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=EC 2018= Grand Arena

 
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8/5/2018 22:39:02   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Whether by the careful planning of long forgotten architects, or by the will of the Lords, or perhaps just by sheer luck, the Grand Arena always aligned perfectly with the heavens above - directly underneath the noonday sun. No shadows marred the smooth expanse of crimson sands, no breath of wind reached them yet to stir its perfection into disarray, no debris lay cluttered along its edges to hint at the countless lives lost to it in years past.

But anticipation hung in the air, a yearning hunger for the screams of glory and despair that had been silent for too long.

The stands filled. Slowly at first, then a maddened rush as those behind scrambled to take those seats closest to the coming bloodbath. Spectators chattered excitedly among themselves, their babble increasing as the minutes crept by. Yet even the most distracted kept one eye turned towards the first row of stands, where those who spoke for the Lords had silently taken their places. Flowing silk robes of every color imaginable hid their faces from view, and they stood with heads bowed and arms clasped before them. Listening. Watching. Waiting.

And then the sun reached its zenith, and they turned as one to face the center of the Arena. Their voices rose together, blending until it seemed as if a single, unified cry called out to issue their decree. “We have witnessed the Trials of Twilight, the Trials of Cellar, the Trials of Factory. We have witnessed those who have earned their entrance to the final challenge. And now we welcome those of daring and cunning, of quick wit and strong will and indomitable spirit. We welcome our Paragons!”

A pillar of gleaming red and shimmering orange erupted from the sands, leaving black scorch marks in its wake. It radiated warmth, causing the air around it to shimmer like a desert mirage. As captivating as a dancing flame, the vibrant sparks and inner fire of opal pulled at the eyes and minds of those watching. Distracting people, drawing them in with promises of such power and passion that it became easy to forget the cost, the burn, the destruction that came with it. The Pillar of Fire blazed forth in its fury.

“One of the music, who dances with flame. His symphony always remembered, though perhaps not his name. Witness Dapper, Paragon of Fire.”

An obelisk of black obsidian, so dark that it drew the surrounding shadows towards it rather than casting its own, emerged with dignity. It dulled the color and life around it, swallowing any light that drew near and leaving the sands closest to it black and smooth. It brought with it a hint of despair, a hint of decay, a hint of death. Like all else, the Pillar of Darkness was born from the shadows, and to the shadows all would eventually return.

“One who is cunning, a man who has killed. He seeks recognition, for the blood he has spilled. Witness Maled, Paragon of Darkness.”

With no clouds, no storm, and no warning, a massive bolt of lightning crashed into the sands. The resounding thunder was instantaneous, booming loud enough to shake the stands and jolting many to their feet. It left, in its wake, a spire of glass. Twists of smooth and jagged curves intertwined to form the petrified lightning. An immense, yet terrible, beauty that left tingling static on the air around it. The Pillar of Energy hummed with its own source of current.

“One who brings laughter, an entertainer at heart. His weapons a danger, his magic an art. Witness Vir, Paragon of Energy.

A playful breeze danced amongst the crowds, momentarily bringing smiles before it turned all too suddenly into a gale, screaming as it spun across the sands. It grabbed at the flecks of crimson and hurled them at the spectators foolish enough to forget to cover their faces, foolish enough to forget that even the most gentle breeze can become the most terrifying storm. It solidified into a spiraling column of immense silver, delicate and deadly. Alone, the Pillar of Wind maintained movement, a chime of clinking metal caused by the constant stir of the air around it.

“One who seeks answers, a family undone. A quest to fulfill, a fight to be won. Witness Elias, Paragon of Wind.”

Motes of frost glided across the arena, one by one finding the others until they formed themselves into an immense tower of crystal, refracting the light until the sands around it glittered as if covered by snow. A cold that ran deeper than winter itself chilled the air. Parents pulled their children close, yet no warmth could be generated to combat the indifferent, ethereal presence that sent shivers through even the heavily clothed. The Pillar of Ice froze the sands in place, a warning to those foolish enough to draw close.

One reborn from the ashes, a soul filled with dispute. His determination unwavering, his resolve absolute. Witness Pride, Paragon of Ice.”

A radiance filled the sky, harsher than the light of moon or stars or sun. It grew until it blinded hope and despair alike, it grew to form an ideal of perfection that no mortal could dream to capture. The glare passed, leaving a monolith of pure diamond in its wake. Strong and unrelenting, it stood tall and flawless in a ray of sun. The Pillar of Light held true to ideals, banishing the impurities of the surrounding sands until only a circle of soft white remained.

One chasing a story, his light in the dark. Though far from its forge, his blade finds its mark. Witness Aurinko, Paragon of Light.”

Without warning, the arena flooded. A swirl of blues that coalesced into a whirlpool before the spectators had a chance to gasp for air, leaving just the tang of salt as a reminder of the vast expanse of its domain. It solidified into a statue of coral, the protector of the denizens that dwelled in the oceans and the doom of careless ships and sailors. The Pillar of Water could grant much of what was needed for life, and could take it away just as easily.

“One most audacious, in both action and word. His magic is wondrous and his stories absurd. Witness Dalavar, Paragon of Water.”

Rumbling, so deep it was felt more than heard, shook the stone that the complex stood upon. The sands trembled and those few spectators left standing grabbed at those around them to keep their balance as the ground swayed and shuddered. A tree grew from the sand, a tree of stone, veined with amber, its sculpted leaves swaying slightly as the motions about it stilled. Tall and stately, the sand about the Pillar of Earth continued to tremble slightly, as if in reminder that even the land below was unpredictable in its movements.

“One who is many, a puppeteer of bone. They are an enigma, from places unknown. Witness Oz, Paragon of Earth.”

Everything stilled after the last competitor was announced - even the crowds were completely motionless, as if the entire Arena was holding its breath. The only sound heard was a deep hum of power coming from the sands themselves. Time, an element not yet mastered even by a Lord, stood frozen.

And then with a roar, the Pillars blazed. The crowd screamed. And over it all, the announcers’ call made it to the ears of every competitor. “We bear witness to the Trial of the Desert Sands. Let the judgment of the Arena begin. Fight with valor, Paragons, for more than your lives are now at stake!"
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 1
8/7/2018 0:24:14   
Kellehendros
Eternal Wanderer


Aurinko slid Leikata slowly back into its sheath, as though afraid any sudden movement might cause the vision before him to shatter. “Grandfather, it’s me.”

The elderly Kaarme Phry seated at the light forge stood gingerly, levering himself up with the help of the dimly lit console. His voice was gravelly, rasping, like a rusted machine lurching into motion. “Greetings, Lightcutter.” The humming from the construction surface behind him rose as the light from its surface grew, pushing back the heavy shadows of the massive vault.

Aurinko froze, eyes going wide as the older man turned towards him. No, oh no, no, no… This was not his grandfather. The thing peering back at him had his grandfather’s shape, true, but there was nothing of the Kaarme’s kindly caretaker within. The lab coat it was clothed in had once been pristinely white, worn over dark pants and a button-down shirt. Now the garments were rent and torn, revealing wounds weeping a foul effluvia that stained what was left of the fabric. Long claw marks marred the once familiar face, and as the head turned the swordsman realized its crest had been shattered and then reassembled with a sickening arrangement of bonefuse and staples.

But the eyes were the worst. Aurinko’s grandfather had had gentle eyes, eyes filled with inquisitive intelligence and nigh boundless enthusiasm. The corpse-rider’s eyes were dead, vacuous, but for a cruelty as cold as the null-space opened by Leikata’s blade. It laughed at the shock and disgust mingling on the Kaarme Phry’s face. The sound was vile, grating and scraping at the swordsman’s ears, doubling and redoubling as it echoed through the vastness. “Dost it cark thee, Lightcutter? Be thou overwrought?”

The Kaarme’s right arm whipped up, drawing the assault carbine hovering at his back. His voice was rough with a welter of emotions too raw to sort through. “Let. Him. Go.”

Its sawing laughter rebounded through the chamber again. “Thou canst not be so foolish. This flesh is dead, fallen as thou did flee this place.” The corpse smiled, a sickening expression revealing rotted, broken fangs. “Though once thou swore to give thy dying breath in his defense.”

“It was what he wanted,” Aurinko snarled, advancing a step. “He was a good man, and you profane everything he built.”

“Everything thou didst abandon.”

“No!” The Kaarme Phry’s armor flared to life, projectors mounted on his shoulders sheathing his arms in dazzling geometries of hardened light. Spikes crackled down his spine and tail as he snugged the carbine’s stock to his shoulder.

“Come,” crooned the corpse-rider, spreading its arms open in invitation. “Oh, do come, Lightcutter. How I long to clutch thee. Ah... but I waited, and wait I shall. Mm... and for reward, perhaps thou shall be mine next host. He comes now. Canst not thou feel his drawing near?”

Aurinko glared down the holosight, unable to stop a shiver of unease from rippling down his spine. “What are you talking about?”

It laughed once more, then began to twitch and jerk, paroxysms of something that might have been pain wracking through it. Spines pushed their way from its ichorous wounds, as if something else was clawing its way out of the fleshy prison that had once been the Kaarme’s grandfather. The corpse’s eyes burst in blazes of lurid eldritch light. Bones cracked and flesh writhed as a voice like the death of stars rolled from its throat. “I... Sssseeeee... Yooou.”

The Kaarme Phry cried out as the utterance crashed against him like a physical force, driving him to his knees and sending his carbine spiraling from his hands and into the hungry darkness below. Aurinko buckled, slamming his right hand down to stop himself from slumping to the catwalk while his left gripped at his throbbing skull. “D-D-Darkener.”

“Yesss…” It seemed to swell, stretching with the crackling protest of sinew and tendon. “The little losst lamb. Curiousss. Thought you fled, I did.”

Snarling, the Kaarme pushed himself up to glare at the dark entity while his hand reached for the nearby railing. “T-told… P-promised… Found a way back.”

The Darkener laughed, and if the laughter of its herald had been painful, this was nigh unendurable. Aurinko was slammed to the catwalk, blood rilling from his eyes and ears in lukewarm streams. “Fool. There iss no back for ssuch assss you.”

Defiant, the swordsman levered his battered body upright again. “The cut was made. I went back. I. Will. Stop this.”

“But it hasss already happened.”

Aurinko crossed his arms before himself, and rather than being cast down, this time he was driven backwards several feet. The sound from the projectors on his shoulders shifted from a hum to a whine, combating the abominable force chewing into the hardened light. “It will not happen again.”

“No, no it will not,” chuckled the Darkener. “You fail to ssee, Lightcutter. But I am merciful. I will… illumine your ignorance.”

The planes of hardlight along the Kaarme Phry’s arms began to hiss and sizzle, some obscene force or emanation from the Darkener chewing hungrily into the defense. Their whine became a howl as the projectors fought to reinforce the plates, until they blew out in simultaneous eruptions of crystalline shards. The swordsman cried out as a vice of agony fastened around his skull. Images, sounds, scents, and tastes all shuddered through his senses in a torrent, wheeling and splashing away like water continuously poured into an overfull glass.

“It isss sssad, thisss ignorance. You think you have gone back. But in truth, you have only... ssstepped assside. The multiverssse iss uncountable pathss in parallel, each disstinguissshed with itss own feeling, itsss own… vibration. Consssider two mirrorss sstanding in opposssition. Look then to the left or right, and sssee infinity sspiraling away.” The Darkener laughed again. “Did you not feel the difference? Ah, but you did. You ssimply dismisssed it, telling yoursself it wass nothing more than a passsing fancy. You cut back, you insssisst. In truth, you ssimply cut a hole through the mirror.” Spine-rent arms lifted, motioning to the sterile waste the Forge had become. “Ssuch sssacrifice, for a fool’ss error. He wasss wrong, Lightcutter.”

Aurinko wheezed, shaking and spitting blood as he pushed himself up from the metal grating of the catwalk once again. “Even i-if… Even if we were wrong… nothing changes.”

“No?” The Darkener snorted derisively. “You will never find you way home, Lightcutter. Your life hass been a fruitlesss quest for an objective you can never obtain.” Leering through the blackened teeth of its ruined mouth, the entity continued, “but sshould your appetite for torment be unssated, know that a breach for you isss a breach for me. Once I have finissshed with this place, I sshall reach out my hand to blight your new home. Perhapsss I sshall ssseek out your little rikka.

“No.” The Kaarme Phry grasped the railing and hauled himself to his feet, leaning on it for support.

“You would deny me? What harm could you offer me, flessshling?”

Settling his hand on Leikata’s hilt, Aurinko drew the weapon with careful deliberation. “I don’t know. But whatever you say, I am here, now. I suppose we will both find out.”

Hissing, the entity flicked one hand in a dismissive gesture, and the katana’s blade burst apart in a hail of cutting shrapnel. “I wasss old when your kind crawled upon their belliesss in their own filth. And you would defy ME, with your worthlessss, broken toy?”

The Kaarme flinched as slivers of metal drove into his scales, taloned feet scrabbling for purchase as the Darkener’s fury pushed him back another foot. But there was a smile on Aurinko’s face for the first time as he faced the horror grinding its way through his grandfather’s form. “You poor, broken thing. You do not understand.”

“What?”

Glancing down at Leikata - broken once more - the swordsman was unsurprised to see that the same shard remained, just as it had been when first the weapon was splintered. Aurinko stalked forward, touching the shard to the blood running down his arm. “You are old... and selfish. You have only ever cared for yourself, and you only ever will. Your heart is a barren waste.” There was a touch of wolf in the smile now, as the Kaarme Phry lifted his shattered sword into Sentry’s Watch.

“But were I armed with nothing more than a broken stick I would defy you. I do not defy you with this ‘broken toy’. I defy you with the skill of my hands, with the sweat of my brow, with the blood in my veins, and with every beat of my heart. For my heart is empty of myself, and so I fill it with the hopes and dreams of all those who have come before, and those who will come after.”

Snarling, the Darkener raised its spined and scabrous arms, bony claws erupting from its fingertips in a splatter of corrupted blood. “Then come and die a fool.”

Aurinko charged, fangs barred in a killing smile. “Of course, the broken toy helps.” Leikata coursed to life in his hands, its blade a splendorous surge of radiance like a sun in his grasp.

A shriek rose from the entity, a spiraling cry as the Darkener’s shadow splashed out across the distant chamber wall, massive, writhing, unnatural. The scream built even as Leikata’s humming light grew stronger, until the ringing buzz and the screech became as one. Reality itself shuddered, peeling away from a single note of heart-rending clarity that went on and on and on…



Aurinko’s eyes opened, and he sat up slowly. He was somewhere else again. A concerning trend. The Kaarme’s lips twitched as he brushed the thought aside and stood. It was a small chamber, like a monk’s meditation cell. Simple walls of mortared stone planed down to a smooth finish, a closed door, a wood-frame cot, an end table bearing a lit candle in a brass holder.

He rose to his feet, noting that his armor was gone; in its place were the loose white shirt and baggy black pants he had adopted shortly after cutting back - or crossing over. Perhaps the entity had lied. It was a thing of selfish hunger, of fear and hate. No, no, it spoke true, of this at least. The thought was sorrowful, but Aurinko squared his shoulders and accepted it. In truth he had felt the difference, the wrongness of this place. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that he had felt his wrongness for this place.

The Kaarme Phry spent a long moment staring down into the still, perfect flame of the candle on the nightstand, seeking some answer there. In the end, what he had said to the Darkener was true. If this was not his place… that changed nothing of what he would do. Reaching out, he lifted the taper and spoke to the tongue of fire, setting it dancing in the wind of his breath. “The way is lit, the path revealed. All I ask is the strength to walk it.”

But it was only a candle, and so Aurinko carried it with him as he turned and passed through the door. Beyond was another chamber, this one lit with an arrangement of lanterns and reflecting mirrors that cast their light over a gate set into the far wall, and a pair of marble plinths bearing large, clear containers. The simple worked fieldstone construction continued here along the walls, though the ceiling was a high groined vault, and the floor was dark varnished wood. Between the pedestals and the Kaarme Phry was a low rectangular table.

Aurinko’s eyes lit as he spied the small black box upon the table, along with a pair of clay plates. There was also a slender white carafe, accompanied by delicate cups that had been painstakingly decorated with minute renditions of cherry trees in full blossom. A smile touched with sadness spread across his face as he approached the table and knelt before it reverently. Setting the taper aside, he opened the box to reveal a quartet of elegant chopsticks crossed over small compartments of fish, vegetables, rice, eggs, and two umeboshi.

The swordsman bowed his head for a moment, resting his hands palm-down on the light wood of the table and fighting back tears. He spent several minutes that way, focusing on each breath that flowed in and out of his lungs, until at last the Kaarme finally sighed and nodded to himself. Reaching out, his fingers closed around the carafe, pouring its warm, clear contents into the small cups before dividing the food in the little box evenly between the plate before him and the other, unconcerned that he was apparently dining alone.

And as he ate, he spoke, as though the empty space before him was occupied by his grandfather, as it had been so many times before. He told him everything. The shame he still struggled with, realizing Leikata had broken because of his hesitation. The terror of the passage through that first rift. The wonder of discovering, bit by bit, that the broken blade was still much of what they had hope it might be. The ache of loneliness that gathered around him. The feeling of being adrift, cut off from everything he had known. The tentative connections he had made with the people he had met in this strange new world. The desire, the need to find a way back.

