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=EC 2021= Grand Arena

 
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8/15/2021 16:21:34   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Silence reigned in the vacant stands surrounding the Grand Arena. Its walls, witness to countless years of slaughter and carnage, ever yet stood firm at the boundary of the sands. Sands stained in hues of scarlet and crimson, thanks to the tribute spilled upon them year after year. The dunes gleamed in the sunlight, gorgeous enough to mesmerize - were it not for the aura of hunger, of anticipation, of desire for further satiation.

No wish came without a cost, and the Arena would exact its toll.



As noon crept ever closer, the entrances to the stands swung open. Crowds rushed in to fill the empty seats, an excited babble filling the air as the throng filled the stands. They elbowed and shoved, rushing to claim the spots closest to the coming bloodbath. Yet throughout the chaos, all kept half their attention on those already present in the frontmost row. Delicate scarves and long, multi-colored robes hid the faces and features of those chosen to speak for the Lords. With heads bowed and arms clasped before them, they stood as statues in stark comparison against the scrambling spectators. Watching. Waiting.

Then the sun reached its zenith, sliding into place directly above the center of the Arena. As one, the criers moved; heads raising and hands extending to command the attention of the abruptly hushed and eager crowd. Calm lasted for but a moment before they spoke, a multitude of tones and voices that melded into one as they issued forth their decree. “Fights of glory and deceit, acts of mercy and cruelty, moments of hope, despair, and fury, all have we witnessed in the Trials today! Now the Lords have chosen, and as they once passed judgement on the Champions of Old, now will they decide the most worthy of those before us today. Witness their chosen heroes. Witness the Paragons!”


The roar of an ancient dragon split the air. A great maw of flame erupted from the ground, filling the arena with an unbearable heat as mirages flickered in the corners of the watching eyes. Curtains of scarlet parted to reveal the great serpent’s skull, crimson and gold etchings clear against bleached bone. It rested upon the brow of a Hirri Zen, coal black fur shedding waves of dust onto the opal pedestal below. The rodent curled a long tail above his head, one paw resting upon the estoc gleaming at his belt. Keen golden eyes tracked the last wisps of flame before his gaze turned to the center of the arena, dust slowly settling about him. The Pillar of Fire burned all - friend or foe - that stood between it and victory.

“A skirmisher without an army, yet a force unto her own. Her artistry blazed bright upon the waters of the Moonlit Fountain. Witness Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke, Paragon of Fire!”

A beam of radiant dawn, stronger than even the noon-day sun above, illuminated the scarlet sands. The unrelenting brightness brought with it an unrivaled calm until even the most restless of the crowd fell still. It alit upon a diamond podium - and from the glow stepped the twisted figure of a werewolf. It blinked at the brightness before shifting, folding into itself to form a tall, wiry paladin, the glow of heaven-light ever present across her brow. She pushed the hair out of her face with one hand and summoned a battleaxe with the other, leaning on it as she turned to observe the arena. The Pillar of Light would blind the unworthy, yet heal those who held faith in its glow.

“An alchemist in search of an answer, caught between courage and cowardice. His strength struck down divine power amongst the chaos of the Descending Factory. Witness Albus Gwenyth Servo, paragon of Light!”

A crackle of static shattered the calm. Anticipation and agitation fought to the forefront of minds and hearts before a bolt of lightning sundered the sands, leaving behind a platform of glass. Sparks and electricity twined upon it, as if unable to decide on a single form. One moment a young woman, glaive in one hand and bridle in the other - next a tall hybrid of human and insect, four arms crossed and triangular head bent slightly to survey the ground below. Like a living statue, the lightning continued to shift even as no other actions followed. The Pillar of Energy knew only chaos and followed no rules but its own.

“A warrior bound by covenant, her path lost to her by peace. Her thunder shattered glass and bone within the ruin of Sky’s Broken Dawn. Witness Levanna, Mother of the Thunderstruck Plains, Paragon of Energy!”

A whispering breeze disturbed the stillness of the arena, swirling across the bloodstained sands. It tugged mischievously at loose hair and clothing, with just a hint of cruel trickery behind its playful facade. Gradually the eddies grew - joining together into a cyclone that swallowed motes of crimson dust only to pelt them at the spectators’ exposed skin. At its center emerged a plinth of silver, bearing a figure small in stature yet fierce in bearing. From her bare feet to her pointed ears, her entire form rippled with muscle and grace. Even as the rest of the statue stilled, her mane of wild hair continued to billow slightly in the breeze. The Pillar of Wind provided the air of life itself, yet could steal that breath away with a mere thought.

“An artificer of gem and stone, xyr fortune as capricious as a cavorting zephyr. Xyr tools crafted beautiful destruction within the ruin of Sky’s Broken Dawn. Witness Pietersite, the Shimmering Breeze, Paragon of Wind!”

A bone-deep chill settled over the crowd, frost creeping over the edge of the arena’s walls. People pulled close together, as if in defense against the sudden bite of bitter cold. Snow fell from the cloudless sky - piling upon itself until it formed a sculpture of an immense fur-covered creature, wicked claws digging into the crystal stand beneath it. The bear reared up onto its hind legs, a show of strength made all the more impressive by the gleaming armor covering most of its form. It bared sharpened fangs in a silent roar as the snow ceased, a torc of iron and gem glinting at its throat. The Pillar of Ice preserved the worthy, and slew the rest.

“A soldier frigid with pride, resolved to stand high above the rabble. His iron will commanded the flow of battle upon the waters of the Moonlit Fountain. Witness Cassius Pallu, Paragon of Ice!”

An unsettling gloom followed upon winter’s heels. Colors dimmed and excitement waned away as a pool of inky blackness spilled across the sands, coalescing into an obelisk of smoothest obsidian. On it stood a man made entirely of shadows - shades of black and grey emphasising the long overcoat that covered his slim form. Two lone spots of color stood out amidst the morass: the bright red scarf circling his neck and the brilliant scarlet gloves adorning his hands. He saluted the stands with a beautifully curved blade, the shaska glinting even in the absence of light as he thrust it towards the arena’s center. The Pillar of Darkness brought both death and rebirth, but always at a cost.

“A mage of ichor and flesh, with tattered pinions unfurling amongst the stars. His magics rained blood upon the waters of the Moonlit Fountain. Witness Milo, Paragon of Darkness!”

A single drop of rain fell from the sky. Then another. Then another. The heavens opened and people dove under their seats for a modicum of cover against the sudden deluge. It drenched the sands, pooling until a pillar of salt rose upwards from the soaked ground. Upon it stood a simple Drakel, regarding the suddenly-dry crowds with bright eyes. He leaned on a long staff as bits of salt continued to rise from the drying sands, forming delicate patterns as they worked their way along his scales - the last pieces settling in with a series of gentle plinks. The Pillar of Water held dangers in its depths that lurked far beneath its still surface.

“A colossus caged by metal, granted neither respite nor rest. His rage sought death within the ruin of Sky’s Broken Dawn. Witness Crail, Paragon of Water!”

The ground trembled and shook as stones emerged from the sands, adorned with intricate carvings of vines and leaves. Their beauty went unappreciated as a skeletal figure clawed its way forth between them, eliciting screams of fear from the crowd. It twitched, responding to the strings of the puppeteer standing aloft the tallest crag. The bones broke apart and slipped beneath the figure’s billowing cloak - though the folds of fabric did little to disguise the skeletal falcons adorning their shoulders or the antlers across their back. The figure twitched, and the bones stilled to await the beginning of the fight. The Pillar of Earth, for all its stability, remained ever unpredictable.

”A raider beset by calamity, warped by chitin and decay. With barb and thorn, his infestation blighted the chaos of the Descending Factory. Witness Krehgor, Paragon of Earth!”


Silence returned to the stands once more, tension heavy in the air. People held their breath, leaning forward as if desperate to get just that much closer to the fight. A single moment of calm before the storm. But just a single moment.

The pressure broke. The crowds roared. And above them all came the joined voices of the criers. “We now bear witness to the Trial of the Desert Sands. Let the Judgment of the Arena begin!”

AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 1
8/17/2021 23:23:43   
Apocalypse
Member

Twin Fang’s flight was cut short as its weight magnified manyfold. The axe head clattered to the ground and tumbled across the glassy surface, screeching with every bounce. Crail snarled as he wrenched on the chain to reel it in. Whatever sorcery it was, it had been too late - his steel had already found one of its marks. May your god find peace with you, half-breed. Gripping the chain tight near the axe head, Crail stepped towards the Stormkissed and the werebeast with a roar in his throat. All around him the pillars shimmered, bathing him in their chromatic light.

His foot crashed against the translucent floor.

A chime called out.

And the monoliths erupted.

Glass quaked and burst, bombarding shards in every direction. The vartai was suddenly falling, plummeting end over end as crystal and light alike reflected off his bright scales. He let out a howling laugh as the air whistled past his face. Let his enemies tear the ground asunder, let the very skies turn against him! He would not relent, he would not cease. “Frost and fury!” Grasping Twin Fang in his metal fist, the son of the Verglas raised it high above him and bellowed for all to witness.

Once more…

“Geir…”

With his brother’s name on his lips, the ground rose to meet him.




With his brother’s name on his lips, the water rose to meet him.

Crail cried out for khanate and khan as he leapt from the ship’s bow. The rain pelted his form, icy cold droplets washing away the sprays of scarlet discoloring his scales and steel. They dripped with the blood of the thundering soldiers and their captain, but his work was not yet done - one more needed to taste his vengeance.

The Storm Below the Waves awaited.

Lighting flashed not in the sky above, but in the waters below. It sprung to life in a tantalizing arc of intertwined webs, nets of blasphemous energy ensnaring each other over and over again until it forged a serpentine silhouette. But this lightning did not disperse, did not retreat into the nothingness from whence it came. It endured, curling its neck and glaring up with eyes of brilliant ivory. Jaws of pulsating fangs stretched wide as the behemoth reached for the surface to welcome the falling vartai. Its form reignited with beaming energy, reshaping it again and again in a lustrous flurry of mirages.

It’s gaping maw invited naught but death and destruction.

Crail smiled.

He hit the water.

And all was dark.





Crail stirred.

How long had it been?

Saltwater stung his eyes as the vartai opened them. Greeted by darkness, Crail craned his neck to find the surface above...and found nothing. No starlight pierced through the wall of water, nor did any waves rage upon the sea’s face. He shifted to gaze back downwards but found it indistinguishable from any other direction. The vartai’s own hand was imperceptible to him as he passed it inches in front of his own face. A cough escaped from him, the loose air bubbles tickling the scales surrounding his mouth before dissipating. Crail tried to orient himself but could not as he drifted through the abyss.

This was wrong.

He did not breathe, but neither did his lungs beg for air. He made no efforts to swim but he did not seem to sink, nor did he seem to rise. And the longer he rested there, the more the aching in his wounds ebbed away.

Crail became still.

Was this...what awaited after death?

A tomb both infinite and crushing? An existence that was not existing at all?

Was this what he had fought for?

Crail closed his eyes.

He could rest now. War did not drive him, vengeance did not dominate his heart, and he was free from that mind of metal. It would be easy to slip into the slumber that had eluded him all those years. Just…

...a little…

...rest…

“No.”

“It did not end like this.”

Very good, son of the Verglas.

Crail opened his eyes.

All around him was metal: tubes and towers and all manners of twisted shapes. They glowed and groaned with light and lightning before falling silent. Some hissed, some clinked, and some spurted out alien noises. But he cared not for these machines - he cared for the creature standing before him.

The creature was not too dissimilar to himself, covered in scales and bearing talons, fangs, and a tail. But where Crail found his lineage from dragons, this one was closer to a lizard; much sleeker in shape and far less imposing. Indeed, while the creature was tall he was also thin of frame, and he bore no armor. Instead, a thin white cloak wrapped around his body. Meticulous fingers flicked a glass vial that sparked with green life as the vartai glowered at his captor.

Crail attempted to leap forward but found himself restrained, pressure building around his shoulders and waist. He thrashed in his standing prison before spitting out his next words. “What have you done to me!?”

What he did to you is quite obvious I should think.” The creature put down his instrument and turned to Crail, meeting his gaze. No life seemed to spark beyond those hazy blue irises. Crail’s face coiled to a grimace.

The creature continued. “This drakel pulled you from the wreckage and decided it could make use of you. But that is a tale you’ve done once before. .” Crail again pulled at his restraints, this time feeling the sharp twist of knives at his left elbow and right bicep. The sharp agony swept up his limbs in a blazing fire. He clenched his teeth until he tasted blood, feeling it trickle down his lip. Unperturbed, the drakel stepped forward. His face loomed inches from the vartai’s own, and as he spoke, Crail could neither feel nor smell his breath.

As for the other, well, perhaps it was the devotion that was at fault.

Crail grit his teeth, the fangs threatening to crack under the pressure. “My life was devotion! To khan and khanate! To fury and frost!”

Yes it was. And here is the end of that road.

Crail froze as the words reverberated in his mind. The drakel stepped back and began toying with his tools as if no conversation had transpired. Throbbing waves of pain continued to emanate from the vartai’s limbs. For the first time since this nightmare began, Crail looked down.

He was held in some sort of iron bed suspended vertically in the air, with leather straps holding his body in place by the waist, chest, and shoulders. But what cut his breath short was the condition of his body. Or rather, the sheer lack of it. Everything below his torso was completely missing, as was his left arm below the elbow and almost the entirety of the right. From each vacant mass of flesh came not blood but a series of thin blue threads in a multitude of spiderwebs. They tangled together in a dense labyrinth as they descended into spools of petallike sapphires alive with glinting light. Crail breathed once, twice as he absorbed what he was seeing. On the third he moved his left arm and felt a lance of pain shoot up a forearm that was not there. He did it again and this time felt phantom fingers shredding themselves on a rusty blade.

Crail grimaced in response not to the pain, but the revelation. His body was not trapped in an iron prison - it was kept alive by one. He raised his maw and let loose a wretched howl that resounded throughout the chamber. It was rage. It was anguish. It was both desperation and defeat. He howled until his lungs craved breath and his voice gave out, leaving him gasping for air.

Are you satisfied?

Crail glared at the drakel, vision blurred by the tears he refused to let fall. His breath rose and fell in a shuddering cadence. The drakel looked at him with his blank stare, thin lips curling into a faint smile.

Then perhaps one final blaze of glory yet awaits.




Crail’s eye opened.

He was resting on the floor in some stone passageway, the fatigue from the battle of Daybreak settling deep into his bones. He braced an arm, a metal arm, upon the floor and pushed himself up. And thus mine trials persevere. The taste of salt plagued his tongue, so he turned his head and spat. A splash of crimson accompanied the spittle, and his shoulder twitched as it bore both his wounds and his weight. He grunted and hissed as he clambered to his feet. Down the corridor a ray of sunlight beamed in, and with it, a raucous choir screaming in unison. The final battle called for him. He began his long march down the hallway, listening as one voice boomed above the others to give revelry to the announcement of the chosen. Crail wrapped his chain about his forearm as he walked, committing the paragon’s names and triumphs to memory.

He stopped short when the Paragon of Ice was named.

It was not him.

The Great Frost had chosen another.

A thousand thoughts rushed through Crail’s mind as he stood there motionlessly, Twin Fang swinging loose on its tether. Why? Why had he been abandoned? Had it not been enough? Every act, every conquest had been for frost and fury. A century, a lifetime spent honoring the Great Frost…

...and he had been cast aside.

The announcements continued, and Crail’s ear perked up when his name was called. Not as the Paragon of Ice, but as that of Water.

Confusion. Rage. Doubt. It all blended together in a mass in the vartai’s mind. A new haze filled his thoughts as he continued trudging forward, one knee begging him to stop all the while. But he could not, would not, rest until he had an answer. And there was only so much time before that false life seized the reins once again.

Burying these thoughts, he stepped out into the almost blinding light of the grand arena and its scarlet sands. A pillar greeted him, its figure a tall reptilian creature composed of salt. Crail narrowed his remaining natural eye. Even now the drakel shaman makes a mockery of me.

Jaw clenched tight, Crail caught sight of the Stormkissed Levanna on the opposing side of the arena. He took a step forward, sand crunching beneath his foot…

no.

He had already walked that path. He had lived that path. And he had been forsaken.

Pivoting on his heel, Crail turned to the Pillar of Ice. Its form of an armored bear overshadowed the figure beneath its gaze in size but not presence. The Paragon of Ice was a pale figure donning wings and crown of blackened ice, with a formality of dress that reeked of the supposed civility of sun-warmed lands.

“Cassius Pallu, Chosen of Ice!” Crail roared his challenge as he approached, Twin Fang hanging loose on its chain. “He who is favored by the Great Frost while I, who pledged body and soul to it, was cast aside like spoiled meat!” The vartai began twirling the chain, Twin Fang singing as it cut through the air. “In the name of khan and khanate, I challenge you!”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 2
8/17/2021 23:40:33   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


Jacklin was struggling to remain conscious.

She was sopping wet and freezing cold - feelings that were beginning to become commonplace in this moonlit pool - but more than anything, she was confused. Her blade had been at the fool’s throat, ready to sever his neck in beauty when fire had erupted through her back.

Yes yes, her back. She tried to raise a hand to check the severity of her wounds, but the very action shot another surge of pain through her, cloaking her vision in darkness.

Severity is high then. Lovely.

It had been fire on her back followed by a rope, pulling her, forcing her aside. Her smoke was… gone. She must have passed through it without coaxing it to follow. And now at the edge of her vision she could just make out… the fool and the machine, playing like children, tossing the robot skyward so he could dance among the stars.

Was… was she having a stroke? Was loss of blood driving her to hallucinate? This… this was what her bet was interrupted for? Jacklin tried to laugh, but the shaking of her body shot twin bolts of agony through her back.

The waters around her began to ripple. Soft at first, but slowly swelling in intensity as His light crashed inwards just beyond her rapidly deteriorating sight. More hallucinations? Or punishment from the Lords? As the pull of gravity drew blood from her back and pulled her along the vanishing water, Jacklin’s sight finally died as she faded into unconsciousness, unsure if she would wake again or where she’d be if she did.




White marble tiles, filled with heat, inscribed with the sun itself. They didn’t make for the most comfortable pillows, but the long sought-after warmth was refreshing after the cold hell Jacklin had just been through in the Fountain.

Though, something about these tiles struck Jacklin as familiar. She could only remember one place these would be, but how the heck would she have gotten…

“A burst of flame and an ungracious fall. How terribly uncouth of you, Child of Smoke.”

Oh Lords.

