He ran with great ease and skill leaping through the trees of the thick forest avoiding branches and twigs from snagging him before landing smoothly on his feet then springing back into the air. It was the second gift that he acquired, it was from the Shroud agent Lee that had confronted Deacon Marino back in Hillside, Tarik had remained hidden but he watched as the Deacon fought, that was when he unknowingly stole the grift from the Shroud soldier. He enjoyed having such a skill that enabled him to leap high into the air and land unscathed, legs unharmed, and to see in the dark at night that was awesome. Sure he could see better in the sunlight but it was better than not being able to see in the dark at all. The third gift he absorbed was from the other Shroud agent Rollins, the telekinetic bullet fists would be a valuable asset to his arsenal. The first gift that he ever received was from Deacon Marino, the ability to heal others or himself. Tarik was running a timed agility course that Judge Moses set up to help his agility and endurance, he’d been running various agility courses set by Judge Moses for the past seven years. Tarik had grown over the years from a small boy into a six foot muscular framed warrior, everything Moses taught him he would to the point of addiction practice until he had it down, and then practice some more for good measure. Deacon Marino would visit every six months and the two had become extremely close, Deacon Marino took on the role of the father Tarik had lost, and since the Deacon never planned on having children he enjoyed his role as father to Tarik. Unlike most gifted that came and stayed temporarily, Tarik lived at the sanctuary. Deacon Marino begged Judge Moses to mentor and train Tarik until his eighteenth birthday, the judge agreed although begrudgingly at first. Over time he bonded with Tarik becoming his close mentor and friend just as Deacon Marino had wished it to be. Judge Moses was greatly impressed with how quickly Tarik learned but of course there were a few concerns. Tarik still had a temper, and a desire to want to go out and find the Shroud agent who killed his father at any cost. Judge Moses regretted that he told Tarik that Mr. Chains was a soul stealer, and that Tarik’s fathers soul was imprisoned within Mr. Chains. This horrified Tarik. Not only was he out to seek revenge, he also felt it was his duty to free his fathers soul from Mr. Chains which was understandable. Tarik slipped through the course with ease there was a sense of pride for mastering this new course so quickly, a few weeks back it seemed difficult to him, not so much now. He cut through the greenery to an open field, Judge Moses stood there waiting at the end of the obstacle course as usual, but this time he was holding a weapon, a red staff that from the ground rose up stopping at his shoulders. Tarik landed and slowed his momentum upon reaching Judge Moses, the judges tan robe blowing in the wind, one hand resting on the staff, the other relaxed at his side. His white eyes rested on Tarik something Tarik had gotten used to over the years it didn’t freak him out any more.
“The gift that you possess steals the gifts of others, this is why I have taught you to control your ability, it could offend the good folk of our fold. Just like the soul stealer your gift makes ones uneasy, but unlike the soul stealer you don’t have to kill to steal a gift” Judge Moses grabbed his weapon with both hands bringing it up defensively. “The gift of guardian takes approximately five minutes before you are able to steal the gift, which means you need to stall”
“I don’t like it when you say that I steal Judge Moses…” Tarik said, he frowned. Judge Moses displayed a crooked smile.
“I’m sorry if the truth hurts young one, but if something isn’t given freely then it is stolen. This is why the first thing I taught you was how to control your gift from stealing”
“But you don’t have a problem if I steal from the Shroud…?” Tarik mockingly said.
“Well no, who gives a damn about them. They are trying to kill our brothers”
“Then why don’t you just help our brothers? You have the power!”
“We’ve been through this…”
“I know, I know. You are bound by the decree of Shongu and the Order of Judges enforces this decree. Blah, blah, blah..” He started waving his arms about and making funny faces, Judge Moses was not amused.
“As I was saying, you need to stall if you encounter a Shroud agent who might possess a stronger gift. Once you steal their gift it will be equal ground, but the bottom line is your combat skills will always help you in such situations”
Tarik started pacing knowing soon he’d have to defend himself, after each endurance run he had to spar Judge Moses for an hour, sometimes longer if he wasn’t satisfied with what he saw. He had four endurance runs per day, so he would fight for at least six hours per day. Tarik pointed at Judge Moses’s weapon.
“So what’s with the red stick, will I be learning how to use a weapon now?”
Judge Moses laughed heavily.
“Why no” he began twirling it around his body. “You’ll have to learn how to defend against a weapon! Some Shroud soldiers can carry various weapons”
Tarik didn’t waste time as usual he was the first to attack. He lunged forward with a side kick, Judge Moses side stepped striking the red staff down on Tarik’s calf muscle. Tarik retracted his leg masking the pain and numbness of the well placed strike. He launched several punches at the judge, all were easily blocked by use of the staff before Judge Moses did a front kick to Tarik’s midsection. Tarik side stepped trying to punch Judge Moses in the leg, but the judge quickly pulled his leg back avoiding the punch. He thrust the staff forward at Tarik’s face, Tarik side stepped then ducked as the staff swiped at where his head had been seconds before. A well placed round house smashed the side of Tarik’s face, he rolled with it absorbing most of the impact. He spun around using the impact to execute a spinning crescent kick that was easily blocked by Judge Moses’s staff. Judge Moses began a series of blinding strikes with the weapon, Tarik struggled to keep up blocking some yet getting hit by most. Judge Moses spun dropping down into a low deep cross stance thrusting the staff forward into Tarik’s solar plexus. Tarik stagger back his vision blurred. He fought to keep his arms up struggling for air.
“Do you give up?” Judge Moses asked.
“No…” Tarik said weakly. Judge Moses advanced unleashing a barrage of attacks with the staff, Tarik only blocked a few before his guard dropped altogether, he was struck repeatedly. “Don’t be ashamed if you need to flee! It is better to live and fight another day!” Judge Moses remarked. His words only enraged Tarik.
“I’m not running, not from nobody!” He yelled out, blood dripping from his nose. He lunged forward throwing a few sloppy punches, he didn’t have the strength or focus to attack yet he was. Judge Moses took one step back striking each of Tarik’s punches with the staff before stepping forward and bringing his weapon upward striking Tarik in the chin. Tarik fell backwards hitting the ground unconscious. Judge Moses stared at Tarik nodding his head in disappointment.
“Maybe it was a mistake training you” he thought to himself. There was so much rage within him, the Shroud could take that rage and mold Tarik into a deadly soldier. Moses disagreed with himself, Tarik would never be one of them, he hated the Shroud too much. So what then could Tarik
become if not one of the Shroud? It was best to think that Tarik would follow the right path. One with such powerful potential would be a horrible enemy of the gifted.

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