“Her name was Rana,” Aurinko concluded, setting his chopsticks aside as he finished his umeboshi. “I think you would have liked her, very much.” He reached out, lifting the delicate porcelain cup and holding it beneath his nostrils, drawing in the liquid’s sharp savory scent. Lifting his head, the Kaarme Phry drained the contents in a single pull, smiling slightly as the burn of its descent drew a cough from him. Strong as I remember.

The swordsman set the cup - so exquisitely and carefully decorated - rim-down on the floor and rose. Then, with a swift, decisive motion he brought all his weight down on one foot, crushing the thin porcelain into shards beneath his heel. “Beauty is transitory, and we cling to it at our peril. Let it pass into memory, that it may be forever ours.” Folding his hands before him, Aurinko bowed respectfully to the empty place across the table, his eyes dry and his voice steady. “Thank you, isoisä, for this lesson and many others. I will remember.”

Leaving the table behind, the Kaarme approached the pedestals, inspecting them in silence. Each bore a small illuminated red switch and was surmounted by a tall cylinder of glass. Upon his left was the steelthread armor, complete with hardlight projectors, and his carbine, waiting silently. To his right was the leather and steel dou and kusazuri, his crimson belt and Pelastaa in its sheath. At first he thought Leikata was gone, but a moment later he saw it, leaning unobtrusively next to the gate in the shadow of the right-hand plinth.

A choice then. Aurinko glanced between the two switches, knowing instinctively that triggering one would render the other inert. He unconsciously rubbed his right hand over the scales of his left arm, palm tingling slightly at the feel of unfamiliar scars - relics of his strange encounter with the Darkener.

The assault carbine would make swift work of his foes. Strange as this land was, there was nothing like that weapon here. With it he could carve a path through his opposition, devastate them with solar fury while their blows fell impotently on his hardlight defenses.

And he would be nothing more than another butcher.

Not a choice, a temptation. The swordsman touched the glass for a moment as he gave the weapon and armor of his home a final look. And then he turned away, flipping the switch on the right-hand pedestal. Rather than lifting, the glass seemed to simply melt away, there one moment and gone the next. But Aurinko paid it little mind, reaching in and drawing out his armor to garb himself for battle once more.

“When the world is cast into darkness, there is always temptation.” It was his father’s voice, quiet and steady. “And that temptation is to meet the darkness on its own terms, to take up the weapons it wields and turn them back upon it. But that is only giving in to fear. The enemy’s tools will only make you weaker. Our victory will come from our refusal to surrender ourselves to the darkness, even should it consume us one by one.” The Kaarme Phry almost felt his father’s touch, once on his forehead, and then over his heart. “Fight with your head. But remember too that you fight with your heart. When the world is cast into darkness, only the brave can lead it out again.”

Aurinko cinched the crimson silk about his waist, sliding Leikata and Pelastaa through it as he turned to face the gate. The portal rumbled open, the still silence broken by the cry of the chanters announcing each who had been Chosen. Like the Cellar before it, the grand expanse of incarnadine sand hummed. But this was a different song.

Power. Potential. Presence. The world itself hung upon a crystalline thread, waiting. And then the great Pillars flared, the quiet shattered by the screams of a thousand thousand spectators howling for blood and carnage.

The swordsman drew Leikata and stepped onto the sands. “I am ready.”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 2
8/7/2018 17:42:05   
Chewy905
Member

He was falling. The fire had gone out but he was still falling nonetheless, and he had been quite high up so unless he landed on Dapper he was in for a hard landing. He was also soaked, and burned, and extremely tired from all the fighting. But he hadn’t accomplished anything. Him! The great Maled Con! Turned aside at every moment, his attacks being dodged so effortlessly that he wasn’t even sure if his opponents had noticed them at all! It was so frustrating!

But wait. He wasn’t falling anymore. He was frozen in the air, his position unchanging. The central pillar of the tower started ticking. Quietly at first, in tandem with the ticking of the tower, hardly noticeable at all with his earplugs in. But it slowly built until it was pushing right through the earplugs, ignoring them entirely, vibrating his very bones with the ceaseless rhythm of the tower. He tried to cover his ears but he still couldn’t move. The floor beneath him started spinning faster and faster, a whirlwind of eternal motion that began blending the colors of those still on it together until Maled wasn’t even sure what he was looking at anymore. He started moving again, but he couldn’t tell what direction the movement was in. Up? Down? Left or right? He had no clue. The tower was spinning as well, flipping upside down and around and making him sick to his stomach. It spun faster and faster and Maled’s directionless shifting continued on and on and just when he thought he was going to pass out-




Maled sipped his glass of water and admired the trophies behind the bar. “Best atmosphere. Most creative drinks. Cleanest Bar.” This place had sure won a lot of awards. As he looked around it was easy to see why. The place was practically sparkling from how clean it was, the floors and walls nice and polished, with the torches sending playful dancing light around the room. But. It was empty. Why was no one here? The bars of Bren were never empty! Maled Con sipped his water more, enjoying the cool taste.

“Bartender! Another glass please!” He called out, raising his empty drink up for emphasis. No one answered. His eyes swept across the space behind the bar. No one. Where had he even gotten this water? He was sure someone had served it to him when he had come in…

When DID he come in? Did he ever enter the door? Why couldn’t he remember? He focused harder, racking his brain for details. The EC’s started soon, so he was staking out targets, right? No. The EC’s has already started, he had entered and fought in Factory. He thought harder, but couldn’t remember any of the details of the fight. He could remember the ticking of the arena, the rotating platform, the acrid smell of gas that the jets of steam brought. But he couldn’t remember his opponents, or any fighting. Why was he in a bar?

A strong grip closed around the back of his shirt collar. Before he could react, Maled was yanked off the barstool with a yelp and tossed across the room. He skipped across the smooth wooden floor, rolling over multiple times, then collided with the edge of a stage, his back cracking as the impact shot through his body. He yelled out in pain, and struggled to get to his feet, blinking spots out of his eyes. He got halfway up, but couldn’t exit a crouch before a heavy punch to his gut knocked the wind out of him and crushed his body against the stage lip harder. Then he lit up. Electricity coursed through his body, causing his limbs to flail wildly as his teeth rattled against each other and his vision flashed shades of yellow and white. He slumped over, nursing broken ribs, his clothing burnt and smoking.

Cold glass pressed against his lips. “Here. Drink.” Spoke a heavily accented voice. The bottle was tipped back, and Maled drank the cool liquid as it flowed out. He felt his broken bones mending and his strength returning to him. His vision cleared, revealing a tan-skinned man crouching next to him, a warm smile on their face.

“Semed? But?”

The dead man held a finger to his lips. “Later. Get to your feet, there’s more than just me here.”

Maled complied, standing up just in time to see a muscled fist soaring towards his face. He quickly stepped to the side of it and forwards, moving closer to the man the fist belonged to. Before he could follow up, however, the man’s other fist rammed into his gut again, sending another jolt of electricity through his body. He gritted his teeth and endured it, not letting it knock him off his feet again. He bent down to draw a knife, but the sheaths weren’t on his ankles. He realized with a start that he didn’t have Oro’s leather armor on anymore either. Or his belt. His gifts. He threw a hand up to his ear in a panic. No. The feathers are gone.

Maled’s thoughts were forced back to his current situation by a wooden “CRACK” that echoed around the empty bar as a staff slammed into the side of his head. As he fell sideways, his arm shot out to stop himself from fully hitting the ground, and a dark blue ball soared past the gap between himself and the floor. He pushed himself back up and spun, throwing a roundhouse kick at his black cloaked assailant. His leg as stopped by the man’s wooden staff, and a firework exploded in his face, filling the room with flashes of colors and lights that assaulted his senses. He stumbled back in a daze, ready for the assault to continue.

Three voices laughed together. The raspy, grating laugh of Oro. The deep, gruff laugh of Samuel. And the high, bubbly laugh of Tani. In a flash of fire, shadow, and sparks, the three appeared before him, looking very pleased with themselves. Off to the side, with normal legs, stood Semed, watching on a little worriedly.

“Oh that was too much fun.” Said Samuel, still shaking with laughter. “Think if we kill him he’ll come back?”

The cloaked figure of Oro lifted his staff. “I would be all for finding out.” The dark blue ball floated in front of him, glowing with power ominously.

Tani stepped forward and stuck an arm out in front of the two men. “Come on guys! Don’t forget why we’re even allowed to do this in the first place!” She turned to Maled, who hadn’t dropped his guard yet. “Maled Con, huh? Wouldn’t have guessed you were giving me a fake name. Or that you were planning to kill me. Well, welcome to a little portion of the afterlife.”

Maled Con stepped back slightly, eyeing Samuel and Oro. “So I died in Factory, then? And now I get to spend eternity getting beaten up by you three? I’m certain I killed more than you leading up to the Championships, where are the others?”

Samuel answered, wringing his hands together happily. “We’ve asked with everyone else you killed, but they weren’t interested in leaving their business to come see you.”

Oro followed after Samuel, his ball sliding back into the depths of his cloak. “And sadly, you aren’t actually dead. This is just a little place in the after-life the Darkness Lord set up for you at our request.”

“Alright then. Why am I here?”

Semed walked over and stood in front of the others. “What, you haven’t guessed? You won, Maled Con. You’re moving on to Finals as the Darkness Paragon. Though as for why you’re here, I suppose it’s for a little reminder. So sit back and listen. Oro, you can go first.”

The others stepped back as the cloaked Oro walked ominously forwards until he was face to face with Maled. He reached up and lowered his hood, revealing a surprisingly young face covered with scars. He examined Maled solemnly. “Honestly I’m surprised I’m here at all. You didn’t even have the decency to kill me before throwing me off that ledge, so my soul was stolen by that Harrow boy. But it seems it was returned to me when the fool angered the Lords. You took my spot, plain and simple. And from the talks I’ve had with the others here, you took from a lot more than myself as well. But even with all that, you’re the only one we’re watching out there. So you better win this for all the lives you’ve ruined, because if you don’t, we’re waiting down here. Every sin you’ve committed is down here ready to pay you back in full. Remember that, Maled Con, while you’re fighting for your life.”

The wooden staff cracked against the side of Maled’s head without warning, sending him reeling to the side. Samuel caught him before he hit the ground, hefting him back up. “I never actually saw you in life. You were a coward, relying on trickery and deceit to bring death to the undeserving. I had never done anything to you. Had never even known your fake name. So why? Why did you feel the need to leave me to die in a crowded bar? To rob others of the connections they had with me? Why did you desecrate my body in death, stealing something that didn’t belong to you, wasn’t made for you?” Samuel stepped back and took a deep breath, gathering his composure. “You believe the things you’ve stolen are gifts from us. Boons meant to help you succeed in there. They aren’t. You know that, don’t you? They’re symbols. Marks left behind by us to remind yourself and everyone else that you are nothing by yourself. Look at how you bumbled around out there. Falling helplessly, being pushed aside and ignored before you could do anything meaningful. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Our deaths show that you can achieve victories through your own power. Even if those victories come through treachery and cowardly tactics, the Lord’s don't care. Use your own power. Prove to the world that our deaths were meaningless. Show yourself that you don’t need to take lives outside the arena to earn recognition. Go out there and redeem yourself, by yourself, while you’re fighting for your life.”

He was ready for the punch this time, but it came too fast and he couldn’t stop it. The fist rammed hard into his gut, again, and he doubled over in pain before the shock rushed through his body, the sheer force of it this time knocking him off his feet and onto the wood floor. Tani bent down and helped him up. “The Darkness Lord really was kind to arrange this all for us. Usually he sends his own servant to prepare the Paragon for finals, but he agreed that we’d be well-suited for the task this time. You know Maled, I had aspirations, dreams, wishes that I needed fulfilled by this. You took that. You pushed through yourself, grasping after your own shallow goals. But, I’m not like Samuel or Oro. I enjoy a good show, and you’re putting on one. And if my fireworks help you show off, then I’m more than happy to actually support you. But you seem lost, Maled. That display at the end of Factory was truly terrifying. What happened? Why are you here? That’s my question. Are you in Finals to carry on this false belief that everyone down here is begging for you to win? Are you in Finals to set a name for yourself? Or is there another reason? Figure that out, Maled Con, while you’re fighting for your life.

He braced himself for an explosion, or fire, or something destructive. But it didn’t come. Tani waved at him happily as she stepped back to where Oro and Samuel were arguing about something. Semed stepped forward at last, and extended his hand for a shake. Maled Con took it, gripping Semed tightly. Semed nodded slightly. “You’re really misguided, huh? I appreciate that you’re doing this for me, if you’re doing this for me, but you’ve gone too far. I asked you to take my life. The others didn’t. I don’t need to come back to life, but the others may have things they still need to do. I’m not going to tell you what to use your wish on, but if it’s for yourself then you are truly beyond saving. So how about it, Maled Con, are you selfish? Or are you a savior? Who are you? Who is Maled Con? Search yourself, while you’re fighting for your life.”

Semed stepped back, forming a line with the others. They stood there staring at him, waiting for his response. He bowed deeply, humbled and shocked with himself. “I. I’m truly sorry. I’ve done wrong to all of you. I will keep your lessons in mind, and fight on in all of your steed. For real, this time. With the knowledge of my mistakes and the burden of my sins.” He stood up straight again, realizing that something was missing. “You said you spoke with the others I killed, right? Where’s Nigh? Why didn’t she want to come see me?”

There was a long pause as the dead exchanged confused glances. “Who’s Nigh?” Tani finally said. “We’ve talked with everyone you’ve killed in Bren, there was no one by that name…”

What? No! She’s dead! I was certain of it! I watched her life fade! Shouldn’t she be here?

The four spoke in unison, their voices melding into a deep, inhuman grumble that seemed to come from the shadows around the room. “Go forth, Maled Con, and please the Lord of the Dark.”

“No!” He shouted, hysteria and desperation sneaking into his voice. “I’m not finished here! I have to find her! She has to be here!”

He gripped his head in pain as the room began spinning, the walls melting away as he was dragged back to the land of the living.





He had stopped falling, body landing hard on the stone floor of the hallway, lit by torches on the walls and the light that filtered in through the large gate in front of him. Maled Con pushed himself to his feet, admiring the well-made, ancient hallway. He looked down. Lying in front of him, neatly arranged in a line, were his gifts, returned and restored. No. His prizes. These hadn’t been given to him. He had taken them. It would take some time to come to terms with who he was.

Had been. He thought to himself. This is my chance to turn that all around. I just have to win. And if winning means more killing… then I already know what to do.

He picked up each item in sequence, holding them in his hand while he thought of who’d he’d wronged to gain them. When he got to Samuel’s blindfold he found that the stitching on the inside had changed. The message now read:

Tani convinced me to let you keep this, though you don’t need it. Don’t disappoint us. -S

He slipped the items into his belt pockets, finding Ball secure in its pouch already, and adjusted the straps on Oro’s black leather armor, making it nice and tight. His hand drifted up to his ear, a familiar movement it had done many times before. The feathers were there. One given, a blessing from the Church’s guardian. One taken, a reminder of the Church’s servant. Yet they felt so, similar. Maled closed his eyes, praying to the Guardian Angel for protection and clarity. Was it blasphemous to pray to an angel while within the walls of the God’s arena? Perhaps.

Through the large stone gates Maled could see chaos. The elements created storms, waves, and disaster as the arena prepared itself for this years bout. The shadowy obsidian pillar rose from the ground directly in front of the gate as the chanters called his name.

My name. Maled. The world knows me now. I’ve achieved my goal. The crowds are cheering for me. Now let’s show them more. Let’s show them that cunning, make them recognize me as the rhyme states. I didn’t have to spill blood, but I did. And now I’m here, so I’ll march onward.

He stepped towards the gates, towards the crimson sands, towards the coming bloodbath, then stopped. His feet stood just at the divide between stone slabs and granular sands.

She’s alive.


He wasn’t sure how he knew it but he was certain of it. Nigh hadn’t met him in the afterlife because she wasn’t there. Somehow she had survived his attack. Why hadn’t she come to find him? Was she watching in the crowd? No, she hated the Championships, she wouldn’t come watch the man that had slashed her throat. If Nigh was alive… why was he here? Tani’s question echoed in his mind, probing at his thoughts. He could turn around right now. Walk back down the hall and find her himself. Would she forgive him? Could he even apologize to her? Did he even deserve the chance to apologize?

No. He didn’t. It wasn’t just about Nigh. The others had met with him because he needed to know what was at stake. Multiple un-lives were watching him, waiting for his choice, and hoping for his victory. Who would he be if he walked away? Who would he be if he let them down?

Who are you?


He closed his eyes, clenched his fists, and took a deep breath. In. Out. When he opened his eyes again, the black pits burned with quiet resolution. He stepped through the gate, the red sands scattering as his boots stepped plodded forwards. The jet black pillar loomed high over his head, quiet and ominous. It exuded everything Maled’s past stood for. Death. Pride. Power.

He thought back to his entrance at the Factory. How unlike him it had been! Flashy, dramatic, challenging. That’s not who he was. He wasn’t a musician, like the Fire Paragon to his right. Nor was he an entertainer, like the Energy Paragon to his left. He was an assassin. A hunter. His tactics were dishonorable, cowardly, and effective.

I am the Paragon of Darkness. The Cursed Man. The Senseless Wraith.


I am Maled Con.


Post #: 3
8/7/2018 23:05:26   
TormentedDragon
Member

“Whither stops the wanderer?”
“Where the weeping binds.”


Blooded blade meets copper cog, a clash that rings the heavy air, ripples of this rendezvous echoing from wall and ground and shadow, a sharp conniving chorus resonating through their arm and body. All spins, a sliding of boot upon shell sending them and all they are to their side and to their knees, a tumble marked in fearsome, frozen light. The ringing grows, a ceaseless cascade of distorted detonations, swirling about them, pulling at their ears and digging at their eyes.

