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8/21/2022 23:02:28   

Goodbyes were something she was quickly getting used to with the humans; though, this one so far was likely the most difficult, especially since she had yet to say something and she dreaded having to do so.


The young merchant’s energetic voice nearly made her jump, even after the time she had been staying with him. It had taken more than usual to get used to both his large physical presence as well as his never-depleting energy for moving and talking. At the very least, he had taught Nellone a lot in his ramblings as they moved from town to town.

She looked at him expectantly as she picked up another crate.

“Oh, nothing. You just looked a little out of it. You alright?” He, too, grabbed another crate and loaded it into the back of his wagon. The beast at the front huffed as the wagon lurched with the added weight before settling once more.

“I’m alright.”

“Good, we’ve got a big day ahead of us. Make it to Isolé by tonight, set up shop by dawn, and make it to the altar by midday—hopefully by then, with enough money for the house.” Loading up the last crate, the merchant dusted his hands together. “I can’t wait for you to meet Alae. I think you’ll love her, Nell. She is quite fond of birds, I’ll say.”

“I’m not a bird.”

“Yeah, well, you’re close enough.” Nell shot a glare at the merchant, but all he gave back was a toothy grin; it was an interesting thing, saying something rude but in a nice way. It only made her feel the same security she always felt when she was with him, rather than any sort of pain.

“If you actually took care of yourself, I’m sure someone would eventually see through your flightlessness.”

Another intrusive memory of Amily’s quips stole her attention, and Nellone shook her head to dismiss it. She wasn’t the same, anymore. She was sick and she needed Nell’s help.

Nellone caught the tail end of a raised eyebrow from the merchant, but he neglected to comment. Instead, he shifted to the common topic of Alae until Nellone fell asleep as they rode beneath the stars.

Isolé was the biggest city she’d seen yet; buildings stood multiple stories tall, each white stucco tower covered in vining plants barely ever seen in the desert. Of course, everything was only possible because of the large oasis at the center bringing chilled water from deep below the surface. Highlights of blue in the city streets matched the trimming high above at the balcony doors and rooftops, and despite the time, there were more than a handful of people moving through the alleys, shadows cast long in the dim firelight scattered around.

By dawn, the half-full cobbled area had become completely packed, and Nellone’s heart fluttered between the close proximity of people and the hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be a cure here.

Spending the remaining amount of her allowance on as many miracle cures as she could, Nellone returned to the merchant’s booth just in time to help him close up. Together, they darted between the streets and met at the most decorated building in the city.

The ceremony was beautiful. The merchant and Alae were both draped in multiple layers of gold silks. Pink petals spread throughout the inside of the church which gave the entire room the scent of blissful spring air. There was music, tears, and words that made Nellone forget where she was. At the very end, the bell at the top of the building tolled, and both the merchant and his wife walked to the center of town and kissed in front of the sparkling oasis.

Both the merchant and his new wife cried when Nellone departed from their new tower in the city. It was quaint; smaller than the others, devoid of its blue trim and vines, but they preferred it that way. They wanted to make it their own.

As Nellone walked out of the city, staring at the stars, she thought of the feather she gave to the new couple sitting in a small glass vase in the center of the kitchen table. It was their first hint of blue, and she’d given them the most brilliant feather she could find. Seeing her lopsided wings only made her chest warm.

Something wrapped tight around her leg, and she fell hard into the sand below her; the taste of iron filled her mouth as the metal bit into her leg, and she spit out pieces of desert. Turning, she spotted a few of the figures she had seen the night before covered in dark robes and traversing the alleyways. As they grabbed at her, it seemed the feather christening the merchant’s house would not be the only feather that night she would lose.

As the feathers landed at the paragon of Light’s feet, the pillar of fire erupted with one swell before once again going out, a flagrant sign of a Lord’s revoked favor. Nellone dreaded the thought of being next and spending the rest of her long life alone after her sister was gone. Reminded of the fickleness of Lords’ favors by the lingering heat on her right side, Nellone launched towards her opponent’s face.

He launched an arrow at Nellone, but it was too late; shifting only barely, the small sphere of light brushed the feathers on her cheek as her talons continued to reach for his head. As a last-ditch effort, the paragon brought a shield of light to one arm and raised it to block Nell. Contorting to get around them, skittering slightly on the hard shield, Nellone’s talons ripped deep into the left side of the paragon’s face, coating their white in red and spilling another year of blood onto the sand of the arena as a cry tore out of the opponent.

As Nell recovered, she spotted the human’s whip wrapped around the paragon’s legs, restraining him as it seared through his pants and skin. As he cried, the human pulled hard on her whip, causing the paragon to stumble to one knee as Nell turned to gain more distance.

The towering, four-armed humanoid took the chance to remind Nellone that they were all paragons in this arena. As she turned her back, the paragon grabbed Nell’s back leg with two hands, the other two hands gripping the whip, and pulled all four of his arms in towards his center, bringing everything he held with it. At once, the paragon, Nellone, and the human all landed hard into the iron-rich red sand.

The taste of blood filled her mouth, either her own or from stray grains of sand. Even if Nellone could escape from the giant paragon’s grasp, this fight would be long from over.
Post #: 26
8/22/2022 0:15:15   

Crisp and cleansing, a chilled curtain of mist swept across the Arena, pricking at the eyes like snowflakes in a wintry storm. Flowers of frost bloomed across the sands as a shudder ran through the Pillar of Ice, the bear upon it tilting its armored head back to let lose a deafening, furious roar. The foundation beneath it trembled, quaked, then - with a thunderous crack - the entire statue split in two, shards crashing downwards in a shower of icicles to the crimson wastes below. The remnants swiftly dwindled, as if crystal itself melted beneath the blazing sun overhead. Alone intact, the iron torc struck and lodged itself into the dampened ground with a heavy thud.

"And so has favor been withdrawn from Wister, Paragon of Ice." A collection, a myriad, a kaleidoscope of different voices poured forth to speak with the same timbre. "The Pillar of Ice has fallen - and we now bear witness to their choice, and to their Lord's rejection." The last of the ice melted away, a glacier reduced to merely a darkened spot upon the sands.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 27
8/23/2022 23:00:14   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Two strong hands pushed against Ulum’s chest in a soft, gentle motion. They stumbled back, gazing at the artist, the hunter, with attentive reverence.


The artist raised her flute to her lips and began to play, and Ulum fell away, within, and above.

The figure stands in the shallows, water lapping at their ankles. Their eyes are shut in focus, their face turned down towards the surface. They reach down with four taloned, delicate hands, and they begin to swirl the waters, begin to lift droplets and stack them like blocks of a toy castle.

Sight. The gentle smile on the sharp-toothed beast. The grains of hot sand rising from around them, dancing in time to her tune and rushing into the glimmering flute.

Touch. The uncomfortable heat of the pounding sun overhead. The biting tear of the sand as it swirled around the artist and her reflection.

Scent. The metallic tang of bloodied ground reaching their nose. The molten smell of sand turning to glass as the artist arranges it to her whims.

Sound. The haunting, wild tones of the flute’s song. The rising crescendo of the melody of creation.

When the song ends, Ribali has made a vase, rough around the edges and imperfectly perfect.

When the song ends, the figure has made a memory, every sense captured and forever etched in their pond.

They know it will always be at the surface. They know it will always be remembered. They know it is theirs.

It is Ulum’s and nobody else's.

“Crea… tion…” Ribali exhaled.

Ulum opened their mouth to thank her, to acknowledge the wondrous act that they had been so fortuitous as to watch unfold, when the artist lunged forwards.

No. The beast. Ulum stumbled back. They had been too focused on one aspect, on the gentle side of Ribali. But Ribali was not an artist alone. She was hunter and artist and beast and teacher. And under these sands she was reminding Ulum that these hands were not yet theirs.

The flute cut across Ulum’s chest, narrowly missing the pearl-glow of their heart and instead sending swaths of water splashing to the ground.

“Is pain!”

The word burned through Ulum, fire and lightning to punctuate the sudden wound. They narrowed their eyes and rose Home from the ground. A quick dive of their mind dredged up memories of the metal man, of the speed at which his sword moved to defend his form. Ulum could be that, they knew it.

“Beauty, blood, and claws!” Ribali roared.

The glass jug came forward, its surface glimmering with the sun’s reflected light, capturing the dying flames of the first fallen pillar.

It shattered in time with the second.

The criers called out, dismissing the Paragon of Ice, but Ulum ignored it, too focused on how beautiful the jug was even after Home had swiftly smashed it to pieces. Hunter’s body moved with the speed of machine's mind as Ulum’s free hand snatched two shards from the sky. They cut into Ulum’s fingers, sliding up through the cracks alongside a bolt of agony and sticking out like jagged blades.

With a cry, Ulum swung their fractured claw of art downwards, slashing at Ribali’s wrist. Home slipped back, a tail primed to lash out and batter Ribali away if she tried to defend herself.

I’ve felt your claws. Here are mine. I’ve broken your beauty. I’m giving it back. Now show me your blood! I must spill blood if I want to become my own!

“I. Will. Be!

Post #: 28
8/23/2022 23:03:01   

As The Exudation stared at Alceia as she readied to renew her assault, he realised she was wearing an expression he’d seen much throughout his life.

She was disgusted.

Bile rose in The Exudation’s throat as Alceia sent her cord forth once more.

He cried out as searing heat wrapped around his ankle once more, but that feeling was becoming muted.

This woman… Who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know who or what I am, what my life has been like, she is disgusted by me?

Alceia gave a neat, almost dismissive tug and The Exudation let his foot leave the ground, falling to his other knee.

Two hands struck out half-blindly for Nellone, their grips digging into the bird-woman’s leg, but in The Exudation's state, she was little more than a target of opportunity. His focus was entirely on Alceia’s cord.

It had seemed shorter before- he was almost sure of it- but she’d been using it as a whip ever since he’d struck that grazing blow earlier, letting herself sit at a safe enough distance.

If you really find a close-in brawl so unappealing after a single close miss, it only tells me that’s how I need to force you to fight.

The Exudation gritted his teeth and grabbed hold of the cord with his two free hands, the burning pain dulled by the heat rising within him.

Then with all four arms he pulled as hard as he could.

Alceia was unprepared for this action and the cord came free from her hand. The Exudation noted that the surprise on her face swiftly descended into panic.

The human leapt after her precious cord with both hands, grasping onto it like her life depended on it and following its inexorable journey where she crashed against the crimson sands.

Nellone suffered a similar fate; with her leg yanked by The Exudation, the bird-woman squawked awkwardly as her wings flailed, before she fell flat on her face.

The Exudation found himself just as bound to taste the crimson field beneath their feet however, as the effort of pulling both his foes down saw his own body floundering into the sands, the taste of iron spilling into his mouth.

Just then, a great cold swept through the Arena, heated breaths frosting in suddenly chilled air as a soul-rending roar ripped through his ears. Ice’s Paragon had been rejected.

But The Exudation had no time to rest on his laurels. These enemies had shown him time and again that a moment’s hesitation was a weakness they would thoroughly exploit.

The exudation layering his torso faded away as he forced himself up to his knees again, an arm coming free from both of his prizes.

In a dim corner of his mind he noted that the burning at his ankle was gone, replaced by a lingering pain; The cord must have come loose during his effort.

He brought the arm bearing the shield exudation crashing down on the cord, as he accrued light. He was hardly expecting to sever the thing with a shield, but he could keep it pinned to the sands.

The Exudation flashed Alceia a savage grin as his enemy sat, staring at him. But swiftly she went into action, letting loose a powerful kick at the shield. At the same time Nellone’s talons raked up the arm that had a hold of her.

The Exudation cried out, letting go of the bird-woman and falling back, as Alceia’s kick dislodged his shield, allowing her to scramble forth and gather her cord back, before she staggered to her feet.

Back to square one…

Or not. From the corner of his eye he noticed another figure. The Exudation turned to look at who it was when-

Pain spiked through his brain.

The Exudation recoiled, floundering away and climbing to his feet. As soon as the newcomer- Darkness’ Paragon? Had to be- left his vision the pain in his head cleared.

But Nellone didn’t seem to have been hampered by whatever had caused pain to flare through his head and he felt her claws on his back and he roared in pain, whirling around with two powerful fists.

But Nellone used their height difference to duck under his assault, the bird-woman dancing away to be just out of reach.

The Exudation looked for Alceia, but she seemed to be preoccupied by… Sonder was the name, he thought, who had wrapped a whip made from bones around his enemy’s ankle.

He grimaced, but settled his focus on the foe directly before him.

One thing at a time…

“Alright Feathers, you want to throw down? Let’s throw down.”
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 29
8/24/2022 22:02:12   

A smile swept across Jelanda’s face as she pulled at the paragon’s legs. She wondered what was going through Wister’s mind. They looked so proud– for what exactly? Wister carried their arms, eager for a fight, but who would come? If the Dullahan left her be, would the paragon be content to stay up there?

Pride turned to fear as the paragon shuffled on the ice, desperately trying to keep their balance. But just as Wister’s feet slipped from the glacier, the Leviathan sturred. Its breath was cold like death. It roared, demanding attention, and it spoke:

“Favor has been withdrawn from Wister–The Pillar of Ice has fallen.”

