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=WPC 2022= Field of Petals

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1/23/2022 12:09:04   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Silence waits in this world between worlds. A place for those lost in nowhere. A place for those trapped between the certainty of death and the freedom of life. A place where light and shadow intersect and dance, never once merging to gray. Time stops, the ticking drawing to a close. Space distorts, twisting about in an endless spiral of nothingness.

And Fate gazes on; watching, waiting.

Black and white spires stretching forever through a sunless skyline. Blank walls mark the dead ends of twisted alleys, staircases spiral up the sides of buildings and crossroads shift away, seeming to lead at once everywhere and nowhere. The Chequered City stands for those who strayed from their path; For those that sought it out, hoping for something more. For those called by the whims of higher powers and sent drifting. The only movement within is that of the ever-present automatons, at once everyone and no one. Here, the lost will find food. Here, the lost will find rest. For here, the lost will prepare to march away to War.

But none will stay. None can ever stay. This is not a home, nor a sanctuary; merely the last safe refuge before those within find their gates, their doors, or simply fade from its streets to their journey beyond.

For Pawns belong in one place alone.

The Battlefield.

Warmth fills the darkness, color trailing in its wake. Heat builds from a gentle caress to a blazing inferno, threatening to burn until nothing is left but the flood of crimson and orange and amber that now fill the space between.

Then an intense cold pierces through the fervor, ice filling the veins, chilling them to the core. Shadows creep at the edges of vision, the vibrant blaze dulling until only grey is left. The flame that just before scorched at those lost in the void fades away, and burns no more.

And then: a new world, an entire realm, built upon the dying breath of a prince that sought justice for all until his flame flickered out.

Stars glittered overhead, lighting the grounds of the grassy courtyard. At its center stood a single massive tree, its branches twisting together overhead and cradling thousands of ruby blossoms. One by one, each flower flickered with light, then burst to flame, the tree’s crown ablaze with hundreds of burning embers. They began to fall, branches stirring as they broke free to drift gently to the ground. Each turned to ash as it struck, and from its source a new bloomburst forth and burned. An endless dance of flowers and flame, shining light on the stone walls of the yard and the Pawns that graced the tree’s presence.

Above each Pawn, a symbol flashed. A five-spoked circle. For some, the starkest of whites, with straight, pristine spokes. For others, the deepest of blacks, spokes curved inwards in a tumultuous spiral. The runes hovered above for a moment, their presence made known to all, before quickly winking out of existence.

Thousands of voices echoed as one from the tree’s heart, their combined whispers overcoming the roar of the fire with words clear and true.

“Welcome to the Field of Petals. No Good can wilt you, no Evil can snuff you out. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in flame.”

< Message edited by Chewy905 -- 1/23/2022 12:19:20 >
Post #: 1
1/26/2022 21:13:20   
How We Roll Winner

[System offline.]
[Rebooting …]
[Power levels critical.]
[Manual startup required.]
Hydna woke slowly. She felt like her whole body had been pounded into a pulp – in fact her head was still pounding. There was a groan, and it took Hydna a moment to realize that it came from herself.

Everything hurt. Her head felt like it was on the verge of exploding. She moved to unfasten her seatbelt, but she found her arms stiff and uncooperative.


The comms crackled with white noise. Hydna winced as the crackle cut into her throbbing head. She jerked involuntarily, pressing her palm against her temple. Her gloved hand came away crusted in dried, dark brown fluid that cut the air with the sharp odor of iron.

Blood. What the–?

Hydna craned her neck upward and froze. Instantly her dizziness vanished, to be replaced with the sickening weight of dread settling in her stomach combined with a yawning vertigo. She wasn’t looking up, she was looking down, suspended at least a hundred meters above the ground. Her cockpit canopy was gone, somehow blown completely off. The only things that kept her from falling to her death were a few bands of synthweave and a metal locking clip.

“Sizzling schnitzels,” she gasped. She had to get out of here. She had to get out of the cockpit, clamber out, do something, anything

But instead, she took a deep, shuddering breath. Unless you’re being shot at, think before you act, was a lesson every cadet learned. She hadn’t fallen to her death yet, and unless everything went horribly wrong, she wouldn’t now, as long as she didn’t make any sudden movements. Slowly, carefully, she took inventory of her current predicament.

Her ship, a brand new top of the line Khakkhara Mk. II, had plowed into a massive white tower made of what visually appeared to be marble. The impact had knocked a hole into the building and lodged the Khakkhara there. By sheer luck, or perhaps the ship’s shields had performed admirably, the engine hadn’t exploded nor had any of the other weaponry on her ship malfunctioned. There wasn’t even any hint of a fire.

Hydna pressed her palm to her head again, gingerly this time. The throbbing pain had subsided some, but she wasn’t entirely sure how badly she’d hit her head in the crash.

The crash …

With a jolt unrelated to the buzzing comms system, Hydna suddenly realized she couldn’t remember why or how she was here. Panic threatened to overtake her but she forced herself to remain calm. Or at least as calm as one could be while hanging upside down hundreds of meters above the ground.

First things first. Hydna tilted her head forward, backward, and sideways. Nothing seemed to be broken; the trickle of blood was just a minor scratch that had already clotted. Her ship’s internal compensators had saved her from turning into a human smoothie.

Hydna glanced down at her mini-monitor, frowning slightly. She reached into her suit and fiddled with some mechanisms.

[System rebooted successfully.]
[It’s good to be back, Fury Five.]
Fury Five.

The ship creaked. Hydna froze. She wouldn’t have been worried if it had been creaking before. Something was changing. Her stomach turned as the ship continued to tilt. Something moved in her peripheral vision. Hydna peered closer and gasped; the white building was actually growing back into place, marble bricks and mortar reassembling and materializing themselves as though an invisible 3D printer were repairing it.

Get out. Now!

Frantically, Hydna grabbed the locking clip, fumbling as she struggled to press the button to release the seatbelt. Adrenaline surged through her veins and for a single terrifying instant she was sure she would be paste–


The quick-release seatbelt zipped back into place and gravity took over. Hydna plummeted toward the ground as the ship tore free from its socket in the tower, shoved out by the regenerating wall.

Time seemed to stretch into long, agonizing moments. Suspended in midair, with no memory of how she got here. Hydna almost giggled; the premise was straight out of a trashy sci-fi novel. As the ground seemed to rush to meet her, she wondered dreamily at the irony: a space pilot about to splatter on the concrete.

The suit AI’s matter-of-fact voice brought her back to her senses.

[Estimated distance: 170 meters.]

Yeah haha, no. Hydna thrust out her left arm. The liquid cable shot out, its claw latching onto the smooth tower’s facade despite the lack of any purchase. The physics professors back at the university could have gone on and on about the cable claw’s “innovative” and “groundbreaking” mechanics but the point was moot; it served its purpose.

Hydna had practiced swinging before but never at this height. Her stomach lurched and her eyes streamed as she swung toward the tower and away from her falling ship. Her boots slammed into the building’s side. She watched as her ship landed with a deafening crash, which quickly faded as though snuffed out by the silence.

Hydna let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. What a way to wake up. She raised her eyes to the distance. A great city of black and white stretched before her, seemingly completely oblivious to the fact a starship had landed in its streets.

“Where the hell am I?” she wondered aloud.

[Location: unknown.]
[Architectural style: unknown.]
“Sizzling schnitzels,” Hydna muttered.

“No no no no …” Hydna bowed her head, overwhelmed. She had slowly, painstakingly climbed down from the tower; no mean feat as she had practically no climbing equipment save for her liquid cable launcher. She’d made her way back to the wreck of her ship, now with one wing crumpled in and the main hull bent sideways like a limp eggroll. Unless it received major overhauls at a fully stocked shipyard, there would be no escaping this place, wherever it was.

Her emergency supplies were gone. The storage compartment had somehow been blown apart. Power rifle, multitool, rations, medkit, all gone. They were probably all flying space debris by now, or burned to cinders upon reentrance to the atmosphere. Best not to think about that now, she’d have to make do with what she had.

Which brought her to the topic of what she did have. A utility flashlight built into the suit. Rocket boots that still worked. Her helmet still worked. The liquid cable launcher that saved her from a bloody and inglorious end. A suit AI that so far proved to be useless without a ship’s computer connected to it. And lastly–

Hydna pulled out a pistol from her right holster, staring at it as though she could force it to turn into a power rifle by sheer force of will. The Savager handgun was the laughingstock of the entire fleet. It was ridiculously large, at least twice the size of the old revolvers. This, combined with it being made of leftover industrial metal, made it terribly heavy for a handgun. It had blades sticking out of it for some reason, presumably to serve as a melee alternative. The worst part though, was its laughably weak firepower. Instead of using conventional bullets, it used some kind of pressuring mechanism to condense random assorted debris into rock “bullets.” These “bullets” were about as good as beanbag rounds, and would take several shots to down a single person. And to top it all off, it could carry only 6 rounds at a time.

Hydna stuffed the Savager back into her holster. She couldn’t just sit here and wait for rescuers, assuming any showed up at all. It was time to take survival into her own hands.

She’d only managed to make it about a hundred meters before she became hopelessly lost. The instant she lost line of sight with her wrecked ship, it was as though the city’s streets had reorganized themselves, creating an inescapable labyrinth.

Where was she? Hell, she didn’t even know what quadrant of space she was in, much less what obscure planet this might be.There were no signs or text anywhere. No technology. Just endless streets of white and black buildings, marble and onyx carved so perfectly Hydna doubted even precision lasers could match. If she’d thought she could find some extra supplies in the city, her hopes were thoroughly dashed. She’d only found an extra handful of dirt, enough for about maybe three shots, and even that was surprisingly and infuriatingly scarce. This city, wherever it was, was far, far too clean. Unnaturally so.

It wouldn’t have been that bad if the place were just abandoned, but the creepiest part was that there were people in this city with her. They just always stayed out of sight. Hydna could hear them moving, none too stealthily, but she could not catch up to any no matter how quickly she chased after them. Their fleeting presences taunted her, almost as though to mock her the holes in her memories.

Speaking of which, she still couldn’t remember anything. Her memories flitted like fireflies, there but they vanished as soon as she reached out to catch them. She could remember her name, her ship model, all the technical details. But she still didn’t know how she got here, why she was in her fighter, what had made her crash.

Hydna was scared. She admitted this to herself freely. Only an idiot wouldn’t be scared in this situation. She had no supplies, no ship, no way of contacting anyone. The comms were either fried or for some reason refused to connect. Hydna pressed her lips together and hugged her knees to her chest. She’d found her way into what looked like an old-time tavern, and was now seated at its bar. Unlike everywhere else in the city, this one seemed to have more life somehow, as though everyone had only just dropped everything and walked away, and was about to come back.

Her eyes fluttered and she jerked awake. Unconsciousness wasn’t real sleep, and who knew how long she’d been awake. Even if her suit’s chronometer were still working, the lack of a proper sun and moon cycle gave her an uneasy feeling akin to jet lag. The silence was both deafening and eerily serene.

Well, it wasn’t entirely quiet. She could hear them still moving about, out of sight. Hydna tapped her forehead against her knees, rocking back and forth to try not to fall asleep.


Hydna froze. Did one of them intend to kill her in her half-conscious state? Slowly, she looked up.

There was no one in the tavern. Hydna breathed a sigh of relief – and did a double take when she saw what was on the bar. Slightly trembling, she picked it up.

[Revolver prop.]
[Matching record found in #($)@&#!@$!!]
It was an effigy of an old fashioned revolver, maybe a tad larger than they usually were. Some kind of sigil made up its sight. The trigger was fake but the top break mechanism still worked. Hydna opened it and out fell six “bullets” that clattered on the tabletop. They weren’t real bullets, she thought as she loaded them into her handgun, but they served the Savager just fine.

Someone must have sneaked in to drop this off, which meant they probably weren’t out to get her after all. The thought didn’t exactly lift her spirits but the weight of dread on her shoulders lightened considerably.

Oh hell, she thought. She’d survived so many close calls already, one more wouldn’t hurt. If they really were intending to kill her in her sleep, then she’d just die blissfully unaware. Hydna closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

“Fury Five, come in,” the comm crackles.

Her head bobs in dreamy-half sleep. The slow vibration of the ship, with heating systems and the blackness of space all around makes for a drowsy environment.

“Fury Five, acknowledge.”

“She probably fell asleep again,” says a second voice, laughing.

“Cut the greenie some slack, Thyone,” admonishes another.

“That does it,” grumbles a fourth, “next time we touch base I’m sneaking some static electrodes into her seat.”

“Actually Telesilla, now that you bring that up,” the first voice says dryly, “what’s a better time than now to test my super secret weapon out?”

The other voices gasp in mock surprise. “Oh no!”

The heater is so warm. But then it suddenly mutates into an uncomfortable heat. She flinches slightly, but the heat is gone as soon as it comes. The balance does not last long, for a sudden piercing cold takes its place –

“Cut it out guys,” she complains, opening her eyes –

Hydna sat bolt upright. She was no longer in her snug little corner in the black and white city. The scene before her was both beautiful and terrifying. She stood in a field of charred grass, the center of which held a massive tree filled with flaming blossoms. It was breathtaking.

But this was no walk in the park. This field was open to the night sky, but it was surrounded by smooth, circular stone walls, enclosing this fiery garden like a pit … or a cage.

Furthermore, she was not alone.

[Multiple adversaries detected.]
Symbols flashed above each of the others’ heads. Some were white, evenly spoked wheels, others were black with curved spokes. They seemed to linger enough for her to get a good, long look. Within the tree, the voices called out.

“Welcome to the Field of Petals. No Good can wilt you, no Evil can snuff you out. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in flame.”

Hydra would have muttered “sizzling schnitzels” except that swear didn’t seem funny anymore in the face of the threat of “perishing in flame.”
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 2
1/26/2022 21:14:57   

“Don’t move!”

As the cart came to a halt, twelve guards stood shoulder to shoulder, arms quivering as they raised their hand-cannons at the huntress. Their weapons shimmered as they caught the afternoon sun. She stood at the front of the caravan, glaive strapped to her back. Without a word, she stepped forward, and a voice rose from behind the line.

“I said, don’t move!”

The young captain snarled. He raised his voice with a sense of conviction, a sign of control to his veteran guards. “Murderer! Suraeko, you are a disgrace to house Wrynith! How dare you show your face here!”

Suraeko turned to glance at the captain, eyes glazing over. Young, scarless. This was their captain? Surely one of the others was more qualified.


Her attention shifted past him as a crowd was forming behind the line. Mostly peasants. She could hear the whispers give way to riotous fervor.

“It’s her. The Carnivore!”

“Stop her! Stop her before she kills us all!”

“A monster of monsters. What will we do?!”

Suraeko kept quiet as she took another step forward. The captain wasted no time.


The command was given. His voice echoed, followed by absolute silence. The soldiers held their guns forward, but none dared to pull the trigger. They knew better.

“Hmph.” Suraeko closed her eyes and crossed her arms. Her voice was soft, quiet. Inhuman. “I have no marks in this town, nor any business with you. If you want my blood, go ahead. Otherwise, get out of our way.”

The guards traded sunken glances at each other. At last, the men holstered their cannons and broke rank. The captain looked in awe and disgust as the huntress continued forward.

“Wha- YOU COWARDS!” The man leaned forward and shouted. He was fixated on the huntress, his gaze burning with fury and indignation. But she couldn’t be bothered to look back; he was worthless, of no interest. A waste of time.

Suraeko gave a whistle to the caravan, and the group continued forward, walking past the soldier. She barely made it past the captain before he drew his own cannon, aimed point blank at the huntress’s neck. There was a blur as the sound of gunpowder filled the air. The crowds screamed, rushing back to the town. The guards, however, were stood in place.

As the smoke faded, Suraeko was standing, clutching the captain’s arms. The gun was still held to the captain’s cheek— or rather what was left of it. She stared into his lifeless eyes for a moment before turning to the hand-cannon. The huntress pushed the corpse forward with one hand, eyes fixed to the killing tool, to the blood and flesh that dyed the metal.

Worthless.” She tossed the smoking gun on to the corpse and shook the blood off her hand. “There’s no pleasure in it.”

Suraeko and her caravan continued into the city as the guards stared at their captain’s corpse. As the huntress moved out of earshot, they spoke to each other.

“Are we just going to leave her be?”

“What choice do we have?”

“Please, don’t hurt me!”