Their guardian trembles, and they bend to their knees, boots digging into thighs as gloved hands clasp behind their neck, wires whining as the white mist rises, chill sliding through cloth and bone to stroke at skin. The beard moves, lips speaking only silence, blue eyes blazing in the growing grey; they shake their head, unhearing save for the endless, all-consuming Noise. It all shudders, then, a raging in the roiling mist that rips them apart, blades of light and hooks of dark tearing at their skin, catching in their eyes and ears and pulling, pulling, pulling until nothing more remains.







In the absence of noise, silence reigns. They are nothing, now, but still they seem to be. They stand, or try to - but in the absence of feeling, silence reigns, and there is nothing on which to stand. They open their eyes, or try to - but in the absence of vision, silence reigns, and there is nothing for them to see. They speak, a throat cracked from disuse groaning with the effort; or, they try to, but they are nothing, with no throat to crack or groan, no words to say or sounds to make, and nothing answers when nothing speaks.

They cry, then, tears stinging at eyes unused to water, streaming down pallid skin to soak the guarding cloth; or they tried to, but they have no eyes or tears. When silence reigns, and they are nothing, there is nothing over which to weep. They shout, they stamp, they rail and rage; but the wrath of nothing reaches nothing. In silence, all is futile. They fall, tearing at skin and hair and self; but even that is denied, the silence suffocating every action and sensation, sweeping even ghosts and thoughts away, and leaving nothing. Nothing marks them, nothing makes them, nothing hears or sees. In nothing, from nothing, of nothing; all ends in nothing.

“Yet even still. Death must be denied.”

A whisper, weaving through their mind, deafening and dizzying. Hands, grasping at their shoulders, then their face. Arms, enfolding, embracing, buoying with their presence, their existence.

“Rise, thou lost. Rise, as you did before.”
“Death must be denied.”

Fingers, sliding through their hair, to cup at cheeks gaunt and grey, thumbs stroking at the corners of their eyes; eyes which open, now, to see blue above a beard of brown, twinkling in a ruddy face.

“An’ yer woke, be on yer feet. There’s them as needs to meet you.”
“Once more, green eyes. Just once more.”
“The final raging, heart of hearts. One last rising.”

A growl, below them. A rasp, before them. A wheeze, above them. Three sets of hands pull at them, push at them, below, before, above, forcing them to stand. Their limbs strain, legs bending with the weight, but sallow hands, directed by eyes of amber, hold them steady; roughened hands, directed by eyes of sapphire, bear them at their waist; and scaled hands, directed by eyes of ruby, catch them ‘neath their shoulders.

They swallow, staring at the shimmering golden strands that rise from the bones that hold them, dancing in a growing daylight. String after string streaks into the endless eons, singing in the silence; a new one born with every note, holding fast to all that is. Strands light on them as well, set to arm, to wrist, to body, and they rise at the behest of the strings. Hands fall away, their body moving to the will of the strands, arms outstretched and legs poised, face to the sky in forced supplication.

They dance, then, to the song of the strings, each motion guided by the wires’ will, to a beat played in their bones within. With each guided step, the void trembles, the vastness of nothing sang into something; sand and soil, fruit and flower, vine and vegetation, pulsing with every beat and note. They dance, a partner brought to join them, scaled lips drawn into a grin, golden strings guiding them both together, then apart, to be joined by beard, then growling nose, a four-part dance watched by wing and wolf.

Only when the world is once more does the music end, the final fading notes echoing across the mountain on which they stand. Strings turn them, then, as one with all they are, and there lies a face, impossibly vast, crafted of stone and shale, and crossed by lines of gold. Eyes of purest crystal stare, unblinking, as a hand of oak strokes the craggy chin. The mouth opens, and all trembles, a shuddering that winds through them from toe to temple.

“Earth speaks,” says the weedy voice.
“Oz is chosen,” says the raspy voice.
“We’n rise again,” says the growled voice.

Their guardian rises, the shade of the skull lifted from their vision to bare pallid skin and sable hair to the growing wind. They swallow, then speak; or try to, masked mouth moving, but they are nothing, with no words to say or sounds to make. “A boon is sought,” speaks the beard instead, giving voice to thought.

Earth shifts, a tilting of a mountain, a furrowing of cliffs. “A promise, more like,” speaks the nose, giving voice to heart.

“Grant thy solace, Earth, else Death must be denied,” speaks the scale, giving voice to need.

Earth nods, a rumbling that, but for the strands that hold them, would knock them from their feet.

“Two paths provided,” says the beard, with hand upon their shoulder.
“Fulfillment,” says the scale, with arm about their waist.
“Or solace,” says the nose, who strides forward first, a will that pulls them onward.

They follow, joined by wolf and wing, and stride into the yawning mouth of Earth, as all that is fades once more to nothing.



The corridor stretches before them, its walls naught but a vague suggestion, a sketching of the limits of reality. Their feet touch lightly on ethereal stone, taking them, step by step, towards the only bit of reality available: the great edifice of gates written in solid stone, swinging wider as they walk. Light greets them beyond the threshold, obliterating the last vestiges of the corridor with searing, blinding certainty, a warmth that works its way through their whole being even as they raise an arm, to block the writhing rays.

A final step, and they stand where the sand begins, a wide plain of white, broken by the bounty of the Elemental offerings. Before them lies a tree, crafted of stone and shale and crossed by lines of gold, swaying with the beat of Earth. Their guardian shudders, and they nod, hand tipping forward. Fingers play their wires to build their bearded Bertram, bone meeting bone until the puppet walks with them, sickles shining in the sunlight.

“Once more,” the puppet rasps, their throat bobbing with each movement of the wired jaw. “Once more, forward.”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 4
8/9/2018 9:19:26   
Starstruck
Member

He was staring into a lion's eyes.

The mist surrounded him. There was nothing substantial beneath his feet, only the fluffiness of summer clouds and the scent of soft, wispy steam. There was nowhere else to look but into the cloudy amber eyes of the big cat before him. Its fur was an ashen gray, its mane a mess of tangled steel wool. Wary seconds ticked past. Both predators regarded each other smoothly.

"You don't scare me," said Vir.

"That's fine," yawned the lion, iron teeth crackling with built-up static.

The floor took form under his bare feet. Smooth-worn stone.

"What do you want?" asked the lion idly.

"Two inches. Not in height," said Vir. The lion did not laugh.

"You will be granted a boon, conditional on your victory today. So what do you want?" Yellow runes sparked to life on charcoal's hide. "Wealth? Power? The triumphant return of a loved one? Don't tell me you entered the Elemental Championships with no personal ambitions."

Vir thought to his father, a blacksmith, felled before his eyes.

"No," said the lion.

"Excuse me?" said Vir.

"Dark hair, brown eyes, stocky and average height. Little interest in magic. You don't find that a little strange?"

Vir blinked. "What are you saying?"

The lion stood, liquid muscle spilling into its final shape as the mist began to thicken and coalesce all around him. Paws padded on the smooth cool stone beneath them. The lion was much, much bigger than Vir.

"Reflect on the nature of your being, Vir. Not your parentage. Not your alignment. Who is Vir, and what does he want? And if you can't figure that out, you don't deserve what I have to give you."

The lion stepped over him and walked away into darkness. Vir didn't turn around.

In front of him, stone sank into the floor. A blinding flash, followed by a deafening rumble, and then he was looking out on the the most beautiful construction he'd ever seen. The twisted spires of glass hummed with energies arcane and natural, a lightning bolt trapped in time and crystal. He couldn't help but stare. The patterns were exquisite! Top to bottom, it was alive and powerful, circulating its energy among itself.

The discs trailed behind him, dragging on sand, and he raised his hands to the crowd, riding the swells of their attention. The lion's parting words floated back to Vir. With a quick, practiced spin, magnetic field rushing outwards like the breath of the north wind and shining like the sun, Vir carved a perfect circle in the sands around him. The discs rose like charmed serpents, gracefully sliding through the air seemingly without disturbance. It was trivial to hold their momentum in his mind, weaving a dome of iron around himself. Cables flexed and strained. His smile cracked his face, unbidden; could the spectators see? A savage chuckle erupted from his throat. It was so quintessentially him to think about his audience.

"Let's just try to have a good time here, folks," laughed the capricious entertainer, and took another step forwards.
DF MQ  Post #: 5
8/9/2018 12:04:43   
Apocalypse
Member

The musician’s hand relinquished its grip on the Heinous Conductor. The blade clattered to the floor as his arm fell limp to the side. The flames engulfing Dapper ebbed and waned ‘til naught was left but smoking embers clinging to life on the remnants of his suit. The revenant could scarcely keep himself upright, much less resist the impending fate awaiting him. Ice crawled across his skin, groaning in resistance as the dead man struggled in vain to command his body.

Too much blood, too much blood.

Pride’s arm splintered lengthwise, threatening to shatter at a whisper. This close, Dapper could see the full extent of the damage inflicted upon the wraith. His face was a broken mirror, spiderweb cracks running across the once-sleek ice. The bard watched his own reflection fall in each shard that crumbled and shattered below.

“Can you hear me, Dapper?”

The beat of the Factory grew ever louder, echoing a heartbeat that was no longer there. A gurgle escaped the revenant’s lips as he tried to speak, his larynx grinding against the frozen frost coating his throat. “...I…”

Too much blood.

The remaining ice of Pride’s form fractured, tumbling across the floor with a clatter. A vivid light, bright and beautiful, lingered in its stead. It was him...it was Dapper, yet not. A figure untinged by necrotic blemishes. A face unadorned with piercing staples. A smile, genuine and full, danced across its lips.

Another splatter of blood cascaded from the revenant’s mouth. “...I…”

Too much blood.

Without warning, without commotion, the spirit vanished. A mere candle in the tempest.

“...I…”

The ground jolted beneath Dapper’s feet. Lacking the strength to support himself, he fell forward, the ground rising up to meet him. The dead man closed his eyes…



...and opened to ash and darkness.

Dapper sat up, disturbing the layer of soot that now coated the glade around him. Coal and dust drifted down from the moonless sky above. The revenant surveyed the clearing, the creaking of his neck desecrating the silence. Barren trees loomed over him on all sides. What few pitiful leaves that lingered on the branch’s tips were alight with soft blue flames. Their azure glow provided the only luminance in this forest.

So this is Hell.

The bard spun in a slow circle, the silence threatening to swallow him. In the haunting light, he gave a small smirk.

Not bad.

His foot brushed against something. Glancing down, the fiddler found his instrument in a groove among the disheveled ash. “There we are.” Pale fingers reached down and grasped the familiar piece. A few gentle sweeps of his hand were enough to remove the soot...mostly. “That’ll do, that’ll do.” He plucked a couple strings, the notes resounding throughout the glade. The flames flickered in response, each wisp flaring up for the briefest of moments before settling back down to their original states. Still got it. The bard nestled the fiddle under his chin and drew his bow. “Let’s have a song, shall we?”

The notes began deep and slow, each one drawn out in the absolute silence enveloping its player. The fiery tongues shimmered, spreading along the leaves until they touched the tip of every branch. They wavered back and forth, causing the shadows to sweep over the ground like hungry tendrils looking for their next prey. Not bad, but this is just the warm-up.

The tempo quickened. The notes followed one another in rapid succession, each one shorter than the last. A saucy sailor deep in his cups would dance a jig to this tune. The burning branches were content with spreading the blaze along the length of their limbs. The tongues reached up towards the moonless sky as the downpour thickened. Ash precipitated from the sky in thick clumps. It buried his feet and pooled around his calves. As the fires burned a cerulean radiance, the boughs began to cackle. He knew he should slow his playing…

But the musician found he could not stop. His limbs seemed to move of their own accord as the symphony became more erratic. Dapper’s own torso jerked to and fro as his arms flailed to the wild beat. The fire became an inferno. Tongues of flame devoured the boles in their gluttony. The fall of ash became a torrent, nearly blotting out the conflagration before him. Boughs cracked before plummeting into the mass of soot below. In what felt like moments, the grey powder had reached the fiddler’s waist. Endeavors to free his legs culminated only in failure.

Yet the performance continued with reckless abandon.

The conflagration reached a crescendo and the end was nigh. The forest burned and withered away as ash from above choked life from the blaze. The flames suffocated one by one as the dead man cried out, his voice swallowed by his own symphony.


The last flame was extinguished.

The music died.

All was dark.

All was silent.




Dapper Fenix opened his eyes. He was sprawled out on a stone floor, his fiddle just out of arm’s reach. Voices, muffled yet audible, resonated throughout the stone chamber. The revenant lay there, listening to the booming announcements. He...he had been chosen as the Paragon of Fire. The faint sound of scratching joined the buzz as Dapper itched his neck. He perked up his head, tuning in to the authoritative voices as they described the other chosen. The bard paid little heed to their names and appearances, waiting until-

”One reborn from the ashes, a soul filled with dispute. His determination unwavering, his resolve absolute. Witness Pride, Paragon of Ice.”

Pride. Pride had earned the Ice Lord’s favor. Bronze blood dripped from his fingertips as Dapper pulled his hand from his neck. It smeared on the stone as the revenant pushed himself up to his feet. Here they were once more. Another clash awaited him. Different arena. Same battle. The fiddler scooped up his instrument and approached the gate. Sunlight flooded in, revealing the Grand Arena. Scarlet sands blanketed Bren’s coliseum, a stark reminder of the gamble taken by all who dared to enter.

Each footfall left a small impression in his wake. The Pillar of Fire roared before him, but Dapper’s gaze went beyond the dancing inferno. Across the arena stood the Pillar of Ice, reflecting light in a shimmer across the sands. And next to the pillar was its champion: a man tall and handsome. A man white as snow.

The revenant’s left sleeve began to smolder from his proximity to the primordial flames. Dapper fought the instinctual urge to scratch his neck as he strode forward.

“Here we are again,” the dead man called out to Pride. “Another day, another fight. And for what? We’re both back where we started.” He stopped just shy of the arena’s center. From here, he could comprehend the true vastness of the audience gathered around him. Rows upon rows of faces in every direction, ascending higher and higher until their features blended together in an incomprehensible mass. “I’m tired.” Dapper dropped his shoulders and gave a small laugh. “Dead tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of the same tune day after. Tired of this song we wrote.”

The bard threw his arms open as if to embrace all of Bren’s citizens. A shallow breath escaped his lips as the crowd clamored. Where had that come from? Dapper’s arms fell to his sides once more.

“Tom. I hear you. I hear you.” The words came out in short spurts, interrupted by sharp intakes of breathe. Dapper swallowed, another violation of the living. What was this mad man doing, pretending that he was alive? His head swam with the sheer audacity of what he was doing. “I do, But I need you to hear me, too.”

The musician twirled his bow with a flourish, the only thing that made sense on this edge of sanity. His voice thundered with all the majesty an entertainer could muster. “We have an audience for the ages! Hear them cry!” A rumble passed through the crowd with the might of a thunderbolt.

“So what say you, Tom? Shall we play the same ol’ song?” Dapper Fenix, Paragon of Fire, nestled the fiddle underneath his chin. The bow hovered over the strings, demanding to be played. His grip was iron. “Or shall we give them one last grand performance?”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 6
8/9/2018 14:45:14   
Rayen
Constructively Discussional!


Nearly large enough to step into, Dalavar continued to focus on the expansion of his bubble, though never did his eyes leave the form of the haughty, hydrous antagonist named Gabriel. The Mage Slayer’s eyes bored obscure judgements through the younger man’s identity as he awaited the perfect moment to surge into action - to both illustrate the idyll he fought for, and to demonstrate the desperation behind his determination.

Finally, tossing Temerity to spin twice in the hazy atmosphere, Dalavar stepped within the large, iridescent orb, sealing its walls as the gem-encrusted rod returned to his left hand. However, at precisely that moment, The Mage Slayer realised a grave error; he’d forgotten the illusory magic of the child of shadows. Before his eyes, the arena, its inhabitants, and even his own form began to violently effervesce, vanishing entirely through the popping of thousands of tiny bubbles to reveal a never-ending expanse of clear, still water beneath a disconcertingly empty night’s sky.

A defensive reaction, Dalavar flipped his cane, feeling comfortable confirmation as the globular crystal grip transitioned to cold, smooth metal, as he shielded himself within a barrier against the arcane. However, unlike the immediate normalisation during the first encounter with Maled’s illusions, his bubble not only had a nil effect, but popped loudly and instantly as if exposed to an immense magical force.

His Great Audaciousness took an investigative step forward. Wading his leg through the tepid, knee-deep water, he marvelled at the accuracy of this…illusion? The seed of doubt crept into his mind as he marvelled at his surroundings. Everything seemed real; everything felt alive, the whole, uniform environment appeared…well it appeared to be drenched in magic.

And finally Dalavar realised the obvious: This was no illusion.

There had been a myth among the people of His Great Audaciousness. An origin story, and one that Dalavar loved hearing at every opportunity, as it validated his meagre physical and arcane might by confirming that all of his people were unique and precious to the Moon, that had brought them into being, as they acted as communicants, influencing the world beyond its lofty influence.



Once, long, long ago, the world and the moon were whole. All elements and their Fragments, or Avatars, were unified, to revel in the wondrousness of their conception and the limitless potential that lay before them. However, two clashing ideologies soon formed, one that would eventually tear the world apart and give birth to the moon.