Suddenly, the ivory came undone.

Wister landed on the ground, falling hard onto her feet. At first, the Dullahan did not understand. Why did her whip let go? Its will was her will. Jelanda tried again, raising her arm to lash out at Wister. But the ivory did not respond. Wister seemed just as disappointed. The warrior from before was gone. The arms once held with fervor were now brought low.

They were done, Jelanda understood. But the thought was like fire in her veins.

“So, you’re just going to submit? Came all this way to achieve something, and now you walk away?”

Jelanda’s voice was full of disgust as she coiled the ivory whip around her arm. Wister tried their best to look at her. “I just wanted to give my respect. You fight well. I enjoyed our dance.”

“Hmph.” Sonder scoffed. “So be it. Our lives are seperate now. I hope you can live with yourself.”

Without another word, the Dullahan turned away and ran towards the center of the arena. She had no time to waste. Her body yearned to continue the fight and prove herself. As she ran, Dullahan's eyes were drawn to the Pillar of Ice– or rather, what was left of it. A stain against the red sands.

Perhaps that is why your Lord left you. They knew you would settle.

The Dullahan could not help but stare as she moved between the pillars of wind and energy. They towered in the air, living embodiments of both the Lords’ and their paragons. As long as they stood, there was hope.

Jelanda glanced back at her own pillar, to the kindred figure. She would not give up. Not with her name at stake.

As the Dullahan passed the pillar of energy, she stopped and saw them. Three paragons. Three threats, all huddled together on the ground. At first, it seemed that only one of the figures took note of the Dullahan. A strange creature, a massive being with four arms wielding solid light. Its grey skin seemed to not all be there as if Jelanda could see through him. Jelanda hesitated to call it monstrous. The word simply could not capture the full presence of it. So otherworldly as to be in a realm of its own.

Jelanda’s cold flesh shivered as she looked at the creature, this Exudation of Radiance. But as the two looked into each other's eyes, Jelanda saw it. The creature shut its amber eyes in pain. The sight brought some comfort to the Dullahan.

Not so inhuman after all?

As the Radiance rose to its feet, another swept in from behind. A blur of dark-colored feathers, it raked their claws across the grey one’s back.

A harpy?

This one was far less alien to the Dullahan. She had heard of the creatures but never seen them. The paragon of wind seemed either ignorant or apathetic to Jelanda’s presence, locked onto the existing prey before her.

Finally, the last of the trio. A familiar figure from the Forge. A human one. Jelanda had a name for her now: Alceia.

We have been brought back together it seems.

When Jelanda had first spotted the trio, she was on the ground with the others. In a frenzy she had kicked at the Radiance’s shield, scrambling for her cord as if her life depended on it.

Now, just barely back on her feet, Alceia had her back turned to Jelanda. The Dullahan saw her opportunity. Fighting three foes at once would be suicidal. But the harpy and the grey one seemed too caught up in each other. As long as Jelanda did not intervene. . .

She did not have to think. As the ivory uncoiled, the Dullahan's will traveled through the whip. No longer stifled by the thoughts of another. Jelanda took it as a sign of approval. A loud crack echoed as the ivory reached out for Alceia’s leg.

She was barely within reach. The bones coiled around Alceia’s ankle. As Jelanda pulled at Alceia’s feet, the ivory snaked forward, growing tighter and tighter as it took every inch gained.

I hope you are more worthy than the last one.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 30
8/25/2022 18:58:42   

Ribali’s flute struck true in tune with her cry. She remembered her tail, breaking a lake’s surface with ease, scaring fish. But her flute met a resistance, almost as if this water was living, struggling with pain.

Cold droplets tapped against her arm, so different from the heat of blood. She’d capture that life within her creation, again and again, spilling water on the sands until there was nothing of Ulum left.

How long had it been since she drank out of a vessel, without lapping water into a heated, thirsting maw like an animal?

Ulum’s swing painted her darkness with a sharp wind. It sent vibration through her hands with its force. But it was the horrible note of cracking that told her her gambit and perfect plan would not work. No prey liked to lie down and die, Ribali remembered. Tatters of hunts, tatters of hooves not used for running, but to break the skull of a predator like glass.

She cursed herself for not seeing the weapon in her endless dark.

Her mind filled with the sound of shattering. She felt them scratching her skin, running with the wind Ulum’s strike gave them. They were still warm with the desert’s song as they slashed against her, ringing when they struck horns of obsidian.

She blessed herself for not seeing, for not yet having eyes her own child of glass could blind.

Her mind rang with the roar that wasn’t hers. Her anemones shivered in the sudden onslaught of cold. Ulum’s claws came down to wound and tear at her wrist, and heated blood tapped against her feet. With a closed throat and her heart burning, Ribali realized that she was feeling, and she was feeling too much.

She felt wrath from the daring of her prey to destroy her child. She knew wrath and its burning red, she knew how it swelled her lungs into a roar, taunted her teeth to tear. Her glittering, monstrous fangs came down on Ulum in retribution, not minding the thought of drowning or the tattered memories that urged her to not give in to her rage.

She felt pain as the prey became hunter, their tail crashing into the side of her head with crushing force. Ribali’s darkness turned fuzzy and heavy, her body following the blow into a fall. She felt grief for the heavy, tremoring crack in her armor, for the thousands of teeth shattering and meeting the ground in time with the persistent shower of the ice pillar’s icicles.

Another beautiful creation she’d never see again, one she grieved even if it was not hers.

The earth spoke through her haze, a ripple joining the heavy pulse of pain in her mind. Ribali’s tail lashed against the blurred, pounding pulse.

Chilled, damp shards of her creation bit through her skin like stingers, coming wild from the falling Ulum.

They both refused to fall without sinking their teeth as deep as they could.

Her arms swiped out and daring into the dizziness to stop her fall and panic. The marbles paused intact a mere breath above ground. Her knees scraped against the sand, burning her skin. Her claws dug deep into crimson.

She tasted heated metal, spilling over her broken teeth and into the sands below. She laughed, a sound like clanging metal and glass.

Wrath. Pain. Grief. Panic. She knew them all.

With her broken teeth curled into a smile, she realized she finally had the name for one more feeling.


for the artist understanding her, pride for the hunter’s clever strike. For the glass shards she’d never expect to sear through broken armor. For the way Ulum took her creation, and made something new. Shards, given the purpose of claws with the imagination of another.

Deer, given the purpose of birds, something her creator would never come up with.

Whether it was the jug or the angel that was broken, it was a tool turned weapon, never to be used again.

Ribali grit her teeth to drown out the pain, shards digging into her gums. She fought the pounding ache in her head and side to be the first to get up. Three hands and two feet struck against the sand with great effort, heat shocking her with every step.

“Be?” Ribali barked, voice chiming with the discord of broken glass teeth.

Ribali remembered being. The pillar’s chill left nothing but an aftertaste on her tendrils, but it was one that was so, so familiar. She was the only no-nothing amidst the cold dark. That was not a life. That was not something to fight for!

“You can’t. Only. Be!” She roared a clanging fury, even as her headache rose to a burn. Glass had the quality of reforming under significant heat, even shattered into dust. And Ribali was many shards.

She was relentless, snuffing life upon copper floor, standing defiant as she watched her light go dark. She was a monster, her hand reaching to take a marble from her throat, shaking all the leaves, winds and suns of a Jungle’s newborn hope.

But she was also l v n- loving and divine, her destruction wept for and never without a cause. She remembered the first creature she formed looking upon her with awe, and looking with awe back. She knew the torn cliffside where even the wind had died. The artist and god’s claws slid off the marble. The creation of pain was not worth the end of many, not yet.

She remembered the scent of damp ground and blood and the sight of open canopies. The thrill of planning a chase. She was a hunter, unsheathing the Flute and stabbing forward with hope of distracting her prey’s brutal strikes should they come.

She was Ribali, and her name meant more and more with every breath.

“It is not enough TO BEAT ME!”

Her words rolled over her tongue with less and less difficulty. She followed the Flute’s attack with a headbutt. Horns primed to gore, hunter and monster in unison, even though she only had four limbs to support her strength and balance. One bore a weapon, one was struck and bloodied, tendons twitching and cut through.

Perhaps now and forever, under the searing sun, she could be even more. A teacher and a student alike.

Strike me. Show me what I’m missing.

She would put all of her shards together, and find new ones to fill her darkness with.
DF  Post #: 31
8/25/2022 19:13:46   

Unwelcome hands grasped around Alceia’s Strand. A simple tug, and Alceia’s Fate slipped from her fingers like oil.

It felt… freeing. As if she had finally surfaced from a thick pool of mud and taken a deep, gasping breath. There were no visions, no photographic scenes of the past bombarding her with old smells and sounds. There was just here, now; and though she couldn’t remember exactly why she was here, now felt as if she was seeing it clearly for the first time. The crimson sands that scraped between her sandals and the soles of her feet. The roar of the crowd above as they clung to their seats, eagerly awaiting the next dismissal. The smell of sweat and burnt flesh as her opponent’s fingers singed against an electric Strand.

Her electric Strand.

Panic surged through Alceia and she plunged towards her Fate with arms outstretched. She needed that Strand; it was her only remaining weapon, the only way she could defend her nephew from death, though his name escaped her. The only way left to avoid facing the despair, the fear painted on her sister and brother-in-law’s faces as they lost their child. To protect them all from the cruel future Energy had woven for them. That was why she was here, right?

Electricity surged through her as her fingers wrapped safely around her Fate. Her arms folded as she hit the ground, yet the pain was dulled by the storm of memory that surged back to her. For a moment, it had felt as if she had no past at all, and her heart lurched at the thought that she might need the Strand simply to remember.

“I want to name him Aeon.”

As the criers handed down their second judgment and Alceia scrambled to a kneel, the Exudation thrust a shield of Light down onto her Strand, to pin it to the ground. Her Fate hummed underneath it, its flow unbroken. His eyes remained trained on her, unblinking; his mouth grew into an intense, wide grin.

The grin of a madman.

Terror widened Alceia’s eyes and tightened her grasp on her Fate as she struggled to release it. Had he seen something as he’d gripped her Fate with his marionette hands? The only other person to touch it had been Calline; and her squeak of shock stayed with Alceia even though the scene was no longer in her Strand. The way this man sat now, simply holding it to the ground when he could go in for the kill, as if relishing in her panic…

Cercyon’s voice rang through the practice room as the tall, burly man paced around Alceia and the target she swung at.
”If you’ve got them, finish it. The audience wants a competition, a brawl; not a predator tormenting their food.”

Alceia shivered as her mentor’s voice echoed in her ears. This was no gladiator fight; these Paragons were not bound by any code, morals, or respect. This was a bloodbath, and Alceia had brought her most valuable possession right into it for any Lord or Paragon to grasp with dirty, malicious hands.

She shifted her weight and pulled on the Strand with all of her strength. As the Exudation’s focus faltered-- another favor Alceia owed the harpy for as Nellone lashed out at him with her claws-- Alceia kicked outwards. Her foot slammed into the Exudation’s shield and it jostled just enough for Alceia to yank her Strand free. She sprung to her feet, still holding her Strand with both hands, fingernails digging into the remnants of her gloves. She would not let go again.

Though a small part of her was tempted.

She tasted sand as her footing was pulled abruptly out from under her and her body slammed awkwardly back onto the ground. Needles dug into her ankle as something grasped onto her and began to drag her face-down across the arena. Her arms and chin ached from the impact, and she could feel crimson grains creeping their way into her clothes and scrape against her skin. Alceia gritted her teeth and, hands tight around her Fate, swung her body around to face her opponent and send a blind whip towards them. She felt her Strand make contact at the same time her eyes met her new foe; a darkly-clothed human with a hood wreathing a pale, gaunt face. This must be the Darkness Paragon; Sonder. She seemed vaguely familiar, but Alceia’s head started to ache when she searched for the face in her Strand. It was almost as if her mind didn’t want to find it; something about Sonder felt deeply unsettling.

Obsidian armor gleamed in Forge’s lightning as if a mirror.
The only hint of color was the glow of his bright orange eyes, which seemed to scowl in disdain towards her.

Sonder definitely was not the man Alceia had fought in Forge, but that was the man Alceia’s thoughts found regardless. The obsidian of his armor seemed more defined in her memory than it had when she’d been in Forge; the lightning flickering from each plate seemed more noticeable, more distinct. She didn’t want to see thing clearer like that, when they’d already passed her by. But… how could she protect Aeon if she let go?

Alceia’s momentum stopped abruptly as the boney whip around her ankle released and Sonder reeled from Alceia’s whip. She scrambled to her feet, her eyes assessing the countless discolored veins that ran across Sonder’s cheekbones even as her mind watched Forge’s obsidian foe. The ache in her temple began to throb; though Alceia couldn’t sense enough to know whether it was merely remnants Forge’s pulsing concussion. Dread swirled in Alceia’s stomach as the throb quickly grew into a painful band around her head. Her previous fight forgotten, Alceia glanced down towards her hands, and ache seemed to fade slightly as she concentrated on her next move. She anchored her Strand close to her with her left hand and swung it outwards with her right in a sweeping loop towards the Darkness Paragon’s hooded face.
Post #: 32
8/25/2022 23:02:30   

The first town she went to was quaint, not well known across the area for anything in particular. It was, though, the nearest surviving town to her, and that made it the best place to start.

