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8/28/2021 22:44:20   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo


A small twinge of satisfaction sank into Levanna’s heart. Shame forced her to bite the gleefully buzzing sensation back. She refused to consider it proper to take delight in harming another creature. Yet, to have an opponent writhing under her lightning retrieved memories of the old ways. She remembered victories and defeats, she recalled skirmishes and conquests. Finally, she embraced the iron bonds that a bitter struggle for survival forged.

A surging waterfall of crimson sand ripped Levanna away from her brief retreat into the past. Just as always, ignoring the present meant embracing failure. She narrowed her gaze upon Jacklin just as the paragon of flame had launched her shovel directly towards the Plains’mother.

Inhale.

Levanna lowered her stance, just as she had so many times now, preparing to intercept the makeshift weapon. Locking her eyes on the dark tool, she readied her staff to deflect.

Exh-

A bright, white flash ruthlessly severed Levanna from her prepared motion. Searing heat crept and clawed upon every inch of exposed skin. The sensation of a thousand needles showered over her as flesh cracked and leather boiled. Though she tried to grit her teeth, to keep her mouth shut, a thundering scream of pain erupted from her lips. She felt hair singe away and skin peel from the forearm which shielded her eyes. As the white hot cloud subsided, Levanna remained. Slowly, she lowered her seared arm to her chest, bloodshot eyes fixing themselves upon Jacklin.

With a second cry of pain and frustration, Levanna grasped and tore away her smouldering leather hide chestpiece. The wound upon her stomach pulsated with agony as she now struggled with each breath. A shudder rhythmically crept down her spine. With each consecutive beat, Levanna’s tired heart attempted to rest. With every attempt to rest, a surging spark scattered upon her chest and forced life into her flesh once more.

With a slow and shaking hand, Levanna brought her arm up and grasped upon one of the four remaining teeth upon her necklace. She grimaced, the thought of sacrificing another so soon constricted her stomach into a knot. The searing pain upon her skin and the scattering spark within her chest forced her hand. A sharp tug snapped twine, leather, and hair. The fang came free and settled within her palm. She allowed her gaze to drop to the crimson sands as the tooth shattered within her grasp. A soft whisper drifted off her lips and rolled onto the sands as gently as the shards of bone from her hand.

“Viaslis, allow me to struggle. Cause me to thrash. I take upon myself life's first cry.”





A cool breeze drifted over the plains, tussling and rustling the tall grasses which coated the rolling hills. Levanna found herself lost amidst a seemingly endless stretch of unfamiliar ground, guided by naught but starlight. With every single breath, the sky itself felt further and further away. As she continued to wander, she began to notice the stars begin to lessen. Every time she took a step, one gleaming light in the sky disappeared. Before long, the entire sky had been snuffed out by this vast and growing nothingness, leaving the Plains’mother wandering in absolute darkness.

As she took another step, a pinprick struck at her ankle. Levanna recoiled and stepped away, leaning down to rub the pain away. An anxious air settled into her lungs as she felt no wound, no puncture where she had been bitten. Slowly she set her foot down upon the ground. Another pinprick, upon her calf this time. Levanna swore and whipped herself around to confront her invisible assailant. A small worm of lightning quickly crept back into the earth. Another prick upon her foot. Another upon her other ankle. One more upon her thigh. Quickly Levanna found herself overwhelmed by these serpents of pure lightning which struck at her from all sides.

She screamed, feeling the pain begin to overtake her. Her head began to swim as she noticed the lightning’s venom begin to take hold. She tried to run, yet her legs failed her. She plummeted into the grass and earth, finding herself quickly overtaken by the slithering mass of stinging strikes.

Just as the Plains’mother thought she would drift away into this new oblivion, two large, golden eyes fixed themselves upon her own. Her heart raced as her arms, legs, and chest refused to move. She felt her own entirety become paralyzed by those two glowing, slitted orbs. Her breath slowly left her chest as she felt a tear drift down her cheek.

”Mortal who bears the spark, worm who seeks a covenant with the three.” A whispering voice drifted from behind those eyes. ”Remember that spark you bear is but a glimpse of our own eternity and a taste of the strength of the Storm. I advise you to remember your place as I ask of you, what gifts do you bear in return for our strength?”

Levanna lay silent upon the ground, every muscle refusing to so much as move and her cheeks now stained with tears.

”You bear nothing. For you have nothing. For you are nothing.” The voice hissed. ”With nothing of value, you dare attempt to enter a covenant?”

The Plains’mother shivered. She tried to cry out, yet she could not. She wished to sob, yet she would not. Body and soul left her with no option but to stare in awe and fear.

”Yet, if our Spark has found you worthy, then we shall not shame ourselves by denying you what was sworn to your ancestors.”

A large, dark, slithering mass began to slowly encroach upon Levanna. Scaled coils the size of overturned trees began to envelop and embrace her.

”Now you shall know, just as bearing our Spark has cost you dearly, you shall not bear out strength without cost. You shall pay a price each time you wish to bear our mark. The strength we provide shall be in proportion to the cost of the price you bear”

Levanna’s mind gathered itself into a frenzy. Desperately she searched her thoughts for a way out as the scaled coils tightened slowly more each moment.

”The value of the price to us matters not” Visalis whispered as Levanna began to recede into unconsciousness. ”It is the price of the cost to you which determines everything, mortal.”






A sharp gasp filled Levanna’s lungs as sparks of energy danced across her skin. Strength surged itself into her limbs. The world around her slowed to nearly half its former pace. The Plains’mother ordered her legs to move and they leapt like lightning. Ironwood staff in hand, Levanna dashed across the grounds towards the Fire Lord’s paragon. Once she was merely feet away, she dropped to her front knee and slid across the sands, whipping the sparking ironwood at Jacklin’s side.

A crack resounded across the arena as ironwood struck against the solidified smoke of Jacklin’s shield. As the tip of her staff ricocheted away, Levanna took in a sharp breath and pulled along the momentum, twirling the staff about and bringing it back around for a strike up against Jacklin’s shoulder.

“You’ve proven yourself a warrior, Jacklin. I am no longer to call you a child.”
DF  Post #: 26
8/29/2021 20:19:52   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


Levanna writhed under the assault of Jacklin’s radiant flames. The pain Jacklin saw… it brought her no satisfaction, but it brought her time. Time for her flames to finish their slow journey and march her protection, her arm now grasping an ornate wooden shield. Another pillar crumbled to the ground before her eyes, a wail piercing through the air as skull toppled from its perch. Jacklin paid it no heed, her mind far too busy noting the difference between her new blockade and the previous shovel. A soldier’s march. A free spirit’s dance.

She had forgotten, in the ecstasy of her family reunion, in the pride of His approval, that only moments earlier she had a heavy blade inches from a man’s neck.

That blade hadn’t kissed flesh.

She had stopped the blade from kissing flesh.

She had declared herself Jacklin.

A skirmisher without an army.

Jacklin’s features scrunched, confused by the implications of her thoughts. The Lord had not chosen a soldier; he had chosen a woman wanting nothing more than to win a bet. And yet here she stood, selfishly serving her Emperor rather than selfishly chasing victory. Perhaps this… was wrong.

From her breast-pocket came a simple butterfly knife, though she held it closed. The small blade would be useless against the stormbringer before her, but it was comforting to hold. She glanced briefly at the tear in her uniform, crimson blood still seeping weakly onto the fabric. She smiled softly, the sun really did feel nice against her skin.

Sparks scattered through the air, their flashes drawing Jacklin out of her blissful stupor. Dancing tattoos, just like mine. I’ll have to ask her how she got ‘em. Jacklin slipped into stance as the warrior charged forward, Levanna’s speed on par with the bolts of energy that twisted and licked at the hot air. This woman was filled with tricks, but Jacklin had not been trained to falter simply because a foe was quick.

Jacklin took a confident stride forward, her eyes barely following Levanna as the blur of a woman dropped to one knee and slid towards her. Both warriors swung outwards, ironwood meeting metal as Jacklin parried the blow aside in a storm of sparks. Echos of force and sizzling energy surged through her arm, evoking a pained gasp. She stretched her will to her shield, still unsure if she should ask her smoke to dance like the free or march like the loyal, but Levanna gave no respite. In a flash the woman had swung around, ironwood arcing towards Jacklin’s thunderstruck side at unmatchable speed.

Jacklin’s mind moved faster than her body, a word exiting her lips in a panic as the staff slammed into her shoulder. Whiteness filled her vision, her ears ringing with the final chorus of the detonated shield. She soared over the crater of Light’s fall, her arm convulsing once more as electricity shot through her body, all her focus on keeping her hand shut tight around her knife. She rolled to a stop, taking a deep breath as her numb arm continued to tingle. Somehow, with a small shred of her consciousness, she had managed to maintain her cloud. Her mind raced, thoughts shooting through it as she finalized her situation and swept her hat off the ground.

To serve my country is to serve this Lord.

She leapt to her feet, taking the brief respite she had made through her ever faithful sparks but never taking her eyes off Levanna. A shake of her hat and a small strike of her hand against its felt removed the last grains of the ground before placing it atop her sand-covered, windblown hair.

To serve this Lord is to be free of my country.

A smirk crossed her lips, her brother’s playful displeasure flashing through her mind.

“Sorry, Jack. Sorry, thy Radiancy.”

Jacklin tossed her knife to her left hand, flicking it open with an overly flamboyant flourish. Her voice rang out in triumph, calling to herself more than anyone.

“For today alone, I’ll serve no one but myself! May it please you or not, Lord of Fire!”

Sharp steel circleed her arm, her impatience, her energy, drawing the metal through cloth and flesh alike. The pain pulled a hiss from her lips, the abandoned sleeve sliding off her arm and floating down to the sands alongside a small shower of crimson. Sun warmed burnt skin, kissing at her scars, her wounds, her treasures, and she could almost feel the final vestiges of the stormcaller’s blessings calm themselves. She set her eyes on her approaching foe, Levanna’s pace surprisingly level, as if waiting for Jacklin to finish. Excitement flushed Jacklin’s cheeks. This woman had made a bet with her. She deserved Jacklin’s full attention. The attention of someone who had done this many, many times before. Jacklin called out to her foe, a wide grin lighting her face.

“Come, Levanna, and let us continue our game! I am free from pride, free from loyalty, and face you with all I am!”

Her freedom dances out, a right hand playing in the smoke with joy. The wispy lines along her arm shimmer in the sunlight, waving down her arm and tickling her senses. She smiles and makes her request. “Dance me beauty! Let us once more be what we were today, when we decided we were ourself!”

Her last shreds of loyalty march forth, a left hand grasping at the smoke with purpose. The sun glints off of her gold-laced uniform, the light reaching her eyes and filling her with pride. She smiles and gives her command. “March me glory. Let us show our allegiance, for even if we serve not today, we shall tomorrow.”


Gorgeous, intricately carved steel swung through the air with an unnecessary flourish, the scythe in her right now greeting the blazing sun rather than the quiet moon. The saber in her left rose in an energetic salute, the words “Captain Jacklin” etched into its blade.

Across the sands, Levanna’s energy-imbued form returned the salute in kind. With a laugh, Jacklin kicked off the ground, tossing a small plume of the grains into the air. As she shot across the arena, her beautiful scythe dragged behind, leaving a trail in the crimson to mark her passage. Her saber instead stood at attention, the blade prepared to deflect any swings of Levanna’s ironwood. Jacklin leapt and spun once, her scythe carving a circle through the desert as it twirled through the air and arced towards Levanna’s neck. She called a glorious battle cry, practically singing her song across the sands.

The song of a free soldier.
Post #: 27
8/29/2021 21:30:36   
Apocalypse
Member

Twin Fang landed with a sickening squelch. The sound of steel penetrating flesh and cutting through bone was a melody all too-familiar to Crail. A song played a hundred times over: a finale to the strife of battle.

Yet it signified no victory this day.

In the heartbeat before his blow landed, Milo’s orb twisted and churned into a putrid mass of skin and muscle punctured by sickly white fragments. Rich ichor oozed from the fresh wound, deep crimson dripping to coat the stygian metal. Crail snarled. His challenge had been to the soldier, yet it was the blood shaman who continued to vex him at every opportunity. If he did not turn from this path, Crail would have no choice but to deliver unto him a swift end. Such was the way of the vartai.

So why did it now leave a bitter taste in his mouth?

Crail buried the distraction - he had time for naught but war. With a curt tug, he pulled upon the wedged ax. Twin Fang whined as it grated against a protrusion of bone but refused to budge. He exhaled sharply. On the other side of the conjured flesh came the furious shifting of sands - his enemies were rallying against him. With a groan, Crail braced his free arm against the pulsating barrier of flesh. It heaved and caved beneath his touch, undulating in small waves and spitting up blood upon his ivory plate. Ignoring the rhythmic spasms, Crail pushed upon the wall of meat. As Twin Fang slowly dislodged itself, viscid with running ichor, the vartai’s free arm sunk into the mass inch by inch. Toothy bones scraped over the metal plate, and the flesh quivered moist and warm against his arm. On the vartai’s own body, his wounds took their toll as his shoulders and back burned hot with pain. His growl started as a low rumble but crescendoed into a guttural roar until at last Twin Fang tore free. With this, the abominable wall crumbled, its hideous marred mass collapsing in on itself to once more form that heretical orb.

Crail caught his breath even as his blood boiled. The shaman had again intervened to the benefit of Cassius Pallu. He held no respect for the old ways, and with each passing moment, became a deeper and deeper thorn in his side. The sum of this alliance proved to be greater than its parts as Cassius rose to meet him while the shaman recovered from his act of twisted sorcery.

Grunting, Crail staggered in place as he prepared for the soldier’s assault. He favored his right leg as his left fluxxed with a cadence of deep-cutting pangs and pricks. Steeling himself against the pain, he turned his lone burning eye to the soldier dashing across the sands. Beside Cassius coalesced another sword of frost, this one smaller and far more elegant. It hung in the air, shimmering as it floated around to the vartai’s right side while the Paragon of Ice circled around to flank him.

Fool.

He lashed out not for the weapon but the man, his open hand seizing the unsuspecting soldier by the neck. Cassius’s eyes opened wide in panic with a gasp caught in his throat. A glimpse of silver slipped from his grasp and onto the scarlet below. His enemy disarmed, Crail let out a harsh laugh, but it did last long. The hovering blade found its mark, striking down on his exposed back. Splinters of pain exploded all along his spine as if the tender wounds from Milo were ripped open anew. The frost that crackled and forged itself along the impact were almost a welcome, hampering his movement but quelling the heat born from agony. Crail clenched his jaw shut as he stumbled in place. He would not fall. The torment was excruciating, but he had already lost everything - this could not compare. Mine pain, mine fury.

Yet he could not shake how the khanate’s words rang so hollow now.

Pushing past the pain and hesitation, Crail gazed at the soldier still struggling in his grasp. He hissed one slow breath from between rows of jagged teeth. “You think of me as nothing more than a monster - a mindless beast. This is why you-” A fresh spike of pain seared through his shoulder from the effort of holding up Cassius. He grimaced, shutting his eye to the world for one brief moment.

“But you are a beast”.

Crail opened his eyes to the familiar voice. A soft snow fell from grey-laden skies, covering the ground in an ivory blanket. The silence surrounding him was deafening.

And within his grasp was Geir Splittree, the last khan of the north.

He did not struggle, did not challenge his captor. He simply hung there, his limbs swaying idly in the wind. Crimson red stained his skin of glassy blue, and his iron crown rested askew on his brow. A large chunk had been taken out of the metal right above his rolled back eye. Those two white orbs stared listlessly forward, seeing not through Crail but somehow beyond him.