The first suggested that the world be divided into equal portions, so each element may experiment and grow independently and uniquely of the others. This concept was promoted by the Fragments of Fire, Wind, and Energy, the more active and zealous of the elements.

The second countered that such a plan would cause a rift within the world, invoke wars, inspire prejudice, and altogether limit the maximum number of possibilities. The Fragments of Light, Dark, Stone, and Cold supported this approach, as they represented the slower, more contemplative elements.

The Fragment of Water, however, remained undecided. On one hand it agreed that uniqueness and seclusion was essential in the development of self-identity, and that communities of identifiable entities encouraged empathy, creativity, and self-perpetuated progress; But on the other hand, the cost of preventing cross-elemental development undoubtedly reduced the total variety possible within manifestations of each element, and would certainly lead to strife as each faction grew and interacted.

Unable to settle on one path forward, the dissonance between both factions created an immense rift within the planet, until, decisively, Light, Dark, Cold, and Stone gathered all they needed into a ball they called “Moon” and left the world to the chaos the other Fragments would no doubt bring. However, as they left, Water promised to attempt to promote balance, and act as the influence of the Unified elements in their absence. It was Water that bridged the two celestial bodies: tugged by the moon it formed gentle tides, while within living organisms it provided a medium through which nutrients could be carried, thus promoting inter-elemental cooperation.

But after a time, the Moon became envious, unable to exert real influence upon the world which now blossomed with riches of life and diversity thanks to Water. So after some consideration, the Moon rent craters out of its surface, sending down tiny shards to act as catalytic seeds upon the world, that they may grow harmoniously alongside the other elements and demonstrate the superiority of their original ideology.

These Shards of the Moon quickly grew in power, the strong curiosity, desire, and creativity of the Moon manifesting in a wonderfully serendipitous way....to form "humans". This new race, the First Race, in fact, called themselves the Children of the Moon. Unable themselves to return to their "Mother", they exerted Her influence upon the Earth, as she had dreamed for millennia. They shaped the surface, covering it with ring-shaped walls and domes in direct reflection of the surface of the Moon, creating a near-exact replica of her surface upon the world. They joyed in creativity and revelled in their dominion over the world - but also in its fair and respectful protection. And so it would be for all time.



As Dalavar waded through clear, magic drenched water, treading heretical footprints into the pure, unadulterated ground writhing with magic, he knew the story was true. The truth reflected softly from his mysterious eyes, as myriad threads of magic painted the ocular orbs a writhing mass of colours beyond description. Within the shallow sea the entire spectrum of greens and blues danced playfully, while above and beneath whites and silvers taunted russets and dense greens respectively. Deep within the world, reds and oranges roiled, while high above yellows and white-blues flashed ephemerally. And as Dalavar continued to proceed, the calm pale light he shed pirouetted with the shadows caused by starlight upon the surface of the water.

The world was alive with the elements.

No. The world was the elements. But as His Great Audaciousness grew more accustomed to the spectacle, he noticed something disturbing; something distinctively wrong. A disunity. A lack of harmony. A conflict.

Suddenly the water began gushing ahead of Dalavar, threatening to unsteady his footing as it raced towards its newfound destination…Up? Beginning as a bubbling geyser, water continued to flow up and up and up until all of the water, every last drop, towered above him into the clear, dark sky…

A moonless sky. For the first time, he realised with a start that, while this world bore an uncanny resemblance to his home, the once familiar light of his Mother was entirely absent. But this epiphany was cut short as the earth rumbled beneath his feet, the coolness of the air and water leeched out to cloy about the inconceivable pillar of water, now likewise enshrouded by a coalescence of highlights and shadows. And from amidst this raging vortex of compatible elements came a crashing, sloshing vibration - a voice.

Ahhh, yes. I remember this time. It is a terrible scar in my history that has yet to be washed away by recompense. Dalavar could sense the presence of other entities, their voices shrieking a harmoniously discordant melody, but it was through Water they communicated.

Dalavar. His Great Audaciousness. The Mage Slayer. Destroyer of Magic. Host of the Unified Fragments. Last Child of the Moon.…Which title do you prefer, exalted child? No matter. Why have you come here? What do you want from the Lords that you cannot accomplish alone?

Dalavar stood suitably awestruck, though continued to puff small bubbles contentedly from his dark timber pipe. What indeed sought he from the Lords? Why face the hardships of a primitive trial of martial and arcane strength when ultimately the force of his conviction renders all humbled. These questions were rhetorical, just as the tower of water’s had been. Dalavar’s conviction, as always, was Absolute.

The Mage Slayer sought one of two things: Restoration, or Peace.

Both words echoed concussively throughout the convoluted mind of the Last Child of the Moon. Both pleas threatened to erupt from his mouth, even though he knew the time far too soon for either to be granted.

Restoration…

or Peace?


Without warning, the former took a hold of his imagination, plunging Dalavar into old memories; memories set aside as foreign tales both for the entertainment of fortunate audiences, and to spare the heart of the storyteller through dissociation.

NO. The first word uttered by the comparatively immeasurably diminutive man carried a ferocious calm, as if centuries of struggling against a great pain had reduced the exhortation of it to simple reflex. The command was simple and effective, snapping the attention of all back to the present. Before awkward silence could strangle conversation, the monolithic spout spoke again.

Yes. I - We - know this time and place, Host. This time was long before yours, or the memories that so clutch at your heart; a time of disunity and suffering for Us. We made a mistake, choosing Our ideology over Peace, and causing the world to soon tear asunder. But We have learnt since then, and We continue to learn. You currently struggle for your own “selfless” aims on another world, yet fail to see Truth. We implore you, Host, treasure that world - and all worlds - as We do; see it for the beauty and harmony We foster within it. Spare your judgement, Dalavar, lest you force Our action against you.

The final line reverberated through His Great Audaciousness’s skull. It was no idle threat. The magic that had brought him here had been expended effortlessly. Dalavar knew well the immense power required to perform such a feat, and the ease at which it had been executed inspired a terror unlike he had ever experienced: True Powerlessness.

But then he looked up and let out a hearty chuckle. Yes, water rose as high as the eye could see, while shadows, snow, and rock encircled the liquid obelisk, but in the space between, hundreds of tiny bubbles popped and sputtered - faintly luminous, these coruscating balls, so fragile, yet somehow so reassuring. Of course he would stand no chance against the manifestation of the Lord of Water, but if Dalavar deemed doing so the right thing to do…he’d put in a valiant effort. And, in the end, that was all that mattered.

In finality, the voice transitioned to one near laughter, lapping gently against the air as it advised, Show them your mind, Dalavar. It’s not the words you speak nor the enchantments you employ that represent your greatest power; it’s how and why you shape them to every situation. Be mindful of the Unified elements; they remain your closest allies. But spare no mercy; all are equally deserving of it.

The last line was punctuated by a horrifying CRACK, as the entire planet cleaved in twain…



Dalavar was shaken to consciousness beside a stone doorway as loud cheers sounded from the other side at the announcement of each Paragon. Crashing, gusting, grinding, each sound made the entire arena structure shake. Then, only the sound of grinding stone, as each door opened to reveal the Grand Arena.

The sands were dark. Darker than any His Great Audaciousness had seen in this world. Almost as dark as those found within a shadow plane known as the Grey Dunes of Kalastri which harboured a haunted labyrinth filled with tenebrous horrors too great even for the dauntless Mage Slayer to enlighten. But unlike those sands, which radiated magic so insufferably suffocating and corrosive, the sand here was completely devoid of the arcane; It was, simply, dead. Dalavar understood that countless lives had ended here - those good, bad, lost, seeking redemption; All living, dying, for a purpose.
While he had entered believing he firmly held an intention of his own, His Great Audaciousness now felt another, greater ideology dancing silently on the tip of his tongue. Absolution? To witness beauty amidst terror? Or perhaps what he’d been lacking from the very beginning: Trust, not only in others, but in the Lords themselves.



Win or lose, stand or fall, Dalavar knew now what he wanted most of all. Raising a hand as if to smooth the thin, lopsided moustache which unbeknownst to its owner faintly reflected the expanse of haematic sands before him, His Great Audaciousness hid the soft smile playing at the edges of his lips - the crowd here was spectacularly vocal. After just a few moments he allowed his hand to drop; there was no point in attempting to regain composure when the spirited atmosphere would shatter it instantly. Thus, with a cavalier posture, long, confident stride, and, as always, an astounding and marvellous gaze, the Last Child of the Moon stamped his first footprints into what would consequently become the Great Arena.
AQ DF  Post #: 7
8/9/2018 18:28:57   
Kooroo
Member

Where the hell was it?

Where had that blasted gun gotten to?

The fight on the other side of the Arena had not come any closer to him, but circumstances changed as easily as the weather. You could usually see it coming, but sometimes you were due for an unwelcome surprise. With this knowledge in hand and whilst occasionally checking on the other competitors, Elias was frantically looked around for his dropped handgun on the Arena floor. Shunting the fog was tough and arduous work. It was incredibly thick and didn’t move very far, even when shunted with both hands. Worst of all, it slowly crept back towards him once pushed aside, making it hard to discern where he had yet to search and where had already searched.

He sighed in frustration and stood up, stretching and wincing as the motion agitated his wound. Then he hunched, hands on his knees and glanced from side to side. Where could it possibly have landed? Thinking back to his fight with the cobalt warrior, he backtracked his actions and their movements. A few moments passed, then Elias swivelled and looked towards the wall behind him. Right after he’d lost the gun, he’d rolled to the side and backed into the wall. That meant that the handgun had most likely ricocheted off of the wall and… landed on the grass. Somewhere.

Elias blinked and frowned, then took a deep breath. He looked up, noting that the other combatants still hadn’t noticed him and relaxed. They all appeared to be too focused on killing each other to bother with him for the moment. Unless one of them got launched a good distance or decided to charge him, then he was probably in no danger. And if they did, well hopefully he’d be aware enough to notice. One didn’t generally survive in a such a violent industry without ample awareness or respect of their surroundings.

And with that thought, the young man turned and started towards the westernmost point of the Arena. His foot landed on something hard, which sunk slightly into the ground. There was a loud bang, and the object he had stood on shot out from underneath him. Elias yelped as he fell forward, and landed heavily, almost getting a face full of wet grass.

... Ow.

There was a sharp noise, the sound of metal impacting wood, and then something silver and sparkling landed a few feet away from him. Prone on the ground, Elias crawled over towards it and his fingers closed around the cool and slightly damp handle of the handcannon. Best use of its last shot so far.

He made to stand up, and then dropped low again as a familiar, wicked cackle filled the stadium. The fog rose, and Elias stood with it, frowning at this unexpected development.

And then the Arena exploded; with howls; with light, and with shadow.



All of Elias’ friends held their collective breath as the magical spectacle raged in the battleground below. Once the lightshow had stopped and the stars cleared from their sight, they scanned the field for their companion—four pairs of eyes with a shared purpose.

When it became clear that Elias was no longer in the Arena, Annette slumped in her seat and gave a sigh of relief as Daford lay back and relaxed in his. Tylias adjusted her glasses and continued to stare at the remaining contestants. Reuben continued mimicking a statue.

“See, Annette? Never a single doubt. The boy was fine! He'll do great in the Finals,” Daford grinned.

“You’re looking awfully sweaty for someone that had complete faith in him,” she replied dryly.

“As I’ve said, I’m a man of faith. Look in any monastery or chapel, and you will not find one as devout, nor good looking as I.”

Tylia looked up at him and tilted her head. “Are you going to give us a sermon?”

“Well… Probably not without a tome or some reference text,” he admitted.

“Then what good would you be in a monastery?”

“I could collect the firewood and clear the surrounding trees. Maybe hunt some game, if they aren’t one of those animal-friendly ones,” he nodded. Daford waited for a retort, but it became evident that no one was in the mood. He raised a hand to his face and sighed.

“Look, guys, Elias was fi—”

“Don’t you dare start with that whole “Elias was fine” business, Daford!” Annette spun to face him, her eyes burning with fury. “You know exactly what I saw; what we all saw! When that giant blue thing spun to stab him, and I couldn’t see him from behind her, I thought he was gone! Dead! Lost, within that field of blood and mist!”

“Blame Reuben for getting us these seats then,” The lumberjack muttered.

Reuben grunted in response, and turned around to watch the leaving spectators.

“How can you take this all so casually, having nearly watched him get impaled?” she raged on. Then she raised her eyebrows, as though in realisation. “Oh wait, I know.”

Daford rolled his eyes, then looked towards her. “How?”

“Cause you’re a donkey, you ass!” she shouted, raising her oversized spellbook overhead.

Daford jumped up and backed up a step, his hands raised calmingly and his head just out of the cleric’s swinging range. “Look, Annette. Like I told you, I was a hundred percent sure that he would be fine.”

“Then why did you look like you were about to jump in yourself?”

“Look, just because I believed he would be fine didn’t mean that I didn’t want to help him!” he snapped.

Annette didn’t say anything, but kept her glare centered on him, waiting for his explanation.

“As much as he looks like it, Annette, Elias isn’t exactly a kid anymore. Earlier this morning, after we saw him off and when we were on the way to our seats, that made me think. I asked myself ‘what would his parents have wanted for him?’”

“And do you know what his parents would have wanted?” Tylia asked.

“Well, probably the opposite of what mine would have wanted, which would have been to stay safe and away from nasty strangers with pointy weapons. But I didn’t listen to them much, anyway.”

“Never would have guessed,” Annette remarked sarcastically.

“But Elias’ parents were always a different sort. Toma and Ariel never really tried to cotton wool their kids. They always pushed them, and encouraged them to challenge themselves. Whenever Elias got bullied or had a run-in with some of the other kids in town, they never came rushing to their son’s aid. At least, not with bandages, but motivating words and advice. Ariel once caught Casimira trying to spar with one of the off-duty guards, and the only thing she told her daughter was to ‘hold the grip, not strangle it’.”

“That doesn’t sound like a different sort of parenting, that just sounds like bad parenting,” Tylia chimed in.

“That’s what I thought as well. Especially when you remember that they left their kids with nothing but a burning house and the dog before they vanished,” the older man grimaced. “But my point is that I don’t think his parents would have been like mine—or probably any of yours—and discouraged them from entering the Championship.”

“You’d think they’d do the opposite?”

Daford nodded.

“And you seriously didn’t think that there was something odd about a carpenter giving advice to their daughter on how to duel a trained guard?” Annette interjected.

There was a slight hesitation, followed by a shrug. “Well, Casimira was always a… a difficult girl.”

The amazonian cleric snorted. “Never knew the girl for long, but that was pretty clear from the start. And I guess we’d better hurry and find a good angle to see her brother get stabbed from.”

She turned to Reuben. “You hear that, big guy? A good angle this time.”

The hulking swordsman nodded, and stood, with the rest following suit thereafter.



The next thing Elias knew he was on his back, and staring not at the night sky of Twilight, but at a stone ceiling hidden by shadows and poor lighting.
Where…
Moments passed before the blade-for-hire picked himself up off the floor and stood up, looking around to see where he was.

The room was vast and spacious, but drafty and poorly lit. Candles flickered weakly on the walls, their pitiful glow doing little to change the dark and dreary feel of the cavern. Another source of light shone from the far side of the cave, this one a rectangle of silver that illuminated the center of the chamber. Elias stood still and listened, but could hear nothing but the wind, blowing in from gaps in the walls. He began moving towards the silver light, his footsteps echoing unnaturally through the cavern.

As he walked, Elias made note of a few oddities. The first one was that his handgun was at his side, which was odd because he hadn’t remembered holstering it before being moved from the Arena. He pushed down on the gun and didn’t hear a click. Loaded, then.

The second strange thing was that he wasn’t wounded anymore, nor was there any damage to his gear or clothing to indicate that he had ever been wounded. A hand to the side where the warrior’s sword had caught him confirmed his suspicions. It wasn’t just a faux fix with a fresh tunic and strong painkillers; he was completely healed.

He kept walking closer to the silver light, and it soon became clear that it wasn’t just a light; it was a doorway. A doorway, no taller and no wider than any other, but filled with a soft, dancing, shimmering, radiance that lit up more and more of his surroundings as he neared. When Elias was a only stone’s throw away, a row of stone plinths materialized out of the gloom on either side of him, giving him a makeshift guard of honor.

Each short slab of stone held a set of equipment. To his left lay a some of leather armor, similar to the one Elias currently wore. The nearest pedestal on his right held a miniature crossbow made of steel, with no bowstring that he could see. The next base had a pair of slim, silver gauntlets. On another sat a pair of golden lensed goggles.

More pedestals remained ahead of him, but Elias’ attention was diverted from them when a young woman in a long black coat slipped out of the shadows and stepped into his path. Elias’ breath caught as he stopped walking and he stared in shock as the woman turned to him, a confident smirk on her pretty face. A few long and silent moments passed before the sellsword found his voice, and when he spoke, it was nought but a whisper that escaped his lips.
“Casimira...” And his sister’s grin grew wider.

“So kind of you to remember me, dear brother.”

Casimira Iivonen.

Though Elias hadn’t seen her in over a decade, there was no mistaking the girl that now stood before him. The confident smirk, that tousled brown hair, those golden eyes and the contemptuous tone that she addressed him with. Some things didn’t change.

“... H-how?” Elias began, trying to find his words.”Why are you here? Where have you been, Casimira?”

His sister held a hand out, clad in a gauntlet like the one on the plinth. She strode over towards him, her jaunty swagger another familiarity from days long past. “You always were very straight to the point, weren’t you, dear brother? ’Why are you here? Where have you been? What did you do to that man?’ All familiar questions and still lacking any grace or manners. What about ‘how are you, my dear sister?’, hm? Or a compliment? ‘You're looking fine as ever, Casimira!’”

