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=EC 2019= Grand Arena

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8/4/2019 23:27:12   

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP

An eerie quiet filled the empty stands that stood within the Grand Arena. Not a shadow stirred, not a grain of sand moved, not even a whisper could be heard as the sun slowly settled into place overhead. The crimson expanse waited beneath it, cursed to forever bear the blood that stained it, yet otherwise unmarred from the countless melees that had been held upon it.

A perfect silence. A perfect stillness. A single moment of peace - but peace had no place in the Trial of Paragons.

With excited screams, spectators rushed into the awaiting seats. They elbowed and shoved, scrambling to claim the spots that stood closest to the coming bloodbath. Yet the front row of seats had l already been filled. No one knew those who were chosen to speak for the Lords, as delicate scarves and masks hid their faces from view. They stood like statues, the only reminder of the calm before the storm. Their silken robes, dyed colors of every hue, fluttered about them in the commotion. Heads bowed, whether in prayer or contemplation, as they watched the empty sands.

With an unspoken signal, the criers moved as one to raise their heads, hands extending as if in warning, and silence reigned once more. They spoke together, so many different tones and voices that melded into a single chorus as they issued their charge to the watchers and fighters alike. “Fights of glory and deceit, acts of mercy and cruelty, moments of hope, despair, and fury, all have we witnessed in the Trials! Now the Lords have chosen, and as they have passed judgement on the Champions of Old, now will they again decide the most worthy of those before them today. Witness their chosen heroes. Witness the Paragons!”

The ground trembled and shook beneath the stands. Cries of fear pierced the air as a skeletal hand clawed its way up through the blood-red sands, responding to the strings of a puppeteer who stood on the solid stone above. The bones broke apart and slipped beneath the figure’s billowing cloak - though the folds of fabric did little to disguise the skeletal falcons adorning his shoulders or the antlers across their back. The figure twitched, and the bones stilled to await the beginning of the fight. The Pillar of Earth was as stable as stone itself, yet remained ever unpredictable.

“Seperated from family, surrounded by foes. Her honed skills brought order to the chaotic Mystique of Fountain. Witness Nadia Shieldforged, Paragon of Earth!”

The arena filled with an unbearable heat. Tempers frayed and passion ran rampant as a gleaming opal pedestal arose from the sands, flames dancing upon it. They twirled and flickered before parting to reveal a single orange spark - which grew into a delicate fairy. With delicately scaled wings and long fiery hair, she spun in a shallow curtsey to the crowds before growing still. Her gaze turned towards the arena, her outstretched fingers trailing lingering wisps of flame. The Pillar of Fire embraced beauty and destruction in equal measure.

“Master of magic, destroyed by the same. His arcane gifts caught many in the paths of Cellar’s DancingBlades. Witness Jaxdon Davros, Paragon of Fire!”

An unsettling gloom chased away the warmth. Colors seemed to dim and excitement waned away as apool of inky blackness spilled across the sands, coalescing into an obelisk of smoothest obsidian. On it stood a man made entirely of shadows - shades of black and grey emphasising the long overcoat that covered his slim form. There were but two spots of color amidst the morass: the bright red scarf circling his neck and the brilliant scarlet gloves adorning his hands. He saluted the stands with a beautifully curved blade, the shaska briefly a blur as it was thrust towards the arena’s center, his movement ceasing at last. The Pillar of Darkness could bring death or rebirth, but either at a cost.

“Hounded by nightmares, haunted by demons. His weapons brought forth screeching death from Cellar’s Dancing Blades. Witness Sark Ynet, Paragon of Darkness!”

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

“Returned to life, desired by death. Her swords wrecked havoc for Cellar’s Dancing Blades. Witness Morrigan Chase, Paragon of Energy!”

A whispering breeze scattered the remaining sparks. It brought smiles and giggles as it pulled mischievously at loose hair and clothes, with just a hint of cruel trickery behind the playful facade. Gradually it grew, swirling into a cyclone that sucked up motes of crimson dust and pelted the sand at the spectators’ exposed skin. From its center emerged a plinth of silver, bearing a figure so faint it was as if her features had been worn away by the constant flurry. All that could be distinguished was the curve of her bow, which she gestured skywards before falling still. The Pillar of Wind was a force strong enough to topple mountains, yet so gentle as to not disturb even a single grain of sand.

“Tested through bloodshed, deafened by whispers. Her breath strong enough to sway the Spikes of Malice. Witness Arro, Paragon of Wind!”

A bone-deep chill settled over the crowd, people pulling together in defiance against the bitter cold that creeped in with the frost. Snow fell from the cloudless sky - piling upon itself until it formed a sculpture of an immense fur-covered creature, wicked claws digging into the crystal stand beneath. The bear reared up onto its hind legs, the ripple of muscle obvious even under the weight of its gleaming armor. It bared its fangs in a silent roar as the snow ceased, daring any to come closer. The Pillar of Ice could eradicate those it could just as easily preserve.

“Beloved of crowds, shattered by trials. His transformations led to destruction and salvation by Cellar’s Dancing Blades. Witness Bassareus Laverne, Paragon of Ice!”

A beam of radiant dawn, stronger than even the noon-day sun above, illuminated the sands. The unrelenting brightness brought with it unrivaled calm until even the most restless of the crowds fell still. It alit upon a diamond podium - and from the glow stepped the twisted figure of a werewolf. It blinked at the brightness before shifting, folding into itself to form a tall, wiry Paladin. She pushed the hair out of her face with one hand and drew her rapier with the other, twirling it elegantly before directing its point towards the center of the sands. The Pillar of Light would blind the unworthy, yet heal those who held
faith in its glow.

“Cursed by shadows, blessed by starlight . Her voice rivals the cry of Cellar’s Dancing Blades. Witness Nigh Weathers, Paragon of Light!”