The slack jawed mouth moved. “A beast? No, that is far too generous. Beasts have minds of their own.” The head lolled to one side, resting at an unnatural angle. “A weapon mayhaps. A tool aimed at others. One with a singular purpose: to destroy.” Crail’s grip tightened against his will. He wanted to, needed to let go but was bound by this specter. An impossible chance at absolution but now…

...now...

The corpse’s lips curled into the barest hint of a smile.

“But even such a task was beyond you.”


A shock of agony in his shoulder evoked a bellow from Crail. Cassius, not Geir, slipped from his fingers as his arm convulsed in response to the new wave of pain surging through him. Not real. Neither torment nor apparition. None of it! Through tear-soaked vision, he caught sight of a scarlet shard protruding from his exposed injury.

Milo.

“You seek to take what little I have left?

The vartai rose to his full height, his next words falling as a whisper.

“Then come claim it.”

Crail delivered a kick to the downed Cassius, launching the whelp into the air and towards the center of the arena. One of the other paragons could have their turn with the pretender. If he survived, then Crail would wring what little life was left out of him. With one last sneer, he turned back to Milo, the mage rushing the much larger combatant. He possessed great tenacity for a human - of that Crail could not fault him. His body aching every moment of the way, the vartai slid into a sturdy stance, readying himself as the mountain for Milo to break himself upon. A counter-charge would have secured his triumph, but his knee proved a hindrance and the battle was far from over. Crail locked his gaze with the blood shaman’s, raising Twin Fang high.

Across the arena, a dying wail echoed through the blood-soaked sea.

The scent of death and decay washed over him.

A haze clouded his mind, and his axe lowered of its own accord.

Crail felt his body stiffen, the various parts moving to correct the imperfections in his posture. When his injuries protested, they were ignored. Instead, his frame took a step forward, its gait firm and deliberate. No, not when I’m so close!! Crail’s mind screamed in resonance with the collapsing pillar as the lumbering logika, now in command, marched forward. Pain permeated throughout his entire being, each wound flaring with new vigor as the artificial mind paid no consideration for its vessel - only its own survival. Crail yearned to thrash against his mental prison and take back what was his.

But…

Part of him was relieved.

He cursed that fragment of himself for daring to feel it, damning himself to a thousand miserable deaths for considering surrender. Yet the temptation rooted itself deep within his mind. He did not have to fight anymore.

He no longer had to prove himself to anyone. Not to khan. Not to lord.

Warring within himself, Crail could only watch as the logika summoned the Edge of Absolute of Zero upon his wrist. The frigid blade swirled with icy mist as it struck not for the shaman, but for the infernal orb he possessed.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 28
8/30/2021 7:43:33   
Sylphe
Member

Who is your mercy helping?

The thoughts didn’t relent, instead pressing on their urgency as their receiver closed the distance between himself and the ungrateful warrior of Water. In his iron cold grasp, the struggling angel and an unlikely ally, his eyes wide in shock and fear.

What is the morality of killing to save another?

I won’t be taking lessons from the likes of you. Milo wanted to snap at the ever insistent thoughts that coiled around his mind like snakes, black and feathered like the gods of old. “Cassius!” He called instead, cursing himself for just how much worry he allowed to creep into his shout. He had never seen the soldier like this. Devoid of that smirk, that pride that made Milo grit his teeth in disgust. But now that it was gone and the angel was left helpless, it swiftly brought a sense of desperation. For how much of a threat the seraph tactician became within the rippling, freezing moonstained waters, it was terrifying to see such icy fury snuffed in a single brute grapple.

If you went for the throat, he’d be saved.

I know! I know. He muttered without any thought, almost with an unconscious hope to defend himself. Be it any other situation, he’d find sick satisfaction for Cassius going down the same way he did at the very start of this fight. But this was not the place. This was no time for celebrating victories, as small as they were. And yet he attempted, pausing in the sand to catch his breath as he saw the behemoth cast Cassius aside and kick him across the sands with terrifying ease. The grown man was little more than a ragdoll to the beast. A cloud of dust obscured his sight briefly, leaving him unable to see where Cassius’ voyage had landed.

He hoped the tactician could handle himself against the others.

“It worked,” He whispered.

Your thoughts on what “worked” means…

The dragon had turned his attention towards him, glaring a storming sea of fury.

...are pretty skewed.

But Milo was already running. There was no time to lose, there was nowhere else to go.

“You seek to take what little I have left?

“Then come claim it.”


The dragon’s once triumphant bellow fell into little more than a whisper, and the mage felt a sting as he sensed the bitterness and defeat in his opponent’s words, no longer hiding under that snowy blanket of rage.

“I’m not here to take anything from you!” Milo cried, frustration and disbelief alive in his voice. If the giant of frost didn’t care to listen, he’d have to be a little louder. The mage’s open palm swiped across Anima’s still recovering surface, shaving off a layer of fresh blood. Its copper tang in the air diminished as Milo closed his fist, rupturing the cells within the liquid as they gave their lives to form a crystal, now perfectly hewn into a blade. A more pronounced weapon this time, with a pommel he forced his hand upon, flipping it once before choosing to test it against the creature. He was struggling to find the words to make the other understand in such a blink of time, his gruff voice jumping slightly as it begged.

“This path has ended, but there is another you were given!”

A valiant effort, yet one of a hero, and of a fool. Of someone that didn’t hold such weight on their wings. Crail refused to budge, refused to give him that wild charge that would set Milo’s mind on a single goal and not allow his thoughts to wander, and in the wind of the dragon’s calm, Milo’s determination quickly waned. Where was that feeling of selfless sacrifice now?

Are you fighting to heal the ones suffering, or your own guilt?

He grit his teeth, the thought striking as deep as any weapon. He shifted his focus on the draconic foe instead, on the weapon that was actually there, and not just there to shake his resolve.

“Don’t let it get lost under all of your pain!”

This axe was raised high, and in remembrance of its last vicious blow, Milo reached for his orb, for its rippling and blackened heart, asking it to aid his blade with its darkness. To make it durable, to make it worthy of a dragon.

But the string of thought and instinct was cut before it even manifested as a piercing shriek tore through his mind. It silenced everything and forced his white eyes towards the source. His ears were dulled by the shriek, his mind stood silenced and overwhelmed by the now stronger pang of hunger and bloodlust that erupted from where the once proud pillar stood. The stench of decay and newly forming life in a perfect paradox burrowed into his senses like the fungi’s hyphae into the nutritious sand. It was hard for him to notice that there had been a change of energy elsewhere, in the battleborn vartai. The hemomancer’s blade surged through the air to meet the threat and make up for lost time, but it was too slow. Its caller’s mind was held down by attention divided, his muscles following suit.

But where the sword expected to meet and ring against an axe, it instead met the stench-poisoned air. And as Milo’s eyes widened and his dread grew, he realized that he had not been a target at all.

Anima!

He whipped out his free arm, his whole body jerking forward. Let his skin and bone frostbite and fall off in flakes, let it be cut through and never be seen again, but he would not let them take them.

“NO!”

I can’t lose anyone else!

The machine’s heartless blow cut clean through his orb’s depleted waters, sending countless droplets flying, the weapon’s unbearable chill freezing them all and killing all the life within. The orb’s form twisted and shifted, almost as if it wanted to desperately evade the blow, a rat, a beloved pet that was to a child what it could never have. A guardian that he failed to protect.

He couldn’t. He felt his heart tearing open as the voidling core split and the horrid weapon shattered, thousands of ice shards piercing with their deadly chill. His veins flared, burned, screamed in hollow, birdlike shrieks.

Stay here- Milo-

In front of his eyes, blackened spots coalesced into a sky-tearing mark through which nothing gushed in and up his throat, ending up coughed out as blood and blackness tinged with stars.

Milo!




“That is not my name, you witch.”

A step after step, crow’s feet on the once grand tile of mosaic. A woman defiant, with her children cowering behind her.

What putrid, sorrowful and cowardly sons, the beast thought. How daring of her to call for the weakness he’d once been, thinking he was somewhere in there still.

Like a tale of love saving a werewolf’s cursed heart by having their name heard.

But there were no tales. He was the tale, and their stories his beak would spin. With venom, words given power, words spilling out so heavily they gushed out of his beak, staining its gold.

Lifeblood doomed with ichor stained words.

A single scrape to end the life of a son while the mother watches, unharmed.

What man could break a curse like that?




Are you fighting to heal the ones suffering, or your own guilt?

Milo gasped as he came to, the message ringing in his mind and through his whole being just like the orb’s pain. Everything ached, despite the accursed blade never marring his skin once.

In the ghosts of the arena, at the edge of his sight, the scarlet haze billowed. He could have sworn he could see silhouettes there, moving in and out, barely reaching the size and shape of a child before fizzling into nothing.

His chest hurt the worst of all, threatening to drag him down with its grief. But somewhere from within its tears came something else, something bubbling and angry.

Angry for what he had been. For what he was right now, unable to protect anyone he set out to save. But most of all, against that spirit taker, against that false heart of metal that he couldn’t feel beating, and its cruel strike. It was still upon him, taunting him with its eye behind which there was no soul, and the other taken hostage. Milo gritted his teeth through the pain pulsing within his heart and Anima.

The crimson beads slowed in their burst.

They came to an anxious, quivering halt.

By the sun’s watchful eye, sunbeams passed through their red, their sight more ruby than blood.

From the closest to Milo’s heart to the farthest ones trapped, a wave of crystallization rippled, and the rubies inner fire fractured into a million pixies. One by one, their spearheads turned to face the logika, and for but a fraction, this new fragmented world hung in balance.

Milo’s words were twofold, as if bouncing off every single crimson prism before finding their way out, louder and clear as crystal.

“We will not soar until we have soothed the souls we doomed, machine.”

From his orb, shaking just as much as its remaining frozen floods and exposed celestial core, Milo looked up and stared directly into the metallic eye. In his was an unfamiliar gaze, pupils wide and dark, pushing back their pale irises.

“What plea to the Lords could possibly be behind a strike without mercy and heart?”

And then they roared, and the balance shattered, coming down relentlessly as a vicious sleet of sharpness and red, not caring whether it struck steel, scale or glass, not caring as it tore at fabric and sliced open skin.

“I refuse- to fall- to a wish like that!”
DF  Post #: 29
8/31/2021 4:27:02   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Wow, these Lords are quick.

Pie had been bracing xemself for another shot from Krehgor, trying to think of ways to avoid touching the infected parts of him as xe closed the distance between them. But as soon as their fight had begun, it ended, the Earth Lord’s rejection drowning them in the sound of crumbling rock. As Krehgor turned and left the arena, Pie called out the only thing xe could think of in such a jarring moment.

“Hey, good luck!”

Krehgor did not respond.

Pie would need to look for a new partner; but before xe could take a good glance around, one fell practically into xyr lap. The dark-haired man must have been pushed by Pie’s vicious dragon mech; he flew from Pie’s left and landed into the sand with a painful thump. A spiffy, dark cap flew from his head and skidded across the sands towards Pie. Xe knelt down and picked it up; it felt thick and smooth as Pie brushed the sand off it with xyr fingertips. I could totally pull one of these off. Captain Pietersite, reporting for duty! But with the way the man was staring at it, and where they both were, Pie wouldn’t dare try it on. It was hard to tell the man’s age; he might have even been younger than Pie, but the sharp uniform he wore made him seem older and almost intimidating. But Pie was more transfixed by his wings. They were like thousands of tiny crystals floating in the air. I’ve got plenty of crystals… and if I have control over wind, too, I could use both that and my jeweling skills…

Nah, that was silly.

Pie stepped forward, intending to return the hat to the man, but he reached towards a sword at his waist as xe drew closer, a guarded look on his face. Pie frowned as xe remembered where xe were-- the man’s first thought was likely that Pie was going to kill him. The thought made Pie feel… lonely.

Pie kept xyr distance, then, though xe could feel the sudden chill that seemed to surround the man. He must be Cassius, the Ice Paragon. Pie nimbly tossed the hat towards him as xe would a boomerang, feeling a breeze tug at xyr waist as the hat bobbed and landed neatly onto Cassius’ head. I always thought I was just good at throwing… “You can call me Pie,” xe said in a soft, friendly tone. “Wanna show off a bit with me?”

The man exhaled, and Pie could feel exhaustion bite at the ends of his words. "At least you have the decency to introduce yourself. Certainly, as I bet you're more interesting to duel than the metal dragon." Oh man, I’d be happy if I never saw or heard about that thing again… This guy seemed fun! Polite, at the very least. Pie was relieved he hadn’t just drawn the sword and started attacking xem.

“I’ll make sure to tone up my interesting-ness then!” Pie shut xyr eyes-- not a forceful squint, like earlier, but a gentle breath. Xe felt the air around xem radiating a restless warmth only the noonday sun could share. A warmth that shuttered in its stillness; a warmth that craved to let go, to move.

Directing its movement felt… unfamiliar, but not uncomfortable. It was as if Pie was simply a part of the air, one of many small shapes and breaths that shook with the sun’s energy. With barely a breath, Pie willed the air to move with xem as xe spun into the air, flinging xyr metal-tipped strands towards Cassius. Pie grabbed the silk closest to xyr right arm and wrapped it around xyr hand, swinging it quickly back towards Cassius as soon as it had passed him. This feels… natural.

What’s wrong with being a Nilch’i, anyways? That doesn’t make me any less Pie.


Post #: 30
8/31/2021 5:21:53   
Synthe_
Member
 

quote:

Denied and rejected by the light, may we instead be granted the blessing to forge our own destiny.
- From “Requiem of Glass”


First, formulating a plan.

Far from easy, and frequently overlooked. The basis of a successful maneuver is that of the skilled tactician, proper battlefield analysis and refined decision-making skills leading to a strategy with the best chance of success. Cassius was well acquainted with this concept, having trained under the best General in the entire country, so it was unlikely that his plan could have been flawed from the start.

Second, proper preparation.

The most simple of tasks, given that proper effort had been put in beforehand. A plan is nothing until it is put into practice after all. The longsword had been formed, an imposing slab of a weapon that made a compelling distraction. Alongside it was the dagger, hidden away in Cassius’ palm, to deliver a decisive blow from the shadows. A dramatic frontal assault, only to mask the hunter flanking from behind.

Finally, execution.

Firm decisiveness backed by a cold focus, complete trust in the plan ensures that success won’t be shaken by hesitation. The Fallen moved with purpose, sure that Crail’s reliance on strength would be his undoing. His gaze had always shifted in the same ways, never straying from the largest threat. Masking one’s intent may have been one of the simplest strategies in existence, but it remained practiced and effective precisely for this kind of opponent.
Your strength means nothing when pointed in the wrong direction.

A slight glint flashed across Cassius’ eyes as he circled opposite his floating blade, the growing chill reinforcing his confidence. The exposed wounds on the dragon’s back would be coming into view any moment now, the glow of victory just beginning to cross the horizon...

The fearsome blaze of Crail’s living eye shifted, flicking to his form and disregarding the longsword. A soft hiss sounded as the mechanical body moved, the damaged vents dipping beyond view once more. Cassius’ expression faded, confidence draining away in an instant as his plan seemed to fracture before his eyes.

No! Surely you must recognize the threat of that blade!

The creature almost seemed to grin as a frigid wave of terror froze Cassius’ insides, his partially-completed lunge leaving him entirely exposed. In that moment, the faint memory of a friend long since departed scratched at the back of his mind, the dead voice of his Captain barely reaching his ears.

”You simply underestimate his recognition of the threat that you pose.”