“I… I don’t exactly have time for this, Casimira.”

Casimira smiled. “Of course you have time, brother. In fact, we have all the time in the world. Or as much as we need, or until you compliment my coat.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

She sighed, and then looked back at him pityingly. “I see that you haven’t become mentally faster over the years, though you seem to have become physically faster. Not that it’s a great feat, mind you.”

Elias grunted. His relationship with his sister had been something of both love and hate, even at the best of times. Though his sister mocked and ridiculed him on a daily basis, she’d been there whenever he had needed her and had helped him pull through problems more easily than he’d have been able to by himself. Granted, Casimira was the one that had sometimes been the cause of some problems; like the time she’d fed a bully’s hamster to a barn owl. But the fact remained that they were siblings, and with their parents missing she had been his only family member left.

Until she had disappeared inexplicably 12 years ago.

“So, brother. Tell me, what exactly do you think has happened?” Casimira asked, putting both hands on her hips.

“Well… I was chosen as Wind Paragon?”

“Very good. Ten points! Now, what do you think is behind that door?” she asked, swivelling and gesturing to the silvery portal.
“The Finals Arena?”

Casimira turned back to him and crossed her arms in an X-shape. “Nope, not quite. But it was a trick question anyway! So, dear bro. This is apparently the part where the Wind Lord’s representative grills their Paragon for answers and makes them do some introspection. Then you emerge into the Arena all inspired and brimming with confidence before you get stabbed in the neck and drown in a pool of your own blood, though the Arena sands make that impossible from what I hear. However…”

She reached into her pockets and discarded some torn up sheets of parchment. “I accidentally shredded the script, so I guess we’ll be doing this my way. So, brother.”

Her boot rapped against the pedestal on her left and it rose up to match her height. Casimira leaned on it with an elbow and grinned at Elias. “I know why you’re here. But tell me, what makes you so sure that our parents are still alive?”

... What?

“Are you telling me that you don’t thi—” Elias began, but was abruptly cut off.

“I’m just asking where you got this grand idea from. Did you have a PI dig up the good stuff for you? No wait, you’ve tried that, haven’t you?” she laughed, and Elias felt himself flush with anger.

“Then what are you saying, Casimira? Do you know where they are, or what happened to them?” he said, half shouting.

“Yes.”

“Then tell me,” he demanded. "Where are they?"

Casimira laughed. “Several feet under. They’re dead.”

Elias went pale and felt a weight sink down to the pit of his stomach. His throat felt like it had become unnaturally dry as he tried to muster up a reply to his leering, still-grinning sister. After a short wait, he managed. “I don’t believe you. Mot—”

She sighed. “And I don’t know how this conversation could get any more cliché. Honestly, did you even check these little trinkets and souvenirs that I’ve taken the time and effort to prep for you? Go on. Start with the armor, the breastplate. Most decisive piece of evidence you'll find. Give it a check and see what happened to our dear Ma.”

He reached out with a shaking arm, with trembling fingers and slowly lifted the chest armor from its pedestal. He looked over it and then frowned as he continued looking for a mark, or a hole, or anything. “It’s… It’s completely intact?”

Now it was Casimira’s turn to frown. “What?”

Elias held the sheet of leather up for her to see. “I said that it’s intact. There’s not a single mark or fault with it.”

His sister’s stared at the breastplate for a moment, and then her expression changed from one of uncertainty to one of annoyance. She stood up and moved to the stand on her right, and picked up the item—a golden-colored visor— to inspect it. As soon as she looked at it her face twisted in disgust, and she hurled it on the floor, where it shattered and faded out of existence.

Elias’ eyes narrowed. None of this was right. Besides the obvious impossibilities, something else was wrong. “This isn't real,” he murmured.

She whirled to face him. “What?”

Elias met her glare and continued. “None of this is real. I don't believe that my parents are dead. And I don't believe that you're my sister.”

“Excuse me?”
The pedestals and the items they held collapsed and crumbled to dust, as though to punctuate the impact of Elias words and incredulity in Casimira’s voice. She stepped back until she was just in front of the doorway, and then crossed her arms whilst muttering darkly. Elias continued, returning the glare.

“Casimira might have loved to make my life difficult or cause problems, but I doubt she would have stooped so low or gone this far just to screw with me.”

“You're calling me a fake, is that it?” she asked doubtfully, an eyebrow raised.

“A fake within this room, perhaps. But if you're a fake, then at least you exist. I'm saying that you’re just as real as those pedestals. You don't exist.”

A loud howl filled the chamber, as though the wind had become outraged at Elias’ accusation. Casimira, or what may have been her doppelgänger, dropped to her knees, a hand at her temple, and a mix of agony and anger on her face. Elias walked closer and looked down on her, one of the few times he had ever recalled doing so. Neither of them were particularly tall, but Casimira had always had a few centimetres on him.

He stopped when he was right in front of her and could go no further. “Let me through.”

The young woman winced, then looked up at him and spoke. Whilst it was undoubtedly her voice, now it sounded as though she were being told—or perhaps directed—what to say. “Are you not worried about the truth you might uncover?” she said, amongst gasps of pain.

“No. I believe in my parents, and I believe they're alive. Daford never doubted—”

And that was enough. A look of utmost fury shot across Casimira’s face, and she shot a silver-gloved hand out. A massive gust ripped through the chamber, threads of silver shooting from the doorway behind her as though pulled loose by the sudden wind. Elias was knocked buffeted backwards as the room filled with a blinding light.



When his vision cleared, Elias was standing in yet another room. This one was much smaller, and completely barren of features, save a large stone gate that he was facing. Judging from the sounds coming from beyond it, there were probably no prizes for guessing what was behind it.

What… What was that? What had all of that been?

A soft, lilting whisper drifted to him, like petals on a summer breeze.

”Your faith in your parents is commendable, Elias Iivonen. May your resolve and your heart stay as strong.”

And with that the gates opened, to the crimson sands of legend and the roars of the crowd. The young sellsword pulled on his goggles, then drew his arms and strode forth, into the midday sun.

Wasting no time on pleasantries or theatrics, Elias scanned his surroundings and neighbours in a trice. Another moment passed, and then he started, marching towards his chosen; Vir, the Paragon of Energy.
AQW Epic  Post #: 8
8/9/2018 22:13:51   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo


“So bright…”

“So empty…”

“Where am I?”

“It’s cold...So cold…”

An expanse without echo, infinite in every direction. A lost soul found itself placed dead center, exposed to blinding white nothingness in every direction.

“Please, I don’t know where I am!”

There was no pain, no acknowledgement, no reaction. Ol’ Tom tried to move forwards. He was successful, he also wasn’t. He had moved. Nothing had stopped him. Even now, nothing restrained him. Movement was impossible, he was still no closer and no further from the infinite nothing in front of him, nothing beside him, nothing behind him. Tears welled up behind Tom’s eyes, screaming that they couldn’t get out. The emptiness felt like a reflection of what he’d felt in his chest as long as he could remember. Human fear gripped him, he felt himself slipping already. He knew what would happen here. Even standing as the sole something amidst a sea of nothing, he would soon succumb to the drowning waters.

He saw nothing, he felt nothing, he heard nothing, and soon he would be nothing.

Step forward.” A voice pierced the infinite void. It was deep, yet shrill. It came from everywhere and nowhere. It carried the crunch of boots through snow, the shriek of cracking plates of ice, the thunder of icebergs ripping from glaciers.

Below himself, Tom saw his own reflection, rippling upon the surface on which he now stood. The ripples expanded outwards, revealing the pool that reflected himself and the infinite nothingness around him. The ripples slowly carried themselves away, far away. The surface froze solid, as helpless as a pond in a tundra. Two cracks grew and slithered in the ice to either side of him, shooting out ahead and creating a perfectly straight path before him.

Step forward.” the voice boomed again.

Tom took a step forwards. His body moved. He was now somewhere different than he had been. The infinite was now further behind him than it had been. He took another step, then another, then another. He quickly picked up stride, making his way towards the voice, following the path before him. It felt like forever yet it bore the memories of no time at all.

There was a gleam in the distance. It grew larger as he grew closer. The path before him had, at some point, become a bridge. A solid, reflective path that separated him from falling into infinity below. Tom looked up, the gleam was no longer a gleam. It was huge. The path before him ended, leaving room for what lay before him. A titanic, monolithic body of ice. It’s shape shape beyond description, it’s size moreso. It was more of one thing than Tom had seen of anything.

Hundreds of thousands of mirrored crystalline surfaces turned to send Tom’s reflection back to himself.

Do not tremble. Do not weep. You are chosen.” The voices echoed louder off each surface with the singing tone of breaking glass.

Tom dropped to his knees. Awestruck dumb beyond the extent of his senses. He stuttered, his words too intimidated to leave his throat. He set his hand over his chest, a confused, questionable expression creeping its way over his face.

I have plucked you from eternity. Your time for rest has not come. You will fight as my champion. You will live as my champion. When all is finished, you will die as my champion.

Tom shook. The presence overwhelmed him. Just proximity drew out all the heat he’d ever known in his life. His bones felt brittle, his skin felt solid, his blood bloomed crystals. He tried again to speak, coughing and gagging on his own tongue as he wrestled his very will to speak.

We are not cruel. In return, you may have whatever you wish. My champion shall never go hungry when he is weary. All blood spilt is paid forward.

Tom coughed once more, finally wrestling the words from his mouth.

“What have I done to earn your favor?” he finally spit out.

Each and every single shard, surface, and piece of ice scraped against each other, a cacophony of shrill laughter boomed out into the expanse.

It is not what you have done, it is what you will do. Now go, my champion, one hand picked from the depth of nothingness. Go forth and demonstrate strength. Prove the wisdom of my choice to all.

Tom shrieked out in pain, the weight of the words causing his back to strain, his shoulders to pop, and his knees to wear. He looked up, fighting through chattering teeth as he called out.

“I will...Before I go, I may ask for whatever I wish?” Tom’s knees shook at his own impertinence.

If you were to earn this, what is that you would ask, my champion?

“I would like…-”





“One reborn from the ashes, a soul filled with dispute. His determination unwavering, his resolve absolute. Witness Pride, Paragon of Ice.”

This strange voice echoed out into Tom’s mind. It hailed him from thousands of miles away. Blurred images of crimson sands flooded his vision. He saw large shapes rising from the ground, silhouettes of champions standing around to each side. Tom felt as if he were exactly where he needed to be, though he was still undone.

Step forward.” that familiar voice shattered through his mind.

Tom willed himself to step forwards.

The frozen sand before the massive crystal pillar began to shift. Fog began to flow from the chilled grounds, twirling in upon itself and dancing into the shape of a man. The fog coalesced itself into thousands of ice crystals, all knitting together in a dance of creation. The fog cleared to reveal the frozen wraith once again. This time, however, instead of the pearlescent perfection of a chiseled face, the meticulous sculpture bore the face that Dapper once wore many years ago.

Tom’s frozen face and hands had been tinged by the crimson sands, mimicking the warmth of human skin in tone. He was dressed as elegantly as before, though the teal waistcoat now dyed as red as the sands beneath them. Tom flexed his hands, relearning his own shape, his movements, his potential.

“Tom. I hear you. I hear you.” Came a cry from a familiar voice across the arena. “I do, But I need you to hear me, too.”

Tom grinned back at Dapper, taking a deep breath and stepping forwards, out of the shadow of the massive crystal behind him. He looked back over to the bard and nodded.

“Everything’s falling into place, Dapper! No more chasing, no more pretty squabbles. I’ve been given the gift of putting on one final show! I don’t intend to disappoint.”

Tom looked around the entire arena, addressing each and every one of the champions, holding up his hands to either side in a welcoming beckon.

“Let none of us disappoint those who chose us! Come, try me whoever dares! I now bear pride much greater than my own, I bid each one of you come test it!”
DF  Post #: 9
8/10/2018 0:02:19   
Kellehendros
Eternal Wanderer


There was something calming about the walk.

Aurinko smiled to himself, acknowledging the irony. He was about to stroll into the maelstrom again, risking life and limb in this “Trial of the Desert Sands”. Yet inside he felt there was a flower unfurling despite the coming conflict: a lotus whose petals were tipped in red, fading palely through hues of pink to a perfect white center. This was the path. The Kaarme knew it, felt it. One way or the other, this was his path. And knowing that brought with it a surprising sense of ease.

Around him the Arena sang. Life, hope, sweat, blood, pain, desperation, despair, death. This place had tasted them all, drawn them in and made them part and parcel of its existence. The complex crooned an ancient song, a paean of skill, determination, and heart. Perhaps the Arena itself, old and patient, was truly the judge here. Perhaps this place, a vessel for the Powers of its creation - for longer than any record could tell - had somehow come alive after a fashion. Whatever the truth of the matter was, the swordsman recognized this tune, and he knew the steps. This was the opening movement in the dance, accompanied by the raucous roar of the crowd.

Each step brought him closer to the diamond monolith, and his right hand drew Leikata from its sheath. Perhaps it was his imagination, but the Kaarme Phry could have sworn he heard the faintest ringing hum from the crystalline mass, as if in recognition. Though if it was directed at his person or the blade shard he could not have said. Either way, Leikata did hum, the high noon sun sparking from its remnant. Aurinko turned his hand, laying the cutting edge to the scales of his left arm and drawing a slow, shallow slice. Blood trickled over the starsteel, and its hilt quivered in response.

A momentary annoyance flashed across the swordsman’s countenance at the realization that he was missing the band of white silk he customarily bound over such cuts to protect them. Serves me right for not checking for it. The sandy floor of the Arena offered plentiful grit to irritate the wound, but there were far more pressing concerns than possible infection just now. He turned his attention to them as he angled around the monolith, eyes darting here and there to see what could be seen of the other Paragons.

Centerward, a man attired in dark finery was crying out to another of the competitors, green eyes focused towards the frozen spire to Aurinko’s right. The natty gentleman had quite a voice, though its effect was somewhat marred by the discoloration of his mottled skin, as well as the evidence of surgical staples entrenched in his flesh. The Kaarme’s gaze narrowed at the violin carrier, and his lips skinned back to bare fangs. Corpse-rider.

Perhaps it was not. After all, this place was very far from his homeland - not simply in miles either. And yet that wound was still fresh, cutting through his composure. In his mind he saw his grandfather’s desecrated body, made animate by the sickening power of the Darkener’s herald. The dead deserve their rest. Mayhap it was not so heinous a thing as a corpse-rider, but rather some other form of return from beyond the grave. The swordsman did not care for that distinction now. This Dapper - he presumed the thing’s identity as the Paragon of Fire, for none of the others he saw fit with the chanter’s musical description - was a blight. And the Kaarme Phry had no intention of letting it fester.

Darkness gathers,
smothering beneath the dead moon, but
blade rings free.


“Strike one match in the dark, and all the world is not the same.” His right wrist snapped, flicking blood from the shard in tribute to the Arena. “Grant then that I may be that match, the spark that ignites.” To his right, the one called Pride was answering, but the Kaarme had chosen his path. Folding the fingers of his left hand about Leikata’s hilt, Aurinko raised the weapon high as light condensed to form a blade as scarlet as the sands. He pushed off, grains rutching beneath his feet as he charged Dapper and cried his own challenge: “This is Dawn’s Promise; no matter how black the night, the dawn will come again!”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 10
8/10/2018 11:07:20   
Chewy905
Member

The Grand Arena truly was grand. Maled Con stood for a moment, admiring it all. The wide expanse of red sand. The cheering, screeching crowds, each person hoping for a specific victor, either out of friendship, necessity, or greed. Most magnificently, the elemental pillars. Each one unique, and filled to the brim with primal energy. To his right was the orange and red pillar of flames, threatening to incinerate anything that made contact. And walking past it: Dapper Phoenix. The man who taken down Maled by simply spitting on him. The man Maled had failed to kill twice now. But that was then. Dapper stopped at the center of the arena, taunting whatever champion of ice had earned the Lords favor. Was he taunting them because they were opposites? Or was it more personal? Maled considered what he had seen in the Factory. It was not unlikely that the White-suited man was here now. His name was Pride then. Interesting. And dangerous. Maled turned his attention away, searching for a new target, one he may be able to topple.

To his left, the glass pillar of lightning, humming with its current. It’s champion had only just exited his gate, and was reveling in the attention of the crowd. The rhyme had called him Vir. An entertainer. Supposedly he had a dangerous weapon, and artful magic. Maled was unfazed. All weapons were dangerous. And no energy magic could hurt him as much as Samuel’s electrifying punches. Furthermore, this “Vir” seemed to be horrendously under-equipped for battle. Besides his gauntlets, he seemed to only have on a shirt and stupidly short shorts. That much open skin made for an easy kill.

Maled kicked off the ground, sending up a small puff of red sand. He moved quickly, the sand silencing his fast footsteps. Close in. Seal. Kill. Don’t let yourself be seen. In the vast open sands of the arena, that last bit may prove to be the hardest. There wasn’t much way to hide yourself. As Maled got closer, he examined Vir with more scrutiny. The man seemed to be thriving on the attention of the audience. Two metal discs had risen up and were floating around him in the air, and a perfect circle was carved out in the sand around him. A telekinetic field? Maled considered the implications of such a thing if that were the case. Projectiles wouldn’t work, but juggling multiple ones may take more attention.

