RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (Full Version)

All Forums >> [Gaming Community] >> [Role Playing] >> The Championships


Kellehendros -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/16/2018 23:30:25)

Leikata seemed to scrape along the surface of the orb, a rippling groove chasing behind the crimson blade as though the sphere was more gel than liquid. Some exotic form of water. Grandfather would be fascinated. The unnaturally coherent construct took the strike fluidly and kept rolling, bearing Dalavar out of range, away on his collision course with Dapper.

Aurinko turned instinctively through the cut, rising to his feet as an icy javelin hissed by. Oz had apparently found a partner. Pride was advancing on the bone-bearer, a second spire of frozen water in hand. The Kaarme Phry was more than willing to let the two have their way with one another for now. His business was with the corpse.

Fire flashed and flickered as the suited man performed, sliding through hues and forming a lance of flame that crashed into the orb. Whether by design or chance the rolling of the sphere slammed the fiery spear into the sand; it flexed, and then shunted the watery construct skyward as it straightened, like a pole-vaulter’s launch. An inexact analogy, given the far lesser height achieved, but the Kaarme could not help but make the comparison. Especially when the musician hurled himself beneath the ball of water in a bid not to become its landing pad. The Paragon of Water’s brief experience with flight came to an abrupt end when the sphere hammered into the ground and burst apart. Aurinko felt the shock of the impact through the soles of his taloned feet - even at this distance from the now sand-caked competitor’s landing.

Of more importance, however, was the undead. Dapper had regained his feet - somehow both bow and violin had survived the musician’s desperate dive - and was readying the instrument again.

Slower this time. The swordsman started forward, only to be assaulted by a spinning disk of fire. Leikata swiped out reflexively at the incoming blaze, battering it away. But the object - Is that a tambourine? - was no simple projectile. It flew to the strains of Dapper’s playing, pirouetting in the air and sailing back in at Aurinko’s eyes. So the Kaarme Phry hit it again, harder this time, and sent the surprisingly physical flame wobbling towards the Arena’s sandy floor. The manifestation recovered, zipping up and back in with the sizzling hiss of a campfire.

His opponent's music, his magic, steered the fiery tambourine, giving it direction. No use in dodging. Stepping aside would only let the thing get behind him, where he could no longer see it, and thus could not influence where it was. But that was the key. Dapper might control the construct’s initial path, but the Kaarme’s blade would decide where it went thereafter.

Instead of dodging, the swordsman released Leikata’s hilt with his left hand, giving the incarnadine weapon a short and almost contemptuous flick with his right. The flat of the hardened light blade deflected the disk of flame, sending it spinning back at Dapper. Step and strike. This time he moved forward, after the blazing shape. His left hand gripped Pelastaa’s hilt as his right crossed his body to deliver a hard, flat blow that sent the tambourine zinging back and to his foe’s right. It wobbled, corrected itself, and seared back in. Again. Aurinko stepped up and drew smoothly, twisting his wrist to pull the wakizashi clear of its sheath in a reverse-grip, leaving him with a blade in either hand. Leikata tapped the tambourine aside once more, a redirection that gave him just enough time to twirl Pelastaa up into a proper hold and swing. The wakizashi belted the construct of fire in Dapper’s direction, allowing the Kaarme Phry to sidle another step closer.

Progress apace,
in measured time, like the steady
rise of dawn.

At that point it was simply a matter of rhythm, with a little variance to keep Fire’s Paragon honest. Left, step. Right, step. Right, step. Left, step. Right. Left. The swordsman advanced, driving the tambourine before him as he closed with Dapper, who shuffled back while continuing to saw frantically at the strings. It was a losing proposition. Dalavar had recovered and was coming up to flank the musician, a cloud of bubbles issuing from a dark wood pipe between his teeth.

Another song soared up from one side, a surprising imitation of the musician, though jarring for being a beat behind. It came, vaguely, from where another scuffle had broken out by the new shattered Pillar of Energy. Improvise.

Dapper’s tambourine whistled in, and this time Aurinko did dodge. His voice rose to a roar borne up by the competing strains of song. “Avaunt, carrion! The Sun arises!” The Kaarme fell to one knee as the flaming disk whizzed overhead, thrusting Leikata skyward and ducking his head down as he triggered the weapon's magic. The crimson blade came apart with a soundless detonation, bursting into rays of blinding radiance that lanced out to claw at the eyes of the other Paragons looking centerward.

Dapper had wanted to blind him with the fiery disk. It only seemed fair to return the favor.

draketh99 -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/18/2018 16:46:21)

Sand danced under Tom’s feet. Fog poured off his form as he ran, leaving a trail of frost in his wake. No longer did his focus revolve around preserving perfection in his form. The task at hand infinitely adequate enough to hold his full attention. There were any number of distractions around. The other paragons had all begun to split off into their own skirmishes. The towering pillars of solidified elemental will themselves demanded attention. Of all these things though, Tom owed his attention to the one who had responded to his call, even if that call had taken a frozen and sharpened shape.

That shape had landed much closer than he’d hoped, as well. A small pool of pride welled up in Tom’s mind as the javelin nearly struck its target, only to drain away as the frozen spear had been sliced in two. A curse in the form of screeching ice crept out from Tom’s gritted teeth.
I can’t strike well enough at a far distance. A moderate one will be the death of me, if that puppet is as deadly as it looks. I suppose we’re making this show personal.

Tom lept into a full sprint forward, taking a glance down to ensure his footing in the sand. He looked up barely in time to notice the bones now took shape of a hunting fowl, more importantly, it was flying straight towards him. The wires had a further reach than he’d anticipated, and a full strafe to dodge would only slow him down.

That’s unfortunate.

Tom quickly struck out at the bone creature with his remaining javelin, hoping to swipe the creature away from his body if it were durable enough to survive the strike itself. The frozen spiral howled through the air. The hollow thump of impacted bone resounded. The shrill shriek of cracking ice filled the air. He’d managed to strike the wing of the creature and prevent it from swiping at his neck or throat. Sharp talons, though deflected, stuck true and dug into his shoulder. Tom quickly bit back the shriek of pain that clawed away at his throat, continuing to advance forward.

The cracks and talon marks along his shoulder served as remarkable convincing that he needed to close the distance between the two quickly. Tom raised the remaining javelin and attempted for a quick throw at his target to keep puppet and puppeteer busy. He narrowed his focus, shifted his weight and drew the javelin forward.


A blinding flash of light from off to the side caught Tom’s attention. It not only startled him but disoriented his vision in one eye. The javelin had somewhere off to the side, the follow through on Tom’s throw completely ruined by the flash. The white spike quickly burst into a cloud of white fog upon impacting the sand. There wasn’t time to curse this luck.

Tom flicked out a hand forward, coating the sand between him and the puppeteer in a slick coating of mirrored ice. He thrust his right foot out ahead of himself, falling into a slide to hope to close that distance quickly. As soon as he had gotten a bit closer, he clapped both hands out together. Two coatings of ice crawled along the sand from either side of the puppeteer, aiming to meet together directly under his feet.

Apocalypse -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/19/2018 9:16:04)

The lightwielder’s beaming sword flashed again and again, battering the étude to and fro across the arena’s sands. The misplaced tambourine sputtered flames after each collision with the lightforged steel, but every refined swing only bought the lizard man a moment’s reprieve. A maritime beat, quick and coarse, swelled through the battleground, correcting the fiery instrument’s path and guiding it back towards the offending foe. Fire and Light were locked in a deadly dance; one the plucky undead had the fortune of leading.

Displeased with this turn of events, light’s champion fought for control. With a meditated stroke, the scaled warrior deflected the étude back at its composer. Dapper remained stoic, his music maintained even as the revenant relinquished the magical bindings. Scarlet and gold flowed freely across his vision as the blaze washed over his face. Yet no speck of skin was smoldered, no hair was singed as the flames passed. His opponent had sought to turn Dapper’s own fire against him. But as the fish could not be drowned in water, the musician could not be devoured by his own woven conflagration.

A sharpened note, a quickened pace, and the étude was reborn from the cinders behind him. The tambourine arced over the bard’s head and came crashing down toward light’s contender. The blaze was deflected once more with ease, but this time the lizard man scurried forward. He was learning the steps to their little dance and now threatened to lead them. A blow, a shuffle, a pause - a basic jig but an effective one as the swordsman narrowed the gap. Dapper retreated, but sustaining the étude and its flight required more concentration than the bard could afford. His steps paled in comparison to the scurrying of the warden of light.

Another minstrel joined the desperate ballad of the bard. A hint of a smile crossed the musician’s face at the introduction of another aficionado within the arena. It waned as the other enthusiast did not seek to join the tempo but played, deliberately, a note behind. Dapper came to a halt as the premeditated dissonance threatened to throw off the beat of his own musical endeavors. Oh, this is just wrong. The étude persevered in its fanatical pursuit of the lightwielder, but retaining the trivial disk came at the cost of the revenant’s movement. Each erratic note was accompanied by the unwavering approach of light’s champion. Light lashed out against fire in a vehement display…

Radiant-imbued steel shrieked through the air, each sword swing dismantling the pitiful études in its way. Gilded armor reflected moonlight across tombstones as the paladin advanced.

“No! Not me!” Dapper backed away, caught in the horrid medium of fleeing and defending. Overgrown roots and upturned stones threatened to topple the revenant with every step. “It’s Pride! Please you have-”

“Enough foul miscreation!” The blade’s song cut through the graveyard, another piece of the Symphonic Conflagration flickering from existence in a brief burst of candelescent flame. Sun-filled steel readied itself above the paladin’s head, poised to rain down divine judgment. Its luminance pierced through night’s veil, baring a face sharp and chiseled, accented by ears of elven ancestry. “Seek no salvation from the gods of might and splendor, for the wretched shall inherit no morsel of their glory.”

Dapper’s gaze swept behind the paladin where no less than three of his companions were enclosing on a fourth entity. And an entity it was, for what manner of man or mortal exhaled clouds of frost with every breath? The being’s hunched over stance allowed the spines to be illuminated by the faithfuls’ blades, dark spires against the gloomy hellscape. It shuddered, creaked, and groaned in manners no animal had right to, its very body protesting the horror’s existence, screeching and grinding with every quiver. Mist billowed from its form, ice-ridden wisps enveloping the surrounding paladins as it reared back a head with a jaw far too wide...

...and laughed.

The bard flicked his eyes back to the elf and his lustrous blade as the latter spoke. “The wicked shall find no rest; Lore shall hold no sanctuary, and Heaven shall bear no absolution.”

“Please! You have to hear me!” An étude, its form hazy and trembling, darted forth only to be dashed against the nearest grave marker with a swing of his steel. A gnarled root caught Dapper’s foot as he stepped back. The dead man fell, his head striking the earth with a resounding crack. “He’ll kill you..he’ll kill all of you!” Dapper cried as he scrambled back through the undergrowth.

“Stained black are the souls of those who trifle in the matters of the living and the dead. Let the archangels deliver no mercy to that which should never be.

Steel and light - silver and gold - flashed in the night.

A sword raised to the heavens, crimson and gleaming, was all the forewarning Dapper received before the nova ignited. His vision went not dark but light as rays scalded his eyes. The sanctity, the sheer unadulterated purity was a sight to behold: colors were muted one after another in a rapid crescendo culminating in a blank canvass to begin anew. The moment of creation, of unbirth lay before him…

...and was terrifying.

Bow met fiddle, strings severing in a raucous cacophony. The instrument wailed in the void as its only purpose was stripped away. Dapper beat his wings to give him flight, but with no sense of sight or touch to guide him the bard had to trust that the fiery ailerons would obey. The revenant went through the motions of drawing his blades, praying that they would be in his grasp when his vision returned.

First came the sands, their muted crimson a gaping maw waiting to engulf him below. Next was the spectrum ring, a swirling mass of colors encompassing him on all sides. The agamalation diffused until the monuments of power, six in number, twirled about him. Not them. Me. The revenant stole a glance at his wings. Vibrant hues of emerald, amethyst, sapphire and many more untold oscillated in ever-changing patterns across their form. Yet the left wing was half the size of the right, causing the dead man to descend in a spiral to an area unknown. Dapper clenched his eyes shut, the blackness flooding him.

The sand crunched beneath his feet. He had landed. The musician threw his eyes wide open to see the magister not an arm’s breadth away from him. A couple bubbles emerged from the scholarly one’s pipe, accenting the awkwardness as two godly-favoured warriors remained still as statues in their fight to the death.

A faint gust blew a bubble in-between the pair where it dissipated with a resounding pop.

“Have at thee!” Dapper shouted, his voice coming as much as a surprise to himself as anyone else. Showstopper swung for the magister’s temple, not even bothering to right itself to properly strike it with a sharpened edge.

TormentedDragon -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/19/2018 21:15:36)

Wired wing meets saffron spear, a fouling of flight that rings through singing sinew to their grasping gloves. Fingers flick in reflex, and rebuked talons turn to tear at shoulder flesh before the hawk bones fall, rending wide the silver fabric. Wing’s wires slacken, settling on silicate; their hand shifts from that bundle to another, as the blue-blood readies his second throw.

“Close quickly,” the hook-nose growls, and their guardian shudders. The sand swirls black, an instant of all-consuming shadow that swallows suit and spear in a roaring void. They pause, one boot raised, their aggressor lost to vision; the next instant, and the shadow is broken, a brilliant burst of white washing through the world and casting contours in stark contrast. The spear, sailing, its path off-center, arcing down to land behind them; the suit, standing, a flow of white sliding from his shoes across the darkened sands. Their boot lands, and they step back, bone and wire, cloth and skull perfectly mirrored in the white beneath.

But Bertram has no beard, and no sparkling sapphires; naught but bone and empty, aimless holes where eyes should be.
“Look not,” he says, his mirror’s jaw moving, a twitching of wires willing the motion.
“Look there,” Sirellon whispers, and they tear their eyes from starkly-wrought bone to starkly-wrought suit, sliding shoe-first across the magicked mirror. A clap of glinting gauntlets, and white weaves its way over the sands beside them, moving to meet and freeze their feet with fickle footing.