The Fallen’s surprise caught in his throat as the voice receded back into the void, the stuttering of his thoughts punctuated by disbelief as true realization overcame him. His momentum stalled instantly as the dragon’s hand seized his throat, unyielding metal trapping him in an iron grip. Cassius’ hands went to his neck in a panic, his concealed blade falling to the ground. Boots lifted from the sands below and his torso burned, a futile kick striking metal as he attempted to escape the beast’s grasp. His eyes widened as Crail stared at him, unrestrained gasps of air filling his ears as the black fog of dread crept to the edges of his vision.

No decision... Is without consequence....

Before the paralyzing terror could fully set in, Cassius gave the final command to his floating weapon. The dragon had certainly defied his plans once again, but he wouldn’t get away for free this time. Ice splintered against the damaged plating along Crail’s back, shards of the weapon scattering wildly into the air. A faint hope flashed through Cassius’ thoughts as the beast lurched, a flash of pain painting his expression as he stumbled forward.

But he did not fall.
The hand remained firm, giving not even an inch of leniency.

Was this really how he was meant to fall? Life slowly drained away on the sands of a foreign battlefield? His struggling slowed as the darkness claimed more and more of his sight, ragged breath no longer able to keep his limbs moving. Would he really roll over and die as his foe stole his right to existence? Was the battle already over?

No...

No!


He reached out to the tingling heat in the air, wisps of energy practically begging to be taken away. Vision was nearly gone at this point, but that distinct sensation of burning stuck with him for a while longer.

Though, as much as Cassius tried, the sounds of ice did not come.

His focus was gone, impending panic proving too much of a distraction to overcome. Erratic thoughts flew through his mind, growing faster and faster even as lucidity began to give way to a placid nothingness. As reality faded to murky sludge, the soldier was left with only a single somber thought.

“I pray... spare the homeland... from my failure......”




After what felt like minutes of teetering on the edge between existence and unconsciousness, a feeling of release washed over Cassius’ senses. Though a distinctly pleasant notion, it was accompanied by a sharp spike of pain as the vague sensation of force, followed by a swift stop, met his confused senses. He unconsciously took in a desperate breath, renewed oxygen reigniting his thoughts.

His feeling of touch returned first, bringing the burning of the sands with it. Thoughts struggled to pick up where he left off, slowed as if his brain were filled with oil. Hearing returned second, the familiar clamor of the arena bringing his location back to the forefront. Memories started to rearrange themselves, events leading up to his failed attack resurfacing in his mind. The mist slowly began to recede from his eyes, revealing the sea of red beneath his sprawled form. It seemed that every bone in his body ached, as if they were going to crumble under their own weight. Cassius lay there on the sand for a good, long moment, allowing for his mental capacity to fully reform.

Once a reasonable amount of strength returned to his limbs, he lifted his torso from the ground such that his weight rested on his knees. Streams of crimson sand fell from the folds in his coat, pooling on either side of his legs. However, a sudden panic overtook him as a slight breeze ran through his hair, his cap no longer there to block the wind. Eyes frantically darted around the surrounding ground, an icy wave rushing through the soldier’s core. Finally, his gaze came to rest on a short, slim figure, grasping his hat with a distinct curiosity. Their form was positively covered with jewelry, a faint glow seeming to emanate from their body.

The figure took a single step towards Cassius, hands still clutching the fragment of his uniform. Almost instinctively, the Fallen began to rise, right hand gravitating towards Reckoner at his side.

Don’t you dare....

As if reading his mind, the stranger immediately stopped, instead flinging the cap into the air between them. An abnormal breeze picked up as the hat drifted across the rift, somehow managing to land squarely on his head.

I... What?

Cassius remained frozen in his place, confusion clogging his thoughts. Instead of keeping his uniform prisoner, they had instead effortlessly returned it? Just who was this abnormal paragon?

“You can call me Pie, Wanna show off a bit with me?” The stranger talked with a playful, almost deceptively inviting tone. Cassius felt a slight hint of relief, banishing his earlier fears now that they had chosen not to immediately attack him.

“At least you have the decency to introduce yourself. Certainly, as I bet you're more interesting to duel than the metal dragon.” He sighed halfway through speaking, his composure unable to hide the creeping tendrils of exhaustion tugging at his mind. As much as he would hate to admit it, Cassius was quite happy to find a less aggressive fighter than those beforehand.

“I’ll make sure to tone up my interesting-ness then!” Pie responded with a happy bounce, likely pleased that he had shown similar restraint. They began to rise, the sands below whipping around as a sudden torrent of wind struck the space between them. In an instant, Pie was redirected, the long tassels of their cape trailing behind as their small form shot towards Cassius. The vicious edges splayed out, forming a whirlwind of deadly blades.

The soldier smiled ever so slightly, a muted curiosity stirring at the sight of such a unique attack. Their hand had grasped one of the threads, holding it away from the rest. likely a single unexpected strike meant to catch him off guard.

An unusually thin shield of ice formed in the air between them, just thick enough to deflect the oncoming blades. Though it was unlikely that such a primitive defense would be entirely effective, as long as he could take a moment to observe their attack, the gears in his head would begin turning once more.
Post #: 31
8/31/2021 16:18:38   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


A gentle breeze wove its way through the stands, bringing with it the fever of a summer evening - that last burst of lucious warmth hanging heavy in syrupy air. The zephyr about the Pillar of Wind stilled, its monk’s grin fading slowly as the gleaming figure bow her head low. Silver tarnished - rust and grime creeping across the once-sterling surface as the woman hunched forward and withered. She tumbled to her knees, frail muscles no longer able to support even her own weight; her dancing locks falling limp. The remaining winds converged upon her, driving furrows into the crimson sands as they tore statue and shining plinth alike into shreds, leaving streamers of metal dancing within a swirling vortex.

“And so has favor been withdrawn from Pietersite the Shimmering Breeze, Paragon of Wind.” The voices rang outward with tones loud and clear, each the strike of a hammer blow upon its awaiting forge.“The Pillar of Wind has shattered - and we now bear witness to xyr choice, and to xyr Lord’s apathy.” The spiraling bits of shrapnel finally slowed to a halt; the scraps of the former pillar glinted amongst the scarlet, keen to tear at those still within the Arena’s grasp.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 32
9/1/2021 22:40:29   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo



The taste of soil slipped from Levanna’s lips as she pulled herself from the ground, tear-stained salt remaining in its wake. All around her, the rolling grasslands dared not make a sound. The Plains’mother wiped sleep from her eyes, wishing she could wipe away grief alongside it. Instead, the sorrow clung to her heart like a weight of iron, attempting to drive her to her knees at any and every moment.

The morning sun kissed at her cheeks as she relented to the thorn in her chest. She fell to her knees and lamented that she lacked the strength to wail until the sun passed. Rather than a cry, she let an old lullaby drift from her lips. The soft and gentle song of sleep wafted over freshly stacked stones of the cairn before her.

The sun had nearly risen to the center of the sky when her voice finally failed her. The gentle song punctuated with both a cough and a sob. A moment of silence followed as she allowed this new reality to sink into her chest. After a breath, Levanna stood and approached the cairn, gently lifting two fangs from the stones. Caressing them tenderly, Levanna affixed them both to her leather necklace with a lock of her own hair.

“Rest well, my Raviel… May the skies take your heart and allow you to soar. Please- please tell Alei and Mavaan how much I love them… How much I miss them.”

The Plains’mother turned away, leaving behind the fresh pile of stones upon the hilltop. Her legs shook, yet she held her head high. As the hills slowly faded behind the horizon, a breeze drifted upon the grasses. The leaves themselves spoke with a thousand whispering voices.

“The price of the cost to you determines everything”



Scarlet sands drifted across Levanna’s feet as she approached Jacklin. With every breath, she shoved the sensation of her seared skin from her forethoughts. With each beat of her heart, the strength of the Struck Viper surged through her limbs. The Plains’mother slowed and came to a halt just at the crater’s edge. Though sparks of anticipation ricocheted within her skull, she patiently held in place, allowing the warrior of flame and smoke to complete her own ritual.

“Come, Levanna, and let us continue our game! I am free from pride, free from loyalty, and face you with all I am!”

A grin crept over Levanna’s lips and a flutter of excitement took hold of her chest. Her back straightened as the waiting burden of centuries lifted from her shoulders. Levanna bowed her head to Jacklin, saluting her in kind. As her opponent appeared ready, the Plains’mother dropped her stance low, her ironwood poised to strike as viciously as a viper’s fangs.

Crimson grains swirled between them as a heartbeat’s time drifted past.

Sparks snapped along Levanna’s nerves as Jacklin launched herself forwards. Gilded eyes danced, tracking the elegant vortex of smoke and steel which bore down upon her. A loud crack caught within Levanna’s ears as her ironwood struck out and collided with the snath of a newly created scythe. The sensation of a warm, slow trickle kissed at the flesh of her neck as the ashy blade halted at her skin. A second jolt of strength shot out through Levanna’s arm as she shoved the razor’s edge from her neck. She kicked her heel out, crashing against Jacklin’s knee with a grinding crunch. Not allowing a moment to think, the Plain’smother whipped her ironwood about, preparing to strike down on the warrior of flame as she fell.

Before her strike could land, however, a tight, burning sensation coiled itself around her ankle and ripped her balance out from under her. The sands echoed with a thump as the Plain’smother collided with the ground. A curse leapt from her lips as she shot forwards, her ironwood striking the earth and launching her over towards Jacklin. She lifted herself to her knees, bearing down upon the opposing warrior before she could right herself. Lightning danced and arced across her skin as her fist lashed out towards Jacklin’s face.

“The skies have blessed me to trade blows with a true warrior this day. I won’t allow their blessings, nor my sacrifices to rest in vain today.”
DF  Post #: 33
9/2/2021 21:27:58   
Apocalypse
Member

The Edge of Absolute Zero cracked against the mage’s sphere with a piercing cry. Its blade splintered as it struck some solid fragment lurking within its depths. The rippling surface of the orb came to a sudden standstill as a layer of frost swept across it. In freezing the source of the blood shaman’s power, the logika had surely achieved its goal in rendering him helpless. Crail cursed the mind of metal’s underhanded tactics, yet he was powerless - trapped in his own body. He could only watch as his arm aimed Twin Fang at Milo.

Let it be finished.

But before the artificial mind could fire the axe head, the orb erupted.

A maelstrom of ice and blood rained crimson shards upon the vartai. The barrage rattled off the ivory plate and pierced the many lines of prism glass all over his body. Gales of frigid air burst from the shattered arcanic crystals and enveloped the blood shaman in its cold embrace.

Sheer and utter agony flooded the vartai.

It flared in his shoulder, malevolent barbs burrowing themselves deep between his scales. It spiked in the ice-torn leg, the gleaming fragments puncturing the brittle steel. It seethed in his upper jaw, his mouth filling with blood from an errant needle. Bodily autonomy returned to his limbs as the vartai fell onto his hands and knees. A desperate howl deafened his ears. He only realized it was his own when his jaw clamped down on itself, silencing the scream. He clenched his eye shut against the relentless suffering, as if by cutting off one sense he could sever the others. Fangs ground against one another as Crail struggled to hold himself together against the unconsciousness seeking to claim him.

Mine pain, mine fury.

Mine pain…


The vartai hung in that precarious moment, teetering between climbing to his feet and collapsing onto the sands. Each ragged breath provoked an arduous throb in his shoulder like its own twisted beating heart. The accompanying arm grew slick and warm with his own blood, the ichor spilling down his scales and into the crevices of machinery. The entire limb quivered beneath him, threatening to choose the vartai’s fate for him.

...mine…

The violent shearing of metal broke his trance. A booming voice resonated throughout the coliseum to announce the departure of the Paragon of Wind. The name Pietersite floated in the back of his mind as the sands sunk back into focus. Chest still heaving, Crail glanced up to where the blood shaman had fallen. He was in a similar stricken state, wounded by his very own scarlet fragments with ice coating much of his clothing and exposed skin.

Has the Verglas marked you as well?

What started as a laugh ended in wretching as Crail dyed the sands a deeper crimson with a splatter of blood. The grains devoured it, hungry for more. You shall have your fill. Wiping his jaw clean of the iron taste, the vartai met Milo’s gaze. Neither of the two had moved - not just yet. Each still preserved the eye of this storm.

Within that haunting stare, Crail caught a glimpse of woe - the same he had witnessed before at the battle’s onset. A cut that ran deeper than any wound, and one no medicine or herb could cure.

A vartai lay prostrate before him, skin of glassy blue decorated with frozen tears beneath the dull grey skies. He faced not Crail but a single boulder planted deep in the snow. On the boulder was carved a name, and beneath that name was a grave. A grave that no father should have to dig.

Crail spat one more time onto the sands, a curved fang coming loose with it. He locked eyes with the shaman and repeated the words he had said back then. “What was their name?”

Milo stared blankly for a moment before his brows furrowed in confusion.

The vartai grunted from the effort of speaking. “Your lost one. What was their name?”

“...Niji.”

Crail nodded. A glint of sunlight caught his eye as Twin Fang revealed itself amidst the scarlet. Half of its head lay buried in the sands. The blade itself must have come loose with the assault of bloody shards, many of which still protruded from the mechanism on his wrist. The once pristine black metal now bore a host of scratch marks from the various trials and tribulations of the tournament. Among them, two lines that were unnaturally parallel to one another caught his eye.

“Remembrance.” He picked up a bloody fragment from the sands. Crail had never been a scholar - his calling had carried him down a different path. However, he still possessed the most rudimentary knowledge of their runes to read and, crudely, to write. The stygian steel shrieked as the vartai carved a crescent line above the parallel ones. Memory. “This is why we fight.” He put one foot underneath him, then the other. Lifting himself up high, he towered over the blood shaman. “Our past shapes us. Our past defines us. Our past is who we are. Now, for Niji.” The chain rattled as Crail hefted the base of the axe head into his hand. “Stand.

And Milo stood. Far smaller in stature than the vartai, yet with a power and presence that matched Crail’s own.

“Good.”

Without any further warning, Crail struck out not with a strike from Twin Fang but a lashing from its chain. The loop of metal entwined the shaman’s arms as he raised them in defense against the attack. A sudden yank was more than sufficient to pull Milo off of his feet and towards the vartai. Crail pulled back his left hand, fingers coiled against his palm, and hurled a fist at the mage in his involuntary flight. His arm trembled from blood loss. Ice entrapping his back limited his movement. His body moved slower. His form was unwieldy. Any blow he could muster lacked the true strength he once possessed. But Crail was the son of the Verglas. He would ensure any blow was devastating.

Our past is our pain. May I releaseyou from yours.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 34
9/2/2021 23:45:38   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


Even as her knee buckled and pain flashed through her, Jacklin’s face lit up. At her command, her smoke had stretched and embraced Levanna’s ankle. Jacklin had always wanted to try that. This… this was why she made her bets, her wagers. There were so many things that could only be done, only be seen, when stakes are on the line. Perhaps… perhaps this Lord of Fire understood that.

She tugged, her arm pulsing with the exertion. Topple with me! Crimson sands erupted upwards as both women collapsed. Levanna lunged forwards, propelled by ironwood, and Jacklin’s will extended.

“Dance for me, short and sharp!”

Dagger’s edge sank into Levanna’s arm, just enough to force the blow away from Jacklin’s face. Her shoulder erupted as the fist slammed into it, sparks of electricity and pain dancing along her coat and through her arm. A curse slipped from her lips. She pulled her knife from flesh, releasing a stream of crimson, and spun it to face the woman’s side.

“Dance long, and force her out!”