Nellone was sufficiently watched wherever she went. Nobody expected a harpy to walk among them, let alone speak their language. If anything, the townspeople stayed sufficiently far away from her; even children ran.

It took at least a week before someone spoke to her for the first time.

“If you are looking for medicine,” the old man started, “you must try the town to the west.” He didn’t approach her, merely stopped as he passed by the small fountain she sat on as she ate.

“Why so? I thought this town had a doctor.”

The old man’s lips turned at the edges to a small smile. “We do, but even he gets his medicine from another town.”

Nellone cocked her head.

“We must survive by capitalizing on what our environment provides us. For us, we have plenty of metals, but no herbs. That is why we must trade with our neighbors, who have plentiful herbs but no metals.” The man sat beside her, turning his face towards the warm sun above.

“You must capitalize on your environment, too. Maybe it will benefit others by doing so.”

After one more meal with the old man, Nellone departed to her second town.

The cold snap of the Ice Lord’s displeasure shocked Nellone from the bottom of her talons up, her feathers ruffling in one coherent wave at both the primal displeasure for cold and the visual image of Amily’s cold body. As she turned her attention back to the fighting behind her, the light Paragon’s grip tightened around her ankle and bits of sand dug under her scales, before it suddenly lessened as the Paragon let one hand go to steady him to his feet. Nellone fruitlessly grabbed for the sand to keep from being lifted up, watching as the wind had its own losing tussle with the desert.

Hung with her head almost at the ground, Nellone saw both her feathers lost to the sand and the burn marks snaking around the Paragons ankle; without acknowledgement, he used all of the muscles in his back to bring the light shield over his arm crashing down, slamming the sharp bottom edge down onto the equally bright string below him. Whether it be from the string’s own strength, the bloodthirsty sands, or a combination of both, the whip held its might from being shattered by the goliath.

The human, unwavering—perhaps it was her own will keeping the strand from shattering—refused to let go of her newly found grip on her fate. For a second, the human looked at Nell, and their eyes met; although they looked through her, they revealed a hidden panic from somewhere deeper.

Concern flushed Nellone. She won’t be able to free it herself.

Nell sacrificed the Paragon’s distraction to run both talons down the length of the forearm still holding her. As she scratched, the human pulled herself into a kick into the shield, shoving the Paragon’s arm and freeing her whip.

With a cry, the Paragon’s arms buckled, and he drew all four close to his body. The wind helped Nell to her feet, where she leapt onto his back and dug gashes from his upper shoulders to his hips before hopping off. The Paragon of Light roared deep through the pain, throwing two blind fists in her direction which she ducked almost with ease. Despite avoiding them, Nell’s heart thump imagining the way her bones would have cracked under even one of the impacts.

The harpy turned and dashed as the competitor crumpled into himself, pushing back the dizziness to dash away before spinning on her heel and landing carefully to face the competitor from afar. Blood fell in gushes with each exhale, mixing into the crimson sand with all of the dozens of other competitors’. He had a hand to his head, and for the first time he carried his weight on shaky legs.

Nellone looked past him to the human. A new competitor—the Paragon of Darkness—had wrapped an unyielding whip of bone around her ankle, and she took the new challenger in stride. The only thing that could help her right now was to finish the problematic foe standing before them.

With an inhale, stealing a bit of the wind from its incessant battle with the arena, Nell stepped a foot forward, and pain shot up her leg; it took numerous flaps to keep from falling as the throbbing in her ankle revealed itself. She almost heard a quiet, feminine chuckle as she regained her composure.

“Alright Feathers, you want to throw down? Let’s throw down,” The Paragon huffed. His mouth was taut, his brows slightly furrowed.

Is he… annoyed? At me?

“I don’t necessarily want to fight,” Nell replied, stalling to calm the throbbing in her chest and ankle, “but I will if it means I can save my sister.”

Again, a feminine voice whispered in her ears: Not quite. Keep searching.

“Everyone here wants something, Feathers. I’ve also got someone to save. Let’s test our resolves against each others’.” His tautness turned at the edges into a frown, and his eyes softened. The expression looked like one Nell had seen numerous times. It looked… human.

Don’t lose sight, Nellone.

The memory of the spider woman’s conversation strengthened her thoughts.

“Are you sure this is the best way to save them?"

“Hah. Maybe not, but it’s the only way I’ve got.” The blood was slowing, and he eventually stopped thumbing the red welt across one of his palms before flexing the hand open and shut.

The human and the new Paragon continued to fight beyond him. The wind finally got a grasp on the desert off to the left, and a small swirl of dust kicked up.

You look like you could use some help there, little breeze.

“Then we will fight until the end.”

Nellone crossed her wing in front of her chest, drawing in as much breeze as she could, and sent a long slice of wind towards the desert at the Paragon’s feet; sand flew up over the competitor, obscuring him and, hopefully, landing in his eyes. With the opening, Nell sent two more quick slices, one aimed at the Paragon’s burned ankle and one towards his chest.

Post #: 33
8/26/2022 0:30:50   

A gentle breeze wove its way through the stands, bringing with it the laughter of an autumn evening - that last burst of precious warmth before the sun dips below the horizon. People smiled, savoring the single moment of calm without realizing how it stole their breath away. Eyes widened in panic as the monk stretched before them, releasing a long sigh that washed outwards across the sands. Silver tarnished - rust and grime creeping across the once sterling surface as the woman hunched forward and withered. She tumbled to her knees, frail muscles no longer able to support her own weight and dancing locks falling limp. A snap - and air rushed back into lungs, the remaining winds converging upon metal to shred statue and plinth alike with a shrill scream.

"And so has favor been withdrawn from Nellone, Paragon of Wind." The voices were soft, yet curled to forth to fill every crevice of the atmosphere. "The Pillar of Wind has fallen - and we now bear witness her choice, and to her Lord's despair." Shards of shrapnel plunged downward, carving deep scars into the trembling sands.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 34
8/27/2022 21:19:44   

The Exudation and Nellone stood tensely, staring at each other as his shield faded out of existence. As hotness receded he noticed a numbness pervading the hands he’d grabbed Alceia’s cord with and was struggling to close them into proper fists.

But the bird-woman seemed unaware of the difficulties facing him as she spoke back to him.

If you don’t want to fight, showing up to the deathmatch to end all deathmatches is an odd choice… But even the peace loving can find a drive to fight and you’ve just told me yours.

“Everyone here wants something Feathers. I’ve also got someone to save. Let’s test our resolves against each other’s“

Grief coursed briefly through his chest as an image of Eirin flashed through his mind. But he quickly shook his sorrow away to focus on the threat before him as he worked a thumb across his palm, trying to restore feeling across his hand.

Nellone threw another question at him, the bird-woman stalling for reasons all her own. For his part, The Exudation couldn’t help but let out a short bark of laughter at the question she’d levelled at him.

“Hah. Maybe not, but it’s the only way I’ve got.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. But I’d prefer to die than go down that avenue, become a monster in deed as well.

He had worked the numbness out of his hand by that point and was able to clench it tight into a fist once more, causing him to grimace in discomfort at the pain caused as fingers dug into the burn.

Nellone, however, was done stalling. With a final statement she steadied herself, swiping with her wing, causing an arc of wind to fly forth.

The Exudation tensed himself, but the gust was flying low, headed not for him, but the sands, kicking up a concealing cloud of crimson. He closed his eyes to protect them from the grains, though his translucent nature still allowed him to have some idea of what was happening.

Well, that works both ways Feathers. If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.

He darted to the right, noting that the numbness in his ankle was actually offsetting the pain there. Though he was likely doing damage by putting as much weight on it as he was, he could deal with it for now.

The corner of his mouth twitched up into a smile as two more gusts cut through the crimson curtain, where he had been moments before.

A strange sense of peace then seemed to wash over him, encouraging calm. He breathed easily for the first time since the fight had begun.

But The Exudation found he could not get his breath back. Amber eyes widened in panic as he came to a sudden conclusion.

She’s stolen away my breath! Well hat’s off Feathers, that’s a neat trick. But I’m sure if I-

His thoughts were interrupted as an unnoticed tension broke- breath spilled back into his lungs as he noticed out of the corner of his eye as the Wind Pillar got shredded.

He nodded his head in understanding- it had not been Nellone who stole his breath away after all. As the cloud of sand drifted away, he locked eyes with her.

Dejection was writ large across the bird-woman’s features. Her shoulders slumped and tears began to flow, as she simply… turned away from him and walked off, towards the now-open gate beyond the shattered Wind Pillar.

Well, Feathers, I hope you find what you’re looking for somewhere.

The bird-woman no longer a threat, The Exudation turned his attention to Alceia and Sonder. Looking at the pale woman caused pain to once again flare through his head.

Something about you then, Sunless? Just hurts to even look at you?

He narrowed his focus down onto only Alceia and the pain receded some, reducing to a dull, throbbing ache. His enemy was sending her precious cord forth towards Sonder.

Alright, I think we’ve had about enough of the whipping now. Let’s see how you deal with fighting on two fronts for once.

Extending the arm Nellone had raked earlier, The Exudation exuded for himself a sword, which he grabbed hold of with his uninjured hand and immediately began reinforcing. Then he charged forth.

In his peripheral, he saw Sonder grab hold of Alceia’s precious cord, the pale woman taunting the other. His enemy released her grip, sending Sonder staggering back- the pale woman must have been tugging on the cord, unprepared for a sudden lack of resistance.

The Exudation was close enough at that point and he swung his sword exudation at the arm Alceia had been using to wield her cord. The blade cut into her arm, but barely, a shallow wound unlikely to cripple her as he had intended.

His enemy darted forth, digging a knee into Sonder’s stomach, sending the pale woman down onto one knee. He gritted his teeth, unable to give chase as numbness faded from his ankle and pain spiked up his leg.

Well, since I’m to die anyway, it hardly matters if I destroy my foot.

He stalked onwards, pushing through the pain that coursed up his leg, triggering aches where his body bore the marks of Nellone’s talons. Alceia gathered her cord up once more, twirling to face him, her focus on his sword. A thought flashed through his mind and he could not suppress a devious grin.

He brought an arm up from his side, the palm aiming at Alceia’s ankle, with the intent to exude an arrow and cripple his enemy as she had crippled him.

Well now, it’s only fair isn’t it? Let’s you and I stand on equal footing…
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 35
8/27/2022 22:55:29   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Hot blood glittered in the noonday sun. The artist’s own work, her own shards, cut deep within her wrist and let her life soar free. It splashed at Ulum’s form, the mixing temperatures releasing a puff of steam and a tinge of fiery harm. Hunter’s instinct and pulsing pain egged Ulum on, forcing them to take another step towards their prey.

“Threat detected. Eliminating.”

The words came unbidden, muttered beneath their breath without them even realizing they thought them. The faux-program of the machine drove Home across them in an arc, slamming it into Ribali’s extended face before the beast could even open her jaws. They took another step forwards, stalking towards their falling prey. Before they could swing again, the bladed whip of a tail lashed at their ankles, driving sharp fire into their form and turning their advance into a toppling fall. With a roar of effort, Ulum released the artwork from their grasp, letting the beautiful shards return to their maker before the watery reflection crashed upon the sands.

“Be?” Ribali barked from above. She’d risen faster than them, but deigned to speak rather than strike. Respect and anger must be slowing her advance, stalling the glass flute from simply piercing Ulum’s form with naught a word. Ulum pushed against the crimson grains, trying desperately to overcome the agony in their hand, their chest, their ankles. They could feel their pearl-heart straining, shaking under the overstimulation and pulling cracks into the edges of their vision. Their breath, pointless as it was, grew ragged. If this continued, it may break, their mind would shatter like glass, and all would go dark.

“You can’t. Only. Be!”

Roaring fury overpowered ringing pain as Ulum forced themselves up and away from the beast. She fell upon them like lightning, one set of arms shooting her across the sands far faster than Ulum could.

“It is not enough TO BEAT ME!”

Her flute glimmered with sunlight as it drove towards their chest. Home clanged against the glass in a haphazard, pain-fueled strike. The precision of the mechanical man, the instinct of the artistic hunter, both fled. Only the pained panic of the reflection remained as Ribali’s horned face crashed upon their mask.

A crack.

No! I can’t!


This isn’t my face! This isn’t my form!

It broke.

Wood gave way, stealing the shrill shattering Wind and the resignation of the criers for itself and drowning Ulum’s senses in its destruction. Shards fell to the sand, each muffled sound a piercing bolt of terror through their mind that drove it closer to splinters. They stumbled back, desperate to scream, a hand rushing up to shield the reflected face they bore. Any second now, they would fall within. Any second now, they would drown, forever trapped beneath the reflected surface of another. The world now saw only Ribali, and so Ulum would be Ribali forever. They could feel the coming waves that would dash their hold upon the rocks. They could feel their mind slipping away and beneath, never again to return for air. Any second now…

A breath.