They leap, lunging forward to greet the slick surface of the mirror with their knees, a slide to answer silver’s. Arms spread, wires pulling bone apart to set the sickles high as the world wavers with a raucous chorus. Black turns white and white turns black, sand and mirror streaked in tongues of red as blazing wings take form below their body, cast in crimson in the darkened mirror. Both blades, ruddy with reflected radiance, swing for shadowed silver’s stomach, descending with their deadly promise.

Kellehendros -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/20/2018 0:00:53)

At the moment, the thing Aurinko missed most from home was his visor. The MK8 combat visor had boasted a number of useful features: geo-positioning, friend/foe recognition, and an integrated communications array chief among them. Mostly though, the Kaarme missed the fact that the faceplate could become nearly opaque on command, which would have allowed him to keep moving forward confidently, even after triggering Leikata’s photonic burst. Instead, he was forced to avert his gaze much as he had back in Cellar, lest he blind himself along with his opponents.

So the swordsman’s eyes were closed as the chanters’ cry rose again, accompanied by the charnel-house odor of carrion. One less. Which meant-

That thought was shattered by a sound, though were he honest, the notes that clawed at the Kaarme Phry’s ears could only be referred to as music in the broadest sense. The noise was intolerable; there was simply no other way to describe it. He had never thought that a violin - that any instrument - could produce such a tone. It was as though the strings were screaming, a sound of torturous agony that demanded attention. Aurinko felt the horrific chord’s resonance grating across his crest, but his discomfort at the unnatural sensation was followed swiftly by a wash of heat and a scattering of wind-driven sand pattering over his scales.

The swordsman rose to his feet - eyes opening in search of the source of the thermal bloom - only to find his opponent gone. It was something of a taste of what his foes no doubt experienced when he made his light cuts, and it was not to the Kaarme’s liking. His eyes narrowed, Leikata descending in his hand even as he searched, meeting the scales of his left arm and scoring another bloody furrow through his flesh. There was no sign of the fiery tambourine either; perhaps the raucous chord had put an end to it? Aurinko had his doubts, but he was distracted from them an instant later as his gaze flicked up and found the musician, in the midst of a spiraling descent back to the Arena sands with the aid of… Wings?

The sight was nearly as unnerving as that noisome racket Dapper had made a few seconds earlier. The corpse-rider now had a pair of fiery appendages extending from his back, their flames rippling through a riot of colors, but where before he had borne the violin in his deft fingers, now his hands gripped a pair of blades. The Kaarme could only assume they had been drawn from the remains of the musician's instrument; its sad wooden body lay desolate, abandoned to the sands after the undead's wing-assisted leap to safety.

That gave the Paragon of Fire approximately half a weapon more than Aurinko had, holding Pelastaa in his left hand and the bloodied shard of Leikata in his right. But the remnant hummed in his grasp, and his foe was a musician, not a soldier. The Kaarme Phry had seen worse odds, and it would be the work of a moment to even the match. He launched himself forward in another charge, closing with both of his nattily dressed adversaries.

Dapper struck out at Dalavar with a cry of challenge, and the Kaarme's left hand snapped forward, releasing its blade. Pelastaa glittered in the noonday sun as it flickered end-over-end on a high arc. The weapon was not meant for throwing, nor was the cast truly meant as anything other than a distraction. It would pass well over the heads of the musician and the bubble-blower, a threat to nothing but the expanse of empty crimson sand beyond them.

“Now by blade let Dawn’s Vengeance be wrought.” No war cry, this, but soft vow-spoken words, whispered memories from a time and place so far from here. Aurinko’s hands met on Leikata’s hilt and the relic sang in reply, light concentrating into a white blade that whickered up in a rising slice that fell well short of his opponents. Instead of flesh the weapon sank into light, finding a seam and cutting a tear in the meat of reality itself.

Whipping his heavy tail to one side as Leikata slipped free of the rift, the Kaarme Phry threw his momentum, skidding side-long into the breach. Once more the swordsman vanished from the sight of the other competitors, but this time his disappearance was no mere illusion of bent and redirected photons. Aurinko snapped back into existence on the opposite side of Dapper and Dalavar, continuing his turn as his inertia dragged him around. Leikata dipped in his hands, scything down in a crippling strike at the back of the musician’s knee.

Into the breach
light pours, pushing back the
creeping shadow

Rayen -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/20/2018 14:21:36)

In the brief moment between the formulation of Dalavar’s plan and its execution, his flaring, sickly-skinned target had already opened engagements with the obscure Paragon of Light. Curiosity and caution equally encouraged The Mage Slayer to evaluate their interaction before making a formal introduction, so he rapidly ceased stoking the wind that propelled his quaint bubbles. Slowing to a fascinated trot, Dalavar scrutinised the desperate exchange between Fire and Light. The frenetic fiddling of Dapper evoked a russet magic which swirled about him, whipping forcefully outwards, only to be repelled by the contrastingly condensed, controlled magic within Aurinko’s unique blade.

As the pair duelled to Fire’s masterful melody, His Great Audaciousness - though temporarily acting with greater wisdom than this title would indicate to be commonly displayed - spared a glance to the east where his recent acquaintance, Maled, clashed with the Paragon of Wind. Suddenly, Maled’s posture shifted as he turned and bolted to the centre of the arena to likely afflict the distracted combatants with unpleasant illusions once again.

Dalavar’s prediction was proven incorrect, however, as tenebrous magic coalesced about the Darkness Paragon’s nose, before rapidly lashing radially out. Arcane shadows carrying a tune much like that of Dapper’s intertwined destructively with the cochineal aura of his fire-wielding counterpart. The tune was a near replica, but the timing was very distinctly off. Wincing in repulsion at the sound, Dalavar lurched involuntarily back a step, regretting - not for the first time - the strong sensitivity to artistic expression each Child of the Moon individually possessed. The crack and crunch of Pride’s attempts to pin down Earth added to the sickening audial ambiance.

While Maled’s approach would undoubtedly prove an unpredictable variable, The Mage Slayer’s could not discount the significant threat posed by the radiant pair to his right. The colourfully-attired man was forced to return his gaze to the reptilian Light Paragon as, loudly and poetically, luminescent sword raised high, he proclaimed in a surprisingly resounding voice, “Avaunt, carrion! The sun arises!”

A faint ripple around the edges of the blade alerted Dalavar too late to the oncoming radiance. Transfixed by the strange warrior’s announcement, The Mage Slayer found not words, but dazzling light to be his greatest enemy. The brilliant explosion refracted a kaleidoscope of blinding light directly into Dalavar’s chromatically undefinable eyes, which were best suited to viewing the world in the quiet, cold light of the moon.

A blurred negative of the world dancing across his vision with each startled blink, His Great Audaciousness forced himself to disregard his eyesight and focus his awareness upon his sense of touch, smell, and hearing. Surprisingly, all three were accosted violently, seemingly at once.

The scent of rotting seaweed and fish washed over Dalavar, as chanting in the stands announced the final judgement and withdrawal of favour from Maled. Directly to his rear, a resounding, deep vibration was followed by two thuds, presumably marking the destruction of Darkness’s ebony obelisk. But to the west came a more piercing, emotive sound than likely any ever heard upon these vacuous arena sands.

Attempting to wrangle control over the feelings brought to light by this most evocative of discordances, His Great Audaciousness found himself faced with an entirely unexpected memory. The voice in this memory spoke with conviction and righteousness that the Last Child of the Moon could relate to more keenly than any words he’d encountered before. “…spare me the grandiloquence. This is not the stage where stories are told. Here they are made.” These words both frustrated and intrigued him. His experience riled against them, but simultaneously he wondered what events had inspired this comparative child to arrive at such a strong, opposing conclusion to his own. Dalavar realised that, unwittingly, he had endeavoured to follow exactly those words since arriving in the Grand Arena. But had doing so been of benefit, or detriment? Regardless, without having struck up conversation with his fellow competition, he felt empty; as though the battle lacked heart and purpose. He had respect for the prowess of his opponents, but none for their character, a feeling that may well be mutual. With this weighing firmly on his mind, Dalavar resolved to fight his own way.

Eyesight slowly returning, Dalavar could just make out the musician’s transformation. The magic tied to his Lord enveloped him as he lifted off the ground, great pyres erupting from beneath each shoulder. His descent, however, seemed uncontrolled, likely indicating that he, like Dalavar, had suffered from Aurinko’s disabling action. Uncertain where his bubbles had wafted to in the mayhem, Dalavar took a precautionary step away from the rage of fire and fine blade of light that betrayed the presence of the Light Paragon.

His retreat came at the perfect moment, as Dapper seemed to spiral to the ground, one wing notably larger than the other. Perhaps, through some intended fortune, the musician had collided with The Mage Slayer’s small cloud of magic-cancelling bubbles! Though this would likely serve of little combative assistance, it may well aid in the conversation Dalavar hoped to establish, as soon as the opportunity arose.

As if scripted by His Great Audaciousness himself, the flaming fiddler landed directly before his nearly-cleared eyes. So greatly contented by this turn of events, Dalavar could do little more than casually emit a few bubbles from his pipe and hide the awkward grin that threatened to escape to the edges of his oddly-twirled moustache. However, the Fire Paragon was not interested in calmly following the unspoken intentions of his perceived enemy.

“Have at thee!” The loud exclamation startled Dalavar from his private cheerfulness, a wide blade headed directly for his head. In a desperate attempt to avoid decapitation - as one surely should - His Great Audaciousness leapt backwards, pushing off the shadowy sand with Temerity. Reflexively, before even finding footing upon the ground, he began the formation of three, melon-sized bubbles, which sat in the air between his opponent like a playful threat.

Gripping Temerity’s foot in his right hand, Dalavar swiped the dark cane in a wide arc in the sand, flicking a fine wall of apparently-russet granules up towards Dapper’s face, in an attempt to stall his attack. Extending the courtesy all creatures deserve, Dalavar offered Dapper what he had attempted to share with all in the Factory Arena: a cessation of hostilities, and instigation of friendliness.

“Fire, remember the peaceful resolution offered in Factory. My words are not spoken lightly, and are broken only upon my death. Your death may come soon if your pride refuses to speak.” Upon the words leaving his mouth, Dalavar felt a sense of wholeness, smugness, but above all, hope. For without hope, even in the face of the greatest despair, what chance is there of victory for anyone?

However, these thoughts were cut short, as, from seemingly nowhere, the resplendent blade of the Light Paragon pierced through the air to the pair’s northern side and sliced downwards in a deadly arc towards the Paragon of Fire. In a moment of pure instinct, Dalavar thrust out his left hand, striking one of the large orbs hard towards the glowing blade. Whether it would make impact, and, if it did, whether the impact would spare Dapper from injury, mattered little. With hope - as always - the act would prove to his blazing opponent that his words were genuine. An ally in this arena would be of great benefit, and may indeed serve as an example to the other competitors…perhaps even the fearsome warrior of Light who seems capable of cutting through space itself.

Kooroo -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/20/2018 19:08:51)

The scarlet sands were graced once more by the back of the Unmistakable Man, as he was knocked down on to them again. It was as though this fall was a catalyst for what happened next—there was a loud hum, and all sound from the crowds seemed to dull and mute. Elias looked to his right, just in time to see the the dusky obelisk crack in two and collapse, before a contrastingly brilliant flash tried to blind him from the side. He cringed, and spun around, his blade raised defensively while attempting desperately to clear the vision in his left eye.

The former Paragon picked himself up off the ground, and gave his eyes a quick rub before regarding Elias inquisitively. The Wind Paragon held his breath, and his single amber eye locked gazes with both of Maled’s coal-black ones. Just leave. Don’t throw your life away, he silently pleaded.

And for the first time since they’d fought, Maled did exactly as Elias wanted. The thin trickster’s black lips perked upwards in a hint of a smile, and then he gave a deep, respectful bow. It was as though he were taking a curtain call from the audience, whilst a stunned Elias stared on. When his former opponent straightened up, the young man could only respond with a dumb nod. The spotted man hadn’t exactly been deadly, but he’d been hard to keep down. Not to mention chase.

And there they parted.

As Maled Con made his way to edge of the Arena, the blade-for-hire started towards the nearest group of competitors that would supply his next quarry. The decision was a fast one, once he followed the path of their eyes. Looks like that burial hasn't exactly gone as planned.

Elias reached into his pocket, and drew out the shining sliver, giving a silent thanks to his vanquished foe. He hid it in his palm and then sprinted ahead, making a beeline towards the Fire Lord’s Chosen at the same time as the lizard, Aurinko.

As Elias closed in on the winged envoy, he raised his sword and charged, mirroring his attack in Twilight. There was a flash as the lizard cut into space, and then stepped through the rent which sealed soon after. A few misgivings spun through his thoughts, but he quelled them and dedicated himself to the attack.

The Wind Paragon drew his blade back and made as though to swing, only to cancel it, and spin to the side at the last moment. As Elias feinted, he whipped his arm around his body and threw the metal shard, shunting it towards Dapper’s side.

“He's grown a bit, hasn't he?” The voice came from his left. “Maybe only a couple of inches, but… still. He could use any height he could get.”

Daford frowned as he turned to the aisle. A hooded figure sat on the step next to him, watching the battle from their makeshift seat. That voice… How?

“Cas… Casimira?”

Reuben and Tylia were too engrossed in the battle to hear him, but Annette frowned and turned to look at them.

The hood came off, and Elias’ sister treated the woodsman to a bemused smile. “Why hello there. Been enjoying the blood sports, folks?”

Chewy905 -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/20/2018 22:16:24)

Maled Con shot another glance over his shoulder, wanting so be sure Elias wasn’t about to shoot him in the back of the head with that stupid gun of his. Naturally, the attack came from in front of him while he was looking behind. The man had stopped suddenly, drawing his hand across his body in a forceful, powerful motion. Despite the sideways motion, the wind in front of Maled roared back, ramming into the back of his head with the force of a boxers jab. The strike launched him off his feet yet again, but because it hasn’t struck his mouth or throat he was able to continue “singing” without missing a beat. His back hit the sand, the feeling becoming pitifully familiar now.