Steel rocketed forth, and Levanna rolled aside. It shot through empty air only to be snatched by fast hands, the momentum of Levanna’s turn forcing the spear out of Jacklin’s grasp. Jacklin growled in frustration, spitting out what could barely be called a word. Red and white sparks burst outwards from the spear's death, the loud crackling falling on deaf ears as Jacklin rolled back onto her feet and extended a hand.

“March, smoke, and -agh-!”

Jacklin stumbled as her knee cracked beneath her weight, the pain from Levanna’s kick echoing through the limb. A quick command called a cane to hand and stopped her fall, but worry clouded her thoughts as she watched her opponent roll to their feet and kick away the last remains of Jacklin’s whip. Fighting with only one leg… she had practiced it before, just for fun, but…

A breeze blew through the sands, heat sweltering alongside it and eliciting a gasp of joy from Jacklin as it caressed her bare arm. As it passed, she watched Wind’s pillar bow at the edge of her vision. Another dismissal, another withdrawal.

A withdrawal from a match. Jacklin’s face broke into a grin. The Elemental Championship’s were more than a game for the combatants, they were a wager between Lords. “Favor” placed on the Paragons that each Lord thought could win them glory over those chosen by their kin. Jacklin almost felt compelled to salute the Fire Lord’s pillar. She and His Radiancy’s, no, her Lord… were alike.

Levanna dashed forwards, tattoos shedding blue sparks, and Jacklin danced the dwindling smoke to her right into an empty handle. She frowned. Running low… damned Wind meddler and an overreliance on detonations… Too much more and she’d need to gather Blackness Within once more, a trick she doubted she’d have the time to do.

Ironwood proved her point, the staff whipping through the air. A call of Jacklin’s will danced handle into a matching staff, knocking Levanna’s aside. The stormcaller spun around, fueled by momentum, and Jacklin reached out, marching her cane upwards to yet another staff and deflecting once more in a fit of sparks. She toppled back, allowing her leg to buckle beneath her as her right staff stabbed into the sands behind. Levanna’s ironwood twirled through the air, blowing a pleasant, energy-filled breeze inches from Jacklin’s face. As the stormcaller’s leg shot out, Jacklin released her hold on her left staff and commanded its rupture, brilliant blue sparks spiraling towards Levanna’s eyes. Spots danced in her vision as her hand whipped around, both grabbing tight against her supporting beam as free mind and soldier’s will reached out as one.

“MARCH! DANCE! SO WE MAY TOPPLE AGAIN!”

The staff shrunk immediately, and Jacklin kicked off her one good leg, lifting her from the sands as Levanna’s sweeping blow touched naught but emptiness.

“DANCE! MARCH! AND LET US FLY!

Air rushed past as the staff’s growth launched Jacklin forwards, a kick of her own soaring for her foe’s face. An unabashed laugh, loud as a bell, rang from her lips as her mind turned to her Lord.

Let’s win you this wager!
Post #: 35
9/4/2021 0:09:40   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Pie felt the Lord’s favor leave before the Pillar fell.

It was an odd feeling, a deep anxiety set in xyr stomach that curdled xyr lips and slowed xyr movements. A feeling that xe didn’t belong. As Wind’s statue crumbled, Pie’s energy crumbled with it. The winds that tickled xyr hair and cape threatened to blow Pie away as it had the stone woman. That’s it… Disappointment poked at the edges of Pie’s mind, but overriding it all was just a resolution; a knowledge. Time for me to go.

Pie nodded to Cassius, a sad smile resting on xyr face. “Thanks… I’ll be rooting for you and that hat of yours. Keep it safe!” You stay safe yourself.

As xe jogged away from the center of the sands, the wind lifted xyr steps, an almost skipping motion that Pie had always felt, but never understood. Pie came to a stop just before xyr door and turned around for just a moment, xyr earrings jingling from the movement. The five people remaining were all locked in intense fighting. Jacklin and Levanna both seemed exhausted. Even the metal dragon was starting to waver, facing… Milo. A familiar man with pale skin and a black cape. Pie hadn’t even had time to notice him, to realize the name read out by the chanters was the same as the man Pie’d had cotton candy with only hours before. And now he seemed on the brink of death. What could possibly drive you to do something like this? Your dragon is probably worried sick…

Pie’s family was probably worried sick…

Yeah, this wasn’t the place for xem. Pie turned xyr back to the sands and sent one small prayer up to the Wind Lord. I hope they’re all safe, in the end. And I hope you’re not disappointed in me. But if this was what the Lords wanted-- fighting to the death to determine which of them was the best-- Pie didn’t really care whether or not the Wind Lord liked xem. Xyr village, xyr friends and family, were so much more important. And now that Pie knew what xe could do… xe could ruffle Skalf’s hair from across the room, cool Benki down while he was working, maybe even braid Genevieve’s hair! That might take some practice, though… and maybe xyr shimmering breeze could help xem search for the Jade elsewhere.

Bye, everyone! If we meet again, I’ll bake you your favorite pie.

Post #: 36
9/4/2021 4:09:46   
Synthe_
Member
 

quote:

The fire is gone, leaving only a wanting void behind.
- From “Requiem of Glass”


Cassius cursed under his breath as his frozen aegis shattered with a resounding crack, Pie’s hail of blades filling the air with a myriad of fractured crystals. A flash of heat suddenly washed over him, the consequence of countless summonings catching up with the soldier once more. His knees buckled at the shield fell, vision blurring as he narrowly avoided a particularly well-aimed tassel directed at his neck. A constricting haze clouded his senses, sight and hearing vanishing in a sea of static.

Not now of all times... I’m supposed to be better than this!

Pulling in a scalding breath of air, Cassius forced himself to rise to his feet. Though, as the sands came back into view, he found the skirmish had already come to a close. The Paragon of Wind had withdrawn, a shifting cyclone where the vibrant pillar once stood.

“Thanks… I’ll be rooting for you and that hat of yours. Keep it safe!”

Pie’s radiant voice reached his ears, bringing a pensive undertone to his thoughts. He spun to the source of the words, but by the time he had turned around, Pie had vanished. Only an uncanny emptiness remained, as if the winds themselves missed xyr presence.

I find it... unfortunate that our fight met an end so quickly. May your path be a blessed one, Paragon of Wind.

The Fallen felt an uncharacteristically somber edge to his thoughts, the surreal experience affecting him in an unusual way. Perhaps he was so used to fighting for his life that a purely harmonious duel had shaken him. As he reflected on their short clash, he took a moment to catch his breath and allow his energy to stabilize. He could feel it, a stinging maelstrom of heat trapped within, volatile wisps threatening to burst from their frozen prison.

He had been fighting for a decent stretch of time, the ever-present glow of the sun straining his temperature even more than his frequent summonings had. It made his core feel sluggish, failing to regulate itself as efficiently as it normally did. Back in the homeland, the warmth never stayed for longer than a few seconds, quickly banished by the frigid atmosphere. Here, it instead remained, blazing uncomfortably against his insides in defiance of his nature.

Thankfully, as he observed the other Paragons, the sweltering heat began to subside. What once felt painful eventually bled to a mild discomfort, his jacket feeling less constrictive against his body. Off to his side, Milo and Crail still seemed to be locked in combat, both momentarily recovering from their wounds. Scars of crimson had begun to coat the sands in a fresh layer of gore, such evidence of their brawl just as visible as the wounds upon their bodies.

I’m pleased to see you were able to hold your own, Milo.

To his other side, he was glad to see Jacklin had not yet lost her lord’s approval. The skirmisher tore flourishing indents in the crimson sand as she confronted the Paragon of Energy, an imposing figure wrapped in arcs of volatile electricity. He had to admit their clash was far more impressive than that of the previous arena, their dance across the sands punctuated by flashes of yellow and blue. As Cassius scanned the field of sand, his eyes came to rest on what appeared to be a discarded sheet of cloth. The dark coloration stuck out against the red sea like a sore thumb, forcing the soldier to narrow his eyes as he tried to pick out its details.

Those colors look suspiciously familiar, is that...?

His inquisitive gaze flicked back to the two dueling Paragons, seeking to confirm his theory. Though, even as he drew in a sharp breath of surprise, he figured he could have guessed this outcome from the start.

Jacklin’s sleeves had been defiled once again.

Cassius could physically feel something snap within him.

How could you?

You would reject your honor here of all places?! Before the judges of our very existence?

You display your loyalty only to discard it once again..?


The accusatory voice echoed in Cassius’ mind as a boiling fog overtook his thoughts, a faint red haze tainting the corners of his vision. He hadn’t even realized he was moving until he looked down, a trail of footprints directing him towards the Skirmisher.

However, as much as he wished to hear Jacklin’s excuses for such an appalling display of integrity, the firm grip of discipline froze him in his path. Frequently Cassius would find himself righted by those ideals drilled into him, bringing him back from the darkest of paths. This time, it manifested as a silent order, the stern words of the General reaching him from the depths of his mind. He saw his angular, enervated face staring directly at him, almost as if he were back home in the bleak tundra.

quote:

”Lieutenant Colonel Cassius. I would hope you aren’t finding simple emotions too difficult to overcome.” The General’s expression seemed almost amused, though entirely devoid of anything that could be described as content.

I... Sir, she of all people deserves to be reminded of the soldier’s code, this is beyond such trivial desires! I can... assure you of that.

His superior’s mouth shifted, drawing thin in a line of displeasure. “You speak of our code, though you seem to have forgotten it yourself. Your fight remains unfinished, does it not?”


Cassius stiffened, the General’s words biting into him just as a knife would. Slowly, he turned, eyes coming to rest on the silhouette of the dragon warrior. He was right, Crail had undeniably challenged him, and he had wholeheartedly accepted.

”You never were one to turn and run from a difficult battle, Cassius.”

The Fallen’s resolve emerged from a sea of fiery emotion, it’s freezing touch banishing tendrils of doubt. The fury in his eyes was quenched, fizzling away as rigid determination returned in its place. He let out a single breath, a firm, unshaken breath that lacked any hint of hesitation, but rather held a complete confidence in his intent.

I’ll be back for you, Jacklin.

His frozen visage held the faintest ghost of a smile as he turned, the trail of footprints now headed towards Crail. What he left in his wake was not regret, but frigid contentment. Indeed, an unfinished trial remained, one that Cassius was not willing to let fade away. He was not craven, dispassionate, or a coward, but rather held true conviction. He would not leave this battle, not in neglect nor in failure.

As he drew close, Cassius watched as the dragon’s cruel chains shot towards Milo. He watched as they wrapped around his arms, watched as they began to drag him along the bloody sands. However, he could not bring himself to simply witness the warrior’s strike, the mage helplessly pulled along even as he struggled against the bindings.

You were kind enough to save me before, Milo. It would only be right for me to repay the favor.

A satisfied smile colored Cassius’ face as he willed the air before him to cool, his freshly recovered core beginning to draw in heat once more. The outline of a shortsword formed out of the mist, tiny flakes of ice bleeding from its shape. He willed it forward, a phantom strength tugging it through the air as its blade turned towards the armored dragon. It closed the distance to Crail slightly faster than Milo, the frozen missile aimed squarely at the beast’s arm.

I will make you regret failing to finish me off, savage brute!
Post #: 37
9/4/2021 7:47:04   
Sylphe
Member

He did not like being angry. He despised it.

Rage was useless, rage was destructive with no regard to the consequences. Rage was lightning, striking down and leaving deadlands behind. Rage let all the caged beasts out from within his ribs.

Rage made it easy to weave words that should have stayed in his throat.

It was desperation, frustration and fear, ignited in a white flame that threatened to burn him up from within. Roaring louder than even the dragonkin, until his voice was nothing but a hoarse whisper. The hail as merciless as it was, searing and red, tearing out new wounds and striking old and new bruises anew was background noise to Milo.

Even as the resounding sound of shattering tore through the curtain of red, even as the freezing mist washed over both fighters like a wave, he felt nothing.

It froze a tear under his eye right in its place.

The beast crumpled down, its once majestic form left mangled by steel, warpath and his own fury. He stood above Crail for a short moment, staring. Breathing hoarsely as violent violet feathers glowed and grew.

Good.

Good.

And then his knees failed him.

The light around him flickered as his senses tried to come to the terms with a thousand cuts and a freezing chill, with panicking airways in the choking fog. Hands, torn and bleeding, met the dirty and sunbaked sands.

He couldn’t whine, he couldn’t wince. There was no strength left to do either, and as Milo stared down at his arms he saw them tremble. Purple flame licked at them, plume of ghostly feather that did not move as they did.

You can’t stay here.

You’ll die.


The mage grit his teeth, his fingers digging through the sand to form fistfuls. Lapping at the last shreds of rage to let him finish what he’d come here to start. But they had failed him and left him hollow as his eyes met the frozen one’s. Both left in the sands to die.

He didn’t kill him.

There was no time for laughing at the sheer absurdity of nearly dying to his own shards. There was no time to think about the Vulture’s voice becoming his own. Cold paws and a tail, flowing fur. Close, shaking and terrified, he felt Anima hiding under his thousand punctured stomach. But when he tried to reach out, his mind felt sluggish and spotty.

There came another flicker, and for a brief moment the crimson haze and its sparkling lights melted into void and stars. A familiar chill came with them, inviting him to close his eyes, to lay rest to his shaking body, here in this sea of stars, this endlessly deep sky.

Somewhere in those depths, something moved. Gargantuan, heavy and slow.

Milo gripped at the sands. In came a wave of nausea, a retch, a speckled black dotting the sands and dripping down his chin. Darkness shivered and stars fell, and the sands and sun became clear once again.

Not yet.

I will not rest, I will not soar...


Shaking muscles pulled him up just enough to meet the vartai’s gaze once more. The dragon had not moved either, both of them sharing a moment of calm there above the abyss. Somewhere within all of the pain, all of the remaining flares of fury that held his body from collapsing, there was a small, green spark of joy. The machine was gone. It was gone, if not forever then for this final moment.

Milo coughed. His heart was straining. He sensed his lifeblood devoured by the hungry dunes, his threads darkening.

Last wisps of green, tiny fireflies shuddering with the final, smoke poisoned breath. They teetered above her for but a moment, as if indecisive, before flickering out against the windows of stained glass and melting lead.

“What was their name?”

The words came muddled within the flickers, letters escaping him, and yet he understood what was said. Their meaning, not so much. It must have been visible on his face, as ghostly pale as it was. The dragon spoke again, showing an act of kindness even in such a situation even as it hurt to speak.

“Your lost one. What was their name?”

The gaze he held was a frozen, dull gray blank. Then one alive with sorrow, then with calm. It was a while ago, after all. But pain like that doesn’t like to heal, leaving a scar that sends little thunders down one’s skin when brushed over.

She loved storm and thunder so much. Fearless child that wished to ride a dragon one day, like the warriors of old, to dance with the wings of wind.

Wings of wind, wings of fire. A dragon’s egg from an arduous journey, meant to be her little life’s partner and friend.
“It could burn you up,” He told her then, even as a beast of feather.


It hurt to speak.

Milo struggled with the crimson and void filling his mouth.

“I’ll be fine, dad! I’m not scared of fire anymore!”

A vicious throbbing shook his side as Milo moved, a hand of his reaching somewhere within the cloak’s pockets. He scratched himself on every shard in his way, and it was a wonder he still had more blood to lose. But his fingers closed on glass, warmed with his own heat, perhaps even more than the fire magic holding it indestructible.

With the wish, you could...