Suraeko sighed in disgust as the elven lady sank against the wall. The two were alone in the store. Suraeko had simply walked in; the moment the elf saw her, she shrieked.

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here. For business.” She walked around the countertop and coldly extended a hand.

You’re better than this.

The elf took a moment before shaking her head. She pushed herself to her feet.

“Please; I- I don’t want any trouble. Take what you want and just leave me alone, please!”

Suraeko took a step back and crossed her arms. “Are you sure? ”

The elf gulped before forcing out her words. “If there is anything you want, have it.” She looked out the window before turning back to Suraeko. “If anyone hears that I willingly did business from you. . . I’m dead. Either way, I’m dead.”

“So that is the way of it, huh?” Suraeko brought her hand to her chin. “That won’t do.” The huntress turned to the window and beckoned one of her servants. After a moment, there was a loud clash as Suraeko tossed a massive silk bag onto the table.

“This should be enough. If you are that worried, hire some help. I'm sure they couldn't care less where the silver comes from."

The elf stared at the sake of treasure. "I don't understand—"

“I'm sure you aware of Bifreet?" As Suraeko spoke then name, the lady's eyes went wide.

Good. We can finally move on.

“I expect to be in the area for some time." Suraeko tapped her feet against the wooden floor. "I’ve been told that you are a reliable source of goods. You are more precious alive than dead, and I want to make sure you stay useful.”

The elf stood for a moment before at last giving a slow nod. As the merchant took the bag into her hands, Suraeko continued.

“I need rations, rope, leathers. All the materials and equipment you can offer. Take care of us and play your role, and I will make sure you stay alive.”

Suraeko watched restlessly as her crew loaded the carts with supplies. Although preparations were going well, Suraeko could not help but feel something. . . ill.

Nervous? No, that wasn’t it. The coming hunt would be her most challenging yet; Bifreet, a prized blue dragon. The bounty for its hide was worth a king's ransom. Many had called her mad for chasing the dragon, but she couldn't care less. Anything that could bleed could die. Perhaps she was anxious; she had wasted enough time around these fragile souls. She hoped that Bifreet would be worth all this preparation . . .

Whatever it was, Suraeko could not shake this chill in her chest. She raised her voice to the crowded strip. “Hurry up! We aren’t sleeping until we make it to Rivendok!” The crew picked up the pace. They would be out of town soon. The huntress leaned back against the shop’s wall, satisfied.

“Excuse me?”

Suraeko raised her eyes as a voice suddenly rose up, far closer than was comfortable. It was a young man’s voice. Soft, weak, as if he were talking in his sleep. She reached for one of her knives as the figure caught her glance. They were completely covered in jagged, patchwork robes. They were leaning on the wall right next to Suraeko.

So close- How?

With a dagger in hand, she pulled her arm back, ready to slash their throat, but the figure made no move. He simply leaned against the wall with arms crossed, seemingly unphased.

“What do you want?”

The caravan continued their work, as if unaware of their leader’s outburst.

“Suraeko, of House Wrynith. I wish to enlist your. . . talents”

“Oh really now?” She reached for another dagger and held it to her shoulder. “If you want my help, then you must certainly know. . . “

The robed man gave an excited laugh. “Your taste in prey is quite refined, Carnivore. I would not dare waste your time.”

Potential. She had nothing lined up after Bifreet.

“Then speak up. I might be able to fit you in.”

“I have a few in mind, actually. For now, I want you—” The figure turned towards the huntress, his black robe hanging over his face. “. . . to kill me.”

Suraeko stood for a moment, almost dumbfounded by the figure’s response. Her gaze went stiff and she frowned.

“Are you stupid? If you have a death wish, go somewhere else.”


“No, no! I am absolutely serious!” The figure waved his hands. She could almost hear him smile. But Suraeko was not interested.

“Why would I waste my time to kill someone like you?”

“Why not?” The figure leaned in as he reached for his hood. “It was apparently worth it the first time.”

As the man threw back his hood, Suraeko’s eyes went wide. Before her was the captain. His flesh had turned pale. Red clots and shards of bone adorned his cheek.

“What are you-”

Before she could react, the black cloak began to blur into shadows, and the man leaped at the huntress. Suraeko ran on pure instinct as she slashed across with her knives, but they found no purchase. As it collided with her, there was no force nor sensation. The shadows merely wrapped around her, enclosing her sight until all was darkness. In a frenzy, she whirled around with her knives, but again, nothing.

It was as if she was in a completely different world.

“Are you done?”

A multitude of discordant voices echoed in the darkness as a robe came forth. It was the same one from before, but it moved on its own. Suraeko hissed as she held her daggers to her chest. For the first time in years, she felt a hint of fear.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“As we said.” The voices echoed once more. “We ask only for your services, to see you in action.”

Suraeko tossed a knife towards the shadow, but it phased right through him, disappearing into the void. Then, Suraeko stood for a moment before lowering her arms. “Explain yourself.”

“What is there to say? We have taken a liking to you and your methods. As such, we propose. . . a game.”

Suraeko stared at the empty robe. “And if I refused?”

“I don’t think that will be an issue—”

The robed figure raised its sleeve, and the darkness seemed to shake. Suraeko staggered for a moment as the dark horizon began to give way to fog. As she caught herself, she felt the ground change beneath her feet. There was an snap, and as she glanced down—

A skull.

“Look!” The voices echoed with a sense of euphoria.

As the fog parted, more and more bones came into view. She was standing on top of a literal mountain of skulls. Off in the distance, piles of bleach bones towered into the sky in every direction.

“We have looked upon your heart, Suraeko. We understand your desires.” The hanging robe drifted closer to the frozen hunter. “Fight for us. It will be the greatest challenge of your life. Survive, and all this and more will be yours until the end of time. . . .”

“Until you are finally sated.”

Suraeko stared at the ground, shaking from the raw display.

“I see—”

At last, she lifted her face with a wide smile.

Finally, a worthy fight.

“So then. Where do I start?”

“As with all things.” The specter gestured down the mountain. “At the bottom.”

Still shaking, Suraeko gave a nod. With heavy breaths, she took a few steps forward. Then, she ran. The huntress rushed over the edge and let gravity take over. She carved her own path as she slid down the mountain. Bits of bone snapped and buckled as she brushed them aside. The huntress laughed as she began to slide faster, and faster, knowing that there was no way to stop, no turning back. Not that she ever would.

Suddenly, a flash of crimson light ignited off in the distance. Waves of opaque fire swept across the mountain, towering into the sky like a curtain. She was heading straight towards it. Suraeko gave a wide grin as the Carnivore reached for the glaive at her back, and with a roar, she leaped forward, giving herself to the flames.

The night-sky burst into flames as reality fractured for a moment. The curtain of fire split open, giving way to the huntress as she raced towards the ground. As she touched the earth, she pressed off, bouncing back into the air with a flourish, holding her glaive to the sky. The new world slowly came into view as the huntress steadied her breath. Before her, a massive tree of blossoms. The scent of burning petals filled the air, their embers giving a warm glow to the battlefield. It demanded her attention.

“Welcome to the Field of Petals. No Good can wilt you. No Evil can snuff you out. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in flame.”

As the voice echoed and faded, Suraeko could feel it. She was alive. And it had only just begun.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 3
1/27/2022 10:39:30   

The clang of metal on metal resounded through the room as Sterahl batted Natsumi’s blade aside, before quickly bringing his own to rest a meagre few inches from her throat.

The Kitsune’s single tail twitched as she spoke. “I yield. This fight is yours, Sterahl.”

“Don’t pout so hard! Your swordplay is coming along nicely.”

“Not nicely enough to win against you.”

He considered the attractive young woman (who was yet 120-some years his senior) and laughed. “You have, I think, been spending too much time observing The Master’s newest student.”

Natsumi gave Sterahl a close look and cocked an eyebrow. “And what, exactly, do you mean by that?”

Sterahl raised his hands with a jovial chuckle. “Just that—and you should know this better than I—that you can’t expect to make massive progress in a meagre amount of time.”

“Bleh. I know you’re right, but watching Jiuthiera…” The woman gave an exasperated shrug. “That child advances in a week what should take a year it seems sometimes.”

“And that’s utterly terrifying.”

Natsumi rolled her eyes and sighed. “Sterahl, sooner or later you’re going to have to realise that she’s going to be the strongest of any of us.”

“I’m already fully aware. The child has surpassed my level in just 5 years, not even a tenth of the time I’ve been here. I just don’t think we should be teaching one of them, especially not one who learns so supernaturally fast.”

“One of what, Sterahl? She’s an Elf.” Natsumi said, matter-of-factly.

“No, she’s Elfin, the same way you’re Elfin. But just because her father is raising her to be Elfish hasn’t spectacularly changed her biology.”

“Sterahl, The Master has faith in her. Do you really claim to be wiser than a Deity?”

Raising a finger, Sterahl retorted. “Okay, for one, being a squillion years old doesn’t automatically make one super wise. Secondly, I might disagree, but I know the decision on whether to train anyone is The Master’s, better than most. I keep my peace around the child.”

“Okay, no, you keep your distance around Jiuthiera and she’s noticed. Do you realise she’s asked me, directly, why you refuse to give her a chance to prove herself?”

“Well part of it is because I really don’t think a 12 year-old who’s lost the entire first half of her life should have the insight to ask that kind of question.”

A new voice rang out. “Oh, I’d recognise the sound of that bickering anywhere.”

Sterahl and Natsumi both turned towards the new arrival, a raven-haired individual familiar to the both of them. Sterahl called to her. “Viela! Ho, cousin, how goes?”

Viela winced, and cast her gaze aside. “I’ve come to speak with The Master of the Rose.”

Sterahl flicked his gaze to Natsumi, but she just slightly shook her head; she had as little idea as he did what pained his cousin. “The Master is in session with the child currently, Viela.”

The Vashtera returned her gaze to meet her cousin’s. “Still not using Jiuthiera’s name, then?”

Sterahl’s bristly retort died aborning on his lips at her look, not a trace of humour to be found in her face. He hadn’t seen his cousin this serious since his teenage years, when he’d dragged himself and two other Dwarfs out of the Deep-Dark. “Viela, what’s going on?”

She looked away again, grabbing the back of her neck this time. After a few moments she sighed. “You’ll have to know eventually. You’re going to be best suited to dealing with this after all:
There’s a Vampire Insurrection.”

“Oh, that’s horrific” Natsumi exclaimed, her disgust writ large across her face.

For Sterahl’s part, he couldn’t speak; his mouth worked, but no sound emerged. He started making a series of vague gestures, before Natsumi interrupted, able to put into words what he wanted to convey. “We’ll take you to The Master. Something like this, especially with you here on official business takes precedence over our learning.”

They proceeded in silence. Viela was a regular enough appearance that other Disciples moved to greet her, but the collective looks on their faces warded everyone away. When Natsumi threw open the doors to the training hall The Master and Jiuthiera were in, The Master took one look at them and asked; “What has happened?”

Viela spoke. “Master of the Rose. On behalf of the Vashtera people and the Council of the Jendrestian Interpretation, we beseech you and your Disciples for aid. There is a Vampire Insurrection.”

For his part, The Master showed neither shock nor horror, simply closing his eyes and inclining his head. In the ensuing silence, Jiuthiera spoke up. “What is a Vampire Insurrection?”

“NOT a matter we should be discussing with a child, no matter WHO they are.”


The Master’s voice brought Sterahl’s head jerking around. The man raised a hand, a slight smile on his face. “All who seek to defend the people from the horrors of this world deserve to know the nature of those horrors. Yes, she is perhaps a bit young to be learning of this particular horror, but it is happening here and now, so she shall learn of it, here and now.”

“Jiuthiera, you know what Vampires are, yes?” asked Natsumi.

“Yes. Vashtera who disregard the infusion pact and take the blood they need directly from living people with the… tools that evolution gave them. They are considered a heinous evil, for whom the only possible punishment is execution.”

Natsumi nodded. “An Insurrection is what it is called when a Vampire takes things a decided step further than just… feeding on people. They also inject the people they feed on and others with their own blood, turning them into Vashtera.”

Jiuthiera frowned. “But wouldn’t-’

“They don’t prey on people from within the Communities. These monsters, they prey on nomads and wanderers. People who don’t KNOW about the infusion pact. All they know is that they will need to consume blood to keep living. Knowing no other way, they become Vampires too. But without, as you said, our evolutionary tools, people who are converted this way leave… a decided mess and they…” Sterahl trailed off, a pained look on his face.

Jiuthiera covered her mouth, a fair grasp of the horror being laid out before her. “And… what, then, happens to those people who feed, because they don’t know any other way?”

The look on her face said she already knew the answer, but Viela spoke it into the air regardless. “It’s as you said, the only possible punishment… is execution.”

The young girl closed her eyes, properly disgusted.

“They convert people who they know will leave a trail of bodies and chaos, allowing them to slip away and repeat the process again and again. It’s not the first time in my life that this has happened, unfortunately.” Natsumi said, shaking her head.

The Master spoke up once again. “And so the Vashtera come to me. This is, sadly, not an issue they can deal with on their own. As well, they are loath to put the Aurks in the firing line because they have no desire to see others infected, even if they do know of the infusion pact.”

“Why isn’t this an issue they can deal with themselves?” Jiuthiera asked, looking quizzically at Viela.

“Because, if we sent a Vashtera, or any number after this Vampire, or Vampires and the Vashtera were to die…”

“Ah, then the Vampires would have all the more blood with which to infect people.” Jiuthiera stopped, lost in thought. Slowly, she peered up at Sterahl.

“Then, if you won’t enlist the Aurks because you don’t want them to get infected and you won’t send a Vashtera because you don’t want to give more blood to infect with, is not the perfect man for the job standing before us?”

Sterahl started, while grins spread across both The Master’s and Natsumi’s faces as Jiuthiera continued. “He is both Vashtera and Aurk, yet bears the downsides of neither if sent on this quest, from what Natsumi has told me of him.”

Sterahl felt decidedly uncomfortable. “Why would…”

“Sterahl, I get it, okay? You see me as a threat and that’s not entirely misplaced.” The young girl said and started pacing back and forth.

“When the Great Threat drops on us, as we all know it will sooner rather than later, I could be a liability, turned to the other side. Master has placed his faith in me, as have Father and Natsumi and Viela and so many more.” she said, gesturing widely at the others in the room.

“You don’t have faith in me and for whatever reason, refuse to let me prove myself to you. But! I have watched you, I know what kind of person you are and I know how strong you are. You might not have faith in me, but I have faith in you.”

The Master chuckled. “Well, that is quite the glowing recommendation, wouldn’t you say, Viela Arunia? It happens to also be my recommendation: We will send Sterahl alone. Is this acceptable to you and those you speak for?”

“Yes, that is perfectly acceptable.” Viela said, bowing her head.

“Very well. What say you, Sterahl? Will you take on this ordeal?”

Sterahl inclined his head. “Of course, Master.”

“Excellent. Then speak with your cousin, learn where the Insurrection is occurring and off you go to deal with it.”

They approached the Aurks’ temporary barricade, where a pair of young guards became agitated at their approach. “Halt! Step no further!”

“We’re here to hold audience with your Commander.” Viela called, halting her advance.

“Yeah? Well you’ll not get it, Vampire filth!” Before Viela could get past her shock, or Sterahl direct the rage that roared through his chest, another figure came forth, belting the accusatory guard over his head with a mighty hand.

“You blithering idiot! Report back to basecamp immediately.”

“But, but Sir—”

“No buts! To accuse Vashtera of Vampirism without a shred of evidence, have you no shame? Sterahl, let’s have your back. Show this fool of a child who he’s talking to.”

Sterahl complied immediately, whirling on the spot and hiking up his Myrmidon so the rose emblazoned thereupon was obvious. The guard’s eyes widened and he tried to stammer something out, but the reprimanding woman just shook her head.

“Basecamp. Immediately. Report for disciplinary drills and an educator on Vashtera culture and people of import.”

The offending Aurk turned away with flushed cheeks and headed off. The Commander stood a mere few inches shy of eight feet with a solid, muscular build that was the prime specimen of an Aurk. Brilliant golden eyes peered out amidst the dusky green of her face, a modest pair of tusks breaking from her mouth. Fiery red hair framed her features and fell about her waist. Her features taken together, the Commander was someone anyone would recognise: Kiara, the Great Virtue of Justice.

“Lady Arunia, Sterahl, my deepest apologies.” The Aurk said, bowing her head deeply.