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

“Plagued by strangeness, heralded with hope. His natural weapons spilled more blood than the Spikes of Malice. Witness Gary, Paragon of Water!”

Each statue seemed as if it was holding its breath - poised upon their pedestals to watch over the battle below. The crowd held their breath, waiting for them to move again. But movement came, not from the Pillars, but from the gates beyond them as each doorway opened to reveal the Paragons. The silence broke as the crowds roared once more, and above them all came the joined voices of the criers. “We bear witness now to the Trial of the Desert Sands. Let the Judgment of the Arena begin!”

< Message edited by Starflame13 -- 8/5/2019 12:52:55 >
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 1
8/5/2019 20:26:14   
Eternal Wanderer

Blade met flesh, and the visceral feel of it - the shock of steel shearing skin, transmitted up ranseur’s helve - sent a frisson of pleasure through Sark Ynet.

--Take her leg, o Dragon mine. Cripple her.--

Of course, the husk objected to such treatment, but it was the how of it that was the true surprise. In her hands, the woman’s quarterstaff twisted, its form flowing like water rather than wood. The creeper thrust the reformed weapon back at his face with desperate strength, a crushing blow angled up at his jaw.

The wiry man snarled, reflexively snapping his head to the side and jerking the ranseur up, forgoing his intended follow-up twist of the blade. Instead he retreated several paces, reestablishing his footing for the bout to come. Vain Sark Ynet was not, but that did not mean he had any desire to spend the next six months supping on soup through a broken jaw. In either event, he had no issue with letting the husk bleed a little before the end. Let her think she had a chance in this, that she had driven him back.

--All the sweeter, when she discovers the truth.--

And soon the creeper would see, it was only a matter-

That thought was shattered by the scream of Cellar’s siren. But this cry… this cry was different. The howl grew, and grew, and grew, expanding stridently through the Arena. It was like a living thing, filling the space until the very volume of its unrelenting wail staggered the combatants. The jagged man's grip faltered, weapon clattering to the tile mutely - or apparently so, for no sound could pierce through the unearthly screech that somehow, impossibly, continued to intensify.

Of a certainty, his eardrums must burst soon, for he could feel the noise: pressing upon his skin, humming within his bones, rattling his mismatched eyes in their tearing sockets. Deafness would be a relief, he thought, as the monotone shriek drove him to his knees. He would even welcome it, if only because it would bring about the cessation of this godscursed sound. Surely even the Arena could not withstand such aural fury for long, and the wiry man was convinced he could not bear another moment of the exponentially increasing yowl when a single white-hot thought managed to separate itself from the overwhelming accumulation.

He was kneeling on the dead-line.

And the dead-line bloomed.

Blood, thick and crimson, gushed from the mark upon the Arena’s floor, a quick-spreading flood that soaked into Sark Ynet’s pants in a moment, even as his gaze snapped eastward. The jagged man’s left hand, demon-fingered and rippling, rose in a fitful gesture of denial; his fingers splayed in a warding, defensive gesture - silver of the ring winking upon his middle digit - as though prepared to do the impossible: catch the blade he knew was coming.

It was folly, madness. His shadowed arm had proven resilient to all manner of damage, though it felt pain no differently than his right arm did. Even if he could catch the blade, his left limb might well be insuperable, but the rest of him was not. Perhaps it would pass through his unbreakable arm, striking at the body behind it. Or perhaps he would be driven before the blade like a ship before a storm, holding desperately against the cutting edge until he was dashed against the Cellar’s unyielding wall.

Sark Ynet realized then that he was laughing - for all that the apparent mirth was swallowed by the overbearing siren - and he had no true understanding of why that was. Kneeling in lukewarm blood, assailed by the unrelenting onslaught of the klaxon, and awaiting the Dancing Blade that would be his undoing, the jagged man laughed; he nearly convulsed with it, as the curor saturated his clothing and darkness - not a blade - came forth to claim him.

But it was familiar, that darkness. He had known it for years untold.

This darkness had a name.


There were fingers around his throat. Strangling fingers, a heated grip that commanded attention. And yet, there was nothing to see. No light, no color, no shape. That made sense, because the wiry man knew, somehow, that nothing of Light could survive here. This was the edge of Night itself. But Sark Ynet knew too, without having to be told, that this was not the first time he had been to this place, and the grip of those fingers informed him well that he was not alone.

It was Houkut. As though the suspicion - the realization - had summoned it, the balor’s voice was there; words spoken quietly, tenderly, emerged faint and sibilant from the blackness. “We have had such fun, you and I. But now comes the end. Remember your promise, o Dragon mine, for I remember that which I spoke.”

The words forced themselves from the man’s throat, gasping around the choking digits. “‘Life or death. Victory or defeat, I will hold the debt fulfilled. But if victory it should be, choose aright.’”

There was a pregnant pause, and then a slow, cruel smile Sark Ynet could feel upon his skin, as surely as he had felt the siren’s call. “Aye, so it is. Do you so. But always remember: we are, each of us, the choices we make.”

And then he was flying, falling, hurtling through an abyss that was black, blacker, blackest. A devouring gradient of deeper, hungrier shadows swallowed him, while the ring on his umbral finger seared him with frozen heat.

And in that darkest space, just before merciful oblivion robbed him of all sense… Something stirred.

“We take it the accommodations in Carchar were not to your liking then?” God-Emperor Iawn did not deign to turn away from the window of his solar, looking out over the riot that rocked the imperial seat. Below, remote with distance from the high tower of his personal residence, it was easy to mark the spread of the fires, to see the surging knots of combat where his loyalists fought a valiant, losing battle against the tide of rebellion.

The Grand Library was ablaze.