No inward fall. No eternal split. No drowning- no need to even swim. Just the echoing remnants of claw and tail across their fingers and ankles. Ulum still sat beside the pond of Ulum’s mind. Ulum still stood tall on these crimson sands, fighting to shape their own form, to build their own self. A sigh of relief slipped from their lips. Had it always been like this? Had there never been risk of splitting at all? No. It had always been real. But now…

They gazed down at their taloned hands and thought of the Joy of creating, thought of what they would make with these claws once they triumphed. Their head snapped back up, their mind recentering on what they still had to do.

The hunter’s instinct returned first, tracking Ribali’s wrathful advance.

Second came the machine’s precision, aligning Home straight ahead and preparing for a counterattack.

And finally came the soldier’s confidence, breaking through in Ulum’s new smirk, in the glint that graced their formless eyes.

Ribali’s charge broke against the surface of Home as it shot open. Just as quick, Ulum snapped it shut and swung at the artist’s side. Right before impact they pulled away, skipped back, and brought the club down upon Ribali’s shoulder instead.

Their gaze slipped quickly to the war behind them. Other warriors with their own talents, their own memories to drink from, to swim in. Ulum took another step back.

“Then perhaps…” They whispered, voice full of reckless resolve and wild certainty.

“I shall be more.

Post #: 36
8/28/2022 18:58:27   

The knight came tumbling down.

Thoughts of malice and death swept through the ivory as Jelanda pulled it with both hands. She could see it so clearly in her mind. The bones slipping between the gaps of the armor, thorns ripping flesh apart as it dove into Alceia’s side. But the dark fantasy was not to be. The paragon of energy pushed off the ground, twisting her body as she swung her cord of light. Under the noonday sun, the cord was a blur, and as it swept through the air, Jelanda was powerless to stop it.

Metal met bare flesh, and Sonder screamed as the cord branded her face from cheek to cheek. The pain was hellish. The Dullahan’s whole body shook as the blinding light and heat swept through her nerves. Her will broke, and so did the ivory. As the whip slacked, Alceia kicked herself free. Shards of bone scattered across the sand as the paragon rose to her feet. Meanwhile, Jelanda was standing there, completely absorbed by the blow. She traced her wound across her face. Her pale skin was now red, melted by the cord of light, exposing the monster below.

Another scar forced upon her.

“Do you know what I would have to give up to fix this?!”

A primal rage overtook the Dullahan. Jelanda looked up to the paragon but Alceia was already on the move. The knight swung her arms, and the blur soon followed.


Danger gave way to instincts as something stirred deep within the Dullahan. She reached out with her left hand, catching the white-hot cord in her gauntlet. As Jelanda grasped the cord, she could feel the heat pulsing through the metal. But there was more; her inner eye suddenly opened, and the white strand grew even brighter. Life flowed through it; it was made of it.

Jelanda’s mind was thrown back to when the Dullahan had first found the trio. The knight had desperately scrambled to reclaim her cord.

“. . . Is this important to you?” Sonder spoke with a dry expression as she gritted through the heat. She tugged on the cord, pulling it tight as she wrapped it once around her knuckles.

The knight spoke plainly. “More than anything.”

Further away, Jelanda sensed the grey one and the bird. One drew close while the other walked away. She knew who to expect.

Any moment, and the grey one will be upon us. Just focus on me. . .

Jelanda called out to the paragon, demanding her attention. “Then let go or be dragged!”

An audible crack echoed across the arena as the Dullahan contorted. She dug her feet into the sand and reeled back, pulling on the cord with all her inhuman might. The pain swept across her nerves like shattered glass as her own flesh and bones were torn.

If my body breaks, then it will be by my own will.

The Dullahan took fate into her own hands. But much to her surprise. . . Alceia let go.

The paragon pulled back against Jelanda. Her strength was no match for the Dullahan’s, but she had no intention of holding on. Alceia waited until the cord was just taut enough before letting it fly.

. . . You actually let it go?!

The Dullahan stumbled back. Her feet shuffled to fight against the sheer inertia. As she did, the cord raced towards Jelanda, draping across her neck and shoulders. It burned straight through the leather and cloth, searing her flesh again with the white hot pain.

Words could not describe the assault on her senses as the Dullahan tried to shake off the strand. But before she could, the paragon had closed the gap, planting her knee against Jelanda’s stomach. The world fell over as she clattered against the ground. The knight reclaimed her thread without sparing the Dullahan a second thought.

As Alceia moved away, Jelanda banged her fist against the ground, cursing this reversal of fate. She didn’t really expect the paragon to relinquish her only weapon. But more surprisingly, the grey one had failed to claim her. Pulling herself to her knees, Jelanda saw him and the knight facing each other.

“Tch.” Jelanda scoffed as she tried to contain her fury. Her left arm was useless, dangling from her shoulder like a puppet's. She picked up her ivory with her right arm, but her whip was just as damaged. The entire top half had split apart.

As the Dullahan stared into the shattered weapon, an eerie silence fell over the arena. The roars of those above grew silent as the leviathan stirred. It drew its breath, drawing deep of the arena. Judgment was at hand.

“The Pillar of Wind has fallen–”

The leviathan shattered the peace as it spoke life into the arena. A burst of wind swept across the sands, carrying the frenzied screams of the crowd above. How Jelanda wanted to join them– but she simply could not.

Another string cut. One less threat to my destiny. And another will soon follow.

The Dullahan bared her teeth as her hand trembled. She turned to look back at the pillar of darkness, feeling the weight of her Lord’s gaze.

Not me. I can’t lose. Not now.

Black ooze poured from her palm and flowed across the ivory’s form. It would take only a moment to repair her weapon and change its shape. But every second felt like an eternity as the Dullahan waited for her opportunity on the edge.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 37
8/28/2022 23:24:16   

Alceia flinched as her Strand clanged against Sonder’s metallic glove. In one quick motion, the Darkness Paragon curled her fingers and trapped Alceia’s Fate in her hand. Alceia wrapped her end tight around her wrist and gave it a hard tug, yet Sonder held it tight close to her face. Her breath fled from her before the criers began their call, only adding to the weight that built up in her chest. Alceia’s fought the temptation to bring a hand to her temple as it continued to pound. She needed both to keep her desperate grip on her Fate

A useless struggle; heat singes through already burnt hands as she tugs. Sharp sword lacerates through limb, and she screams, and screams, and screams.

A whimper escaped Alceia’s lips as she realized the trap she was in, locked in place by her Fate, vulnerable. She couldn’t give up her Fate to the hands of an enemy. She had to hold on; but if she held on…

She had stolen her Fate from Energy twice, now. Once in the dark cave, with the help of the shaman’s potion; once in the throes of her memories after Energy had plucked it back to life. It was hers, and it always would be; no matter how many times she had to take it back again. Sonder’s voice circled Alceia’s pulsing head, almost taunting her. “Is this important to you?” Her Fate burned, it messed with her mind, it held so many things she wished it didn’t, and omitted so many things she wished she could remember. But was it important to her?

“More than anything.”

So she let go.

Her senses exploded forth to replace the holes ripped open as her past and future disappeared on wisps of wind. Alceia felt the electricity that shimmered through her veins, the breath that rushed back to her as her Strand rushed away. She could clearly see each fragment that fell from Wind’s statue as its last remnants withered to dust. Alceia could not bring herself to feel guilt over the rejection, but a tinge of sadness danced across her. Nellone had been… a harpy? A beautiful azure sheen. And Nellone had been helpful.

Hopefully she made it out alive. Hopefully Alceia would, too. She wanted to see her sister.

Alceia dashed forwards to chase the trail of light that echoed behind her Strand. The sudden loss of tension had caused it to fly towards Sonder, and a flash of satisfaction crossed Alceia’s face as her Fate tangled around Sonder’s collarbone. Alceia gritted her teeth as her old opponent’s blade grazed across her arm and a sharp sting surged through her. Had she been seconds late… Alceia shivered, though she couldn’t fully remember what had caused such terror. She brought her leg up and thrust her knee into Sonder’s stomach. The hooded woman staggered backwards from the blow, and Alceia’s hands wrapped easily around her Fate once more.

Alceia reached towards Adamenta’s stomach, hoping to feel the kick her sister had proudly spoken of. But Adamenta flinched and lurched away from Alceia’s touch.
The guilty eyes and hands that reached to hold her could not reverse the past nor catch the plummet of Alceia’s heart.
She knew it to be true, as if it simply was, as if no moment of realization ever existed; one of the more obvious points where she could pinpoint the marks of her own fingers on her Fate.
It simply changed one day, in her heart, inexplicably; and she began to sign for tournaments not as Alcestis, but as Alceia.
The announcer’s voice bellowed across the coliseum from so many different points in time; “Alceia Pharae, the Swordthief!”

A thin smile of pride played on Alceia’s lips as she threw her leg behind her, kicking up swaths of bloody sands in her wake. She pivoted quickly on her right foot and spread her Strand taut between her two hands, its excess length dangling unevenly from both ends. Its heat wore at hands already tired and strained, a mind scrambling for anchors. Her arm stung as her newfound wound bled freely onto the sands. As the Exudation raised his arm to point towards her, she took a deep, strained breath, pulled her thumb back, and strummed.

She was no longer the gladiator, the Swordthief, that drew crowds and fought only for sport. Now; in her present, she was the Fatethief.

A low-pitched metallic note resounded through her ears as the Strand vibrated, sending a wave of energy towards the Exudation. Dizziness rose to her head and consumed her thoughts as her body started to tear itself apart. Air fled her body as her blood began to cycle backwards through a foreign heartbeat. She gritted her teeth, and when the pressure released, her body lurched forwards. Her heartbeat felt… dimmer than before. Her breathing felt more shallow.

But she only had to go a little longer… hopefully. She would finish this her way; not the way of cheating soldiers or ruthless monsters. She would prove to the Lords that her hands should be the only ones to touch her Strand; to rewrite Aeon’s death and prolong his life. And then, perhaps… to let go.

Post #: 38
8/29/2022 18:20:25   

The mask had broken.

She felt the wet wood give under the sharpness of her horns. She felt splinters caress her skin, and her head swam. Droplets of water did nothing to calm the pain, did nothing to quiet the echo and pulse in her mind. Her maw opened wide as a gasp was stolen from her.

The pillar of Wind had fallen. The sand under her feet resonated with its howl, its rending metal and heavy thuds in the sand. All of those sensations were background noise for Ribali as she wondered about a particular one.

Did she hear Ulum scream, voice swallowed by the cyclone?

She didn’t feel the water splatter like blood and bone upon her skull, and for a second she wondered if shattering the mask was enough to slay her foe. She felt a tinge of disappointment for all of the elemental’s great words wasted.

No. Her tendrils twitched with subtle cold. Ulum was very much still here, her feet told her through sound.

Closing the short distance, she wondered if they still looked like her under that mask. Blind eyes turned towards the elemental, the image in her mind clear even without sight. Once a furious, wounded child, shunned for growing horns. Every touch nothing but a reminder.

Hunched over, she breathed a sandstorm into a newborn world, so that nobody ever had to see themselves again.

So they lived in burrows speckled with hung lanterns, the storm’s roar and darkness background noise that helped them sleep.

“Knew we’d make it.” Amit whispered, drenched from the strange flood. The aunt only nodded, having lived in strange times before - and brushed the sand and mud off her niece’s cheek.

Ribali’s fingers caressed nothing but air.

The demoness’ longing exhale turned into a huff. What began as a gentle touch was now a wild snap of her claws against the elemental.

Once she opens her eyes again, she’ll meet herself in every pond and mirror. She’d see her arms, calloused through fire. She’d see the face and tail of an animal just like she’d finally bear witness to the glittering feathers, the sunlight filtering through and ever pelting storm.

Ulum’s wing snapped open against her obsidian, and she snarled. Her tail lashed up against the heavy armor as thoughts sped in her mind, excitement into her thoughts even as she traced the steps of her enemy. They struck like thunder, and she would answer in kind, tail lashing towards the space she expected the ocean arm to occupy.

She would see Ulum. If there was anything left of them, she’d learn the truth behind all of their claims and kind voice. She would have to see herself, as well. Wingless and horned, but so hopelessly alive.

Without a trace of her creator’s hand. Finding her own light and form from the lava, glass and rock of her caves.

The tempo had changed. Something was wrong, and just as the demon pondered the thought of creating her own wings, a heavy crash struck her shoulders instead of side. She mustered a heavy gasp as Ulum knocked the air out of her heated lungs. Her arms gave in to the twitch and sharp pain, and she collapsed into the sand, her side diving down into the crimson pellets.


Her head swam. The thoughts she believed clear were veiled with pain, escaping her. Whenever she tried to grasp them, she found only a dull ache. She struggled to lift herself up, arms that used to be so strong losing the battle against their injury.


She pushed, every thought sluggish. It was not the end, it couldn’t be. But with bones shattered and broken teeth, with sides crying out to draw in a breath, with armor cracking and shards resting within, every movement of hers would be slow and countered by the watchful elemental. She was a hunter at wit’s end, cornered by the recklessness of an artist and a monster.

She felt Ulum’s steps and heard their whispers. They danced around her, tricking her, exploiting the lack of sight. She couldn’t see their eyes in the dark that came closing back in on the little clarity she built. Even then, she could tell they were grinning.