Viela had still not quite recovered from the shock of the brazen accusation, so Sterahl spoke up. “Lady Kiara, sir, we thank you for your swift reprimand. While we cannot say that guard can be forgiven, with a situation as tense as this one is, his slander can, at least, be forgotten.”

Viela finished composing herself and nodded in agreement. “As my cousin says.”

“I will be sure to pass your leniency on to that guard. We shouldn’t have a boy standing guard over such a location, but until such time as more able-bodied Keepers arrive, we’re using the Neophytes to complete round-clock schedules.”

Kiara gestured for them to follow her as she headed towards a tent. Inside, laid out on a table was a general map of the area: a high-walled, small, forested valley, each exit marked with barricades and nearby basecamps.

“Your Vampire’s in there,” Kiara said, gesturing to the forest portion of the valley. “Just the one. Last we knew, there was also a Dveztil Katcha troupe in there too.”

“Poor souls…” Viela muttered.

“So,” Kiara crossed her arms and spoke blandly, “I can’t imagine you’re going in there, Lady Arunia. I take it we’re all just counting on Sterahl here?”

Her voice gave Viela pause. “Is there an issue with that, Grand Justice?”

“Issue? Oh no, no issue. Why, if the Master of the Rose deigns to send just one of my men on such a dangerous mission, who am I to argue?”

Kiara’s deadpan delivery earned a startled look from Viela, but a chuckle from Sterahl. “Making light, even in this situation, Lady Kiara?”

Slowly, a smile tugged at the corners of the Aurk’s mouth before she erupted into a full-bellied laugh that seemed to shake the tent. “I apologise, Lady Arunia. No, there’s no issue. Sterahl’s a fine Keeper and a Disciple of the Rose to boot. If you’re sending him in alone, it’s because you believe he’s up to the task. So do I, or I’d refuse to let him pass alone, Rose Master’s directive or no.”

She let out a sharp whistle and the other guard from the barricade soon stuck his head into the tent. “You’re to let Sterahl in and out through the barricade as he pleases.”

The guard nodded his head and vanished. “Lady Arunia, I hate to burden you, but we’re suddenly short-handed here and I forgot to tell that idiot boy to send on a replacement—I doubt he has the presence of mind to do anything more than I told him to. Would you kindly attend the barricade with Neophyte Karm while I return to the basecamp and organise proper relief?”

“Oh,” Viela blinked, taken aback slightly by the request, “Uh, of course, Grand Justice.”

Kiara smiled warmly at the other woman. “Thank you. I’ll be off then.”

After Kiara left, a mischievous smile played across Viela’s face as she looked at her cousin.

“What?” Sterahl asked, attempting to feign ignorance.

“When were you going to tell us you’d caught the eye of one of the Great Virtues, oh cousin of mine?”

“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re on about, Viela.” He quipped innocently.

“Uh-huh. There’s certainly no reason why you’re just ‘Sterahl’ instead of ‘Keeper Kelolst’, or why she’s ‘Lady Kiara’ instead of ‘Grand Justice’.”

Sterahl ducked his head and—hard though it were to tell with his complexion—blushed furiously.

Viela let out a pleasant, light laugh. “Oh, Natsumi and I are going to give you no end of this, cousin.”

“Oh, go keep the Neophyte company, you. I’ve got a Vampire to hunt.” Sterahl all but spat, his expression turning serious.

Viela’s smile disappeared in an instant, the levity instilled on the situation dispelled completely.

They headed out to the barricade where Neophyte Karm bowed to Viela. “An honour to have you assist me, Lady Haematologist.”

Sterahl cautiously moved into the forest, Kelkeraz held ahead of him. As he went further, a smell assaulted his nostrils; the scent of decaying bodies. He soon came to a small clearing and the source—Dveztil Katcha corpses splayed atop one another, the scene gruesome enough that he knew it was likely not the direct work of the Vashteran Vampire.

Suddenly, there was screaming from behind him and Sterahl whirled, thrusting Kelkeraz forwards. The Dveztil Katcha, crimson dripping from its chin, leapt, all but impaling itself on the outstretched blade. It let out a brief, choked noise and clawed feebly at him, before finally it fell still.

Sterahl forced the now lifeless body off his sword, grimacing. Whoever you were… I’m so sorry this happened to you…

Self-assured, malevolent laughter rang out and Sterahl snapped up to look at an approaching figure, slowly clapping.

“Very well done, brother. Very succinct.” The voice was low, dripping with unrestrained malignance.

“You are no brother of mine.” Sterahl retorted. He didn’t want to waste time on talk, but he had to be sure this was the Vampire. The Vashtera before him was almost unnaturally pale, bloodshot green eyes sitting above a malicious grin. He was garbed in little more than rags, yet his short, brown hair seemed somewhat cared for.

“Ah, but we’re all brothers of the blood, are we not? Us and every Vashtera there is. Look here; I tried sharing our gift, but these dumb Katcha—”

Sterahl had heard enough, he was sure now. The Vampire was startled as Kelkeraz sprung forth, ready to strike a monster from the world.

Then, time began to slow to a crawl.

The Vampire’s shock bled into horror over what seemed like half a lifetime, before all became still; no sound, no movement. Sterahl remained aware but his body was frozen.

Then, at the edge of his vision, a figure appeared, its appearance unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

Bearing the standard form was where any similarities to other races ended. Its body was a sea of light crashing against an ocean of darkness, the two swirling into one another, but never quite mixing. Twin galaxies swirled in the middle of its ‘face’, what Sterahl could only assume were its eyes. The top of its ‘head’ was devoid of anything one might call hair and it had garbed itself in a cloak of purest shadows.

“Hello there, Sterahl,” Its voice rang out in the sound of a million different men, from pre-teen soprano to the ancient bass.

“I am The Observer. So, you track down the Vampire and you kill it in all of five minutes,” The creature raised its arms and shook its head, its galaxy eyes briefly winking out. “Speaks to your capabilities, but doesn’t much make for a good story. So how about this? Let’s have the outcome of this conflict rest on the outcome of another.”

The thing snapped its fingers and the world bled from around them, losing first all colour, then all definition, until pure nothingness surrounded them. Sterahl found himself as bewildered by this strange entity as he was enraptured by the ebb and flow of its body.

“Oh and just a heads up—you’re being dropped into a war.”

The creature snapped its fingers again and suddenly Sterahl was falling.

Within only a few seconds ground came rushing up to meet him. Sterahl tumbled forwards in an ungraceful roll, looking up to find himself in a realm of stark contrast. Legions of black and white dichotomy plunged into an empty sky, while around him that same contrariety sprawled away in a thousand different directions.

Looking around, faces he knew, from both present and past, glided by, paying him no heed; Kiara, Viela, Natsumi, Jiuthiera, the Master, Starlt, Karom and more. Sterahl tried calling out to the passing figures, but they continued ignoring him. There was a distinct something off about them that unnerved him, so he resolved to pay them as much heed as they were paying him.

“Well Sterahl, a strange entity has dropped you off in a strange place,” he muttered to himself. “First thing’s first, is making sure things work how they should.”

Checking over his scrap-dagger, he was relieved to find that it had survived his sudden entry into this world intact. He let off a slicer into the air that went the few feet he would normally expect. He concentrated winds into the scrap-dagger with the same effort he was used to.

Sterahl turned, took a step and the world fell out from beneath him. He was sure he shouted in his surprise, but no sound rang out as he found himself suddenly suspended in void. Slowly there was a great buildup of heat that oppressed his form, until it was snatched away by jaws of cold.

Then Sterahl found himself standing in a whole new world.

A tree, short for how thick it was, dominated the scene, especially as its blossoms caught alight and fell to the ground. As light and shadow danced across walls hemming them in, Sterahl ran his eyes over the other people standing in this place with him and his mouth went dry.

They’re all… A cold pit of iron settled in his stomach. A glance up at the full moon shining back proved they weren’t Alerians, but he knew the real answer deep in his core. Suddenly, symbols flashed above his own and everyone else’s heads and he took stock of this new information, wondering idly what the symbols even stood for.

Two… allies. Three enemies. That entity said this was a war… But six combatants does not a war make. Unless this battlefield is just one tiny corner of it.

He stopped to take closer stock of the people he was sharing the space with, even as his skin crawled to look at them.

Three women to the right, two men to the left… Perhaps we are to fight and kill, then thrown elsewhere to fight and kill some more.

Suddenly, a grand cacophony of voices erupted from the tree.

Perish in flames, huh. Not exactly my idea of a good time…

He glanced to the right, then the left. Ally, enemy, ally… Or two enemies. In a perfect world, I think those furthest two would fight each other, while we four fight two on two… But this is no perfect world. If I was dumped here unceremoniously, no reason to expect it’s not the same for the rest of them. No guarantee our ‘sides’ will mean anything to anyone.

I’ll just have to hope my… ally doesn’t stab me in the back. He advanced, slowly, towards the two men, cautious of whatever they might pull out.

A war, huh? Well, Natsumi always said there was nothing discrete about the way I use Kelkeraz…

Slowly, he took a few deep breaths to steady himself, before affixing a grin to his face, unsteady though it were. “Greetings gentlemen! What say you fine lads and I throw down, hey?”

He twirled Kelkeraz lightly around a couple of fingers, then tightened his grip on the sword. Perhaps trying to goad two of them into fighting me isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, especially when I’ve little more than hope that my ostensible allies won’t turn on me themselves.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 4
1/27/2022 20:02:02   

“Why do you stand before me, Phantom Knight? I do not appreciate my dinner being interrupted by criminals.”

The King, a man of age and obese wealth, directed beady eyes down at the gaunt, thin figure standing at the foot of the marble stair ascending to his throne. The young man’s hooded cloak hung low over his face, shadowing his face in the low light of the throne room, pale fingers wrapped tightly around a skull-adorned staff that seemed more built to uphold his weight beyond anything else. When he spoke, his voice was low and cool, rippling across the large room like a mist.

“Forgive me, your Majesty… I have discovered a source of treachery among your court and saw it fit to act upon it without delay.”

“Well then! You can not change your shoes without my permission, so I am proud to see you are remembering your place, Erabis. Now, speak, my food is going to be as cold as the graves you play in if you keep delaying.”

Erabis’ answer was a letter, handed to the King’s assistant and carried up the steps to his impatient gaze. Unfolding the aged and crumpled parchment, the Phantom Knight watched as the King’s face paled and a layer of sweat beaded to life upon his balding head.

“Now, Erabis, you can’t immediately believe-!”

Any following excuses or empty promises quickly devolved into squeals of terror not unlike a swine before its slaughter as Erabis snapped into motion, a blast of spectral flame erupting from beneath his cloak and engulfing the King’s servant, sending him crumpling back down the white staircase. Stepping past the charred corpse without a word, the Phantom Knight’s eyes flared beneath his hood with a ghostly green radiance as the King’s royal guard moved in, spears already falling towards his form.

In a flash of spectral light, where once had been a gaunt man in robes, was now a knight garbed in the traditional armor of the kingdom, formed from the same ghostly energy that had set the ruler’s servant alight. The royal guards recoiled as the impact of their spears reverberated off the curved surface of a round shield on Erabis’ arm and he countered. A horizontal sweep from the blazing-green blade in his grasp erupted with a wave of necrotic energy and sent the men to their knees as if the life had been drained from their bodies all at once.

A clean swipe as he strode past dispatched the men without a second glance from the Phantom Knight as he now stood towering over the pot-bellied King.
“You don’t understand, the people came to believe in you and your friends more than me! If I’d let your adventures continue, society would have collapsed and chaos would have ensued as the people followed your example,” he groveled, reminding Erabis once again of a pig before it's doomsday, and sticking a stubby finger at the Phantom Knight, “Heroes are meant to service their King, to be a tool, but all you’ve become is a monster summoning up the dead!”

“You ordered my friends and I assassinated by the Order of Mages, who sent wraiths to destroy us, body and soul…I only barely managed to save them with my talents. As our King, it was your duty-”

“My duty is to protect what is mine! You weren’t meant to survive, you little rat, you were meant to be honored and remembered as examples that the common person shouldn’t follow! Since you survived, I figured painting you as a criminal worked just as well, but you couldn’t just let it be! You couldn’t just let your friends die like they were meant to!

Deep within the young necromancer, Erabis felt something snap. He’d never be able to put it to words, but a mortal soul is only able to withstand so much madness and pain before something gives way. Reaching forward to wrap his cold fingers around the man’s thick neck, Erabis’ garb returned to flowing black robes in a flash of spectral energy and roared as he consumed the mad king in green fire. The man thrashed and fought as the necrotic blaze spread across the throne room and soon engulfed the chamber entirely with an unholy hunger, but Erabis refused to seek shelter. The heat of the flames licked at the edges of his robes but he had come to terms with this end, dragging this screaming excuse for a man into oblivion.

As the king’s desperate attempts for freedom finally faded, the black smoke and heat had become more than Erabis could withstand. Stumbling back from the blackened form of the once-ruler of his homeland, the necromancer’s weakened form fell back towards the marble staircase and Erabis closed his eyes. If he died, his magics that held his three closest friends to their soul gems would fade and they could all meet again in oblivion. A fitting end to this tragedy, he thought.

He’d expected numerous impacts as he fell back to the throne room floor, not that it mattered in the end as he was consumed by his own funeral pyre, but a singular impact with a flat surface against his back cleared the smoke-fueled haze from Erabis’ mind. Opening his eyes to the familiar smell of flame, he was met with the sight of a great tree whose branches were adorned with flowers that seemed to capture the very inferno he’d just brought into creation moments earlier.

Burning brightly, before falling free, the fiery petals seem never-ending around the circular space. Sitting up from the prostrated position he’d landed in, he found he was once again garbed in his traveling leathers, instead of the robes of his fallen friend, whose soul seemed to have returned to its place in the soul gem tied to his left glove. Checking the rest of his person, everything he’d had in the King’s palace had accompanied him; a silver blasting rod, his Paladin friend's sword hilt, and the soul gems that held the protected souls of his three friends. Relieved, he blew out a breath and drug himself to his feet, grateful that whatever powers had decided to spare his life had also spared those of his companions. Before he could take in any more of his surroundings or try to deduce the magic that had stolen him away, a chorus of voices slammed against him from the trees' blazing limbs.

“Welcome to the Field of Petals. No Good can wilt you, no Evil can snuff you out. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in flame.”

“Perishing in flame was my intention, but…” he looked down at the remains of his companion’s souls, preserved in their emerald soul gems, their power seemingly restored by the same magic that had transported him, “...it seems we’re not done in this life yet.”

Around him, other exotic figures stood, likely kidnapped in a similar fashion and combined with the call for proof of worth, he finally understood the goal of this blazing arena. Still fighting for his life, just now with living beings instead of necrotic flame. Reaching across his belt to draw the metallic blasting rod from its holster, he rolled it nervously in his fingers.

“If I can’t die by my own hand, I refuse to die by theirs either…”
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 5
1/27/2022 20:16:01   

A long, drawn-out breath escaped a tall figure that had ducked into one of the, many, alleys of the Backstreets that litter The City. Pressed against the wall, the limited shade given by this buildings’ roof was just enough to hide this figure from the group of gas mask-wearing, hatchet-wielding individuals that had spotted them but a moment prior. The shadowed figure watched as this group continued their path, with all of them suddenly whipping their heads to the right at the sound of a distant gunshot.

Seeing the group take off towards the direction of the gunshot, the figure grimaced slightly as her gaze was fixed to the spot the group had left from. She took a brief moment to say a prayer to the poor unfortunate soul that was about to be descended upon and caught in a flurry of axe heads.

“Still.. Could be worse, could have attracted one of those freaks” Musing to themselves, the figure stepped out of their hiding spot and back onto the main road of this section of the Backstreet. They took great care in making sure that the streets were completely void of other life before quickly crossing over, tapping a certain section of a completely ordinary wall and waiting just a few seconds.

“Is the coast clear?” A barely audible voiced asks, muffled greatly from the thick layer of stone and concrete that separated them from the outside

“Yes, yes. Hurry up.” Came the response with a half-sigh, the hooded figure choosing to lean against the stone wall as they waited with very limited patience.

It would only take a few seconds, which felt much longer, for part of the wall to sink into the floor, revealing a small, rather cozy, office-looking interior with a large wooden table sat in the middle of the room, chairs of varying states of decay littered the room and a small dimly-lit lamp hung from the ceiling. A set of stairs carved into the back wall led up to a second floor, where the inhabitants of this small office would plan out their next job.

“You’re certain?”