The Imperial Treasury was being ransacked.

The High Temple was a desecrated battlefield.

The Plaza of Victory Eternal was a graveyard.

“You will release to me the others, the Dragons that you detained for ‘treason’ when you dragged me before your throne for that farce of ‘Justice’.” The jagged man bore a knife in his flesh and bone hand, blood dripping thickly from the blade to stain the priceless carpet beneath his feet.

The ruler of the Rodekian Empire remained unmoved, peering through the glass at the carnage below, not so much as glancing at the man who had carved his way through the palace at the head of a roiling mob. “We can give you only their bodies. They would not renege their professions of loyalty. You are an unwontedly charismatic man, for a butcher.” He paused a moment and then offered an absent shrug, setting aside the majestic plural as he continued tiredly, “I could not countenance their defiance, and I had other Dragons to carry out their duties. I had hoped that six months of your absence might be enough to smother their ardor. It would seem I was mistaken.”

“If I was a butcher it was your making,” the wiry man returned caustically. “But one shall answer for another. Your Dragons are dead as well. Save perhaps Redrigal, scurrying shadow to shadow through the north district on his way to Abaret. You cannot truly think they will answer your plea.”

“The orders were mine. The execution was yours, particularly where it departed from my decrees.” Iawn shook his head slowly. “As to Abaret…” He shrugged once more, abandoning the topic. “My Imperial Hellkite, that was what they called you. And doom beat in the wings of your arrival.” For a long moment the God-Emperor was silent, and when he continued his weary voice was soft. “Perhaps you are not wrong. I saw what you were capable off, in Pretu. It is why I sent you to Brenth, though I did not want you to make of it a charnel house.”

“They called me a devil in Brenth,” the Dragon answered. “And in Tarika, and Pretu. In Rodeken, they called me a savior.” He smiled, the chill, hungry expression unseen by the empire’s ruler. “You asked me for a city, whole and unbroken. Do you deny I gave it to you?”

“No,” the ruler replied, finally looking away from the window, letting his heavy, golden-eyed gaze fall upon the jagged man. “You are the last, you know. The final Dragon. Even should he win free, Redrigal… I have seen his death on the road. My last failed gambit.” He sighed. “And so there is you, the last I raised up. Perhaps it is fitting. I saw the flaw in you. The… rapacity. And when you turned your hand upon Rissa-”

“Do not speak of Rissa to me!” The jagged man lifted the dagger, pointing it at Iawn. “Rissa had no stomach for what must be done, could not bear that she could be wrong, nor that another take her place. I was promised the Fairest Maid in-”

“And thus Letta.” The God-Emperor interrupted the Hellkite, his expression saddened. “If only you could have looked beyond the surface of things. And yet, this tells true enough, for you have asked of your comrades in arms, but not your wife and child.”

“Torthol!” The wiry man stormed forward, closing the distance between himself and Iawn, only to come up short as the ruler raised a peremptory hand. “If you have harmed him I will make your death an agony!”

“They live. My word to you was good. So long as you did bide in Carchar they were to be cared for.” Iawn looked away, gaze turning to the window and the burning city. “My Dragons told me of the crowds. How they gathered in the Plaza of Punishment. How they chanted your name, your titles. I was urged to send your wife and child into exile, or to execute them when word of your liberation came to me. I did neither. As to their safety now…” He waved one hand in a vague gesture towards the vista below. “Many will curse your name in the days to come.”

“Curse my name if you will, but remember the truth.”

The God-Emperor turned slowly, letting his gold eyes return to the jagged man, the faint beginning of a cheerless smile upon his lips. “And what is that?”

“That I did what was necessary to protect the Empire.”

“Did you?”

“When the Tarikans came, I stood. I held the line, and it was I who drove them back. When Brenth rose up in rebellion, I showed them what it meant to defy the Imperial Throne. When the Empire stood upon the brink of starvation, I brought Pretu to heel.”

“Shall I, then?” Iawn’s voice was deadly soft on the heels of the Dragon’s ringing words.

Blue eyes narrowed, the dagger weaving slightly before him as the suddenly wary man took a step back. “Speak not your sorceries. I will hear no more orders from you.”

“Then you renounce your service.” The God-Emperor turned, faced the intruder, and his voice gathered strength until it rang with the authority of his blood, howsoever distant and diluted. “Know this, then: We, Iawn Variel, anointed God-Emperor of Rodeken, do abjure thee. Thou wert at our appointment a Dragon, known amongst the people as the Imperial Hellkite. By thine hand thou has fomented rebellion and civil strife, overthrowing that which was instituted before all ages as the Law of Rodeken: that the House of Variel should hold this holy land in perpetuity, and minister it for the good of all who shouldst fall under their hand. In thy hubris, thou dost challenge that we curse thy name. We do. Thou art attainted; thy oaths are forsworn. From thee we strip thy titles and privileges, and, above all else, thy name. Let it be known from this day forth thou hast no name, only the pride of thy last resort. Last of all Dragons were thee raised. Ever after thou shalt be not the Imperial Hellkite, but Sark Ynet, the Broken Dragon.”

The words fell on Sark Ynet like hammer blows, driving him to his knees before the unveiled wrath of the last descendant of the House of Variel. He could feel it - searing thought-knives shaped of will, imbued with the dying echoes of blood divine - excising his memories, cutting away at the fabric of who he was.

No - not was - of who he had been. “You… you cannot! I… I deny… Help…”

“Dost thou refute? Upon thy knees, crass and impenitent?” Iawn’s aureate gaze blazed. “We know thy mind, for thou criest for help from thine Paraclete. In this matter, he hast no power. But we decree thus: Upon thy skin thou shalt wear the marks of thy treachery. For each intercession of thy ‘advisor’ thou shalt bear a stripe. Should he love thee so, let their healing be his province.”