How DARE you. How dare you best me…

She felt that familiar pride prickle through her pain. Her translucent lips curled into a grin of her own before it gave way to a pained quiver. No Lord liked their champion to surrender themselves to another. The pillars shattered with fury all around her ever since the clash began, and if she stayed down in the sand’s warmth, without a doubt Earth would be next.

There was still one path to triumph.

Spite and wrath sunk their claws just as deep as dread. Her own closed around the marble of the flowers and insects, of monsoon rains.

Something they couldn’t expect.

Ribali’s arm rose. No injury was the cause of its shaking.

It was a betrayal no one should ever be forced to fear.

The Jungle shuddered, countless eyes looking up to watch an eclipse. Its leaves curled in and deep, shrouding the many pink-eyed believers still enticed by the beauty of the darkened suns.

She is not the one you knew, cried the fig wasps with a horrified buzz.

It was a plan. She had a plan. The marble will crack. The petals will blind, the vines ensnare, giving her enough time to feel everyone die. Tear open Ulum, cold blood falling onto-

Two hands, holding on to the lush marble with reverence. With so much love, so much care.

Ribali’s claws and fingers clenched tight against the glass skies. Her head hung low, hand sinking into the sand. The voice that spoke in booming accusations and roars was now its ghost.

“Run.” The demon whispered.

“Run, Ulum. Be waves. Be lakes. Be an oasis. Die as your self. I won’t, no matter how this ends.”

The demoness’ words fell gravely. Her claws around the jungle marble opened, letting it slide across the sand and catch dust. Ribali exhaled at the pleasant warmth between her fingers, dampening the pain and heavy anticipation. She breathed in rasps as she listened, hearing unsteady steps escaping.

Pausing, as if looking back.

Her claws sunk deeper. Beyond Ulum was a blurring echo of lives, of wishes, of sacrifice. Nothing but the toys of other gods. Nothing but expendable creations. She brought the dusty marble back towards Orion’s belt. It touched the other with a quiet clink. Her hand closed around a different world.

She heard a child, begging for protection in the shifting sands of her song.

She heard herself in deafening silence, holding on to nothing but the fading, fuzzy memory of joy.

She could never save both.

“I love you,” The demoness whispered to the shifting marble, the first, the one littered with cracks of her fury. “I always… have. I…”

She stood up. Blood dripped out of her maw, and she made no effort to spit it.

Empty words, Said her heart. They mean nothing.

If you truly cared, you would’ve died, letting them live on.

Ribali strode forward, step after step, her tail swaying in a pendulum’s motion. Beat after beat, counting the last hours of a precious world. She wondered how they’d count days in the storm. Even if her heart caved under its heave, she wondered.

But you were too weak.

The sand of the desert settled. It gave way to the clear deep red sky. The towers burrowed deep into the endless gorge of space.

Ribali swallowed a horrible, soul rending roar. Teeth ground teeth until they cracked into cutting dust as she sped into an unsteady run. The marble of vast deserts, the marble of chaos, the marble of hatred. They held it gently, as if it could break any moment, as if it could offer any comfort.

What were a thousand lights to one? What were a thousand lives to one that was her own?

What were they to this Lord? The Earth was cruel, trapping cavers under rockfalls to suffocate.

Was this their way? Was it hers?

Her muscles worked against the broken and torn shoulder, snapping further. With a swing of her tail for balance she counted Rem’s final day, and cast the marble towards the many fuzzy steps in the sand. The marble soared, lost to her sight. It met the sun in its flight, its rays tinting the still surface gold.

It was too late to turn back now, regardless.

“Hawk!” The child called out, running across the damp rock and nearly slipping into the abyss below, giving her aunt a considerable scare. “Aunt Mashi, the Hawk returned the sun!”

Where the sandfalls glinted gold roared running water, reflecting warm evening light.

Ribali fell forward, one single hand doing little to stop her weight. It skid against the sand, drag burning through her skin. She clawed her way back up in silence. A weight swelled in her chest as she awaited the marble to shatter, and all the little shards of her to follow.

The only warning to the scuffle of three was a glint of gold against the afternoon sky. It tore through like a tiny star falling. A terrible sandstorm erupted from its glass confines. An inferno of pelting quartz and raging winds, striking eyes, choking breath.

The bowels of Rem’s earth cried out with a terrified tremor.

One by one, the black towers fell.

The armor on her chest split open with a screech of melting, breaking rock.

She burned inside, flames heavier than lead. The beast barrelled forward, the heave of her steps drawing marks across the crimson expanse. She broke into the sandstorm, strong back legs propelling her forward still. Her horns slashed forward to gore anyone unfortunate enough to be the first.

One by one or all at once, it no longer mattered to her.

The four would fall.
DF  Post #: 39
8/30/2022 0:23:14   

Grime, sweat, blood - the terrible smells which accompanied the battle faded away, leaving the Arena full of sweet-scented air. The radiance about the Pillar of Light flared, its statue momentarily lost to the surge of brilliance. Luster dimmed in the next breath, seeping away from the figure to fill the golden lengths of chain twined about her arms. Cracks wove their way through the paladin as she raised her greataxe, the weapon consume the light one shackle at a time until it blazed. With an unearthly howl reminiscent of her prior form, she drove it downwards. Shining gold split diamond in twain with a blinding explosion, scorching the surrounding sands clean of impurities and leaving a crater in its wake.

"And so has favor been withdrawn from the Exudation of Radiance, Paragon of Light." Each intonation bespoke a different resonance, a unique timbre, a chorus of many that delivered a single message. "The Pillar of Light has fallen - and we now bear witness to his choice, and to his Lord's distress." The crimson sands glinted ever more dangerously about the faintly smoking crater, razor sharp and bloodthirsty.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 40
8/30/2022 16:07:40   

The Exudation saw that his enemy was doing something with her cord. It hardly mattered, his arm was fully outstretched and he exu-

The Exudation roughly shook his head, snapping himself out of a daze.

How could I space out at a time like this!?

He brought an arm up from his side, the palm aimi-

Confusion dominated his mind. On one side he was entirely sure he had already done that, on the other he was entirely sure he hadn’t and he struggled to reconcile two irreconcilable facts.

But the action would not stop to let him marshal his thoughts as a sandstorm erupted. He cried out, slamming his eyes closed, but he couldn’t resolve anything through the raging sands.

With Nellone gone, this can only be Ribali’s doing, as Paragon of Earth…

The Exudation took several steps back, finding himself free of the sandstorm’s influence. Not far away he saw Ribali surging into the sand and his stomach lurched.

He realised now why the creature unsettled him- its visual appearance was how he saw himself, deep down. He clenched his teeth and tried to shove those feelings back down where they belonged.

Then it happened.

The Exudation was facing the wrong way, but he could feel as the figure raised its greataxe, could feel as it brought the weapon swinging down and the Pillar of Light detonated.

The Choice.

Two options now lay before him, two different paths with the same destination- He could keep his life and leave, in which case the Chief and his son would end him. Or he could remain on the Desert Sands and lose his life here.

Alceia… Ribali… Sonder and Ulum.

He was still of the same mind he had been in the Factory. While he didn’t care to meet his end from Alceia or Ribali, he would prefer to die at the hands of the other Paragons than to his ‘family’.

He took one single step forward and stopped.

And his eyes went wide.

A voice swept over the sands, grand and boisterous, speaking in a language recognised by only three individuals other than the speaker, but understood by only The Exudation.

“(Bravo! Well fought Lightbringer! What will you show us next?)”

His mouth went dry. It was her. She was here.

His features softened as a genuine smile- his first- spread across his face and tears spilled from his eyes.

“You were right, Eirin.”

His voice was a bare whisper, spoken for the dead and no-one else.

He turned around, dropping his sword exudation into the sands as a voice called out- Alceia’s voice.

“Do you fight or concede, Exudation?”

He heard footsteps on the sands and threw a look over his shoulder, locking eyes with Alceia as she emerged from the sandstorm.

“Decide as yourself, not a puppet for Light.”

Puppet, huh? So that’s what you thought of me. I think you and I have simply had the wrong measure of each other all this time.

“I am no puppet. I was a tool. But in this arena and the previous one, I have forged my own path, fought for my own reasons. That my body exudes radiance is an ability I was born with, a quirk of my physiology. Can you say the same for your cord of Energy? And ultimately I pick neither and both. I am leaving this battlefield to go fight elsewhere for what I think is right.”

With those parting words, he left the woman behind and limped over to the gate by the crater that had once been the Light Pillar and passed through it.

He made his way slowly down the corridor, his sole uninjured arm bracing against the wall. Clerics were waiting at the end and he surrendered himself to their ministrations.

The Exudation of Radiance left the Arena in the same shape he had entered it in. He passed through quiet and empty streets- everyone who could was watching the battle, after all.

He climbed the same hill he had looked down on earlier that morning and stood there, breathing in the fresh air. He did not have to wait long.

“So, Tool, you couldn’t do anything right.”

The Chief’s voice was dripping with venom and The Exudation didn’t have to turn to look to know the disgust painted across the older man’s face.

“Funnily enough, I was going to. I was going to choose death on those sands, until I heard Sledaristan’s voice. Those few words really changed everything.”

“Nothing has changed for you. You will die here and we will finally have avenged my sister.”

His ‘uncle’s’ voice was frothing, as if the man was barely holding himself back from going fully rabid.

“The woman is alive and well and you killed my ‘father’ decades ago, but until I am wiped from this world you just won’t be satisfied.”

“That’s right you little excrescent stain. We’ll finally-”

The man’s tirade was interrupted by a booming voice that saw all three men whirl around, startled. Swaggering up to them was an absolute mountain of a woman, cocksure grin plastered across her face, while a massive axe rested across her shoulders.

“(Ho there, gentlemen! Are you giving my friend here a hard time?)”

Her friend? What on earth is she saying? We’ve never even met before!

“Well, Creature, we don’t speak that tongue anymore, try-”

“She asked if you two were giving her friend a hard time.”

The two hunters whirled back to face The Exudation as, after a brief delay, a look of mild surprise passed briefly over Sledaristan’s face, before she broke out into an even wider grin.

“How do you…”

“You left me in that room for hours on end, nearly every day. While the guards were looking out to make sure I wasn’t training myself, they didn’t care about anything else.”

“The books…”

“You all certainly weren’t using them. So I taught myself the Old Tongue. The only secret I ever had. You came out after me. If I’d died on the sands you’d have come after her. But are you willing to come at us both?”

The two men looked back and forth between The Exudation and Sledaristan, clearly not liking their odds.

“So I offer you a choice. The same one I had on the Desert Sands: Leave with your lives, or die here and now.”

The two hunters gritted their teeth, as the moment stretched on. Finally, the Chief spoke up.

“We’ll go, for now. But do not think for even one second that this is the end.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The two men stalked past The Exudation and off into the distance, muttering darkly all the way.

“(Well, I think that went well!)”

He looked at the woman as she heaved her axe off her shoulders and laid it on the ground before she collapsed down on the ground, hands entwined behind her head and grinning up at the sky. He had so many questions.

He decided to start with the most important one.

“(Why did you call me your friend?)”

Sledaristan shot him a sideways glance and gave a brief chuckle.

“(Ranger told me about the conversation he had with you.)”

Her answer was straightforward and simple.

It was also nonsensical.

“(But… that man is-)”

“(Dead? Yes, so are Sorceress, Thief and Warrior. They’re also all standing around us. Well, okay, Sorceress is sitting next to me and Ranger is actively leaning on you.)”

The Exudation gave a start, jumping away and twirling around, causing the woman to roar laughter.

“(Don’t pay too much heed to the vaunted knowledge of the Shtaratahn, Lightbringer. They don’t know everything, not about the Vevalartraidan, or much else.)”

Anticipating his follow-up question, she continued.

“(When Vevalartraidan individuals die, they remain tethered to the other aspects of the whole they once made up. In my case, as the only living aspect of Sledaristan still alive, the other four are tethered to me. This gives me certain… advantages I wouldn’t normally have, like the Deathsleep and a lifespan that has so far stretched for millennia.

Ranger was plucked up by the Lord of Light to have a chat with you as he is the only aspect of Sledaristan that is Light-aligned. And then he returned to the tether and told us everything you two discussed.)”

“(So you called me your friend because…)”

“(You could have chosen anything. Anything at all- You could have revived that woman you so regretted killing. But you were willing to spend your boon, had you gotten it, on little old me. I would be a very cold woman indeed to not regard you fondly for that.)”

Sledaristan got to her feet and brushed herself off, before looking down at him.

“(Well, I’ll be leaving now- I have no more business here. Do you want to come with me?)”

The Exudation’s eyes went wide as his mouth opened and closed several times. He closed his mind and considered.

Lumankie… ‘Lightbringer’.

He opened his eyes and met her gaze with a smile.

“(Yes, I think I’d like that.)”

And so Sledaristan and Lumankie journeyed off, together.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 41
8/31/2022 21:53:08   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

“Run, Ulum. Be waves. Be lakes. Be an oasis. Die as your self. I won’t, no matter how this ends.”

Ulum’s gaze, hardened for war, turned soft in an instant. They noticed the artist’s claw around her marble; the way it slowly loosened from the jungle green and took hold of the colors of the desert.

No… you wouldn’t.

Memories of the factory, of the grief and pain and guilt of slaying a world.