That was the key. Focus. If his magic was “an art” then it surely required an artist’s focus, right? After all, a painter can’t paint with 3 brushes at once, and too many colors makes a painting ugly. The fact still remained that Maled was approaching quickly, but would be seen instantly if the mage simply turned to face him.

Make him look elsewhere.

Maled worked fast, his strides long and steady as his hands rifled through his belt. He withdrew one of Tani’s fireworks and a single match. He struck the match on his belt quickly and lit the firework, aiming it at the glass pillar in front of the Energy Paragon. The firework launched from his hand, screaming and showering sparks behind it. He instantly followed up by throwing Ball in the exact same path, the sparks of the firework hiding the small black projectile as it careened towards the pillar. Ideally, the boy would follow the fireworks sound and sight, and watch as it explodes in front of his pillar. The eruption of sparks and light would mask Ball as it rebounds off the pillar and hits him in the face. Hopefully he could seal the man’s sight this way, but the loss of any sense may be enough to throw him off and allow Maled to kill him quickly.

Vir turned to face Maled, completely ignoring the firework and instantly throwing off Maled’s plan. So much for stealth. Maybe Ball can still hit him in the side of the head. I'll have to improvise!
The Wind Paragon, Elias, was marching towards Vir as well, from the other side. The distraction of a second opponent may make for some easy openings, and would make disruptions or multi-sealings more effective. As Maled came upon his opponent he drew his dagger in his right hand and reached his left into his pouch of metal dust. How many objects can you keep afloat? Let’s find out!
Post #: 11
8/11/2018 10:08:21   
Apocalypse
Member

Dapper gave a short laugh. Tom’s boast was as prideful as ever, but there was gaiety where there was once naught but scorn. Even the ice had taken a warmer complexion. Grains of sand drifted and stuck to the frost in a flushed hue. One could mistake him for nothing more than a simple man at a quick glance. Hells, one could mistake him for Dapper himself; Ice’s champion had abandoned his elven form and reclaimed his original appearance. Was the old Pride truly gone?

The revenant’s gaze lingered on the tenacious spirit: all ice and frost yet sculpted from beauty’s own hands.

The bard glanced down at his own body: all flesh and blood yet marred by the perverse touch of decay.

Each one strong.

Each one weak.

Each incomplete.

And a step closer to an answer.

Movement caught Dapper’s eye; light’s champion approached. The creature, reptilian in nature and armorclad, had its sight set on the bard. A burning passion raged behind the slits of its irises, one all too familiar to the revenant. Dapper’s tongue ran over the sharpened points of the staples within his cheeks. The last time he had had the pleasure of coming face to face with a paladin, it had cost him his lower jaw. And while the lightwielder was a far cry from any devoted the bard had seen, there was no mistaking the raw hatred emanating from it.

“I have nothing against you,” Dapper began as the lizard man readied a weapon with a sword’s hilt but only a dagger’s worth of steel, “but I feel like a chat is out of the question.”

In response, daylight swirled around the broken edge and coalesced into a beaming blade as red as the dawn. The revenant sucked on his inner cheek, drawing blood from his cut tongue, as he waited for the pivotal moment.

“And I know I’m a bit of an abomination, living on borrowed time and all…”

Without further adieu, the lizard man charged. The fiddler launched into a vicious medley, static notes alternating with flowing phrases in a rapid tempo. A fiery étude flared to life before him in the shape of the humblest of all instruments - a simple triangle. It bobbed up and down in front of Dapper’s face as light’s chosen closed the distance swiftly. Just a little more...

Once the lightwielder came within fifteen feet of the musician, the triangle flashed upwards in an arc. It streaked through the air, leaving smoldering embers in its wake as it rose then plummeted towards the scaled one. It would not do much harm. Not by itself. Which was why, in concurrent fashion, a second étude as thin as a conductor’s wand and just a bit longer had been born not two feet from the pseudo-paladin’s thigh. It spun forwards in a fiery wheel to strike at the lizard man’s legs. A hearty clomp to the back of the head from the soaring étude would follow.

“But our song’s not over.”

Not just yet.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 12
8/11/2018 15:31:31   
Starstruck
Member

"Get inside, Vir."

His father looked tense, clutching tightly to his smith's hammer. His calloused knuckles were white. Vir had never seen that before, not out of the stoic smith. He obeyed.

Through the window, he saw the men ride up, bright silver in the summer sun with their armor and weapons. One stepped down and approached Vir's father, a tall man with soft brown hair spilling out of his roaring helm. They talked. Without warning, the tall man's mailed hand shot out, gripping his father by the throat and tossing him aside like garbage. Vir cried out, and the armored man instantly turned and stared, scanning the windows. Vir ducked, heart beating loudly, and prayed for the strange armored men to leave.



From his right, the sound of a match burning and a searing screech. His head snapped to the right. A rogue, adorned with black armor and white feathers. The Paragon of Darkness, no doubt. But why fire? A trick? His eyes scanned the sands. Perhaps the firecracker would arc back around and hit him. Well, the Lord of Darkness would have a trickster, and the Lord of Energy would have a performer. One, two, ankle twisted around, one foot behind the other. Discs splayed out and drew back in, wrapping about his waist only to reverse direction and slide out again, inscribing glittering concentric circles as he moved.

Let's put on a show. Magnetic eddies swirled about his waist, and the copper cables hummed with power. Bright flashes and sparks ran up and down the cables for a brief second, and then flared to life, cables sparking with yellow and white. With a twitch of his mind and a flick of his wrist, the cables mirrored each other. Up, down, left, right, out, in, up. Too fast to track. The dark Paragon approached, dashing swiftly over the sands. His hand clutched something dark, and Vir's quick glance wasn't enough to tell what it was. A sword? A knife? Something more dangerous?

Vir stepped forward to meet him. There was no time for fear.


The mines were dark, but that was comforting. All Vir wanted to do right now was hide. Tears streamed down his cheeks, leaving burning trails. It felt like something was pulling him ever deeper into the heart of the iron earth.

The scene kept replaying itself in front of his eyes. The tip of the tyrant's glowing sword. His father's exposed throat and valiant hammer rising - not fast enough - to block the blow. Amber eyes meeting his.

Deeper, deeper. Deeper, to where everything was in perfect order. Deeper, to where iron floated and glowed on its own. He could no more resist it than a moth to a flame.



"Hey there! Looks like you enjoyed some ribs before the fight. Need a napkin?" Up. Around. Suddenly, his disc hit something, sending it flying off behind him. There was no time to look; it was small and black and was zooming off at a fairly decent clip. No time. A ball? No time. The discs spun and crackled, glowing with energy, and Vir charged.

The rogue reacted instantly, throwing a handful of sand with one hand and diving to one side, clutching a glittering black knife with the other. The trick, revealed. The sand flew towards his face...and parted, sorting itself into harsh buzzing lines in midair. His discs swiped through the thin clouds, the sound of metal shards scraping on metal cable reaching his ears. He winced. That would have hurt. Lucky.

Experimentally, Vir shifted his field up, and watched as the metal shards spun through the air as if by magic. He was surrounded by a cloud of angry, whizzing death. Vir couldn't help himself; he laughed. Once, twice, then settling into a hellish grin. A twitch of his mind. A flick of his wrists. The shrapnel aligned between the two discs. Vir shook his hands and the cables obeyed; above the red sands, electricity played. There was no way the rogue could approach him now. The shrapnel was alight with arcing electricity, a dangerous web of raw energy guarding him from attack. And now, to go on the offensive...a lightning bolt would be perfect.

Wait.

Which one was the lightning bolt again?

"Zap," said Vir experimentally. Nothing happened. "Zing. Bolt? Zash. Zeesh. Zeesh zeesh zeesh. Tempesto!" Absolutely nothing. This was embarrassing.

His hands stretched out towards his opponent, mind drawing a blank. The rogue looked ready to strike. Hopefully he could remember in time. If not, well...
DF MQ  Post #: 13
8/11/2018 21:35:22   
TormentedDragon
Member

Each step carries them closer to the center, each meeting of boot and bone to sand sending susurrations through the silicate. Cracks of crimson coil in their wake, marring the majesty of the unblemished plain, spiraling into the distant formless fog and drawing their gaze to the ever-present pillars of divinity. To their left, the blinding blaze of heat, a burning bastion of opalescent fury. To their right, the choral crescendo of life, a chaotic column of riotous color. In the distance, against the border of being, swirling silver writhes in a whirlwind framed by crystal and glass, reaving ripples in perception with chill and hum and ceaseless chime. They shut their eyes, a moment’s solace sought in darkness, closing away the symphony of sensation.

“Be not weary,” Sirellon murmurs.
“Be you wary,” the hook-nose mutters.
“Lift thy spirits,” rasps their Bertram, calling their eyes to open. The puppet’s skull had turned to face them, even as the wires walked him forward. “If death we must deny,” he says, a twinkling in eyes of spectral sapphire, “then let it be with hale heart. Whistle well, green eyes, that we may will the waltz.”

Their guardian dips, a nod of agreement, and they purse their lips. They whistle to the tune of the Tree, boots stepping to the beat of the shaking sands, arms and wires rising with the tempo of their heart. They sway, their Bertram with them, step by rhythmic step; and before them, the sands shudder, a rippling of red that reaches to the walls, the figures of their foes formed in contours of carnelian.

There, a suited man of bronze, hands holding blooded bow to flaming fiddle, a smattering of silver streaks still lingering at his lips. There, the crested cousin of Sirellon’s scale, coruscating emerald sheathed in a sable shell, hand on the hilt of a broken blade, brought to its arm in readiness. The black edge bites, and carmine flows from a crimson line, fresh friend to sister slices etched in muted red.

“They face each other,” Sirellon murmurs.
“Nay threat to us,” the hook-nose mutters.
“A bargain sought we,” rasps their Bertram, sickles shining scarlet in an echo of the scale’s summoned sword. “By terms granted, spare we none, and none spare us.” They pause in their step, in their dance, as their gaze and Bertram’s slides to the suited man, his bow striking string to draw music and magic alike into the waiting world. “A new tune, green eyes,” the beard says, smiling. “Let’s we join.”

They nod, and resume their dance; a faster pace, a quicker step, set to the frenzy of the fiddler’s fire. Wires take up the whistle’s work, humming as they guide bone and blood alike into the readied charge. Sand crunches in staccato rhythm with the rising of their weapons, set to reap the harvest of suit and scale’s flesh.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 14
8/12/2018 18:31:34   
Kooroo
Member

The reason he’d chosen the Energy Paragon was fairly obvious; the tall, lanky man wore not a scrap of armor or protection on him. Vir’s clothes looked like a poor choice for someone expecting a physical confrontation. In Elias’ opinion, his laughably short… shorts might have saved him from a physical confrontation were they not both in the middle of a gladiatorial ring. After all, killing someone that had been arrested for indecent exposure was far more difficult than killing them out in the open. The security that a jail cell provided a target was sometimes invaluable and had wasted a good amount of his time in the past.

While the lack of armor would make the deed a whole lot easier, getting next to the Electric Showman may not be simple. There was a good chance that Vir was an especially powerful mage and he had other abilities besides hoverings metal disks and riling up an audience. That could have explained the lack of protection, since some powerful mages obliterated any swordsman or assassin before they had a chance to stab them… Still didn't explain the minimal clothing though.
At least he's wearing something. Better than fighting a naked man.

That was all irrelevant, though. Powerful or not, Elias knew from experience that the best way to kill a spellcaster was to get up close and not give them an opportunity to use their magic, and the best way to do that was to sneak up or ambush them.

So when a firework whizzed into the air, and the barely-clothed Vir spun to face it, Elias almost stopped in his tracks and raised an eyebrow. Talk about fortunate timing. If Daford were here, the two would’ve exchanged glances with each other. Perfect opportunity for a public demonstration of why it was important to respect your surroundings.

He gave a quick glance towards the center of the Arena, where another battle was similarly about to take place. The other Paragons all seemed a bit preoccupied with each other. Which was fine. He certainly wasn’t going to complain.

Elias looked back towards his target and saw something small and black ricochet off one of Vir’s rapidly spinning disks. It zoomed off towar— and then it changed course, rushing back towards another competitor. Maled, the Paragon of Darkness.

The thin, splotchy man had beaten him to the Energy Paragon, his faster (and slightly longer) footsteps bringing him to their shared quarry faster than Elias’ respectable pace. Maled suddenly made his move, throwing a cloud of dust into the air at Vir. Energy’s Chosen responded quickly, stopping the dust—no, filings?—in the air, his whirring disks scraping and grating against the glistening particles. What was this theory that Tylia had mentioned before? Electromagnetism, perhaps?

The cloud around Vir split, and wove into a bubble of thin, disparate, dancing lines. An electrically-charged bubble of constantly shifting shrapnel. So much for lack of defence.

Elias stopped where he was and frowned slightly. Well, that was the ‘Sneak Attack’ plan in the pig trough. The malnourished man with the raccoon markings may have just saved Vir from a quick, and unexpected death. Most of the crowd might not have liked watching one of the Paragons been taken out through such unsavoury means, but Elias wasn't exactly aiming to win any fans. Not that it mattered anymore.

He did still have the element of surprise though. Or at least, Elias thought he had it.

It'd have to do.

Bracing with his sword hand, he aimed the handgun at the base of the blonde man’s neck, and pulled the trigger.
AQW Epic  Post #: 15
8/13/2018 14:28:46   
Rayen
Constructively Discussional!


Striding valiantly towards the centre of the arena, the foot of Temerity periodically rasping against the ferric arena sands, a sense of anticipation grew within Dalavar. Why was he here? Restoration…or…

It was too late, simply the thought evoked memories too strong to repress. Back in the pure waters of his homeworld, plunged into the turmoil and despair of a war without hope of victory. The dizzying fear, as palpable in the air as the name whispered by all his kin. That name: “The Mage - Solko Timekeeper”. The man who warped time and space to prove his dominance over the most prominent peoples of each “time”, before selecting its most valuable artefact for himself and destroying as much of the rest as sated his psychotic scorn.



The sky was clear that day. The Moon shone with conviction, washing the small circular town in its calm, inviting light. A much younger Dalavar, an adult on his next birthday, paced circles outside his family’s small, open-roofed abode while attempting to concoct a witty ditty to cheer his loved ones up. But he was not so sharp with words back then, nor was time on his side.

Terrified screams forced optimistic rhymes aside. Dalavar’s pale blue eyes snapped up to the horizon where they settled upon a lone figure, striding purposefully across the shallow sea. Around this foreign man the air rippled, as water, fish, seaweed, and stone flash-decayed into the surrounding air in waves of destructive energy. As he neared, a spear of water lanced out from somewhere behind Dalavar in an attempt to deter the approaching man, its violent speed too great for the eye to follow. But the Timekeeper disobeyed natural order, stepping to one side and redirecting the great projectile towards the town in the moment before collision. In the blink of an eye it was over, thoughts of resistance as crushed as the now razed town wall after its impact with the spear.

The Children of the Moon here, like everywhere else, stood silently, awaiting the edict of the inexorable Warp Mage. Even Dalavar had nothing to say, though unlike his kin, he seemed frozen in place, deeply concentrating on the figurative tip of his tongue. The young man remained motionless, lost in thought even as Solko came to a stop to address the town a mere arm’s breadth away.

“Greetings, history. I see your position is understood. But does there remain a challenge from any others?” The mage, dripping with words as condescending as his clothes were condensation, spat the final word of each sentence, as if the very thought of each disgusted him. His eyes peered challengingly over the town’s inhabitants, as if conflictingly irritated and overjoyed that the Children of the Moon had proven to be immune to his aura of decay. However, nobody responded to his provocation.

After a moment’s pause, The Mage spoke again. “Well, then it seems I…”

“A monstrous mage travelled through towns,
His arrival heralded by frowns.
Though no-one dared say to his face,
His robes stank through all time and space!”

The eruption of riotous poetry from right beneath his nose caused Solko to strike out instantly, glancing Dalavar across the face with a shaky hand. “Silence, boy. I will not tolerate your audaciousness.

The swiftness of the Timekeeper’s reaction took Dalavar by surprise, little though it did to silence the young man’s rendition. However, eyes bright with pride at the laughter induced by his creativity, Dalavar had glimpsed a flash of shimmering light around the Timekeeper’s form before his feeble attack. Curious, and greatly amused by his own success, Dalavar grew bolder.

“Surrounded by seas as you are,
I promise you needn’t stray far
To find yourself just the solution:
Some perfume and thorough ablution!”

After a quick bow to bolster his audience further, Dalavar declared, “I challenge you, Solko. I may not be strong, nor fast, or gifted with magic, but any man whose slap could be mistaken for a lover’s caress is surely my equal.” And with that, Dalavar reached down to his feet, plucking a stem of kelp from the sand and…



A cacophony of noise cleaved through Dalavar’s skull, shattering his thoughts like a hammer through a fine teacup. The explosion of the firework Maled had utilised as an effective distractive tool in Factory resonated with a violent crack of thunder that permeated the air. A collective feeling of trepidation echoed off each wall, as the finality of the Lords’ Will was demonstrated.

In response, a deafening roar erupted from the spectating masses, prompting a fascinated question from the recesses of The Mage Slayer’s mind. Why did people come to watch the Elemental Championships? Why? Was it to revel in the horrors of fascinating and powerful individuals attempting to destroy each other? To provide instruction for their own aspirations or training? Or perhaps an Element played a particularly prominent part in their everyday lives and the Championships allowed them to display their thankfulness through support? Or was it something else; something more magnetic and innocent and…human: Pure fascination.