A jagged scream tore itself from the kneeling man, as scourging pain writ its presence in neat cross-hatching lines across his back. And in truth, it was the physical hurt that galvanized him as nothing else could, languishing under the lash of Iawn’s voice. Sark Ynet uncoiled like a spring released, covering the distance between himself and the God-Emperor in a single bound. The dagger flashed in his hand, and he overbore the ruler of Rodeken, a high and horrible laugh ringing through the chamber as he drove the weapon into royal flesh.

That was how they found him, some hours later. Flushed and triumphant with news that the capital was secure, his lieutenants found the Broken Dragon in the God-Emperor’s solar, drawing up short at the sight.

The jagged man was seated in a plain chair, planted - throne-like - amid the ruin of Iawn’s butchered corpse, a smile on his face and a mad giggle cracking his voice. “I looked everywhere for it, but I couldn’t find it.”

“My… my lord?” One of the soldiers enquired, pale at the slaughterhouse stench confined within the small sitting room. “Are you…”

Blue eyes, hectic with manic hilarity, fastened on the man, silencing him. “I,” he declared in dulcet tones, “am Sark Ynet. And we have so much work left to do. So many… choices yet to make.”

He jerked up with a strangled cry, lurching to his feet. The wiry man turned, wildly, warily, searching for a threat, a foe, for anyone.

But he was alone.

Iawn was dead. Rissa, Letta, Torthol, they were all dead.

Rodeken was dead.

Sark Ynet closed his eyes, letting his head fall back as he screamed. It was a ratcheting, ululating noise, a weak echo of the Cellar’s siren that nonetheless redounded upon itself within the strange, featureless half-dome of onyx. Primal, wrenching, the cry carried a pain that went beyond the conveyance of words.

The Empire, his Empire - for which he had paid in sweat, toil, blood, and self - was dead.

The Seven Bridges had fallen.

The Spire of Delights had toppled.

The Bliss of Mortulla had burned.

The Great Seat of Houses had collapsed.

And all that he had given, all that he had wrought… It was no more than the smoke that had risen over dying Brenth as the final madness took hold.

The heart-rent cry stuttered, choked with grief. Grief, and the sickly agonizing hilarity of it all.

All of his choices had been made.

“No, not all,” rasped the jagged man, reaching out and finding the ranseur waiting for his grasp. At his waist was the hacking blade, upon his finger the ring. He had not come to the final choice, not yet.

What had passed was immutable, but the future…

A gate opened in the featureless dome before him, and once more a cold smile found its way across Sark Ynet’s lips as he stepped forward. The aperture yawned before him, disclosing crimson sand and great towering effigies he assumed were Champions past. About him, the air rang with chanted words, paeans to the chosen - the Paragons - and a declaration of the Final Trial to come.

The future was ever malleable.

It required only the courage and conviction to choose.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 2
8/5/2019 23:19:20   

Nigh stopped screaming, but the Cellar around her took over, its force invading her barely-conscious mind and driving her crippled body hard into the stone floor. Through blurred vision she watched the crimson line next to her fill with thick blood, then overflow, sliding across the ground and staining her dress and skin. The scream of the siren pressed her head down into the blood, and it flowed through the gash in her neck and down her throat, robbing her of breath and air as she choked violently. Whether the darkness came from the walls around her or from a lack of oxygen mattered not as she slipped into a deep sleep.

Nigh knelt at the center of the church’s sanctuary, her hands clasped in prayer. The room was dark, but as she finished her prayer to the Lord she cast her eyes up to gaze at the large stained glass window that adorned the chapel. The beautiful design depicted Nigh herself, wings spread and arms outstretched, pardoning a sinner. As the sun rose behind the church, the crimson light set the window aglow, revealing a blemish to the design: her red gash, directly across the glass angel’s neck. The red light began spreading down the design, drawing bloody lines along the angel’s dress.

Nigh tried to look away in fear, but an invisible force held her head in place, and she found she was unable to shut her eyes. The colored glass mosaic pieces began to constantly shift, changing the image to gorgeously crafted scenes of pain and suffering.

A pale, multi-armed beast with a featureless mask, neck spraying blood as a young man removed it with a violent slash. Nigh’s neck tingled at the sight, the feeling of blood seeming to seep from her wound.

An angelic figure, similar to herself. Perfect skin fractured by bright streams of light, locked in combat with a draconic woman. Nigh’s wings stung with pain, remembering the arcane hand shattering her bones.

A figure in imposing spiked armor, struggling to survive as a cascade of water slammed down upon him from above. Nigh’s breath caught, and she coughed up a small amount of blood, a remnant of Cellar’s final gift.

Nigh rose to her feet and stumbled back, clawing at her eyes, trying to drive the horrific visions from her mind. She screamed, and her voice answered. The windows of the church exploded, revealing the sun beyond, high in the sky, throwing brutal, intense light to shine through the open walls. The glass flew through the air, reforming in the space before her while invisible hands grasped at her wrists and pulled them from her eyes, forcing her to gaze upon the beautiful colored scenes once more.

Maled Con, slashing Nigh’s throat upon the rooftop. Nigh shuddered involuntarily. Though it had been an accident, it had not been his first kill that week.

Maled Con again, surrounded by clockwork, plunging through the air towards a fiery inferno, showered in boiling water. Nigh had watched his suffering through the Trial of Factory, as the light of his soul had gone out. There had been nothing she could have done.

The intense light began to dim, turning a faint, lovely violet as the sun reversed direction to set behind the church from the same place it had risen. The grips on Nigh’s wrists loosened as the scene shifted one final time. Nigh gasped at the beauty of it, the craftsmanship done impeccably, with talent unreachable by any mere human artisan.