Ulum ran. Not because Ribali asked them to, but because their pearl-heart strained at the thought of what they knew would leave both artist and reflection broken and hollow. Every step fell as a stone skipping across the pond, faster and faster and faster as Ulum desperately tried to reach the other side. A glance over their shoulder caught a small glint, soaring through the noonday sky.


One step rippled far further than the others, racing towards the warriors as fast as the marble overhead, reaching with Ulum’s violent desperation.

A catch, a rocking pad.

The reflected beast burst from the watery sands and stomped upon the dark kneeling warrior with all its might. Then it was gone, replaced seamlessly with Ulum, foot pressed against the warrior’s back to launch themselves skyward. They felt steel cross their ankle, blade scattering water aside and enveloping them in agony.

And they fell.




And Within.

The figure stands over the surface with no mask to shield their incomplete face. They gaze down at the waters and are met with a young woman’s scarred face. The pain pierces them through; knives in their flesh, fire in their blood, lightning in their heart. Four taloned hands crash upon the reflection with a scream, tossing the waters into the air and upon their form. It leaks in through their mouth, their eyes, their ears, seeping in alongside the agony and driving false lives upon them.

Rage. They cry at her for crimes she didn’t commit, claiming theft of what she bought only a day ago. Why. Why why why was she new to the world every day?

The figure spits, trying desperately to rid themselves of the unwanted, ever-familiar emotion. They fight because they detest it, because they want an end to that ceaseless grief.

Death. Binds on her arms and legs, unbroken no matter how she struggles. A slam upon her chest, steel upon her neck, and naught but the endless black.

The figure freezes and topples over, a corpse falling within the water. Their mouth opens and the memory pours in unbidden, unhindered.

Creation. The smile of the beast, the heat of the sun, the scent of blood, the sound of her flute.

The figure remembers it, knows it is theirs, and refuses to become.


Angered eyes, real eyes, snapped open. Lost for only a moment, yet a moment too long, their grasping, gloved hand closed upon empty air. Desperate gaze watched the beautiful marble slip past them, past the warriors, and shatter upon the soft desert sands. Ulum crashed atop it moments after while shrieking in anger. The criers roared over them, dismissing Light as the radiant pillar crumbled, and it was nothing to the raging storm that overtook the elemental as they sat and simply watched.

Greens and reds and yellows and blacks tore through the air, whistling about the scattered warriors and shrouding the world in their hues.

Ulum screamed for a world lost, for a world they remembered making, for a world that drove them to want to make.

Ravenous sands scratched at their form, stealing water from their lips and their arms and their hands in playful theft.

Ulum sobbed for an artist’s grief, for a monster of her own creation, for a kindred spirit that had not realized she decided what she could be.

The colors died down, swirling to a stop as their discordant song was replaced by Ribali’s roars and Sonder’s rage.

Sonder’s rage. The rage at being a new person to the world, day after day. Tears undried, Ulum grasped Home tight. Sonder used… a whip. A weapon to strike at someone far beyond reach. The veil of water melted away, shattering into small shimmering drops. Ulum rose slowly, eyes tracing the monster as she tore at Dark’s Paragon with feral abandon.

“Creation is… pain.”

A whisper of a voice, repeating the words the artist spoke. They felt it in the blades across their ankles, in the shards of art that pierced their fingers, in the scream of their straining heart. Yet… none of it mattered.

“You’re wrong…”

Ulum lashed out with the whip of home, sweeping across in motion unmeant for such a stiff tool. As it aligned with the beast they imagined ivory stretching out, saw bone striking against Ribali’s heated scales and piercing through. A jet of water burst forth from Home to see Ulum’s vision done, to see the horror corrected. They bellowed a roar, bellowed a realization as much for themselves as for Earth’s Paragon.

“Creation is just like us!

It’s what we make it to be!”

Post #: 42
9/1/2022 18:00:11   

The Dullahan fumed as she watched Alceia and the Radiance with her inner eye. Light met light as the two clashed with each other, their life force ebbing and flowing. She clutched her unformed will, desperately scanning for any sign of weakness between the two.

As the shadows wrapped around the last gap in the ivory, its presence was made whole. One of the blades sunk into the red sands. With her left arm damaged, there was no way she could wield both. Even so, the ivory blade felt heavy in Jelanda’s remaining hand. Her will was slipping– slowly. She had to finish this soon or else. . .

With ill determination in her heart, Sonder had to choose. The Radiance or the Knight?


Off in the distance, her inner eye caught something. No, not one thing but two– the other paragons. And they were moving fast. Straight towards her.

The Dullahan’s eyes snapped towards the disturbance, but it was already upon her. A burst of water erupted before Jelanda, rising from the sand as though it were a river.

Blue hues gave way to black and pink as a creature appeared from the waters. Four armed with see through skin, hunks of obsidian instead of limbs, and most curiously– an umbrella.

Jelanda barely caught an image of the creature before it rushed towards her. The Dullahan braced herself, raising her blade as quickly as she could, but the beast was far faster. It leapt into the air, pressing its feet against the Dullahan’s shoulders. Despite being equal in size, the creature was unnaturally light, near weightless.

Jelanda felt her mind close in on the beast, focusing on it and nothing else. There was no hesitation. As the creature launched themselves into the air, she reached out with her ivory. It cleaved though the creature’s ankle, but there was no blood, only water.

Just what are you? And what are you doing?!

The paragon fell from the sky, their grace severed. But as they fell, there was a sound. The shattering of glass. And in an instant, the sand rose from the ground in a torrent of colors. The winds screamed. The dyed earth clouded the area as tiny razors clawed at Jelanda’s wounds. But through the storm, the leviathan could still see them. Reach them.

“The Pillar of Light has fallen.”

There was no time to celebrate. Three other paragons remained. With the Exudation gone, Alceia was free to descend on her. If her and the creature came together. . .

Jelanda had to get out. Now.

She closed her eyes. The real world went dark as her inner sight guided her. But just as Dullahan feared, she was not alone.

The other champion!–

Jelanda threw her body forward, diving over her shoulder. She could hear the heavy steps of the paragon rush past her, just barely avoiding the charge. But as the Dullahan emerged from the sandstorm, she opened her eyes. It was waiting there for her.

The beast.

There was no avoiding it. Jelanda pushed her feet into the sand, a desperate attempt to hold her ground. But the monster reached out with its four obsidian arms and wrapped them around her torso.

The Dullahan was trapped in their grasp. But her arm was still free.

“Not this time!”

As the obsidian beast lifted Jelanda off the ground, she thrusted her blade towards the creature’s chest. The ivory plunged through obsidian scales, piercing through to the other side. This time, there was blood.

The beast cried out with a deafening roar as it raised the Dullahan into the air. Jelanda gripped her blade as it slipped from the beast's chest, but before she could strike again, it wrapped one claw around each of her arms.

Jelanda groaned in pain as the beast tightened its grip on her. Her left arm was still, the burning pain fading to nothingness as the last nerves in it died. The other struggled like a frenzied animal. She tried to swing her blade, to find something with its edge. But the Dullahan could not move an inch. She was trapped.

The feeling was all too familiar. Traumatizing. She screamed to all who could hear.

“Let me GO you monster!”

With a final roar, the obsidian beast hurled the Dullahan. In the air, Jelanda rushed past Alceia and the Radiance, narrowly missing them both. Instead, she slammed back first–

–against the Pillar of Energy.

As soon as Jelanda made contact, she felt it. The Lord’s wrath. A fraction of the limitless potential at its disposal. She bounced off, repelled by the statue with a burst of electricity, before landing onto the ground.

She remained there for a moment, her whole body shaking from the shock. The Dullahan felt the current traveling through every fiber of her being. Every muscle of her undead flesh was suddenly made aware to her. Every little detail, every involuntary act now stripped from her as she fought against her own body.

Soon, the surge passed, leaving the Dullahan alone with herself. A warning. A mercy.

Jelanda felt life return to the tip of her fingers as she fumbled for her blade. The ivory slipped deep beneath the sands. Slowly, Jelanda propped herself up. She was hunched over, spine bent from the impact. With a twist, there was an audible snap, and the Dullahan forced her spine back into alignment.

“I swear to all above and below I will kill–”

The Dullahan cursed to herself as she leaned on her sword, but fury turned to confusion as she searched for the beast. Off in the back, it was there. But between them–

It was her.

Like looking into a mirror, Jelanda saw her standing there in front of the beast. But there no wounds. No broken limbs nor burns.

The figure raised a familiar umbrella towards the beast, and Jelanda heard her own voice cry out.

“. . . It’s what we make it to be!”

Jelanda’s spied the Pillar of Water off in the distance. It's paragon still stood.

They are a shapeshifter?

It would explain everything. The umbrella. How the beast shed water and then blood. How the beast– how she was in two places at once.

Her mind was wracked with pain as she looked at the other paragons. The shapeshifter had drawn the beast's attention, but Alceia was close, eyeing the doppelganger as her whip pulsed like a heartbeat. Jelanda had a score to settle with all three of the paragons. And yet, in her state? She could barely contend with a single one of them. The Dullahan took one step forward, and as she did, Jelanda felt her spine scrape against her insides.

[I]Not yet. . .[/I]

Each step was complete agony, but she limped forward, determined to take each and every one of them.

Her shade was the nearest. As Jelanda drew close, she called out to her twin. The Dullahan’s voice was heavy as she slowly lifted the ivory blade in front of her chest.

“You can try to take it. . . My body, my voice. But no one will take my life away ever again!”
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 43
9/2/2022 14:56:04   

Alceia planted her feet square into the ground as a storm of wind and multicolored sand erupted from behind her. It distorted the air itself, replacing battle’s stench with perfume as sands’ crimson turned to rainbow and a mournful shriek erupted from the storm’s center.

Then the criers’ voices boomed once more. Alceia struggled to discern their words through the caterwaul that swirled with the storm, but she heard enough. The Exudation had been rejected.

Sand coated her mouth and scraped at her throat, yet still she raised her voice.“Do you fight or concede, Exudation?” She would live by her principles even if her opponents did not; if the Exudation conceded, she must let him leave. Alceia emerged from the swirling colors and locked eyes with the Light Paragon. They must have taken different directions to leave the blowing sands; he was further away than before, but Alceia could see enough to watch his gaze harden as she stepped out. Would he really risk losing his life here, to attack her even as Light shunned him? With the crater of his fallen Pillar a backdrop to his scorched and bleeding form? “Decide as yourself, not Light’s puppet.”

The Exudation’s gaze softened as he replied, speaking of the path, the motive, that he’d created for himself. He spoke eloquently; perhaps this man did have a set of morals, albeit one different from her own. But she couldn’t shake the memory that loomed over her, grinning from ear to ear, unmoving as it watched her struggle.

Alceia’s lightning eyes flicked towards its grounding points around her, ensuring no other combatants approached without her notice, ensuring the Exudation himself didn’t attack. He asked if she was born with her Strand-- a peculiar question. Alceia adjusted her grip on the Strand as it pulsed. She had grown used to its heat on her palm, its light pulsing against her chest even as she slept. Of course she was born with it; it was her. Her life, her loved ones and her happiness and her darkest anguish. Grief clutched at her stomach as she realized how much of it she herself had destroyed.

As the Exudation turned, the storm died, its last wisps of sand settling on her shoulders and coloring the scarlet ground beneath her.

Snow kissed Alceia’s scarlet cloak as she stared at the clouds that parted around a slivered moon. Without Alceia, Adamenta would lose her last blood relative; save for the soon-to-be child.
But with her, Adamenta would lose the child. So she left, with footsteps and goodbyes as silent as the snow that seemed to swallow her whole.

Alceia’s body tensed as a flash of movement crossed her peripheral. She dropped into a defensive stance and winced as the sudden exertion shot aching bolts through her limbs. She flicked her head only for Sonder’s form to kick hair into her face as the Darkness Paragon hurtled through the air in front of her.

Energy’s hand curls to a fist.

A sickening crack accompanied Sonder as her body slammed into stone beneath the towering Champion of Energy. Alceia watched, a tinge of fear in her stomach, as the Pillar thrust the Darkness Paragon aside like a ragdoll. This was Alceia’s Lord. And they were not to be messed with.

Alceia begrudgingly thanked Energy for saving her with an open palm instead of smiting her with a clenched fist. She would never have seen her relatives again. The night she’d left… Adamenta lost one blood relative, but Alceia lost two. That just had never mattered as much.

She’d never even seen one of them.

Before she could, Alceia had to finish what she’d started here. Sonder was dying-- or at least close to it. Alceia sighed and turned from the Darkness Paragon to meet her two remaining foes, her face stinging as tears streaked across the sand-scraped skin. Before her was a multi-limbed monster and, behind that…

Perhaps Alceia’s mind was still fractured; for the remaining opponent was a second Sonder.

She had wasted too much time already; she could waste no more attempting to discern which Sonder was her present and which was a past, or whether one was neither. She charged towards the Second Sonder. As she considered her more, the Second Sonder seemed to shift and distort, like the air in a heat wave. She tilted her head as the Sonder spoke--

Alceia shrieked as agony burst through her hip. Sharp needles scooped underneath her strips of leather armor and sunk deep into the skin and muscle below her waist. She cursed and staggered. The monster had caught her as she’d been focused on the Second Sonder. Alceia slid her hands down the Strand and readied her finger to scrape its metal core, to heal the agony that ripped through her body. Yet… she couldn’t bring herself to strum. She released her dominant hand from her Fate. She’d hardly be able to swing the whip effectively when the Exudation’s slash tore further with each movement. She brought her right hand to simply rest on her hip; a minimal aid for the gash that poured Alceia’s blood freely onto the sands.