“‘Fraid so, Serihl. We’ve been searching for two days now, and there’s been no sightings of anyone who even, remotely, fits their description.”

“Damn it, where the hell is this guy!?” Punctuated with the sudden meeting of flesh and wood, Serihl quickly rose from her chair, knocking the poor, crooked thing onto its back with a loud crash. If it wasn’t before, it was definitely broken now. A brief, silent moment passed between the pair before the silence was broken. The voice belonged to a third party, a young man who had heard the commotion from the room above, and had come down to see what all the noise was about.

“You’re paying for a new one.”

“Sure, sorry for the ruckus.” With another half-sighed response, Serihl waved the comment off, earning her a short, but annoyed, growl in return. With haste, the figure returned to the room upstairs, the woman across the table from Serihl not waiting for him to be out of earshot before continuing.

“Take a deep breath and try to retrace your steps one more time.”

“I’ve already told you everything, Tir, what else do you want from me?”

“I know, I know, but there’s always a chance that I may have skipped over some important detail that could help this wild search of yours.”

“Right… right.” Taking one last sip of her drink, Serihl took a deep breath, and began.

It started off just like any normal day, Subordinates racing from room to room, Arits barking out orders at Six in the morning, and me finding somewhere quiet in the office to rest before the coming search.
It was at this very moment that a stranger swung the doors of the office open. I had no idea how long they were standing outside the office, but they had at least overheard our conversation about this weapon.
Introduced as a Blacksmith of sorts, they pitched an idea of helping us find this weapon. Now, Arits was sceptical at first, hell, we all were, but as they continued their pitch I couldn’t help but feel just a little amount of trust forming for them. They were a Blacksmith after all, and their expertise could help us learn more about this Spear that we had been tasked to find. With a little convincing from yours truly, I got Arits to relent and allow this stranger to assist us.

“And that’s when-”

“On God, if you interrupt me again, I will put you in the dirt.”


But yes. It didn’t take long for the news to reach me. The subordinates sent with this Blacksmith were struck down after the Spear was found, and they had soon fled the area.
Needless to say… I was furious. I trusted this outsider, I genuinely believed they wanted to assist us, collect their portion of the reward and be on their way. Perhaps, afterwards, our paths would cross on the rare occasion, and we would get to do business again?

Serihl took a deep breath, her nails scraping against the wooden table as her fingers curl to form fists once again. That strange sensation was back, the one that felt like some tiny person was pinching the back of her brain with a pair of tweezers. It was that exact same feeling that washed over her when she caught sight of the one who betrayed her.

The tall woman, quite violently, shook off that alien feeling and returned her gaze to the figure sat across from her. Her gaze was soft and warm, with just a little hint of pity peeking out through the, admittedly small, cracks.

They said something… but I can’t recall what it was; Hell I don’t remember a lot of what happened after I caught up with them.. All I know, is that I felt this overwhelming sense of needing to crush them, make an example out of them, and to avenge the lives’ needlessly lost to this… this snake.

With her words carrying an almost overwhelming amount of venom, Serihl’s gaze found the table once again, noticing a trail of red liquid soaking into the old wood. Yep, that was probably going to take a lot to wash out. She quickly brings her hands up, and to her side, stuffing them into her jacket pocket before she continued

The encounter itself was brief, but granted me a little insight towards what I may face if our paths cross again-

“Sorry, I know I’m interrupting but this is important. How, exactly, did this confrontation play out?”

“You’re lucky I like you so much.”

“Certainly does have its benefits.”

There really isn’t much to say about the ‘fight’, if you could even call it that. Well, for one, they started by backing away, but quickly resorted to standing their ground as I, gradually, drew closer. Their eyes were focused on something and if I were paying more attention? There’s a good chance I would have figured it out, but-

“You were blinded by that overwhelming rage?”

“...I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were the one spinning this tale. Would you like to continue in my stead?”

“I… Sorry, Serihl.”

“You will be.”

As I approached, and readied a decisive blow, they sprang forwards with hammer gripped tight, ducking under my blow and delivering what would normally be a crippling blow straight to my kneecaps. But, you’re aware of how things like that turn out.

A short silence fell between the two before Serihl sighed once again, taking one of her half-bloodied fingers out from her pocket and pinching the bridge of her nose.

“You can respond to that.”

“So, that’s when you launched the second attack?”

Straight to their side, nearly punched right through the protective plate they were wearing. If not for that sheet of metal, there’s a high chance I could have ended them right then and there. Blow was strong enough to lift them off the ground, and over the side of the bridge. Honestly? I wouldn’t expect many people to live falling into a river with a coupla’ cracked ribs and metal pushing against your chest but… Hey, stranger things have happened here.

“Right… Right, anything else?”

“No, I do believe that’s where the story ends.”

Serihl grumbled to herself as she slowly made her way back to the Office. Her conversation with Tir proved to be pointless, and now? Now she was running out of options. That traitor had to be somewhere, she knew that for certain, but finding any trace of them had proved more than a little difficult, and she wouldn’t even get started on humouring the idea of finding a corpse.

Unbeknownst to the woman, her lonely walk home was about to be interrupted in a way she would never have thought possible.

There was nothing Serihl could do to react, no time for her to say anything. There was only this intense hit of dizziness before she collapsed to the floor, a single word from an unfamiliar voice echoing in her brain as her chin met concrete


Serihl bolted upright, her eyes frantic as she hastily scanned her surroundings for any hostiles before letting some of that sudden built-up tension escape her body. Slapping the sides of her face a couple of times, she decided to scan the room once more, this time with a much more level-headed approach.
She appeared to be in a pure, white, room, with no wallpaper and a single weirdly-shaped lamp sat on a small bedside table being its one and only feature. Serihl raised an eyebrow before pulling herself out of the bed, taking a few echoed steps towards the door on the opposite side of the room.

“Where the?..” The woman cut herself off as a familiar scent wafted into the room, that being the one of burning wood and plant life. Strange… something was definitely burning, so why did she feel so cold?

Then. She felt it, that undeniable feeling that something, somewhere, was watching you. She froze on the spot, her body fighting her brain’s command of fleeing and never looking back. Fighting through this strange bout of half-paralysis, lightning arced between her fingertips as she spun on her heels, turning to face whatever this recent tormenter was.

Imagine her surprise when she was met with the view of a vast field. A large, constantly burning, tree stood proudly in, what Serihl assumed, was the middle of this strange area. The flowers beneath it being mercilessly caught in the blazing inferno, only to grow back from its ashes like a phoenix.

It was at this point that Serihl noticed the other figures, all appearing to have arrived here at the same time that she did. She would then notice the strange symbols appearing over their heads, and a quick glance upwards would reveal hers as a pure white.

Then, she would turn her attention to the figure closest to her, clad in a mix of Leather and Scale mail stood a woman of a shorter stature than herself. Of course, this wasn’t to say she was short by any stretch of the imagination… it’s just that Serihl herself was really freaking tall.

Welcome to the Field of Petals. No Good can wilt you. No Evil can snuff you out. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in flame.
Snapping her out of her stupor, a cacophonous roar of voices hummed across the plain, echoing for a brief period before all was silent again.
For the first time in, quite a while, a smile broke out across Serihl’s features, with the mob boss fully turning to face the armoured warrior closest to her.

“Well, if the disembodied voices want us to prove ourselves… Care to dance, miss?”
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 6
1/28/2022 2:34:21   

Brauen was never quite awake. His eyes were heavy with fatigue, but his feet drug on, determined to make it through the forest before he rested. Though he knew his ability to handle any sort of bandit or thief was high, he didn’t like the odds if he stumbled upon an orc camp or other dangerous beast in these thick woods. He was well versed at sleeping odd hours with days in between and he knew his mind would fail before his body. With his mind pleasantly contemplating a logic puzzle that he had invented that was unsolvable, he knew it would be hours before his mind failed and even longer before his body did. As long as his mind didn’t tell itself that the puzzle was impossible, he knew he could make it out by dawn.

The fading light in the trees reminded him of marches long ago. His armor still creaked and stretched in the same way as it had back then, the pines whistling in the same way. All that was missing was the complaints of his fellow sappers and the sickly sweet, fatty smell of burning flesh, heavy on the wind. Though the forest around him was pristine and wild, he caught himself momentarily surrounded by roaring flames and his compatriots as they hurried through the hellfire of burning pines. He quickly focused his mind back on its puzzle, old memories locking safely away behind walls of repeating numbers and chains of logical fallacies.

Brauen wandered for hours in the dark. He could have sworn he knew this forest, having travelled through it many times before while in service of the King’s army and even more times as a travelling doctor and alchemist. He let his mind drift for a moment as he consulted his map. His path was right, his compass was true, but he could not shake the feeling that he would not be arriving at his intended destination. The sun had begun to rise as he stuffed his map back into his satchel, refocusing his mind as he realized his eyes had begun to close. As he drudged along, he could hear the call of the sergeants and the beat they called to keep the men on track. His feet instinctively began to match his memory’s shouted tempo, an old habit that had been taught to him once and beat into him many times over. The sun had begun to rise as he stuffed his map back into his satchel, refocusing his mind as he realized his eyes had begun to close. As fatigue's claws slowly retreated from his soul, Brauen was reminded that he was never quite awake. His eyes adjusting slowly to the growing light, Brauen continued down his chosen path.

His progress through the forest had finally begun to bear fruit as the trees began to thin. The trip through the woods had been more time-consuming than he remembered, but he had learned not to trust his memories any more than he trusted the world around him. Brauen had long since stopped questioning the reality he experienced, as it was either live the hallucinations that accompanied exhaustion or lose sleep from unproductive nightmares and visions of past evils. Reassurance came in the form of a winding road that suddenly broke from the trees, the transition from forest to established route sudden and surprising. Brauen contemplated if he had underestimated the years it had been since he had walked this path, baffled by the cobbled road that led him forward. Consider then the surprise he felt when confronted with a city full of black and white spires, stretching suddenly to the sky. He entered the city wearily, walking with his established clip, a cadence bouncing itself around his head as his hardened leather boots clacked along the path. He was suddenly surrounded by towering spires, developed buildings, and the faint sounds of city life, though too far away to convince him that they were real. While cities made him anxious to be out among the trees, this city gave him a sense of dread that clashed with memories of cityscapes. His pace quickened as his eyes blinked repeatedly, taking in the tall buildings that surrounded him, black and white spires quickly replaced with burning wooden apartments and blasted storefronts with each closure of his eyes. His pace quickened progressively, eventually breaking into a run, then a panicked sprint as he fled from the screams of townspeople and the crash of war around him.

Brauen finally came to a stop, his legs shaky with fatigue in a small, secluded square. The pervasive memories faded from his mind as he forced himself to focus, reciting ingredients and their affects in his mind until he could make sense of his surroundings. The square he found himself in appeared to be an oddity. It showed signs of habitation and seemed to be someone’s private corner of the city. Along each wall lay effects of someone’s life, a table and two chairs along one way, clotheslines draped along another, children’s toys left out, cast away as their owners ran towards the next game or adventure. In the middle of the square stood a large stone white stone. It was smooth to the touch and reached toward the sky, far above Brauen’s head. The base flowed seamlessly to the ground, as if the stone had grown out of it one day and the city was built around this ancient growth. Its surface was cool beneath his hand and a calming feeling spread through him, starting at the base of his wrist that was pressed against the rock and travelling through his body in waves. Against his better judgement, Brauen found his legs collapsing next to this stone, pressing his back up against it in quiet desperation to feel the calm that it emanated. As he relaxed for the first time in days, his eyes began to droop, and exhaustion took him. Blissful, dreamless sleep took him, and he thanked the powers that be for this rock in the strange city.

Brauen awoke suddenly to the sound of fire and the smell of burning leaves. His eyes flashed open quickly, his lids flipping over and over while his mind raced to make sense of the scene before him. In front of him was a massive tree, dropping leaves and petals in a broad circle around itself, each combusting as it floated lightly through the air. He stood in a rough circle, uneven in its presentation, with others standing to his left and right. Flashes of symbols showed themselves above each of the others and although he couldn’t see above his own head quick enough, he assumed something similar had appeared above him. He was acutely aware of what each symbol meant, though he didn’t know the source of that knowledge.

“Welcome to the Field of Petals. No Good can wilt you, no Evil can snuff you out. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in flame.”

“I suppose it’s teams then,” he said aloud, both to himself and those around him. His voice was strange in his throat and sounded off to his ears. It had been months since he had heard it aloud.

Brauen calmly took in the man to his left, nodding politely, before drawing his sling and seating a steel ball into it. He calmly stretched it tight and began to swing it lightly over his head, waiting for someone to approach or make a threatening gesture. He quietly began to whistle through his teeth, trying to match the tone of the sling as it cut circles in the air above his head. This dissonance filled his mind, blinding him to the memories of violence and carnage that clawed towards him from the shadows of his past. As he blinked the sleep from his eyes, Brauen realized though he was more rested than he had been in months, he could not make sense of his sudden change of scenery, and it was this break in logical progression that stuck to drove home that he was never quite awake.
DF MQ  Post #: 7
1/29/2022 20:55:43   

The call Sterahl made to his two enemies seemed like it would go unanswered, until the nearer lad—who looked like he hadn’t seen a proper night’s sleep in years—took note of Sterahl, twirling a sling above his head.,

“Oh yeah, sure.” The young man mumbled out. The lad’s body tensed as the lazy swing above his head became a determined assault, letting loose the sling’s occupant towards Sterahl.

For his own part, Sterahl had started moving as soon as the man’s body tensed. He leapt to the side as a whistling object careened through the spot he’d occupied a moment before. But the lad was not done with him yet, a swift hand slipped into his bandolier and emerged with a small container bearing a great light, which was deftly placed in the sling and brought to speed.

While the previous projectile had been aimed directly at Sterahl, this one seemed to be falling a few feet short. Sterahl slammed his eyes shut a breath before the bottle burst with a great roaring sound that left his ears ringing

Blinking at the spots that swam in his vision he stumbled backwards slightly as his balance faltered.

“Starlt! Karom!” Sterahl coughed in the darkness as he stumbled about on unsteady legs in the wake of the Deeps Collapse.

“We’re here, Sterahl! Under the cart!” Came a nearby, muffled reply.

The young Vashtera blindly reached out, finding wood. Taking hold, he heaved upwards. Sounds of scurrying underpinned the creaking wood and his groaning muscles.

“We’re clear!” came the voice again, heard clearly this time.

Sterahl let his burden go, which led to an almighty crash as the cart fell to pieces.

A scratching sound soon blossomed into light as a match was struck, illuminating Starlt’s face. The young Dwarf looked back at his friend and his brother, his breath haggard, as dirt and blood mixed on his face. Looking around, he found a lantern and lit it, the piercing light fully revealing their surroundings.

“Well, we’re not getting back up that way…” Sterahl muttered, gazing up into a shaft that travelled an unknowable distance up. The light from their lantern petered into darkness, no sign of the safety far above that they had left.

“We’ve not much choice ‘ere. Gon’ ‘ave to try and find another way out.” Karom grumbled.

Looking around, they soon found a tunnel, the three young men nodding to each other and heading down it. After a few minutes light started to trickle in, as they emerged into a massive cavern several kilometres deep.

“It’s beautiful…” Sterahl whispered, enraptured by a kaleidoscope of colour that covered every visible inch of the cavern. From glowing fungi to glittering crystals, set against rainbow walls, there was a wealth of visuals wherever one cast their eye.

“And every last bit of it will kill us.” Starlt spat, jolting Sterahl out of his reverie.

“Y’don’t needa tell ‘im dat, brother. Ev’ryone knows ‘ow dang’rous the Deeps are.” Karom grumbled.

Starlt inclined his head, silently assenting to his brother as he squinted into the distance. “Still, we’re lucky. This is only a minor cavern, so we didn’t fall that far really, only a few kilometres.”

“Well, let’s go. Gon’ need to be quick if we’ve any hope.” Karom grunted, setting off.

An impact by a small, hard object against his stomach brought Sterahl back to the present. He coughed violently as the air was punched out of him. A second impact against his chest resounded with a sharp crack that drew a brief cry from him.

Stars still swimming through his vision, he blindly pushed Kelkeraz ahead of him and was rewarded with something slamming into the blade and bouncing off.