An awful smell met his nostrils. It should have been impossible, his sense was sealed, but the scent of death cared not. The crowds cheering grew muddied as Maled stayed down on the ground, and with a deep THRUM Maled felt the favor of the Lord of Darkness recede. It was sudden and violent, a heavy tearing at his gut that made him want to laugh, scream, lash out at whoever was closest. But that would solve nothing. The obsidian pillar across the arena split down the middle and toppled to the ground, the impact running through Maled’s body as a shockwave of disappointment and failure. The discouraging event was followed by a flash of blinding light that seared into Maled’s eyes.

"As even a candle can scare off the shadows, so too does the sun burn away the Darkness. The Elemental Lord has withdrawn their favor from Maled, and we now stand to bear witness to his choice.”

Maled stood up slowly and with forced purpose, and rubbed his eyes slightly. He shot a glance at the downed pillar. I have a choice here. But, if I lash out, I’ll end up split just like the pillar. I won’t let that happen. He turned to his hunter, smiled slightly, then bowed, deep and quick before walking back to his gate. In front of it, he withdrew his gifts, minus the earplugs, and set them down on the crimson sands. He bowed his head, acknowledging the loss of their purpose. “Rest here, in the arena you all deserved to reach.”
As Maled left through the gates, the sands of the arena enveloped the items, burying the memories of the unfortunate deep below.

The guards were waiting for him, ready to arrest the disgraced Paragon for the crimes he had committed against Bren. Maled Con stood at the ready, knife drawn but unsure how to deal with the sudden ambush. Steel and armor advanced, cornering Maled and removing all of his options. There was the repetitive twang of fingers dancing on string, followed by arrows of silver and gold light raining down on the enforcers. As the guards shouted in pain and confusion, white feathers drifted down from above, falling gently to the ground. An angel followed, descending on the Cursed Man and carrying him away.

Away from the Championships.

Away from Bren.

Away from his Sins.

draketh99 -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/22/2018 22:21:18)

Favor, lost. Ambition, lost.

Time slowed around Tom. The high pitched wail of ice against ice eroded into a groan. He had been careless. He had been foolish. He had been stupid.

Stupid. Stupid! STUPID!

Tom’s aggressor waited for him, approaching with their own slide, approaching with blades raised, set to kill. The blades launched upon his midsection like a mantis.

Chances, lost. Time, lost.

The whistling hum of sicles carving through the air churned his stomach to a degree second only to their actual intent. The debilitatingly horrific sound of cold steel carving through frozen flesh wracked the air like the sound of an animal trapped and certain to die. Splinters of pearlescent perfection glinted through the air, filling Tom’s sight with bright sparks not unlike that of a fire about to die.

Hope, lost.

Bright blue ichor oozed from cracks and shattered chunks. Tom’s chest heaved as it tried to collapse in on itself in protest to its sudden lack of support. His jaw tightened un reflex until teeth splintered and jaw cracked. He stared up at the manipulator of bone that had bested him. He stared into the eyes held his own failure.

Pride, lost.

The world drained of color. The sand’s scarlet bleeding out from his vision, all color mixing in pools at the bottom of his vision like paint. That paint mixed itself. It danced like wisps of smoke over a campfire, twisting into the image of a hallway too fantastic in form to exist. The hallway stretched out infinitely, boring a deep tunnel through the center of Tom’s vision.

”I knew you would be back…”

Tom was still.

”Wretched thing. Can you not even speak anymore?”

Pride shook his head.

”And so… You return to me after tasting divine. Has it not suited you? Has it scorched your tongue and left the world tasting like ash in its wake? Has the favor left you like it has many others? Nothing will be the same now, you realize. Once you have tasted favor, its absence will eat you like rats. You have nothing left but what I have to offer you, and what I have to offer you is more than you could ever receive from the world now. Give to me and I will fill you with potential and give you an end a wretch like you deserves.”

Tom was still.

An impossible creature stood before him, eyeless in expression. It grinned with iron tombstones for teeth. It stretched out its hand with an arm that should in all rights be a leg.

”Do you accept, wretch?”

Tom stretched out his hand, grasped by the one which dwarfed his own. He nodded.

A bright flash of sickly green light surged through Pride’s form. Before his outstretched hand, a frozen wall jetted from the earth, separating him from his skeletal aggressors. An invisible force kicked him over as if he had been kicked the gut by something several times his size. That same force dragged him upright, turning his chin to glance at his other opponents.

Fog now rolled off of Pride’s body in such a volume that it collected in a pool six inches high above his ankles. He swayed, barely steadied by a force not his own. He took one final glance around the desert arena. He looked up at Dapper, those flaming wings that lit his form ablaze. Once more, those wings would be the last thing he would ever see.

Pride roared with the bellow of converging glaciers. Ice as crimson as the surrounding sands spread across the ground out in each direction, rapidly approaching the skeletal puppet and their master, rapidly approaching underneath Dapper and those that pursued him. The coating came to a halt once it had lept some distance from its source.

A bright flash of blue surged upon the ice, bolts and arcs lashing about the surface, freezing the very air above it and summoning forth jagged spikes that lunged and pointed outwards. They began in the smallest circle around Pride, summoning in a circular wave that quickly lashed out at their targets, threatening to skewer and mangle those that remained in their path.

A cloud of fog exploded around Pride as the magic that kept his body pristeen had surged across the battlefield in search of blood. Within the cloud, two silhouettes stood, one great the other slight. The larger shadow had gripped the smaller by the neck, dragging them off to oblivion.

When the fog had cleared, all that remained was a perfectly solid sculpture, its tear streaked face to the sky and outstretched arms chained to the earth below. He looked an awful lot like Dapper.

Apocalypse -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/23/2018 21:11:00)

Sand pelted Dapper’s face as Showstopper met naught but empty air. Scarlet granules stuck to his eyes and coated his tongue and cheeks, but the undead did not flinch. Yet he also did not pursue his opponent; he had done enough stumbling around among this battleground of giants. Musicians were meant to perform the ballads and recite the poems of heroes of old, not lay claim to their deeds and glory. By all rights, this half-strung fiddler should have been slain a dozen times over in Factory and a dozen more so since he first stepped foot onto these crimsons sands.

So when the magister raised a hand not in fury but in peace, Dapper stopped. And Dapper listened.

“Your death may come soon if your pride refuses to speak.”

The revenant shouldered Showstopper, his grip on the flat blade firm yet gentle. His wings folded behind him, waves of palest blue rolling from base to tip. “Death’s claimed me once already, so you could say my Pride has been long lost.” He smiled at the ostentatiously-dressed scholar, the deformed features of Dapper’s face relaxing and breathing with new life. For a brief moment, one might have forgotten that he was, in fact, dead. The magister’s gaze remained locked on him, his eyes glittering somewhere in the abyssal twilight of sheenest gold and archaic bronze. A thousand lifetimes of pain and jubilation, sorrow and joy, countless celebrations and infinitely more lamentations spun in the haze of his stare. How many odes had been woven in his name? And how many more did he merit? “But I’d rather not have either happen again today. We get out of this alive, and I just might write an epic about you.” The fiddler gave a shrug. “Or at least a hearty jig.”

Dapper’s smile fell as a glint of steel passed overhead. The bard scrunched his eyebrows together as he trailed the falling star. A sword. He jerked his attention toward the origin of the blade’s arc, his wings unfurling as blood-red palpitations streaked across them. Light’s champion had closed the distance, wielding an ivory edge in his scaly grasp. The Heinous Conductor flew up with a flourish, but the lightwielder was faster by far - his blade soaring upwards in a rising strike - a dazzling array of luminescence flaring in its wake.

And once more the forger of light carved his way out of reality.

The sting of the Heinous Conductor met only air, its tip piercing through where the lizard man had once stood. The magister moved in the corner of his vision, extending a hand at some threat behind Dapper. The bard stole a glance back to see none other than the lightwielder lashing out with his starlit blade. Showstopper swooped down to intercept the assault, his elbow and wrist bending to their limits and pushing beyond. Were if not for the intervention of water’s chosen - his bubble slowing the swordman’s swing - the revenant’s weapon would never have been able to catch the attack. Instead, flattened steel clashed with woven light, the already unnatural angle of Dapper’s arm contorting further as his blade was forced back against his leg.

Slowed or not, Light’s Paragon still held the advantage of strength and positioning, and the musician’s limb was soon swept out from underneath him. Midfall, a streak of blood erupted from the dead man’s abdomen as yet another glint of steel streaked across it. Wind’s Paragon, a young thing barely old enough to be considered a man, had decided that there was enough Dapper to go around. You cheeky little pup...going after the easy bone, the revenant thought as he hit the arena floor with a thud, his fiery wings cackling like a mad man against the silt. Enemies on either side, and sand everywhere…

No, sand on the ground...

“Apologies, your audaciousness!” Prismatic wings thrashed in a vibrant display, launching clouds of sand into the air all about the cluster of paragons. The earthen fog enveloped the four of them, obscuring vision and threatening to impede and irritate the eyesight of the living. Dapper rolled onto his stomach and propelled himself up with the strength of his burning wings. He timed the disparity in their sizes to allow himself to spiral in a half-circle and land facing the other combatants. The additional sand thrown into the air by the maneuver was a fortuitous turn of events . Through the haze Dapper could discern the silhouettes of the other contenders but not much more.

Once more Fire’s Paragon took flight, fleeing backwards ten feet in a single bound and flinging up one last barrage of grit. The fizzling of wings died as he left the provisional dust cloud and skidded across the sands. His left arm, the one brandishing Showstopper, struggled to obey. Something torn inside, nothing to be done. The musician readied his wings for his last flight, aiming to catapult himself at the first enemy to leave the sand cloud in a flurry of steel. Dapper may not have been the best swordsman, but he was an undead unknown to pain bearing the wings of a phoenix reborn. It would even the odds. It had to.

As the dead man braced himself he caught the alluring scent of evergreen trees. The all-too familiar cracking of ice was swallowed by a primal wail, much less a scream than it was a force of nature. Frost shot beneath his feet, and Dapper plunged the Heinous Conductor into the pristine sheet to prevent himself from falling. Cerulean light flashed through the ice, followed by an ever encroaching wave of malevolent spikes. The undead pulled his stunted rapier free and lashed out with a passion born from both fire and steel. Frost splintered against the shields of metal and heat, diminishing his larger wing to the size of its twin. Though most of the larger spikes were thwarted, a number of smaller ones had slipped through his defences, lacerating his legs in the process. One particularly thin one - the width and length of a conductor’s wand - punctured through his left thigh.

The dead man took no notice of his impalement, his eyes instead drawn to the likeness of Pride resting in his place, streams of water flowing down its frozen visage. “Tom…”, Dapper whispered as haunting words, new and old, floated through the musician’s memory.

...a lovely ice sculpture.

“What have we become?”

Kellehendros -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/23/2018 23:19:52)

Aurinko had expected many things when he came to Bren: mighty opponents, displays of dazzling magic, even the vast and weighty regard of the Beings that governed this place. After all, each of them were here - engaging in this bloodsport - to find favor with the Powers behind this perennial ritual. What he had not anticipated, however, was a formalized alliance at this stage of the competition.

As a result, he was caught off-guard when Dalavar responded to Dapper’s assault not with the proverbial clenched fist, but the open hand of invitation. The Kaarme Phry thought the offer a feint, a misdirection to draw the musician’s attention away from the incoming peril. And so it seemed, until the bubble-blower sent one of his globular creations hissing down to intercept Leikata. Hardened light met compacted water with a shock that ran up the swordsman’s arms, slowing his blade’s scything descent. It was the orb that faltered, coming apart beneath the force of the blow and unraveling into glittering arcs of sun-sparked fluid.

The display was more than aesthetically pleasing though; Dalavar’s forceful movement, along with the slight delay caused by the interference of the viscous liquid, provided the Paragon of Fire both a warning and the time to take advantage of it. In a display of rather disconcerting dexterity, Dapper contorted arm and body, interposing the flat of the heavy blade in his hand between Leikata and his unarmored leg. Light met steel with a musical clash and the Kaarme turned through the cut, leveraging his stronger position to sweep the musician’s leg out from beneath him with the fulcrum of Dapper’s own weapon.

Aurinko pivoted as Fire’s Paragon toppled to the sand, letting momentum turn him to split his attention between Dapper and Dalavar. Leikata whistled up into the Falcon’s Guard kata, lifted overhead in preparation for a descending block or strike.

But the swordsman had underestimated the corpse-rider. Like the tambourine the musician had brought forth earlier, the fiery wings upon Dapper’s back were more solid than they first appeared. A cry from the prone man was all the warning the Kaarme Phry received before a stroke of those flaming appendages hurled a choking cloud of crimson grit into the air.

Cursing, Aurinko staggered backwards, blinking rapidly as he reflexively lifted a hand to ward off the wing-driven particulates. Another reason to miss my visor. At the rim of the Arena, the chanters sang out again; the air stirred, redolent with the scent of arctic pine. Somewhere beyond the veil of sand the Pillar of Ice shattered, even as a final gust of grit pattered across his scales. One step closer.

The union of Fire and Water was unexpected, but the Kaarme was not overly concerned. An alliance of purpose was not camaraderie, and true teamwork was the product of long hours of training. The two might assist one another, but in the swordsman’s experience two strangers were as likely to get in one another’s way as to stumble into an effective joint assault.

But before Dapper and Dalavar could move to threaten him, Pride declared his disdain for the Arena’s judgement. Light flashed through the crimson curtain, followed by a roar like two titanic glaciers clashing together. The ambient temperature plunged as a frigid squall of icy magic crackled over the sand. Aurinko coughed, the snap-freeze clawing at the very air and replacing the fresh, clean scent of winter boughs with the stench of gelid corruption. Prickles of pain lanced down the Kaarme Phry’s arms as the wounds from his vision-confrontation with the Darkener yawned open. For a moment, the swordsman could swear he heard the thing’s grating, horrible laughter.

That memory alone was enough to unsteady him, and the Kaarme tottered away from the spreading ice. His fangs bared in a rictus snarl as Leikata stooped, twisted, and began to rise, seeking a gap to cut-

But he was not fast enough.