Maled Con, his back turned as he exited the grand arena reverently. The tokens of those he killed left behind in the sand as respectful tributes. A shadow stretched out from him, staying behind within the confines of the coliseum, while a freed soul left to search for an angel.

The portrait shattered once more, glass flowing through the air in dancelike movements as the shards settled into their spots within the windows once more. Nigh spun slowly, admiring the gentler works, realization dawning on her as her eyes drifted from scene to scene. Each one depicted an event within the past year. Each one portrayed herself and Maled.

They were sharing a meal. Training together. Shopping. Napping. Hunting. Dancing.

The large, main window was lit up with the full majesty of the setting sun’s radiant light. The glass seemed to shimmer and shift, as if alive.

It displayed Nigh, dancing at a prismatic glass sunset, an activity she’d often do on evenings she was particularly upbeat and certain she was alone. In the scene was Maled Con, off to the side, watching in secret. His expression was gentle. Entranced. Happy. At the top of the scene were three words, the light shining through them and causing a brilliant glow.

You Saved Him

As the sun dipped beyond the horizon, the church became dark once again, then darker still, leaving Nigh in a lightless void, though somehow she still felt at ease. Torches flicked to life around her, revealing an ancient stone hallway, and at the end- a gate.

Her bow was in her hand, her shield on her arm, both now immaculate. She carefully spread her wings, and gave them an experimental spread and flap, finding no pain in the motion. She could feel her silver arrow once again within her pocket dimension, as well. Her hand drifted to her throat. The wound was gone, her skin was smooth and unmarred. Finally, the curse on her body was lifted. And yet, her breath still made no sound, her words still refused to come. But she felt no despair. Instead, she found an odd comfort in the familiarity of the silence. She shut her eyes and raised a silent prayer.

Lord, you gave a gift for when I needed it, and have taken it once its use had run its course. I see that now. Following your will, I will continue to save.

Nigh withdrew her wings and took a careful step forward. Then another. Then another. Her steps came faster and faster, until she was running, sprinting down the stone hallway. The gateway rose and she burst through the entrance without slowing, the crimson sands scorching her bare feet as she kicked them up behind her. She leapt, spun in the air, and spread her wings, gliding along with grace and energy, then drifting to a stop alongside the towering diamond figure of a female Paladin. Under its gaze, and Nigh’s own, none would lose their lives in the arena.

Not today. Not ever.
Post #: 3
8/7/2019 21:19:16   

He was suspended in the air, water shooting forth from his fur, for what felt like days but was only a scant few breaths, when there was a great flash of light and he found himself in darkness. He was floating, in what seemed like nowhere space when a slight flicker of light passed over his lid and he realised.

He was in the True-Deep.

He opened up his inner eyelid and took in his surroundings, his sensitive eyes now fully exposed, able to drink in every last scant drop of light that filtered down through kilometres of ocean. He gasped at the sight before him: The Temple Down, where the Quelling was performed. He took a few shuddering seconds to compose himself before swimming forth: He knew he had been brought to this place at this time for a reason and he had to see it through, whatever it was.

He pushed open the doors to the entrance and swam forth, his eyes ranging over the frescoes lining the walls of the corridor he swam down, before coming to a massive open space. Gary had to stop to compose himself once again; after all, this was where It had been confined and Quelled over thousands of moons. But It was no longer here. After the failed Quelling It had been free to leave Its prison.

But kneeling on the ground in the Repose of Situation, his back to Gary, was Prisma.

Gary couldn’t believe his eyes. He knew Prisma to be dead, yet there he was. Prisma stood and turned, beckoning Gary towards him. Slowly Gary approached him, prepared for some kind of trap, a shell of hardened water surrounding him, covered in more spikes than the Spiked Ball of Malice. Prisma laughed. “Be at ease, young one. I am not here to harm you.” “Prisma is dead.” Gary returned bluntly.

Prisma inclined his head. “True. But tell me, young [Hope for the Future], does it really matter if I am the real Prisma, returned here for but a brief time, or a servant of our Lord, merely masquerading in this form?” Gary took a few seconds to answer. “No. I suppose it doesn’t. This is the Transition, isn’t it?” “Indeed. You have been chosen to represent the element of Water as its Paragon.” “Not that there were other choices. The Arena Distribution board said I was the sole entrant for water.”

Prisma laughed. “The sole entrant in the Spike Arena, young one. Not the sole entrant overall. Here, swim with me.” Prisma swam over to the wall by the entrance, where more frescoes bore inscrutable imagery that Prisma had never been completely sure as to what they depicted. A new fresco had appeared about every 12 moons. “I had my suspicions you know, about what exactly these images show. Now I do believe I know for sure. See anyone you recognise?”

Prisma was gesturing to a fresco that had not been there when Gary had visited this place shortly before setting out for Bren. Eight statues on pillars formed a ring on crimson sands. But standing in front of each pillar was an individual. The same image was found in the other frescoes, albeit with different individuals and design of pillar. But on this image Gary’s eye was drawn to her immediately: his foe from the Spike Arena.

He pointed to her, “I split her cheek open.” Prisma nodded. “Yes, as I had suspected these frescoes show the Paragons of the Elemental Championships. I’d rather have found that out before dying, but oh well. What do you think of your fellow Paragons, young one?” “Humans are very strange.” Prisma laughed again. “That is how it seems to us isn’t it? ‘The Above is the realm of the humans,’ well, as it turns out, we were a little lacking in information there.”

Prisma pointed at the Paragons before the pillars of Ice and Darkness. “Those two are the only full-blood humans. Those three are half elf,” gesturing to Gary’s foe, as well as the Paragons of Fire and Energy, “That one is kin to dragons,” this time the Paragon of Earth, “and she there is an Angel,” lastly the Paragon of Light.