Raising his eyes to the surrounding stadium, the man once praised as the ‘Destroyer of Magic’ could see hundreds of faces. Cheering, silently anticipating, hoping above hope…but for what? The transfixed eyes, while before enshrouded by the crepuscular light of Factory Arena, were alive with light. Each eye, so full of life, so vibrant, so…colourful. Browns and blues and greens and golds, a maelstrom of complexity and beauty within each enraptured orb. Dalavar had never seen it before. Perhaps because he hadn’t been looking? Or perhaps he had simply refused to accept what he knew was true. Magic or no magic, hopeful or hopeless, so long as life existed - as long as it refused to be extinguished by the passage of time - life truly was magical.

Suddenly Dal was encased in a large bubble of water. Mildly startled he looked around to ascertain the source, only to realise that the orb was his own, his right hand firmly gripping the haft of Temerity. He had no recollection of summoning the sphere, however - perhaps his reminiscing had displaced the intention; maybe the bubble had appeared spontaneously out of reflex to the crack of lightning; or, possibly, his subconscious was trying to make him aware of something - to establish an obvious association. Acknowledging this final possibility as most likely, Dalavar inhaled a full breath of water, expelling an ebullient message with sonorous, muted intonation as his waterlogged bubble drifted slowly towards the centre of the arena. The aquatic exhalation constituted merely two short words, but carried the culmination of centuries of an internal struggle between hope and despair:

“I see!”

His Great Audaciousness grinned openly, his ebony pipe hanging awkwardly from his teeth, for accompanying this epiphany had come the semblance of a plan. Shifting Temerity’s spherical gem to his left hand, Dalavar stepped decisively forwards against the edge of his now-glasslike bubble. The transfer of weight caused the bubble to roll eastward haphazardly as it brushed against the umbral sands. Another set of steps followed fluidly behind, setting the orb and the man within upon a frantic, hurtling trajectory vaguely towards hostile congregation soon likely to form within the Grand Arena’s heart.

Words his favoured form of communication, the intense focus required to maintain both balance and large bubble left His Great Audaciousness feeling a faint euphoric dizziness, such that the only introduction he found himself capable of providing was a fearless, heartfelt chortle. Which target presented itself first mattered little to Dalavar - each Paragon was equally deserving of respect, as the Lord of Water had auspicated - simply contributing to the tangible vibrancy of the atmosphere would satisfy. However, that infernal bard and any allied with him had burnt a place firmly at the top of the Mage Slayer’s list.
AQ DF  Post #: 16
8/13/2018 19:57:34   
Kellehendros
Eternal Wanderer


Aurinko was not a musician by trade, far from it in fact. His song, if one would call it that, was written in the clash of steel and the swift staccato rhythm of sizzling plasma. The Kaarme’s taste in artistry ran more to the elegance of simple poetry than the complex interweavings of symphonic orchestras. But his grandfather had loved music, particularly baroque chamber pieces, insisting that they helped him think through the problems he encountered in his lab. As a result, the swordsman had heard quite a bit of violin work growing up. Those memories were enough to tell him that, although the music was harsh to his ears and the melody foreign, Dapper was an adept performer. Besides which, the Kaarme Phry had to admit he had never seen anyone spin music into fire back home.

The blaze took shape - a triangle about the size of Aurinko’s fist - bobbing and juddering in the air not far from the undead creature’s head. Yet, as the swordsman closed with Fire’s Paragon the construct of musical conflagration dipped, and then soared skyward in a high arc. Distraction.

Unless the climbing shape was some manner of effect like an artillery shell. But no, if that was the case Dapper was far too close to the impact point; he would be caught in the resulting explosion. Which meant the purpose of the blaze was to draw the eye up, away from the musician, and away from the path of the Kaarme’s charge as the form of fire reached the apex of its arc. There was something ahead. Some manner of tripwire or mine that the undead hoped Aurinko would rush right into.

Thankfully, the Arena's sandy floor worked in the swordsman’s favor. The top layer of sand was light, loose grains; they gave slightly with each footfall, sapping a fraction of his normal speed. Perhaps that was what prevented him from hitting the tripline squarely.

Planting a foot, the swordsman shifted his weight and converted his forward momentum into a spin. The Kaarme Phry’s heavy tail angled down, skidding over the surface of the sand to scatter sanguine granules in a wide, veiling arc as he hunkered lower. Aurinko grunted as his right hip slammed against something as he turned, halting his momentum. Found it. His lower center of gravity and the grounding presence of his tail prevented him from toppling over, which left him facing the Pillar of Earth amid a shower of red grains.

Leikata flashed, its tip finding a seam between two photons and biting into the gap, tearing it wider and wider as the blade descended. Light bent around the Kaarme as he dropped into a low crouch, completing the cut and rendering himself invisible to sight as he went motionless.

Still now,
anticipating the moment of a
raindrop’s perfect fall.


Within his envelope of null-space, the swordsman looked out at a world gone oddly monochromatic, painted in black and white accented with myriad shades of grey. He could feel sand filtering down around him, parts of the curtain of granules vanishing as they rained into the stillness of his sunless pool.

The Kaarme Phry well remembered nights like this. Rather more conventionally hidden within a blind as another Sun Guard stood watch, seemingly alone in the darkness. Battle cries and hissing energy blasts as the minions of the Darkener descended, and then the clash of blades in the dawning light.

A thunderous crack echoed over the sands, followed by the tinkling of glass and the return of the chanters’ voices. It took considerable effort on Aurinko’s part not to give in to the reflexive instinct to turn his head towards the sudden and unexpected cacophony and seek its source. Any movement might be enough to bring him into contact with the outer bounds of the envelope and cause it to unravel. Still, what he could only conclude was the shattering of the Energy Pillar was an added boon for him, hopefully drawing attention away from his position.

His new vantage gave Aurinko a clear view of Earth’s Paragon, the bone-bearer, approaching. A skeletal shape came before Oz, bearing a sickle in each hand. But where before there were two, now only one foe stood. To the musician and bone-clad, the Kaarme was simply gone, vanished from view.

The veil would not, however, protect him from the large sphere of oncoming water. That is… unusual. The Kaarme Phry tracked the charge of the unnaturally coherent ball of liquid from the corner of his eye, muscles tensing as it drew nearer. It was unlikely the Paragon of Water could see Aurinko; Dalavar was not angling the attack at him so much as Dapper. But invisible and intangible were not the same thing.

“When you’re in the field you adapt. If you don’t, people die. Don’t get so committed to your plans that you can’t improvise poika.” Words of wisdom from his father, along with the knowledge that sometimes it was others who paid the price for such mistakes. New plan.

The swordsman held his ground, hidden in his cage of bent light until the last moment. With a grunt of effort and an explosive thrust of his legs Aurinko threw himself into a roll south and east, bursting through the envelope and seeming to snap back into existence from thin air. He came out of the somersault alongside the path of Dalavar’s charge, down on one knee and still facing the Pillar of Earth. Leikata snapped up and slashed out, cutting at the surface of the sphere as it trundled by. The Kaarme had no idea if breaching the water’s surface with his blade would cause the strange bubble to burst, but unless it did he had no way of reaching the Paragon of Water within.

Improvising can be so messy…
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 17
8/13/2018 22:29:50   
Chewy905
Member

Well that didn’t go as planned.

Apparently the entertainer didn’t have to focus at all. It looked like he had caught the metal shards completely by accident, even. And again Ball was deflected without a care! It really just wasn’t working as intended. The boy had arranged the shards into a grid, a wall around him, and sparks of electricity were flying between them. A perfect defensive wall, and I just gave it to him. Wonderful. The boy pointed a finger at Maled. “Zap.” He said, in an odd, questioning tone as if he wasn’t quite sure why he was saying it. Maled prepared to endure a shock, or a bolt of lightning, or something dangerous. But nothing happened at all.

“Zing. Bolt? Zash. Zeesh. Zeesh zeesh zeesh. Tempesto!” Nothing. At all. What the heck? How did someone get to be the Paragon of Energy if they couldn’t even remember how to cast their own spells!? Ball zipped back to Maled, and he caught it, swiftly tucking it back into it’s pouch. Maled quickly stepped to the forgetful mage’s right side and prepared to lunge at the man’s thigh.

There was a loud crack of thunder from behind Vir, and the entertainers body went flying away. Maled turned to face the source of the sound. A young man in black leather armor similar to Maled’s own, a small silver gun held in his hand, aimed at where the Energy Paragon had been. Past him, off in the distance, was the silver pillar of wind. The Wind Paragon then, Elias. Maled considered the rhyme for a moment. Answer seeker, quest chaser. Nothing that gave any hints as to his fighting style or abilities. How to approach, then?

A scent hit Maled’s nose, pungent and sudden. ...Ozone? There was a soft rumble of thunder, growing slightly until it cracked just as loud as the gun had before. The glass pillar above exploded into pieces, raining down glittering shards. The chanters voices joined as one, loud enough to overcome the sounds of battle.

"As the current of electricity follows the path of least resistance, so too does Energy move towards a simpler path. The Elemental Lord has withdrawn their favor from Vir, and we now stand to bear witness to his choice.”

Vir’s out then. That leaves this wind boy and I, then.

Elias wasted no time, turning to aim at Maled and following up the thunder with a second crack of his own. There was a slight ripple in the air that quickly collided with Maled, knocking the breath out of him and launching him off his feet and onto his back. Wind manipulation then, huh? I’ve got just the thing for you. He reflected on the gun’s affect on him. Oro’s armor had protected him quite nicely, though he did feel sore from the impact.

Maled rolled quickly to his feet gripped his knife with both hands, the fingers overlapping each other. The world around him grew sharper as his voice died. He could feel the slight breeze of the arena caress his skin. He could feel every tiny little groove in the handle of his knife. And he could feel the shifts in the air current as the Wind Paragon rushed forwards, aiming a kick at the same spot the gunshot had hit. But, the man was still a distance away, there was no way his leg would hit-Oh crap. Maled threw himself to the side, a solid foot-sized space of air blasting out from where Elias’ leg was. The edge of the blast grazed Maled’s side, causing him to stumble in response to the sudden pain. A fast, ranged fighter, with hardly any tells between his attacks and his magic, and no difference in the air between when it’s still and when it’s ramming into my gut. This is not good. Maled dashed towards Elias, moving in unpredictable, zigzagging patterns to avoid any more air punches and kicks. The man aimed his gun again and fired, but Maled changed direction quickly, causing the shot to miss. Ugh I didn’t even feel that as it passed. Enhanced touch is definitely not working here, maybe I can seal a sense instead. He shut down his sense boost and starting counting down it’s cooldown in his head. As he closed in to Elias, he withdrew and tossed Ball at the ground, where it bounced off the sand and flew towards the Wind warrior’s face as he rushed forwards with his knife aimed at the man’s gut.
Post #: 18
8/14/2018 4:44:33   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo



It never ends. The hallway stretched on for miles. Crimson carpet, both forwards and behind, ended only in vanishing points. Light with no source danced and flickered like candlelight. Tapestries, paintings and murals coated the walls with the urgency of a dying man’s last words. He couldn’t look at them, they hurt too much.

“You can stop this now. I’ve told you, I’m leaving without you.”

Candlelight flickered with laughter. A painting to his left began to glow with the embers of masked seething. The picture distorted to produce a mirage of movement, depicting a man on stage performing for thousands. The applause from the audience grew in ripples like waves in the ocean. People stood, women cheered, rose petals covered the stage floor.

To his right, a man in the frame performed on a stage for thousands. Far beyond the stage, beyond rows and isles, a woman stood by herself. Loneliness coated her eyes like glass. She forced a smile with genuine effort that would have made her mother proud. The herculean effort soon took its toll and she began to quake. Her knees came close to failing. She brought her hand to her mouth, disguising a sob even as the stream running from her eyes betrayed her. She quickly turned to leave, silently pushing through the exit and stealing one final glance at the man on stage. She mouthed a single phrase before taking her farewell. The image was silent yet her lips carried the words as clear as day. “I hope you’re happy.”

“Stop it! Stop this now! It’s over! This is over… You can go back to wherever you came from! I don’t need you anymore. I’m too tired to keep this up.” Tom stood in the middle of the hallway, his fists clenched and shaking.

“You don’t need me?!” The candlelight shook. “I am you! You are me. I am your pride!I gave you the strength to rise from snow and ash! I took you in, deformed and ugly as you were, and gave you perfection! Cold, undying perfection! I took you in the stench of death and sculpted something beautiful! Everything we are now is because of me, all of it!”

Tom glared back at the emptiness in front of him, choking on his own anger before he could interrupt with a response.

The candlelight flared, the warm orange glow tinting scarlet. “You’re nothing without me, nothing! Your pride is what holds you to this world, and I am that pride.”

Tom looked up, spitting his words like the blood of a dying man onto the face of his killer. “Then I’ll be nothing again. I’ll find my own pride. I’ll let go of this world and accept my fate if I have to. I’m through with this and I’m through with you. Crawl back under a rock and leave me be!”

Off to Tom’s side, the painting was no longer a painting. It was a full length mirror. His reflection glared at him with red eyes and blue, cold skin. “It won’t be that easy, fool. I’ll drag you back. We’ll start all this over again. I’ll finally stuff you into a body in which you won’t rot. I’ll make us great, undying, perfection immortalized. I will devour your accomplishments and produce perfection! I-”

Shattered glass hit the floor, a cracking mirror cutting off the tirade before it could be completed. Tom slowly let out a long anticipated breath, his bleeding fist resting against the jagged edges of broken mirror. “You’ll do absolutely nothing. I’ll find my own pride.”




Tom exhaled a deep sigh, suppressing a wave of frustration. Images lurked through his mind and stole his attention one glance at a time. A concert hall void of any audience, a performer’s hat lay bare of coin on the street, a bed for two filled with one.

”You’re nothing!" The memory rebounded through his mind.

Tom clenched his fist and shook his head, cleansing his mind of the growing stain.

“No response at all? That simply won’t do.” He murmured.

The frozen revenant began taking quick strides towards Dapper and the group now collating around him. There’ll be no better spot to make a better show.

The heat of the sun caused Tom’s reborn body to drip with a chilled mist, flooding the sands at his feet. Prismatic sparks refracted and gleamed off his skin, catching in the surrounding fog.

“I do suppose I’m a bit rusty at this, though being irnogred is still disappointing. Even so, I can’t blame anyone but myself for an uninteresting performance”

Ice blue eyes surveyed the scene before him. A strange, scaled one had run out ahead of him. A perfect target, had he not disappeared from sight… Next was the strange one from the factory. He had sealed himself again into a large orb and was shifting towards Dapper. Strange, perhaps strange enough for a great performance. Not yet, though, not yet. Next was Dapper himself. An encore is to be unique and never a repeated work. Finally, there was a figure of dancing bone, wire guiding its movements and trailing back to the source of their rhythm. Their attention seemed to be stuck upon Dapper and his assailants. Perfect.

“I suppose I’ll just have to make this next performance even harder to ignore.”

Tom quickened his pace to a steady run, shifting in the direction of his new target, the puppeteer of dancing bones. He flicked both hands out as he ran, freezing the very air into two pearlescent, smoking javelins. He gripped one into each hand, slowing his pace and narrowing his gaze onto his target. A bit longer a distance than I’d prefer. But it’ll have to do… He shifted his weight onto his back foot before pressing forwards, hurling a smoking javelin towards the puppeteer and aiming high, attempting an arcing shot to his target’s torso. Tom accelerated back to a run, keeping the remaining javelin clenched in his left hand and crossed in front of his chest, prepared to deflect or swipe out if need be.

“Today I find my own pride.”
DF  Post #: 19
8/14/2018 18:46:17   
Kooroo
Member

Three...

That made three shots. One more left.

Maled wasn’t as fast as Elias, but he’d been fast enough to avoid getting nailed by that third shot. Elias’ mediocre marksmanship had probably helped him, but he hadn’t expected to take out the black-eyed man easily anyway. Or at least, not without more of a fight.

Besides shooting fireworks and throwing black stuff, Elias couldn’t begin to guess what Maled was capable of. Darkness Paragon might have meant Dark magics, but that didn't help. All it meant was that his opponent was unlikely to shoot an ice ray or use any other off-element abilities.

Of course, his abilities or skills weren’t necessarily magical. Maled looked human; or at least, mostly human. Perhaps part raccoon or stick insect, but then again, Elias’ second shot hadn’t broken him in two. So he was more durable than he appeared, though it would be hard not to be. There was a good chance Maled had other strange oddities or trinkets tucked away in his belt, and the sellsword didn't feel adventurous enough to experience them first hand.

Fighting in Twilight hadn’t been easy, but the warriors in the Arena with him were supposedly some of the best from across the realms. Being on the back foot against the blue warrior had nearly ended everything, and he really didn’t want to repeat the experience. Thus, Elias didn’t plan to let Maled or any of the other Paragons surprise him, or even think about getting the upper hand.

But perhaps ruining plans was a talent of Maled’s. As he had done so with Elias’ assassination attempt for Vir, the slight and whispy man immediately wrecked the Wind Paragon’s overarching strategy as he pulled out the black thing—is that a ball?—and threw it at the floor. Most bouncy balls didn’t bounce very well on sand, but this one apparently didn't get that memo.

It hit the scarlet grit and shot towards Elias’ face with a startling amount of accuracy, but the speed of a lethargic sparrow. A backwards step and a slight turn was enough to avoid it, but Maled himself had come close enough to become a threat. The blade in his foe’s right didn’t seem deadlier than any knife, but Elias had already taken his fill of surprises before leaving Twilight. He wasn’t in the mood for more.