The frosty surface rippled and exploded into daggers of crystalline lethality. Many of the shards spalled off his armored chest and stomach with staggering force, or shattered against the faulds of his kusazuri. But one found flesh, punching through scale to sink its numbing point into the meat of Aurinko’s right bicep. Radiant cold bit into the swordsman like a living thing, ripping a gasp of pain from the Kaarme as he flinched. Leikata wobbled in its ascent, and then halted midair as though it had crashed against some impenetrable barrier. Overbalanced by his suddenly interdicted momentum, Aurinko lurched forward to recover his balance, head snapping down as he twisted around the stationary weapon in his hands. For a moment, the swordsman looked comically as though he was using Leikata as a bar to hold himself upright.

It saved his life.

A final icy dart punched through the veil of falling granules, sailing silent through the sandy screen. It slammed into the Kaarme Phry’s bony crest and sent him reeling backwards. Had the first spike not fouled his swing and caused him to buckle forward, the second might have arrived - just before Aurinko completed the cut - and found its way into his eye instead.

Shaking his head in a vain effort to clear the ringing from the blow, the swordsman got his feet back under himself and straightened. He was covered in crimson grit, the substance turning to a disgusting paste along the bloody, reopened punctures down his arms. Pelastaa was - he thought - somewhere close at hand, though the Kaarme would need to wait for the air to clear before locating the weapon. He was down a blade, his skull felt as though it was a drum too small to hold his brain, and there was a four-inch spike sticking out of his upper arm.

All in all, not my best effort. Shifting his grip on Leikata into his left hand, Aurinko bent his head forward, latched his teeth around the ice, and tore the shard from his flesh. White-hot pain seared through the chill that had spread up his arm, and the swordsman’s vision went momentarily hazy.

Inhale life. Exhale pain. Spitting fragments of frozen water and blood, the Kaarme Phry drew in a slow, deep breath, letting it hiss out between his bared fangs as he settled into a ready stance. The crimson veil would fall soon, and the battle would be joined anew.

Breath stirs
leaves decaying in the loam.
Embrace the pain.

“Let’s try this again.”

TormentedDragon -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/24/2018 0:48:44)

Their promise kept, sickles sink into silver’s stomach, bone points bloodied by the blue within. Cracks criss-cross skin as green eyes watch and widen, creeping from the sickle’s strike to chest, and neck, and nose. Azure eyes meet with those of emerald, and breath catches in their checkered breast as life and light alike drain from the man before them.

“So death was denied,” Sirellon wheezes, and they shudder, eyes squeezing shut.
“Its ‘unger sated with another,” the hook-nose growls, and they groan, head falling forward.
“Rise, heart of hearts. Nay rest for us,” Bertram rasps, and they nod, right arm raising wires high. A twitch, a pull, and the sickles slide from frozen flesh as boot and bone find footing on the black mirror below. Slowly, shoulders slumped, both puppet and puppeteer rise and turn to face those left.

“This bargain struck we,” the hook-nose growls.
“Spare we none,” Sirellon sighs.
“And none sp-”

Sands vanish, vision voided for an instant by a viridian burst. They fall, balance broken, eyes turning towards their fallen foe, reflex sending sickles back towards him; but ice thunders, raging from the sands below and battering into bone. Wires writhe, wrenching limb from limb and spine from skull as the puppet flies apart. They scramble, footing fouled by the slickened sands beneath them, and rise with the roar of the man they’d thought slaughtered.

They reach out, gloves grasping at wires, and fling them forward, loose ends leaping for falling bearded Bertram. A burst of blue, and scarlet spikes jut from the creeping crimson crystal at their feet, scraping on bone and body, rending holes in checkered fabric and pressing into guarded flesh. They stumble, boots sliding as the points press against them, and sinew slips on skull’s smooth surface, sending Bertram tumbling. A spike greets skull as it meets ground, and with a crushing crack, it snaps in twain.

There is no beard.
No sparkling sapphires.
Naught but broken bone and empty, aimless holes where eyes should be.

Arms fall to sides. Knees fall to ice. Eyes widen, and chest heaves.

Flint and fire, steel and smoke. Azure eyes staring into nothing, streaked with scarlet. Claws clutching at their collar, teeth tugging at their clothes. Amber orbs glinting in the darkness, growling for them to move. Flint and fire. Steel and smoke.

They rise and stagger forward, one step and another crushing spikes to powder, to fall beside the broken bone and cradle both halves in trembling hands.

There is no beard. No sparkling sapphires.

Death cannot be denied.

They stand, shuddering, bones falling from their loose grip and clattering on the ice. Water pools within their eyes, their vision blurring, and they scream, a cry ripped raw from their tortured throat. They flick one arm, Sirellon’s sword slamming into the frozen sand, cracking its crystal surface. They grasp its hilt, drawing it from the sandy sheathe, and raise it high.

Another scream, and they swing their arm, blade slipping from their grasp to fly, spinning, and smash into the silver sculpture. Ice shatters, splintering into a dozen pieces; they grasp at wires, and yank, arm crossing their chest, and the sword returns, twisting in the air to greet their readied hand.

Flint and fire. Steel and smoke. Scales caught by spearpoint, crimson creeping from behind wooden shafts. Amber pushing them beneath bunk, squares of black and white thrown across their eyes.

Flint and fire. Steel and smoke.

None would spare us.

They leap, boots digging through cracking ice into the sand below as they break into a run, sword returned to flapping robe. The hook-nose’s skull takes its place, fingers weaving goblin bones together, spine to skull to hips to legs, forming what was once Farook. “So we spare none!” they shout, voice cracking with each word.

They hoist the skull, and throw, its grinning visage sailing before them, aimed at waiting wings of vermilion.

Flint and fire.

Steel and smoke.

Rayen -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/24/2018 14:18:45)

In light of his optimistic exchanged with the Paragon of Fire, Dalavar shared in the musician’s relief as celeritous bubble and solid blade came to halt the fearsome light-wielder’s merciless strike. However, the reptilian warrior’s onslaught continued, taking advantage of the surprise his exotic magic had provided in order to force his winged target to collapse in a heap upon the cold sands.

His Great Audaciousness’s new ally was in a poor position, particularly given the sword-master bearing nigh single-mindedly down upon him. The revenant’s words from moments earlier echoed through his mind, “Death’s claimed me once already, so you could say my Pride has been long lost…But I’d rather not have either happen again today.” Unfortunately, this time Dalavar had little means by which to assist.

“Apologies, your audaciousness!” The winged man, though seemingly stunned by the unexpected and ferocious attack, refused to provide his attacker’s radiant sword with a sheath of his own blood and bone. With an apology in warning to his temporary associate, the inflamed instrumentalist gauged at the sand with his burning wings, clouding the air with a shower of silicious granules.

In response to Dapper’s caution, the Paragon of Water crouched down, shielding his eyes and face against whatever flames the musician was likely to conjure in his defence, only to find himself in the midst of a small sandstorm. His vision nevertheless impaired, Dalavar decided to ignore the impending presence of the Wind Paragon and run east, headfirst from the cloud. However, his dash was accompanied by an ominous chanting, as the grey sands were washed by the scent of an arctic forest, brisk beyond the point of pleasantness.

Spinning on his heels, Dalavar surveyed the Paragon of Ice, known as Pride. Shockingly, unlike those to have already lost favour of their Lords and left peacefully, waves of frost poured from the white-suited man to encroach upon those vying for Earth and Fire along the sands. Icicles formed in the air around him, swirling in a storm of cold, white magic that could be seen by the eyes of the Last Child of the Moon. Judging this to be a severe threat, Dalavar dismissed his other bubbles, summoning from his pipe the single, large defensive orb he’d preferred when dealing with such dangerous targets. Standing within, he watched in fascination as the ice, both along the ground, and about the figure of Pride, exploded outwards, cold spiked projectiles launching themselves ravenously at those still supported by their Lords.

Instantaneously, a cracking sound alerted The Mage Slayer to a severe breach in the integrity of his shield. Dalavar’s eyes flicked to his left arm. The emotion: untamed, spiteful…well, pride, driving the cold magic provided it with power great enough to shatter through the barrier and lodge a sizeable icicle into the previously unharmed man’s left forearm.

The pain wasn’t great - largely attenuated by the comforting aura of his pipe - but the injury itself was concerning. It would be unwise to overuse his defensive arm, for fear of exacerbating the injury. The magic wielded by his right arm was not overly graceful or kind, but His Great Audaciousness well knew its necessity. He only wished its use could be avoided entirely.

As the cold within the arena dissipated, the screams of the bone puppeteer mingled with a sense of disquiet hovering in the air. As Dalavar set about blowing a torso-sized bubble, his mind wandered, reminiscing as he watched pale, shimmering, silver blood seep from his wound. Though while silver to an observer, Dalavar saw it instead as a deep, vibrant blue. He’d seen much of it, intertwining with shallow, swirling water. And he resolved never to see it again.

Wiping the ichorous fluid across his garments, Dalavar strode once more upon the centre of the arena. He pushed the bubble with the metallic foot of Temerity, like an predatory whale pushing its prey with its snout; the opalescent orb’s surface thrummed in anticipation of a swift and satisfying meal - but only if diplomacy first failed. But the arena no longer seemed a place where words were sacred, and Dalavar, like his bubble, paced forth restlessly.

Kooroo -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/24/2018 17:24:09)

“Are you lot actually here to watch my brother or did you just come here to play Twenty Questions in the stands?”

“I want to know why you’re here.”

“Seriously? I catch up with you again for the first time in about 12 or 13 years, and the first thing you want to know is why I’m here?” Casimira laughed.

“Well I’ve got other questions, yes,” Daford admitted. ”But we’ve got to start somewhere. So—”

“How about we discuss this later?” Tylia cut in, her eyes still glued to the battle..

“Agreed, just shut up and watch,” Annette snapped, glaring sideways at the two.

Casimira shot them an apologetic smile and turned back towards the Arena, but Daford grabbed her shoulder. She gave an exaggerated sigh, pulled a face and then spun back to face him. “You’re as stubborn as you’re grey, old man.”

Daford didn’t remove his hand, and continued to stare at Casimira. “Just answer me this, then; why? Why come now, after all this time?”

She smiled again, flashing a glint of white. How unlike Elias...
“Just following my parent’s wishes. Like a good child ought to.”

“Right, and what’re they?”

“‘Stick with your brother and watch out for him’,” she recited cheerfully.

Daford stared at her, eyebrow raised. “You’ve done a bit of a rubbish job, haven’t you?”

“Wow, first you try to interrogate me and now you’re insulting me? Charming. I see why you’re a hit with the ladies.”

“But why—?”

The eldest Iivonen shook her head. “Nuh, already answered two for the price of one. You already got a bargain, Mr. Roze, don’t push it.”

“We’re no—” Daford began, but Annette pulled his arm, stopping him. He started to protest, but she jerked her head towards the Arena ground. A scarlet plume of sand shrouded their view, hiding all the competitors from sight. Elias wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

A frigid breeze blew over them, the cold air as biting as one of Annette’s glares. Another moment passed, and the Ice Lord’s Pillar exploded, the ice spraying out across the sands.

“Final stretch, ladies and gents,” Casimira announced, stretching and cracking her neck. “Anyone wanna guess who’s next?”

She looked at the companions. Not a single one of them had heard her.
“Guess not!” she laughed.

Family bonds were the strongest bonds, her parents had constantly told them.

But where were they? If family bonds were so powerful or all-important, then why hadn’t their parents come back? Were they ever coming back? Or had they just run off together, not caring about their children anymore?

No, that couldn’t be it. What a dumb idea. She couldn't believe she had just thought that.

Casimira scrawled down the last word and then placed the slip of parchment on the worn oak night table. Her bag rattled slightly as she hefted it on to her shoulder, and then she moved towards the door before stopping and hesitating. Again.

It wasn’t too late to stop. She could just hide the note in her bag, and crawl back into bed. Put the crossbows back in cellar, and pretend that she hadn’t thought about running off without the others. Now that she thought about it more carefully, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. She didn’t have any of the good equipment with her, since their father’s armor was too large to wear comfortably and the sword was similarly too large even lift. The only things she did have with her—boots, gloves and bows—were pretty much just ordinary pieces of equipment.

Was it danger? Was that what was putting her off?

Not quite.

She stood there in the dark, contemplating for another five minutes before looking down at her brother. Every time he’d needed someone, she’d been there. He’d never called or asked for help, but she’d made sure that she had been there for him. As an elder sibling ought to do. But would he be there for her, though? What if he never showed?

What if she waited, and waited, and he never came? That one thought; that single possibility was what held her back.

10 minutes passed. At this rate, dawn would have come and she’d still be standing there, staring at him like a sentinel when he woke. Decide. Hurry up and decide.

There was no doubt that if he had been in her position, she would have left Daford instantly and come rushing to him the next day; nevermind within the next three. She loved her brother dearly, though she rarely (if ever) expressed it. And she was sure that he loved her back, but would it be enough for him to abandon their friends and home? All for a mere hunch?

She was sure of it. He’d come with her. He’d meet up with her within three days, and then they’d go to find their parents. Family bonds were the strongest, after all.
The door opened with a creak, and Elias stirred at the noise.

Sleep well, brother. I’ll see you shortly.

Elias took a step back as the Fire Paragon landed heavily on its back. Its back? His back? Wasn’t a corpse an ‘it’, and only formerly a he or she?

What would a corpse wish for, anyway? Reincarnation?

It—He, Dapper—shouted something, clearly directed at the Audacious one. Were... they allied? That could complicate things. Friendship?

The blazing wings beat the ground and ruby dust filled the air. Elias shut his mouth, barely avoiding a mouthful of it, before turning his head away. Less pungent BO?

Sand drummed on his goggles as the sellsword held his breath, stemming the wayward thoughts. Two mismatched, burning shapes arced through the air, before leaping once again into the distance. Two fiery beacons in storm. He started after it, drawing the handcannon in the process.

Barely three steps later, and then it happened once more; the atmosphere in the stadium seemed to fill with an arctic air, and then there was an eruption from the… south.