Gary sighed. “So, you truly aren’t Prisma after all.” Prisma just smiled. “I know you won’t believe it, [Hope for the Future], but I really am me. I’ve simply been armed with a bit more knowledge than I died with. About your fellow Paragons, I know only their names and races. Not the most thrilling of information, but it is what it is.” Prisma then descended into a short coughing fit. Alarmed, Gary grabbed his shoulder gently. “Are you okay?”

“No, dear boy. My time is limited: A mere five minutes before I die again. Equal parts cruelty and kindness I would say. I get to see you again, but in exchange I go through the pain of dying twice. But before I do, there are some questions our Lord bade me ask as part of the deal. Firstly: Are you ready for this, young one?” Gary blinked. “Would I be here were I not?” Prisma smiled. “No, I mean truly ready. You came here to fight and that worked for you in Spike, but it won’t be so simple now. You’ll need to be ready to kill.”

Gary was silent for a short while, before speaking again. “Everyone’s here because they have something they want. In order for me to get what I want, I have to at least dash their own dreams. If I have to take their lives as well… So be it.” Prisma nodded. “So what will you do then, if you do not emerge triumphant. You have to know that the chances are not great for you.” “I will go looking for the tree-dwelling Aofeyfetarl.” Prisma grimaced. “Ah… young [Hope for the Future] you aren’t just the last of the aquatic Aofeyfetarl. You are the last of all living Aofeyfetarl.”

Gary was taken aback. “Oh… but, I thought-” “They died off a few thousand moons ago. Hunted to extinction. So what will you do?” “... I will just have to look for another way. Surely somewhere in this great big world there must be some other way to keep our race going. If it comes down to it, I can always enter the Championships again. Starla’s final clutch should remain viable for long enough.”

Prisma nodded and began swimming back over to the centre of the room and Gary followed him. “It is almost time young one,” Prisma said, gesturing to a window of water, looking out into the Grand Arena. The sound of the criers filtered through, announcing the Paragons. Gary looked at Prisma. “Time for me to go.” Prisma smiled. “May the Grace of our Lord see you through this. Although…” “Yes?” “I really think you could have picked a better name than Gary.” he laughed, then descended into a coughing fit that sent out sprays of blood, before collapsing, once more without life.

“We bear witness now to the Trial of the Desert Sands. Let the Judgment of the Arena begin!” With these words another window of water appeared in the Arena itself, just in front of the Pillar of Water and the two windows joined together, becoming a door and Gary took a moment to gather an orb of hardened water as he had had when he entered Spike. He stepped through and looked left, then right. He decided to run at the Angel, a she, Prisma said, forming the orb into a halberd and briefly noting that his nose was no longer damaged.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 4
8/7/2019 21:26:13   

As the fighting raged about her, Morrigan kept to herself on the cold floor. Crippled, all of her being ached with pain, completely sapped of strength. Through force of will, she had managed to bandage her wound, but that could only do so much. Blood trickled down her throat, the presence of iron flooding all of her senses. She heaved again and spat more out, thousands of needles prickling her insides in response.

She looked down at her chest. The heat piled around her neck, the teal scrap now crimson, and it was spreading. She had bought another moment to breathe but for how long?

How am I to win this?

Then, as if to answer her thoughts, the infernal alarm rang once again, the prelude to the blades, or so she assumed. However, where the siren before would turn silent, this time it would not be restrained. It grew louder and louder, the sound slamming against Morrigan’s skull. Even with one ear mostly gone, the sound was simply unbearable. Her heart quickened seemingly in step with the alarm, the pulse burning through her wounded body. She shut her eye and reached for her ears, searching for any reprieve from the noise, but a creeping sensation ran across her elbow and feet— warm, unmistakable. She was bathing in blood.

In that instant, everything went quiet, giving way to a single thought.

A fitting punishment for my sins. I drown in their blood.

She opened her mouth with curses on her tongue, but her words were stolen. She was punished with a searing affliction for her attempt. All Morrigan could do was grit her teeth as the blood swelled around her body, all to the cadence of the siren’s cry.

At last, the crescendo came with a flash of white light, and then silence.

A haze clouded her mind as Morrigan awoke in the chamber. The sound of the alarm still rang in her ears, her thoughts jarred and disconnected. As the haze began to lift, the first glimpse she saw was of the attendants. A dozen or so in robes stood around her, all focused on Morrigan, whispering between them. Just as she was gathering her thoughts, her first instinct was to stand, but as she tried, her knees buckled and she stumbled forward. Several of the attendants rushed to her side, helping her back onto the bed. One of the elders broke the silence.

“Careful, careful! Your flesh is whole, but the mind is not so easily fixed.”

Morrigan grunted as she pushed the men aside. “Ugh- Where am I?”

As she spoke, instinct took over as she reached for her own throat, but there were no wounds. The pain was merely a phantom now. The men looked to themselves as Morrigan took deep breaths. She leaned against the wall, taking in her surroundings as she calmed herself down. Her eye scanned the room to nothing noteworthy. Just a simple room with a bed, a table, and a window to let in the sunlight. There was one thing, however. As she moved, Morrigan could feel her blade at her waist, pressed against the bedding. Upon further examination, the coins were there, and her cloak was fixed. All of her equipment seemed to be in order.

Morrigan looked back to the eyeing crowd. “I ask again. Where am I, and what happened?”

“A gift from your patron.” One of the younger made her way to the front. A human girl, far younger than the rest of her company, likely still in her teens. Her blue eyes brimmed with confidence towards Morrigan. It didn’t take a genius to figure the rest out.

“I’m chosen, then?”

The youth gave a nod. “It would be poor to send the Lord of Energy’s champion to battle ill-equipped.”