The slow, elderly voice rocketed through her, and Jacklin shot straight up. In a swift motion she was on her feet, her left arm behind her back and her right hand rising to block her sight.

“A thousand apologies thy Radiancy. My shame is boundless.”

The elderly voice chuckled. “Tis just us, Child of Smoke. You may be at ease.”

Slowly, her motion filled with uncertainty, Jacklin lowered her hand but remained stiff. Her eyes took in His throne room, elegant as always. White marble tiles below and a golden sheen above, broken only by the radiant pillars and their blazing torches that filled the room with a comfortable heat. Before her was The Emperor Himself, seated upon the intricately designed throne of the sun. She had never known him to be any age other than ancient, his brilliant black and gold robes hanging on an elderly, frail body. The gorgeously designed crown sat ever-proud on his white-haired head, and a cloth bandage was wrapped tight around his left eye. His crimson right, however, gazed at her with mirth, a small smile playing on his old lips. She had seen him hundreds of times already, and yet there was something different. Some weight, some heat under his stare that felt like she was being examined deeply.

“How did I…?”

A figure stepping out from behind the throne (how dramatic, how typical) caused her thoughts to slip away. A soldier clad in the same black and gold uniform as herself, though unmarred by childish energy. Beneath a matching cap was a head of short crimson hair with a single strand of white. His golden eyes locked on hers, and a small smirk formed on his face.

Jacklin glanced at His Eminency, who gave her a small nod, then she launched forwards. In but a few bounds she had crossed the room and embraced her brother. His hands wrapped around her, granting her a feeling of safety for the first time in what felt like forever. As he brushed her back, his hand froze on two splits in her suit, a pair of matching scars beneath. The two siblings broke away from each other and Jack spoke, his voice smooth and straight, filled with pride and warmth.

“New scars.” He nodded at her side where her own heated metal had kissed her flesh. “That one seems particularly rough.”

Jacklin laughed and ran a hand along it. “You like it? Made it myself! Seems the Lords have enough taste to heal the pain but leave the rewards. Shame they didn’t fix the suit though.”

Jack laughed along, a low rumbling chuckle that brought a rush of emotion to Jacklin. “And the sleeves? I doubt a foe simply cut those away while leaving your arms intact.”

She smiled wide, eyes glittering with sly joy. “They got in the way.”

He sighed at her casual, shameless response. “I gave the suit to you as a symbol of what you were trying to return to, not as something you were actually supposed to bring into combat.”

The Emperor cleared his throat, and Jack started. “Ah, right.”

Jack extended a hand. Without missing a beat, Jacklin reached out and took it, a broad smile on her face. There was a familiarity to it, a motion that had been done dozens of times before, though all of those in the past seemed to lack a heavy intensity that was present in the room. Jacklin shifted uncomfortably for a moment. Was… was she being watched by someone? His Eminency had said they were alone in the room, but she could feel an eye on her, gazing with great scrutiny.

The Emperor spoke, his voice booming and filled with power. It echoed throughout the room and seemed to encompass the entire hall.

“Under mine authority as the Emperor of this Radiant Land and witness to the beginning of this challenge, I declare the wager between siblings complete. Jack Oriso Smoke - for venturing deep within the Sunless Lands where Mine Radiance doth not reach - has already been promoted to Captain. Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke - for challenging the Elemental Championships of Bren under the gaze of Mine Benefactor - will be promoted to match, and granted her own assembly of Skirmishers to train and command.”

His voice lowered, and a smile crept across his face. “I am proud of both of you, despite thy foolishness in starting such a game. Though tis a game I agreed to… perhaps the fool is me!”

Jacklin released her brother’s hand and knelt, her head low. “Thy Radiancy, thy could never be fool. I thank you, and will return to Bren to retrieve my belongings so I can begin my duties as a Captain immediately.”

Jack and The Emperor both raised an eyebrow. Jack spoke slowly, uncertainty in his voice. “You didn’t think you were done.. did you, sis?”

“I’ve completed my goal, and returned to my country. I have no reason to go back to Bren other than to prepare to serve at my utmost...”

The Emperor shook his head, a frown forming on his face. She could hear a growing displeasure in his voice but did not understand the reason for it. “You are not finished, Child of Smoke. Thy Lord has shown me thy struggles under Moonlight, and has chosen you to continue onwards.”

Jacklin bowed deeper. “I serve you, Thy Excellency. The Lords do not hold such sway over me.”

“But I serve The Lords, Child of Smoke.”

“Then I can best show my allegiance to thine Lords by serving you to my greatest extent.” Jacklin raised her gaze, shocked at the disappointment painted upon The Emperor’s face. Was she not being a perfect servant?

“Damn you, Jacklin.” The Emperor’s hand rose slowly, almost reluctantly to his bandage, then tore it away, and the overwhelming presence in the room increased a thousandfold. Jacklin slammed her gaze back to the marble tiles beneath, knowing to look upon The Emperor now would be to revoke life but not knowing why. She had seen beneath the bandage before, but it masked only an empty socket, an eye lost eons ago. So why…

Fire. She could feel it licking at her skin, scorching her to the bone without burning scars into flesh, without searing pain into her mind. The heat was almost unbearable alone, and it only worsened once The Emperor began to speak once more.

His voice, already powerful, seemed ever more so. There was a new light to it, an echo that burned her body and soul to the core and demanded every ounce of attention, every ounce of obedience from her.

“If you will not fight for yourself, or for The Lords, then you will fight for mineself. As Thine Emperor, as Representative of The Lord of Fire themselves, I enact their will and command you, Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke, to fight in the Grand Arena of the Elemental Championships. To win for thine country, which you wish to serve so faithfully. To win for Mine Lord, who has chosen YOU as their Paragon.” His voice softened, losing some of the otherworldly power behind it. “And to return here alive.”

The fire, the heat, pulled the answer from her lips almost against her will, dragging it forth into the burning air.

“I, Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke, will serve as desired.”

The last thing she heard before the flames consumed was her brother’s voice, goading her on and commanding her to keep her suit intact this time.




The roar of the crowds reached her ears, and Jacklin’s eyes flicked open. Around her were stands filled to the brim with spectators of all varieties, waiting in anticipation for the games to begin. Eight massive statues formed a ring around the arenas floor, each beautiful in its own right. The one before her was a humanoid, ratlike creature, gazing out towards the center of the crimson sands beneath her feet and radiating a pleasant warmth. Opposite her, all the way across the sands and standing beneath a massive armored bear was dear Lieutenant Colonel Cassius Pallu. Jacklin smirked; it seemed their little challenge had pleased both of their Lords! She stopped admiring the various statues to examine herself, noting that her brother’s uniform was gone, replaced with a newly fitted one that hugged her form fairly tight and remained tucked beneath a belt. The golden embroidery was gorgeous, far better than her old suit, and a glimmering badge of the sun adorned the left of her chest. She smiled, but her lips gradually, bitterly curled downwards as she looked at her arms.

Complete, unmarred sleeves, the cuffs at her wrists clasped tight with beautiful golden buttons. She could feel her smokey tattoos rippling beneath them, yearning for the touch of His light directly overhead, but she forced the feeling aside. She instead stepped forwards with slow, confident steps, each one oozing with flair. As she stepped beyond the statue, she saluted His light above in a smooth practiced motion, thrusting her errant energy down so it became only a single tap of her foot, and crossed her arms behind her back in pause to survey the foes around her.

Her eyes passed Cassius once more, and she tried desperately but fruitlessly to push away thoughts of their uncomplete wager. She gave a small shake of her head; she would have to do her best to not let the thoughts disrupt her work.

For today, Jacklin was a soldier.
Post #: 3
8/18/2021 16:53:18   
Sylphe
Member

Vulture was a constellation that included many others. Much like Ophiuchus, a man and snake, this one was made up of the wings which covered the dome, and the claws, which Milo’s gaze followed to meet viterbi falling.

It wasn’t a fall. The moon’s gravity slowed the little robot into a gentle sail.

Something was amiss with that sail. It was too slow for the moon’s quiet pull. It could never drag him forward, not even as weak as he was, and so soon faded into the back of his mind when he needed the front to deal with icy blades and fireworks.

They had been the more pressing affair back then.

The waters of the arena surged around his legs. His hunch was right, and in a worry of what the falling robot’s fate may be, he tried to rush over to catch him. The Moon’s pull had truly intensified, and Milo took a stumble forward, resulting in a pained hiss as a jolt of agony up his leg made its injuries known, the frostbitten foot crashing upon the rocky surface. The celestial body upon them had started breaking, and just as the silvery gray rocks and miniature mountains disappeared within the forming singularity, the pull had become so much more powerful so fast. There was nothing he could do but succumb to its force.

Ice ran across his spine as even the feathers within him dreaded. Not even the Vulture had dared to get past the event horizon. Making that mistake once was enough. Like a fletchling intent on getting out of the nest too early, it nearly didn’t make it back in time.

veeterbee, he tried to call, but even breathing felt like trying to move a mountain, even opening his eyes was too much effort under the tremendous force. With all his willpower held to keep the orb in place, there was no way for his mind to reach out.

veeterbee-!

He stumbled forward, until there was nothing to stumble on.

veeterbee, I- I have failed you- you too-

He felt the warmth of the sun on his back. He felt the pressure lessen. Though, lessen was not the right word. It spread out, it grew. It tugged on every little cell of his body rather than just the ones closest to oblivion. It was slow.

Relentless.

It knew it had all the time in the world, for it was very, very old.

Planets and stars and galaxies would meet their destruction before it even took its next breath.

Milo opened his eyes with great effort, despite already knowing. The chills, they dampened any last ray of sunlight that had tried to reach him. Though he knew there was no way for them to, if they didn’t want to lose their way forever.

Before him was a black hole.

It was so unbearably enormous it was nearly all he saw. Somewhere at the edges of his vision, glittering and spinning towards its doom, was the event horizon. Not even a speck of light from this last dance crossed the border. The darkness here was absolute in its form, and Milo wasn’t even sure if it was darkness at all anymore. Maybe it was the absence of even that, a step further from darkness being the absence of light.

Feeling his breathing heave, his heart in a fever pitch, Milo realized the danger of this slow fall. The horizon, there at the edge of his vision.

He had gotten too close, far too close.

Struggling to breathe, struggling to move against the slow and sure pull, it was futile to try and move away. The icy creeps, they formed a feeling, a feeling desperate and vile but too well known.

There was one way.

If he let go, if he transformed here, among the stars, and flapped with his wings spread wide, perhaps he could just make it in time if he made the decision fast. But something stung in that heart of his, something black and driven deep. To invite the scavenger was to invite doom. It was to let go and grow mad with the thin weavings of the cosmos between his fingers. It was-

A flash of flame.

A woman, begging. A claw, kicking her away. A talon, tearing through her in fury.

A beak, speaking words that bound fate itself, made it kill.

N-no.

Never again.

I- I- didn’t mean it-


He was flying. Without wings, without direction. He was falling into a place where ascent and descent lost all meaning.

Can you curse without meaning to, Milo?

He could have sworn he saw something move as space bent in great lines of silver and gold, like a mirror in the black. Another him, just there to the left, just as helpless, just as accusatory. He dreaded thinking the image would turn and glare, give himself the pale look he wore right now. He could have sworn that for as long a blink lasts - even though blinking here felt like an aeon - the twin images to his sides were of a man and a beast.

Can you drain and burn without meaning to, Milo?

He didn’t want to see it. He didn’t want to see them turn towards him.

The pull tore. The pull ripped, and all that was left was to stare out, at the former surge of light, now a fainter and fainter circle somewhere in the far distance as the absolute enveloped him. It grew smaller and smaller, the sunlight from Fountain within its bounds.

Can you take a gift and misuse it?

Somewhere there, Peregrine. Somewhere there, veeterbee. Pietersite. The soldier of winter, and his executioner of embers. He was leaving them all behind. And perhaps, he thought as the pressure tore at him so hard he struggled to remain at all there, it was for the best.

The pull- Milo couldn’t breathe anymore, blood pulsing wildly in his ears.

He knew what followed, now that even his orb couldn’t keep him in one piece.

And he didn’t want to see that either.

He lost the orb. It slipped through and became the singularity.

Can you tear and kill without meaning to?

It was a moment, both short and sharp and stretched into eternity. Of snapping, of being pulled apart, by something far greater than a set of sparkling talons. His consciousness flickered out in a surge of energy.




Floating.

Softness and a wind that shook the ground..

Milo opened his eyes to great pine trees. Their needles looked soft, and as tall as they were, they swayed with the wind. Between their thin crowns, distant stars. There was no moon, just a single star of bright blue.

It appeared to dance, almost moving with the wind. Milo blinked, and realized he could see. This time, clearly and without afterimages of an executioner’s blade. He could hear the wind and the surge of his orb without feeling like a swimmer lost in unknown trenches.

His orb.

His orb was here. He held it close to his chest as he sat up. Its shade a vibrant red, the celestial black hidden deep beneath. Its surface moved with the wind. He wondered when he bled to fill it up. As far as he could tell, there was no blood when…

The memory was still reverberating in his skull. Bright red and orange and burning and tearing and nerves on fire. And then nothing. He shivered. A split second where all the threads that made him up were untangled and lifeless.

But he was still here. Why?

Milo got up, and realized, to his surprise, that there was feeling in his toes again. Had the grass here felt a little less thick, he’d take his shoes off and run, here in those silent woods. But instead, he huddled into his cloak, and pressed on. The tall, glowing grains of the grass left seeds on his clothes. Bright cerulean, sat atop stems of black, they looked almost like little lanterns.

And walking, eyes flickering from one side to another, as if he could expect someone to pop up, he realized something else. The trees were pitch black, and swayed just a little too much to be trees. He walked towards one, touched, and pulled away in surprise. They weren’t trees at all, at least those he knew. Those, they were… They were flesh. This close, he could sense that. Though if there was any blood within, that he couldn’t tell.

A curiosity sparkled within Milo as he continued along the “pines”. To pull them apart, see what they’re made of. He followed whatever direction his heart pleased before choosing the wind’s source. It was strange how monotone it was. The star was not very reliable with how it appeared there in one moment, and in another place when he looked away. He wondered what had happened to him, and mostly, why. He didn’t feel dead, in fact, very much the opposite. His threads flared with life. But there was something off about them. They felt a little too bright for him. His hands with all of their imperfections, exactly as pale as before. His cloak, with a loose thread where there always was one, its black softened by the sun. But just like he had seen in the toy Lunases out there in the stands, there is a difference between wear and something being made anew to look worn. It had always been that way, and never once young or new.

He’d probably study that feeling and his hands for a while if he didn’t come up to some broken up buildings, whole parts of them severed and floating. And the closer he got, the more he realized that so was he. Every step of his had extra spring, and his hood and cloak flowed as if gravity was in a slumber.

In a way, he got to the moon, too.

But between those buildings… He couldn’t help but shrink. In those shadows between them, it almost felt as if there would be eyes, heads, staring. Any moment now. Looking at the ruins, he saw the ones he scattered, with flicks of flame supplied by his mind. The people, crying out at him before they became a part of his orb. In those woods, creatures the vulture had changed forever to suit his whims.

Somewhere in those halls, a bloodline cursed to be just a line, with all of the blood spilling at the slightest break of the skin.

And no matter how much he tried to fix what damage he had done, by giving up that corrupting power, he gave up the chance to reverse its effects.

Why was he brought back?

He almost felt anger bubble up in his heart as he entered what appeared to be an astronomy tower of some sort. Charred stairboards broke up under his feet, splinters sent levitating. And there, at its top, a sundered wall, with the view forward. Drawings of fireflies lined the walls, made of cinder and blue lanternseed. He could tell they’d been used to conduct power before, but couldn’t anymore. Whatever lived here was long gone.

Save for one.

In front of him, he saw a blackness, a void among the stars. A better look, and he realized that it was moving, sleepily and slowly. It was a neck, adorned with glittering fur that Milo recognized as his trees and lantern grass. And on top of it, a wise head of a great snapping turtle, its beak sharp and large enough to tear through planets.

The bright star was its eye.

And then he saw something else, and his heart sank. Where the neck met its shoulders, a tear, a wound. Oozing the void out and away. It was larger than he remembered. Senseless, the physician turned blood mage ran down those stairs, sending more sharp splinters to float and hover, and before he knew, he ran through the fields of lanterngrass closer and closer towards the wound.

He slowed down and came to an abrupt stop as he met the end of a cliff, bits of rubble falling down. It wasn’t getting any closer, and it never would, not unless he was willing to live a thousand lifetimes to get there. Even with dread and guilt, knowing to not bring attention to himself, he just couldn’t help it.

“Hello?”

He had to help, in any way he could.

And as if his voice had somehow carried over lightyears of distance, the creature peered down on him, twisting its neck and straining its wound. He cringed. With horror, he realized that it knew him, and wasn’t exactly happy about his existence. The enormous head had already started turning away, the eye winking out of vision, fields and forests plunging into darkness.

“Wait!”

It gave him one look, and he could sense the displeasure from it. His skin crawled. It was the same displeasure he felt from the pillar back under the moon, as it came down on the hateful parasite.

“I… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I-”

I didn’t know. I didn’t want to.

The power, it was too much, it did this to me, why didn’t you stop me?

Please-


He realized, looking into that great iris-less eye, that perhaps it was too late for forgiveness. That perhaps some things were done for and unable to be brought back. His heart stung at the thought.

But that… that didn’t matter to him. Not here. Not anymore. He wasn’t here to right his wrongs, he just…

“I can make it stop hurting. I don’t want anything, I-. Just, please. Let me help you.”

The Being stared, and he stared back, just as hopelessly. The rage seemed to wane, though not fully. It wanted it to stop hurting. But… Milo realized he didn’t think it through. The wound was lightyears away, lightyears wide, too. There was no way he could reach it. There was no way he and his orb would be strong enough.

That is, unless… There was one way.

Perhaps the way wasn’t to hide, but to learn. To not make the same mistake again.

Or he was just trying to look for an excuse.

Either way, he was about to do something very stupid.

He imagined how it would be if he somehow found himself truly dead. If he’d meet his little Niji. What she would say, what she would do.

She’d probably ask where his feathers were, and he’d hold her close, and ask if she’d missed him. And she’d say yes. But she’d also say that she missed Nima a little more.

And Anima would curl around her shoulders in the form of her beloved rat, Lin, who she dreamed of owning ever since he had found her.

Milo spread his arms and focused. He searched within the endless plumes of feather, power locked away and struggling to be free, to breathe.

Unfortunately, their lifestyle didn’t allow for a pet. A rat wouldn’t be happy travelling, and as much as he could renew its health, she was old and bright enough to tell. She was a bright kid. He loved her so much.