Before crail, he pulled out a toy fairy, a beautiful ornament of the thinnest glass. Against the sun, it sparkled like the opal pedestal of Fire’s own pillar. Milo couldn’t lift his gaze, but knew that somewhere on its lively top stood the toy’s likeness, a champion that once braved the sands.

I know.

With a heavy exhale, he set the little Ember down. With another sharp inhale that set a waterfall of pins down his lungs, he buried it within the sands to rest.

“...Niji.”

He finally responded to the dragon’s question, the words heavy over his stone of a heart and the strained voice. He held his eyes closed for a moment, trusting the dragon to not break the unspoken treaty. The stars followed him within that black void, dancing with every breath he took. And on the side of his shoulder, around his throat, the back of his neck. He felt Anima climb, its crimson paws and tail and chilly, flowing fur through which celestial core blinked in and out. It curled around his neck.

You lost so much blood…

We both did…

I don’t know if I can heal us.


He let a hand shakily rest on the rodent’s little head, and have it a scratch.

But I have to keep going regardless.

Upon opening his eyes, he was greeted with the dragon taking hold of one of his shards. Confusion rung within the blood mage’s mind until he finally understood. A rune, a word within symbol that bound will, that bound magic to objects.

Remembrance…

But that shard, that shard was way too fragile to perform such a feat. In an act equally foolish and kind, the mage leaned over to the dragon, carefully and slowly, as to not show an intent on hurting, not just yet.

“Let me-”

A hand over the vartai’s commanded a thin streak of blood from Anima’s coat of fur, and its magic sunk into the shard. Its fragile and glassy body filled up with darkness and crimson, and let it carve into the stygian steel without shattering itself. He pulled back, now in a heavy sit. It was not much, but he was upright. And so long as he could move, he could not, he would not, back down. He only lifted his gaze as he saw the behemoth rise once more, towering above his own body, feeble in comparison.

“Our past shapes us. Our past defines us. Our past is who we are.”

No. He disagreed.

“Now, for Niji… Stand.”

And he did. One leg after the other, back hissing and howling as it straightened out. His past was one of countless mistakes. His past was a curse, of events long dead and yet tearing through his heart. His past was a curse, of events dead and consequences living, bleeding into the present and staining the future.

No. This fight was for Niji just as much as it was for them. This fight was for them as much as it was for him, for Milo, and for the Vulture.

A verglas of ice followed by a verglas of red, now covering the mage’s forearms. No strength to duck and risk a scream and tear of wounded muscles, no strength in Anima to form a creature to take the strike for him.

The chains shackled, and even as he only felt a dampened dull throb from them, they ignited all of the shards stuck within him anew. They granted him flight, a flight across the vast expanse that flickered between crimson and black, between the ghosts of many and the distant stars. All of them jerking and sudden, with no winged grace and breeze through feather. A crystalline orb formed around the mage’s head, not different from mortal travellers journeying through the infinite dark.

It would not save him from a devastating blow. It would rain shatter and shark and slash his face more, it would not break all of the dragon’s strength. But it would return his brutality right against the source.

A different sound of shattering rose to his ears. Shackles freed, protection dissolved. A kindness not forgotten.

Milo stopped his fall, urging himself to stand upright. He breathed out, and in his palm formed a blade. He paid the seraph only a glance, a short, fleeting, grateful smile, before turning back on his opponent, one whom he had bonded with through blood and rune. To have his duel interrupted…

“The days in front of us are waiting to be lived. To shape us anew.”

No, he would not hold that against his savior. But he had a matter unfinished here. His blade twirled in his palm as he spoke, straining to bring out sound and voice. A rhyme rolled off his tongue and a smile broke the stern facade for but a moment.

“For those that will follow in your legacy, for yourself. Give it your all, Crail.”
DF  Post #: 38
9/4/2021 12:04:13   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


The tang of brine - a salty breeze from some long-forgotten ocean - washed across the Arena in gentle waves. Air cooled as frost began to spread across the surface of the Pillar of Water, weaving patterns of delicate ivory against the bleached figure upon it. The drakel closed its once-bright eyes as they iced over, lifting its snout to the heavens to let out a deep, mournful cry. In the ensuing silence, a single crack rang out across the sands. Then another, and another; thin hairline fissures crisscrossing the mage as the crackling of crystal grew to a deafening cacophony. With a final great crash, salt imploded inwards, collapsing upon itself and tumbling downwards in roiling waves of white.

“And so has favor been withdrawn from Crail, Paragon of Water.” The rasped cries from parched throats grated upon the ears; pulled attention back to the battles still ongoing. “The Pillar of Water has shattered - and we now bear witness to his choice, and to his Lord’s lament.” A single dune of pale white spread out amongst the crimson, flecks of salt pulling at the moisture to parch those fighting upon the Arena’s sands.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 39
9/5/2021 19:52:58   
Apocalypse
Member

The shrill wail of ice on steel. A lance of fire in his arm. The waft of the ocean’s salty spray. All paled in comparison to the declaration that followed.

And so has favor been withdrawn from Crail, Paragon of Water. The Pillar of Water has shattered - and we now bear witness to his choice, and to his Lord’s lament.

All the rage, the fury, the motivation...it all collapsed in an instant. Twin Fant slipped from his grip and dropped to the sands with a soft thud. The hollowness filling him ripped him apart. His war was over. His heart became an anvil, crushing his chest from within. Denounced by two gods in a single day...

“...heh…”

“Haha…”

“HahahahaHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!

“Young Cassius!” Crail bellowed as the paragon approached. A young soldier, too noble for his own ilk, but one with his own strange tenets. Ones he believed and trusted. A khan and khanate of his own. “Fight for the Great Frost! Give it body and soul, less your fate becomes the same as mine!”

The vartai craned his neck to the battered shaman, slick with blood and coated with ice. “Milo! Niji awaits, but must be kept awaiting longer! Your tale shall not end this day!””

He raised his gaze to the skies above. For a single breath, he swore he saw a tint of glassy blue among them.

“As for you, Geir! I send these two warriors with mine blessing! May they overcome mine last dying throes, lest they join me in the beyond!”

He began to glow, beginning where scale met steel and climbing all the way up his neck and head. The fading white was purged to a vibrant cyan. Erosion of age became young once more for but for one fleeting heartbeat. Frigid cold swelled in his chest, invigorating the son of the Verglas.

“[B]FROST AND FURY![/B]”

From the vartai’s gaping maw poured a beam of crackling energy and dancing light. Blue, white, and violet all intertwined with one another before striking the sand in the middle of the paragons. Sharp spears of malevolent ice erupted from the sands in an expanding circle until it captured the three in its grasp. With that, the last of the vartai’s powers was spent.

The ice hissed in its field of vicious thorns. Among them was the body of the logika, now propped up by the many spikes both pressing against and piercing into the remains of its body. Crail hung there limply, his body reduced to its normal state. He looked so small there within the behemoth of that body - a humanoid face replacing the draconic one and his stature diminished to that of but a man. His left arm was reduced to a stump, the mechanical forearm having fallen to the ground below as it no longer fit the limb. Flowing hair of immaculate white hid the hole in his face where the cyber-arcanic eye once resided. It stained red as the last of Crail’s life slipped away.

Geir...I’m sorry…
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 40
9/5/2021 21:08:20   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo


The smell of smoke overwhelmed Levanna’s nostrils. Blue sparks clouded her vision, burning themselves overtop the crimson backdrop of the arena. A slight tingle brushed up against her cheek- everything went white. The force of Jacklin’s kick cracked against Levanna’s jaw, sending the Plains’mother toppling to the ground. Rising bile accompanied the urge to wretch as a pool of iron and salt welled within her mouth. A growl erupted from Levanna’s lips as she spat the swirling scarlet into the sands.

Quickly turning to face Jacklin once again, the Plains’mother stood to her full height. Though her muscles tensed to keep her still, her stance wavered with the breeze. Within the depths of her ears, a quiet ringing slowly grew to a crescendo. Levanna let her chest rise and fall heavily, desperately fighting against unconsciousness’ attempts to overtake her.

Rather than oblivion, a mournful cry overpowered Levanna’s attention. The Water Lord’s lament echoed within her mind as the pillar shattered and erupted into crashing waves of salt.

”Another withdrawn.”

As each moment drifted the neck of time’s hourglass, the next few bore down upon Levanna with more weight than all the sands the arena had to offer. Without wasting a breath, Levanna plucked her fourth tooth from the necklace and shattered it.

”How fitting, to end this with Rasht’ya, Death’s Consummate.”

Bone shards slipped from Levanna’s fingers. Mavaan’s final memory mixed with the sands. A bright flash exploded out from nowhere and enveloped Levanna’s body. A jackal’s howl pierced the clap of thunder. Arcs of lightning kissed and tore across Levanna’s charred skin, crackling with her own anxious ferocity.

“Forgive me, Mavaan. I swear I’m coming to you soon.”

Cracks and pops reverberated across her jaw as she grit her teeth just too tightly. She refused to scream. Instead, she commanded her spasming arm to point out to Jacklin.

“We’re running out of time, Warrior of Smoke and Flame. Let us conclude our wager here and now!” The Plains’mother cried out, her voice crackling and echoing with a growl of thunder.

"As you say, Warrior of Storm! Let's close out our game!" Jacklin returned, her voice and strained smile eliciting a nod and a grin in return from the Plains’mother.

Levanna kicked off the sand, Rasht’ya’s strength exploding through her limbs. Only after her first step did a splinter of pain erupt within her wrist. The Warrior of Flame’s dagger had completed its work; Levanna’s severed tendons collapsed under the strain of the Thunder Jackal’s strength. The sands muffled a clatter as her ironwood fell to the ground.

Levanna grunted through gritted teeth as she landed in front of Jacklin. Her remaining arm struck out like a bolt of lightning and grasped the Fire Lord’s champion by the throat. Golden eyes locked upon Jacklin’s surprised gaze as the Plains’mother lifted her into the air by the neck and slammed her into the sands with a loud thud.

As sand and dust settled, Levanna lay crouched over Jacklin. The Plains’mother panted hard as she tightened her grip upon the girl’s neck. She pleaded with her own limbs for strength and speed as the surrounding smoke began to shake and glow.

“Who will it be, Lord of Lightning? Will you choose me, or will I have to choose her?”
DF  Post #: 41
9/6/2021 23:08:53   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


A flying kick with one ruined leg. Not the smartest decision, I suppose.

Jacklin fought to rise, fading smoke aiding her as a cane once more as she propped herself up from the sands. Salty sea air met her as she overcame gravity and stood straight. Her eyes glanced about the pillars.

Four left. And my smoke… almost gone. Really almost gone.

Simple wisps circled her, barely enough to be called a wall, barely enough to pull beauty from. But it was always enough for one last trick. Her free hand rose, her thumb gently pressing against her finger. Scars on her arm burned indignantly, her body remembering what her mind preferred to forget. When was the last time she had let herself burn? Jack had been there, rushing to her side as her body gave up.

He wasn’t here now. To burn would almost certainly be to die. If not to Levanna, then to Cassius, or to Milo. But…

Her eyes turned to the glorious pillar of crimson and gold, its vigilant gaze ever-steady. Her Lord had an eye for beauty, and a penchant for the game. She could not let them down, not when the two of them were so very alike. Every last trick, every last gambit, had to be used.

“We’re running out of time, Warrior of Smoke and Flame. Let us conclude our wager here and now!”

Levanna’s voice roared across the sand like thunder splitting the sky. Jacklin smiled and called back, her voice cracking under her body's aching pain. “As you say, Warrior of Storm! Let’s close out our game!”

“Come, final wisps. One last dance, as the curtain begins to fall.”

Levanna flew forwards, her body moving faster than ever before. Jacklin’s eyes tried and failed to follow her, lightning through her limbs fogging her mind. She need only focus on one thing.

“Come, final wisps. One last march, as the sun begins to dip.”

The stormcaller’s staff fell to the ground, abandoned in the women’s mad dash. Jacklin hardly noticed, extending her arm even as Levanna’s shadow approached and her nerves screamed for her to run.

“Together, we shall…”

Jacklin’s surprised eyes locked with Levanna’s determination, gold meeting gold as the stormcaller slammed into the sands before her. Her body moved on instinct, finishing her ritual and choking out one last word even as the stormcaller’s hand wrapped around her throat. The echo of her snapping fingers rushed through her, igniting lost memories and driving fear and excitement into her heart. A single tear welled in her eye.

“Burn.”

Three


She felt the rush of flight for a single moment before crashing to the ground once more, sand exploding away in every direction. Levanna filled her blurring vision, the woman’s eyes taking no joy in Jacklin’s suffering. Jacklin did not raise her arm, did not try to remove the stormcaller from her throat. All she had to do…

Was survive herself.

Two


Lightning burned at her throat, the familiar scent tickling at her nose. Force pressed down and around her, the woman’s grip growing ever stronger. She choked for breath and found none, precious air rushing away as tear-filled blackness crept in at the edges of her vision. Her mind screamed for her to move, evoking a twitch of left arm as she tried to raise it off the sands. Her face. She had to cover her face. Breath could leave, flesh could burn, but if she wanted to stand a chance once her self ignited, she had to protect her face.

One


With every last ounce of strength forced into her arm, Jacklin swung the limb across herself. Cool black cloth covered her fading sight.

Then her world erupted in fire.

She shut her eyes. Blackened metal glowed with orange light, the plating branding her legs in searing agony. Had her mind worked she would have thanked His Radiancy for the uniform, its cloth fighting back against her own inflamed passion and protecting her skin from all but a relentless heat. Even as the blaze roared at her face, her shielding arm kept her eyes safe, only the bravest of embers daring to dip beneath the protective limb. Through a dying throat she laughed, screamed, and roared as the fire embraced her bare arm and punished her for her freedom. Her tattoos danced in the inferno, shimmering in splendid glory as flame tore at her skin, desperate to leave a mark of their own. Scorched flesh assaulted her nostrils, fire danced crimson through her hair, and then -

It stopped.

A single gasp of air entered her lungs. Then another, strained and forced. The first feeling that returned to her was pain; endless agony seared into discolored flesh. The second was pressure; the stormcaller’s hands relentlessly closed around Jacklin’s throat, just enough space given for her to choke in another breath of air. Her golden eyes opened, blinking back tears of pain that would not stop flowing. She could still make out Levanna above her, determined to the point of insanity, unmoved even as Jacklin commanded the world to burn around the both of them. Unmoved even as her mind, her sparks, flickered away and her eyes went gray with oblivion.

Jacklin raised her clothed arm, pressing it gently against the woman’s chest. She pushed, hissing as the action pressed her burnt arm into the sands. The woman’s fingers gripped the back of Jacklin’s neck, intent on staying. Cautiously, painfully, Jacklin raised her flame-kissed arm, both hands gripping at Levanna’s. Her fingertips, burnt to almost nothing, could not feel the rough skin of the murderous woman as Jacklin forced the hands apart. Torment shot through her arm as her muscles screamed for pause, but Jacklin pushed on, prying Levanna’s hands from her throat and sliding out from under the unconscious woman.

She rose to one knee sluggishly, her eyes on Levanna, though the woman seemed to be spent. Her eyes flicked to the side, catching sight of her hat abandoned on the sands. She swept it up and patted out the last flickering embers along its edge. It was a miracle that the thing had survived.

Hell, it’s a miracle I survived too.

Jacklin flicked her bare wrist, ignoring the agony that continued to echo all throughout her body.

“Protect me, Jack. Rush to my side once more and keep me safe from my foolishness. For were the sun to stop shining, still would I fight, until every last game is won.”

The final vestiges of smoke roll off her arm, gently swirling about. They wrap a loop, march a handle, and dance up into a glorious black edge, engraved with her brother’s name.