“I see.” Morrigan crossed her arms and sighed in relief. “I’m happy to know that he has good sense. One step down, then. What do I have to do next?”

The assistants whispered amongst themselves before the eldest spoke again. “In thirty minutes, the final battle in the Grand Arena will commence. When you are ready, we shall take you there-”

“I’m ready.” Morrigan fixed the man with a glare.

“Do not be so hasty, Paragon. Even with the Lord’s blessing, you wouldn’t stand a chance right now.” Morrigan rolled her eyes at the elder’s words. Seeing this, the young one interceded.

“What he means is that you should take a moment to rest and recover yourself. It might be your last chance to do so.”

Morrigan lowered her golden eyes from the youth. “I haven’t rested in decades. Not enough time.”

The youth took a step back and looked at the elders, all of them bearing the same shade of concern. She turned back to the half-elf. Morrigan was fixated towards her hands. With a sigh, Morrigan nodded and looked up to the attendants. “I’m ready. Just take me already.”

It was moments like these where Morrigan wished she was completely deaf. The attendants had assigned the young one to escort her to the arena. It seemed as if the girl had taken a liking to Morrigan, reminiscent of how a mother would coddle their child. At least, that’s what she had been told.

Morrigan hated her mother until the day she disappeared. Ignorant, out of touch, always unable to provide Morrigan the support she truly need. “Our wonderful saint Morrigan! What would we do without you?”

What kind of mother talks to her daughter like that? Have you no shame?

The youthful acolyte rattled on as they walked alone through the stone corridors: “Remember, while your skill is what will win you the battle, you must keep your Lord’s favor. That’s what is at stake here, the favor of the lords. Without it. . .”

The young one paused in her monologue. “Morrigan, are you okay?”

Her name was fire in her ears. The youth had her full attention.

She continued on, “Are you nervous? You seem so willing to rush to death?”

“Theirs, not mine.” Morrigan corrected her. “Besides, aren’t the others doing the same? Surely you understand the stakes, what we are all here for?”

“I know, just. . .” The young attendant looked away. “For someone so special, you just seem so lonely.”

For Morrigan, that was the last straw. Without hesitation, she had grasped the attendant by the chest and pinned her against the stone wall. Cracks formed along the impact as the attendant gasped for air. Specks of energy dotted Morrigan’s frame as she looked at the youth in the eye.

Special?! What do you know about me? The sacrifices that I’ve made to come here? All the friends that I’ve lost, all the lives that I have taken?”

She pulled the woman back only to slam her into the wall again. “Would you like to join them?” The attendant whimpered as she shook her head, much to Morrigan’s satisfaction. Content, she released the woman, letting her slide to the ground as she walked onward.

Before she left, however, the acolyte muttered out one last reply.

“I needed to know.”

The half-elf paused in her step. As Morrigan looked back, her face turned slack and pale. The youth was still on the ground, eyes pinned to Morrigan. Much to the woman’s shock, Morrigan walked back to the youth and kneeled down to grab her hand.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t stand. . .” Morrigan stopped, closing her eyes as she looked for the right words. “It’s hard to make company when everyone is dead.” Morrigan pulled the youth to her feet. When she let go, the acolyte stumbled for a moment, but she recovered her balance in time. Before the woman could react, Morrigan continued her path down the corridor. When she tried to advance, Morrigan stopped her.

“Please, give me some space. I’ll find my own way.”

“Lonely?” Morrigan spat out the word as she leaned against the arena’s gates. “You have no idea. . .”

Her entrance was not hard to find, though not for reasons she enjoyed. Even though she had escaped that fraternizing youth, she encountered a dozen more along the way, all eager to direct her to her goal.

But the youth’s words rang loud in her ears, louder than the Cellar’s alarm. Special. Lonely.

“I need to know.”

The words took her back to her own youth at the academy. She could see the elder theologians burying their face into their palms. “Why, Morrigan? You have so much potential! Why must you pursue these vain thoughts?”

Because I had to know. I had to see it with my own eyes.

The greatest prodigy of her time. The greatest heretic of all. Either way, she was special to them. A tool to be used, a problem to be solved. It’s how they all saw her, all save a few.

Wrenith. Kaimilla. Albus. Jade.

The Five Heretics of Lynaria. Tears swelled in Morrigan’s eyes as she wandered through the memories. The five of them carved out their own place in the world in their quest to turn it upside down. Those were happier times. They were gone now, all of them. Morrigan wondered what they would make of her now, seventy years later. Would they understand?

But there was more. Morrigan was nervous as well. Nervous and frustrated. When she had walked into the Cellar, she was overconfident. After all, how much trouble would this ‘competition’ be? Surely their resolve was nothing in the face of hers?

It was this mindset that had brought Morrigan to death’s door once again. It was like she told the youth. Everyone here has something to fight for. Her hands began to shake, her throat aching with pain as she thought back to the Cellar.

Not again.

Morrigan couldn’t rely on her old parlor tricks and sleight of hand for this battle. She swore that she would not make the same mindless mistakes once again. She needed a plan.

Her hand wandered to the blade beneath her cloak.

“I was a fool to hide you away.” She traced her fingers along the hilt, tugging it ever so slightly. Morrigan grinned as she pulled Heavensbolt from its sheath, bearing it for all to see. She peered into the smooth onyx of its edge, her reflection distorted within. Her eye wandered to her sash.

All of the thoughts from the past moments collided as she looked into her reflection. She was at the end of the road, her decades-long struggle. Dreams of the life ahead, memories of all she had cut down to reach this moment.

Suddenly, a voice erupted through the gates.

“Fights of glory and deceit, acts of mercy and cruelty, moments of hope, despair, and fury, all have we witnessed in the Trials! Now the Lords have chosen, and as they have passed judgement on the Champions of Old, now will they again decide the most worthy of those before them today. Witness their chosen heroes. Witness the Paragons!”