The space between him and the Turtle, the time within his fingers, the blood of a celestial within his orb and himself, they shuddered with increasing violence.

He loved her so much.

“Anima!”

Milo called, his voice an echo, piercing, an avian call.

“Spread our sinful wings.”

He spread them, and he felt them growing. He could take flight, like an arrow between the stars. He could make the thread of creation bend to his will. It was so clear now, almost as if a haze was blown from his mind, as if his muscles remembered an art long forgotten. Every scale, every tree of this cosmic giant, its heavy beating heart. He could take them apart with ease and form something new.

He wasn’t the Vulture. Not anymore. Milo opened his eyes, almost stuck overwhelmed with a spray of colour and feelings much greater than he remembered. His wings, infinite. His claws, sharp enough to rend the world.

He focused on the wound. It was so messy, so untangled, so infected with cosmic garbage it made him furious. Slowly, and yet faster than any planet could move, it came back together. And his lungs, they heaved. Feathers formed there too, stinging and piercing. A sharp, throbbing ache pierced his head.

Just a little longer. He could be enormous, he could be a constellation, but he was not that anymore. He was a man, a mortal.

The wind of the Turtle’s breath had calmed. The tear had been healed, the great veins of void whole again. There’d be a scar, but that was the least of his worries.

“How…”


How are you feeling, He struggled to ask. It was hard to speak with a beak, even as it was fading away.


Did it work? He couldn’t. He felt his vision flicker, the colours of the world all around blur and blend its threads. “I-I.” He brushed his arm, trying to still his wobble, and watched helplessly as an entire plume of feathers fell out, sailing to the nothing below.

“It’s been a while s-since I- did anything like this…”

The Being’s shining eyes were but an afterimage as his mind cut out, came back like a blip, and then was gone again. His knees buckled, and Milo plummeted into the depths below.

He came to see the stars.

He did not recognize any constellations here either.

He was too tired to make new ones, and the stars were too old and far apart.

Milo coughed, and feathers came out.

The last thing he could sense in any way was a warm, deep breath and coming to a sudden stop. Hanging in the maw of something enormous. Something taller than even the nebulous pillars of creation, ever making its way forward. Slowly, but now with a little more spring in its gargantuan steps, ever towards the end of days. Or a new beginning.

Same thing, really.




The space above the pedestal shivered, and then something tore a clean hole into the shimmering noon air. The crowd's calls gained on excitement, on confusion, on fear. Out breathed glittering dust of gray and silver, and with them, the Paragon.

Asleep, floating, his hair dancing as if gravity had no hold over it.

A great, pitch black and thorned snout of a cosmic turtle nudged him gently forward before retreating.

The paragon sailed to his spot and awoke to the crowd’s cheer. Almost anxiously, but with a smile, he regarded those stands. He brushed the stardust off his arm, and found on his shoulders a remainder of vulture feathers. Deep black and yet glittering with starlight against the sharp sun. A warning.

Chosen, on a condition.

Somewhere, within those stands, he was looking for a dragon, for Peregrine. And as he found those two black eyes, the weight of those words landed deeper in his soul.

Chosen, given a chance to stop the hurting.

Milo breathed in, and the orb pulsed. His eyes flicked across the adversaries. A lady of smoke and her angel. A raider seeking to bring disease to his orb. Pie… Pietersite? What was xe doing here? He turned his gaze away. Tendrils of red curled around his fingers. Appearing to almost sprout from them, threads of crimson, pinions.

To tie all of the loose ends, to start anew.

With an exhale, he pulled his arms upward. Blood sharpened into the thinnest, sharpest crystal, but in that lay their strength. They twirled between his fingers, now nearly transparent blades.

He who wishes to be reborn shouldn’t fear death.

And with a hurl and a roar, the blades cut air itself as they flew. A disgusting screech was the only warning they’d hold for the dragon seeking the frost seraph’s wrath.

“Warrior with a heart of ice!” Milo called out, running towards Crail. A stream of blood leaked from Anima, and formed a disc, thin and crystalline, without its trademark rough edges. Soon, a blade hovered next to his open palm. “Face your darkness and rage! Conquer yours and mine with me!”
DF  Post #: 4
8/18/2021 23:37:23   
Necro-Knight
Member

Every twisted muscle in his body had been wound tight, ready for the gilded assault of his foe. There was little distance in which to dodge, so this rushing assault of jewel and gem was going to have to be simply endured. As he braced himself for impact, the sound of grinding tectonic plates and howling forests in a storm engulfed his senses, forcing the Gunslinger to his knees as he pressed his hands to his ears. Amidst the cacophony of sound, his primal mind thought perhaps a cave in? Something from another arena that had caused the factory around them to collapse?

He clung to that island of logic among the sea of grinding stone between his ears as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to simply survive the vibrations that shook him to his bones. As quickly as it had consumed him, the earthquake in his brain ceased, leaving Krehgor with a deafening silence. Opening his eyes, he was no longer in the factory arena. Darkness stretched in all directions, save for a circle of light falling upon a typical tavern table. Illuminated in the center of the endless chamber of shadow by a single hanging lantern, Krehgor’s eyes were immediately drawn to the hulking figure sat at the table’s left side.

Skin dark like the earth and with arms that looked like they could crush great oak trees in their embrace, the man’s head was tilted back and a massive tavern mug was lifted to his lips. Krehgor was unable to determine what he was drinking, but if it was able to even touch this beast’s constitution, he wanted a mug of his own. Standing carefully and collecting his revolver, the gunslinger cautiously approached the table, his boots echoing with each step. The man’s hair was long, nearly reaching the back of his wide chair and was the color of a deep forest moss. The same emerald shade continued down his jaw in a neatly-trimmed beard that flowed down a massive chest garbed in fine robes of sage-green and wooden browns.

Stepping up beside the table, the towering man turned to look down at the tomb raider that joined him, his eyes a very similar shade of mossy green to his hair. For a silent moment, the two simply shared gazes and the only sound in the endless black was the pounding of Krehgor’s own heart in his ears.

Finally, the figure raised a hand that could’ve wrapped its fingers around his torso with ease and pointed to a second chair that Krehgor swore was not there a moment ago. Unlike the one the giant was using, it seemed fitted perfectly to his form as he sat his sore body into its comfortably padded back. Unable to help himself, he released the breath he’d been holding and kicked a foot up on the table, the elevation relieving a portion of the throbbing pain from his earlier duel.

“So… Avat’r o’Earth. Ya could’a just offered me an invitation, ‘stead’a doin’ all the theatrics.”

The mountain of a man smiled into his mug as he took another drink of what Krehgor could now easily see was a shimmering fruit blended juice and when he spoke, the depth of his tone shook Krehgor’s bones in much the same way the mental earthquake had.

“I did. I thought a sudden yawning chasm for you to fall into might have… given the wrong first impression.”

“Yeah, brother, thanks for just goin’ with the mental rockslide. So, ya chose me for this fin’l round? There a short’ge o’folks on your side?”

“Should I have chosen another?”

Krehgor shrugged, casually, and winced as the motion aggravated his bruises, “You’re the Avatar here, brother. I know I ain’t exactly shown my devotion to yer lot over the years, so I d’dn’t see me’self as the Parag’n o’much.”

The titanic figure was silent, lips pursed as if thinking on that point, before he silently took another gulp from his mug. Waiting for the mouthful of sweet juice to fully pass, the Avatar of Earth turned back to Krehgor and spoke plainly.

“Then why volunteer for the chance to become even more, should you become Champion?”

With one line, the titan he had chosen to represent had deconstructed Krehgor’s entire facade and laid bare the greatest doubt that still gnawed at his psyche. Why HAD he joined? Sure, a wish from beings of creation was nice and he could’ve probably written a list of things he wanted without much thought, but those were… desires of a man. He could earn gold, win games and treasure, woo lovers… even pay off his debts in time. He didn't want to use such an opportunity on things he could’ve earned through his own strength.

Without speaking, the Avatar’s human visage directed its gaze to Krehgor’s disfigured arm, resting comfortably on the table between them. At his gaze, the gunslinger drummed his claws on the table’s finished surface.

“Y’know… I don’t mind it, brother. I get the feel’n you could tell if I was lyin’, so I won’t even try. This, my gun… it’s helped me outta more scraps than it has caused.”

“Yet you do not understand its alchemical origin or how it would affect the world around you. Your power is not natural and not every soul may be as lucky as you if it spreads.”

Frowning, Krehgor suddenly felt a spark light up his mind and he turned fully to the Avatar, the staggering difference in size forgotten as he pointed his human finger up at the titan.

“So that’s it, ya chose me ‘cause ya think I’mma poison your trees and dirt? I’m no Parag’n, just a threat you’d prefer to have yer eye on?”

The gunslinger’s accusation was immediately snuffed by the sound of rumbling stones and Krehgor’s eyes widened as he realized it was the Avatar clearing his throat to silence him.

“You ARE my Paragon, by MY choice,” The emphasis of each word sent ripples through the mead resting on the table and Krehgor paled slightly, “I will not have that fact doubted. I will not force your hand should you earn the boons of the Championship, but know this… one blessing can be traded for another.”

Krehgor looked down at his twisted limb at that, frowning again, but more in thought instead of anger. Even if his “gift” remained and did not attempt to spread, the rest of his body may age and deteriorate over the years. He could not maintain his profession forever and a man twisted by black magics was not a prime candidate to start a family with. Settling down would never be an option and it was a realization Krehgor had not slowed down in his life long enough to see.

“Ya think you and yours could… fix me?”

The Avatar nodded.

“It is possible, but that relies on you, mortal. You now have a desire that rises above all others, as the mountain rises over the forests. A goal that lays a foundation like the bedrock of the earth… Now you are ready to be the Paragon of Earth.”

Krehgor was unable to fight the laugh that barked its way from lips and he grinned, turning to see the Avatar of Earth offering him a second mug, far more fit to the size of men.

“Ya got me there, brother… guess you’ve been around the cott’ge a few times,” he said with a grin and accepted the mug, swirling its vibrant contents.

“I am the stone the cottage is made from.”

“Right… well, sh’ll we drink to the earth then, brother?”

Krehgor rose his mug up and the Avatar of Earth and Stone and the globe itself gently knocked their mugs together. Eager to finally taste a literal nectar of the gods, the gunslinger threw back his mug and downed its contents with an experienced technique.

As he’d expected, the drink was a blend of various fruits but instead of competing for dominance, the sweet and sour and tangy all formed a melody that danced across his tongue. With each gulp, his aches faded, pains dissipated and the strength he’d lost in the duel before flowed back across his muscles with a renewed vigor.

”A raider beset by calamity, warped by chitin and decay. With barb and thorn, his infestation blighted the chaos of the Descending Factory. Witness Krehgor, Paragon of Earth!”

Slamming his empty mug down on the wooden table-top at the announcement piercing the silence of the Avatar’s pocket reality, Krehgor vaulted from his chair, using the sleeve of his coat to wipe his mouth and found the felt magical buzz of its aura also renewed. Unable to fight his grin and growing excitement, the gunslinger broke into song. An old song, one he hadn’t heard since his childhood in the far north. His parents, the chieftains of the clan, often used the song to bring good omens upon their people during the long winters. Going into battle yet again, he felt one more token of good luck wouldn’t hurt.

In a flash of brilliant emerald light, a doorway pierced the darkness a few yards in front of the Avatar and his table, signifying Krehgor’s new destination. Still carrying his northern battle hymn as he strolled towards his next arena, the tomb raider grinned again as he heard a second voice join his own in perfect tune. The Avatar of Earth’s rumbling voice carried his own and seemed to know the olden words even better than Krehgor himself.

Stepping out from the earthen pillar and into the sandy setting of the new arena, the Jarl-son-turned-graverobber rose his voice to its fullest, letting his song herald his arrival as he rose his arms to the stands. He recognized some of the faces around him, picked from the factory much like himself, and the song was for them most of all.

Let all hear and see Krehgor Revarnson and see the Paragon of Earth.

Finally, he reached the last syllable of his song and let his lungs recover, drawing his six-shot from its holster, the Avatar’s words still echoing in his skull.

“You now have a desire that rises above all others, as the mountain rises over the forests. A goal that lays a foundation for you like the bedrock of the earth…”

“Let’s see ‘em break a mountain…”
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 5
8/19/2021 16:09:15   
Synthe_
Member
 

quote:

Find solace in the endless snow, in remembrance of those lands taken from us.
- From “Requiem of Glass”


For the first time in months, the warmth of water burned at the side of Cassius’ face. He laid on one of his frozen platforms, now thrown deep enough into the pool that the ice did not reach the bottom. His mind had trouble recalling what exactly led up to his current situation, instead only remembering Jacklin’s searing light accompanying a violent shove.

Wasn’t she poised to finish the intruder off...? Surely she couldn’t have let him go.

After a moment, he strained to open his eyes. Despite his sight returning, the eerie ringing in his ears remained. With a hint of relief, he noticed the stars still hanging in the sky. Probably not dead then. Unfortunately, as he tried to lift his head to locate the other fighters, a sharp pain resisted his efforts. That might be an issue.

Cassius wasn’t given a chance to worry, as the waters beneath him began to pull away. An eldritch force pulled on the ruined edges of his coat, starting as a gentle grasp but quickly growing to a fearsome hold on his entire body. Off in the distance, the glow of the moon was replaced by a cold well of darkness, far too familiar for Cassius’ tastes. With that, the Fallen’s ever-present mind finally seemed to slow down, likely having simply given up at the sight of the void itself.

He relinquished his sight once more as the pull grew stronger, the ground leaving him and his mind filling with static.




When lucidity once again came creeping back, the pleasant bite of snow accompanied it. A frigid breeze swept across his face, gently pushing his short hair out of the way. He lay on his back, still wearing his familiar outfit, though a strange weight seemed to have lifted from his chest. Curiously, the ringing from earlier was replaced with the howl of the wind, as well as the distant grumblings of another soul. Addled as his mind was, Cassius found it quite difficult to discern this strangely calm setting from the chaos that preceded it.

Finally opening his eyes, the brilliant navy blue of twilight greeted him. He was laying in the middle of a large snowbank, stretching several hundred feet in every direction until the sheer drop of a mountainside appeared. Uneven spires of granite rose in the distance, erratically breaking up the pristine snow covering the landscape. Rolling clouds hid the ground below from view, seemingly isolating this sanctuary from the rest of the world.

Off to his side, muted speech grabbed his attention. Strangely, no pain arrived as he moved to look, though the familiar colors of an allied uniform struck him as far stranger. The other figure stood hunched over, looking away as they inspected one of the nearby pillars. They wore an infantry specialist’s jacket, similar to his own, though lacking the metallic trim and decorations. A halo rose above his head alongside a thin set of wings, both darkened just as Cassius’ were. A visage of confusion covered Cassius’ face, disorientation nearly overtaking him at the decidedly non-Bren scene before him.

“Was I taken home for failing at the championships? Who are you?”

Cassius asked his questions with a hint of concern seeping into his voice, though it quickly grew to disbelief as the figure turned. A familiar face greeted him, a trusted friend from days past, though that face should have been frozen on an abandoned battlefield. The other fallen smiled, sending visceral memories of death and destruction through Cassius’ mind.

“Good morning Cassius! Didn’t expect to see you around here, how long has it been since you got promoted?” The playful smirk seemed almost ironic, a cruel joke of false hope playing across the specter’s face.

Cassius sat up abruptly, a handful of snow falling from his shoulders. “Captain Rosha..? No, this has to be a trick. I saw your body, left behind with all the others!”

The Captain’s smile faltered for a moment, letting out a sigh as he walked towards Cassius. “Unfortunately, no I am not quite alive. This is nothing more than a respite for me, granted by the Lord of Ice. Oh! I nearly forgot, did you know that you’re the Paragon of Ice? Kind of impressive if you ask me.” His grin returned, eyes lighting up as he waited for a reaction.

Cassius’ disoriented mind strained even more, struggling to understand the words of his former Captain. He let himself fall down, laying down in the snow once again. “That’s... ridiculous. I didn’t think such power existed.”

Rosha shrugged, expression indicating his own confusion. “Such is the nature of the Lords. Unfortunately I can’t give you much more than that for an explanation. I figured you would be more excited about being chosen as Paragon, though.”

A slight smile crept across Cassius’ face as he sat up to face the other soldier. “Well I never particularly doubted that outcome.”

Chuckling to himself, Rosha reached his hand out to Cassius. “That smoke lady was giving you a run for your money! Though, no offense, you seem far more competent than you did back in my day.”

Cassius shook his head, reaching for his friend’s hand and pulling himself to his feet. “Not that I had much of a choice.” He sighed, straightening his cap and brushing snow from his jacket. “The war has gotten much worse since you... left. We’ve been able to hold them back in the east, but the General fears our western front will not hold for much longer. It’s been years since we’ve been able to take back even an inch of land.”

“Can’t say I’m entirely surprised.” The Captain clicked his tongue, resting a hand on the Lieutenant Colonel’s shoulder. “Figured you wouldn’t have left the homeland without a good reason, though you were probably the best they could have sent.”

A weak smile grew on Cassius’ face, his contentment remaining locked behind cold eyes. “Maybe. I’m no duelist like you were.” He found himself unable to hold his gaze, looking away in dejection.

Rosha’s expression faded, lips melting to a stiff line. “Look. I know what you’re thinking, but I can assure you that my training did more for you than my blade ever could. The past is forever lost to time, but that fact can’t ruin you.” His grip on Cassius’ shoulder tightened, the tough fabric straining against his fingers. “The homeland may have lost me, but they still have you.”

Cassius continued to stare at the snow, shifting ever so slightly, though offering no response. His Captain sighed once more, his breath clouding in front of the two. “You’ve led far more soldiers to success in battle than I ever would. You may not see it, but you’re part of the reason this war may yet turn in our favor. The people need you, Cassius.”

With those words, all the tension in Cassius’ body seemed to thaw in a moment. He looked to his friend, uncharacteristic emotion reflecting in his eyes. “For all this time, I figured you would have blamed me if you were still here. Though I’m happy to have that corrected, I don’t know if I would have chosen myself to be a savior. But... you’re right that I can’t let that stop me.”

The grin returned to Rosha’s face, radiating with approval. “Greatness doesn’t only come to those that seek it out. The General must have seen it before you did, that your skills are wasted confined to a single battlefield. You’re our best hope for redemption, so you’d better not let us all down.” He clapped his hand to Cassius’ uniform, the Lieutenant Colonel slowly nodding as his gaze rose above the horizon.

