Tyrant's Fall Part 2
Quirinus hovered over the abandoned fort, crossed arms as dark clouds gathered - his will made manifest. He made his displeasure into heavy rain and thunder, the mundane world begging for his judgment. Breaking through the standing walls, he carved a path to the center, finding the hall in which the Bulls had met.
Aeneid had been waiting for him, sitting confidently on Aritimesia’s seat; one leg over the other, leaning sideways, face half-covered by her cloak, hands crossed in a pyramid of contemplation.
“It is over, Quirinus.” Lidia presented her ultimatum even before the other Triumphant entered the room. “Remember that you are just mortal, you can be wrong and you must own your mistakes. Your… “Pax Quirina” failed; you allow no war but grant no peace, you let Rome get trapped in another quagmire in which they have to fight for Liberty and Republic. Your excesses earned the Senate and People dangerous enemies. Our friends see in you the face of Tyranny and a dark promise for the future. I share their concerns; what did you plan to do with the Bulls?”
Quirinus advanced, revealing his form. Cocooned in arching lightning, the sorry state of his silver face messed up after the last encounter with Aeneid: the soft metal of the mask had been bent and twisted, the blow a vector trough which Triumph and rage turned it into an ever-snarling human/wolf hybrid, a muzzled face with a row of hungry teeth.
Lidia was horrified, scared by the transformation. That silver mask was the sole thing that offered that mass of oppression and thunder some semblance of Humanity. Facing down the tempestuous wolf, she picked up a crow emblem similar to hers, sliding it across the table.
“Out of respect for the human you once were - and which I hope still lingers within,- I offer you a shot at redemption. Recognize the Corvii as part of the Triumphant pantheon of Rome, work alongside us and we will reintegrate you into society. If you refuse…”
The Triumphant did not wait for Lidia to finish; he started to gather energy around his fists for a deadly volley. Aeneid threw the table up in the air, sliding over it to close the gap; Lidia aimed to end the fight before it could start. She boldly reached for Quirinus’ mask, rewarded with a violent punch to her flank; repeated shocking bursts struck her muscles, causing her to roll over and spasm to the floor.
Lidia rolled out of sight, trying to avoid Quirinus’ blows as she regained motor control. The other Triumphant was not willing to play her game; he was fully aware that facing someone known for their speed and strength in an enclosed space would offer plenty of opportunities for a turnabout. He blew the roof of the building, soaring away; after all, as the oppressor, it was his right to dictate the terms of the conflict.
Lidia had no alternative but to follow behind him, speeding enough to catch up with him but forever out of reach. She danced across the north of the peninsula, the hovering shadow as distant as the dark clouds that gathered around it. It was an odd proposition: they could not strike at each other, but whoever gave up would be conceding some unspoken point.
Since this had devolved into the ideological front, Lidia had a gambit she wanted to try. She gave up the chase, Aeneid rushing towards the consular army of Lucius Aemilius Papus. Stopping in front of the camp, she contemplated the sea of tents and fires flanked by imposing sentry towers.
Legionnaires and auxiliary troops gathered, everyone trying to get a glimpse of the Triumphant.
“People of Rome, Italian siblings, foreigner lovers of Libertas.” her voice attuned with her spark, channeling the Triumph of Aeneas, resonating with the feats and aspirations of every refugee that had found a home in Italia. “Why do you fight? Is Quirinus Niger Fulminar who you choose as Champion? Are his beliefs yours?”
Heavy rain muffled any answer and drowned any words Lidia had left. Dark clouds heralded the approach of Quirinus; her goal achieved, she had forced him to answer to an earthly realm. The soldiers cleared a path for both Triumphants. It was true that Lidia was not the best at seizing hearts and minds, but even the most reluctant soldiers were having second thoughts once they gazed upon Quirinus’ terrifying visage. The messy lupine features, the aura of savagery and the stink of royalty disgusted the civic and liberal sensibilities of the Romans.