Elias emerged from the crimson pall warily, weapons at the ready and looking for the former Champion of Frost. He didn’t have to search long to find the Paragon’s parting gift rushing towards him.

The blade-for-hire didn’t hesitate; he couldn’t afford to. No thoughts of enemies, tactics, or much of anything went through his mind as he turned and bolted in the other direction.
For the second time in just as many minutes, he wasn’t quite fast enough.

He heard it a moment before the ruby sheet caught up with him and instinctively shunted harder on his left foot. The extra propulsion pushed him forward and saved Elias from a much more heinous injury. A jolt of pain from the left of his chest and a light prickling came from his left arm registered as he dove forth. He crashed into the sands, spinning and rolling unceremoniously twice before halting.

A moment to catch his breath, then another for his head to stop spinning, and he was up. Or nearly up. Elias attempted to jump straight to his feet, but ended up in a squat, weapons low and a grimace plastered on his face. Probably should work on crash landings, he thought grimly as he shook his head, clearing sand from his hair and ears.

Where were the others? Was there a foe near?

The question answered itself as Dalavar walked across his vision, pushing a large waterball along. Bubble. The word is bubble, he reminded himself. That really must have been a hard landing.

To business. The Mage Slayer hadn’t seemed to notice him yet, which was a small mercy. Not a favor that he felt obligated to return, however.

The barrel lined up with the pacing man. There was a click, and the gun howled a declaration of war.

Kellehendros -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/26/2018 2:28:43)

A cry rose as the veil parted, a sound of soul-sick pain that tore at Aurinko’s ears. He knew something of that sound. The swordsman had heard its like before, and the memory welled up unbidden…

Talons scraped over rubble as the Kaarme darted from cover to cover, plasma bolts and mortar shells ripping through the ruins. On his shoulders the projectors hummed quietly, sheathing his arms in hardlight as he scanned the street. Data scrolled across his visor: enemy troop movements, emergency power reports for the surrounding block, targeting notifications from the distant artillery positions, pings from other searchers, and - of course - the countdown. He was only two blocks from the firebreak the Sun Guard had erected at the pedestrian bridge, but he was running out of time.

Aurinko had crossed the river seven times today, forging a path into the occupied sector to find and evacuate civilians. Ei Protocols dictated that the Darkener’s forces should be denied material assets wherever possible. As a result, the light reservoirs below the dying city’s streets had been sealed days ago, while their collection and concentration arrays were ramped up to red-line maximums. A cascading resonance fault was the only outcome possible now. The photonic bulk seething within the storage vaults would take any outlet available, and its sheer mass-pressure meant any failure would be catastrophic. In less than ten minutes, the city of Torangeu would effectively cease to exist. And if the Kaarme Phry didn’t want to cease along with it, he needed to get back over the river before the last crawler evacuated.

The swordsman hesitated as he heard the scream, hunkered behind a battered wall as he planned his next dash across the deserted street. It was a wild, primal uluation, a single name howled over and over again in furious, mindless denial. “Kosa! Kosa! Kosa!”

Eyes flicked to the countdown on his display. It was an estimate, really. In most cases Applied Sciences got it right, but it was not unheard of for a “previously undetected material fault” to cause a failure ahead of schedule. He was cutting it close as it was.

But the cry was coming from nearby.
There is time. Aurinko dashed from his sheltered position, following the wail and skidding to a stop when he found the source.

The woman was Kaarme Oph. Distant cousins to Aurinko’s own people, the Kaarme Oph were legless, though their long and muscular snake-like bodies did have arms. The majority of her ten-foot frame was wound about one of the heinous, chitinous
things that the Darkener used as shock troops, drawing tighter and tighter, crushing the dead abomination. And it was dead, though the woman’s arm rose and fell with metronomic regularity, driving a gore-drenched cleaver into the monster’s ruined skull in time to the cries sobbing out of her. “Kosa!”

A hand was just visible, outflung in supplication, beyond the crazed woman and the object of her vengeful focus. As Aurinko drew closer the remains came fully into view, and he swallowed, shuddering. It had been a little girl, once, before the thing - before claws and slavering hunger - had wreaked its terrible toll. Gritting his teeth, he slid the carbine in his hands into its static sheath, and then reached out to touch the woman’s arm. “Ma’am. Ma’am, it’s dead. We have to go.”

She rounded on him, patterned hood flaring open as she drew her bloody arm back to swing, only to suddenly stop. After a long moment the Kaarme Oph lowered the limb, though her fingers remained clenched around the cleaver with white-knuckle intensity. There was something fractured in her eyes, and her voice was utterly calm. “Officer, have you seen my daughter? Her name is Kosa. We were out for a walk, but she ran ahead…”

Aurinko’s eyes darted towards the corpse, and his visor scanned the woman’s face, searching for a name to match with the appearance in their available records. “Ma’am, I need you to come with me.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s somewhere nearby. I just have to find her…”

The Kaarme Phry drew in a deep breath. “Ma’am,” he said, as gently as he could in light of the readout’s urgent ticking, “your daughter is dead. I need you to come with me.”

“No, no, I’m sure she’s just down the street somewhere. Oh, I do wish she would just…” The woman trailed off and turned vaguely in the direction from which Aurinko had come.

His visor pinged, a name and profile scrolling across his screen. “Corporal Makea.”

She stiffened, shivering as though a sudden cold wind had cut through her.

“Corporal Makea Lempe,” the Kaarme Phry reached out, gingerly touching her shoulder, “honorably discharged six cycles ago, family exception.”

Those shattered eyes turned back towards Aurinko. “My… Please… Kosa…”

He squeezed softly. “I’m sorry.”

The Kaarme Oph quivered, shaking under his hand. “I… I can’t…”

“Please, ma’am. We only have a few minutes.”

“I… I’ve lost the Light.”

Aurinko and Lempe stared at one another, the silence between them stretching as the indifferent clock continued counting down. He searched her broken eyes, and then nodded, just once. Reaching up, he undid the straps of the harness around his shoulders, powering down the projectors. Removing the softly humming contraptions, he helped the Kaarme Oph into the gear and gently adjusted the bands to hold them in place. Reaching over his shoulder, the swordsman drew his carbine again and offered it to the former soldier. His voice was low, gentle. “Six minutes… Night falls.”

Lempe’s hands moved automatically, checking over the weapon before turning off its safety. Projectors whined, spinning up and wreathing her limbs in planes of hardened light. “Stars founder in malignant skies.”

The Kaarme Phry stepped back and bowed deeply. “But dawn will come again.”

He left her there, running for the extraction point as the Kaarme Oph screamed her final defiance to the dead-moon sky.

Those wrenching cries, past and present, mingled in his ears, and Aurinko darted instinctively towards the wail. His gaze was drawn to a flash of steel amid the crimson sand as he pushed forward - Pelastaa, sticking up at an angle from the Arena floor. There you are. Angling his path slightly, the swordsman stooped and snatched the weapon up in his right hand as he rushed by. Pain lanced up his arm at the violent motion, but that sting was part of him, and its jaws found no purchase as he advanced.

The scream had come from Oz - bearing down on Dapper - voice breaking beneath the weight of a heart undone. Elsewhere came a flat, heavy report - Gunfire? Chimes clattered, crescendoing in a hellish shriek reminiscent of the corpse-rider’s earlier racket, and the chanters sang again.

But it was all distraction. The swordsman had chosen his line, charging the winged musician in tandem with the rush of Earth’s bone-clad Paragon. Leikata hummed through the air as Aurinko swung from right to left, aiming the blade of light in a horizontal slash. His target had been Dapper’s hip, but as his strike began the undead leapt. The Kaarme’s weapon still found flesh however, its tip carving a line along the musician’s calf.

Blood burst from the wound, splattering across Aurinko’s snout and arm as he bared his fangs. “War spares none, but we save all we can.”

Apocalypse -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/27/2018 17:19:42)

The dead man’s visage preceded him.

The hair was different, not necessarily shorter but far more kempt. Face was cleaner, too - composed of ice but free of both metallic staples and any sign of decay. Steady streams trickled down the low cheekbones that Pride had detested so much. What had he once told Dapper? ”Pedigree begets bone structure.” Such an aristocratic thing to say. So trifling and inane. The revenant had laughed in Pride’s face that day. He wasn’t laughing now.

A guttural howl ripped Dapper from his stupor. Among the ivory wasteland a man clad in monochrome vestments rose to his feet, bones dancing about him in a frenzy. In his roar was a primal finality. The agony of an animal wounded; wrath of a man betrayed. The sorrow of a mother rendered childless. In his hand, the boneweaver sculpted a blade - a reaper’s scythe - and cast it into the last remnant of Pride. Ice cracked, splintered, and crumbled - its beauty tarnished and dashed into a glittering rainfall of crystal.

His performance had come to an end at last. No recognition, no applause. Simply ruination.

It was a funny thing, watching one’s self die. Dapper had spent most of his waking life in anticipation of this very moment. And in one day, he got to witness it twice: the snuffing out of a candle’s flame and sacrilege through arrant obliteration. He should have been happy. It was over. No more being stalked in the dead of night, no more fleeing from town to town. No more worrying about Loralyl being caught in this insidious hunt. They were free.

And yet…

...and yet the hollowness remained.

A bang resounded in the arena, and Dapper buried the turmoil swirling inside him. Pride’s slayer sought his next victim, and the bard could wrestle with these thoughts later, assuming he survived. Earth’s Paragon reared his pale face, sickly green eyes boring holes through Dapper as the menagerie of bone gave birth to a childlike creature with blades for hands and teeth far too sharp and sinister to be human. The boneweaver’s maw fell agape, spilling out words with the cadence of nails dragged across steel and the temperament of a forge’s bellows. The deranged imitation of life joined the uproar, horrid fangs chattering in a barren laugh as it hurtled through the air.

“Oh sod off,” Dapper retorted. Ice crunched beneath his feet as the musician dashed toward the mancer and his undying servant. The first beat of his wings lifted the bard eight feet off the sands and away from the frost below. “You didn’t have to be here!” A second flutter of his airfoils sent the fiddler into a spiral, careening him to the left by the minutest of margins. “None of us did!” A gilded wing rippling with scarlet waves rose up to greet the dark one’s servant. With a fierce blow, the rattling atrocity was battered aside to Dapper’s right. Thin wires originating from the mancer trailed after its small form. A puppeteer. Dapper snorted. What greater disgrace could there have been for Pride than to have been slain by another two-bit performer?

Another answered the boneweaver’s call, and Dapper stole a glance behind him to see none other than the lightwielder, his arm and elongated face stained bronze with…Oh, that miserable little git. The dead man grit his teeth, biting down on the tongue scraping across the staples within his cheek. Swear to gods, I’ll turn you into a purse. His eye twitched, igniting the blood splattered across the paladin’s scales. Crimson tongues leapt up from each droplet, hungry to devour all they caressed. Doubtful it would put an end to the reptilian warrior, but a few moment’s respite from the relentless onslaught would be welcomed.

Dapper flicked his gaze back to the dark one, hefting the Heinous Conductor to his shoulder. The thin blade quivered, aching to burrow itself into the mancer’s chest. The revenant was set not on a collision course with the boneweaver, but to streak by on the left — enough time for a single blow. “But we all danced to the tune,” Dapper shouted as he barreled toward his victim, his killer. Fiery ailerons smoldered and festered, cackled and cried in their last breath. Cinder and ash plumed in the musician’s wake as they dissipated, leaving the dead man alone with his steel. As he plummeted, Dapper smiled, tears falling from eyes long since dead. “Now it’s time to pay the fiddler!”

TormentedDragon -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/27/2018 23:33:59)

Wings flare, a flashing of fire that flings the former fiddler skyward. Another beat, and suit slips sideways, his mouth a gash of blackened steel cut through burnished bronze, words spilling forth in motes of white to blaze in the whipping wind. The puppeteer pulls at wires, fabric flapping about their flexing arm, and Farook’s flight ends; but scarlet strikes true, tracing crimson trails through the angry air to batter bone aside.

The trails tangle, twisting over and over, each knot spawning another thread of red until sand and sky are consumed by a vermilion visage. Eyes of ochre leer down at them, a scowl drawn in scarlet against a beard of orange. The mouth moves, and the motes of white whip forward, flashing meaning in their mind.

You didn’t have to be here.

But they had come anyway, to watch Farook fling his knives, see Sirellon’s samba, and hear Bertram’s bawdy tales. They had come anyway, to escape the cold and quiet. They had come, and they found flint and steel held in hateful hands. They found scales consumed by fire, blazing up one blackened arm and over a screaming snout. They found a sword sheathed in smoke, slicing through skin and flaying flesh from bone.

“All our friends were there with us,” they murmur, words muffled in their mask.

Flint and steel.
Fire and smoke.

Death could not be denied.

The visage roars as it descends, bronze arm thrusting that sinister sword at their hammering heart. They spin, robe fluttering, to turn their back, and the sword-point strikes a sour note upon the hidden shell, fouled in the guarding fabric. Their right arm yanks, wrapping wires ‘round the limb as the goblin slides across the sand, teetering to a standing stance. Their left arm rises, catching steel’s sidelong strike on its bone bracers, turning it from cut to bruising blow. Fingers flutter as they push the sword aside, the arm thrown downwards, and wires whip through air at the fiery face of their foe.

Rayen -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/28/2018 14:17:36)

Was single-mindedness synonymous with absent-mindedness? His Great Audacious has long thought so, combating both conditions with a widely varied, capricious set of interests. But in his attempts to remain in possession of the entirety of his limbs - most specifically his head, without which he would be incapable of regaling audiences with grand tales of his life’s adventures - the man, renowned for his peaceable, patient disposition, had forgone his long-held wisdom to place himself in a precarious position.

Elias, Paragon of Wind, instead found this circumstance serendipitously favourable. Levelling his peculiar weapon at the handsomely garish Dalavar, who pushed a bubble along with an elaborate stick a mere dozen feet away, the black-clad sellsword pulled the trigger.