He turned to face Rosha, refined posture returning as the pain faded from his face. “Well, winning would be the least I could do to honor you.” A smile spread across his features, his halo seeming to lighten for a moment.

And there on that mountain top, Lieutenant Cassius Pallu saluted a soldier below his own rank for the first and last time in his life.




”Witness Cassius Pallu, Paragon of Ice!”

Despite his best efforts, the voice of the announcer stirred a fierce pride from within Cassius. Unwillingly, a smirk crawled out from beneath his visage, and he found himself nodding along with the proclamation. The crowd above continued their clamorous uproar, yet again growing louder with each new Paragon. Though it should have been an honor to be cheered for, Cassius found himself displeased with the painful amount of noise.

I’d much prefer a quieter audience, but then again I wouldn’t have chosen to fight in a sand pit either... I guess I’ll have to be a bit more careful this time.

Turning his attention to the other Paragons, he was surprised to see the foreign Skirmisher among them. Even more surprising was her new uniform, fancifully cleaned and embroidered, with complete sleeves..?

It seems you continue to defy my expectations, Jacklin.

Resting his hand on his chin, Cassius felt a tinge of excitement begin to creep out from his core. It seemed that his previous challenge may not need to remain unfinished, though the distance did seem to be an issue. The two soldiers on opposite ends seemed almost poetic, once again finding themselves divided.

Just as he was thinking about taking note of the other Paragons, a harsh, grating voice addressed him.

”Cassius Pallu, Chosen of Ice! He who is favored by the Great Frost while I, who pledged body and soul to it, was cast aside like spoiled meat! In the name of khan and khanate, I challenge you!

From his left, Cassius turned to see the hulking form of a blue-white dragon, his eyes staring directly at him. One eye held an unnatural, piercing focus, while the other contained a fierce, amber rage. Snow white plates of imposing metal seemed to hold the creature together, breaking up the otherwise organic scales. Cassius took in the towering creature, yet another fighter seemingly intent on challenging his honor. His head tilted to the side slightly as his smile faded to a crooked frown, his halo drooping slightly in the burning sun.

The Fallen stood up straight, hands behind his back in a traditional formal stance. “I respect your honor in putting forth a formal challenge, as many choose to forgo such necessities. However, I do hope you know that you’re far from the first to seek my head. I shall accept this challenge, contingent on you holding my interest.”

At the end of his response, Cassius looked down, the brim of his cap aligning with the Paragon of Water. The sickening crack of forming ice rippled out from him, a hefty greatsword melding into existence. He kept it hovering to his right, its blade reflecting the blood-red sand below.

Though, you do interest me. Just what makes you work?
Post #: 6
8/19/2021 21:00:44   
Dragonknight315
Member

Albus gasped for air as the chimera swayed back and forth, clutching his warhammer for dear life. With each breath, it was as if a nail was struck into his chest. The burning pain swept across his body, through his arms and his legs, pushing out the cold numbness. The pain reminded him that he was alive, awake, still standing. For now.

As the world flickered in and out around Albus, a new light pierced through his heavy eyes. The angel spoke in its discordant voice, now joined with the sound of crackling fire.

“Right burns, left sears— This shall be our judgement.”

In his last act of defiance, the chimera roared as he lifted his warhammer, ready to fall upon the angel, but his cry was silenced. The lance of light pierced his chest, blood and flesh hissing. As the lance disappeared, Albus’s legs went slack, and he fell unceremoniously to the ground. One final nail for the coffin, one last touch of warmth before numbness.

“Luka. . . I’m sorry.” Albus closed his eyes and gave himself to the darkness. But just before he slipped away, a new voice spoke, a tender one. One full of light.

“Fortune favors the bold, Albus, and so do I. Rise!”

“W-what?”

Albus opened his eyes, only to cover them with his paw. The afternoon sun fell down upon the alchemist, its burning light far brighter than the artificial glow of the Factory. As his sight began to adjust to the outside world again, it finally dawned on him.

“I’m. . . alive? I’m alive!”

The chimera gave a wide smile, only to immediately have it wiped off as a hand crossed his cheek.

“What did I say, Spotty?! I told you to stay safe!”

“Ugh-” Albus rubbed his face as carefully rose to his feet. He was back in Bren, centered in the middle of a desert plaza. He looked around, and a wide array of people circled around Albus. But only two held his attention.

One was the boy, Luka. His pale face was drenched in golden tears, fully exposed for all to see. Albus could see the frustration but also the relief in his eyes. Even in a place as diverse as Bren, he stood out like a sore thumb. As the crowd watched their reunion, some cheered. Others whispered, unable to look away from their pale flesh. Others still watched with envy.

“I told you not to call me that. And what did I say about keeping your hood up!” Albus gave a stern look at the boy before pulling him into a hug.

“I. . . I’m sorry that I worried you. I won’t do it again, I promise.”

The other chimed in, interrupting the two’s reunion. “I would certainly hope so—”

Albus turned to look at the speaker. Another tan-skinned elf, this one with blonde hair and ceremonial robes. A servant of the championship. Compared to the boundless youth of most elves, this one showed signs of old age. His words echoed in the air, full of authority.

“On behalf of the Lady of Light, I offer my congratulations. You have been chosen.”

Albus’s eyes went wide in pure awe. “I did it. We did it, Luka!”

With a loud laugh, Albus wrapped his arms around Luka again and hoisted the boy into the sky. He spun the boy around and around. For the first time in what seemed like forever, the two were happy.

“Our luck is finally turning around, huh? It’s all coming together! I cannot wait to step foot on those red sands.”

“Ahem.” The elf interjected, once again tempering the two’s celebration. “You will not have to wait long. The final round will begin shortly. If you will notice, the Lady of Light has chosen to restore you. You may take this time to prepare.”

Indeed, Albus looked down to inspect his form. It was as if he had never stepped foot into the factory. The gaping wounds in his arm and chest were healed. There were no burns nor scars. Not a single inch of his robes was torn or scorched. He brushed his hands against the sack at his waist, and sure enough, he could feel the vials safely nestled within. That just left two things to check.

Albus dragged the haversack from his back, placing it at his feet. As he rummaged through its contents, he pulled out the brass box and opened one of the compartments, exposing one of the mana crystals. It hummed with bright white light.

“As I suspected, it’s completely filled with Light magic.” Albus rubbed his chin as watched the energy ripple through the crystal. “But it’s the most potent we’ve captured so far. We can still make use of this. Luka, will you empty it for me?”

Luka gave a spirited nod and sat next to Albus. The boy pulled out several metal jars from the sack. He held it next to an opening on the box, and with a twist, it snapped into place. The gears began to turn once more, the machine coming to life as the magic flowed from within. As Luka did so, Albus continued to rummage through the backpack.

“Where is it? Please tell me it is still—”

The chimera held his breath as his claws felt the familiar touch of gold. With both hands, he pulled the elixir into his chest. As he pulled out the cork, the scent of lavender filled the air.

“An alchemist in search of an answer, caught between courage and cowardice. His strength struck down divine power amongst the chaos of the Descending Factory. Witness Albus Gwenyth Servo, paragon of Light!”

As the metal gates gave way to the red sands, Albus could not help but shed a tear. His felt its warmth between his feet. As the crowd roared with applause, he held his head high.

He looked up towards the pillar of diamond, its brilliance almost too much to bear. The feeling was unmistakable, the raw magic pulsing through the air— the presence of the Lords.

The pillar twisted as if it were alive, mimicking the form of some wolfkin before settling upon a woman in heavy armor. It turned to gaze upon the crowd before looking back at Albus. She gave a nod towards the paragon, and the Lady’s words echoed within his mind.

“Fortune favors the bold, Albus, and so do I. Rise!”

As he looked at the other competitors, the tears would not stop. He had come so far, given up so much to be here. Finally, after all this time, all he had ever wanted was in his grasp. All he had to do was seize it.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 7
8/19/2021 21:57:13   
roseleaf320
Creative!



Pie’s sight darkened as xyr side pulsed, wet blood seeping into the bindings of xyr leather armor. Xe gasped for air, trying to move xyr chest as little as possible. Even the most shallow breath ripped at xyr waist and squeezed at xyr lungs. Xyr entire body seemed tied to the ground with thick metal chains. Is this what shock feels like? xe faintly wondered. Static filled xyr ears, rising to a climax as thousands of sharp tones pinged against each other, before fading into nothing.




“Tell the story again, Pie!”

The young girl’s bell-like voice chimed as she tugged at Pietersite’s arm. They sat side by side in Pie’s workshop, surrounded by dazzling gems and jewelry. Elaborate chains and necklaces adorned the tables, displaying every color of the rainbow. Each was tacked down with great care to prevent accidents— Pie was always unlucky when it came to keeping the displays where they belonged. Pie smiled and patted the girl’s head, putting down the cuff link xe was currently adjusting. “Alright, Genevieve, but only if you promise to listen closely…”

Genevieve squealed and kicked her legs excitedly. “Of course I will!”

“Okay, okay… one day, while walking by the river…”

Pie grasped Genevieve’s hand, which felt unusually light, as the scene rippled and changed. Wooden walls became green hills; jewelry displays became bushes with vibrant flower centerpieces. Beside the pair was a wide river, its current winding lazily up against its muddy banks. The older woman in front of them, who’d been keeping a leisurely pace, cocked her head and began to climb down the few feet to the riverbank. Genevieve tried to run towards her, curious why she had suddenly changed, but Pie held the child back and placed a finger to xyr curled lips. “You have to let her pick her up first,” xe whispered across xyr finger.

The little girl nodded, but continued to fidget impatiently, as the pair watched the woman bend down to look at something on the bank. After a moment, she stood straight once more; in her arms, she held a tiny child. Its large head, small limbs, and curled pose all revealed it was barely an infant, but its vibrant green eyes seemed to take in the world with the intelligence of an elder. Pie leaned down to whisper in Genevieve’s ear. “That’s the goddess Kaguya.”

“She’s so small!” Genevieve gasped in the surprise only a child could display at being told a story she’d already heard. “Is that the gem you want?” Her outstretched finger could have been pointing to anything remotely near the old woman and the child, who held still as if frozen in time. But Pie understood her question. Nestled in the infant’s collarbone, seemingly fused into its skin, was an oval of pure jade that pulsed with soft light.

“Yes. The jade that beats with the heart of a goddess. The story goes that when she ascended back to the heavens…” the scene rippled once more, and the infant became a radiant woman in flowing silk with long, shining black hair. She was suspended in midair, surrounded by bright light and leaning down towards the elder woman, whose hair had faded from gray to white. In the heavenly woman’s outstretched hand sat the Jade. Pie’s voice echoed the awe xe felt watching the still scene. “When Kaguya returned home to the stars, she cried for the mother she was leaving behind. As her tears ran down her face, they flowed into the jade in her neck. When she was finished, she gently released it and gave it to the woman as a show of gratitude for the time the woman had spent raising her.”

“Can I touch it?” Genevieve bounced on her heels, her voice breathy and eager.

Pie nodded. “Yes, but be very careful. Dropping Kaguya’s Jade would make her fear we have lost the kindness she saw in the elder.”

Genevieve began moving as soon as Pie confirmed her wish. Wind swirled around her small feet-- Pie couldn’t quite focus on them-- as she ran towards the pair of women. She stopped immediately in front of the hand that held the Jade. With gentle, short fingers, she removed it slowly from the goddess’s hand, cupping it in her two hands. “Hehe, it’s so pretty. Like a little ball.” Her lips curled into a mischievous, almost unsettling smile in that moment, and her eyes sparked with a golden glint that seemed too bright to be natural. “Here Pie,” the girl said, her chiming voice seeming higher than Pie was used to. “Catch!”

“Genevieve, wait!” Pie’s eyes widened in surprise and panic as the little girl thrust her hands forward, sending the Jade flying towards xem. Her small arms carried no strength in them, and Pie watched as the Jade traced a path that would leave it hitting the ground much closer to Genevieve than Pie could ever hope to reach in time. Pie lurched forward in a desperate attempt to save the centerpiece that would prove xyr skill, xyr worth, from shattering.

Pie’s panic turned into wonder and confusion as the pale wisps of wind that adorned xyr skin began to move. They snaked down xyr arms, flowing out from xyr hands in an instant as xe reached for the Jade. Swirling white breeze circled around the pulsing stone and pushed it towards Pie’s outstretched hands. Pie felt the soft, chic warmth of the jade land into xyr palms as xe fell onto the ground.

Pie lay stunned on the ground, lips parted. Xe couldn’t find words in xyr brain to process what xe’d just done. Only that xe had been lucky.




Pietersite’s eyes blinked open just as the chanters announced xyr name. Pietersite, the Shimmering Breeze. Xyr title, one xe gave xemself during registration just to add flare, made the air around xem feel more poingient. Xe looked down at xyr hands, the last wisps of xyr wind markings poking out of xyr fingerless gloves. They seemed to shimmer, too.

“It always seems windier when you’re around, Pie.”

Is it possible I…

The air was still. Pie looked down at the dark red sand beneath them; it too was still. Xe did the first thing xe could think of: xe stretched out xyr hand and flicked downwards towards the sand. It flew up rather violently into xyr face, and xe coughed as the scarlet entered xyr throat. Am I… actually just a dolt?

If my luck really is… As Pie took xyr first steps, xe screwed xyr face up, concentrating on the air around xyr feet. Sure enough, the still wind responded, a quick breeze pushing behind Pie’s ankles. Xe stumbled at the jarring movement. Oh gosh this is weird. This is very, very weird.

But also really, really freaking cool.


Post #: 8
8/20/2021 23:17:54   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo


A crack of thunder punctuated Levanna’s strike. The glass pillar shattered into a rain of countless shards. Levanna tensed, fighting the dizzying sensation that buzzed in the back of her skull and sought to steal her vision from her. Instead, she locked her eyes upon the frigid behemoth of an opponent before her. It seemed that the entire rest of the arena had converged upon him. A fool’s recklessness. Though if he had drawn the attention of the entire rest of the arena upon himself, perhaps he drew the gaze of The Lords themselves.

Just as it seemed the arena would devolve into a frenzy of frozen blood, the air grew quiet, thick, and heavy. Levanna’s ears perked as a chime rang out. The remaining pillars began to spin and refract their brilliance upon the sky itself. In less than a moment, the very ground beneath her feet crumbled to dust. Stable ground turned to a battering ram of rushing air against her chest.

Levanna’s gut clenched as the sensation of falling overtook her every nerve, threatening to wring out every last drop of bile. Rushing wind swept away the stench of blood and sweat as she plummeted towards the earth below. Levanna clenched her eyes shut, her mind racing, searching for a way to land that might spare her legs. She considered one first technique, no. She thought of a second, no again. At the third, her thoughts were interrupted by the sour taste of ozone. The gas crept into her nostrils and permeated her lungs, strangling her from the inside. Blackness slowly overtook her vision, from corner to center. Just as consciousness had nearly slipped from her grasp, a bright flash overtook her. A loud crack of thunder echoed out as the vast sky tore itself asunder and swallowed her whole.






Levanna stumbled to her feet, the soil once again providing resistance and reassurance. The stench of thunder had vanished, now replaced with the damp musk of wet soil and the acrid taste of iron. Reluctance fought her as she attempted to open her eyes. The sound, taste, and scent were far too familiar. Forcing herself to take a step forward, her sight began to comply. Laid out before the Plains’mother were the vast and rolling grasslands to which she belonged. The gigantic clouds above cast shadows against the gentle morning light, decorating the scorched fields of blood below.

Contraptions of steel and iron littered the land. All had been torn and twisted from weapons of war to nearly comical renditions of their former selves. More numerous than the machines were the bodies of the Ilvari which seeded the fields. Some lay upon the ground scorched, others shattered and crumpled; yet they all remained lifeless and still.

A sob nearly escaped Levanna’s lips as the dark stain of victory marred her home.

Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed.




“You didn’t even speak to us first or think to wake us!” Alei shouted, her cheeks nearly as scarlet as her hair, effectively accenting her frustration.

“Alei, my sunrise, you know I had little time to act and even less time to think!” Levanna sharply bit back. All this time, Mavaan had been silently watching the two struggle through a battle of grief, relief, and regret. His own face went pale as the implications of Levanna’s actions had slowly sunk into his chest. He clenched his fists and fought back tears. He knew there was nothing he could say that hadn’t already been said a thousand times since morning.

“Did you do it for strength? Did you feel yourself too weak, or was it the rest of us you didn’t trust?” Alei further assaulted. “Just what was it about yourself and us that shook your confidence so badly that you decided you had to bear the spark!?”

“I genuinely don’t know how to bring you to understand.” Levanna pleaded in return. “What would you have had me do when faced with an army larger than we’d yet seen? When machines of war, flame, and death announce themselves at our homes? Would you have me lose you? Would you have me lose Mavaan?” Levanna felt herself begin to shake.

“You’ve ensured that you will anyway.” Alei cut back quickly. The weight of the words silenced the entire hilltop. Not a gust of wind dared blow nor a bird begin to sing. With little heed to her own intentions, tears began to flow down Levanna’s cheeks.”

“You will lose us now.” Alei began, “When the sunrise comes to take me, you will still be here. When the moonlight comes to take Mavaan, you will still be here. When the skies come to claim our daughter, you will still be here. Perhaps when the last of our tribe has become dust, you will still... be... here…”

Levanna could only stare back in stunned silence. Powerless against the truth of Alei’s words.

Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed.



Levanna’s breath forced its way from her chest as if she had been struck. A warm midday sun caressed her skin as a fresh breeze danced across her face and tangled through her hair. She found herself kneeling upon that painfully familiar hilltop. Grief boiled and welled inside her stomach. It forced its way out as a whimper, then as a wretch, and finally a sob. Despair roared from her body like a raging waterfall. She collapsed to the ground into the shadow of two weathered cairns. Before the first, scarlet red canna were planted. In front of the second lay silver lunar lilies.


Thunder roared and lightning flashed.



A spray of rain startled Levanna awake as the stench of thunder quickly filled her lungs once again. As she forced her eyes open, arcs of blinding lightning assaulted her vision in all directions. An infinitely vast sky laid itself out before her. Panic gripped her as she peered down at her feet. She stood on nothing yet she did not fall. Extending forever in all directions, only storm clouds spotted and speckled the expanse, breaking apart the endless open. Levanna felt her heart begin to pound in her chest as she felt the hair on the back of her neck and arms stand on end. The clouds before her slowly coalesced to a shape more massive than any mountain she had ever seen. The thundering masses knitted and twisted themselves together, obtaining the form of a gargantuan silver and blue crane. Golden and glowing eyes pierced even the darkest of clouds. Levanna opened her mouth to speak, yet the words would not come. Instead the sour stench of thunder gripped her tongue and life’s breath thrust into her lungs.