The blacks of Maled’s eyes—and his nose, and honestly, most of his face—presented an irresistible target. As the thin warrior closed, Elias levelled the shining flintlock and fired.

Four.
AQW Epic  Post #: 20
8/15/2018 21:20:50   
TormentedDragon
Member

The frenzied fiddle brings forth flame, a blazing bronze triad called by the trembling treble. A soaring scale sends it skyward, and down below a burning bola bursts into being, flying at the crested warrior. An emerald tail sweeps through sand in answer, scoring scarlet through the weakened white, the fire spinning through the spray unhindered to crash against the warrior’s shell. Boot and bone beat harder, their charge committed, sickles set to strike at scale’s neck.

Their guardian trembles, green eyes narrowing as fingers twist; the summoned sword falls, a line of deadly purpose set to strike at nothing. Arms heave and wires strain; body and bone slide, one step, two steps, three, to stop together, sickles hanging slack. Where once there was a warrior, now nothing stood; an emptiness marked only by the sprinkling of falling scarlet sand.

“Sight deceives,” Sirellon sighs.
“As e’er it did,” the hook-nose growls.

Their Bertram could not speak; the world would not allow it, shuddering instead with the sundering of humming glass. Green eyes widen, caught by the scintillating swarm of shards falling in the distance, locked to the monochrome mosaic of the oncoming wave, dots dancing in chaotic choreographies. It washes over them, subsuming sound and sight and forcing them back, arms and sickles raised in a doomed defense. In its wake, the sands are cleansed, washed white once more and wiped clean of those who stood upon it.

“Trust not,” Sirellon wheezes. They step, boot and bone together, and all the sands shine a shuddering scarlet for the merest moment. Against the flicker, silver shimmers, a sphere shaking with the mirth of malice as it thunders towards their Bertram. They pull back, wires writhing with the frantic force of panic, and spine is yanked from skull as bone is barely freed from battering by the rolling ball. Two steps back, a flick of fingers, and the soaring skull lands in outstretched hand, while wires weave bone to bone once more.

“Trust none,” Bertam rasps. They step forward, raising the skull to meet the standing spine. They click together, and from that meeting springs another surge of scarlet, flashing over sand and sphere and distant spire. There, drawn in the rippling red, a smoking spear of pale saffron soars at them, its flight a pointed promise. Arms fly skyward, hands twisting; bones match the motion, jumping to the wire’s will. Sickles flash, their edges slicing at the missile’s middle, and it snaps in two, tumbling on to fall upon the flapping fabric of their robe.

Smoke slides down their checkered front, to hiss upon the ivory sands, scattering as falling bone dashes ice to dust. There, a slender figure charges, a second spear held ready before a shining silver vest. They nod, and reel wires in, pulling their puppet back through sands to stand against their very robe.

“By terms granted,” rasps their Bertram, with sickles crossed before him.
“Spare we none,” sighs Sirellon, as hidden fingers weave within the robe.
“And none spare us,” the hook-nose growls, as they throw their arms out wide.

The robe rises, fluttering in a fleeting moment, baring to the world the wealth of bone that girds their body. Their right arm flickers, a side-long swing, and beak and talon soar on wired wings, a missile bound to bleed the slender blue-blood’s neck.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 21
8/15/2018 21:48:14   
Apocalypse
Member

Light’s champion kicked up a dust storm as he ground to a halt. The conductor’s wand cackled maniacally in the sudden spray as grains of sand showered the blaze. The étude, undeterred, cut through the impromptu tempest only to careen off the lizard man’s armor. Its lackluster crescendo culminated in naught but a whimper as it was swallowed whole by the orchestration of combat. The second étude fared no better, landing in the sands with a dissatisfying thud as the target never crossed its trajectory. With Dapper’s attacks failing, the lightwielder lifted his crimson blade…

...and cut his way out of existence.

A screech bled through the makeshift concerto as the bard tangled with the bewilderment of an apparating adversary. Notes fell flat and clashed with one another as the musician hastened to recover the tempo. The triangular étude puffed out in a wisp of smoke, its performance over without a shred of recognition. Spurts of flame absconded from its twin before the fiddler reclaimed his rhythm, springing it to life with renewed passion. It whirled from its resting place, gyrating in skewed concentric circles around Dapper. Flares of crimson trailed in its wake as the étude warded off encroaching foes with its vivid circulations. The revenant pivoted in place, keeping his eyes where the conflagration was not.

The enemy was unseen but not necessarily gone. If his foe’s sword was truly forged from light, then a single swing from its wielder would be sufficient to bring a swift end to the undead. Tension thick enough to choke on hung in the air. Each enduring note held an eternity as the musician awaited the impending final blow. The fiddler’s music abated, the strings humming with gentle reprise over the sands. A placid gust rolled through the arena...




A subdued breeze whispered through the barren graveyard. The slight rustling of lifeless boughs in the wind served to mask the revenant’s compulsive scratching. At any given moment, the tranquility would be broken. The relentless wraith knew Dapper was here. Pride always knew. But this time, the dead man had taken a gamble: the local holy order knew as well. Who would arrive first...and who would be the greater threat?

The wind swept through the graveyard once more.

The bard’s voice carried over the audience of tombstones, delivering a melody he knew but had not learned. One singular fragment from his past that had clung to him through death itself…




”For one and for all
That was our phrase”


The bard’s words were drowned out by the utter obliteration of Energy’s Pillar, a waterfall of glass cascading down upon those unfortunate enough to be below. Dapper’s gaze skirted across the the scene as he focused on locating his elusive hunter.

”In those bustling halls
Of our earlier days”


Burning embers wafted behind the revolving étude as it passed the revenant’s face. On the other side of the cinders was the magister, once more enclosed in a glossy sphere of water. A spectrum sheen of hues gleamed off the globe from the refracted sunlight. The lustrous orb barreled through the sands, a tidal wave on these barren grounds. Dapper’s voice rose louder as the magister’s might stormed down upon him.

“We live in the moment, breaths caught in our chest
Never knowing which heartbeat will lay us to rest”


Light’s champion blinked back into reality, red blade flashing as it struck the aquatic barrier. The water’s prismatic spray broke into a kaleidoscope of colors as fractures ruptured across the orb. Yet neither sphere nor magister was dissuaded in their charge.

”Can
you
feel
it?”


The musician’s voice broke across the sands, its resonance reaching a zenith. The force of a mountain. The sweetness of honey. A song one tried to shut their ears to but could not stop listening once it’s been heard. The conductor’s wand snapped to position above Dapper’s shoulder. Hues of amethyst, emerald, and sapphire flashed through the étude in a pulse that faded as quick as a heartbeat.

”Haunting
spirit”


The spear’s imitation plunged through the air, flames buffeted by its own velocity. The tip pierced through the watery veil, but only just. A futile act of defiance against the looming onslaught. Dapper smiled as his end came for him.

”Weeping
Crying”


But fate had a different tale to tell. The rolling sphere brought the étude crashing into the ground. The force behind was more than sufficient to overwhelm the magics binding the flames together. But, for the briefest of moments before its fires were splayed across the sands, it held. And in that sliver, the globe was propelled off the ground. A few feet at most, but with the ferocity of a siege engine. Fiddle and bow were clutched to the bard’s chest as he dived forward into the sand’s embrace. His body tumbled from a sudden jolt, a glancing blow from the orb to somewhere on his back or shoulder - the revenant would find out later if he survived. His vision tumbled as sand and sky reversed positions once, twice before he was buffeted by another whirlwind of dust from his landing. Eyes remained wide open throughout the ordeal, scarlet granules obscuring minute portions of his perception.

Dapper clambered to his feet, ignoring the tiny blurs in his eyesight. Bow and fiddle met once more, crafting a tambourine in their union. The new étude spun in a flurry toward the light champion’s head. Upon contact, it would splash fire across its face and, more importantly, its many orifices. A warrior’s instincts would be dulled if they could learn nothing from his surroundings.

”Living,
Dying”


And should the lightwielder dodge or deflect...well, this étude was not an arrow but a marvel guided by the bard’s own music. It would arc around and strike again and again should the lizard man allow himself to be a target.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 22
8/16/2018 14:30:38   
Rayen
Constructively Discussional!


Veils of flame danced about the feverish performer, waves of heat pouring from the blur that was his bow. As if drawing energy from the zealous symphony, Dalavar careened through the dispersing wisps of cochineal magic that were quickly threatening to choke the air as the steam from Factory’s mechanisms. Focusing on the preservation of his momentum, The Mage Slayer barely noticed the steady advance of Earth upon Ice, nor the battle between Darkness and Wind, while Light lay somewhere beyond his periphery. Fire, in the form of the decaying man known as Dapper Phoenix, consumed his vision, commanding the attention of the Grand Arena’s central stage… Perhaps too well.

A shimmer swiftly followed a flicker of golden light, announcing the smooth swing of Aurinko’s blade. The Light Paragon made clear his intent through hostile introductions, though Dalavar’s surprise prevented him from countering with a more courteous, amicable response. Humming with a gleaming aura, His Great Audaciousness glimpsed Aurinko’s grey blade strike the edge his iridescent shield. At the blade’s point of impact, ripple-like fissures spread out within the dense, fluid structure of the bubble, betraying its newfound fragility. But nevertheless, the orb remained intact.

His stride broken and footing only just maintained, Dalavar redoubled his efforts in a hopeful attempt to place some distance between the Light Paragon and his more melodic target. However, as if by some ironic twist of fate, the actions of the clearly unallied pair of Light and Fire interacted as harmoniously as the rich music permeating the arena. From within Dapper’s russet web of song coalesced a slender baton, its immense heat cloaking its summoner in an undulating mirage. With a rapidity resemblant to Aurinko’s attack moments earlier, the blazing rod sped out from the musician, tearing through the bubble’s frame to embed itself directly in line with Dalavar’s liver.

The rotation of the severely fractured bubble plunged the flaming projectile directly into the cold sands at Dalavar’s feet. The magic manifesting the baton held just long enough to propel the orb, and the garishly colourful man within it, a few feet into the air, before launching both into an unimpeded trajectory with the Fire Paragon. With a lightning reaction belying the immense concentration required to perform in the middle of a battlefield, Dapper lunged towards the ground in a desperate attempt to escape the inexorable bubble. To His Great Audaciousness’s begrudging relief, the orchestral revenant avoided horrendous mutilation as the bubble came to a crashing halt, shattering into a rainbow of innumerable shard-like droplets of water.

The Mage Slayer rolled awkwardly thrice, the wet, gossamer fabric of his garb taking on a more distinctly bloodied, coral-like appearance with each revolution. Thankful not to have swallowed his pipe, Dalavar wasted no time returning to his feet, placing considerable weight upon his faithful cane as he regained balance. Straightening proudly, left hand firmly gripping Temerity’s primary gemstone, His Great Audaciousness drew in a long, deep breath. Rounding on the Paragon of Fire, he expelled from his pipe a small cloud of two dozen marble-sized bubbles, after which he gusted many of the opalescent orbs towards his immediate opponent with a forceful exhalation.

With a flick of his wrist, The Mage Slayer repositioned Temerity in his hand, its cold, smooth metal a calm reassurance. Now with at least a mediocre defence against Dapper’s combustive outbursts, Dalavar chased the bubbles as they flurried forward. While His Great Audaciousness had never been feared for his close-combat capabilities, a barrage of solid strikes against bone could quickly render an opponent significantly less capable of defending themselves, or even unconscious. More importantly, an unconscious target would likely discover playing an instrument far more challenging. Or so was the hope, and Dalavar’s optimism, at least, was famous.
AQ DF  Post #: 23
8/16/2018 19:04:08   
Chewy905
Member

Not enough time! NOT ENOUGH TIME!

Elias had dodged Ball easily. It was true it didn’t move very fast, and he hadn’t been able to disguise its movement this time, but the dodge was done so perfectly it felt unnatural. Enhanced reflexes, perhaps? At least he actually noticed it at all. As Maled Con got close, Elias turned and leveled his gun at Maled’s face. Point blank. There wasn’t enough time to dodge out of the way, and Maled couldn’t shift his position as he was lunging, so he threw up his left arm to try to block the shot. It’s just wind anyways, right? It can’t hurt that bad.

He was wrong. The thunder-like shot rang out, loud and clear. Maled shouted silently in pain as his arm was launched back and into his face, ramming into his nose hard. His body was tossed backwards like a doll, and he flew through the air then rolled along the ground until coming to a stop a distance away. He groaned, his voice finally returning to him. His ears were filled with an insanely loud ringing. Somehow he had managed to keep a hold of his knife, so he sheathed it and tried to prop himself up on his left arm. A lightning bolt of pain raced through his body as his arm collapsed beneath him. Did that dumb little wind gun have enough power to fracture bone? Maled touched at his arm tentatively and found his suspicions were confirmed. This man is too dangerous. Change of plans, then. He got up using his right arm and slipped out a firework and match. He lit it quickly, launched it at Elias, then spun around and ran towards the center of the arena, not waiting to see if the man intended to follow but ready to check over his shoulder in case he had to dodge anything.

There was quite a lot going on in the middle. The strange, colorful man from the Factory, Dalavar, the rhyme had said, seemed to be surrounded by a large bubble, and was charging forward. There had been a lizard man when Maled had first looked, but he was now apparently nowhere to be seen. Emerging from a tall black cloak was a bird made of bone, lunging towards the man called Pride, who was armed with one of his ice javelins he had shown off in the Factory. As Maled drew closer the Lizard-Man sprang back into view and attacked Dalavar’s bubble, but the strike seemed to be futile. Dapper launched a spear of fire from his fiddle, launching the sphere into the air.

Ball flew back to him, and he caught and pocketed it without missing a beat. Maled Con risked a quick glance over his shoulder. Elias was following him, moving *very* quickly. That damned gun was holstered, luckily. But if he closed in Maled would be in danger. If I blend in to the chaos, maybe I can get the Wind Paragon caught in it too… but how could I force myself in without a direct attack putting me in harms way?

He looked back at the fight and considered what was unfolding. Dapper was playing music, manipulating a fiery circle towards the Lizard. Bingo. Distract the Bard, draw his attention over here. Endanger him so he can’t focus on me, but still draw myself into the fight. Then I can try to avoid a head on confrontation with this blasted Wind Mage. Maled touched a hand to his lips, sealing his sense of smell. He listened carefully to the song Dapper was playing, then joined in, imitating the sound of the man’s violin perfectly and loudly. The one catch? He was playing a note behind the Bard’s at all times. Creating a disgusting mismatch of sound and distorting what would have been a beautiful performance.

Sorry Dapper, as much as I love your show I’m going to need to shift the spotlight over here. Not to me, no. But to this annoying man behind me. Hit me with the wildest, hastiest, most inaccurate shot you got, and maybe I can roast this pursuer of mine.

Post #: 24
8/16/2018 22:15:33   
Kooroo
Member

As Maled sailed through the air, Elias clicked the handcannon into its holster and started forward, tossing his sword to the other hand as he walked. It was a nice change to not be the one rolling across the floor. An improvement from his time in Twilight, but the job wasn’t finished.

Normally he would have just run in and finished off his target (especially after they’d sheathed their weapon), but Maled was still the Paragon of Darkness. A sheathed weapon wasn’t the same thing as an unconscious target, and considering all that Maled had done so far, Elias was betting that he would have to dodge something momentarily.

His foe didn’t disappoint. Once again, Maled was quick to his feet, promptly drawing a firework from his belt. I wonder where he’s going to throw that, Elias thought, as he prepared to sidestep.

Sure enough, the firework was sparkling towards him, and Maled took off like a rabbit... In the other direction.
Was… Was this a trap?
The Wind Paragon shimmied to his left, and the firework whooshed by, sparks trailing in its wake. He’d been worried that the firework would somehow detonate right next to him, but his fears were apparently unfounded. His left foot slammed into both the air and the sand, and Elias pushed off, chasing after his quarry.

A strange feeling of déjà vu swept across him as he ran, gone like a passing breeze. It was like chasing a job, only with a slight difference: this was one of the rare occasions where he wasn’t gaining ground. Elias could’ve counted the number of times that had happened on both hands. Nine prior, though this brought the number to ten. Double digits. He didn’t really like that.

The last time someone had matched him had been when that glowing woman had kicked him off the flight of stairs. She’d beaten him to the corner of a hallway, and when he’d turned she’d side-stepped and nailed Elias in between his shoulder blades. Only a hurried shunt had saved him from landing on his neck. His collarbone had broken when he’d landed, but that a was small price for literally saving his neck.

Perhaps because of that experience, Elias didn’t particularly want to chase Maled around the entire Arena. It felt like a dumb idea.
He looked like wouldn't have to, though, as the thin trickster was about to run into the fray in the heart of the battleground. Ignoring the brawl for now, Elias kept his eyes on Maled, intent on stopping him before he made it any closer. He opened his left hand and reached out through the air, pushing the range on his magic.

He’d only get one chance at this. It didn’t matter when he timed this, it just depended on whether he grabbed the right spot of air and if he'd be able to move it in time.

All the while, a violin had been singing—the artist at their fore. Then a second started to trill, its voice in perfect step behind its sibling. Elias let the discordant duet flow over him, bracing himself for his plan.

A moment passed...


A second...



Then a third…




Then he grasped ahead, feeling for the air.
A moment of nothing, of emptiness…

And then he had it.

The wind puppeteer wrenched his hand across his body, digging his heels into the silt. The air directly ahead of Maled’s head shifted, then rushed him; as though punishing the false violinist’s timing.
AQW Epic  Post #: 25
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