She wanted to do this the hard way; the way that ensured she kept whatever was left of her bearings. She’d sustained worse injuries without needing to change her Fate. If she could only hold out a little longer… she wouldn’t have to lose anything more.

With a strained roar-- a leak of fury from a past life that no longer was-- Alceia closed the distance between her and the Second Sonder and snapped her Fate towards the strange foe’s face.

She would see her family again.
Post #: 44
9/2/2022 17:59:56   

We, the Arai people of Rem, have raised towers into the skies.

We have reached a limit. Where we searched for the stars we found glass.

Our god has confined us, left the stars mere paint on the clouds.

A horrible shriek pierced the dying sky of Rem, snapping the sun into splinters.

The demon of stone sliced into the pelting storm with ferocity. Her horns tore through nothing. Nothing but the sand that used to be Everything.

The four will fall!

The words snarled in her skull as if they were her anchor amidst her grief’s wrath. She whipped her head around in the storm, forgetting to listen. Forgetting to hear anything over the blooming ache of the desolate dunes and their hidden ones. None could escape. She’d find her foe and tear them to shreds under the wildstorm.

Just as the molten shards burnt her skin, clawed against her without a voice to cry with.

She wondered who they used to be. Were they humans? Were they giants? Were they the behemoths resting miles beneath the surface-

The steps of panic were resonant - so much so she could barely make them out amidst her own. This paragon was trying to escape her destruction. Her whole body shook under her shaking, jumping snarl. Four arms snapped against the chosen, hungry fingers digging into skin, claws hooking.


She tried to bring out the roar of an indomitable beast, but what came out of her wounded throat instead was a heavy whisper, the sound of her voice struggling against her broken teeth. No. She would be the monster she needed to be.

“Suffer!” With… me…

If she couldn’t, the sacrifice was in vain.

If she couldn’t give in to her rage, she’d never be able to face Ulum.

"Not this time," called the foe she thought of as nothing but prey, driving their weapon deep through the demoness’ flesh, through her molten heart.

She let out a horribly strained, long shriek. For all her thoughts, for all of the pounding in her mind and Rem’s scream, she had missed the dark paragon’s blade. It peeked out of the pale skin between her wings with the screech of scraping and snapping bone. Ribali’s mind was lost to white-hot burning nothing as her hands tightened against the paragon’s body. She forced the broken and torn to lift them, shaking as the blade was ripped out and sent echoes of pain.

Through the shrieking nerves she would hear nothing, sense no step - but no one would ever be able to miss a god’s presence. It tugged at the back of her mind, humming.


"Let me go, you monster."

Her once divine body writhed under the blade. Her lungs struggled to draw breath and heart failed to beat, but it was the words that felt like the finishing blow against the monster. Her throat would not force a word, unable to defend herself against the claims she knew true.

With great exertion, her fury a dragon’s roar against them, herself and all the other cruel gods, Ribali launched the paragon into Energy’s proud Pillar. It set alight under her feet, pulsing with wrath and voltage.

She felt nothing from her rebellion. The voltage’s beloved joined the fight, the pitter-patter of their steps now clearly heading towards the one she wished to forget. Yet she felt nothing even as she struck them with her tail, obsidian slicing and biting against skin.

The wound was all there was.

So none of it mattered in the end.

The demoness fell to her knees. Her hand went to check on the final world first, and her heartbeat second. It echoed slow and thundering against her mind as she traced the sun-warmed marble.

Still in one masterful piece, it rested beautifully atop her heart.

Where I could save one, I doomed us both.

She, however… felt the sizzling and viscous blood stain her fingers. It made little paths in the cracks in her hands, their blackened skin. Ribali laughed, the air her lungs forced out a quiet afterthought to their violent spasm.

“You’re wrong…”

Ribali’s head snapped against the whisper, anemones flinching at the breath of cold. She remembered feeling their despairing run, the way it left waves in the sand. She had sensed their desperate jump, choosing to turn away in heartbreak.

She was foolish to think they’d be lost in her storm, that she would never have to face them again. That they’d run out of the arena to never see her betrayal. They were too determined still, a thought that brought Ribali a sour spark of warmth before going cold.

“Creation is just like us! It’s what we make it to be!”

Ulum lashed against her, disguised with the voice of the dark paragon. Ribali attempted to bring her horns to intercept the furious strike, yet couldn’t find enough will.

It’s like us… There was never an us.

She spat her words and thoughts she did not believe, anger that was the last she could hold on to.

“Creation… is like you.”

The us shattered with your scream as the deserts drowned.

Her crystalline hand gripped the remains of her flute, and tore it away so wildly the Orion’s belt snapped, dissipating into nothing but mournful dust. She thought to cast it away, to launch at Ulum with nothing but claws. There was no free will in the making of this monster, only pain at every turn as the gods willed. She’d become a beast just like them with enough power and days lived. But she couldn't bear to, leaving the Flute to rest by her side, her hold softening. Hatred waned from her voice, weathered like the sandstorm’s waning breeze. There was nothing of the proud Ribali left but a hoarse whisper, her words struggling to form over lines of broken teeth.

“You… can choose. I could never save them both.”

They shot, their roar and determination failing to match the fading ferocity of her words. Water tore through the demon’s chest like the bolt of a crossbow, fueled with wrath. She gasped as breath left her lungs, the rest of her balance losing her to the sands. It chilled her ember core even closer to death. She dared to rest atop the cold shards of a planet lost. The shards were cold against the dull ache in her fingers, last wisps of warmth fading as the tiny earth’s core grew cold.

Atop the wastes of quiet, swimming dust stood a deer. Its hooves anchored them even as everything sank deep into Rem’s heart, drowning and collapsing.

Its eyes bled emerald, seeping into the blackness so deeply even she could feel its stare.

It is whatever we make it to be, Ulum had claimed.

And yet all that she made were silent wastes crossed with torn ruins of black.

White sand lined with glassy bones of whales, where not even a seagull will sound its call.

A jungle, with wild rains and fog one disappeared in. With souls intertwined in one. With springs of healing water and the voices of bugs.

She could never save them both, Ribali realized as wounded fingers struggled to touch the Jungle marble. Her heart sped into a hummingbird’s rhythm. It was the wrong both she had focused on.
It was too late for her, but…

Perhaps with the last few breaths she had, she could save someone else.

Ribali’s wrath turned into a strange kind as she pressed her hands against the sand, barely sensing the steps of her opponents over the hummingbird beat in her chest. The fast and wild. The limping and weak, on the verge of the end. Both chose the Water’s paragon, leaving her to wonder if they thought her dead. The flute’s glass strained under her hand as the demon managed to push herself forward.

Ulum, she struggled to rasp. What remained of fangs tightened around the flute, her tongue tasting blood. Heat sizzled on its very end, and with a resolute swipe of her stone coated palm, she formed a sharp point on the broken tool.

“Ulum!” She roared, sending the Flute flying against the furious paragon of Energy, all of Ribali’s shards working as one. Without a chance of forgiveness, a window stained in more ways than one.

But even those could be beautiful in their lead and shatterings.

Her throw had sent her into the dust, but this time, she would not stay. Ribali clawed herself up against the dunes, burning white blinding her further with every step. She made a slow start towards the slower, Paragon, sensing their irregular steps between her bursts of sharpness. This one was on the verge, and yet she trudged forward. She shouted her challenge with the last of her feeble human strength, picking the water paragon just as Storm’s chosen had.

Too bad. You don’t always get to choose.

With each breath, heated blood dripped from the wound. It sizzled, meeting the sands below. Ribali’s eyes leveled against her Slayer and their claims.

“You… who took… my life…”

There was enough time for just one more choice.

“My name is Ribali… and I will not die a monster!”

For Rem, for Rayamalah, for Tamalhan the beast pounced, aiming to tackle the feeble Paragon of Darkness to the ground.
DF  Post #: 45
9/3/2022 0:38:50   

The stench of rotting skin, of death and putrid decay rose upwards from the sands. Gloom followed it, a wave of greying color that muffled the cheers and excitement from the surrounding crowds. Tendrils of shadow crawled forth from the Pillar of Darkness, greedily seeking to consume the vitality of the world around them. The crimson of the musician's scarf and gloves dulled to rust, the curved blade slipping from his fingertips to clang against the stand below as a low lament of sorrow whined its way outward from his throat . From its edges inward, the pillar crumbled, obsidian disintegrating bit by bit by bit as if eaten away by the ever hungry maw of time. Flakes drifted downwards as the remnants of the statue let loose a final shudder - and collapsed.

"And so has favor been withdrawn from Sonder, Paragon of Darkness." Voices rang out clearly, deep and foreboding like the tolling of a great bell. "The Pillar of Darkness has fallen - and we now bear witness her choice, and to her Lord's heartbreak." Inky blackness spread outwards upon the sands, a single glove left abandoned upon it.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 46
9/5/2022 15:50:25   

“Sonder. . . The Pillar of Darkness has fallen.”

“. . . No.”

The feeling was unmistakable. For as empty as Jelanda felt, it was nothing compared to this. The Lord’s favor– that spark of power was gone. Without it, there was no way she could continue.

Riabli’s claw went slack, unable to deliver the Dullahan to her death. They leaned in, and Jelanda stared back at what she assumed as its head.

“What do you choose, slayer?”

A choice. The beast, the Lords, the crowd– all were waiting for her one last choice.

“So, you’re just going to submit? Came all this way to achieve something, and now you walk away? . . . So be it. I hope you can live with yourself.”

“I. . . I–”

Her right hand trembled as she raised it from the sands. It took all her focus to do so.

She drew it close to the creature, as if to grasp it by the hand. But then, Jelanda clenched her hand and drove her fist against Ribali’s face.


Shadows rippled across Dullahan's arm as she forced it forward. There was no going back now. No false hope for survival. Just raw, unapologetic spite.

“You can bury me, but I will not die a stranger!”

Black ichor spilled from her left shoulder, animating the once dead flesh. She raised it forward, slamming into Ribali’s chest. Bone and blood and obsidian mingled together as Jelanda brought all to bear against the paragon.

“I am Jelanda. I will make sure that Sonder dies with me!”

With a roar, Ribali retaliated, driving their claw against Jelanda’s face. She didn’t even flinch as her sight was robbed from her.

“I. . I! I AM. . .”

Shadows and ichor swaddled Jelanda’s fresh wounds as the two traded blows. For every one of the Dullahan’s strikes, Ribali retaliated with its fangs, claws, or horns.

Finally, the obsidian paragon collapsed on top of the Dullahan’s body. They were done. She was done. Jelanda’s body was torn apart. The two had made sure of that. The shadows fumed from her flesh as it melted black sands.

As Jelanda laid dying, her last thoughts were of regret. Of the life she always wanted; how she wished she could share it with others. But for all the regret, there was a sense of peace. Her thoughts were her own. She was Jelanda, not Sonder. And on these sands, they would hopefully remember her as such.

And then, it was over. The end awaited her.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 47
9/5/2022 23:12:33   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Ulum skipped back, their water piercing artist’s scale and spraying color across the sands. They raised a hand and slid it across Home's droplet-coated surface, preparing a second burst. They had stalled the monster, but it wasn’t enough. They needed to strike again, needed to force the monster out before she drowned in the same tide as Ulum, so they paid no heed to the Paragon of Darkness even as she raged at their forced thievery.

The crack of a whip and the drums of thunder shook their mind and thrust them within a hurricane of fear.

Then lightning kissed their bare cheek.

Ulum’s howl pierced the air as their mind split. Their thoughts tensed, sensing the coming wave that would force them to fall away and within, even if only for a moment. A moment in which the lightning the lightning the lightning would course through their form and strangle their heart and shatter them into millions of broken droplets. A desperate gasp for breath escaped their lips before their scream renewed, eyes wide in terror. They could not fall within their mind, they could not buckle to the storm, they…

They are what they make themselves to be.

So, deep within, they drank deep of their thoughts and began to make.

They grasped tight the soldier’s Desperation, the girl that had weathered this same storm upon these same sands.

If she could do it, if she and Ulum were both Paragon, then Ulum would not fall even as their limbs convulsed and their grip tightened around Home.

They molded the machine’s Thoughts, the man who was simply because his mind never stopped.

Ulum would not lose their mind to lightning, would not let fear force their thoughts to a stop. They would keep their self anchored and their consciousness above the surface.

They weaved with the artist’s Light, the beast who need not see to create beauty.

Even as their vision blurred and fractured, they set their sight forwards and took a step towards the Paragon they now reflected.

They roared with the dark’s Rage, the woman who had felt steel upon her throat, felt the world rebuke her each day, and still fought upon these sands.

If she could withstand death itself, Ulum could withstand a small touch of the storm. They grit their teeth as the current cracked their heart and the pain enveloped them.