She held her brother’s blade close and shut her eyes, reverence and passion rooting her in place. When her eyes opened once more, they shone with bright determination. She tried to call out a challenge, to shout her name across the sands to whichever Paragon would rush to her crouching form. Yet her starved and scarred throat refused to do anything more but draw in labored breath after labored breath. So,

she waited.
Post #: 42
9/8/2021 4:26:47   
Synthe_
Member
 

quote:

But instead of falling to despair in the cold abyss, we grasp for serenity -- a promise of peace at the end of our road.
- From “Requiem of Glass”


Cassius watched with a stone-cold stare as Crail’s determination fell apart. He had grown used to seeing that raging passion in his good eye, perfectly complemented by the unwavering focus of the artificial one. Unlike the average warrior his fury had not faltered in the face of danger, despite fighting outnumbered. As the Lord of Water withdrew their favor, it seemed to take Crail’s very soul with it. The terrible laughter of a broken man spilled over the arena as Cassius stopped his approach, choosing not to interrupt the dragon’s lament.

“Young Cassius! Fight for the Great Frost! Give it body and soul, less your fate becomes the same as mine!” Crail’s words held an uncharacteristic sentiment to them, as though the extinguished flame of passion left him with nothing but regret. The words struck Cassius with a faint feeling of pride, his right hand moving across to his shoulder in a sign of respect.

Many would say my spirit has already been taken, though I think you have proven that enough passion can outweigh a broken soul. I will remember your words, and pray you are given refuge in the great beyond. He chose not to speak his thoughts aloud, his intentions shown only in a reverent gesture of prayer. A defeated soldier was always entitled to those few moments preceding their departure, never to be taken in haste.

“As for you, Geir! I send these two warriors with mine blessing! May they overcome mine last dying throes, lest they join me in the beyond!” His words were spoken towards the open sky, as though addressed to the grand creator itself. The dragon’s expression began to fade even further, a vibrant shimmering overtaking his body. His scales began to glow with a disturbing power as his color shifted, sickening radiance enveloping his body. Finally, he swiveled back and stared at the Fallen and the mage, eyes burning with the fury of a soldier with nothing left to fight for.

Their battlefield was overcome with a series of dancing colors, refracting beams of blue and white nearly blinding any who dared watch the discharge of cryonic energy. For a moment, Cassius felt as if he were back in the frozen peaks, a glacial cyclone ripping across his body. While the cold didn’t faze him nearly as much as it would for anyone else, the flying shards of ice certainly did, using his gloved hands to cover as much of his face as possible.

The familiar sensation of a growing voice began to claw at the base of his head, instantly causing the Fallen to flinch in anticipation of a deafening telepathic roar. Curiously, no mental intrusion came, the whispers fading into the wind as quickly as they came. In the midst of the growing cacophony, he was instead left paralyzed as his addled mind struggled to decide on a direction to move in.

“Cassius, I can’t hold this alone!”

The voice seemed to cut through the thunderous wind, easily audible even through his mental fog.

Hm. You make a good point.

In an instant the soldier was in motion, trying to reach the other Paragon even as the ground beneath began to erupt into vicious blades of ice. Milo held his a familiar barrier in defiance of the frigid onslaught, though this one seemed to be formed of a deep red crystal rather than flesh itself. The vibrant red coloration matched that of a fresh bloodstain, and worse, looked identical to frozen blood. He could see that the shield would not be able to hold, as hairline cracks had already begun to appear along its surface.

Why must your creations always be so gruesome...

Images of crimson-stained snow threatened to emerge from the depths of his mind.

Now is not the time to panic.

Cassius pushed his ghastly memories back beneath the surface, making it the last few feet to Milo as a handful of cuts began to appear on the Fallen’s exposed skin. He reached out his gloved hand, frantically begging the air within the morbid shield to acknowledge his command. Slowly, the energy within obeyed, a layer of bloodstained ice emerging from the gaps in their bulwark, the widening fractures filled by the growing chill. The howling wind screamed in his ear as he struggled to hide from Crail’s fury, the sands around them sprouting a field of malicious frozen spears. Those few seconds of adversity seemed to last for an eternity, only concluded by a sickening crack, the sound of hundreds of glass panes shattering simultaneously. Cassius looked up just in time to see the shield split in two, eyes widening in terror as they were left alone to weather the storm.

He opened his eyes to the shining of the sun and a stinging pain in his side. The frozen winds had subsided, leaving only the spikes of ice in their wake. They twinkled in the midday sun, casting uneven, wicked shadows on the frozen sands beneath. Cassius looked down to see one such icicle piercing his abdomen, running straight through the steel plate covering him. The sight sent a sickening wave down his spine, a moment of dread seeping into his limbs. Some soldiers never quite got used to witnessing injury, the lack of pain in his side doing nothing to help the drowning sensation overcoming him.

Though, it seemed he was incredibly lucky. The icicle had struck far enough to the side that no vitals had been compromised, but the act of sitting up still drew an immense pain from his severed muscles. He grit his teeth in defiance of the agony, reaching his hand to freeze a layer of ice over the wound. For now at least, he hoped that the support provided would be enough to keep him going. He tugged on the ice with his mind, using the phantom force to relieve some of the pressure from his failing body. Thankfully, it seemed he was able to stand, though the ever-present spike of pain remained burning in his side.

I can still breathe and.... Mostly move fine. This will have to last until the end....

His weakened eyes came to rest on Milo’s body, seemingly held slightly aloft by a pair of spikes. On the sand below, the bloody remnants of their shelter remained scattered, slowly beginning to thaw in the burning sun. Thankfully, the mage was still breathing, somehow managing to evade being pierced by the massive icicles flanking him. His eyes met the Fallen’s in a panic, mouth opening in an attempt to speak, though not managing to do so before suddenly dropping unconscious.

You’d better not be dead...

With a pained grunt, Cassius lifted him from the frozen prison and shuffled to an untouched clearing, the area behind where their shield had been. Clearly, the storm had subsided only moments after their defence broke. He carefully laid Milo on the sands, noting his numerous wounds but feeling distinctly helpless in his lack of medical knowledge. For a moment Cassius considered freezing the mage’s body together as well, but quickly discarded the idea as he turned to look for Crail instead.

As much as I’d love to assist you, I fear I’d do more harm than good. I could never follow the surgeon’s path anyway...

Slowly creeping through the frozen field of spears held an eerily familiar feeling, the unmoving obelisks reminding him of battlefields long forgotten. Many soldiers had seen it too, endless fields of corpses, seemingly frozen in not just space, but time as well. Cassius saw these corpses rather than icy pillars, their unmoving eyes seeming to follow him as he drew closer to the epicenter, judging him for his sins....

There, in the middle of the field of death, lay the metallic body of the dragon. Or, what he expected to be the dragon. The only identifying features that remained were confined to the mechanical limbs, yet stabbed clean through by the countless icicles. In the space between metal lay the body of a man rather than a dragon, unnaturally small in comparison to the colossal form below. A pool of crimson had begun to form below the gruesome statue, the warrior’s sentience long having slipped away in isolation.

So much we could have learned... You did not need to die alone. It seems you held far more secrets than I ever could have guessed.

Though, Cassius did not seek out his corpse merely to mourn his passing, but to retrieve a specific item. He could sense it from the moment he laid eyes on Crail, the curious void of energy centered in his back. Everything around him held a level of heat, even the frozen scenery and the air itself, but the orb Crail carried with him was different. It held some level of heat, sure, but such a small amount that it surpassed anything he had ever seen before. This object intrigued him, and so he had decided to procure it.

It took a decent amount of force and clever leverage to get it unseated, but Cassius eventually got his prize dislodged from the mechanical corpse. It’s temperature burned at his hand, gloves doing nothing to prevent the freezing cold from biting at his fingertips. Though it seemed to be damaged, the soldier filled its cracks with a layer of ice in hopes of holding it together.

“I come to thank you for your kindness, and I find you desecrating the dead.” A familiar voice reverberated off of the frozen pillars, displeasure evident in his voice.

He looked up to see Milo standing nearby, expression barely readable as his eyes locked with Cassius’ own. The Fallen was not intimidated, however, instead responding in a calm, unwavering tone. “He fought with valiance and passion, passing his desire for victory onto me. This object will serve us well, and I believe I will honor his legacy by making use of it myself.”

My purpose demands full commitment, even if I must defile a hallowed corpse to fulfill it. Words spoken only to himself, as a true leader cannot reveal even a hint of weakness.

Milo continued to stare, offering no rebuttal to his words. Perhaps that was a good sign, that the mage had found his reasoning admissible, if not acceptable. Though, it certainly could have been a bad sign, frozen in disgust and waiting for a moment to strike.

Thankfully no attack came, so Cassius decided to bet on the first option.

“I will be honest, I have no intention of fighting you unless I have no other choice. You’ve shown yourself capable and distinguished, and I still have a... question I need to ask of Jacklin.” Cassius stood up as he spoke, straight as he could be despite the frozen hole in his side. “As long as you agree, I believe we should interrupt the others rather than fight over Crail’s body. I... would hate to have my blade end up at your throat.”

Especially since Reckoner remains unsated... And I doubt you would be capable of slowing his onslaught.
Post #: 43
9/8/2021 7:58:10   
Sylphe
Member

Stygian steel primed to strike, for those lost, for memories washing away. Crystalline blade pointed in challenge, for those that may be met, if one just continued down the river’s flow. An unnatural stillness held over the two fighters, one that couldn’t last long.

Milo felt salt on his tongue as he finished his claim, and the ocean’s wind ruffled his blood-slicked hair and feathers as he spoke of the dragon’s name. His heart skipped a beat and he looked up, towards the pillar of bleached white.

No.

Their dispute, their clash of ideals was meant to be resolved by the hearts that claimed them. In ice, fang, blade and blood. And even as beings higher than them clearly showed where their favors lay, Milo couldn’t feel any joy in his victory. With his eyes wide, he met Crail’s, almost able to pinpoint the moment a spark within them died, a spark that he spent so long bringing to life.

It can’t end like this.

It did.

“Crail...” He whispered, taking a step forward. The sword he held so effortlessly before fell under the weight in his arm, hanging limply by his side. The ferocious axe followed, its drop into the sands unfit of a warrior, soft and quiet. Throes of panic set in his heavy chest, spiking as the dragon’s body shuddered with rough, raspy laughter.

He’d heard that sort of laughter before. The laughter of the cornered, the laughter of the ones with a final ace to play, the laughter bouncing within a tower’s walls as a man dies under the debris, knowing he trapped a hollowboned beast within the flames. Milo tried to speak, but his words struggled to climb over a crushing weight, froze when the dragon addressed him directly. Speaking of Niji, waiting beyond oblivion. Of how his tale wasn’t nearing its end.

Crail, don’t… It doesn’t have to end like this…

It will.

“Crail, you stubborn fool!” His words finally tore themselves out of his throat as the dragon’s last words echoed. Shrill and desperate not against the freezing and brilliant energies of his breath but what this exertion would mean.

Another fallen. Another one he’d failed to protect.

And even as feathers swirled and whispered of the futility of protecting others in a death tournament, even if he understood the truth between its words for once. Even then, the thought pulled at the corners of his eyes, willed tears to come down as the mage roared without a sound. With a ferocious slam, he brought the orb into the sands. In an instant, his world of crimson sprites lit up in pain, a thousand shards and cuts flaring with exertion. A thousand pawprints of the orb as it marked him over the years, black as night. A wild wave of red welled up between him and the charging dragon, just in time for the sparkles to coalesce in his brilliant maw.

What gives you the right? What gives you the right to abandon what could’ve been, everything you’ve left unfinished?

The brilliant energies that painted the mighty warrior’s throat gave rise to a memory of great black scales, of ember crackling with such ferocity it crawled out between the scales. And even if in the memory, what the drake bellowed was white hot flame, the blue and purple lights would burn just the same.

No matter the Lord fought for.

He willed his quaking arms forward into open palms, the pressure and pull of magic and exhaustion threatening to take them apart as they forced his ripple of red to crystallize into a barrier. A creature would not be able to withstand this frigid cold, Milo realized as heat sapped out of the air and made his breath into vapor.

And then the dragonbreath slammed into his barrier with all of its glittering beauty and death, and Milo realized that he, too, counted as a creature unfit to withstand an onslaught.
For as long as it takes for three sputtering clouds to come out with one’s breath, he lost control, and the barrier had already been littered with cracks, torn at by Crail’s last breath and blades of ice. His head hung low. He couldn’t withstand the light. He couldn’t stare at how his every breath danced in front of his eyes as lights of blue, black and purple, as insistent starlights. He couldn’t bear the weight of the thoughts ringing in his head.

Bear witness to his choice… His choice to not continue on.

It was not ours to take.

All he felt was the white and the crimson. Both crystallizing and searing his skin, frigid wind tearing at his cloak, at his hair, at the pin needles stuck all over his body. He threatened to falter, and somewhere at the back of his mind, a similar situation rose in his mind. Of a shield held up against the raging behemoth’s axe.

A mental spike tore through Milo as he realized Cassius was somewhere out there.

Run, He wanted to scream. I’ll hold it off, don’t worry about me.

Flicks of feather burned like wildfire when he opened his eyes, clawing at the exhaustion setting itself in his bones.

Do you die out here because of pride, because you want to be a hero that badly?

His throat refused to make a sound. Milo’s mind went to reach out to Cassius on instinct, but he cut it off just as fast. The soldier’s plea came to mind, the vision of him frozen and struggling under his voice came to mind. Milo drew in a breath that felt like splinters with how chilly it was, and called, surprised that he could still shout over the ramping storm, even if very barely.

“Cassius, I- I c-can’t hold this alone!”

The earth around them was torn by erupting spikes, and Milo watched in dread as one barely nicked his side, making a clean cut through the fabric of his cloak. Eyes turned back towards his barrier and the brilliant, burning white, he felt Cassius more than he saw him. His breathing hitched. Crystals of ice formed within the cracks of his barrier, weaving it back together. Milo felt nothing but untangling as the ice spreading through the barrier’s crystal crawled on the walls of his veins. It was but a reflected feeling, just a feeling, he hoped with all of his will. He hoped with all of his will to not rupture from within or outside as the brilliant, vibrant wind tore.

Sheer, sharp pain struck through the numbness and cold. The feeling of lightning tore through his thigh as a spike found its way to the mage too slowed by the frigid cold to move aside. It was in that moment that Milo faltered, and a moment later, their barrier shattered, raining shards with the storm. Milo willed another barrier, barely as big as a buckler - but it saved them from lost eyes.


Cassius, He breathed out. His eyes flicked across the pain to see if the other was okay. Milo strained to move away, leaving a trail of sparkling red behind. He couldn’t feel his arms anymore, the icy feeling having overtaken them. A blade of ice sliced across his chest, locking him in place and missing anything vital by a breath. It stained the gray of his tunic red.


It was so cold.

It was a plain of white with no swift foxtails to stir the snow. If he laid to rest here, he could finally sleep. Let dreams untangle his heart and let it breathe, let all of that blood sink in and break that perfect nothing in half.

I send these two warriors with mine blessing…

May they overcome mine last dying throes lest they join me in the beyond…

The dragon’s final words climbed and shone within the numbness and quiet. They ignited within the fading mage a spark of fury he hungrily held on to, winning himself a moment of clarity within his fading mind.

He did not know what to expect of the beyond. Niji, cradling the fairy he sent for her. Peregrine, though he wasn’t gone. Crail, who he’d scream his parched lungs out at. Not for cutting his life short, but for giving up his own. His Lord, denouncing him for weakness.