As he kept blinking, his vision slowly came back into focus. Sterahl lurched forwards in an unpredictable, stumbling arc towards the young sling bearer, keeping Kelkeraz ahead of him. Sorry lad, not gonna just sit here and let you pelt me all day.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 8
1/30/2022 19:56:05   

As Suraeko swept her eyes across the blazing field, she felt her gaze suddenly pulled to the sky. Streaks of white and black carved through the air, forming two sets of circular signs. Beneath them, her opponents.

Farthest away, a black spiral hung in the air, spinning in perpetual motion. With the burning tree in the way, the chosen one was hidden. All she knew for certain was that someone was there.

Another black wheel was traced into the sky. Below, a tall figure, though the burning embers reduced him to a blur.

More unknowns.

Three more symbols hung in the air. Pristine white, formed with straight lines like prison bars. Far to her left, she could make out another figure. Tall, burnt muscular skin, covered in even more scars than the huntress herself.

Veteran. Potential. He took out a large claymore and beckoned to the two spiral-chosen. Distracted.

Two more figures flanked Suraeko. On her left, a curious specimen. Humanoid, clad head-to-toe in some fashion of armor akin to an automaton. Thick white cloth plated with some unknown metal. Even more bloody unknowns. At the very least, Suraeko took note of the hand-cannon holstered at their sides. Something familiar.

Finally, there was the woman to the right. One-eye slashed over, she too bore the scars of battle. Knives hung around her form, yet she wore little armor, only red leathers over a white shirt. Curious.

Six combatants, five potential threats, all enclosed by a wall of stone. Were these actual people or manifestations of the specter? Either way, the huntress was being tested. She was armed with little knowledge and only with the barest of her essentials. Of all her hunts, this would be Suraeko’s toughest yet.

She was counting on it.

As she looked around, Suraeko felt it. The Carnivore was calling to her, restless and eager for release. It asked: who was first?

“Well, if the disembodied voices want us to prove ourselves. . .”

It was then that the scarred lady called out to the huntress. She gave a wide smile, baring her teeth. No pretense; no hesitation. She was out for blood. At that moment, something sparked in the huntress. It was as if Suraeko was looking into a mirror.

“Care to dance, miss?”

Real or not, it didn’t matter. She could feel her heart beating in her chest.

Finally . . . Someone else who understands!

With those words, it was settled. Suraeko closed her eyes and brought the glaive close. Carefully, she traced its edge along her cheek, and a small trickle of blood came forth.

Sweet. How sweet—

Suraeko licked her lips as she sunk into a trance. The red scent of blood, the warmth on her flesh— it seemed to drown out the whole world. Far sweeter than that of the Captain’s. If the woman was real, how much sweeter would hers be? She couldn’t wait to find out.

She opened her eyes with her own maddening smile. Her voice quivered with excitement: “With pleasure. Don’t leave me disappointed.

The Carnivore gave herself to the bloodlust, and it guided her towards her prey. Sprinting like a wild animal, she drew closer, running along the ember-lit wall. The huntress pulled her glaive back, ready to move into a thrust. But just as she was to meet her prey, the huntress shifted her grip.

If the warrior had any weaknesses, she would find them.

She pushed off, fainting to the left into a spin. The air hissed as she carried the momentum into a downward strike, ready to tear into the warrior's neck with her spikes.

Show me. Show me what you are worth—
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 9
1/30/2022 20:52:39   
How We Roll Winner

This had to be a dream.

Hydna was semi-surrounded by: a tall – by tall meaning really tall – lady, a shorter armored lady, a buff wrinkled guy with a really bad sunburn, what seemed to be an insomniac hobo, and a skinny guy who looked like he’d had a little too much cosmetic surgery. All along the circular wall, in that order.

Hydna wasn’t sure which bothered her more: the fact they all looked like they came out of a role-playing game, or that they were all taller than her.

None of them seemed to have made a move yet. Maybe they were as flabbergasted as she was? No, she thought, eyeing them nervously. The two women to her right were already sizing each other up, and she was pretty sure she saw the hobo nod to the skinny guy to his left.

A thought occurred to her. The symbols!

Starting with Miss Six Feet Tall, the order went White Black White (herself) White Black Black. So surely that meant … Miss Six Feet Tall and Sir Sunburn were on her side? It sounded about right, surely whatever or whoever dumped her here would put her in a fair three on three battle … right?

There were two Black symbol guys to her left and only one to her right. It wouldn’t be very fair to leave Sir Sunburn to fend all by himself. And besides, she thought, sparing a glance at the gigantic blade … thing Armor Lady held, for sure I ain’t dealing with that.

Hydna turned and found she had looked over just in time; the hobo had suddenly pulled out – she did a double take – a sling? He looked like he was about to toss–?

Grenade! Hydna yelped and did the natural thing: she bolted. Reflexively, she pulled up her helmet at the same time. The visor made a satisfying and comforting click as the visual sensors powered on.

Where where where– oh right! The tree would make great cover. The massive trunk would work pretty well for running circles around these guys. Plus, she had her liquid cable launcher.

She was about to make a break toward the great tree when her suit AI alerted:
[Warning. Temperatures at 150°C or higher detected.]
A hundred and fifty degrees C, about enough to cook a steak. Yikes, she didn’t think the falling petals were that hot. If that was the case, if even one of those flaming petals landed on her hair, she would be as crispy as Satsuma gyoza. Fortunately the branches of the tree only reached about 10 feet away from the trunk, so she had some distance to cover before she ran into the firestorm. Better to skirt around the trunk–?

That was when she noticed the suit AI was still talking.
[Power cell levels at 98%.]
No way. What the hell?


Instantly her visor’s visual feed lit up. The hobo had thrown a flashbang. Fortunately her helmet’s visual feed protected her from the temporary blindness that would have followed, though the sudden flare did make her eyes sting, like she had turned on bright mode on Blibber.

Hydna’s thoughts turned back to the suit AI’s earlier warning. Somehow the suit’s power cell was draining with just her helmet on? Before she could ponder it further, her visor adjusted itself and she saw Sir Sunburn–

--scream as the creature latched onto the side of the Khakkhara.

“Telesilla!” she yells, forgetting to call her teammate her call sign.

“Hydna, get back!” Fury Four roars, as she wrestles with the controls.

Hydna sets her jaw. “Not without you.” She flicks the controls and her ship’s engines ignite, and she brings the ship around. Through the targeting reticle, she sees it lash and Fury Four–

–eat a sling projectile to the chest.

The sudden surge of adrenaline, both remembered and current, wiped every other thought from her mind. Frag it, she wasn’t gonna let these guys beat up poor Sunburn on her watch, even if he could take care of himself.

Hydna turned and charged toward the stone wall instead, running in as great strides as she could (she cursed being so short).

One, two … five! Close enough!

She brought her feet together and clicked her heels –


Hydna’s rocket boots activated, “jumping” her up at least five feet into the air. She thrust out her left arm, and the liquid cable responded accordingly, shooting and latching onto the smooth wall. The muscles in her left arm flexed in conjunction with the cable’s retract as she swung toward the fight ahead, covering a circular arc of a 20 feet radius.

“HEY SWISS-HOLE!” she yelled, as she yanked out the Savager and took aim at the hobo.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 10
1/31/2022 15:31:45   

Erabis was no stranger to chaos. He had willingly thrown himself into death's oblivion and still paid the price with the aching scars on his soul. Yet, he was still slightly taken a-back by the ferocity at which the strangers descended upon each other with. Across the circular arena from him, two women were already nearly tearing into each other, while to his right, the remaining three "pawns" were closing in on each other with nothing but malicious intent. He was meant to prove his worth in this kidnapping. For what, the Phantom Knight didn't yet know, but blood sport rarely ended with a slap on the wrist for the unworthy.

Giving the group to his right a secondary glance after a bright flash of artificial brilliance caught his peripheral vision, Erabis decided it was time to avoid any potential fallout from the trio and kicked off from the arena floor. Long legs carried him across the arena and as he neared the rain of flaming petals from the great tree, he did a quick step to his left, giving the beautiful display a few more feet of distance. Were he present, Oraghan would've scolded him about not reinforcing his cloak against elemental magics, but he wasn't and Erabis hadn't. He hadn't done a lot of things and now with this strange blood sport hijacking any other goals he might've had, a brief fear that he may never get to use this second chance at life settled in his stomach. He'd planned to simply burn in the flames of his own vengeance with his former king... and yet, reality itself seemed fit to make him earn his right to keep existing. His right to live, perhaps truly for the first time in a long while.

As he passed the burning tree and felt its heat even through his layers of leather, he was reminded of the fiery tone Illucia would've taken if she knew he was thinking like this. Fear had no place in the heart of an adventuring party and the Phantom Knight locked his will around that idea, once again calling on the very spirit and fire that Illucia herself had lived with. Spectral-green energy burst from within the brawler's soul gem and coiled around both fists as he moved free of the tree's radius, working into a sprint fueled by the peak athletic power that Illucia was so proud of. Every muscle nearly ached with sudden energy and longed to put it to use. Eyes a-glow with the same emerald power that now solidified around his forearms into a pair of ghostly fighter's gauntlets, Erabis couldn't help but grin. She was always his favorite to wield in battle, both from her insatiable fighting spirit and the sheer cruelty of her steel-knuckled gauntlets, rivets running along the plates of each finger.

Ahead of him, the one woman wielding a glaive had already pushed her enemy against the warmly-colored wall and seemed prepared to simply relieve her of life's burdens in one movement. The wise decision may've been to wait for her opponent to counter and strike when they were possibly locked in a grapple, but wisdom had never been he or Illucia's strongest attribute. Instead, as the glaive-wielder feinted left and cut downward at the foe in front of her, the Phantom Knight took advantage of his sprint's momentum and swung his left gauntlet in a right-curving hook towards the glaive-user's left ribs. If he could break something, perhaps even damage a kidney, his odds would increase exponentially... especially if both of "pawns" decided he was the greater threat.

Again, Illucia's words from their training echoed in his memory.

"Numbers don't decide a fight. Skill, passion, refusing to break... that's what separates the fighters, from the thugs. Show me which one you are."
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 11
2/1/2022 17:59:15   

”...You can’t be serious.”
“Afraid so, boss.”

Tir sighed, pulling her hand away from its previous position of pinching the bridge of her nose. Sat in front of her was a single sheet of white paper, and the woman knew all too well what this meant.

“Alright.. Who is it this ti-” Flipping the sheet over, Tir’s sentence drifted away from her as she stared wide-eyed at the information she had now been given. Written in bold, large letters, a handsome reward, and the most important part? A picture.

Tir felt her heart in her throat as she re-read the paper, making sure she wasn’t just hallucinating, or something…

But, unfortunately, the reality of the situation had finally caught up to the woman, and she couldn’t be more aware that something terrible had happened… As, sitting on the desk in front of her?


Serihl O’las

Last seen - Several days ago

Reward: Money, and a single favour.

Serihl’s cocky grin waned slightly as her choice of opponent decided to cause first blood to themselves, rather than let the mob boss have that satisfaction. Truthfully? She was a little annoyed, and had no problems with making that known with a soft click of her tongue followed by an aside glance… This, however, did not last.

Locking eyes with the armoured warrior once again, Serihl quickly realized that something had changed within them. Their gaze was maddened, fixated on what was in front of them like a predator sizing up their prey moments before they would pounce. Serihl laughed softly, seeing that her enemy obviously enjoyed the feeling of combat just as much as she did..

Finally.. Someone who understands

The woman spoke with a surprisingly soft, yet strangely monotonous tone… But somehow, there was this hidden energy behind it, like she was just barely able to hold in her excitement. It, truly, matched her similarly crazed look, that Serihl was fairly certain was capable of kllling someone all by itself. Those two, coupled with that infectious grin of hers.. Serihl couldn’t help but wonder if she had, maybe, bitten off more than she could chew with this one?


“With pleasure. Don’t leave me disappointed"

Another short chuckle would escape from Serihl, the mob boss taking a half-step forwards before her opponent had leapt off of their back foot, racing towards her.
However, this glaive-wielder wasn’t the only warrior sprinting towards her, as Serihl caught the forward movement of another fighter in her peripheral, and they appeared to be heading straight for the pair.

Were they trying to intrude? On Her battle? Unacceptable. Completely, and utterly, unacceptable

Still in the process of taking her half-step, Serihl pushed off of her front foot, closing the small gap that Suraeko had left between them for her weapons’ reach. In that moment, she reached up, grabbing the wrist of the fighter mere moments before her weapon would have ripped through Serihl.

“A moment, please.”

Serihl would then push her attacker’s hand upwards, allowing her a moment to take another step forwards and thrust out her palm towards their chest. She wouldn’t put too much power behind this attack, it wasn’t meant for damaging purposes… just to force them back while she dealt with the problem

With a face like, well, thunder, Serihl turned her attention to the interloper, her glazed-over eye staring directly into his before it, briefly, exploded in a violent display of purple.

“This is your one warning. Wait your turn."

With this, Serihl brought her arm up before thrusting down with her elbow, hoping to catch the intruder on the top of the head
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 12
2/2/2022 0:04:15   

The familiar whistle of his sling kept Brauen’s mind from wandering. His first missile missed its mark as the vampire dove out of the way and with practiced movements, Brauen pulled out one of his flashes. He loaded, drew and slung the bottle quickly, shielding his eyes and ears from the resounding flash. Once he was sure he was fine, he drew three more bullets and slung them in quick succession. Two made contact, hitting their marks in the gut and torso, but the third was blindly batted by the man. Brauen paused a moment as the man lurched toward him, wondering what to hit him with next. His fingers clicked together as he pulled an acid bottle from his bandoleer and he slung it, before there was an odd shout above him as one of the other contestants swung over his head, propelled by what he assumed to be some new type of alchemical compound strapped to their boots. He absentmindedly left the other man, who was still dazed, to pay attention to the flying individual, now hanging from a line connected to the wall, swing over, and raise something at him. Squinting his eyes to figure out what it was, Brauen was met by a striking force square on his shoulder, and he quickly dived out of the way from anymore incoming fire. As his face met dirt and he scrambled forward to avoid follow up attacks, his mind shifted for a second.

Brauen’s face met mud as arrows rained down around him. He quickly curled into a feeble ball, but before he could shut his mind to the world and wait to die, a rough hand pulled him up by the back of his collar. The loose armor hanging off his teenage frame made for an effective harness, and he was on his feet and moving forward, forced back into this world of noise and fire. He could hear the rush of air leaving the men around him as they were pierced by the deadly rain. A thick, sickly-sweet smell hung in the air as flaming arrows soaked in pitch and oil rained down, burning steadily on the men that they struck. Over the clawing roar of men desperate to survive he could hear the sharp tones of his sergeant, “drive on you wretches! Death waits here, life is over that hill!”

Brauen quickly scrambled to his feet, his hand still grasping the acid bottle. He could still hear the sergeant, using the rough shouts to grip his sling and loud the acid. He took aim at the still swinging flyer and with a few quick rotations, letting lose the bottle where he predicted her path of travel would end up. Retreating a few more steps, he readied a flame bottle and swung it in readiness for whoever advanced on him next, as he was obviously outnumbered.
DF MQ  Post #: 13
2/2/2022 15:57:52   

For all of her brief life, Suraeko felt in control.

She simply could not understand it. In the moment of life and death, the world showed itself in perfect clarity. There was no grief, nor fear. No past or future that could haunt her. The only life worth living was in the present, in this moment.

Her mind echoed back to the Captain. “Murderer. . .”

No. It was they who could not understand. Everyone else was too blind. Too slow. They were unwilling to commit themselves completely, and that hesitation was all she needed to take a life.

But there was another who felt it. The world advanced instant by instant. As the huntress brought down her glaive, the scarred-one did not hesitate. She moved, matching her speed and more. The stage was set for the battle of their lives. But then, they both sensed it. The sound of footsteps. A blur of motion out of the corner of her eye.

Another? Who?

Suddenly, the warrior shifted, reaching for Suraeko’s wrists. She could feel the raw pressure even through her gauntlets. Her eyes narrowed, the smile fading from her face. The Carnivore snarled, trying to shake free, but her grip was like adamantine.

Do you intend to waste this?! On the worthless?! Or are you so scared that—

Through her seething rage, however, Suraeko could see the pause on the warrior’s face. Sensing her thoughts, she spoke. “A moment please.”

The warrior let go of one of her hands. Suraeko moved to reach for the other, to shake it free, but the warrior would not give her time. With precision she brought her hand back, ready to strike at Suraeko’s chest. With all her strength, she could have put a hole in the huntress. Much to her surprise, it was only a faction of her might, a mere tap by comparison. But it was enough to send the Carnivore back.