BOOM! The concussive blast unleashed upon The Mage Slayer caught him mid-step and off balance. So focused on the flaming silhouettes of Dapper’s wings was he, that the roaring burst nearly blew apart not only the dense bubble he prodded along but also his calm demeanour. Fate seemed to have supplanted his steady posture for the maintenance of both these assets - a respectable compromise, in Dalavar’s typically-correct opinion.

The solid projectile of air collected him squarely in his previously impaled left shoulder, setting him inelegantly spinning in a semicircle to impact solidly with the metallic sand a few feet away. Hastily propping himself up from his sprawled position, His Great Audaciousness for the first time fully appreciated just how young the Paragon of Wind appeared. Likely just past adulthood, Elias seemed a shockingly sentimental fellow, for one fitted in a garb as clinically functional as his was. Was he a mercenary, or just a young victim of harsh situations, seeking to preserve his family’s honour? Facial creases indicating a generally stern countenance twisted into a faint, smug smile, as if the effectiveness of his attack had surprised Wind’s Paragon as much as his splendiferous target. Dalavar’s appraisal, however, was distorted by the refraction of light within his aqueous orb as it wafted slowly to the ground, so he couldn’t make an accurate assessment. The only certainty was the speed of Elias’s sprinted approach as he seemingly flew towards his prone foe, sand clouding the air in his wake.

Perhaps, however, The Mage Slayer could use his opponent’s inertia against him…

For a few precious seconds, Dalavar feigned - without much difficulty, given his recent wounds, and the bruising incurred from his explosive tumble - a struggle to his feet. During this time, only three things existed in the ancient man’s mind: firstly and most challenging to ignore was Elias’s quickly-closing distance; second, the peaceful and serene descent of his bubble, which fluttered in the air in response to echoed breezes, the blast of air still reflecting of the arena’s walls; and then the smooth coolness in his right hand, his grip ever strong against Temerity’s haft.

Dalavar’s timing was exemplary, as his restraint paid off. When Elias reached a distance of three paces from His Great Audaciousness’s position, Water’s Paragon struck with full force at the pearlescent sphere, propelling it forcefully into the inevitable path of his adversary. However, whatever arcane talents the young man possessed equipped him with the means to agilely pivot to the right off his leading foot and lash out with his left hand, redirecting the coruscating bubble a mere hand’s breadth from his chest.

The obscuring eyes of His Great Audaciousness widened slightly, clearly impressed, but a twinkle within them belied his true intention. Quicker than a typical eye could follow, Dalavar spun Temerity, catching the dark rod by it metallic tip and causing the orb to rupture violently in a spray of searing water. Clearly caught off guard, Elias toppled backwards, causing the full brunt of the hot liquid to clamour harmlessly against his breastplate. However, The Mage Slayer was already on his feet, the gem-topped cane in his right hand raised high in preparation to beat his assailant into submission…

When all at once a stillness settled over the arena, pervaded by the soft tintinnabulation of metallic chimes. Dalavar darted his eyes around the arena, settling not on an immediate threat, but instead upon the coruscating silver pillar the represented Wind. With a violent howl, the column tore itself apart, vaporising near instantly to leave only a piercing echo in its wake. Soft chanting followed, announcing the final judgement of Elias.

Focus returning to the young man, Dalavar’s shrewd eyes noted a hint of disappointment, and perhaps frustration. Lowering his cane, His Great Audaciousness extended a weather-worn hand to Elias, congratulating him by informing, “You should be proud of your great achievement, glad for your life, and strive for perfection, for surely much of all these zealously await your future personage.”

To Dalavar’s great happiness, Elias extended his own hand, clasping the one proffered by the colourful gentleman. The younger man said nothing, but his eyes indicated a deep comprehension and acceptance of the words. Brushing wet sand from his attire, the former Paragon of Wind made his way to the outskirts of the arena, away from the carnage still to come within.

Returning his thoughts to the battle at hand, two conflicting mindsets consumed Dalavar’s mind. Two words with which he had for ages struggled to understand, riled against in anguish, and calmly contemplated over a soothing cup of tea:


or Peace?

Both concepts were the reason for which he fought. But the Last Child of the Moon strived to own just one. One would be enough - to live, and to die by. The question remained, however, which path proved most true, most fair, most…himself.

And that was why he was here. To put an end to the weariness that pervaded his core, one way or another. For too long had he travelled; too fervently had he ministered fruitlessly; too many battles had he put to an end, finding nobody victorious. “The Destroyer of Magic”, they had called him between worlds, where originally, upon his home, he was known simply for his great audaciousness, even though he had been forced to mete out equal destruction there. Why could these lost children not see the futility in destruction? Why did they insist upon resisting loss, even if in losing they would find everlasting security?

Making his way towards the centre of the arena once again, Dalavar began blowing another, large bubble. But his mind was elsewhere.


or Peace?

Kellehendros -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/29/2018 21:34:18)

Droplets of blood fanned from Leikata’s blade, a russet rain shed upon parched sands. Dapper had taken flight once more, corkscrewing through the air on a course to meet Oz’s charge. “You didn’t have to be here! None of us did!” The Paragon of Fire struck out at his Earthen counterpart, and for a brief moment Aurinko met the corpse-rider’s gaze as the undead twirled through the air.

That was all the warning the Kaarme received before the world dissolved in pain.

Aurinko had been hurt before; the methodical pattern of scars down his left arm attested to that. The sting of injury was no stranger, be it the exhaustion and ache of muscles sore from long and rigorous training, or the sharper, deadlier bite of wounds from tooth and claw. Here, too, the Kaarme Phry had known affliction, from the powerful blows of the herald in Cellar and the freezing spikes of Pride's last gambit. But the swordsman had learned to embrace pain, to let it pass through him and leave him, if not untouched, then at least less impeded by the strain. It was a mental discipline, an intensity of concentration, a subsuming of sensation beneath purpose.

But some pain was simply too powerful - too pervasive - to be shrugged off so lightly.

The Kaarme Phry flinched as Dapper’s vital fluid burst into searing tongues of flame; cruor-crusted scales singed, sizzled, and sent screaming signals of white-hot agony racing to Aurinko’s brain. The swordsman twisted in a reflexive effort to pull away, to shake off the source of torment, but the blazing blood clung like napalm.

Leikata flashed in his left hand, a shining beacon surmounting a limb wreathed in hungry holocaust. Focus fractured, and panic flowed into the gap. The blade of hardened light splintered, blasting apart in a frantic double-pulse of photons as the Kaarme’s lungs drew in a breath of searingly hot air.

Pelastaa glittered, falling from his grasp as his right hand rose to claw at his own snout, foreshortened claws finding the frenzied strength to tear burning scales free. Stars blazed across his vision and the swordsman coughed on a mouthful of smoke ripe with the stench of his own cooked flesh. The hurt flaring up from the wound on his right arm was a balm compared with the tortured howling of frying nerve endings along the left side of his body.

Down. Get DOWN!

Aurinko hurled himself groundward.

“The particles are entangled, and the cut must be drawn just so-”

“I. Ssssee. You.”

“Are you paying attention,

“- else the friction will be too great.”

Incarnadine sand rushed up to greet him. But no, surely he was racing to it? Pain attenuated every thought and gravity itself seemed to wobble around him.

“No time for practice. You have to go. Now!”

“Fight with your-”

“Dost it cark thee, Lightcutter?”

“Seven years on the forge,
sade, and still, I wonder… What if we had another day?”

“Sssome thingss cannot be essscaped sso lightly.”

The shock of landing flashed up his flaming arm, a dull brown throb beneath multi-hued clarions of infernal agony. Aurinko’s arm buckled, bending awkwardly beneath his body. His right hand reached out in beseeching supplication.

“- head. But remember too that you-”

“I’ve lost the Light.”

“Parallel to the flow! Remember,
sade, parallel! The cut must be perfect.”

“Worry not, little Lightcutter. That sssound iss my footsstepsss, growing closser.”

“He called the project Leikata. Your grandfather is brilliant,
poika, but sometimes I think he would trade half our world for a chance to crack the other half open and scoop out its secrets.”

His fingers curled through sand and Aurinko all but slapped himself, dashing the grit across his face and grinding his neck and shoulder into the warm vermillion grains.

“Focus on a point beyond your target. Swing through it.”

“You have come sso far, and what have you to ssshow for it?”

“Your father called it dancing on the blade’s edge.”

“The stars… Oh gods, what happened to the stars?”

“He’ll come. Soon.”

“How I long to
clutch thee.”

“- fight with your heart.”

Panting, smoke-scorched lungs gasping for air, the Kaarme burrowed deeper, scraping and tearing the blazing substance from his scales. The iron tang of blood filled his mouth, mingling sickeningly with the ashy taste of smoke and seared flesh.

“There isn’t time enough.”

“There isss no back for ssuch asss you.”

“We find a way, or make one”

“It has to be you,

“Her name is Kosa.”

“He’ll be ready.”

“This flesh is

“Not if you leave him alone.”

“I won’t be. He’ll have you,

Everything hurt. His face and left arm pulsed in time to each beat of his heart. Charred scales flaked and peeled away from flesh roasted and caked with crimson granules. Each breath hitched in his chest as Aurinko slowly pushed himself to his knees. Stabbing pain ground its way into his bones, taking up residence there, and the Kaarme only barely prevented himself from sagging back to the sand.

“When the world is cast into darkness, only the brave can lead it out again.”

The swordsman blinked slowly. His eyes were having trouble focusing. No, the left. Tears were tracking down his face, a feeble attempt to combat the grit, smoke, and heat. But the left side of his vision was little more than a smear of lurid color, a roiling clot of unnamable shapes that melded slowly from one to the next. His left arm was heedless, refusing his mind's command to move. It takes two hands to make the cut.

Leikata pulled, and reality itself peeled back around the starsteel. Aurinko marveled. It was so smooth, so… effortless. Surely with this sword even the Darkener’s champions could be driven back. With this weapon in hand, could their future really be so dire?

He turned, but something in his grandfather’s gaze, some look the swordsman had never seen before, made him hesitate. The weapon in his grip shifted and the young Kaarme flinched, pulling up instinctively. The blade shuddered, caught, and then flexed in a way no metal should, releasing a sound of nigh life-like agony as the unfathomable happened: Leikata, proof against any previous attempt to damage it, came apart. Light swelled, swallowing Aurinko in a rising tide of radiance that obliterated sight and sensation, leaving only an unendurable heat that ripped him to pieces atom by atom, until thought and time and place were lost in blissful unconsciousness.

“All thessse travailsss, only to find yourssself back where you began.”

Wheezing, the Kaarme Phry’s right hand sought out Leikata’s hilt, closing slowly over the leather grip.

It hurt. He stood anyway.

Aurinko's voice rasped out of an arid, damaged throat. "This is not the beginning."

It hurt. He took a step forward anyway.

And then he took another.

"But neither is it the end."

Apocalypse -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/31/2018 16:09:58)

The Heinous Conductor plunged forward, the steel singing as it cut through the air. The boneweaver pivoted on his heel, exposing his back to the musician’s offensive. What kind of plan is that?, Dapper thought just as the stunted rapier struck and screeched against some hidden aegis. His arm jolted from the impact, elbow bending an unsettling degree in the wrong direction as his body continued its flight. Ah, armor. Makes sense. The sword, now entangled in the monochrome garment, refused to leave its clothy sheath. You too, huh? That’s fine. Dapper twisted his body mid-air, bringing Showstopper around for a horizontal slash against the mancer. The strike was wild and flawed, the damage done by blocking the lightwielder’s blade rearing its ugly head. So many against me already, why not my own conductor? A crack resounded in his ears as an armored forearm rose up with surprising celerity to ward off the blow.

For the love of bard and song. The revenant sucked on his inner cheek, drawing as much blood as he could from the staple piercings and his chewed tongue. What was he doing here? Pride was gone. The threat was over. The other arena combatants were clearly superior warriors, each a master of their craft. Dapper had no place here.

And yet he could not bring himself to leave.

From the side, a thronging mass of wires writhed as they rode the winds back toward the dead man. Dapper landed on his feet facing Earth’s Paragon, sliding across a mosaic of cardinal sands and cerulean frost. By leaping back, he could maybe elude the wiry tendrils, reduce it to a glancing blow. It would buy him time, give him a chance to reassess his options…

A slight grin crossed the dead man’s face.

No more running.

This ends today.

Dapper buckled his knees and sprang, hurling himself back at the boneweaver. Showstopper rose in a feint as the undead’s jaw fell open in a gargled laugh. Plumes of blood gave life to brilliant flames as they leapt across the divide, clawing at the dark one’s torso, scratching at his neck, and pecking at eyes in their fiery lust. Dapper’s mocking howl echoed and rang across the sands. “Is this enough? All great performances are paid in blood, are they not? I-”

The revenant was cut off by the sudden slam of a wiry mass against his skull. Half of his vision went black as the other side exploded with alabastrine light, a world of pearl greeting the bard as he was knocked to the ground. Showstopper lashed out in a haphazard assault, but Dapper had no delusions of the blow’s success. Odd, he had never been hit hard enough to warrant an explosion of light across his vision...

Icy shards dug into his dead flesh as the undead pushed himself to his feet, blood dyeing his pale skin a glassy amber. Sight had yet to return to his left eye; had it burst from the impact of the thrashing wires, or had a stray strand split it asunder? He took a step and staggered, nearly falling into the grave of grit and crystal. How much blood had he lost? The bard’s trousers clung to his calves and thighs, the fabric soaked and sticky with the russet ichor. All around him, sand and snow were tarnished by a sickening bronze hue.

The mancer was not pressing the onslaught, instead cutting away his flaming cloak, using his sword as an oversized set of shears. Dapper took advantage of the respite to assess his surroundings: three pillars remained, and the presence of the lightwielder confirmed this trio’s third. The paladin’s gait was lethargic, the wounds of the battle taking their toll. His snout was blackened by his time as a living effigy, with bits and pieces cracked from what appeared to be self-inflicted claw marks. One scaled arm hung limp at the swordsman’s side, but the other still clutched his beaming blade. Those reptilian eyes were locked onto the undead as he approached.