In the corner of his eye, he saw the kind seraph, rushing to his side, badly wounded. He struggled to speak, to turn his head, but couldn’t. Focus petered out of his quivering eyes and he was met with white.

At least let me die under my own Lord.

Black ate at the white like dusk gnaws at the sun. Ice was not the one to claim him.




He saw a flock of birds against the night, wings frigid and blue with stars intertwined.

You.

You.

Among them, a black shape that felt so unnatural and final against the nebulae, the place where stars were born. If it was a vulture or something else, he couldn’t tell. He had a feeling it was giving him a side eye, despite having no eyes to speak of.

Who are you?

He couldn’t move, he couldn’t speak, and yet the bird raised its head as if listening.

Milo.

The mage paused. Which one of those voices… Which one of them was his? He could clearly remember being the one to ask the question. The creature stared at him from its crystalline perch, a tree he could swear was not there a moment ago.

I am power.

I am the divine.

I am the lifeblood of slow and vast.


A vulture, a beast, The words formed but froze in his throat. This voice was not shrill, it was not wild and it was not vile. It was calm, almost eerily so. It was still, and showed no feeling behind those bold claims. It just stated them as truths, as if talking about the colour of the sky, or the wetness of the sea. They held no weight behind them, and yet they crushed at his ribs. He’d imagined - almost hoped for a deathbird, a creature of fury and hatred and hubris to shriek and wail about greatness and announce every failure to him. A creature of guilt. But it was nowhere to be found. The thoughts, black and swirling, as slow as they were under this unbearable cold with no winter in sight, did not belong to the creature in front of him.

It was all… all of that, was… me.

He could not bear to look at them out of his shame. It weighed him down even as his skin flared with a thousand sprouting feathers. His voice strained, coming out only as a thought, left to echo and bounce between the stars. Daring enough to come begging, daring enough to come asking for his crimes to be lifted, with hands bloodied with black and starlight. Daring and foolish enough to think of his crimes as those of a demon.

Is it still?

The entity’s voice cut through his thoughts as they descended and threatened to send him plummeting into the infinite nothings below. Milo dared to look up and met its eyes. Eyes of nothing, eyes no light could meet.

Hours spent on studying anatomy asked the mage how could such an eye work.

He stared up at the lights above, at the chilling wings of great birds. He had learned so much over the years of grieving.

He remembered the egg taken with pride against the dying wails of its mother. He remembered the grief when it hatched, without the one that crime was committed for, with just the man least worthy of its presence to raise it. Teaching to fish, to hunt, warming it in cold nights even as every look at its wise eyes bubbled rage and pain.

He remembered needles of black tearing, saving a man thought lost, thought weak in the eyes of the avian.

Shimmering breeze of a jeweler he shared a moment with. Come to think of it, this nebula did look like xyr boomerang. A prideful seraph, offered kindness and meeting kindness in return, despite his suspicions and disgust. A gleaming and joyful child of an elemental, bringing two fighters aghast with his wishes to play among the stars.

He remembered a warrior of ice scale, and his heart broke.

“Is it enough?”

Milo asked, voice breaking, surprised to hear sounds finally find their way out. The entity tilted its head.

I am not the one who judges that.

Not the one that judges that…

Then whom? The Lord of Darkness?


The cyan shimmer around them broke into birds, into glittering flocks that surrounded the mage, tearing at his cloak with their wind. Above them, in the eye of the storm rested a world, a planet with wild forests and mountains. Somewhere there, vast deserts and red roofs, somewhere there, Bren. He remembered a warrior of ice and scale, lying fallen within its voracious sands.

No. Not the Lord.

Even if his wish were to be granted, the chance to start anew would mean nothing if his own heart remained unchanged, chained to grief with no respite, no outlook towards the future.

His pinions unfurled among the stars, he flew. Towards the brightness like a moth to the flame, towards another day.




He awoke to the sun.

Forms as if made of glass danced about his vision. The exhaustion, the pain, the frostbite and the searing flame across his leg, the needles scattered all over him and frosted in place. It all came back to him. He couldn’t stay here. The fight was over when he said it was.

His lips moved without a sound, with a single parched breath. From within the crimson grains, puddles of blood both human and divine formed streaks and then rivers, rushing to meet their mage from all directions, almost like sunbeams of the radiant orb above. Milo choked out a shaken exhale as the blood forced itself in through the many wounds scattered across his form.

Tower, flames. Obsidian ground, carved with sigils. Divinity denounced, leaving his bloodstream to form the orb. Feathers burning as ichor left. Forever, then. Just for a little longer, now.

With closed eyes and a twitchy, tired movement of his fingers, he led it, asked it to lend its last strength to hold his heart and head together, to stop his burning leg from losing the last of his blood. The frostbite, the limp, the thousand cuts. They’d remain, but all he needed was to stay alive for just a little longer.

He held his arms up, and from within wounds, streaks of blood came rushing back out, their blackness escaping and forming a core. Around it, a thin layer of blood that grew slightly thicker as Milo winced, his breath sharpening.

To stay alive, and to stay a threat.

He put one leg under the other and failed to get up. Pain tore through his muscles as they strained. Despite not wanting to, he glanced at his wound. The fabric was slicked with blood and covered in purple ghosts of feathery flames. He moved and they followed only as an afterthought.

With a groan, he made it, and slightly wobbled. Breathed in the crisp air, caught between heat and frost. He saw a familiar figure crouching over an unfamiliar body.

“Cassius.” Milo croaked, limping towards the two. “Cassius Pallu!” He cawed, this time louder, his voice grating against his dry throat. He glared daggers as he saw, to his disbelief and betrayal, that the younger man was looting Crail’s body for that accursed icy orb. As if not knowing the dangers the seraph could hold with such an artifact, he continued, his voice growing quiet with disappointment. “I come to thank you for your kindness, and I find you desecrating the dead.”

“He fought with valiance and passion, passing his desire for victory onto me. This object will serve us well, and I believe I will honor his legacy by making use of it myself.”

Passing his desire for victory… The young one’s words weighed on Milo. While he understood the meaning, Cassius’ wording did not sit with him well.

Us…

The word sent an unfamiliar warmth through him.

Is that us going to last when a pillar falls?

“I will be honest, I have no intention of fighting you unless I have no other choice. You’ve shown yourself capable and distinguished, and I still have a... question I need to ask of Jacklin.”

Jacklin. The name sent shivers down Milo’s spine as the memory of fire and heat resurfaced. An executioner’s sword raised high to cleave him for his sins. A hesitation… Just as Cassius hesitated here, at the end of all things, with nothing but four pillars standing.

“As long as you agree, I believe we should interrupt the others rather than fight over Crail’s body. I... would hate to have my blade end up at your throat.”

Milo’s eyes trailed over to Crail, lying helpless in the sands. Seeing the dragon as a human struck something deep within the mage’s chest, something he refused to act upon. Instead, he closed his eyes.

May you be welcomed by those you loved, those that loved you, great warrior. May you awake no longer chained by dedication and the will of another.

He couldn’t watch as the haze clawed at Crail, its hungry ghosts of crimson eager to devour his body whole.

“His war is over. Let us leave it as such. It’s…”

He locked eyes with Cassius before turning towards the charred woman crouching in the sands, and limping forward.

“It’s up to us who still live and breathe now. Cassius, it’s been an honor to fight by your side.”

Together, they traversed the path towards the last two fighters who had struggled against oblivion with thunder and flame, and their battlefield breathed that fury, sparkled it with life despite all the death present.

Jacklin, dancer of flame and the sun. Your scythe was beautiful. Your executioner’s blade, I have a few complaints about.

His thoughts were firm, but calm. Gentle. He did not mean to tear through her mind like last time. He swiped the blood and ice off his brow, and tethers of red followed the motion, springing from what little remained in his orb. They formed a short sword, somewhere between a dagger and blade, yet intricate enough to match the grace of the two still conscious on the sands.

I have long since atoned for my sins, and I am here to challenge you and your flames. May they cleanse what is left.

Another dagger formed itself, one for each hand as he pointed each at one fighter, this one a bleak mirror of the last.

“I wager my wish, the last of my blood."
DF  Post #: 44
9/8/2021 16:10:02   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Crisp and clear, a chilled curtain of mountain mist swept across the Arena, pricking at the eyes like snowflakes in a wintry storm. A shudder ran through the Pillar of Ice; its very foundations trembled and quaked as the statue upon it tossed back its head in a deafening, furious roar. Then, with a thunderous crack, the great beast’s breastplate split in two, the shards crashing down in a shower of icicles to the crimson waste beneath. Its bulk, once imposing, dwindled away like frost beneath the summer sun, until all that remained was a hollow imitation of the warrior who had once ruled the sands. At last it bowed its head and with a final exhale, slumped to the ground.

“And so has favor been withdrawn from Cassius Pallu, Paragon of Ice.” Voices howled outwards, carrying the cold voracity of a blizzard, echoing as if shouted from the highest of peaks. “The Pillar of Ice has shattered - and we now bear witness to his choice, and to his Lord’s wrath.” Delicate tendrils of frost spun outwards from where the bear once stood, their curves reminiscent of the claws that had once sunk deep into flesh during the battle of the Arena.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 45
9/10/2021 17:07:49   
Synthe_
Member
 

The withdrawal of the Lord’s favor felt warm, the soldier’s steps wavering at the loss of their comforting chill. For Cassius, the chaos of the arena seemed to fall still, his mind only able to process that feeling of failure seeping into his bones. The vigilance in his eyes softened, visible to none other than himself, gaze falling down to the stained sands as his legs ceased their momentum entirely. Though, despite the overwhelming sense of defeat tainting his thoughts, no frigid rage came to accompany it. Rather than lash out in anger at those who had defeated him, his mind thought of nothing other than the homeland itself.

Well... Who am I to question the decision of the Lords?

...

There is nobody to blame other than myself.


A courteous bow and a silent prayer was all that he would give before leaving. No spoken words directed at the others, despite how desperately he wished to give his parting sentiments. The championships had not ended simply because he had been dismissed, it was no longer his place to interfere.

Jacklin, Milo, Levanna, I’ll be watching.

And so he left, scattered ice just beginning to melt in his passage.




Cassius managed to hold his conflicted emotions together for much longer than he had anticipated, lasting the week he spent in Bren and the lengthy travel back home. The comforting aura of Crail’s orb was partially responsible for this, as the prospect of investigating such a unique artifact meant he was not returning empty-handed. Though, the weight of failure continued to grow as days stretched into weeks, looming clouds of despair growing thicker with each passing minute.

Though, when he finally reached the familiar ridge overlooking his destination, it felt as if he had been stabbed through the heart all over again.

The surrounding hills of snow glowed a sinister orange, reflecting the light of thousands of buildings wrapped in flame. Walls that once provided unquestionable security lay scattered as if knocked away by a giant. Worst of all, massive spires of tainted onyx rose from the ground, effortlessly crushing any structure in their path. The City of Glass cried out in silence as life slowly bled away, becoming just another field of corpses in the endless sea of snow.

You’ve failed more than just yourself, Cassius. You’ve failed us all.

The Fallen’s knees sank into the dense snow, unable to tear his eyes away from the horrific display. His carefully trained resolve shattered without protest, mind emptied of any rational thought. He remained frozen, body refusing to obey as the faceless void rose from within.

And finally, after hours of unmoving disbelief, he began to cry.

quote:

To remember those condemned to the abyss, I give this requiem. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, rather becoming the reason for us to fight. May your passage be a merciful one.
- Final line of “Requiem of Glass”, written by Cassius Pallu.

Post #: 46
9/12/2021 17:32:55   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo


“Levanna- Levanna wake up.” A gentle voice pulled Levanna’s consciousness from oblivion. Warm golden light filtered in as Levanna’s eyes slowly drifted open. The brilliant haze of sunrise settled upon fiery red locks of hair as a familiar visage smiled at her.

“Alei!” Levanna’s heart twisted within her chest as she shot upright, tears welling at the corners of her eyes. “My sunrise, what are you doing h-” A gentle hand laid to rest upon her cheek.

“Shush,’ Alei began through a weary smile, “don’t question such things if you wish them to stay. I’m here to see you, and that’s all you need know.”

Levanna nodded, fighting back the storm of questions that swelled within herself. Gingerly she stood up, grabbing hold of Alei and pulling her into as tight an embrace as she could.

“I’m sorry, I must ask you. Where is Mavaan?”

Alei slowly drifted back from Levanna’s embrace. Pity slowly overtook glassy green eyes as her gaze met the Plains’mother’s.

“Foolish girl… I’m the only memory you have left.”

Levanna’s heart lurched. Despair crawled its way up her chest as tears flowed freely. She reached out and clung to Alei, shaking like a leaf in a storm.

“Will I ever be able to see him again?” Levanna choked out between sobs.

“You won’t see him again until you come home, Levanna.” Alei gently returned. “But let your heart rest assured, he’s waiting for you. We all are.”

Alei pulled Levanna in and gently kissed her, holding to her lover for a moment before stepping away.

“Alright, it’s time for you to go.” Alei sighed softly. “You’ve had your taste of death. Fight well without casting off your memories and return to us soon.”




Lightning crashed within Levanna’s chest. A thundering cry wrenched itself from the Plains’mother’s lips. Searing sparks grasped at her once stilled heart, forcing it into rhythm with the drums of thunder. Her lungs convulsed, retching away stale air and filling themselves once again with life. Levanna slowly lifted her own heavy form from the scarlet sands below. Her charred flesh cracked and groaned, the ashen remains of her braid alight with luminous embers.

Glimmering sparks of pain danced about her mind as her eyes closed, taking inventory of her own strength. Her seared skin cried out amongst bolts of agony, begging her to collapse and to rest. Throbbing tendrils snaked their way along her wrist, reminding the Plains’mother she was left with a single capable arm. A faint flicker of absence caught her attention, swirling a stirring bile of panic within her stomach.

Rasht’ya’s strength and fury had left her.

The thundering power of The Three no longer coursed through her veins. No longer could she feel the sting of The Spark within her heart, threatening retribution should she collapse. No more could their voices reach her. She stood upon the sands atop her own strength, eyes fixed on the gleaming energies which arced across the shifting pillar in the distance. It would not be Rasht’ya, Sive, nor Visalis to demand the Lords’ attention; it would be her.

Taking a breath, Levanna drew her ritual dagger from its sheath. A crude weapon not meant for war would have to do when all else had slipped away. Hefting the jagged edge, she lifted her gaze back to Jacklin.

“I wagered my life, Warrior of Smoke and Flame. Do you disrespect me by refusing it, or has our bout not yet finished?”

“Fine. Both of you.” The warrior called out. “Best me.”

Levanna’s expression softened. She smiled at Jacklin with an expression of gentle thanks. Then without warning, the Plains’mother lashed out with her dagger. The gray stone edge howled through the air as it sought to rend flesh.

A second howling answered in return, the Warrior of Darkness also struck at her quarry. A spray of crimson sand exploded into the air as Jacklin pivoted away. The jagged stone point bit into flesh, mercilessly sinking into Jacklin’s side.

Amusement and frustration entangled upon Levanna’s lips. It appeared the Warrior of Darkness, Milo, also wished to be a part of their wager. She let her weight fall into a single step towards Milo just as Jacklin landed a sharp kick to the inside of the boy’s leg. Seizing the opportunity given to her, Levanna commanded her remaining strength to one final strike. Both wind and Plains’mother howled as her fist exploded upwards, crashing into Milo’s chin with a loud crack.