She leaned into the momentum, pulling her glaive to her chest and rolled. As soon as her feet touched the ground, Suraeko pushed. Like a wound spring, she was ready to leap back and tear into the warrior. However, she was occupied. The one from before. He had not recognized him earlier. Tall, thin but masculine, alabaster-like skin. He was like a walking corpse or a doll, enshrouded by black leathers and a cloak. An agent of the specter?

Her mind was pulled back to the bleeding face of the Captain. And yet, the Carnivore could see the light in the figure’s eyes. He wasn’t dead. Not yet.

But what really caught her attention was the man’s gauntlets. They spiraled around his hands with the same light as his eyes, projecting into reality by sheer force of will. It was obvious. Magic.

It was clear. Both the huntress and the warrior were of one accord. “This is your one warning. Wait your turn."

As the scared-one lunged forward, Suraeko moved back and around, focusing on the glaive, willing it to feed. She could feel it bite into flesh, thousands of sharp teeth pressing into her soul. As it fed, the onyx staff began to spark with cerulean light, burning with her raw anima.

The scarred warrior brought her elbow down towards the pale doll. He was ready, pulling his gauntlets up to catch the strike.

My turn.

“You heard her. Go away.

Suraeko lunged towards the doll’s left side. Mere inches away from his flesh, the glaive ignited. The sound of thunder echoed across the field as a wave of raw force slammed into the pale man, carrying him off towards the boughs of the burning tree. Hopefully the blossoms would be good enough company.

“There. . .”

Suraeko clutched her shoulder, desperately trying to hide her weakness at that moment. But it was no use. It had been a long time since she let the glaive feed from the source. She could still feel its sting across her nerves. The huntress had almost forgotten what it felt like. A gift from a dead friend— a magitech battery, often made the sacrifice for her. But now, its absence reminded her: she was being tested.

With heavy breaths, Suraeko thrusted the glaive’s head into the ground. Powerful as it was, it could not compete with the warrior’s raw speed and strength. If she wanted her blood, she would need to move faster.

“You and I. . . '' Suraeko reached for the knives at her waist, taking one of each into her hands. “Deserve this much.” The huntress pointed the edge at her own chest. “Suraeko. Carnivore.”

"Serihl O'las. Make sure you commit it to memory, alright?" The warrior gave a wink, clearly enjoying the spectacle.

Suraeko simply nodded. “Now. Where were we?. . .”

Without another word, the huntress spun the knives in her hands. Gripping them by the blade, she tossed them straight towards her equal. As soon as they left her hands, she swiped another from her waist. Another pair of knives went sailing, their paths aimed off to each side towards the ground. Suraeko knew that with Serihl’s speed, it would be near impossible to land a direct hit. The knives would be far more likely to find purchase in the wall or the dirt.

But how would the warrior fare when surrounded?

As the knives hissed through the air, Suraeko twitched her fingers, and her intent flew with them.

Come back. Kill.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 14
2/2/2022 18:42:22   

A number of things began to happen at once. The first thing Sterahl took note of was the second man. A very pale man, he glanced in their direction before running off, causing Sterahl to frown.

Fleeing from my rejoinder to battle… and abandoning his ally to boot. Natsumi would have sunk an arrow into his craven skull.

A shout came from behind and Sterahl brought his head around, looking at the source—his own ally, seemingly springing to his aid. She was garbed in some strange human armour, bearing aloft a strange object. The stories called it a ‘gun’.

Sterahl felt his blood run cold. The stories painted those weapons as the ultimate killing tool: Aim, fire and watch your target keel over dead. The sleepless man didn’t deserve to be so summarily—

A loud retort sounded and Sterahl turned his head to look at the sling-wielder, just in time to see the man as he fell to the ground.

No, Sterahl corrected himself: The man didn’t fall, he dove to the ground. Whatever the young woman’s weapon was, it wasn’t as powerful as the ones from the stories.

The sleepless man came up, his attention having completely faded from Sterahl and let loose an attack at the female aggressor, before scrambling back a bit, clearly on the defensive, his eyes darting back and forth.

Were you too expecting the pale man to assist you? Instead he hared off for the two women… Is that the type of man he is? A fool who thinks only a man can fight? Sterahl bit his lip, glancing at the tree blocking his sight on the other three fighters. A nervous knot wound tight in his stomach.

Did you go in search of an ‘easy fight’ rather than face me? Indecision rocked Sterahl and his mind flashed back.

“As you all know, our motto is that ‘discretion is the better part of valour,’ The Master stated, pacing slowly back and forth. “However, there is an exception. ‘There is no discretion in war.’”

Sterahl frowned, confused by that statement. From what he understood, there were all types of activities in war that required discretion

He wasn't the only one confused. “But Master,” called another young student. “In war… isn’t there a need for messengers and the like? For subterfuge and sabotage?”

The Master nodded, smiling. “Yes, wartime does indeed call for such actions. That is not what the phrase ‘There is no discretion in war’ means. It means that in war you will do anything you have to, in order to win.. Any war you fight will likely be one for your very survival. Defeat means the end—for you, your family, your very way of life.”

“So if you find yourself wrapped up in war, do whatever you have to. Whether that’s slipping into the enemy’s barracks under dead of night and killing their soldiers in their sleep. Or ganging up, five of you against a single, inferior foe. Even putting arrows into the backs of fleeing enemies. Whatever you have to do to ensure your victory.”

As The Master’s words continued to echo around his head, Sterahl snapped back to the present, rapidly running through his options. His ally and enemy were both ranged fighters, but he had no clue how the other three fought.

He came to a decision. The pit in his stomach settled as he raised his gaze, determined.

Hang The Master’s words. My honour—my PRIDE won’t let this situation stand. Sterahl pivoted on the spot, racing towards the tree and its burning bounty.

“You two have fun! I’m going after that craven dastard!” He called over his shoulder before turning his attention to the burning petals that drifted lazily to the ground before him.

Sterahl bobbed and weaved around the beautifully dangerous flowers, crying out when an errant blossom briefly grazed his cheek, leaving an angry welt that nonetheless blended in with the rest of his skin.

As he rounded the trunk, he saw the two women locked in close combat, as the pale man ran up to them. The woman who had been denoted as an ally called out, clearly unhappy at the new arrival, moving to repel the interloper, her elbow coming down towards his head.

Then the other woman moved her weapon towards the pale man. A great thundering roar rang out and the man flew back towards the tree, skidding to a halt beneath its rain of falling embers. Sterahl had no idea what kind of weapon could do that, but he could worry about that later.

“Ladies!” Sterahl called out. A clump of petals fell all at once in front of him and he cleared them from his path with a powerful swipe of his sword, focusing on the pale man. “Hope you don’t mind, but let me take this execrable fool off your hands!”
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 15
2/2/2022 21:05:00   
How We Roll Winner

The ship shudders, the compensators straining. They are not damaging the Khakkhara, but simply being near them was tearing apart the shipboard systems, distorting and glitching out the computer. She can see her squadmates through the viewport, but they cannot help her.

The AI gives a warning.
A dashboard dial explodes into sparks. She yanks the controls and her ship bucks, swerving aside–

–right into another one of them.

She screams into the void.


“AHHHHHH-OOF!” The cable disengaged but Hydna’s built up momentum carried her straight into the wall. Her shoulder slammed against the stone and she bounced off, rolling once, twice in midair before finally landing face first into the charred grass.

Hydna rolled and scrambled back to her feet. Too many things going on at once.
Power levels at 71%.
She’d felt a surge of supreme confidence as her wildly placed shot managed to nail the hobo in the shoulder. Fat lot of good that did; the hobo had reacted with startling speed, retaliating with a thrown bottle that caught her square in her path of descent. The bottle had shattered easily and some kind of liquid had splashed all over her. The fall hadn’t hurt her much thanks to her armor, but as for the liquid–

Quickly Hydna looked down at her chestplate; it hadn’t lit her on fire or anything, it was just trickling and–


In a heartbeat, she realized what it was. Acid! The hobo had hit her with a bottle of acid!
Suit integrity compromised.
No time to think. Hydna yanked out the fistful of dirt she’d gathered back in what seemed like a lifetime ago, in the black and white city. She slapped it against the acid stains, taking care to keep the dirt between the acid and her gloved fingers.

Two bullets well spent.

The acid quickly devoured the dirt, leaving behind only some faint stains on her chestplate. Her quick thinking had saved the unarmored parts of her suit from disintegrating. A few seconds slower and she’d have been rocking the bare midriff look, and maybe ended up with a liposuction while she was at it.

Hydna shoved back the remaining dirt into her pocket; the hobo was already swinging another bottle overhead. Squinting, Hydna could see the roiling flames within the bottle, flames not unlike the fiery tree nearby.

Perfect. Wonderful. So this guy not only carried bottles of acid, he also carried bottles of fragging fire and who knew what else–

It was as though a spotlight lit up in Hydna’s head. Of course! If this swiss-hole wanted to carry around this many dangerous compounds on him, why, she’d give him a taste of his own medicine. One clean shot and this swiss-hole would be cheese fondue. Baked, bubbling cheese fondue.

Hydna had raised her pistol and was taking aim when she realized Sir Sunburn had gone running for the trio fighting way off in the distance.

“Grandma’s schnitzels!” she yelled after him indignantly, completely forgetting she was trying to get the drop on the hobo. “You’re really gonna ditch me like that? That is not okay!”

Her suit AI warned dispassionately:
Power levels at 67%.

AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 16
2/4/2022 21:44:18   

A growl bubbled in Erabis’ throat as the woman against the wall performed a quick feat of heroism and removed the other from the path of his strike, causing his blow to go wide and nearly yank the Phantom Knight off his feet. Emerald eyes widened as the victim of the attacking woman pierced him with a glare and lashed out, her elbow plummeting like a guillotine aimed for the top of his skull.

Rather than try to avoid the blow, Erabis used the extension of his left arm and brought the top of his gauntlet up to catch the hammering strike against the steel plating over his forearm. What was this, some kind of tavern brawl? Elbows, kicks, punches… perhaps he’d been closer to reality in calling it a blood sport after all.

Unfortunately for these strangers, the spilling of blood led to death, and he was far more familiar with death than most.

Flashing the woman ahead of him a tilted grin that Illucia would’ve been proud of, he curled the fingers of his right arm in preparation to bury the blow into her stomach. Even as he began to make his move, a voice from his left echoed the first woman’s sentiment.

“You heard her. Go away.

“Oh you little-!”

The rest of his words were lost in the clap of thunder that seemed to erupt from nowhere and caught the Phantom Knight square in his left side, sending him kareening across the arena. Even from the brief glimpses of his environment as he flew, Erabis knew he was flying towards the flaming tree and the increasing possibility of injuries he could not recover from.

He needed to recover from this. Don’t lose your momentum, Illucia would’ve told him. No matter how hard they hit you, keep moving forward.

Closing his eyes as he felt himself begin to lose altitude, he let her spirit guide his movements and twisted mid-air to finally land on the hard floor for the second time primarily on his back, the thick leathers around his torso absorbing most of the painful landing. Rolling with the impact, he came up on one knee, coughing a few times from the sudden heat closing in around him.

The petals would, without a doubt, eat through his cloak if given the chance and as he reached up to wrap the heavy material around his body for protection, movement caught his glowing eyes to his right. A new contender, male this time, who was already speaking. To him? No, about him, to the women.

“Hope you don’t mind, but let me take this execrable fool off your hands!” the man called to them and Erabis doubted they’d even heard.

So, he was to be knocked around by all involved, like some rag doll? He’d wrestled with abominations and residents of death far more terrifying than any mortal could be.

‘Show ‘em how we treat folks who think us fools, Erabis...

He’d stopped trying to figure out if the voice in his head was his own or that of his companions, but it didn’t matter. These strangers didn’t know who they were dealing with, but it was past due he showed them. Whirling on the man and inhaling deep into his chest as he did so, cloak still wrapped tight around his body, Erabis unleashed the fury that was boiling in his core.

The scream that erupted from his throat was closer in volume and pitch to that of a banshee’s haunting wail, echoing around the arena but primarily focusing the wrath towards his new enemy. As his lungs emptied, he watched the flaming petals between him and his foe be caught up in the blast of sound, whipping away and towards his foe.

Inhaling a lungful of scorching air to recover, the Phantom Knight wasn’t going to see if his foe was truly affected by the wail, already taking long back-steps until he passed the rain of flaming petals. The smell of burning cloth stung at his nose and he reached back to grip his cloak again, giving it a few snaps by its edge to put out any newborn flames he couldn’t immediately see.

Completely ignoring the risk of immolation, this cloak had been a gift from Oraghan, his fellow mage. His foes would need to peel it off his cold corpse before he parted with it.
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 17
2/5/2022 15:58:42   

Brauen’s sling paused, and he unloaded it as his opponent became distracted. Attacking those unaware may be the king's way, but he had given it up long ago. Instead, he focused his mind inwardly for a second. The adrenaline that had masked the pain of the blow he had received from her strange machine gave way to the dull agony of a hard bruise, letting him know the extensiveness of his injury. While he could tell that nothing was broken, moving and loading would be a bit more painful than it had been. He briefly thought of downing a flask of Pain’B’Gone™, but thought better of it. He knew that his medicinals were all he had to contend with some of the more exotic of participants. He waited a moment to see if his adversary's attention would return to him, inklings ranging their way back into his mind. The sound of burning flowers was apparent in the air and continued to bring with faint hints to his mind of the smells that accompany the flames of war. Brauen began to reach for another projectile, finally resolving to start the next phase of action himself, when a scream ripped through the air. Though not directed at Brauen, it sent him spiraling, his feet losing themselves for a moment and his weight propelling him for-

-ward into the splintered opening that his comrade’s axes had cut into the solid oak doors. He could hear the screams of the ladies within cutting through him, each successive cry contrasting his rapid, labored breathing. The fighting in the city had been long and drawn out, with Brauen’s survival being a matter more of luck than skill or experience. All he held was his sword, dull and stained from hours of cutting through armor and men. He was one of the first through the doors and while the others quickly followed behind him and began picking through the royal’s room, he was stuck frozen, looking on the whimpering group in the back of the room. Women and children huddled closely together, while an older women screeched in the middle of them, clinging tightly to a baby. The group did their best to squirrel its way as far back into the corner as it could. Brauen stood and stared for a long moment before sheathing his sword and approaching them. “Come with me,” he said, trying to speak with as much authority as he could muster.

The women only stared at him. He repeated himself, holding out his hand in a show of peace. They only continued to stare, the older women’s screeches becoming unbearable. One boy pushed his way to the front, standing bravely before the soldier. Brauen eyed the boy, before digging in the small satchel he had been issued and pulling out a small piece of bread. He held it out for the boy, who greedily reached for it, before freezing and slinking back into the group, his face full of terror. Brauen turned quickly, well aware of the shadow that had appeared behind him.

His Captain's mailed fist struck him in the nose. He heard the crunch as blood began to flow freely down his nose and tears welled in his eyes. The Captain was a large man, towering above those he commanded. His armor was just as imposing as the man in front of him, made up of innumerable different pieces, none of which fit together. Misshapen and ramshackle as the plates that covered him were, they told the story of numerous campaigns and battles, each piece taken and grafted together over numerous years of bitter war. Brauen did his best not to falter in the face of the Captain, who only shook his head at the whimpering teen before him. “Who are these people?” the Captain asked, wiping Brauen’s blood off his mail with the silken drapes of the room.

“Civilians, sir,” Brauen said, wiping the wetness from his face, unsure of what was tears and what was blood. He tried to make a subtle hand motion to the group to stay calm.

“Wrong,” the Captain said, his next blow catching Brauen across the brow. He could feel the cut that it produced, and was reminded of it as blood flowed into his right eye. The Captain motioned to the group, saying “all are combatants. You know what must be done.”

Brauen’s tears began in earnest as he eyed the women and children. He knew what his job was, as the youngest. He pushed through the women as gently as he could until he made his way to the older woman, who now had ceased screaming, her voice nothing more than a whimper as she clutched the child to her chest. Brauen’s hands reached for the baby, and as she became aware of what was happening, her screaming resumed and their struggle began, until his fellow soldiers made their way to him and pulled her away. He held the child as best he could and approached his Captain, showing him the baby. “Good,” said his Captain, taking note of the child’s health and physique, “take him to the matriarchs and then return back to me.”