Dapper turned back to his other foe. Earth’s Paragon had tossed his cloak aside, unveiling the congregation of bone armoring his body. The skull adrape his head hung shattered, a furrowed eye of onyx laying the musician’s handiwork bare to the world. With movements curt yet elegant, the mancer drew the skeletal servant to his side. A bony arm uncurled in front of the dark one’s own, brandishing a sword in challenge. The face of the boneweaver was obscured as a draconian mask shifted in place, protecting its master from sight and strike.

Bone and light converged on the dead man. Fiddle gone, wings expended, blood depleting at an astonishing rate…Don’t worry her, the bard thought to himself as he clutched the swords tight. Can’t worry her. Have to convince her everything’s fine. Steel threatened to fall from his hands despite his grip; the musician was running out of tricks. A joke, something stupid. Never will admit it, but she likes the stupid ones. The bard opened his mouth to crack a quip, but what escaped were not the words floating in his head. “Ga thnng ga ah.”


Broken jaw or knock to the head?

I’ll find out later...

The dead man grinned up at the duality approaching him.

...if I survive.

A musician without an instrument, a swordsman who could not hold his steel. Mage without magic, a bard rendered voiceless. Only offering left was his blood, and not much at that. One final performance, a magnum opus where all had been paid in full. Time to take his bow and exit this stage. His parting song was on its final note, but it was a good one on which to bid adieu. After all…

...she deserved better.

TormentedDragon -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (8/31/2018 22:41:57)

Bronze blood, brilliant and blazing, spews from smiling steel in a fiery arc. Their guardian swings down, worked by wire, but the spray spills through empty sockets, fire filling their vision and searing their flesh. They choke, a halting heated breath, and that face, that sneering, hateful face consumes the world before them. Glowing white words roll from its taunting tongue, pulsing in time with the pounding pain.

“All great performances are paid in blood, are they not?”

Their left hand grasped at their bundle of wires, slipping within their pale grey robes, fingers twisting, weaving, binding.

It was just a show. Amusement for the masses, with music and merriment.

Their left hand looses one bundle for another, slipping within their now burning robes, fingers twisting, building, binding.

Steel lashed out, held in those hateful hands, and Sirellon’s sword rose to answer, clutched in wire-bound claws to meet their foe’s blade, edge to edge.

It was just a show. A play for the patricians, with pastries and punsters.

Steel lashes out, held in those hateful hands, and Sirellon’s sword rises to answer, splitting flaming fabric to meet their foe’s brand, edge to edge.

It had only ever been a show. A performance paid in blood.

The heavy blade swings down, edge tearing the blazing tessellations of the rippling robe as it passes. Their guardian shudders and cracks down the middle, the left half dissolving in a dusting of ash that covers their ruined face and ravaged eye as the newly blooded robe flares out like fiery wings. Bared bone and wire flow in tandem, dancing to the steps their hand directs, sliding over a slender, black-clad body.

Wires writhed about them, whipping walls with heavy blows that gouged the burning wood. Sirellon’s scaled body stood, suspended by straining strands of metal, shield bound to ruined arm and blade raised and ready. They pulled one wire, then another, one foot forward, one foot back. They leaped, and Sirellon leapt with them, her sword descending on that screaming soul.

Sirellon’s skull rises on her sinuous spine, a gaping toothed maw that closes on that fearful face, banishing the vision into wisps of smoke. Wire weaves her arm to vertebrae, clawed hand closing on her sword’s hilt, raised in tandem with their left arm’s gesture. A twisting of their right, and Farook waits at their side, knives gleaming in the incarnadine illumination of their foe’s flame.

Bound knives gleamed scarlet in the light of the carnelian conflagration, blood dripping from handles to wire-wrapped hands. Farook flicked the blade, spraying scarlet on the face of the soldier at his feet, then turned, empty eyes staring at the wires’ wielder. His mouth moved, forced by the ferric filament, but no words were spoken.

“That’s the last,” they said in his place.

Bertram nodded, his beard split by gleaming strand, and his mouth moved in likewise silent speech.

“The fire rages still. We'll need to find new beds,” they said in his place.

Sirellon sat, wire-bound claws wiping her sword on her blood-soaked breeches. Her mouth moved, metal sliding scaled lips apart, but no sound escaped her throat.

“We journey onward, then,” they said in her place.

All three nodded, and rose to feet, one by one. They followed, hands and arms and legs working wire to keep the bodies balanced, sweat pouring over pale skin, leaving streaks in blackened soot.

“Yet another journey, aye? If nothing else, we’ve still our lives.”

They halted, then, all movement stilled, aching with the strain of keeping all three upright. “Do we?” they asked, their voice choking. All three faces turned to them, wires creaking with the movement.

“O’ course we do,” Farook said, his growl spilling from their throat.
“Fear not, green eyes. We are still with you,” Bertram said, his rasp slipping from their lips.
“We live, heart of hearts, with you and within you,” Sirellon said, her whisper sliding from their tongue.

“As before and ever after, Death has been denied.”

Death had never been denied.

Sirellon’s skull shifts before them, yellowed with the passing of the years and bearing the scars of countless scuffles. Beyond her bones, the suit stands before them, bereft of fire and fiddle both, yet grinning in the gleam of the searing sunlight. Their one eye closes, chest heaving with a long, slow breath.

“A bargain struck we,” they say, voice rasping like their Bertram’s, and wires lift Farook to stand on their upraised foot. “Fulfillment, or solace; a price paid in blood.”

They kick, and Farook flies, daggers aimed at fiddler’s face. His flat blade flickers, steel striking bone and flying from his feeble grip even as Farook’s flight founders. A dagger yet digs deep into the suited shoulder, blood staining the blade a dirty bronze. They follow, feet flinging frozen sand behind them, striding through the newborn flames that burst from blood-drenched silicate, and they strike, Sirellon’s blade arcing sidelong at fiddler’s naked neck.

Kellehendros -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (9/5/2018 23:00:51)

Dapper and Oz did battle, and Aurinko slogged forward one torturous step at a time. Leikata touched lightly to the weeping burns along his left arm before falling tiredly to his side. A blade of fitful, stuttering white light gathered around the weapon, as though it too was pained and exhausted from the combat. Too little blood.

“Perhapsss thisss iss no end.”

A sharp, decisive crack echoed through the Arena, and the Kaarme pivoted with dream-like slowness, eyes going wide.

“But I can sssee it from here.”

Fine cracks spiderwebbed across the diamond monolith - fractures racing across its radiant surface - until the entire structure collapsed upon itself. Light rippled through the cascading diamond fragments, each pattering to the bloody sand with an impact like a knife in the swordsman’s gut.

“Oh, yesssss. Thissss, thiss isss failure Lightcutter.”

The cry of the chanters cut through the roar of the crowd, framed by the Darkener’s mocking laughter. “As day gives way to night, so the Light does fade. We bear witness now, as Aurinko makes his Choice.”

Sagging slowly to his knees, the Kaarme Phry bowed his head. Leikata tumbled from his weary grasp, blade flickering weakly as it dropped to the Arena floor. It wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

There was no response from the deathly voice, not even further laughter. Now there was only a smug, silent satisfaction. And how not? Aurinko had been measured and found wanting. The Arena had judged him unfit. Without the boon to restore Leikata, without the boon to find a path home… What chance was there?

It was over. Done. He had lifted his Light against the Shadow, but it had faltered in the end. Tears slipped from his eyes as the Kaarme Phry shuddered. Grandfather… I’m so sorry.

But in his memory was another voice, one that spoke in the quiet, steady tones of his father. “You will understand, one day, poika. The Light is our hope, but it is our hope that is the Light.”

Shaking fingers reached out, closing with tremulous strength around Leikata’s hilt. Moving slowly, carefully, the swordsman cleaned its shard on the fabric of his pants and then returned the broken blade to its sheath. A faint tingle of energy - the benediction of sunshine on scales - rippled through the Kaarme as Leikata’s charge grounded out. Light, hope, and life.

Aurinko rose again, his joints creaking with enervated exhaustion. Reptilian eyes opened, though it took an effort of will. With another, the Kaarme Phry focused his garbled vision and located Pelastaa. His steps were slow, halting, but he reached the weapon, faintly dismayed at the distance between his hand and its hilt. I’m going into shock.

Breathing deeply, the swordsman fought down the dizzy chills rippling over his burnt and damaged scales, gritting his teeth in an effort to focus through the agony. After a subjective age, Aurinko’s questing hand found the wakizashi’s grip, drawing it up from the sand as the Kaarme turned back towards Oz, just in time to see the Paragon of Earth strike the corpse-rider down. No, not the Paragon, the Champion. The Kaarme knew - though he could not say where the knowledge came from - and he lifted his blade in a gesture that was both salute and farewell.

“Ere long
night breaks, scars heal, wars end.
Day comes at last.”

His left hand twitched - moving for the first time since the musician’s conflagrant assault - and gripped Pelastaa’s sheath. The blade in his right glittered as it turned, reverse-edge sliding fluidly across the back of Aurinko’s left hand before hissing home with the soft click of tsuba meeting saya. Simply moving hurt, but the Kaarme Phry bowed respectfully to Oz, whether or not the bone-bearer was paying the swordsman any mind.

Tribute concluded, Aurinko made his careful, painful way over the sands toward the gate, whispering softly to himself.

“One day shall come a Dawn that never ends.”

Apocalypse -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (2/27/2019 21:10:42)

The boneweaver’s blade severed necrotic flesh, bronze blood gushing forth from the grievous wound. A dead hand rose to stopper the grisly geyser, but even a fully-functional one would have been far too meager a remedy. The revenant staggered backwards, his legs failing as what little life left within him made its expeditious exodus. Before Dapper stood the mancer, tall among the blooms of dying flames in this scarlet garden. White clouded the bard’s peripherals, blotting out light’s paladin. Not that it mattered - Dapper was well on his way back to the grave without further assistance.

The dead man fell upon the arena’s sands, kicking up scarlet grains that desecrated his view of the clear azure skies above. Dapper blew to disperse the specks and succeeded only in dyeing his own vision umber with the fluid swelling in his mouth. The bard’s final laugh was lost in a fitful gurgle of blood and spittle.

It had been a good show. While not privy to the details of the original performance, Dapper was confident he had delivered a worthy encore. Besides, it was a show that was never meant to go on. A few years borrowed - such a scant time and yet so much condensed into that span. Run out of countless bars, pursued by faithful and wraiths alike, and splashing smiles across the meanest and ugliest faces along the way. And next to him a love with hair of woven gold and a voice that made angel’s cry. He could hear her now…

Follow me with an elven kiss

...his vision went white...

‘Cross the seas through the isles of mist

...a soft smile crept across his face…

To my home in a land of bliss

...and the dead man moved no more.

Kooroo -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (7/4/2019 20:33:26)

Elias sighed as he brushed some more sand out of his hair. Things hadn’t gone exactly as planned, but he’d never thought that it would have been that simple. One tournament and then his quest would be over? Seemed a bit too simple, considering what he’d experienced on his journey. Of course, that had been something he’d been expecting to say if he had actually won the championship. All he could do now was face his friends and apologise for wasting their time.

He stumbled out into the still city, the throbbing in his thighs and the empty streets making his loss all the more apparent.
That’s another way to rub it in.
It was only now that it dawned on him how large the Arena complex was, even compared to the city surrounding it. According to one of Tylia’s old tomes, the Championship Grounds had been there when the first settlers of Bren had first arrived. More and more people had gathered around the structure and eventually, a small township had formed.

History lesson notwithstanding, Elias hadn’t the slightest idea where his friends could be. They’d all been too busy giving him last minute advice or wishing he had planned farther ahead than the just actual competition timeframe. The ex-Paragon furrowed his brow. That was odd. Honestly, forgetting to set a meeting point was pretty sloppy..

They’d probably just been too worried, Elias mused as he limped alongside the Arena, heading towards the main entrance. Daford was usually the main person that headed up their alternate plans, and, well, their main plan when there wasn’t a clear leader. He’d seemed especially stressed about this whole tournament business.

Barely five minutes went by before the former Paragon sighted the hulking outline of Reuben silhouetted against the afternoon sun. Elias frowned as he lowered his gaze, counting out a missing head amongst the group. Tylia and Annette were deep in discussion, whilst Reuben stood behind them silently, his back turned to them. Daford was nowhere to be seen.

One of the group only noticed him when he was barely twenty paces away. Elias raised a hand in greeting, to which Reuben responded in kind, but the other two were too focused on their discussion. Not exactly a new sight, but he didn’t have the slightest idea what could have spurred another of their debates outside of the Arena. Maybe one of the entrants or Paragons had been that notable? Or were they talking about the Championships themselves?

“Something the matter?” Elias asked as he approached. Both Tylia and Annette turned to face him, their confused expressions quickly changing into looks of sympathy.

“Nice try, Elias. Much better than that fight in the Overlord’s Pit.” Tylia said, drawing a wince from Annette.

Elias shrugged. “Not well enough, apparently. It was never going to be that easy though, was it? Win a tournament, and some Elemental Lord grants your wish.”

“Well, actually, the Champ—” Tylia started to say, but Annette cut her off by resting a hand down on her head.

“You did great, Elias. You gave as good as you got, and you came out in one piece. Much better than some of the others that went in with you.” she continued, ruffling the mage’s hair. “Most importantly, you came out of there without anything missing.” Elias immediately thought back to the first, mist-filled Arena and winced internally. It was true. His quest wasn’t complete, but at least he still had one.

“Thanks, Annette, I appreciate it,” he said, grinning slightly. “So where’s Daford? It’s a tad unusual for him to split off from you guys.”

“Well, about that. Elias, w—” The sound of footsteps broke the relative quiet of the empty city, and Elias turned to face the direction of the sound. The sharp tap of metal striking stone echoed up from the nearest Arena entrance. That couldn’t be Daford. Daford didn’t wear greaves or metal-soled shoes.

A figure in an emerald cloak emerged from the doorway. Elias and his friends stared dumbly at the person, making out a pair of eerie, glittering eyes beneath the hood. It considered the small gathering, appraising each member of the group before bowing its head. “Excuse me,” it said softly, and continued along the path.
Nobody said anything as the figure walked along the street. It trudged down the barren flagstones, turned a corner and vanished from sight. Elias frowned. The cheering and roars of the crowd hadn’t changed in the past few minutes, so the next cut obviously hadn’t happened yet. Wonder why they left.

