The morning wind blew, it was strong and aggressive. Tarik stood high above the forest perched on the branch of the highest tree. He was crouched feet rested on the branch with perfect balance. The summer had come and gone, it was close to mid autumn now. Moses said the snow would fall soon, he was right. It was cold out and the clouds hung above ready to litter the forest with snow. Deacon Marino never came as he usually did, this worried Tarik. Moses said for him not to worry, that surely Deacon Marino was out helping his brothers and this was the cause of his tardiness to sanctuary. At first this was something that Tarik agreed with half heartedly, but now the warmth of summer had gone replaced by the cold reality of the coming winter. As the wind blew the tree gently swayed back and forth ever so slightly, not once did Tarik struggle for balance. Movement stirred far below him, it was Thomas a nineteen year old who had come to sanctuary for training, Judge Moses was teaching him how to use his elemental gift. Thomas could control the ground beneath him, or Judge Moses said in time he would, right now he was only able to create small earth quakes. Thomas slowed beneath the tree, he was searching for Tarik as part of the morning exercise. Tarik remained motionless as Thomas looked for any signs that Tarik had been there, Thomas kneeled touching the ground using his ability to use the earth to pin point and locate, a new trick Moses had taught him. Tarik cursed under his breath, he knew that Thomas would find him, well not right away, Thomas was still new at using his gift in this manner it would take him maybe five to ten minutes. And just when Thomas realized that Tarik was just above him it’d be too late. Moses had come up with a safer way to spar without getting hurt. If a confrontation occurred during practice light controlled strikes were allowed. Judge Moses also implemented a point system, in this particular drill the one who reached thirty points won. Other drills might have more points that needed to be acquired to win, others might have less. In all drills certain body parts that were struck was how one gained points. A head shot was ten points, the stomach was five, the solar plexus was ten, the legs if you knocked your opponent off balance was ten. That was the point system for the combat drill today. Tarik felt insulted at first that Judge Moses used this point system instead of just letting someone get the crap beaten out of them. To him pain was the ultimate teacher. But unlike Thomas Tarik’s injuries healed incredibly quick, in most cases he’d be healed before the sessions ended for more serious injuries. Tarik grabbed ahold of the branch he was perched on with both hands staring down at Thomas waiting intently. After a few minutes he got bored, he knew that even once Thomas did detect him the fight would end quickly. Thomas was no fighter, at least not yet. He didn’t seem to pick up on what Moses was teaching him in regards to hand to hand combat. It was either just not in his blood to be a warrior, or he just wasn’t a natural fighter. It was so odd, when it came to learning how to use his gift Thomas seemed to learn much quicker, but it would take more than just relying on ones gift to survive out there. Tarik stared off zoning out as he watched the sun sitting on the horizon of the morning sky. His face was distorted and concerned. “Where are you Deacon Marino?” He asked himself. It bothered him more than he would admit and Judge Moses wasn’t easily fooled.
“Stay focused!” Moses’s voice said telepathically to Tarik. Tarik looked back down at Thomas who now had his eyes closed while he touched the ground.
“It won’t take much focus to beat him you know, even once he finds me” Tarik softly sighed with frustration.
“Then make him work for it!” Judge Moses said. “Break his concentration while he struggles to find you, this will be a good lesson for him!”
Tarik looked away showing his defiance even though Judge Moses couldn’t see his face. He knew however that Moses could still sense him. Tarik didn’t respond back, frustration was building. “Maybe we should go look for Deacon Marino” Tarik responded.
“We’ve had this conversation already Tarik!” Judge Moses responded aggressively.
“So let’s have it again…”
“Focus on the task at hand, we will talk about this another time!” Judge Moses was very short and to the point on the matter. He wanted Tarik to know that the discussion was ended.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing you saying that you don’t want to talk about it!” Tarik said angrily.
“It’s not the time! We’ve already had this conversation and I refuse to have it again!” Judge Moses forced. Tarik knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere when Moses’s voice sounded that way. He shrugged his shoulders looking back down at Thomas who still had his eyes closed trying to seek out Tarik with slow success.