Brauen nodded weakly, clutching the child and hurrying carefully out of the room. He was acutely aware of the shouts as the men readied their weapons, and as the screams resumed in earnest, he stared into the face of the sleeping baby in front of him. All he saw was himself, staring back at him, and the years he had lived since this happened to him. As he ran from the room, leaving his blood and tears along his path, he marked each scream cessation as they fell away like trees before the cutters.

Brauen’s mind snapped back and his shoulder screamed as he caught himself side down in the dirt. He quickly picked himself up and drew out a flame flask, loading it but keeping the sling tight in his hands. He called calmly to the girl, his mind starkly clear for the first time in a while. “My name is Brauen, of the Empire. Spare me a moment, if you will, and tell me who you are. We’re unfortunate to meet here, and I feel bad for catching you off guard.”

He spoke through the pain in his shoulder, hoping a moment of respite might dull the pain slightly. He held sling ready to quickly cast and throw the flame flask, knowing at this range he could be accurate and quick if he needed to react.

"The acid was perhaps uncalled for," he said with a smile, "but you can't deny that it was mainly a reactionary slip."
DF MQ  Post #: 18
2/5/2022 17:08:03   

Well, I suggest you check again!” With an echoing, rattling, thud, the phone in Tir’s office was slammed into its holster for the fourth time that hour. The woman raised her hands before interlocking her fingers and resting them against the back of her head.





Nope. This was doing nothing to calm her nerves about the situation. Rightfully so, as it wasn’t her typical work day. Leaning forward, she rests her elbow on the table and her chin on her hand, glancing over the document left on her table one more time.

“I don’t understand, where could you have gone?” She mused to herself, speaking aloud to the almost deafening silence.

“There’s no way Sweepers would have gotten her.” She briefly flickered her gaze over to a small newspaper clipping on the wall, it showing a picture of a leather-clad figure wearing a gas mask.
“They’re tenacious, but I’ve seen Serihl carve paths through dozens of them, they can’t be responsible…”

She would then move on to the next clipping, the headline in bold, white letters reading
Horrific scene uncovered! Trains dangerous?
“...No, no, that was solved a while ago.”

Bone met Steel as Serihl’s elbow came crashing down onto the interloper’s gauntlets. A soft, quiet click of the tongue came from the crime boss as she realized her blow missed its mark…

The warrior who had dared interrupt her duel broke out into a grin, prompting the woman to do the same as she saw him prepare to strike at her stomach. Oh, they were about to make the second biggest mistake of their short time here…

And that’s when she heard it, her true opponents’ voice, shaking and angry at this man… Just the same as Serihl, who couldn’t help but feel a strange respect forming for this vicious opponent.

“You heard her. Go away"

The man had barely gotten three words out before Suraeko’s weapon had found his side, a loud crack of thunder bursting forth from the glaive itself mere moments before the blow had landed.

A satisfied smirk found its way onto Serihl’s features as she witnessed the intruder being swept from his feet and sent hurtling backwards. The smirk faded as another warrior presented themselves, and the suit-clad brawler was ready to show this one the errors of their ways too.

“Ladies! Hope you don’t mind, but let me take this execrable fool off of your hands!”

Now that, that would put a short-lived smile onto Serihl’s face, clearly grateful for the sudden appearance of this new warrior.


Now she could focus again.

She turned her attention back to Suraeko, whose recent attack had seemed to injure her, if the fact she had her shoulder gripped tightly was any indication.

Serihl was silent, the sound of her accelerated heartbeat pumping mixing perfectly together with the heavy breaths of her opponent. For a brief second? It felt like she had reached Nirvana.

She watched on as Suraeko buried her glaive’s head into the ground, a single thought creeping into her mind as she, very quickly, studied the weapon.

That traitor would, absolutely, love to study this weapon…

“You and I…” her opponent would start, reaching towards the set of knives at her waist and dexterously slipping them between her fingers before she would bring her hand up.
“Deserve this much.” She would then, using those knives, gesture to herself.

“Suraeko. Carnivore.”

Finally… A name to her opponent! And one that wouldn’t be out of place sitting amongst the top dogs of any organization. With a title like that? Serihl felt rude not to show Suraeko the same courtesy.

“Serihl O’las. Make sure you commit it to memory, alright?” Now that they were acquainted, Serihl let off a small wink towards the warrior, earning her a simple nod in response.

“Now. Where were we?”

Serihl’s vocal response would be cut short, as a pair of knives were sent her way, which were then followed by a second pair that was thrown to her side. Clever… If she tried to move out of the way of the ones aimed directly at her, she would catch a pair of knives to the knees.

Unfortunately for Suraeko. Serihl wasn’t exactly the kind of person to shy away from being hit.

Pushing off of her back foot, Serihl charged forward with her arm held in front of her, the knives that had been thrown imbedding themselves deep into her forearm. As blood dripped onto the grassy plain beneath them, Serihl’s gaze remained fixated on Suraeko, her one violet eye showing zero signs of pain…and her body zero signs of slowing down

Taking advantage of the short window she would have created for herself, Serihl planted one of her feet into the ground at an angle, twisting her upper body with it before she would make use of her forward momentum and twist her body back to throw a punch towards Suraeko.

Even the sudden intrusion of a banshee-like scream would fail to break her focus, Serihl’s eyes meeting a pair of hardened mint green before her own pair would both flash a brilliant purple
With the horrors she had faced? It would take much more than a scream like that to, really, pull her attention away from Suraeko.

Besides… There was no way she would give up the chance to face someone like herself in battle.
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 19
2/6/2022 19:11:36   
How We Roll Winner

No sooner had Hydna’s outburst concluded did she cringe. Frag! She’d let her tongue outrun her brain again. She could already picture what would happen next: a sudden movement and she snaps her gaze back just in time to see the hobo’s fiery cocktail as he lobs it directly at her; she jumps back and trips over her own rocket boots – since their slightly extended heels to account for the miniature boosters worked fine in microgravity, but not so much on land – resulting in her landing squarely on her butt! Then the bottle hits her in the face and she turns into – et voila! – a sizzling schnitzel.

Except that wasn’t what happened. In fact, the hobo wasn’t swinging his firebomb overhead anymore. Instead, he was standing in a somewhat peculiar position. He seemed to be … pained?

It looked like she really did do some damage with that pistol shot.

Hydna raised the Savager – and hesitated. This guy could’ve easily fried her to a crisp in the moments she was distracted. It didn’t seem right to shoot him in cold blood.

Non-lethal firearm, a colder, rational side of her mind said. Pop him good. One less threat.

Hydna wasn’t entirely sure what she would have done next, but what did happen next took the decision out of her hands entirely. Her finger was on the trigger when–

--the creature let loose a howl that tore through space, translating into sound despite the vacuum beyond the cockpit.

Eerily, sinisterly, the scream is not one of rage or hatred but rather one of –?

Hydna cried out, grabbing the sides of her head. The unearthly sound of the scream grated against the helmet’s auditory sensors, and the cutoff frequency drilled into her eardrums. She deactivated her helmet and it retracted back into its place around her collar.
[Power levels recharging.]
[Power levels at 71%.]
Bizarre. So even though her suit’s power cell was damaged enough to drop a level every few seconds with just her helmet on, now it was regenerating?

A faint scrabble snapped Hydna’s attention back to the present. The hobo had been knocked clean off his feet, but he’d picked himself up just as quickly. Hydna raised the Savager again, ready to shoot, but the hobo had already loaded another fire bottle in his sling. Her finger tightened on the trigger but she knew it was too late, the bottle was about to fly–

Then the hobo spoke. Her trigger finger relaxed, which in hindsight was probably a pretty dumb move. But this was the first time she was hearing someone, anyone talk, other than her fragging suit AI for who knew how long.

So. His name was “Brauen” (of the “Empire” too, like come on man). He spoke like he was a character in the old poetic stories she’d had to read during her first year in university. And, much to her distaste, he must’ve thought he was as smooth as butter.

“A reactionary slip?” Hydna repeated, incredulous. Though it was somewhat justified, considering she was the one who started shooting at him first. She screwed her face, feigning deep thought. “I mean yeah, it was sort of justified, considering I’m the one who started shooting at you …”

As Hydna rambled, her mind raced to account for her current situation.

So far, she’d used one shot.

Fury One, standing by.

About two potential bullets from that dirt were used to take out the acid.

Fury Two, standing by.

Which left a third spare shot remaining, should she need it.

Fury Three, standing by.

How many did she have left in her gun then, four–?

Fury Four, standing by.

No, she hadn’t fired yet aside from the initial first shot. Five shots remaining.


Fury Five, standing by.

Her pilot’s training began to piece together a strategy. Slowly, she began to skirt to her left, toward the tree. Ever so slightly, she loosened her left hand’s grip on the Savager. If the hobo– Brauen had managed to nail her in midair with that sling, then Hydna had no doubt he’d be able to do so again, especially at this close range. Unless she pulled something unexpected …

“Oh yeah, where was I?” she said suddenly, grinning sheepishly as though she actually had lost her train of thought. “Yeah okay, maybe we really did get off on the wrong foot, but surely we can still talk about this, right?” Hydna cautiously raised her hands as though in truce, except she was careful about two things. One: the Savager’s muzzle remained pointing toward Brauen. Two: her left hand was straying curiously a little too far toward her left.

“My name is Hydna. Fury Five of Fury Squadron.”

The suit AI announced:
[Power levels at 82%.]

AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 20
2/6/2022 20:09:54   

In her frenzy of thought, the unlikely had happened. Two knives, each thrown to the side to clip the warrior’s legs, clattered against the ground. As the first pair of black and silver sailed towards the warrior, Serhil made no attempt to dodge them. She simply brought her arms up, and the steel sunk deep into each of her forearms.

There was no mistaking it; the red scent filled the air.


It was so rich. She wanted to savor this first bite. But Suraeko went cold. Why? Did the warrior make a mistake?

No, the Carnivore understood. She let it hit her.

Like a charging bull, Serhil rushed forward, closing the gap as the blood trickled from her still impaled wounds. She demanded Suraeko’s attention.

"You do understand, Serhil."

By risking our lives, it is the only way we can thrive.

The blooded knives shimmered in the emberlight, slowly inching themselves free from the warrior’s flesh. Off to the side, the metal seemed to spin on the ground like a compass needle, pointing their edge towards Suraeko.

As the warrior twisted her form, pulling one arm back, the carnivore saw her moment and moved.

Come back to me, fangs. Give her what she deserves.

As the warrior threw her fist forward, Suraeko leaned to the side and ducked. The air whistled as Serhil’s strike grazed against Suraeko’s hair. Bearing her teeth, Suraeko reached out. Both pairs of knives flew towards their master. The first set lept Serhil’s wounds, drawing a line of blood across the air like a brush on a canvas. She would turn the warrior into a work of art.

The Carnivore rose up, catching her knives and burying both into the pit of her prey's elbow. But she wasn't done. Immediately, Suraeko closed her eyes and swung her arms back. The metal narrowly missed her fingers as she caught the second set of knives. Finally, licking her lips, she swung down and drove the metal fangs into the woman's chest.

This. This was heaven. Suraeko could feel the blood seep into her gauntlets, the warmth seeping into her skin and her soul. She must have been grinning like an animal. And yet, when she opened her eyes? Her prey was stoic. Not a hint of pain, as if it were nothing.

It was enough to give the hunter pause. As the realization hit her, she felt a crash against her chin. The warrior slammed her knuckles across the huntress's face.

Suraeko staggered back, falling to one knee. The taste of iron came as blood, her own blood, pooled in her mouth. She could feel her bones vibrate as a banshee scream filled the air and drowned out her own thoughts.

Hand pressed to her bleeding cheek, Suraeko tried to rise, but she staggered again as two stripes of pain went across her legs. The huntress bit her tongue, trying to suppress a scream as she looked down to find one of her own knives now placed an inch into her left thigh. The other leg had a small slash, a mere scrape by comparison. Serhil must have thrown the knives back at her. Fortunate for her, she

As Suraeko lifted her eyes, her first thoughts were not of the pain but of the warrior. She caught the sight of Serhil plucking the knives from her chest and tossing them to the side. Even as a tide of her own blood dyed her shirt red, she did not flinch, not even once.

She’s toying with me. Not ready to end it, are you? Good. Stay with me.

Suraeko reached down and removed the knife from her leg with an audible groan. She held her free hand out, and the other knife took its place in her grasp.

“I won’t forget you. I couldn’t.”

The Carnivore took a glimpse at the blood-soaked knives. Both her blood and Serhil's mixed together on the edge.

“. . . You’re everything I have ever wanted—”

The carnivore traced the blade on her tongue. She was careful to take as much as she could in one stroke. Blood pouring across her lips, she called out to Serhil, her voice rising higher than ever before.

“And I. Need. More!
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 21
2/7/2022 0:08:31   

Sterahl shifted his gaze upwards to check that no blossoms were currently headed for him. There was one but he was able to sidestep it without issue. The pale man drew himself up off the ground, hugging his cloak around him to keep the flames at bay.

The man’s head snapped to lock gazes with Sterahl, drawing breath into his body as he did. The burnt man just set his opponent with a lazy grin, expecting weak accusations to follow.

He was not expecting the man to loose a great piercing wail.

The wailing of supreme sorrow pierced through his skull as the young man grimaced, hand pressed against his face as if he could will his tears to stop flowing.

He’d had all manner of thoughts since he’d dragged Starlt and Karom’s bodies out of the Deeps, rationalisations and justifications, but here and now, hearing their mother weep over their bodies in the next building, nothing seemed like enough.

A knocking at the door wrenched him out of his head. “Come in.” He called, his voice hoarse.

A young Vashteran woman entered, holding notes in her hand. He looked her over, taking in her waist-length raven hair before settling on her face. She maintained a fair complexion with sparkling emerald eyes.

“Greetings,” She spoke formally, glancing briefly at her notes, “You’re quite the lucky young man.”

He shot her a dark expression that halted her speech. “Lucky? My friends are dead and I’m a pariah. You can take your ‘lucky’ and shove it, lady.”

A sad look overcame her. “There was nothing you could have done for them. Blood Fungus infection.”

“Yeah I figured. What with how they just fell unconscious and their bodies just… shut down. So what fun little horror show did I walk out of there with?”

“As I said, you’re quite lucky. We’re not particularly sure what you’ve got, but we know its effects. First of all, it’s seemingly non-communicable. We’re guessing you need direct exposure to the source to become afflicted. This has overwritten the natural Vashtera blood too, exposure to a small sample of healthy blood showed no infection.”

A wry smile passed briefly over Sterahl’s face. “A shame this is something I picked up in the Deeps. Almost worth looking into.”

“Almost,” The woman agreed, “Further tests revealed a debilitating effect when ingested by other individuals. Looking at you, I’m pretty sure that effect isn’t replicated in yourself, so you should be able to get back to your duties.”

“I’m Deeps-touched lady. The Dwarfs want absolutely nothing to do with me anymore. So I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing all on my own.”

“You can’t lean on your parents?”

“They Wandered a few years back.”

The woman winced. “Oh, I’m sorry. Well, we are about done here. Oh, but Metalsmith Tarm didn’t provide us your name, we will need that before we can let you go.”

“It’s Sterahl. Sterahl Kelolst.”

A look of profound surprise overcame the woman’s face and she held a hand over her mouth. “What is it?” Sterahl asked.

“Viela. Viela Arunia.” Was her only response. This time surprise overcame his features and soon he held out a hand, which she shook.

“Well, the circumstances could be better, but nice to meet you, cousin.”

While the pale man’s wailing had sent Sterahl briefly into his own mind, he quickly refocused on the situation at hand. The scream was certainly loud, but the younger man would need more than loud to throw off Sterahl.

The flame blossoms that had gotten caught up in the sound’s wake and were drifting towards the burnt man were more of an issue, but he leapt to the side, out from under the tree’s influence, as the pale man himself left the shade of its boughs.

Realising that in this war he had yet to actually launch a single attack, Sterahl grimaced. “I’ve no plans to perish in flames, or anything else for that matter.”

He lifted up his scrap-dagger, inspecting it. For all he’d mostly forgotten he was even holding it, it was still containing the winds he’d imbued into it.

Sterahl’s eyes fell on the pale man, checking his garb over, presumably to ensure he hadn’t caught aflame. A quick glance down at his own Myrmidon told Sterahl that he was safe from that danger too.

Then he raced into action. His powerful legs bounding across the short distance that separated the two men, readying Kelkeraz as if he planned to strike with it. He came to a halt a single stride from the pale man, whose gaze snapped up from his cloak to stare into Sterahl’s striking blue eyes.