Finally they snatched at the new tide, leapt into it with all their creation and made it their own. From it they pulled Defiance, the Fatethief who would relive the same moment again and again if it meant she could live the life she desired.

If she could change the world, change herself on willpower alone, then Ulum could refuse to fall.

Upon the heat of the sands Ulum stared down Alceia. They were fractured and burned and bent but never never broken.

Above the surface of their mind Ulum gazed upon their new memory, built of everything they wished to be from everyone they refused to be. It was theirs. This moment of fear and pain and perseverance belonged to-


The roar of the artist split the air and heralded her glass, her flute, her beauty that rushed to the reflection’s aid. Ulum lashed out alongside it, swinging Home in a repeated arc that cracked like the whip of lightning and drove forth another bolt of water. The swing ended with Home at their side, and with a moment of focus they drew it anew as their false brother’s blade.

Death reached their nose, color drained from the world, and the Pillar of Darkness decayed to nothingness. Ulum’s gaze shifted, watching Sonder’s last moments, watching Ribali’s own struggle. The Paragon who had taught them to create, who had submitted to her monstrous impulses one moment and saved Ulum with a flight of glass the next, had won.

Then Sonder struck out in one last bout of rage, and Earth's Paragon toppled alongside Darkness.


Their call of distress was interrupted by another crack of the air, another drum of thunder, and a cry of anguish. Brother’s blade shot through the air in a memorized motion, knocking aside lightning as Ulum spun back to face Alceia. To the world, only the two of them remained.

But to Ulum, Ribali and Sonder would never die. It was through all of their lives that Ulum would finally be allowed to be.

They rushed forwards, one hand clawing at the ground like a beast chasing down its prey. If they had been cut, if their pillar had fallen, how would they feel?

Probably the same way they did now, the same boiling soul fueled by the death of a teacher, the same shattered heart split by pain thrust upon them.

With desperation, with thoughts of victory, with the light of the artist and the rage of the dark and the defiance of the very foe they needed to best, Ulum slashed Home through the air and down upon Alceia’s neck.

Post #: 48
9/6/2022 17:26:44   

As Alceia blinked away tears, she felt the snap of her whip as it slashed across the false Sonder’s face. When she opened her eyes once more--

She glanced at her form in the aging mirror.

                                                                                               A muscular teen boy stared back at her.
                                                                                               A scraggly stubble dusted her lips and chin,
                                                                                               and her harsh features echoed her father’s face.

                                                                                                              An awkward man stared back at her.
                                                                                                              Her clean-shaven face felt better, felt right,
                                                                                                              but she couldn’t shake the insecurity
                                                                                                              that stemmed from her buzzed head, her sharp jawline.

A strong person stared back at her.
Her longer, silver hair better framed her features,
and the purple tassel on her helmet brought a smile to her face.

What stared back at Alceia now was a woman. The way her hair cupped her face, the way her muscles shimmered under her skin and her eyes flickered with the Strand’s light -- this was the woman Alceia had always wanted to become.

For all the harm she may have caused tampering with her Fate-- she was proud of this.

But… what was she looking at, truly? There had been no mirror, just the glare of the noontime sun as it shone off perfect stone statues and blood-red sand. Perhaps it was some layer of her past or future that leaked into her sight. Yet as she grimaced from the searing gash that leaked blood through the glove that held it, so too did her reflection grimace as if in agony. As she stepped towards it, its movements mirrored hers, its sandal barely grazing the sand as it approached. She was close enough to touch it; she raised her hand towards it and watched her own muscles tense, her own fingers curled around--

An umbrella.

The oddly-shaped weapon slams down upon her Fate--

Alceia leapt from her reflection, feet skidding across the crimson sands. She’d been tricked. She raised her arm, ready to strike the reflection as she had struck the false Sonder, when a sharp bolt of pain shot through her shoulder. Her muscles spasmed and she struggled to keep her grip as she swung her Strand behind her to catch the second foe. But as she turned, the beast whose tail had ripped Alceia stood far away, locked in battle with the Darkness Paragon. Alceia could barely see a glass object embedded in her shoulder. She knew better than to remove it, lest she spill even more blood onto the sands.

A flash behind her forced her to swing once more towards her reflection as a bolt of water shot forward from its strange weapon. She tried to sidestep, but stumbled awkwardly as the movement yanked on her injured hip bone. Alceia howled as the bolt pierced her knee like an arrow.

Alceia staggered as blood poured from her arms and thighs onto the grass beneath her feet. Lightning shot through the lacerations in her legs with each weakened step taken to circle her opponent.
Agony threatened to bring Alceia to her knees; yet as her foe charged towards her, Alceia stood as a rock and thrust her sword through the opponent’s neck.

Countless fights layered through her head, calls of victory when she had felt as if she were dying. She didn’t need to change her Fate through the Strand; she’d changed her Fate enough just through her training, her countless victories. This would become just one more close call.

Her hoarse voice faltered as the criers erupted one final time, dismissing the Darkness Paragon who had, for a moment, held Alceia’s Strand solely in her hands. Her reflection cried out; was Alceia’s voice really that smooth, that beautiful?

The Champion atop her Pillar stood strong; one of only three remaining. She had expected the Lord of Energy to release her far before this; to deem her hatred of their touch a weakness. Yet they had reached down to save her from the Forge and watched silently as she grasped her Strand back from her chest and wielded it once more for her own desires. They were letting her achievements speak for themselves.

And she’d speak until she’d drawn her last breath.

Alceia charged towards her reflection and lashed her whip wildly towards its chest. She hardly cared what the thing really was; it was clearly one of her opponents, and that was all that mattered. “You’re in my way!” The yell came out more like a sob as agony strangled Alceia’s throat and her heart pulsed out from too many wounds. The reflection countered quickly, her own undamaged arm batting the Strand aside with its umbrella and charging towards her, her own eyes flickering with a hardened glare. Alceia returned its gaze. This was her body, her career, her Fate; not this fake reflection’s. It swung towards her neck as Alceia’s weight dropped out from under her and she slammed her wounded knee into the rough sands. Alceia wrapped both hands tight around her Fate and channeled all of her strength into her battered arms, pushing them up in a desperate block. She gritted her teeth and looked up at herself as the reflection bared down upon her, digging its oddly-shaped weapon into the Strand she wanted so badly to protect; to change one final time. A small voice echoed in her mind, though she knew not whether it was her future or a past long forgotten.

“Come on, Aunt Alcie!”

The voice faded abruptly under a harsh metallic screech. A weight wrenched Alceia’s weak heartbeat and her eyes sparked with terror as she watched her Fate begin to fray.
Post #: 49
9/6/2022 17:28:09   

Pain flashed through Ribali’s skull like lightning as her heavy weight struck against the paragon.

White seared through the last of her vision, old wounds blazing bright, begging for her attention and fear.

This time, she would not stop for them.

It will be over soon, she thought bitterly. With three of the creator’s arms struggling to hold their way against the racing grains, it would be on the fourth and final to deliver the killing blow.

Four arms for four marbles. A flash of crystals and loneliness struck her, a planet abandoned within a cave’s depths. Ribali wound up to strike against the paragon’s breath, obsidian slicing through the thin, still air with no wind. Nothing could hold her strike once it began its flight.

No one other than the Lords themselves.

Chilling darkness fell over the arena. Ribali tensed, suddenly unable to go any further, almost as if a touch of something gargantuan had stopped her hand. What followed were words of heartbreak, and cries of shattering. Though she could not see, she knew that a great pillar met its end.

A pillar of obsidian, The sharp dust settling on her skin told her.

She felt the ocean’s death and the last sharp wind of Tamalhan, heard the discord of a broken world in the pillar’s last breath.

The grief pulled at her like the cliff world’s three stars pulled at waves, having never seen a moon. She fought, refusing to drown, and forced her focus back onto the heat and dust, the crimson present, and the paragon whose own world had just shattered.

Anemone tendrils swayed as if under a sea that once was. They lapped up her opponent’s weak, shuddering breath and whispers of disbelief.

Ribali huffed out a breath of frustration, but listened. The demon’s obsidian talons hung in the balance of the paragon’s life, and the arena held still. She leaned in, her voice rough and struggling through pain, struggling through broken teeth to speak with clarity.

“What do you choose, Slayer?”

Because even if she’d loved to tear the Slayer asunder, to paint the sands with their blood for what they did to her, the last rage of hers burned quiet and resolute. This was no longer her fight alone.

It was the fight of a million fluttering wings, irisless eyes enlightened. Of leaves and flowers and always damp jungle earth. Of Towers once standing tall, and the star-thirsted Giants that raised them. Of the little ones refusing to lose love amidst a cruel god’s pain. Of the twin singing seas and stones and sharp winds. Of a forest of crystal trees, and two souls so far away they’d never see one another.

And of one lonely, dying demon that couldn’t afford to lose.

“I. . . I–”

To lose herself.

Blood loss began clouding the demon’s thoughts as she saw her Slayer’s hand, reaching towards hers. Did she think the demon would pull her up with the last of her strength?

That she halted her death was the one and only grace she’d give the wounded human.

Get out of my sight. The words that nearly escaped stayed stuck within the demon’s throat as an unexpected blow struck her, chipping off a piece of obsidian horn. The human roared, her voice as wild as a beast caught in a trap, yet with the desperation and sorrow only a man could muster.


Stars swam where Ribali’s vision once was, shadows and blade tearing across her form. The words resounded within her mind and through earth below.

I will not die a stranger.

Ribali tore at her daze, clawing at every last shred of clarity she had.

I am Jelanda. I will make sure that Sonder dies with me!

She responded to the Slayer’s call with a howl that shook the sands, a howl that tore at her throat from the inside. The God’s claw swiped against Jelanda’s voice in the wide and ferocious sweep of a monster, with the hunter's perfect aim.

There was no time to mourn the paragon lost to darkness, no time to pause over the way her claws raked into bone and nerve. A flash of golden light arced through her like lightning. A god, fearful for their life, tearing across the eyes of the threat-

Surrendering the lives of many-


Obsidian met obsidian with a screech as her blade slid against her horn. Shards of sharp glass escaped into the air with each strike of the two. Bone ground against bone and sliced fingers cried war with the fury of an unending sandstorm.

The cruel god dies with us.

Her arms slashed against Jelanda’s flesh with the chaos of glass-shard winds. Heated ichor erupted out of her wounds at the counterstrike, scorching the two fighters. She wouldn’t back down, even as all that she felt was the pounding in her mind and the dryness in her throat. Even as she lashed out against the Dullahan, spikes meeting naught but shadow. Even as pain blazed through as Jelanda’s frenzy sliced her tail in two.

She was no longer fighting alone.

The marble on the center of her chest burned as Ribali pounced with the grace and wrath of a panther, her jaws of shattered and broken glass wide open and gnarly as they met Jelanda.

“I. . I! I AM. . .”

They snapped close with a disquieting crunch.


The Earth paragon fell, her wish to once again see the sky so far away.

Not even a hand was there to prop her up, not even a shard of her strength left as she lay heavily on the dissipating shadows. Their coldness brushed past her form. Ulum’s steps and voice echoed in her mind so loudly.

The teacher’s lips quivered into a shaking smile.

Still, after everything?

Ulum had seen the worst of her, suffered at her rage. And yet their call held such grief, such fear over her. It took all of her effort to lift her head an inch from the mangled remains of the one once called Sonder, only to drop down with a pained sob.

She was the one that defied even the gods.

And yet, when she thought about not dying alone, about the gratefulness it brought, she didn’t think of the warrior she couldn’t find the strength to bow to.


Her voice echoed back, quiet with only embers of a flame.

Perhaps, her efforts were enough to save one, at the hands of another.

Obsidian claws chimed as they held onto the final marble. She felt the wisps of cosmic warmth tear and dissipate as she pulled the tiny world from their grasp. Her arm fell, losing strength, losing grip, yet still holding on.

Steaming blood pooled, staining prismatic fangs red. Slowly, the Maiden’s maw opened one last time.

“Be better… than me…”

She thought of the lost marble, of the pastel pinks and blues she hoped she adorned it with. But words were so difficult to form once again. So instead, she dreamed that one day, in aeons far from here, or perhaps even sooner, someone would discover it deep underneath Bren, and bring it out into the light.

You don’t always get to choose…

The shadows’ chill died down.

The sun… the sun and the sand were so warm. The wind caressed her cheek.

With a quiet, hollow clink Ulum’s marble rolled to the sands.

Ribali never thought the darkness would be so comforting.

Whispers of skyfire ate at a cloth, once a royal violet. It was a tapestry showing a creature with wild black wings and many talons, many horns. Stray red light of fires above barely reached the bottom of the valley, dancing between debris of rock and metal.

Sunbeams danced, filtering through a lush canopy of leaves. They fell on many eyes, feathers and one earth, all watching as the older sun fell from the sky, missing the planet in a wide arc. The air was heavy with anticipation and grief.

A black sky hung above a sea of flash frozen reeds. Their decay was second to the sea’s bleached bones, vitrifying remains melting into the white sand they once punctured.

A forgotten marble rested under a glittering lantern, its light bouncing off the crystals within.
Two lovers embraced under a rainbow of pastel pinks, forest greens, regal golds, deepsea blues and blood red.

You don’t always get to choose… but you have to try.
DF  Post #: 50
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