he looks toward the running youths, his features neither sad nor angry -- but tired. Very tired. And then he draws in a breath, glancing back up as the towering figure sits and pressing to his feet. It seems that one of them must be standing at all times.

Gathering up his weaponry with a wince, Daniel slings his rifle back across his chest. "Name's Daniel, Dennison." The way he says it -- Dennis' Son -- calls back to ancient naming rituals. He gazes at Alasa appreciatively again, his absolutely-ugly smile returning to his face as she laughs.

"I'm no recruit," he tells her cheerfully. "But I'm certainly the bottom of the barrel."
Ashur Ashur nods, and rests his elbows on his knees, and locks his hands together as he hunches forward, dropping the drained canteen. "Well met, Daniel," he responds, staring at the man with a simple and straightforward intensity. "I am Ashur, son of Mars and hero of.."

A pause, that word drawled out, as he looks to the ruined settlement north, still smoking from the Enclave's attacks. So many dead.

"... Rome. What's left of it."

A roll of his shoulders back and he straightens, fixing Alasa with a look. "What brings you this way, woman?"
Alasa Alasa says, "Oh, you know me just out on walkabout...well, on a motocycle of course. Never know what you might find after a bit of choas...attacks like the enclave tend to turn up a lot of ground and knock down a lot of buildings. So you can find things, that were right under your nose..." She looks at Daniel again, then back to Ashur..."I keep finding sky god things too...might make a dream catchers out of one of kinda cool.""
Daniel Daniel's own gaze, locking with Ashur's for a few long moments, is no less intense. There is no hint of a challenge; indeed, his expression appears sympathetic for a moment before slipping back into a mask of unintelligent banality. He hawks and spits blood into the dirt. "Hard," he says quietly, "When someone comes and takes away what you built. Like I said -- my services are affordable."

He looks back to Alasa and, after a moment or two of silence, says "What's a sky god?" There's an almost child-like curiosity in his voice as he continues to study her, scarred brows bunching up.
Ashur Ashur is contemplative for a time. When he rises to his feet, it is to return the gold-horned helmet to his head, and begin to walk toward the westward running track, following in pursuit of the boys. "I'll keep the offer in mind," he says, non-commital, and clasps an arm on Daniel's shoulder in the passing. "There is no sky god. My jetpack broke."
Alasa Alasa laughs, looking at Ashur...then turning to Daniel. "Sky Gods, the ones who come from beyond the stars. Least thats what my people call them..other people call them different things I guess.."
Daniel Daniel cracks open the Nuka-Cola and takes a slow sip, sighing as he watches the Roman depart after his charges. He looks over at Alasa and smiles ruefully, displaying a scarred gumline and several missing teeth in a horrendous grin. "I'm Daniel," he says after a few beats. His gaze keeps dropping down from Alasa's eyeline and only rising again with an effort. "Thirsty?" He offers out the gifted Nuka-Cola, then tenderly prods at his jawline, where a massive bruise is beginning to form. "I used to watch some weird lights in the sky, back a few years ago. Those the sky god things?"