Sterahl brought the scrap-dagger up, releasing the winds inside. A line of wind emerged from the blade’s path and hurtled towards the pale man.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 22
2/8/2022 21:21:58   

Content that his cloak was not going to combust in the middle of this bloodsport, he slid back his right foot and twisted his left shoulder forward as his enemy was already recovering and moving towards him. Erabis hadn’t expected the vocal assault to slow his enemy long, but he still needed to act. He’d been on the back foot for almost the entirety of this brawl. It was time for that to end.

Releasing the fury and raw strength of Illucia back into her soul gem, the Phantom Knight called upon the spirit of Terin’thar. While Illucia’s soul had snaked around his body like coils of emerald flame, Terin’thar shone from beneath his leathers and smoking cloak, engulfing Erabis in a brilliant green light that finally solidified into a set of traditional plate armor, its edges glowing with a spectral energy.

Terin’thar’s soul gem on his left arm was the brightest source of this light, expanding out into a rounded shield that came up in front of Erabis as he twisted at the waist, putting its smooth surface towards his foe. With the same motion, Erabis clutched at the hilt at his belt, its base now sporting an emerald-green blade that rang with a ghostly tone as he brought it to bear.

As much as Illucia’s fury was intoxicating, he needed to remember that a party was not one's fury, or wisdom, nor strength.

A Knight’s true responsibility was to protect, to defend, those who could not do it for themselves. In his case, Erabis’ adventuring party, their souls fastened on his wrist. That was his responsibility to protect. He’d freed them from the clutches of death and was now their guardian. No exotic strangers would change that.

With his sight obscured behind his shield, Erabis blew out a breath of relief as he felt an impact against the spectral metal and felt the force echo through his body. An immediate counter-attack was likely, but he had nearly underestimated how quickly said attack would come following his scream.

Knowing what his foe had used to strike him would’ve been also useful, but surviving it was enough for now.

Strategy, Erabis, that is the key to victory.

Reversing the twisting motion from earlier, the Phantom Knight tucked the shield into his left side and pushed out with his right shoulder as he extended his sword arm. The motion thrust the ghostly blade forward in an attack fueled with the weight of his full torso, Erabis directed the glowing-green tip directly toward the man’s face, voice calling out over the sounds of combat as he did so.

“You stand before the Phantom Knight, now fall before his unholy light!”
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 23
2/9/2022 19:32:38   

Tir let off an annoyed growl as she stepped through the hidden archway into her office, letting her arm fall slack at her side with the bag straps that once wrapped around that shoulder loosening enough for the bag to slip onto the floor. She hadn’t felt this furious since… Well, the incident.

“This isn’t funny anymore, Serihl. Where in the Hell are you!?”

That annoyance quickly ramped into a full-blown rage, as Tir half-stomped over to her desk, taking the missing person report between her thumb and index finger. She studied it one more time, taking a brief pause to skim for information she may have missed the first twenty times.
The answer to that wasn’t too far behind, as Tir angrily tossed the paper aside, slamming both hands onto her, already fragile, desk with a loud scream.

Balling her fists up against the table, she felt one of her nails catch against part of the wood that had splintered over time and grimaced as the nail was ripped clean off.

In fuming silence, she waited for a yelled response to the noise from upstairs, but quickly let off a sigh when she remembered that everyone else in the office was out in the streets. Choosing against another quick outburst, Tir slumped into her chair, the back leg shifting awkwardly under the sudden weight and almost spilling its contents onto the cold floor below.

Tir would sit, motionless, on the chair for a few agonizing minutes before finally leaning forward, bringing both of her hands up to the sides of her head before gently beginning to massage her temples.

“Getting angry does you no good, can’t run an Office like that.”

She would repeat this phrase several times over the next minute or so, taking a long deep breath at the end. Now? Now she just needed to be left alone, to let this rage subside before she could face any of her workers on the outside.

Unluckily for her, the peace and quiet she longed for would be cut short, as the brick layer on the opposite end of the room would begin to shift, alerting Tir that someone was entering.

“If you’re not one of mine, we’re clos-” Tir’s speech drifted off as her gaze moved from the table to the noise, her eyes widening in shock towards the figure standing in the doorway.

A hulking, 7 and a half foot-tall man with long, grey-ing hair that was tied back in a ponytail. The sleeves of his jacket were rolled up to his elbows, revealing a pair of rather large, muscular, forearms, which he had crossed across his chest. Underneath the crimson jacket, was a pale white shirt.

The figure took a few, thundering, steps forward, slowly unraveling their arms from each other and letting them fall to his sides. When he spoke, it was with authority, his voice echoing throughout the room due to its deepness.

“I assume you’re not too busy to humour a conversation with me, Miss Arrgad?”

“You do understand, Serihl.”

While her focus was, mainly, on the form of Suraeko in front of her, Serihl’s gaze flickered to the knives in her arm for a fraction of a second, making a mental note that they seemed to be being pulled back towards their owner.

Perhaps an ability, or device on her, that allows her to recall her thrown knives? Man… Sure would be handy to have somethin’ like that.

Serihl tutted as her swing barely missed its mark, even feeling a soft brush against her knuckles as she caught the loose strands of Suraeko’s hair. If only she had been just an inch closer… She may have ended up finishing the melee there and then.

But where would the fun in that be? She thought to herself, watching her opponent’s moves carefully. Time would seem to slow for the mob boss as the knives in her forearm dislodged themselves and returned back their wielder, who would then rise from her ducked position and swing both of the knives down towards Serihl’s outstretched arm.

A rare excitement made its way through Serihl’s being as the knives drew closer to her body.

Perhaps… This one?

This one could finally do it.

Could finally make her feel something, anything! Oh, how long it had been since she had known the feeling of pain, how long it had been since her life had last felt threatened?

Perhaps today, things could change…

But they wouldn’t, would they? And as Serihl witnessed the knives plunging into the fold of her elbow she felt… Nothing.

Nothing except that excitement, that small spark of hope, vanish, like dust in the wind.

Of course… Of course, of course, OF COURSE! This battle wasn’t going to end up like that. An existence like hers? There couldn’t be any doubt in her mind, she was cursed. Cursed to always worry that her next step could be her last, but never know when it would come.

And as the second pair of knives were plunged into Serihl’s chest, she could only, strangely, pity the one standing before her. Someone like her who found pleasure in the heat of combat, but had retained that luxury of being able to feel it.

Her expression had caught the attention of Suraeko, who moments ago had an animalistic grin to her, whose crazed eyes relaxed for a fraction of a second as Serihl’s Violet eye pierced through the huntress.

That was, until, Serihl’s fist found her jaw. It was a quick blow, from an awkward angle, so she couldn’t put too much force behind it, but it was certainly enough to create some distance between them.


Serihl would, then, pluck the knives from out of her arm, holding them between her index and middle, and middle and ring fingers respectively. Then, swinging upwards, she let go of the first dagger, following it with the second as she brought her arm back down. Only one managed to hit its target, with the other catching the flesh, but not fully embedding itself in Suraeko’s leg.

She wouldn’t finesse the other pair, choosing to simply yank them out of her chest and toss them aside, frowning as another one of her nice, clean, shirts was dyed a dark red.

Nothing new there, then.

“I won’t forget you, I couldn’t.”

Came the, rather, delayed response of Serihl’s earlier statement, Serihl watching carefully as Suraeko’s gaze turned to the bloodied knife in her hand. She found her hand drifting down to her own set sat at her hip, neatly tucked into a tiny holster she had crafted for them. Hers might not be able to return to her, like the ones belonging to her enemy…

However, that didn’t mean her knives didn’t have a trick up their sleeves.

She, calmly, retrieved one of her limited supply of knives, raising it up to chest-height before tossing it over to her other hand.

“. . . You’re everything I have ever wanted.”

Suraeko’s volume was increasing, the warrior almost shouting across to Serihl. She brought the blood-covered knife up to her mouth, tracing it across her tongue, savouring every last morsel of the liquid coating the blade.

“And. I. Need. more!

It was then that Serihl’s other eye would flash violet, the blade sparking with electricity as she swiftly brought the flat side of the knife against the open wounds on her arm. Thankfully they were close enough that Serihl could cover both of them at once. Serihl’s arm spasmed as electricity coursed through her body, the horrid stench of burning flesh beginning to stain the area around them as Serihl removed the knife from her arm. She’d leave the wounds on her chest open for now, they would probably heal on their own later anyway.

Much like when she took the knives to the arm and chest, Serihl’s face showed no signs of pain, or even acknowledgement of what she had just put her body through. It was like there was something truly superhuman about this woman’s durability.

She looked down at her arm, now seared by the heat given off of the knife. It wasn’t perfect, and the wounds were still prominent, they just wouldn’t be a nuisance to her anymore.

A grin found its way across Serihl’s face as she, finally, turned her attention back to Suraeko, gripping tightly at her jacket before, in one fluid motion, ripping it straight off.

Now jacket-less, Serihl’s impressive build was finally on show. The mob boss’ arms were littered with scars, both old and new, and were dotted with strange looking tattoos. She sighed in relief as she rolled her arms, her hands barely fitting over her broad shoulders.

“I think this has been a sufficient enough warm-up, right? Now, let’s get to the juicy part.”
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 24
2/10/2022 19:01:54   
How We Roll Winner

Brauen smiled slightly.

Hydna relaxed for just a moment. A briefest of moments.

Big mistake.

A whirl of movement and a bottle full of the fiery cocktail was flying right at her.

Hydna yelled and–


–luck graced her again! She’d pulled the trigger out of pure instinct and managed to blast the bottle out of the air.


In the next beat, she realized she’d made a major miscalculation. Carried forward by the initial momentum, a tsunami of fire was surging toward her. She’d never lunge out of the way in time, even with the cable launcher.

At least, if she was intending to jump for the side.
[Power levels at 84%.]
Hydna clicked her heels together.


Once again her rocket boots activated, shooting her up into the air. Hydna rolled into a ball, somersaulting in midair for some extra momentum, and the wave of flames passed by harmlessly, barely singeing her hair.
[Rocket boots activated.]
[Power levels at 59%.]


– and Hydna straightened out, the Savager pointed at Brauen.

She fired.


The bullet hit him in the chest, and he staggered.


The next one caught him in the other shoulder, the force sending him spinning aside.

Not enough. She was falling too fast. She’d never get off another shot, not with the Savager’s snail pace firing rate.

The cable launcher engaged, latching onto the ground right next to Brauen’s right foot.


Gravity and retraction combined, pulling Hydna forward at a frightening speed. Right at Brauen.

She brought back her right arm. The Savager’s blades glinted in the light of the blazing tree.

A bottle dropped–

A flask in his hand–

She swung–

A flash of light like a supernova–

–and the Savager’s blades sank into flesh.

Time seemed to stop. Hydna blinked the bright white spots out of her eyes – she’d squinched her eyes almost closed right before impact – and found herself face to face with a colossal monstrosity. Where once stood a slim and seemingly sleep deprived man, now stood a gigantic muscle-bound titan with eyes that fairly glowed with a bestial, mindless rage.

Eyes that now took on an unmistakable glaze. Blood trickled from his left temple.

The shock of what had just transpired hit her like a club; a warningless blow that numbed all her senses.

I just killed him.

In her paralyzed trance, she didn’t see his fist come up.

Her vision exploded in red and white and Hydna went flying. The punch had caught her square in the jaw. Pain erupted through her face. She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t feel the crack of bone or the crunch as her teeth ground against each other or her flesh collapsing under the impact of knuckles propelled with superhuman force.

But …

She could remember.

“Not bad for your first flight,” Fury One laughs. Hydna is embarrassed, but she also glows at the praise. After all, this is the fabled Commander Thyone, the stuff legends are made of. One of the Eight Scholars of the Vesperi. Despite her ostensible rank, everyone knew she had the influence to make even the likes of Sariel Shadowlight and Dao Yulan have to give her at least three steps’ berth–

“What are you thinking?” Thyone asks, amused.

Hydna flushes. As expected of the commander, no stray thought could escape her! “Oh come now,” Thyone laughs. “Don’t be shy! Speak openly.”

“Well,” Hydna hesitantly says, though the commander’s good humor is infectious and a grin escapes her. “I was just thinking about …”

“About how lucky you are to be basking in my legendary presence, no?” Thryone teases. Both women laugh.

“But truly,” Hydna says somberly after the laughter ends, “why did you pick me for the program?”

The commander doesn’t speak immediately. She turns to look out the viewport. Out in space with no atmosphere to obscure them, the stars do not twinkle but rather shine brightly and steadily.

“Hydna,” Thyone finally says. “Have you ever gone to see the great redwoods back on Gaia?”

“Gaia?” Hydna says with a start. “Only someone with a greatly distinguished rank or otherwise is allowed back there. Someone such as–”

“Oh of course, that was silly of me,” Thyone says, embarrassed. Someone such as the commander herself, among others, is what Hydna was about to say, but of course the commander knows. Thyone doesn’t dwell on this however.

“The redwoods compose a great forest. There are trees there that are several thousand years old. It takes a long time, but those great trees drop their cones and seeds and eventually, smaller trees will grow. Most of the time, the smaller trees only grow so large before they get cut down by beavers, or a storm or fire destroys them. But the great ones stand tall, to make more of the small ones.

“And sometimes, very rarely, one of those small ones will survive the test of time, and grow to become another great tree.” Thyone smiles. “You, Hydna, are the start of a new generation. The great giants that surround you – Yulan, Sariel, Laevius – and even myself, are strong but like the other great redwoods, we become stiff over time. You’re a small tree growing in the shadow of the big ones, but you’re strong, resilient, and unfettered by the mold that touches all of us. And in this era, a new, strong big tree is just what we need.”

Confused, Hydna asks, “But if the great trees are so strong, can’t they just fight off the mold and stuff on their own? Why do they need the small ones?”

Thyone looks back out at the stars. “Because even a great tree,” she says softly, “can be felled.”

Even a great tree can be felled.

She woke from the dream, only to be plunged back into a nightmare.

A throbbing, so familiar but at the same time so foreign, was stabbing at her jaw. Gingerly, Hydna reached up to touch her chin. Already it was swelling up with burst blood vessels and crushed muscle tissue. She’d landed hard on her back, which also ached even with her suit and the charred grass cushioning the impact.

Hydna rolled from her back to her chest. She tried to push herself off the ground to a sitting position, but spikes of nausea erupted from her chin, stabbing into her head. She nearly retched, except she hadn’t eaten anything all day.

Stupid! She should’ve kept her helmet on, power levels be damned. Hydna shut her eyes, waiting for the nauseating pain to pass, wishing she could clench her teeth.
[Power levels recharging.]
[Power levels at 62%.]
Not much time had passed while she was unconscious, which meant she’d only blacked out for a bit. She glanced at the massive corpse nearby, which was starting to shrink back into Brauen’s familiar form. She couldn’t make out the pool of blood in this light. She didn’t want to.

That was the first time she’d ever killed a person. And she knew, with a certainty that sickened her, that she’d have to do it again.

Self defense was the term floating through her mind. In a daze, she looked down at her right hand, which was still grasping the Savager handgun. The supposedly useless handgun she’d berated so. The blades were darkly stained, and scraps of – no. Hydna wiped the blades against the charred grass. Slowly, she got back to her feet.

Her entire battle had probably lasted only a few minutes but it had felt like weeks. Every bone in her body cried for rest, but she knew that wasn’t happening any time soon. In this killing ground of six, one had fallen. The other four, Hydna saw, were still fighting on the other side of the flaming tree. The two women were tearing at each other with unbridled savagery, while the sunburned guy and the pale man struck and parried at one another.

Two bullets left. Hydna flicked the Savager to one side and its chamber slipped out. She withdrew the remaining grip of dirt in her pocket and slipped it into an adjacent chamber, then flicked the Savager again and the chamber clicked back into place. There was a faint whir and ka-chunk as the Savager compressed the dirt into another round.

[Ammunition prepared.]
[Power levels recharging.]
[Power levels at 65%.]
Who to attack? Who to help?

Hydna broke into a run, heading counterclockwise around the tree. The two women were fighting near the stone wall, and the two guys were literally right on top of the edge of the burning tree’s petal fall radius. Best to not make a decision too soon; she’d seen firsthand how the tide of a battle could change in an instant.

She was a small tree in the shadow of giants. And while even a great tree could be felled, then so could a small tree hide unnoticed.
[Power levels at 67%.]

AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 25
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