The crane tilted and lowered its head, a sun for an eye gazed at the Plains’mother. The infinite expance shook as its voice thundered.

“Child born of the earth and loved by the sky. You have been chosen and called by one greater than even I. Just as you bear your covenant with us, perhaps you bear the mark of another. Know that as none of your earth-touched mothers could have prepared you to bear the Spark, nothing I may do would prepare you for lies beyond. Go forth and demonstrate the might of The Three. Leave the skies proud to reclaim you when all is over."

Thunder calmed and lightning subsided.







A bright and hot sun gleamed down on Levanna. A thunderous crowd roared as she opened her eyes. Louder than even the crowd, a booming voice echoed out, announcing her and seven other competitors. Seven final chances for her to find one that could prove worthy. Seven final chances for her to prove herself worthy.

As she tightened her fist in anticipation, the sensation of crumbling tingled against her palm. Opening her hand revealed the charred remains of a familiar tooth. Sparks danced across her skin as she peered over her own shoulder, noticing the bright and glowing wings of the Sky Keeper streaking off her back.

Inhale

Levanna let the charred remains of the tooth fall to the sands. She brought one hand up to her necklace. Touch confirmed her suspicions: four teeth remained.

Exhale

A sigh caught itself on Levanna’s breath as she scanned her opponents for any strong enough to bear it.

Inhale


Of the seven, one stood tall, strong, and regal. The paragon of fire, this “Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke” donned a pristine uniform and held the stance of a disciplined warrior.
Resolution took hold. Levanna slowly approached this soldier of smoke.

Exhale

Levanna thrust her fist out in Jacklin’s direction.

“Paragon chosen by the flames themself, I am Levanna, Plains’mother and chosen of The Three. Should you accept, I wager my life on a duel with you.”

At her final word, one of the glowing sigils shattered into a cloud of sparks. A loud and thundering CRACK rang out as a bolt of lightning lept from the sky, striking the ground between the two and hurling molten sand in all directions.
DF  Post #: 9
8/21/2021 9:36:52   
Apocalypse
Member

The vartai devoured the soldier’s dismissive words, stoking the fury deep within. Not a furor born of slights and outrage, but for a foe who proved himself as nothing more than a whelp masquerading as a warrior. A challenge had been delivered unto the Paragon of Ice, yet he had scoffed at the offering. Crail braced for the passion - the violence - to consume him, to plunge him headlong into bloodshed and glory over this pretender.

But he was left wanting.

In its place, there was only emptiness. An ocean that could not be sated no matter how much rage and rancor was thrown into it, consuming it and threatening to pull him into its fathomless depths.

A titan of wrath devoid of hate, a walking corpse not knowing it was long since dead.

A violent shriek broke through his stupor, followed by the clattering of two consecutive projectiles against the plate of his blindside. Crail turned his head to witness the blood shaman of Darkness charging straight for him, both orb and blade of blood trailing in his wake. The Paragon - Milo - was undeterred in his warpath in spite of the ineffectiveness of his thrown weapons. Instead, he cried out a plea to the vartai, begging him to confront his demons.

Pale blue lips bared rows of fangs at the interloper.

“Rage and darkness?”

Crail spat the words as he spun on his heels to face the blood shaman. Instinct drove him to swing Twin Fang at the paragon’s head. Chain whistled and axe screamed as the cold steel tore through the air towards the vartai’s prey. But despite striking with all his might, his heart was not in the blow. No thrill of battle came to release him from the desolation of his spirit.

He was almost glad the blood shaman ducked beneath the soaring blade, though his visage did not betray any flicker of emotion. He could not show any weakness to the enemy; he could not dishonor the khanate.

The khanate is gone.

Crail roared, steeling himself against the oppressive thoughts drowning him. He thrust out with his free hand and caught the blood shaman by surprise. His metallic fingers clasped around the smaller man's skull.

In that fleeting moment Crail locked his gaze with Milo’s, and discovered the torture in his eyes. Eyes that witnessed far more winters than summers. Eyes burdened by woes no man should bear.

The vartai buried the sympathy that sought to blossom within him. There was no place for it in war.

A war can only be waged by a people. You are but one.

“Life. Lord. Legacy.”

With a sickening crunch, the vartai forced Milo’s head into the sands, the crimson grains swallowing his face. The exertion lit the twin wounds in his shoulder ablaze, but this only fueled his next decree. “Lose these and then speak of mine-”

Crail froze.

The vartai’s mouth refused to finish his sentence. His hand disobeyed the order to further drive the shaman into the sea of scarlet. All across his body, ice shrieked as thousands of crystalline gems welded themselves together in the broken segments of the prism glass.

..no...

His body released the blood shaman of its own accord.

No.

The logika, deaf to his cries, turned away from Milo. Its many vents hissed with cryonic energy, mist billowing out in a suffocating cloud. Sand crunched beneath its feet as it stepped towards Cassius. Metal clinked as the artificial mind retracted the chain until Twin Fang clung tight to his wrist. From within the blanket of fog, the logika aimed the axe head at the Paragon of Ice.

No!

The rage he yearned for descended upon him now, coursing through his veins and staving off the hollowness consuming him. He broke the shackles of the false life, wrenching himself free from its control once more. With the head of Twin Fang cocooning his hand, Crail burst from the frigid haze. His knee splintered with grating bones in retaliation, but the vartai pushed through the agony and the lies.

“This is mine battle! Mine alone!

Bellowing as he bounded forward, Crail raised Twin Fang high and struck for the soldier’s head in a brutal hammer swing.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 10
8/21/2021 21:37:38   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


The noonday sun already casts the heat across her, but she still draws forth more as she shuts her eyes, pulling it up from her feet once again and allowing it up her legs. It rushes through her chest and down her covered arms and she welcomes the sudden furnace, embracing it warmly. She can keep it in. She’s trained to.

A challenge, a wager from the Paragon of Energy. Jacklin had glimpsed Levanna when she surveyed the arena. A woman far larger than herself, scarred and covered in art just as Jacklin was. A kindred spirit, perhaps. She would make a fine opponent.

She takes a deep breath as the smoke builds in her lungs, caressing the side of her throat with a fierce burn. She does not choke, does not falter, the feeling familiar and nothing compared to hot metal on flesh. There is nothing to endure. She can be patient.

Yes. Patience. Even acting as soldier, she would never get better at that.


A second roar followed the first. The thunder echoed through her ears, a rush of electricity passed her by, and specks of sand barraged Jacklin’s skin from somewhere before her. She didn’t flinch, didn’t move a single inch. A soldier must be calm, composed. Especially before a battle truly begins.

It floods up through her head, and her shut eyes shed no tears, held back by the sheer will of a Captain. She exhales once, not even a half breath, through her nose. The two puffs of black cloud linger just a moment longer than usual before scattering into the air.

Jacklin spoke, holding back her energy and directing a wisp of a voice back towards Levanna. “I, Captain Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke, accept your challenge.” She paused for a moment. How had Cassius done it? He had insulted her, right. Yet there was nothing to insult or tease about this woman, so the single sentence would have to do. The inability to make a remark stung at Jacklin’s mind, but she pushed it aside. A soldier must be proper. Even still, the excitement at the challenger making a bet got the better of her. It had to be acknowledged. “So too do I accept your wager, though I must risk my pride over my life.”

Blackness Within, Blackness Without. Captain Jacklin Elizabeth Smoke, beginning mission.

Jacklin exhaled sharply, every ounce of breath leaving her lungs, every inch of her tattooed arms billowing a shadowy cloud. It tried to rush away, but found itself trapped beneath cloth. Jacklin grit her teeth, the smoke scratching along her arms and seeping out at her wrists. Damned things were already getting in the way, but to cut them away would be to reject the pride, the position, that He had just granted her. They would have to stay. As the last of the smoke joined the cloud, Jacklin slowly reached a hand within it.

Her hand twirls at the smoke, and her will extends. She does not ask it or mold it, she commands it, as a Captain should. “March, smoke. Single file. Form up, and let us pierce our first obstacle’s heart.”

Did… did the smoke seem to take a second longer to coalesce? She gave the spear - a basic implement used by most of the Kingdom’s Skirmishers and etched with only a simple sun - an experimental swing. It felt fine; perhaps she had only imagined the delay. Yet, looking at the plain tool filled her heart with longing. She would have to request that her own soldiers be equipped with more artful armaments. But for now…

Jacklin looked across the sands at Levanna. The woman held only a basic staff, but a large, gorgeously intricate sigil floated behind her like a pair of electrified wings. How many angel-like beings would Jacklin have to face today? Jacklin smirked. She couldn’t help herself, even knowing it was improper. She had to banter with her opponent. “An impressive opening, with that bolt there.” She tapped at her side, driving her cloud to blackness.

“Let’s see you actually strike me this time.”

Jacklin took off, spear at her side and an eye on the sky. As she approached where the storm bearer would be, the Captain flicked a hand downwards, commanding the cloud to halt. She leapt off her right foot, sharply shooting to the left instead and passing into the smoke. A tap of her finger cleared the cloud once more, granting Jacklin sight of her target. As planned, the woman’s eyes were straight ahead, expecting to spot Jacklin in the center of the cloud.

Eyes on me, Levanna! Instinctively, Jacklin whistled, a short shrill call meant to tauntingly draw her partner’s attention. Immediately, Levanna’s eyes snapped to Jacklin’s prepared form and her arm lashed out, ironwood snapping forwards in a deadly arc. Dammit, I can’t be doing these things! A soldier shouldn’t be making a show out of an assignment!

“March straight, smoke. You will fly, not thrust.”

Changing direction, Jacklin shifted back swiftly, her feet launching her away from Levanna as the javelin left her hand and soared.

Except… it wasn’t a javelin.

The weapon exited her hand before the transformation was complete, and the unsteady weight upset her throw. An amalgamation halfway between a spear and javelin soared forwards, its flight lacking both force and precision. Even still, it struck, lazily piercing below the woman’s chest and spraying scant drops of crimson upon the sands.

Her cheeks flushing with intense heat, Jacklin commanded the cloud to return to her and blackened it once more. One thought raced through her head, all focus on herself rather than the danger of her opponent.

What the hell is WRONG with me?!
Post #: 11
8/22/2021 13:35:49   
Sylphe
Member

The dragon was armored.

His beautiful blades didn’t strike flesh. They skid across the steel plates with a sickening squeal and dissipated into nothing soon after. Milo paid it no mind. They captured the other’s attention; they delivered a warning and a call to fight. He could have struck while the other was occupied and end them with a swift wing’s strike. But even as his thoughts berated him for throwing away an advantage against a hulking behemoth of metal and scale, his decision was final.

Those were the vulture’s old ways. And today, where he felt his feathers barely sated yet more awake than ever, it would be more important than ever to not let them take over.

Sand crunched under his feet as he closed the distance, and Milo realized just how soon he’d have to test that claim. With every step across the crimson fields, the air danced strangely in the sun’s gaze, time seemed to slow. The dusty scent of dry earth was so heavy with copper that it stung the mage and made his heart sink and rage.

It sang to Anima, it called out to him. Old blood. Blood spilled in violence, blood ancient and bleached by the sun. Within each grain of crimson, a warrior’s life and wish snuffed. A maroon haze heaved over the dunes, glittering with the essence of a thousand battles lost.

All the feather wanted to do was screech. All those different energies swirling maddened them.

With great effort and teeth grit, Milo forced the haze to the back of his mind. Now was not the time to mourn the fallen. Now was not the time to cry out and lose himself as if their rage was his own. They tugged at his thoughts even as his opponent turned to face him, in his eyes a winter’s storm. Thin, unrelenting slits of a reptile stared him down within that icy flurry. In a wyvern’s black-eyed wrath, in a seraph’s frostbite, he’d seen it already.

“Rage and darkness?” The other spat, the condescending tone sending burning prickles through Milo. The saw the chain of the behemoth’s weapon swung with violent, powerful motion, telegraphing what would without a shade of a doubt be a devastating move. If it hit.

He’d have to be precise, he’d have to be fast.

“You know so much about rage, bloodspeaker!” Milo could afford only a split second of eye contact before ducking. The sheer power of that strike sent a brutal wind through his hair and feathers, ruffling them and making them dance. A wide grin crept on the mage’s face, leaving all the ghosts behind for a blissful moment. That was the sting of mortality the vulture could never understand. A hair slower, and he’d be in pieces! It made all of his blood rush, inside and out. Jagged and sharp edges formed within Anima’s torrents. His heartbeat pulsed wildly as he prepared to strike against a scaled neck, blind to the caution he had to take against such a force. A fool’s mistake, one that was too easy to punish.

This time, he was exactly that hair slower.

His grin turned into a silent snarl, teeth bared at full display. He refused to give in to the force behind those scaled fingers that had grabbed him.

Life? Lord? Legacy?

His eyes were a quiet fury, peering into Crail’s.

A life heavy with guilt and grief is no life at all.

With his Lord, a truce fragile as their pillar’s obsidian glass, one that cost obliteration and rebirth.

His legacy was that of smalted feathers, of lives lost to hubris, of families torn and futures devoured.

Milo roared defiantly as the forsaken drove his face into the sand. A spray of crimson lit his skull ablaze, and he could not tell - he could not tell through the dust and copper filling his lungs, he could not tell through the taste of blood in his mouth, through the throbbing pain - if it was the crack he’d felt that caused such a violent flash, or if he was making friends with all of the arena’s phantoms.

Unable to breathe, Milo sputtered and laughed. In disbelief, in anger, in helplessness. His hand squeezed the shining bloodstained sand that made his veins cry out to it. Just like they did, he cried out to Crail, his voice piercing into that draconic, storming mind.

I’d be more worried about what else you can lose still, It growled. A man, a dragon, abandoned by what he’s dedicated his life to. Milo understood his pain and loss, he understood it deeply. It reeked from every swing and every heavy, iron tasting exhale.

But Crail was not catching himself in his freefall of emotion, and before long, something truly awful could strike his unfortunate heart. Was it his blind eye that made him not see a second chance, a different flow and change that Water offered him?

Anima’s blood enveloped the earth he had grasped, and with a sweep, Milo struck a spray of sand at Crail. It was iced with crystalline blood, reminding them of the quartz they once were before the elements brought them into their arena to shelter their bloodshed. But the shards didn’t strike true, the pressure had been released, and Crail was nowhere to be found. Dissappeared in the middle of a proud sentence, like a string cut in a chord. Milo pushed himself up, still coughing, his airways clenching.

Crail! Bloodspeaker! Where are you?

It was too abrupt, too sudden of a cut-off. One that howled challenges, one that didn’t hesitate to roar to the heavens to announce his heartbreak and disbelief, his fury against the forces that ran the world. One like that wouldn’t be silenced easily. Confused, Milo looked for his opponent in this sea of whipped up sand and icy haze, almost in a worry. A worry well disguised in his thorned words.

Damn it, Crail! Out of all of them, you, a bloody coward?

He was unable to draw even a breath with how much his chest was struggling. The icy mist had frozen the dust, making it feel sharper than glass. Still, he pressed on.

Lords… Damn it…

Violent coughs racked the blood mage’s being, sending the tiny razors back out, a new way to make them harm and cut, and as Milo saw the silhouettes in front of him fight, he tried to latch onto them. Call out to them, almost as if trying to ask for help, or swift death. But with his focus caught in a blurry whirlwind, his voice couldn't carry over.

There was no celestial wound to save him this time. The shade of wings and of a dragon’s tail became a smudge. Crail’s roar resounded somewhere at the edge of Milo’s senses. Defiant and straining its vocal chords.

No, Crail howled. And he was right.

No.

It was too late to let go. It was too early to, as well.

The one thing he felt clearly in his mind was a shifting ping of blackness. Perhaps the celestial wound was there to save him once more, and again and again until their life finally stilled. Milo reached out to it and brought Anima to his eyes, letting it flow over his face in one torrent. To purge all the impurities. To wash away what hurt. To tether himself. The orb swung away from him to end that fluid motion, and a thin tendril of blood traced up his arm and into his mouth and nose. Its job was to calm the impure air’s damage over and over while his struggling body fought itself and made it infinitely worse.

With his lungs and senses calming, he heard Crail’s next bellow clearly.

Was the beast struggling as well?

Sneaking behind the raging behemoth, he figured he’d have to find the source of the fog and dismantle it as fast as he could. This close up, feeling the direction of the frigid air, he got an idea of what could be the cause of his misfortune, or at least where he’d find it. So he sped against the cold, the crimson painting his hair and cheeks freezing into glittering flakes.

I’ll be taking those, A mental snarl made its way to Crail’s thoughts. A violent, bubbling version echoed it as blood dripped off the mage’s chin, the trickle having been severed. His arm dove under the orb’s surface. His fist clenched hard as it forced the liquid around it to take a blade’s shape, his fingers becoming frozen in place by the crystal.

In Crail’s furious tow, Milo burst out of the fog. A single precise blade and soon another stabbed into the vents on the warrior’s back, squealing as they struggled against steel.
DF  Post #: 12
8/22/2021 21:02:11   
Necro-Knight
Member

So many faces, some familiar, some not. Krehgor’s eyes scanned across each individual one by one, thumb gently pressing over the hammer of his revolver. Some foes were simply too far away to be considered reasonable partners in which to dance, but as he swept his gaze from right to left, he recognized a horned face more clearly than the others. It was the feline man from the factory’s descending arena, who had wielded a great hammer in the one moment Krehgor had laid eyes on him.

Adorned with bottles and form-fitting leathers, the leonine figure moved with a crouched gait from his pillar, towards the center of the arena. As he moved, Krehgor frowned at the hulking pack that was strapped to the figure’s back. Even at this distance, the raider knew magitech when he saw it. His own revolver could’ve been counted as a form of magical technology, but he had a feeling that whatever this walking house cat had drug into such a prestigious battle was far more dangerous.

Remember, you're a Parag'n now. Work quick, hit hard, like an aval'nche, brother.

The magical engineer’s left-sided limbs were bandaged as if he’d been mauled even before the competition started and as Krehgor’s feet began to move, his plan was already taking shape. Picking up his pace to a jog, the gunslinger gripped his Sporeshot in both hands. This move was going to take more effort than the quick shots he’d made earlier and if he missed… It was very possible he wouldn’t get a second shot.