Aeneid charged at Quirinus as soon as he landed. This was her last shot, she had gambled everything to get him here; she could not let go of him. Celerity granted Lidia the first and the second strikes, her head hitting the armour and clenching one hand around his neck. They rolled on the ground, Aeneid using everything she knew about pugilism and wrestling to pin Quirinus down, restraining him with the occasional punch or kick. Lidia realized direct blows hurt her more than her tormentor. She had no choice but to match his inhumanity, her heart and spark reverberating with the clamor of beating shields and soldiers screaming her name.
Quirinus tried to fly away, shaking Lidia off for a brief moment. Bruised but enthusiastic, Lidia pushed herself to the limit, pulling and ripping his cloak; losing his balance, the Celestial Triumphant fell to the ground. Aeneid regained control of the fight with a jump and an elbow drop.
Aeneid could not keep up, crawling between broken branches and crushed grapes, breathing heavily as she tried to get up. Quirinus did not even slow down, already calling rain and thunder. A thunderbolt struck Lidia, carrying Quirinus’ irritation and disdain for the woman in a mortal blow.
Her heart stopped.
She was dead for a terrifying instant, the Triumph of Aeneas the only thing forcing her heart to beat again. She dug into the mud as her body moved on its own. Quirinus had turned his back to her, convinced the fight was over.
The lupine Triumphant stopped, the noise of the cestus rings scratching burned skin and leather capturing his attention. He turned to face a stumbling Aeneid, a fist raised in defiance as electricity and smoke circled her.
“Come on, Quirinus. Snarl for me.”
He did, pulling his hands to cover Aeneid in another electric discharge. Lidia charged with untapped speed, her spark cackling with Celestial might; her arrival was announced with a sonic boom - just the prelude for a powerful left hook. Quirinus’ mask cracked with the impact, distorted and fused into an even savager shape.
Lidia did not let him recover, imprisoning Quirinus under an arm lock and dragging him through the peninsula; she threw Quirinus against anything she could find - ruins, hills, trees, even a mine entrance. As it started to collapse, Aeneid released Quirinus and punched him right between his wolf eyes, sending him deep underground. Jumping away with two new sonic booms, she flipped over the other Celestial and buried him with a devastating kick.
Landing leaning with one leg and forming a cross with the other, Lidia observed as Quirinus exploded the debris; dodging the dust and a few bolts, exchanging blows.
The two sparks met, recognizing in each other contradictory incarnations of the same founding myth - trying to impose a single absolute vision upon the world. Stumbling and shoving each other around, both were aware of how hazardously intense their Triumphs had become. As the bucolic scenery of Italian hills was superseded by the false-reality of legends. Lidia channeled all the power of her spark through her cestus, unleashing against Quirinus armor a punch so potent that she could smell Troy burning.
Aeneid stumbled back, her senses assaulted by the fires of desecrated temples and the ferrous taste of Greek trickery. The sparks of the Celestial Triumphants were fantastic things, lit by platonic forms and transcendent ideas; stories abounded about Triumphants consumed by the mythic allure of their Triumphs, imprisoned alongside their enemies for eternity. She danced around Quirinus, hearing the echoes of bronze against bronze, the rival Triumphant trying to project his vision of King Turnus over her. She rejected that reality but did not dare to impose her own in return.
Combat became a difficult proposition, their sparks growing unstable. They traded blows, Lidia trying to drag him towards a place with powerful genius loci - a nature spirit strong enough to shackle them to reality and suppress the collateral effects of their Triumphs. Neither could step away even if they wanted, gravitating toward each other even as Quirinus tried to fly away and Aeneid gained speed.
The myths demanded a conclusion: Aeneas as the refugee founder of a multicultural nation or the city of an assassin of kings that ascended to the Heavens as an implacable god.
Only one could walk away.
Lidia knew she would be the winner; natural order favored her. No matter how much Quirinus believed he had transcended mortal concerns, he was no manifest divinity - just a delirious tyrant. She picked the battlefield, selecting the local perfect to judge the hubris and tyrannic pretenses of her rival.
Aeneid brought battle to the Fields of Fire.