Panic and pain glinted across Levanna’s expression. Her legs shook and buckled from her own strike. A loud thud allerted the sands as she collapsed to one knee. Sky-blue eyes rose towards Jacklin’s gaze as Levanna refused to look away. The Plains’mother restrained the tears that welled in her eyes as she gave one last smile to the Warrior of Smoke and Flame.

The roar of thunder slowed within Levanna’s chest.

“I’m coming, Alei. I’m coming home.”
DF  Post #: 47
9/12/2021 18:49:15   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


Jacklin shivered as Ice’s pillar shattered, the sudden burst of cold a welcome feeling against her burnt skin. Puffs of air danced in the wind as she whispered a lament.

“Cassius… I’ll find you later. Our game is unfinished.”

She turned her eyes up to Milo, a blade of blood pointed at her shattered form.

“I wager my wish, the last of my blood,” he had said.

She turned her eyes to Levanna, the woman’s body still unconscious, possibly even dead. What had she wagered?

Her life.

And yet Jacklin, body burnt away, limbs aching and unable to support her, had always had every intention of returning from here alive. There had never been any doubt that she would survive her initial bet; she was a Smoke, after all. And here in this Grand Arena, she had no wish worth dying for. This was just a game. Games were her life, but she wouldn’t throw it away over one. And yet…

“So be it… interloper. If your wish is truly worth your life…”

What was she doing? She couldn’t stand, could barely swing her sword. Her eyes were heavy with tears and blurred with ever-lingering pain. Her smoke was gone, its heat trapped within and burning away at her from the inside. But the tick in her head pushed her on. This man, this interloper, this fool that had interrupted her game with Cassius, a game that might never reach its conclusion, had made a wager. A wager that could bring her another new experience, another new rush of feelings good and bad in chase of victory.

She had to accept.

Before she could act, Levanna’s stilled corpse rose, alight with life once more. Jacklin’s eyes shifted to her foe, listening as the woman questioned their bout. Jacklin had not been certain if the woman had died when Jacklin burned, but seeing the charred form rise and challenge her once more was almost nightmarish. Had her skin not still prickled with heat, she would have shivered.

Jacklin eyed both of them warily. A warrior and an interloper, each chasing death; each prepared to throw themselves at her feet rather than walk away empty handed. Her gaze hardened, the final shreds of doubt fleeing her mind as her grip on her brother’s blade tightened. This was the game. These were the stakes.

“Fine. Both of you.” She forced her body as high, as straight, as it could go. Her leg screamed in protest, much preferring to simply grovel on the ground and surrender her pride as she had wagered.

Yet she would not.

“Best me.”

Levanna surged forward without warning, dagger seeking blood. To her side, Milo swung down, a beautiful bloody edge aimed to cleave her in twain. Stiled legs would not be able to avoid both blows. Her mind turned to her Lord and her thoughts bloomed into prayer, though not one for mercy or assistance.

I am not here to cleanse myself of sin.

Her leg swept out, an arc of sand scattering into the air as it slammed into Milo’s. Levanna’s knife pierced Jacklin’s side, her uniform giving way for the stone point. She hissed at the sharp, biting pain, her vision blurring into floating shapes of colors and beauty as scarlet stained her shirt whilst her hand grabbed at the wound.

I am not here for some grand purpose.

Levanna released the blade, leaving it lodged in Jacklin’s flesh, and turned. The stormbringer’s fist collided with Milo’s toppling form, sending the man soaring away. Jacklin watched as the woman collapsed to one knee, her legs likely giving out from overexertion. Jacklin lifted her sword, her posture flawed by the knife in her side. She tapped at the buried blade, but did not remove it. Instead she almost chuckled. The wound was practically symmetrical with Cassius’ gift to her.

I’m here because…

Her left hand drifted quickly to her chest, caressing the card that sat within her pocket. She did not need to withdraw it to see it in her mind’s eye; a jack of spades, worn and faded with time. Just by touching it, she could remember.

The tick, igniting in her young mind for the first time.

Her small hands, slamming the card onto the table.

The way everything around her had faded in that moment, the world nothing but her and her brother alone at the table.

I want to win.

“Levanna, you fought beautifully.”

Her arm swung down, as if a rope tying it back had been severed. Her golden eyes never left Levanna’s blue, even as the blade slashed cleanly across the woman in a storm of black and crimson.

The sands, the sky, the crowds, the pillars, even Milo. It all faded away. There was only Jacklin. There was only Levanna. The stormbringer whispered one last word; “Alei”, a name unknown to the free soldier. Then blue, too, faded to nothing. The tick of victory burned at Jacklin’s mind, but she ignored it. She could not celebrate victory without honoring death, and both would have to come later.

The world returned.

Her momentum spun her on the sands to face down Milo, her knees still screaming in protest. She could not let them rest, she could not go as Levanna had.

If their causes were… are... greater than mine, they would best me. If my determination is not enough, Lord, reject me.

She flicked warrior’s blood from her blade and rose it high with a shaking arm, a battlecry dying in her throat as she stared down the Paragon of Darkness. He had joined her on one knee, his skin ghostly pale and his face running with blood and tears.

If what you see in me, if what we share, drives me above the chosen of your kin…

She gave the blade one last flourish, her body almost giving out at the unnecessary motion, then swung it down in a vicious swipe, ready to bring an end to this final game.

Bless me, and I will bring you the victory you crave.

In full, shining radiance.
Post #: 48
9/12/2021 18:56:44   
Sylphe
Member

A cold breeze wafted through the area, cutting clean through the ever present stench of copper and sweat. Milo gladly took a breath, even as it sent involuntary shivers down his spine. He closed his eyes, too tightly for someone blinking away snowflakes. There was a feeling in his chest as it struggled with every spiky and labored breath. A feeling that this was the last time he’d ever see the young angel fight by his side. Words welled up in his throat, but they were a mangled mess of an exhausted man.

An almighty roar shook the arena along with a sickening crunch and crack of melting glaciers, and the sands erupted. Haze red and burning howled out with the bear, their flames tall as towers with the Ice Lord’s wrath.

Hold. Do not drop the weapon. You are here. You are not sharing their grave.

You are here. Here, of all places. Under the sun.

And the stars, though you can’t see them.


Fingers coiled tightly around the handles of his blades, Milo willed his shaking body to straighten to his back’s wail, and forced his gaze away from the accursed ground into the sky. He was met with a brilliant pillar of fire and a familiar scaled beast underneath.

The Lord’s wrath swept up the sands and left, and Peregrine celebrated his victory. Warmth spilled between his bones as if the flame roared among them, and not in the stands. Warmth…His forming smile halted as he turned his gaze towards Cassius. A void snaked itself into his chest. He had missed the captain’s departure in his blight.

He lowered his dagger, and his fingers closed around it. Its sharp blade softened before they even met it, and as he closed his fist, red bubbles came out as its only remnant.

Somewhere within, he felt that the voyage of the fighter back home would not be a kind one.

The time for mourning is after the last strike lands, Milo.

After the last drop of blood weathers under the sun.


Milo looked up, towards the pillar of Energy. Its forms zapped back and forth with more fervor than he remembered. An unfamiliar feeling sprung within the gray void of loss and exhaustion. Anticipation that prickled with silver. Their time was drawing to a close.

His eyes had followed the Fire paragon’s towards Levanna, unconscious in the sand. He nearly missed her before, with her tethers devoid of colour. But the Lords would not choose a dead woman to represent them, so he remained vigilant, even as Jacklin’s voice called his attention.

“So be it… interloper. If your wish is truly worth your life…”

Interloper.

No.


A word that tore before and signified not belonging meant nothing to him now among the three, nothing this close to the gods. He’d clawed his way past blades of ice, past friends lost and forfeiting their lives. Past the fog of what was coiling around his feet, past his very own coils of guilt, black with feather. Not as the vulture, not as a dragonrider. As himself. And that was all he’d let himself be.

He had every right to stand here, just as the burning dancer and her resting foe had.

His eyes betrayed none of the feelings sweeping through his mind, pale ones staring into hers as he drew his blade. In the woman’s eyes danced flames he’d never seen before. They flared full of life in spite of her wounds, in spite of the horrendous scent of burnt skin that made Milo’s heartbeat thrash against its cage. It remembered singed feathers. It remembered molten lead.

But it also remembered the warmth of Peregrine’s flame.

Peace and freedom, of curses laid by others, of curses laid by one’s own heart.

He had hoped that despite all odds, he would make it out of the arena alive. A misjudgment of ability he was so prone to ever since the days stars rested within his reach. For Peregrine, for those still struggling. He’d thought it a responsibility to stay alive until his debts be paid. It would be a cowardice to let his life fizzle out while others still suffered because of the vulture’s hubris.

What kind of life was that?

Milo’s gaze flicked in a different direction, disturbed from his reverie. The balance shifted. Threads thought dead stirred. Levanna burst forth from her death-sleep. Even with no lightning present, the power and ferocity radiating from the elder and her words brought her Lord’s presence upon them. His eyes widened, and a small smile played on his cracked lips.

“Welcome back, Elder of the Storm.”

He drew his blade, the weapon in his hand shimmering as sunlight met its edge. The mage saw none of it, the sky darkening in his eyes with every labored breath, every droplet of ruby lost.

He did not have much time left, and yet his heart quivered in anticipation of the coming fight. Of the coming flight.

Life, wish, and soul. With all of those at stake, let us play your game.

The mage’s beloved orb swirled at the mention of us, merely a speck now compared to the gushing waves of liquid life it had been before. Darkness seeped through its thin scarlet veil, speaking of depths below, as if the core itself lead into the deep trenches far above the sky, lying undiscovered by man. For now and any eternities that may follow.

Let us end it the way it all began, Anima, my soul.

Milo turned the blade against himself, its cruel blade slashing clean across his collarbone. A wound, then made in desperation, now in trust and determination. To give back what was taken then. The sun’s light faded further in his eyes as his lifeblood merged with the orb, letting it spring up and envelop his arms, letting it breathe dusk into his final weapon.

“Fine. Both of you.”

If it was one last takeoff, he’d have to make it one to remember. Peregrine, Niji, Crail and hell, even Cassius - they’d never forgive him if he went under with a smack into the sand like last time.

“Best me.”

His voice was gruff and strained as he responded after such a while of silence, but it lost none of its newly gained flame. His eyes never once left the challenger as he spoke, focus allowing only for short, strained words.

“You’re brave.”

The mage moved as soon as the challenge landed, and yet he was slower than Levanna’s dagger. The woman moved like lightning in his eyes, though with such little blood to work with, he could have simply been too sluggish to see her as anything but a blur. Coldness gripped at his fingers as he lashed out at Jacklin, starlight glinting as the thin edge flew to strike against her chest.

You’re also a clever and dirty fighter.

It never managed to land, Milo instead brought down with Jacklin’s swift sweep against his wounded leg. His stare met the warrior’s, an array of emotion flashing through it as the world slowed down. Fear, amusement, pain, fury.

The two Paragons moved in synchrony, a thundering fist striking Milo to finish what Jacklin had started. His darkened sight set alight with burning flickers threatening to cleave through his skull. Fresh tang of copper filled his mouth, tears sprung out of his eyes.

They blurred his vision. He couldn't see. He couldn’t… He…

He flew.

His hand gripped tightly around the handle of his weapon, his anchor. Confused, he whispered for Anima, Niji, anyone that would listen. Not a single word managed to leave his throat. The sands of the arena stirred as darkness overtook them, and filled up with stars.




He fell.

Droplets of blood formed perfect spheres as they left him, disappearing into the unknown, their fall much slower than his. The darkness itself lived, the stars rearranging themselves every time his consciousness tried to hold on to any of them. Weakness overtook him, white and pale.

He was so tired.

His headache, first splitting and dancing iridescent, fizzled out as his eyes closed.

One by one, the stars twinkled out.

It teetered at the edge of his mind like a firefly, silver and white and blue, resisting oblivion.

A firefly…

My little firefly...


Milo howled, eyes snapping open, bleached fingers clawing at the last light. Stray sunbeams reached him in this chilly and unmoving void. For but a second, he felt the stink of blood, the stinging pain in his jaw, the vicious headache. Unfamiliar pride swelled in his chest, threatening to spill out.

Your tale shall not end on this day.

Not to a dishonorable strike of one thought respectable. Not to one that dances before the lords for games and joy when cursed lives are at stake.


One by one, the stars found their way back to Milo’s sky, forming constellations. Among them, he started to see winged forms, horns and a mighty dragon. The images slipped from his mind almost as if hiding when a sudden shadow came over them. A shadow so deep and enormous it needed no light to be cast, refused its presence. A shadow with a beak littered with trunks of trees long since dead, a shadow whose stars for eyes have burned out ever since their last meeting.

Blade in hand, Milo commanded Anima within the weapon for the final time of his endeavor, and perhaps their entire unity. His fingers ran down the weapon, its blade forming shapes of feathers, of a wing.

He knew this darkness well. There was no falling. No directions were set. Milo roared as he brought his bladewing against the black, hoping it would bring him just close enough. His voice was nothing, his feeble little human chords could not rival the great umbral titan that emerged in front of him.

But he was their Paragon of Darkness, and so they roared with him. Their sound and song tore through his entire being and scared the sky into a brilliant rain of starfire.

With no guiding light in sight, darkness was all he could see.




But he knew this darkness well enough.

He did not need his eyes to see the way.


With the last chord of his call, Milo jolted awake, too fast for his dying body to follow. He twitched, arms attempting to work on fury alone to bring him up from where he lay defenseless. They failed him the first time, slipping and sending him back into the sands to meet all of its spirits. A familiar ping of crimson and black touched the edge of his mind, and he found his orb still within his grasp, entombed within that short blade and its feathered points.

He was nearly defenseless.

Tears welled in his eyes as his entire body shook in pain with every movement he dared to make. Yet he forced his body forward. If his leg slipped under him, no energy and blood left to deliver that energy, then a sit was just as good.

He could not let go, not this close to death. Not this close to life.

As Jacklin’s black blade picked up on momentum to cleave against the lives of two at once, Milo surged forward with the last of his strength, both hands firmly grasping his own weapon.

Without any light, he had to rely on his heart, on the little hope it held.

The two black blades met with a high, yet muffled note as if his crystal hit smoke instead of steel. He stared up into Jacklin’s eyes, a faint smile forming under all of the focus it took to keep the impasse. Under all of the tears and blood and ice.

On hope towards brighter days, on a will to do better each time storm and desperation passed. For anyone hurt in its waves, for those he had yet to meet. For himself.
DF  Post #: 49
9/13/2021 19:37:46   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


A searing heat, a gut-wrenching roar, and the Pillar of Fire erupted, curtains of flame leaping upwards to consume itself before falling to ash.

A plunging sense of despair, a lament of sorrow, and the Pillar of Darkness crumbled, smooth obsidian disintegrating to naught but dust upon the sands.

Energy blazed.

A bolt of blue-white lightning arced from the heavens, the noon-day sky suddenly black and filled with clouds of swirling storm. Thunder crashed as the sky-fire slammed into the kneeling Paragon, pelting flecks of burning crimson all about her. Bolt after bolt shot down, dancing upon the Arena as the storm poured down within it, a cage of brilliance landing strike after strike that hid the warrior from view in a cradle of molten glass. Alone unscathed by the tempest, the criers raised their arms skyward, voices sounding clear over the cracks and booms to proclaim the Lords’ verdict for all to hear.

“And so has favor been given to Levanna, Mother of the Thunderstruck Plains, Champion of Energy! By the Will of the Arena, and the Judgement of the Lords, she has claimed Victory! We now bear witness to her final decision: the boon of the Elemental Lords!”
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 50
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