Krehgor frowned again as the beastial man seemed to reach back into his paack and remove some rectangular shaped object. For a split second, he was terrified that the figure had seen his advance and was already working to cut Krehgor short, but the man simply moved to seemingly plant it into the arena sands ahead of himself.

Already in motion, Krehgor had no choice but to continue forward like the avalanche he was representing.

Taking the momentum from his sprint, the tomb raider let his next step kick out far in front of him and slid forward to kick up a small cloud of sand. Even with whatever advantage his firearm might give him, Krehgor had no desire to start this fight even remotely fair.

“Greetins, brother! Avat’r o’Earth sends his regards!” He cried, his grin never fading as he closed the distance with the slide. It would’ve probably been smarter to remain silent, but a Paragon deserved a little style in Krehgor’s mind.

As his rear slid into the sandy covering over the arena floor at a distance of roughly ten feet from his foe and the cloud began to disperse as quickly as it had formed, the gunslinger raised his revolver in both hands and squeezed the trigger. Normally, he would’ve aimed for center mass for the highest chance of landing the shot and delivering his pathogen, but the Paragon of Earth had put a few extra brain cells into this attack.

The weapon barked with the sound of cracking bone, dispersing a cloud of emerald spores from its shell as it did so, and fired off a chitinous thorn towards the leonine figure’s right knee. If the beast’s left side was even a fraction weaker than his right, Krehgor wanted to add to that disadvantage. If he could cripple and then out-maneuver his new foe, his odds of being crushed by the war-hammer went down significantly, not to mention the addition of his infection simply being a bonus.
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 13
8/22/2021 23:24:01   
Dragonknight315
Member

Albus stared up at the honored paladin. He had spent months in preparation for this day; his soul felt raw. With a nod, he brushed the tears from his face. He would not waste this chance.

As the lion-kin wrapped out the left side of the pillar, he could feel the radiance; it made his hairs stand up. As comforting as it felt, Albus needed to act.

The chimera peered his head around the pillar as he weighed his options. At first, he looked at each pillar. No, too far away. The Lords would not wait, and neither would his opponents. Even as he spoke, Albus watched as a woman, one that dwarfed even his size, hurled forward like a living thunderbolt. He reeled onto one knee before forcing himself forward.

“No! I will not hide. I need to be brave, for the both of us. . . ”

If he failed now, he doubted that the Lords would give him a second chance. He needed those samples. As his eyes swept across the center, the thought hit him.

“Forgive me, Luka. I know I made a promise, and I intend to keep it.”

Albus gritted his teeth before leaping forward. The chimera’s paws tore into the red sand as he rushed towards the center. All eyes were on the chimera as he let his backpack fall to the ground. The audience, the competitors, the gaze of the pillars— here at the nexus, he pulled out the siphon.

“You want bravery? I’ll show you bravery!”

Albus roared as he wedged the bronze contraption into the red sands. With each twist, he felt his heart pound in his chest. Luka would call him suicidal. Idiotic. The siphon had saved his life in the Factory. Without it, he was vulnerable. But this was the only way. He hoped he would not regret this. . .

As if to answer his thoughts, one voice called out to the chimera.

“Greetings, brother—”

Albus spun around to meet his assailant, but all he caught was a cloud of red sand. He swatted at the air, only to find a barrel pointed at his figure.

“Avat’r o’Earth sends his regards!”

The mercenary gave a wide grin as his gun barked with an infernal scream. The needle-like-bullet hissed through the air and landed into the chimera’s knee. Albus clutched his chest as his lungs seized. He felt his leg ignite with pain and grow flush as something worked its way through his blood.

Poison. The alchemist cursed his luck as he reached down to pluck the needle from his flesh. He expected some kind of vile liquid to drip from the bullet, but as stared into his palm, clumps of black spores clung to his fur.

Thankfully, no antidote was necessary. As Albus tossed the bullet to the side, he felt his breath return. As he swept his scornful gaze across the mercenary, he couldn't help but notice the paragon’s twisted arm and pistol. If he could close the gap. . .

“Thank you. Allow me to return the favor.”

With , Albus tossed his hammer to his right hand as he bent down and swept his left through the backpack’s straps.

“This will do nicely.”

He heaved the enchanted backpack to his chest and bolted forward. If his arm had nerves, they would be screaming as the straps tore into his bandaged flesh. But it remained silent, unwavering.

As Albus closed in with his makeshift shield, he thought of the Factory, of the lightspawn. He would not make the same mistake twice. He swept his paw against the sand, kicking it towards the paragon. Two could play at this game; if the gunslinger flinched, it would give Albus all the opportunity he needed. Instead of lunging forward, Albus swung to the side with both hands, driving the spiked-end towards the paragon’s flank.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 14
8/22/2021 23:45:29   
roseleaf320
Creative!


A familiar voice screamed across the arena, and Pie flinched as xe saw a recognizable dragonoid figure across the arena. Xe breathed a sigh of relief as xe noticed its eyes-- and harsh words-- weren’t directed at Pie. Xyr hand traced over the side the mechanical competitor had slashed through with its vicious axe; xe felt no pain or break in xyr leather as xyr fingers ran along what would have been a large gash. The Wind Lord really did notice me… Of course they had, given Pie was here, but something about feeling such a large wound so obviously healed made it feel real. Pie was rarely speechless, but… Of all the other competitors, the Wind Lord chose me. They chose me.

On xyr right, xe saw the older woman from Sky. She yelled a challenge at another girl, a human standing before a statue of a large rat-- like the fun squirrel!. To wager her own life… Pie took a deep breath and pushed the thought from xyr mind. This was the Elemental Championships. Xe had to be prepared for this to become life or death.

If Pie didn’t get this Jade… there was nothing xe could do or create that hadn’t already been done. Xe’d reached the end of what xe could accomplish as a jeweler. If xe lost that drive, that identity… well, xe just couldn’t.

“I’m beginning to get impatient. The Blessing should have shown up at age three. Or before. But this one has shown no signs of a Blessing-- not even a breeze. Dealing with a rambunctious Nilch’i was hard enough to convince Navarre to do. What will happen if it turns out the Wind Lord has rejected it?”

Nilch’i. Nilch’i. Nilch’i. The word rolled through the child’s head like a broken record. The term was never used negatively before. It simply referred to what the child was. But now it meant… rejected?

“We’ve never had a Nilch’i rejected before… we should wait one more year. It’s possible this one is simply late.” The child sat outside the cracked door. Perhaps the pair didn’t see the child-- but the child thought it more likely they didn’t care.

“And if it isn’t? Elaire, it can’t even speak. It sits there all day banging sticks together.” It liked the sound of the sticks.

“If in a year, the Blessing hasn’t shown… I suppose there’s no place for it here.” No place here. No place here. No place here.


Pie was not a Nilch’i. Pie was a jeweler. Pie was a very good jeweler. Good enough to craft with the heart of a goddess.

So it was worth this effort.

Pie startled as a blast of lightning flashed in front of the girl’s feet. YOU CAN DO THAT?! I WANNA DO THAT! Pie advanced towards the pair-- their fight would likely be more fun than trying to get another go at the dragon. The girl wore tight, dark clothing that seemed to be a uniform, though Pie didn’t recognize it, and she was surrounded by dark, thick smoke. Oh, because her name is… I wonder what came first, the name or the magic. Either way is fun! Her voice was deep as she responded to Levanna’s bet and immediately ran towards her, smoke in tow. Okay Pie, go time!

“Hey Levy, how can I get me some of that lightning power?” That was SO COOL!” Pie jogged by Levanna as she stepped back, her eyes on Jacklin. As xe finished xyr sentence, Pie held xyr breath and flicked an arm towards the older woman. Watching Levanna’s hair rustle in response was incredibly satisfying. Pie couldn’t prevent a small smile from rising to xyr face. Thanks, Wind Lord!

Pie crossed xyr arms into either side of xyr cloak and gripped both boomerangs tightly in xyr palms. Xe was coming into the fight a little late-- the two had already started trading blows, and Pie watched as Smoke’s smoke haha billowed in a dark cloud around her. I kinda wanna see what happens when I mess with it. Pie scrunched up xyr eyes and flung the two blades outwards as hard as xe could manage. A single gust rushed around xyr hands, pushing straight away from them even as Pie threw the boomerangs at opposite angles. Shoot! They wobbled as they whipped through the air, their trajectories weirdly crooked because of the gust’s interference. Pie crushed down the frustration that rose as xe gritted xyr teeth. C’mon, winds, I thought I had this!

Post #: 15
8/23/2021 1:58:09   
Synthe_
Member
 

quote:

Honor your purpose in the fields of slaughter, to reclaim our stolen lives.
- From “Requiem of Glass”


The dragon-creature gave no reply to his mocking words, instead answering with an expression of pure fury. Where Cassius expected to feel a burning hatred, he instead found the gaze of a chilling void. The beast had not reacted in the way he expected, his provocation failing to draw out a misstep born of anger. Crail continued his steady march forward, a tenacious lumbering which exuded cold calculation rather than recklessness.

The standstill was finally shattered by the dragon turning, wild gaze shifting to the door between them as a bright clacking sound emanated from behind. It seemed the Paragon of Darkness was no longer interested in watching their staring contest, choosing to aggress upon the draconic warrior. The blades screeched , the beast’s armored shoulder easily managing to deflect the blow. Cassius’ eyes came to rest on the intruder, surprisingly finding a familiar face from an earlier battlefield.

Quite satisfying to see you bothering another entrant for once. Milo, was it...?

Cassius allowed a hint of satisfaction to creep across his face, at least now that the dragon’s attention had left him. He willed the frozen greatsword to take rest behind his wings, giving the illusion of the weapon being strapped to his uniform. From this distance, he had a fantastic view of the two, Crail evidently distracted enough to entirely shift his focus to Milo. As they approached one another, Cassius found himself captivated by the mechanical beast. The intensity of its passion was distinctly familiar, but the demeanor, the vehemence of its movements drew his attention like no other.

Years ago, just after the start of the war, the Hallowed Corps had experimented with utilizing combat animals. Our soldier's casualties were high, and any means of reducing such direct losses would significantly help morale. Not too dissimilar from this beast, the frozen monstrosities of the tundra were enclosed with armor and conscripted to the battlefield.

The dragon’s stoic blade split the air, carving a path through the space Milo had occupied not a second earlier.

I oversaw one of these endeavors, a group of northern ‘snowlions’ native to our country. Initially we found success, the brutality and efficiency of the creatures served to both reassure our people and break the enemy. The first time I deployed them, the snowlions effortlessly cut through the enemy defensive line, panic and fear surging through their ranks. Though, the tacticians among us could see the issue. Easily distracted, driven by instinct, they could not follow orders as a soldier would.

Crail’s savage gauntlet came from a blind spot, wrapping around Milo’s head and halting his movement in an instant.

After the initial surprise, the creatures failed to maintain their dominance of the situation. Anything beyond a decisive victory was inconsistent. They would play with their prey, spending too much time brutalizing an enemy who had already been defeated. Adaptation was quick, abusing their primitive emotions to draw them in and systematically execute them.

In a single, elegant motion, Milo was thrown to the ground. The sheer force behind Crail’s movement split the sands beneath them, Milo’s head crashing into the sea of crimson.

Bloodlust is a fickle instinct, easily exploited by a knowledgeable soldier. Though reliable, it could never forge a replacement for calculated tactics.

The dragon stopped, releasing his quarry.

Mmm... That’s unexpected.

He seemed to hesitate for a moment, an unnatural stillness halting his motion. The vents adorning his back hummed with energy, hissing out a curtain of mist. As vision was taken from him, Cassius was left to wonder what had caused the creature to stop. Could it be another foreign custom? Was Crail alone meant to witness the killing blow?

Despite his prediction, no screams of pain left the obscuring cloud. Whatever was happening to Milo was not the brutal execution Cassius had expected. Instead, only the soft clinking of metal reached his ears.

Without warning, a rift was cut in the haze of mist. Crail’s hulking form bursted from the cloud, his weapon already aimed for Cassius’ head. Effortlessly striding across the crimson ocean, the distance between the two closed in a startlingly short amount of time.

Most impressive! Far more efficient than my experience... Can you resist your primal urges? Or have they been removed entirely?

Cassius spread his arms, welcoming the approach of his challenger. The world grew colder as he approached, forging a frigid confidence in the soldier’s core. Nearly upon him now, Crail’s blade sang as it surged forth, a decisive strike headed for the Fallen’s skull.

Despite the creature’s imposing height, Cassius didn’t flinch as Crail towered over him. The beast was fast, his strikes rapid enough that the soldier would stand no chance in single combat. However, he knew something that the dragon did not. From behind, Milo had shakily recovered from his premature burial, carefully following Crail’s exit from the cloud. A wildfire surged in his eyes, a distinctive river of crimson ascending from one arm to his face. Uncontained wrath seemed to bleed from his aura as he crept up behind the frozen warrior, his eldritch blades reaching forth as he descended from the fog.

Cassius’ greatsword swiveled in front, moving just quickly enough to catch the incoming axe. A thousand hairline cracks appeared on its pristine edge, the force of his opponent’s strike cleaving through the top third of the blade. The ice let out a wicked crunch as the pointed end shattered, a thin mist of ice punctuating the air between them. The sheer power of the attack was unexpected, Cassius’ mind screaming out as his guard was effortlessly crushed. What was meant to be a calculated deflection was merely knocked aside, only achieving a slight deviation in the dragon’s swing. The air hummed, screaming in protest as the axe passed an inch away from the soldier’s eyes. Despite his racing mind, Cassius remained standing, still smiling as crystals of ice rained down between them.

No. That was far too close.

Just as Milo’s attack was ready to connect, the Fallen steeled himself, reaching forth to grab the hilt of his own mangled sword. The wild grin he wore melted away to a glare, focused determination taking over his mind. Using his mental force to aid the swing, he took a single step forward and cut towards the armored legs of the dragon.
Post #: 16
8/23/2021 19:58:04   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Grime, sweat, blood - the terrible smells which accompanied the battle faded away, leaving the Arena full of clean, sweet air. The radiance about the Pillar of Light flared, its statue momentarily lost in brilliance. Lustre dimmed in the next breath, seeping from the statue to fill the golden lengths of chain twined about her arms. Cracks wove their way through the noble figure as her glow receded. Shackles winked out one by one as the paladin raised her greataxe, its form brightening and shifting with each link until she held a blazing spear high overhead. With an unearthly howl reminiscent of her prior form - she flung it into the center of the sands. Shining gold pierced dulled bronze - and burst in an explosion of blinding light, scorching the surrounding sands clean of impurities and leaving two craters in its wake - one at the very center of the arena, and one where the diamond podium had stood mere moments ago.

“And so has favor been withdrawn from Albus Gwenyth Servo, Paragon of Light." Each voice intoned a different shriek, a disparate roar, a menagerie of cries that blended together to deliver a single message. "The Pillar of Light has shattered - and we now bear witness to his choice, and to his Lord's disdain." The crimson sands glinted ever more dangerously around the former pillar, razor sharp and ready to draw the blood the Arena craved.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 17
8/24/2021 23:00:16   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo


”You’re quite the nimble child, yet a child still” Levanna thought to herself, whipping her ironwood staff out and cutting short Jacklin’s assault. ”To be playing such games with so much on the line.” She narrowed her eyes on the paragon of the Fire Lord. She took in a breath and coiled forwards, preparing to spring into a counterattack. Something tugged Levanna from her focus. Pinpricks danced down the back of her neck as a familiar voice addressed her. A brush of wind rustled her hair and demanded her attention.

“Hey Levy, how can I get me-”

Levanna shook her head. She forced her attention back towards Jacklyn, her opponent. A shock of surprise jolted across Levanna’s skin as her instincts whispered of danger. The paragon of fire had jumped back and launched a javelin of coalesced black smoke. Levanna cursed and pushed off the sand. Her muscles screamed in protest yet panic screamed louder still. Her body twisted as she made one successful step towards safety.

A sickening squelch echoed through her ears. A cascade of crimson droplets soaked into the sands below. Levanna bit down on her tongue and held in a scream, fighting the searing agony which had erupted into her stomach. Her vision blurred, the image of Jacklin retreating within her cloud drifted out of focus. Levanna’s vision flickered and threatened to fade as dark tendrils crept in from the corners.

”Foolish child…”




A cool wind crept across the plains.The setting sun alit the fields like golden fire. Two elongated shadows stretched across the grasslands, their feet meeting two figures upon a hill, standing deathly still.

Levanna stood tall, one arm out and tightly gripping the arm of an adolescent girl who gazed upon her with an expression of wild fear. All that could be heard above the whispers of the breeze upon rustling grass was the gentle patter of crimson droplets upon the earth.

“Raviel…” Levanna whispered gently, tears slowly welling in her eyes.

“Mother, I- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to!” Raviel cried back. The young girl desperately pulled back against her mother’s grasp, trying to pull the knife from her Levanna’s stomach. “Please, we were just moving so fast!”

Levanna’s grasp remained as solid as iron. Choking back a small sob, she instead brought her free hand up to caress her daughter’s cheek.

Raviel shakily and carefully leaned into the Plains’mother’s touch. Her wide and tearstained eyes pleaded with those of her mother’s.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Mother,” she whispered.

Levanna’s shoulders dropped in a low sigh. Slowly, she pulled her daughter’s arm back and freed the glinting steel from her abdomen. She took the dagger from her daughter’s palm and dropped it upon the ground before pulling Raviel into a tight embrace.

“Foolish child, you have done just so,“ Levanna whispered, stroking her daughter’s hair. “For in your weakness-” she paused. A shudder rippled down her spine, forcing another sob from her lips. “For in your hesitation, you have proven to me that I will one day lose you too.”




Slowly, Levanna pulled the javelin out from her abdomen, ignoring the slow stream of crimson that accompanied the tip of the weapon. Her eyes narrowed upon Jacklin’s dark cloud.

”Perhaps you too will prove too weak to inherit my Spark, child.”

Inhale.

The arena’s warm breeze filled her lungs as she brought in a deep breath to steady herself. Once again, she coiled each muscle tightly as she shifted her weight to her front foot.

Exhale.

She exploded forwards into a sprint straight towards Jacklin and her cloud, each powerful footstep throwing a spray of sand behind her.

Inhale.

She planted both feet into the sand with as much force as she could muster, coiling low once again.

Exhale.

Kicking hard off the sand, Levanna launched herself into the air. Her eyes glinted with gold in the warm sunlight as the sensation of flight took hold. She felt as if wings had sprouted from her back as she soared directly over Jacklyn and her cover.

Inhale.

A loud thump arrived alongside a flaming twinge just below her ribs as Levanna landed in the sand. She turned to face the back of Jacklin’s cloud and thrust her hand out in the direction she had spotted the paragon of fire.