“Ok…” Tarik said before letting his feet slide off the branch. His body fell to the ground below landing right behind Thomas. “Boo!” Tarik said making light of the fact that Thomas was struggling to find him. Thomas opened his eyes flinching, he stood up turning to face Tarik completely startled by Tarik’s sudden appearance. Tarik stepped forward executing a well placed front kick into Thomas’s stomach sending the poor guy staggering back, he didn’t even see it coming.
“Ok Tarik, that’s enough” Judge Moses said calmly. Tarik stepped forward pivoting on his foot releasing a roundhouse kick to the side of the already dazed Thomas, his body shuddered from the impact making him fall to the ground. “I said that’s enough!” Judge Moses said firmly. Tarik was disgusted with how weak Thomas was in fighting.
“You’ve been learning this now for over three months and I’ve yet to see progress, what are you doing here if you can’t learn?” Tarik asked in a very rude voice, Thomas looked up his lip was bloody. It only infuriated Tarik more. “Get up!” He yelled. Thomas slowly came to his feet, his guard wasn’t even up when Tarik shuffled then released another roundhouse kick to the other side of Thomas’s head, Judge Moses reached out grabbing Tarik’s foot. He appeared out of thin air it seemed but that wasn’t true, he was always near watching, waiting. His grip tightened on Tarik’s foot sending a sharp pain from the foot up the leg.
Judge Moses’s eyes were firm. “I said enough!” The Judge said a final time. His grip tightened more cracking several bones in Tarik’s foot, he yelled out in pain pulling his leg back before dropping to one knee holding his broken foot with both hands. Judge Moses looked down at the broken foot. “Unlike Thomas” He said watching the bones in Tarik’s foot crack the quickly reshape no longer broken, it took only a matter of seconds. “You can heal” Judge Moses finished. Tarik jumped up he was ready to fight. Judge Moses raised a brow. “You wish to fight me? Or are you merely showing your frustration over the tardiness of Nicholas Marino?” Judge Moses lowered his guard, his voice softened. “I know how frustrated you must be, but it is shameful to take out your rage on a weaker foe” He started walking to Tarik, Thomas was nursing his wound not feeling insulted by what Judge Moses said about him. He knew he was weaker than Tarik, he was full aware that he didn’t have the skills to survive out there, that’s why he was here. He needed to learn. Tarik started pacing he was looking to the ground, Moses could see the conflict on his face he wanted to help calm Tarik. My son…” Judge Moses said softly. Tarik glanced up quickly, Moses’s words stirring up pain.
“I’m not your son!” Tarik shouted, he reached out pointing at Judge Moses. Moses smiled in agreement.
“You’re hurt right now, I get it” He said.
“No you don’t get it! And you never will!”
“Go back to your cabin and cool off” Judge Moses said calmly.
“You just sit up here in your little sanctuary not doing shit! You just sit back watching our brothers be slaughtered by the Shroud!”
Judge Moses raised his hand to halt Tarik’s words. “Enough boy” He said calmly, Tarik kept pacing. There was no sign that he would be calming down anytime soon.
“What? Does the truth sting?” Tarik replied. His eyes began to water, he was licking his lips. The anger was showing. Judge Moses turned to Thomas who stood there quietly the whole time.
“Thomas please go back to your cabin” Judge Moses replied telepathically. Thomas bowed then walked away, Judge Moses turned his attention back to Tarik.
“Until further notice you are confined to your cabin!” The Judge said firmly. Tarik stomped in protest flailing his arms about.
“What? You can’t tell me what to do!”
“I am Judge of this sanctuary, and you are becoming erratic! You are a danger to yourself and to others! If you chose not to follow this mandate then I will escort you from my premises!”
Tarik heard how Judge Moses was speaking, he meant what he said. He took one step forward as if to challenge, then he turned without a word. Judge Moses had noticed Tarik’s slight contemplation, and he knew in that same instant Tarik attempted to steal his gift. He felt Tarik trying desperately, but the gift of Judge couldn’t be stolen by a Guardian Judge Moses had already established this, yet Tarik tried anyway. Why did he attempt this even knowing he would fail? Out of anger did Tarik hope to acquire the gift of Judge so that he could challenge Moses? Or did he merely hope to steal the gift so that he could go and seek out Deacon Marino? So many questions swirled in Moses’s mind, all of which he did not like. He cared for Tarik but he regretted that he ever taught him. Tarik was traveling down a dark path that he might never come back from.

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