There was more sound coming from within the passageway; more footsteps. Softer, but more of them. Two pairs? He turned to the doorway once more and saw Daford striding towards him, followed by an angry-looking Casimira. A chill shot through Elias’ spine, and he spun to his friends. This must have been what they had been talking about. Annette had an expression that could’ve been carved from a mountain, and Tylia’s brow seemed unnaturally creased. Even stoic Reuben seemed to slightly wary, his gaze honing in on Elias’ sister.

Daford, however, seemed relatively unperturbed. He spotted Elias and co., then smiled and waved. Casimira grinned upon recognizing her sand-covered brother.

The unusual pair made it out of the passageway and stood before the group. Daford grinned like a proud father as he approached, all the while ignoring the young lady behind him. Elias stood rooted to the floor, remembering the gauntlet-wearing, black-coated girl he’d encountered in the Wind Paragon’s room. He’d been certain that it had just been an illusion of his sister back then, but seeing her now… She looked pretty much like the Casimira that Elias had seen in chamber with a few differences. A large brown cloak covered her body and her hair seemed lighter than it had in the chamber, but those were minor details.

Eventually, Daford and Casimira reached the group and stopped. The woodsman was still beaming, chuckling slightly at Elias’ stunned expression. He walked past him and up to Annette, and began talking about... something. Elias didn’t hear any of what he said, his attention too focused on the girl before him.

“Well, aren’t you glad to see me?” His sister said, the grin changing to a bit of a frown. “I know we haven’t seen each other in… maybe a decade? But this… this reaction.” She gestured with an arm, a hand sticking out from below the cloak. A normal, pale-skinned hand. Not a metal glove.

Elias let out a sigh of relief. Back in the preparation chamber, that had been an illusion after all. “It’s... a bit of a long story. I thought—”

Casimira cut him off with a wave of her hand, and a cool breeze rushed over him. There was momentary tingling sensation, and then the sand covering Elias lifted up into a cloud, and down the street. “Maybe you can tell me later, when we’re sitting down. Drinks?”

The mention of drinks made Elias realise that he hadn't eaten since morning. While it may not have been that long ago, the various scuffles and fights had taken it out of him; he was starving. The windbender nodded and barely got his mouth open before a pair of hands on his shoulders stopped him. “That can wait a bit. Now that we’re done here, it’s time for us to leave. We’ve got an airship waiting on us. Annette?” Daford nodded to the amazonian cleric and started down the street with Reuben.

“Right. Sorry, Elias, we, uh…” Annette glanced at Tylia, who raised an eyebrow
“I mean I got distracted.” Annette raised a hand and concentrated for a few seconds. There was a loud hum, and then a soft glow suffused Elias. The pain in his legs faded to a mild itch, and Annette shrugged, closing her tome. “It’s not exactly a full heal, but give it a day and you’ll be fine.”

Elias nodded and thanked her. He turned back to his sister, but she’d run ahead and intercepted Daford. They talked for a few seconds, with Casimira seemingly becoming more annoyed as the conversation carried on. Daford shook his head, then raised his hands and said something before continuing along the road. Elias jogged to catch up to her, as she glowered after the lumberjack. “Uh, so… what was that about?” he asked.

She continued to glare after Daford for another few seconds before replying.
“I’ve still got important business here, but you lot apparently have a super busy schedule to keep. Meaning that if I’m going to follow you, then...”


Casimira muttered something under her breath before glancing back at Elias. He met her gaze and saw something there that he hadn’t seen before; a certain hardness. Was that… worry? Concern?

“Maybe I can talk to him. Or the captain. Or maybe Annette—”

“No, it’s fine.” She sighed and turned back to the road, looking down towards Daford and the city’s gates. The wind blew and some leaves rustled, but otherwise the city was completely silent. Even the sound from the Arena was muted, as though a world away.

Finally, Casimira spoke. “Maybe it’ll just be better if I tag along.”

“Commander? When did you say that our passengers were going to be back?”

The white-haired man didn’t respond for a moment, merely holding up a finger. He finished the page, then bookmarked his novel before turning to the young woman at the door. “Come again?”

“When were our passengers due to return from the city?” she asked, arms folding her arms.
The captain sat up straighter and stared up at her from his seat. Nothing was said for a few seconds as the two looked at each other, until the man eventually replied. “It’s ‘captain.’”


“It’s ‘captain’. We’re not on-duty right now, so it’s ‘captain’,” he explained. He got up from his chair and started towards the door, the woman close behind. “We need to keep up appearances, especially for Julius’ group.”

“Daford. His name is Daford now.”

“Daford, right. What a silly name. Who names themselves ‘Daford’ of all things? Anyway, they might start asking questions if you use military terms while they’re around. Questions that I don’t really have time to be answering.” he said, climbing a flight of stairs. The woman followed him, looking at the dark, gunmetal walls around them.

“This is a clearly military vessel. And we’re all wearing military uniforms,” she pointed out. “Also, as you said, we’re not on duty. You literally have all the time to deal with any questions.”

“Mm, yeah, but I don’t want to. My point still stands, though. As long as we’re off-duty and among civilians, it’s ‘captain’. Understand?”

The woman nodded. “Understood, Commander. So when did you say they were due back from the city?”

The captain sighed as they got to the top of the staircase and walked on to the bridge. Out the door on the right, and then they were on the balcony. The sun shone brightly above them, its brilliant rays flowing out across the desert sands. Bren was a mere speck in the distance, barely visible from the top of the dune they were hovering a few feet above. Not a hundred meters from there was an oasis, and from that point the desert stretched out. There was another, smaller dune in the distance, maybe a couple of Ks away, and it was on top of that tiny hill that the captain set his sights on.

He raised a hand to his brow, shielding it against the sun. It was painfully bright today, but at least it was cool. Or, well, cooler. A cool desert was still a desert. Bloody hot compared to most parts of most worlds. “Huh. They’re early.”

“How early?” asked the officer, squinting against the sunlight. She reached into her coat and pulled out a pair of binoculars.

“Very.” The captain adjusted his scarf and turned, walking back into the shade. “I don’t know why they’re super early, but prepare to uncloak and possibly depart, just in case. Not going to say ‘no’ to any possibility that we’re getting out of here, but knowing Julius, he might just need his money back.”

“Looks like they picked up a friend. There are five of them now,” she said, zooming out again. Other than their guests, there wasn’t much out there on the sands.

Frankly, the entire trip had been pretty boring. Their commander had said they’d be going cross-realm to basically act as a glorified taxi service for a friend. He’d mentioned the possibility of sightseeing while they were at it, but the entire crew had been stuck on the airship, hovering at a low altitude all of this time. Aside from the pond and trees below them, there wasn’t anything else to see except for sand, dirt and dust.

She was just about to put the binoculars down when a distortion on the far right caught her eye. It didn’t appear to be a heat haze; the effect was too persistent. None of the surroundings seemed to be affected, so it was most likely localized. The officer frowned. It looked as though something or someone was cloaked over there.
“I think there might be someone following them.”

“Friendly, I presume? Do we need to prepare some more bunks?” the man asked, as he walked over to the edge of the railing. He adjusted his glasses and then looked out into the distance for a moment before nodding. “Go check it out. Bring your blades, but you know the rules. And don’t forget to put on sunblock.”

“Want to tag along?”

“You’re flying right? I’m scared of heights.”

“We’re flying right now,” the woman pointed out, opening both her hands. A humming blade materialized in each one, their centers glowing blue.

“I’ll only slow you down. Call back once you’re closer.” The man took his novel from his pocket, pulled out the bookmark and started reading.

Behind her spectacles, the woman rolled her eyes. She spun and walked into the stairwell, vanishing into the depths of the airship.

As soon as the group had stepped outside the city gates, Tylia had teleported them to the general vicinity of the airship. General vicinity, however, still meant a few good kilometers of trudging through the desolate sands. The sorceress had tried her best, however, it was a bit difficult to teleport to a remarkably vague location. “Roughly around that puddle,” the captain had told them, as they’d prepared to disembark. “We’ll be hovering around there, so just pop on over when you guys are done. We’ll pick you up, and then be on our way.”

“You mean that oasis?” Tylia asked, trying to piece together a rough map in her head.

“Sure,” the captain shrugged, as he walked away. “Whatever powers your boat.”

Elias really didn’t like that man.

There was another factor, though. Something else had stopped Tylia from teleporting any closer to the oasis, but Daford had waved it off. “Probably security measures,” he’d reasoned. In all honesty, Elias didn’t have any idea about what sort of security measures could interfere with a teleportation spell.

The group had been walking for a good few minutes now. They had just crested a small dune and could see the oasis before them. Their ship wasn’t in sight, but Elias thought he could see a slight haze where it probably was.

Nobody said anything during the walk. Nobody was in much of a talking mood; due in part to both the dry, sandy wasteland they were trekking through, and Casimira’s somewhat uneasy presence in the group. Personally, the former Paragon had seen enough sand for a few months. Meanwhile, his sister was lagging towards the back, brooding over something only she knew of.

Up ahead, Daford could see where their ride was cloaked. A very, very faint haze in the air above the oasis was the only indicator. As good as invisible to the average human being, unless you knew specifically what to look for. Still a couple of kilometers away, perhaps, but at least he knew where they were headed now. The desert wasn’t quite the hottest that he’d experienced, but the walk still wasn’t exactly comfortable. That jerk could at least have sent something to pick us up.

There was the crack of a gunshot, and Daford instinctively threw himself to the side. He hit the ground hard, just as a bullet thudded into the sand next to him.

It took a split second for Elias to understand what had happened, but by the time he’d processed the betrayal it was too late. He spun, digging in his right foot and pivoting, preparing to thrust at the air as he turned. What felt like an invisible wall crashed into his head, and fist of air crunched into his gut, sending him back.

The blade-for-hire lurched back, balance broken, as his sister dashed down the dune towards him. She was fast; much faster than him. Dazed and winded, Elias raised a hand as she neared, but Casimira easily battered the hand aside. A shining, silver gauntlet crashed into the top of his skull, and he fell, landing heavily on his stomach.

“Never really could fight worth a damn, could you? I should thank Daford for making this easier,” his sister said, drawing a silver revolver. She stepped on his back, pinning him to the ground, and leveled the gun at his friends. “For what it’s worth, dear brother, I’m sorry.”

TormentedDragon -> RE: =EC 2018= Grand Arena (9/10/2022 23:51:47)

A slice, a spray, a stagger, and a sudden stillness. Arms fall to their sides as the suit falls forward, blood burnishing the sands below. Their eye stares, unblinking, as a smile carves the corpse’s face. They stand, unmoving, even at the crunch of sand behind them.

“Ere long
Night breaks…”

Wires wilt, and bones slide to sands. Their face turns skyward, cowl falling to shaking shoulders.

“Scars heal, wars end.”

Their mouth opens, choking as the shudder wracks them, bones clattering in the convulsion.

“Day comes at last.”

They fall to the sands as the speaker slips away, unmoving save the shaking that wracks their body, lips struggling to close, tongue fighting throat for control. They cannot speak, but must. They cannot move, but must. They cannot cry, but must. They must. They must.

Their deaths must be denied.

They cannot ask it. At the last, with bargain fulfilled, they fail, collapsing on the scarlet sands; it consumes them, filling their eyes with naught but red, their ears with naught but roar, their skin with naught but grit and warmth. They reach, clattering, for wires and warriors, but find only sand and roaring silence.

Back to nothing. Silence reigns, and all is futile.

Yet, fingers slide through their hair, to cup at cheeks gaunt and blackened. Arms enfold their waist, and bear them up, to stand on shaky legs in the midst of endless crimson void.

“A bargain struck we,” Farook growls.
“Our part is kept,” Bertram rasps.
“Grant our heart of hearts’ desire,” Sirellon whispers.

They feel the shuddering of Earth beneath them, feel the grit and warmth within them, and with one green eye they see the Bones of the Father staring down. They hear the answer, spoken in the shifting of mountains and the rustle of forests. A bargain made, a bargain fulfilled, and still Death may not be denied. The golden dream is but a dream … but Earth may offer Solace.

They bow their head, and close their eye. Grit scours their form; heat melts their being; an eon of smelting in the depths of the Mother, an eternity of shaping at the Hands of the Father, held in the span of a single breath, and They and Theirs are made anew.

The sands recede, and the Arena is scoured clean. One breath passes, two, and a tendril rises from the center, green and growing, sprouting leaf after leaf and shoot after shoot. The greenery grows with impossible speed, old growth growing wooden to form the core, as vine and leaf and flower sculpt a human shape, growing clearer with every passing second.

The growth halts, and then eyelids drawn in mahogany vines open, revealing eyes form of emerald petals. They stand, stretching limbs of wood and vine, running hands over their new form, to touch the wooden horns on their head. A smile crosses their face, and they stretch out their arms, loosing green tendrils into the red sands. They wait a moment, then grasp the verdant wires, and heave with practiced grace.

The sands burst open, and three others shoot from beneath them:
A wooden goblin, great fronds for his pointy ears and knotted wood for his handsome nose, landing with a flourish and a bow.
A tall, sinuous Drakel, scales formed of myriad leaves and teeth of thorn, pirouetting on nimble wooden feet, and dropping to a curtsy.
A burly, ruddy man, beard of russet tendrils and eyes of sapphire petals, dusting sand off his legs and reaching for a lute formed of wood and tightened string.

Their vines snap, and yet the three do not fall. Sirellon holds out a hand, and they take it. Bertram strums a tune, and they take position. Farook claps hands together, and they step in time, a quartet of feeting striding, dancing, over the sands and to the gates. They cross the threshold with a whoop, and break into a run, vanishing into the streets of Bern.

Whither lives the wanderer?
Where the living find
The light of love
The warmth of home
The welcome of the kind.

Page: <<   < prev  1 [2]

Valid CSS!

Forum Software © ASPPlayground.NET Advanced Edition