Exhale.

The sky rent in two, a blinding bolt of gleaming golden energy sundered the air itself in a thundering blast of heat and light as it rocketed down into the Fire Paragon’s protective cloud.

“Prove to me, child,” Levanna coughed, “that there is more to you than tricks and games.”
DF  Post #: 18
8/25/2021 21:11:51   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


Levanna’s voice pulled Jacklin’s thoughts out of her head and back to the battle at hand. The woman sounded almost disappointed at the idea of Jacklin’s weakness, but Jacklin didn’t care. Only the opinions of His Radiancy and the Lord of Fire mattered. The Captain stepped forward, extending a hand towards her smoke and preparing a retort.

March, smoke, and-

A whistling cut through the air, interrupting Jacklin’s will. It whirled past her arm, driving a sharp pain into her flesh. She let out a gasp, jerking her arm away from her cloud as a second object whistled past her harmlessly.

A boomerang. Someone had interrupted her again. Somehow more irritating than the interruption was the result: a thin line of blood seeping out of her arm, staining her uniform and flowing over an open line in its perfection. Jacklin’s eyes narrowed. She had been in this arena for less than 5 minutes and had already marred the gift from Him. And yet… the luscious heat of the sun felt wonderful against even the thin line of bleeding skin that peeked out. She laughed bitterly, unsure if she should curse or thank the new interloper.

And then the sun was gone, shrouded by the shadow of the woman overhead. Jacklin stumbled back, shock painting her features as she watched Levanna soar past her. Their eyes met for but a moment, and Jacklin was certain that a sliver of fear had crept into her gaze. This… this was too much. Her magic was failing her for who knows why, her duel was being interrupted yet again, and this woman was a monster.

As Levanna’s landing thumped loudly, Jacklin reached for her smoke once more.

Her hand twirls again, just as always. But it is slow, uncertain. She is trying to be poised, trying to be proper, and wishes to reflect that in her work. “March for me.” Her mind cries out. “March and curve, for every Captain must have a saber.” Her smoke moves sluggishly; a moraleless soldier, not yet awake.

It took too long.

The ground below her glowed with a gorgeous light and every nerve in her brain fired at once, commanding her legs to move. She took a moment to dismiss her incomplete blade, but it was a moment too much. A flash shook the world and her body burned. She tried to scream, and she might have, but her world was naught but flashing light and pure white noise. She tried to register the pain, but it dwarfed even the hot blade she had held against her side, her every thought flickering away into the storm without finding purchase. She tried to plant her feet, but her limbs convulsed, tossing her down into the sand and sending up a small plume of crimson. The scent of burning flesh filled her nose, and she would have gagged had her mind not shut down.

She was back after blessedly brief seconds. The sun… it felt so nice against the burnt skin that peeked through her marred suit that had thankfully survived the blazing bolt. To keep feeling it, to keep living in it, she had to stand, had to move. NOW. There was no time to think, no time to plan things out with a Captain’s care and strategy. Her arms screamed in protest as she pushed herself up and snagged her hat off the sand, her legs roared in anger as she skipped away from the approaching footfalls and settled into a stance. A quick, pained tap of her hand at her side cleared her smoke and revealed the approaching assailant; a short elf surrounded by a swirling glow. There was no time to even try remembering their name.

On instinct alone, Jacklin’s hand spins rapidly through her smoke. On instinct alone, her mind has captured the crimson grains that rose into the air with each footfall and only seconds ago had stung at her own eyes.

She smiles unwittingly, and her instincts reach out, asking her smoke to dance.


Jacklin’s mind barely had time to process the shovel in her hands as she stabbed it into the sands and stepped hard onto its head. Her smoke had worked.

Come on!” She cried out, though she didn’t know if she was calling to herself, her smoke, or her foes.

Three


A break appeared in her cloud, tendrils of the blackness whizzing past and fading away as a gust of wind blew into Jacklin’s face. The Paragon of Wind peaked through the break as the smoke worked to close the gap, a slight smile on their face. Their lips moved, but whatever taunt slipped out was lost to the grand howl that sounded from the pillar at Jacklin’s side.

Jacklin paid it no heed, instead heaving at the shaking, graying shovel with all her might. It rocketed out of the sand in an arc and carried with it a new cloud; one of crimson grains cast out at the approaching elf. She basked in the rays of light shining through her own makeshift sandstorm and let out a laugh in harmony with the still-present ringing in her ears.

Two


With a risky flourish, Jacklin spun ‘round and tossed the shovel like a disc at the stormbringer, the tool shaking violently as it spun through the air. Her mind was returning to her, enough that she was finally able to stop and wonder why her magic had started to work again. It was possible that the shock and pain had blasted some sense into her, though part of her knew that wasn’t the case. Still, she decided she should thank Levanna for any part she might have played. Jacklin snapped into a salute.

“My thanks, Levanna!”

One.


Flame burst from the farmhand’s tool and greeted the sun with joy. Jacklin backpedaled towards Light's scorched crater, her legs still screaming at her to take a damn break and give them time to recover. But her mind was racing too quickly to take the hint. Her smoke had worked, rushing to her wishes faster than it had ever done before. Faster than during her time as a Skirmisher. Faster than her time as a free-spirit.

And far faster than the short, short time since she’d become a Captain.

Realization dawning on her face, Jacklin’s eyes scanned the fading flames and the drifting sands, vigilantly waiting for her foes to emerge unharmed as everyone seemed to do. She dipped her left hand into the cloud, her Soldier’s will commanding the wisps to march as her right hand reached for the weight in her breast-pocket. There was a theory to test, and if she was right, she had some redecorating to do.
Post #: 19
8/25/2021 21:31:24   
Apocalypse
Member

Steel bit into ice with a shrill cry, Twin Fang lopping off the top of the foe’s greatsword. The sheer strength of the blow drove Cassius back, the soldier’s parry barely deflecting the axe away from his skull. A deep growl emanaged from Crail’s throat. He pursued the paragon through the mist left behind by the now fractured weapon. With a single strike, Cassius’s defense had been overwhelmed, and the frigid air surrounding him only invigorated the vartai.

And yet the whelp still smiled at him.

Stygian metal glinted in the noonday sun as Crail reared back Twin Fang. He would butcher this insolent one, shred his sword to oblivion, and scatter what remained across these wretched sands. Beneath the gaze of the Great Frost’s prior champion, the Paragon of Ice would be humiliated for all the Lords of Lore to bear witness. He would expose this pretender for what he was, and at last the son of the Verglas would seize his due.

And then...

...then...

I’ll be taking those.

The intrusive thought accompanied the eruption of twin lances of pain in the small of his back. Crail roared, torn away from his vengeful thoughts as he arched backwards against his will. His muscles constricted as if trying to trap the offending weapons lodged in him. The blood shaman’s snarling filled both his ears and his mind, giving neither peace nor respite. The vartai reached with his left hand to rip the impudent fool off of himself. The exertion reignited the wounds on his shoulder, sending writhing spasms down his arm and throughout his torso. He gasped at the sudden influx of pain and fell to his wounded knee. Stars ruptured across his sight as the joint splintered within its metal casing. No,not splintered. It is not real. Only the pain is. Feed upon it. Claim it as your own. Crail exhaled sharply as footsteps approached him. Tears blurring his vision, Crail looked up.

Broad boots woven from wyvern hide.

Thick cloak carved from the pelt of a wolven beast.

Obsidian blade forged within the Winter’s Heart.

The vartai, skin of glassy blue and bearing a crown of iron, approached with heavy steps. His voice rumbled with all authority of the earth itself. “Champion once, forsaken now.” He raised the blackened sword - the Khan’s Wing - above his head. “For bringing ruin to mine khanate, I cast judgement upon thee.”

The blade fell.


No!

Crail raised a hand to ward off the blow, yet no sword struck his exposed arm. Instead, a shriek pierced the air as ice screamed against steel. Crail grunted at the impact on his perched leg, forcing him down onto his hands and knees. As the ache throbbed in his phantom thigh, his vision cleared into focus until the form of the Paragon of Ice took shape, frozen blade in his grasp. “Cassius,” the vartai spat, blood dribbling down his jaw.

Cassius.

Cassius stood before him.

Not Geir...

Geir had never-

With a roar, Crail clambered to his feet, stumbling as his right leg refused to obey. He reached back once more, burrowing through the agony searing across his back and shoulder until he found his mark. Metal fingers engulfing the blood shaman’s entire forearm, the vartai wrenched the smaller foe free and hurled him towards his other foe. The same tactic he used among the glittering monoliths, but this time to much more success - Milo crashed into Cassius and the two paragons were sent tumbling into the sands.

Crail groaned at the endeavor, his breath shaking with every inhalation. The sand below seemed so inviting, not a far cry from the comfort of the makeshift bedding of animal hide. He blinked long and hard, wayward tears of exhaustion joining his spit and blood upon the crimson sea. Rejected by the Great Frost, he could lay down his weary head and join the countless others before who bled their last in this arena.

But he would not, could not.

His brother and khan would never permit it.

I will not fail you again.

With that anchor to his will, Crail pushed himself off the ground. When his leg continued to hamper his efforts, he glanced down to find a coating of ice upon it. “Impudent whelp.” A single swing of Twin Fang shattered the bulk of the vexing frost away. The rest crumbled as Crail rose to his full height, his wounded knee quivering underneath the weight. A hair’s breadth more...

Light flashed from the center of the battleground in a brilliant fulmination. The shadows of his foes stretched long across the sands, embellishing their features and oddities.

One, a young warrior wielding a broken sword and bearing wings of snow.

The other, a middling shaman with an unorthodox orb of rippling blood.

Crail staggered forward, his limp no longer allowing itself to be ignored. With silent fury, the vartai slashed the axe head across the front of him, seeking to rend both enemies with a single blow.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 20
8/26/2021 12:57:47   
Sylphe
Member

Milo’s pale eyes flicked towards Cassius in his wingless flight. It was his wild and triumphant grin that caught his attention. It made the mage’s stomach turn. Sharp crystalline blades tore through tough metal and the crackling electricity and chilled cables of various orb-powered machinery. His blades didn’t care, his fury plunging them ever deeper into flesh.

What makes you think I’m your savior, soldier?

The dragon’s roar was so full of pain it made Milo shudder. He felt the warm, wet flood of blood released, the desperate clenching and struggle of a body in shock. It crawled up his arms and shook him to the core.

Do you enjoy killing, soldier?

Milo’s heart quivered, his breathing fast and shallow. That could be a lethal strike. That could easily be the thing that lets the exhausted dragon rest for the final time.

Do you think I do?

This time, it was no hallucination. Blood of a dragon, sticky and full of shimmering, liquid life. Full of elemental breath, brimming with fury and defiance. Sliding on scales, dripping into the sand where the hungry haze lapped its tribute up and desired more.

No hallucination? When every itch was a feather sprouting, when the sands breathed crimson, when Milo could see his reflection warped in the peculiar, shifting and spinning orb and the prisms that protected it? Was it the howl and the twitch that made him so sure the blood was actually there this time?

Ironclad fingers closed around his forearm and brought him back to the present of scorching sun and chilling air. He felt their intense strength even before they tore him off their owner’s back and sent him flying.

His cold wisp of anger caught flame, and he howled the whole way until a collision with his former opponent stopped this flight too, and sent him on another journey that could only end with bruised limbs and a mouth full of angry sand. A familiar chill enveloped him as he crashed into the other paragon with his full weight, only intensified by the dragon’s ferocious throw. Then came a tumble, a cough, a moment of not knowing which direction is up, only that there is a lot of sand, some of it in his mouth and lungs. And that there were a lot of limbs and wings in this pile that he must have elbowed into at least once. He coughed, his hand finding solid ground and pushing at least some of him away from the other fighter. He squinted against the sand, and let his eyes focus on his former adversary. Somewhere between instinct and the remembered closeness of another weapon, a sharp edge formed around Milo’s previously violated forearm. It rested above Cassius’ throat, just a breath away, and the mage gave the soldier a peer. An intense one that felt like it could read through one’s soul.

No, this time, there was a greater threat. He had a feeling the other knew that too. The blade dispersed, captured dust and sand particles drifted away, freed from the sanguine. Milo’s stare softened.

“Sorry about the wing.”

A few red droplets landed on Cassius before Milo pulled his arm away. The mage smirked, and rose an eyebrow.

“And about that, too. Pretty gross, isn’t it?”

Quite a lovely question to ask in a death arena, and Milo fully relished in the irony. It was a momentary respite.

But of course, nothing could last long, and some moments could only hold on for a precious few seconds before the light of the situation purged them, like dawnlight against a particularly calming dream. This dawnlight was the message of a Lord, and it descended with a blinding blast and a chilling lupine howl. It robbed him of sight once again, the only thing visible before the light a familiar reptilian silhouette.

He clambered to his feet, untangling himself from Cassius. There was danger to the frozen one, and it wasn’t just the forsaken paragon. For where sight was taken, he could clearly sense the arena’s mood shifting and tugging at his senses with renewed vigor.

“Cassius Pallu, that is your name?” He spoke, the words echoing in the frozen angel’s mind. They layered over his actual voice with a tiny, yet haunting delay. But that way, he was sure that they made their way through. Through all the new sensations, Milo wasn’t sure if he spoke them at all, and neither was he sure if the other replied anything.

“If we continued our fight, he’d raze us to the ground.”

Everything was too loud and colourful and his mental voice continued to suffer discord. The Lord’s fury set the crimson sea ablaze. It hungered, it crazed, it wouldn’t wait. Its shimmer was brilliant red and fast fading. It wanted to feed, and demanded he do the job.

He would not be a pawn. Not to destructive emotion, not to an awakened power shaking with the essence of many. And the least to long dead, crimson hands reaching for a tribute, clawing at his ankles as if he could feel their touch.

Milo walked forward towards the paragon busy picking himself up. In an ungainly twitch of the dragon’s shoulder and a furious, silent glare, he recognized the intent to attack. With gritted teeth, he called out to the paragon of ice, red dripping from his voice as it finally synchronized with his telepathy, its sound clean, cold and cutting.

“If he demands the attention of the Lord of Ice so badly, let us see if he can earn it with a fairer fight.”

He would not be humiliated, not before Peregrine, not before his Lord.

Anima flowed forward, its spherical shape folding in on itself like a star collapsing until it was but one bright red pearl in front of his open palm. Then it was a clump of cells, twitching with life and ready to bloom. Milo felt prickles almost as if feathers grew as the Vulture breathed life into them, an exhale of nebulous matter he wasn’t sure if anyone else saw.

He’d gotten away with doing things his way under the heavens of Fountain. There had to be some sort of a compromise with the deep dark, something only they searched for within their champion.

If Crail wanted his life, so be it. But to heal the pain and grief of slaughter by engaging in it again didn’t sit well with Milo. There had to be another path.

Then why, demanded the Vulture as he watched the cells form vessels and thread into muscle and flesh and bone before the fast approaching axe, why would you search for the solution in a blood sport?

The blade struck through the interlocked plates that lined this wall shaped creature with tremendous force and steel much sharper than he imagined. The flesh shuddered as its pain centers overwhelmed, but it aided in what the purpose of its creation was - protecting its creator, and one frozen paragon at the back.

THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY! He cried back, eyes wide against the viciously sharp stygian point that halted right before splitting his skull in two. A single white hair drifted down, cut cleanly from his head.

He sensed Cassius behind his back and gave him the pale glance of a terrified white deer. He did not trust that smirk he saw earlier, didn’t trust it at all to not plunge a frozen blade into his or the foe’s heart. But the fool was sitting there in shock, and while he understood it, his veins burned from holding the dying shield up.

“C-cassius! Did you freeze to the ground?”

Milo faltered, and trickles of red started breaking the shield’s skin. His voice picked up on urgency, volume, and shakiness as he struggled to not curse before the Lords.

“Wake your snowman hind region up!”

And yet through all of this the hollow birdsong continued in his mind, undeterred, somewhere between the pangs of exertion and pain. The thoughts he felt chilled him, and made it hard to stay focused on the battle in the world outside his little bird’s cage.

Yes.

Have you considered that perhaps it is meant to be, then?

That what is done can not be undone?


Milo stumbled back as the shield finally broke. His will couldn’t hold the hideous pieces of tissue and decaying bone threaded together anymore. He whipped his arms towards them, catching them in suspended motion before they’d fall into the ever hungry desert. Eyes closed, sweat pearling on his head, he searched for Anima within the changed structures. He mouthed the words meant for no one but himself.

We- we were life and creation and death, we shaped things to our will. Surely someone higher than us-

He panted. He found Anima still within. They tended to get lost if they were something else for too long, a fact that haunted him whenever he nearly ventured too far into testing their capabilities. His fingers moved with rigid, tired twitches of a once graceful puppeteer as he freed the blood from its confines of flesh. Blood trickled up his arms and into the feathers on his shoulders, freezing and crystallizing to form sharp quills. From down to pinion.

Listen to yourself talk, Vulture.

Stop,

Don’t call me that-


He begged both inside and out, hands at his temples, hood dragged down so that nobody would see. Crystals formed between his fingers, sticking to his fingers and bruising them. He breathed in and out, and let his eyes peek from under the fabric. Through that tiny window, he saw Cassius, whom he let escape his mind. Be it a stroke of luck, gratitude or allegiance, the soldier had done as asked and protected him.

Call me what?

Perhaps there was more to the angel than the smirk and the rage he showed in the waters. Milo wouldn’t let that matter again. He couldn’t afford to make himself this vulnerable again. This distracted. He made a decision, and that was final.

With another shaky inhale and exhale, Milo called the now smaller Anima to his side. If he focused on the fight outside, there would be nothing left for the fight inside to gnaw upon. And hopefully no bones for the sands either. Milo tore at his shoulders, struggling to sever the link between feather and its crystalline ghost, cutting his fingers on them before he managed. This time, there was no warning for the son of Verglas as Milo rushed through the sand. With grit teeth and two wild swings of his arms, he hurled two sets of quill shaped shards against Crail’s neck with murderous intent-

No.

Against his unarmored shoulder, to cripple, to slow down even further.

The pieces of feather frozen within the blades shone with starlight as they flew.

Your mercy is going to get us killed.

DF  Post #: 21
8/26/2021 18:59:43   
Necro-Knight
Member

The explosion of light and raw magical energy had blown Krehgor fully onto his back and set his ears ringing. The sand that sprayed across his face and coat was hardly noticed as his mind attempted to reboot in the wake of such force overwhelming him. He’d been around plenty of explosions, ranging from alchemical to more natural occurrences with collapsing ruins and he’d learned to not try and force the recovery process.

