Nothing was said, or needed to be said. Cathak Nirak struck first, with a two-handed slash across Jalmarâ€™s chest. Golden light and crackling energy rippled around Jalmar as the red-steel sword connected. For all its ferocity, the attack did no harm to Jalmar. This surprised Nirak for a split second. Then Jalmar struck. A short jab of his arm brought Jalmarâ€™s fist to his fatherâ€™s chest. Air was blasted from Nirakâ€™s lungs and he drew his breath back with a snarl. The fire-blooded reared back and roared, and his aura of red and orange flame surged forth like a tide. Jalmar delivered a follow-up punch with his left hand, across Nirakâ€™s right cheek. While the fire-blood withstood the pain of the blow, he was sent hurling back a dozen yards. Nirak crashed into the side of the valley with a hard clanging of stone on metal. A cloud of dust rose from his impact site, and a golden streak shot into the haze faster than mortal eyes could follow. Jalmar rained down a barrage of punches toward his stunned father, but as the dust cleared Nirak was unharmed and his sword was held where it had last blocked a punch. All of Jalmarâ€™s strikes had been parried by the grinning Cathak.
A swift kick to the midsection knocked Jalmar back several steps. The flames around Nirak rippled and he sprang to his feet. He held his left hand forward, and his fiery aura solidified inside his grip. Part of the flames formed a sword of solid element in Nirakâ€™s off-hand, and then his aura returned to full intensity. With both swords in hand, one jade-steel the other pure fire, the fire-blood dove at his son. He swung both weapons, alternating between them to keep his balance, in a relentless onslaught. Half a dozen blows rang down on Jalmar, but none cut into his flesh. Abruptly, Jalmarâ€™s aura burst forth from rippling light to a giant serpentine dragon of gold fire. Itâ€™s brilliant visage roared silently into the air, and startled every mortal out as far as the city of Nexus. In mid-swing Nirak hesitated when he beheld the image surrounding his son. Jalmar slammed his fore-arms against Nirakâ€™s clenched hands, which knocked his weapons outward. Both blades missed their mark. Jalmar immediately brought both fists down against his fatherâ€™s armored shoulders. The fire-blood was pushed a foot into the ground, so that the soil was level with his ankles. Using that to his advantage, Jalmar slammed his head down against Nirakâ€™s four times in as many seconds.
Earth and stones exploded from around Cathak Nirak. His searing aura grew in intensity and blasted the ground around him to a charred black. He rammed his shoulder into Jalmarâ€™s gut, which left smoke and some scarring on his sonâ€™s stomach. Then he pushed Jalmar back with his own weight, and together they raced across half the valley. The Cathak stopped and let Jalmar fall back slightly. His dual swords sliced in from both sides and collided with Jalmarâ€™s ribs. Tiny amounts of blood seeped from wounds in Jalmarâ€™s sides. Then the son clamped his arms down over the fatherâ€™s burning wrists. He held Nirak in his iron grip, and began to slam his knees up into the fire-bloodâ€™s stomach. Jalmarâ€™s rage grew with his pain, and fueled his strength. Each strike hit harder, until the last blow knocked Nirak from Jalmarâ€™s grasp and through the air. Over and over the Cathak hurtled, until he righted himself and sent a scathing fire-blast back at Jalmar. White-hot fire engulfed the young solar exalt, and reduced all the bloodstained grass around him to ash. Nirak did not count on victory, and the moment he landed he darted back toward Jalmar. Jalmar, in turn, burst from the mass of flames trailing smoke.
A collision of sword and fist shook the valley. Many of the soldiers, both Anyaâ€™s and the Imperial remnants, were knocked off their feet. No one, not even Anya or Iron Star, dared approach the battling figures. Jalmarâ€™s aura had returned to a mere blazing column of golden flame, identical save for color to his fatherâ€™s. Nirak had blocked Jalmarâ€™s punch as they had rushed each other, and swung his flame-sword in the same instant at his foeâ€™s head. Solid fire pressed against the right side of Jalmarâ€™s jaw, but he pushed back with equal force. Gold lightning cracked the air around Jalmar, and then he hurled Nirak by the chest-plate of his armor. Twenty feet away, the fire-blood landed cleanly on his feet and whipped around. He turned just in time to see Jalmarâ€™s clenched right hand strike his face. While he fell back, Nirak kicked out with both feet. Jalmar was knocked off his feet, and landed a split-second after his father. Both warriors rolled back and regained their footing. A blackened scar ran along half of the valley floor. All around watched in awe as Jalmar and Nirak prepared to attack again.
They had both just started.