Before trying to force his limbs to move, the Paragon of Earth tried to sort out the past few minutes and remember what his plan had been… if he’d had one at all. The leonine creature had indeed suffered from his shot to its knee, but had turned to counter with a ferocious charge, wielding its massive pack as some form of makeshift shield and bringing its massive mace to bear. In that moment, he remembered he did not in fact have any plan against the beast. He wasn’t confident in his coat’s enchantment to survive such a blow, nor did he trust his Twisting Talon dagger to repel the entire blow and not just risk having his arm taken clean off.

He’d been racking his brain for some solution in the milliseconds that led up to the explosion that had come without warning. He’d seen the beast’s form silhouetted against the flash of light and sound before the impact with the sandy floor knocked the wind from his lungs. Words echoed above the arena, dulled by the ringing in his ears, but as his limbs began to slowly remember how to function, the Paragon ignored them.

As he sat up and swept the sand from his hair and coat, he noticed the sudden change to his fighting field. A new crater smoked from just a few feet away, likely the remains of the explosion he was still recovering from, and a second where he’d seen the leonine fighter emerge from.

After a few moments of stalling, his brain finally caught up to what he was seeing. The Paragon of Light, the beast-man before him, had failed and been cast from the competition. Not physically, but the symbolism was enough. Looking around, he already saw the beast recovering from its own explosion-fueled stupor and exiting the arena. Krehgor frowned from the insult of the Paragon of Light withdrawing without a word, but to be fair, he wouldn’t have heard them clearly anyway.

Gathering his firearm from where it’d landed between his knees, Krehgor stood with a slight stagger and shook his head to remove the last remaining wisps of fog from his mind.

“C’mon, broth’r… you’re still here, you’re still alive… All ya gotta do is keep y’self that way…”

"Hey, need a new dueling partner?"

Even as stable as he was, it took the Paragon a few moments to realize the call was being sent in his direction. He turned on the spot a few times before spotting the source of the voice. A small figure, roughly the stature of a dwarven being , and garbed in what looked like artisan’s clothes. Similar jewel-crafting tools hung from the small being’s belt and a cloak with something adding weight to its edge hung from her back.

While he would’ve considered her a dwarf upon first sight, her build was far too lithe and thin for that to be possible. Whatever her heritage was, this Paragon seemed to desire to start a new dance where the previous had one left off.

No rest for the wicked.

“Aye, sister, guess I do. I’ll try not ta’ step on your toes as we dance,” he said with a charming grin and tip of his hat with his free, clawed hand.

Normally he would’ve broken into another sprint and tried to close in on an opponent he had reach and size over, but as the ringing was still present at the edge of his hearing, Krehgor decided against rushing face-first into another possible death.

Instead, the gunslinger raised his revolver in his right hand and pulled the trigger without another word, the gnarled sights directed right at his foe’s center torso. As the thundering crack split the air of the arena yet again and he felt his arm forced back by the weapon’s kickback, he kept his eyes trained on his target, face shadowed by his wide hat. Even if the toxic thorn was countered, Krehgor needed to see what this small Paragon was about. Obviously she’d earned a place here just like himself.

In the same motion, his twisted arm swept his coat aside from his hip and with-drew his kukri from its sheath, flipping it into a reverse grip that he held low to his ribs. He couldn’t rely on one tool anymore, not at this stage of the competition. An avalanche was a force of nature. He needed to embody that.
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 22
8/26/2021 21:04:56   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Pie enjoyed the whistling that tickled xyr ears as the boomerangs flew back towards xem. Its high pitch came to a climax and halted abruptly as both weapons slammed into Pie’s outstretched hands. Pie rubbed xyr fingers gently over the arrangement of gems. While Flourite was centered with a smooth gem of bright pink and green, the second weapon held a pale blue with countless rough lines: Kyanite. Pie and Corinna had found it nestled in a rock while exploring the river’s banks. Back when I was less of a jeweler and more of a rock collector. Pie had carefully worked it into the boomerang in the hopes of encouraging xymself; of reminding xem how far xe’d come to get to the Jade. But running xyr fingers along its rough surface, Pie only felt a pang of sadness xe couldn’t quite understand.

Levanna seemed too preoccupied with her fight to answer Pie’s question. The two women seemed totally concentrated on beating the crap out of each other. I guess it makes sense… people are probably less friendly now that we’re in finals. Was Pie being too friendly? Combat and socializing didn’t have to be mutually exclusive, right? Pie had engaged in full conversations with Skalf while they dueled. Jacklin and Levanna were exchanging words, but they were too soft for Pie to make out; certainly not over the chaos they created with lightning, and jumping, and…

I am way out of my league.

But as Pie stood stunned, the girls’ battle continued with barely a pause. Pie began to panic. I’m not fast enough. I have to do something! Pie dashed once more to finish xyr path towards Jacklin, the woman surrounded by smoke. As xyr feet carried xem closer, Pie scrunched xyr eyes and strained xyr muscles, focusing all xyr energy towards Jacklin’s smoke. Winds normally invisible finally showed their face as they cut through the smoke like an axe, a path of light parting for Pie as if gleeful to prove its presence. Pie’s breath caught and the playful taunt xe was planning to give faded from xyr lips. ”I really can…”

The child ran. It knew not where, only that running was the only thing it could do. The child normally enjoyed running; the wind blowing its hair behind it, the feel of the ground rushing away beneath its feet. But today its normal grin would not come. The freedom that always came with running now felt too large, too lonely. Too scary. But Nilch’i were supposed to play with wind. The child knew it couldn’t do that; not like Nilch’i could. And if the child was not a Nilch’i, it did not belong.


Pie was not a Nilch’i. Pie could not play with wind.

If I was wrong this whole time, then…

Pie jolted in fright, xyr running halted, as a howl echoed through the arena. Pie’s head turned to behold the statue of Light, a chained and armored woman, cracking as her arms raised. Pie stared on in fright as the woman flung her weapon, a greataxe which glowed and shifted to become a long spear, to land squarely in the middle of the arena. It kicked up sand as it hit the ground with a heavy thunk. Crap, those things could kill me if I’m not careful. Pie chose to ignore the fact that likely everything and everyone in this arena could kill xem.

Argh! Pie spat and brought both fists to xyr face as crimson sand assaulted it. Did she really just throw sand in my face?! That was so rude! Pie stepped backwards, taking a few moments to rub at xyr eyes and cough in desperate attempts to get rid of the tiny crystals that now felt like they were absolutely everywhere.

When xe felt able to open xyr eyes again (though it took a few blinks), xe turned away from the sound of the two women still locked in an intense brawl. Pie shook xyr head and sighed.

”Half of fighting is knowing when to back out.”

This wasn’t going to work. The two women were clearly set on fighting each other, for one reason or another. Pie continuing to butt in and try to make a mess while they beat on each other would just show the Wind Lord xe could only be an annoyance; and it would put xem in more danger than anything. The Jade was worth the danger-- but it had to come from a fight that was worth it.

So Pie turned away from the two women and towards the Paragon of Light. They were another sort of mammalian humanoid, and their hunched form made Pie’s heart pull in pity as they trod towards the arena’s doors. A single combatant knelt, left behind by their only fighting partner. Krehgor; the Earth Lord’s chosen. An infestation. Sure enough, as he stood, Pie could see a dark, twisted nature to his body. His entire left side had lost most aspects of human form, bulging with fungi and bones. He’s probably here to cure that… Sure, Pie didn’t particularly like bad smells-- and with no offense meant, Krehgor probably smelt horrible-- but… part of him was still clearly human. He had a good reason to fight here. And Pie needed a partner. It works out, in the end; weird that we can help each other by fighting! So Pie called out to the infected man, waving a boomerang in the air. “Hey, need a new dueling partner?”

A shiver ran down xyr spine as Krehgor’s gnarled fingers, each home to a long, thin bone that definitely did not belong, reached up and tipped his hat towards xem. Xyr nose curled as his smooth voice juxtaposed the rot that permeated his body. I am not your sister. Pie opened xyr mouth to attempt xyr normal polite, cheerful response, but all thoughts turned to alarm bells as xe watched the man reach into his belt and pull out some sort of firearm covered in the same infection that spread across his body. SHOOT HE’S GOT A GUN?! Pie dropped quickly into a roll, and strained xyr will upwards, hoping desperately that xyr magic would protect xem. The wind whistled as the man’s bullet spun through it above Pie’s head. Phew, that was lucky! Except… it wasn’t. Pie’d done that all xemself. That should be exciting. Why wasn’t that exciting?
“You coulda killed me!” Pie yelled from the end of xyr roll as xe flicked a boomerang low to the ground towards Krehgor, hoping to catch his ankles. With the same hand, Pie reached into xyr belt and grabbed a pair of pliers. They were relatively light, so they probably wouldn’t do much, but Pie didn’t want to risk touching whatever infection somehow had the ability to spread to weapons. Standing up, Pie charged the man, xyr cape and silk flying behind like wings. As xe grew closer to them, Pie simply pushed a hand out, willing xyr winds to knock Krehgor’s weapon away from him. As xe felt a tug in xyr stomach, a single word rolled through xyr head like a broken record.

Nilch’i. Nilch’i. Nilch’i.
Post #: 23
8/27/2021 0:02:24   
Synthe_
Member
 

quote:

To yield is to perish. We forge the bloodstained path today so that our friends may live free tomorrow.
- From “Requiem of Glass”


Cassius couldn’t be particularly upset about his ruined weapon as he shattered it upon Crail’s armored leg. Sure, it had been his plan to deflect his predictable attack, and his goal to drive it through the dragon’s neck, but those schemes now lay fragmented on the crimson sands. After all, he wouldn’t be much of a tactician if he didn’t expect his plan to go awry. However, despite that expectation of failure, this particular outcome remained soundly outside of his training.

And so, as those burning emotions boiled up to the surface once more, there remained no rationale to suppress them. Cassius raged not because his plan had failed, but because Crail had crushed them without so much as a thought. He hadn’t been outsmarted, outmaneuvered, or deceived, but positively humiliated. The dragon had cut right through his defence without even trying, likely without even thinking about it. How could it be that raw strength was enough to disregard martial skill?

Funny that all my ‘superior tactical judgement’ can get me is a single lousy hit, Cassius thought to himself as the weight dissolved from his hands, a pristine icy coating appearing on Crail’s leg. His hand left an arc of crystalline shards in its wake, thousands of tiny prisms painting themselves with vibrant colors. However, those fragments weren’t even able to hit the ground before the dragon began to move. The whirr of frigid metal accompanied a fearsome roar as Cassius looked up just in time to see the body of Milo flying towards him.

The Fallen’s thoughts fractured, a flash of black stealing a second of lucidity. Piercing fire shot through his body as it found itself unexpectedly shifted, limbs rearranged as an abrupt stop stole the breath from his lungs. It took a few moments for him to banish the crippling sensation, restored vision bringing the arena back into frame. He lay sprawled on the bloody sand, its searing heat suddenly crawling to the forefront of his mind.

Cassius sat up with a start, gladly putting some distance between his unprotected head and the burning ground. Halfway through shaking off his mental fog, his attention was drawn to a familiar glint of red in the corner of his vision. Instantly recognizing the blade now resting at his throat, his eyes traced the river of red back to the mage holding him hostage.

You can’t be serious.

Milo’s eyes held a calm and focused energy, an inquisitive glare that seemed to dissect his very being. For one long moment they sat there on the sands, the soldier frozen halfway through sitting up, the mage trying to determine his intent. Cassius gave nothing away in his expression, a stoic, emotionless visage that seemed to dare Milo to end him on the spot.

Surely you’re smart enough to know that I’m not the threat here...

Thankfully the mage seemed to reach the same conclusion, finally allowing the blade to dissolve. Cassius let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding in, Milo’s eyes losing their accusatory coloring.

“Sorry about the wing”

They’ve long since become useless to me anyways.

“And about that, too. Pretty gross, isn’t it?”

He was pointing to Cassius’ uniform, the front of which had been marred by the blood of his dagger. The soldier froze when his gaze crossed the crimson stain, unwelcome memories beginning to claw their way to the surface.

quote:

Vicious wind cut across the cliffside, chunks of rock still falling from the shattered bunker. The pristine white snow dotted by scars of red, fallen halos resting in pools of sanguine. Short breaths came quickly, only then looking down at his own body. The specialist uniform, beacon of determination, now disfigured by the stains of his failure.


The red sands quickly returned, Cassius finding himself curiously short of breath. The mage had already begun to stand, their adversary shattering his icy bindings in a single stroke. Gathering his thoughts, the soldier shakily rose to his feet, carefully dusting sand from his jacket. Though, as Milo turned to speak, a deafening voice accompanied him, grating against the soldier’s mind.

”Cassius Pallu, that is your name?”

quote:

’Cassius Pallu, that is your name?’ Rosha smiled, eyes full of excitement as the new recruit saluted him.


“Who gave you the right to invade my head.....” Cassius spoke under his breath, eyes a bit wider than usual. Milo didn’t seem to hear him, however, the ear-splitting voice returning once more.

”If we continued our fight, he’d raze us to the ground.”

The soldier didn’t openly reply, eyes glued to the sands below as he struggled to endure the mental onslaught.

”If he demands the attention of the Lord of Ice so badly, let us see if he can earn it with a fairer fight.”

Cassius could feel the mage’s attention shift elsewhere, the sound of shattering ice confirming his suspicions. His eyes snapped up just in time to see Crail free himself from his trapped leg, fury burning in his natural eye as the dragon turned to glare at his opponents.

“Agreed, though I could do with less mind-screaming.” He said louder this time, finally regaining some composure.

The ground shook in protest as the dragon-warrior began his approach once more, artificial legs occasionally stuttering as he bore down on the two of them. Milo took a single step forwards, moving slightly in front as his orb began to shift. Held in his hand, a vibrant, visceral flow wrapped around itself hundreds of times before slowly shifting to a condensed ball. The view disturbed Cassius, an uncharacteristic shiver reaching him as the crimson once again sought to burrow into his mind.

Whatever you’re planning, you’d better do it fast. The dragon was almost upon them now, his vicious axe seeking to tear them apart.

Suddenly, Milo’s crimson surged forth, bone, flesh, and sinew coming into existence before his eyes. The eldritch structure condensed, forming a wall between them and their adversary, its surface bleeding a forbidden energy. The haunting sight filled his vision, Cassius’ entire view of the world replaced with that of a dying man.

With that, the gates broke, his mental fortitude no longer able to keep those cursed memories tied down.
quote:

The line was broken, their defense crushed. The angels poured in through the mountain pass, clashing with the conglomeration of hallowed infantrymen and chained beasts. He stood in his bunker, the rest of Rosha’s company holding off the endless attack under the watchful eye of the night sky. He could hear the Captain speaking loud and powerful words, though their meaning was lost in the haze of battle. He ripped his blade from the body of an enemy, letting them fall to the concrete ground as their halo’s light slowly faded.

A red light cut through the sky above them, a single moment of silence heralding the incoming detonation. The concrete fortification split just as the sky had, the deafening scream of the ensuing explosion ridding the world of sound. Chaos ripped through the defending line as stone and fire fell indiscriminately, blood and death soaking the ground beneath.

He stood, frozen in paralyzing disbelief as his comrades fell beside him. He stood, unmoving as the enemy soldier approached. Even as the sword was raised, he made no move to stop it, mind swimming in the visceral stupor of death. Instead, he watched as the soldier was cut down before him, blank face falling to the ground as Rosha appeared in his place. His sword, coated in crimson, bled death onto the corpse beneath him.


The wall of flesh shook, groaning in protest as the bone was split by Crail’s blade. Rivulets of red leaked from the gash, shaking as it struggled to absorb the force of the strike. The savage edge of the axe head finally came to rest only an inch from Cassius’ face.

quote:

Rosha’s body shook, suddenly lurching to the side as he was unexpectedly hit from behind. His expression faltered, the grin of relief replaced with surprise, then fading to nothing. That horrible crimson painted his clothing as he began to fall, legs no longer able to hold him aloft. Cassius’ mind screamed out, a wild plea to stop his eyes from fading, to end this abhorrent nightmare. As the mangled body slumped to the concrete below, it seemed to be calling something out through the silence:

”Cassius......”

“Cassius................”


“Cassius! Did you freeze to the ground!?”

Someone called out to him through the fog, the paralyzing ice coating his mind shaking ever so slightly.

“Wake your snowman hind region up!”

Something about the absurdity of the sentence shook him, finally breaking free of his mental prison. Vision returned, his eyesight no longer fixated on the failing wall of viscera. Milo was struggling, color draining from his face as he struggled to keep the dragon from claiming their lives. Finally, Cassius’ thoughts clicked together, focus and discipline coming flooding back as his limbs began responding once more. Breathing steadied, eyes narrowed, and hands ceased their shaking as he reminded himself of his purpose.

I fight now so that nobody else will meet the same fate

Crail’s arm remained stuck to the wall, though Milo likely couldn’t keep it up much longer. Quickly, Cassius formed a pristine longsword, once more drawing in the blazing heat of the dense air. As he moved forward towards Crail, he created a second weapon, a small dagger hidden in the palm of his hand. Milo’s shield finally came crashing down as Cassius closed into striking distance, the dragon quickly moving to regain his balance.

The floating longsword came slicing down from Cassius’ left, bearing down on Crail’s flank. At the same time, the soldier dashed in the opposite direction, seeking to land a quick strike from behind.

The ghosts of the past will not shackle me!
Post #: 24
8/27/2021 17:09:23   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Rot, mold, decay - the stench of forgotten, festering soil swept across the expanse of the Arena. A tremor shook the Pillar of Earth, the bones of its statue clattering against each other in a senseless symphony. Stone slabs shuddered and cracked as strings slipped from the puppeteer's hands, its fingers decomposing one by one. The figure uttered a piercing wail; a sour note that rebounded from ear to ear. Blackness bloomed from the craig’s fissures - a putrid blight that spread forth to taint the edges of the crimson sands. With a final shudder, the bedrock dissolved in a slough of chitin and dust. A single thud echoed out afterwards - the skull of a deer hitting the ground, empty eye sockets fixed upon the black-cloaked figure.

“And so has favor been withdrawn from Krehgor, Paragon of Earth." The somber tones were near-silent, yet still all present heard the message sink into their soul. "The Pillar of Earth has shattered - and we now bear witness to his choice, and to his Lord's discontent." Inky patches of fungus dotted the sands about the former pillar, promising the suffering that the Arena demanded.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 25
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