Her heart pulsed faster and faster in her chest, all the pain from the last hour rushing to her at once. “We have been together this whole time. . . Now we shall end it together. I want to see this with my own eyes.”

Morrigan reached for the sash, and with one stroke, she tore it to pieces, her scarred flesh now for all to see. Her future was now before her; she would hide no longer.

As the announcer introduced the combatants, raw, primordial magic swelled in waves throughout the entire arena, each element demanding the attention of all.

Unwavering earth, the crushing weight of all life.

Relentless fire, hot enough to burn her soul.

Unbridled darkness, its deathly chill familiar company.

In the midst of the magic, an old spark ignited within the half-elf. It was nothing like she had ever seen. Morrigan could feel the magic bearing down on her, the Elemental Lords deeming her unworthy. But then, a voice resounded in her mind, a voice unlike anything she could ever comprehend.

“Go forth, my champion. Earn our favor.”

Suddenly, a pulse of energy erupted from the gates. For a brief moment, she felt the power surge through every fiber of her existence. “This is the Lord’s blessing?!” So this was what the attendants meant. Even as the other elements announced their presence, they were nothing to her. For the first time since that fated accident, she felt. . . joy. Excitement. Passion. This was the feeling that guided her before all those years ago, the desire for action, to discover the truth. And now, the epitome of all magic was laid before her.

“We bear witness now to the Trial of the Desert Sands. Let the Judgment of the Arena begin!”

The gates now open, Morrigan stepped forth onto the blood-stained sands, the crowd roaring from all directions. Before her stood a grand pillar, its form dancing with chaos, pulsing with the selfsame energy as before. This was the source, the mark of her patron lord.

Across this arena, seven other pillars stood, one lord and champion for each.

Seven champions, their hopes and dreams, their very existence pitted against her own.

A perfectionist to the end; she would undo her mistakes. One by one, they would fall by Morrigan’s hand— her life for theirs. And so, she had a choice. Whom would she seek first?
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 5
8/7/2019 21:34:36   
Eternal Wanderer


In the end it all came down to choices.

“Ask again, when you return,” Rissa’s voice, gentler than he heard it ever after. “So much happens, in war. And… my heart is heavy, but I know not why. Just.. just come back to me. Come back safe.”

That had been before Brenth. After… After there had been only discord.

After had come the Knife and the Eye.

But such were their choices, they two. He had told her that as well, the old familiar dogma. “We are, each of us, the choices we make.”

His hands moved in smooth coordination, putting the ranseur into a spin to limber up his arms and shoulders. The weapon flowed liquidly through its paces, and Sark Ynet noted with only passing interest that he no longer felt the pain of his wounds and exertion from the Cellar. Well and good, but that was a matter for later consideration. In this moment he stalked forward, mismatched eyes sweeping the incarnadine sands. They had names now, his opponents, his fellow Paragons. The thought curled his lips into a snarl.

Paragons. What a farce.

--Show them, o Dragon mine. Show them the cost of such fatuity.--

That was the choice: Where to begin? A pertinent question, but of the seven arrayed against him, there were three to whom his eyes turned most intently. All had been with him before, Dancing with the Blades.

Morrigan Chase, Paragon of Energy. It would seem the knife-ear was rather tougher than she first appeared. He had last seen her lying in a pool of her own blood, all but dead upon the Cellar’s floor. And yet here she was, hale and hearty. Perhaps there were other secret depths yet to be seen. Torthol had been that way. Outwardly placid, but filled with an inner fire, and his own close-held thoughts; it was a shame the boy had never learned to channel his temper. Sark Ynet wondered how much more the two might be alike. There were the scars, for one thing.

Bassareus Laverne, Paragon of Ice. The popinjay had a name as pretentious and insipid as he had proven himself. The jagged man had not forgotten the fop’s call for the others to surrender to him in the Cellar. Had the coxcomb been of Rodeken, he might have been the perfect stand-in for Redrigal. Redrigal, Iawn’s last failed hope. He, too, had been prideful. It was unfortunate, really. There had never been a chance to rend the former as the wiry man had carved up the latter.

Nigh Weathers, Paragon of Light. Scarred no more. She was pretty, angelic, perhaps even perfect. And ah, but she could scream. That memory brought a predator’s smile to the jagged man’s lips. This one put him in mind of Rissa, who had not known enough to see that she was overmatched. Once the Fairest Maid in Rodeken had thought herself untouchable, protected by the bond of their younger halcyon days. The Knife had shown her differently though.

“Would you see it, then, this world we trod in all its naked, ugly truth?” Sark Ynet’s own voice returned in whisper this time, filled with trenchant compassion. “Some truths cannot be told, only shown.” Oh yes, the Knife had shown her. Perhaps it was time for this would-be exemplar of radiance to see as well.

The ranseur’s helve impacted his right palm with all the weight of a choice made. Fingers of flesh and blood closed about the weapon, steadying it as he marched. West again, an unconscious echo of his dash when first the Trail of Blades began. This time it was a woman he was marching to, not a plate. And as he tread the deosil path his arms lifted, the left trailing inky black motes while the right bore up the polearm and braced it slantwise across his back.

Though his voice was rasping, the jagged man had been many years upon the battlefield, and his call lifted over the sands to the winged woman. “Golden seraph! Celestial vision! Would you not grace me with your blessing?” He shifted to present his demoniac hand, splaying its umbral fingers. Upon its middle digit, the silver band seemed to drink in the light of the sun high overhead. “Cannot you see I have need of such benevolence?”

Sark Ynet cut a stately bow, scattering more bitter dust into the air about him as he flourished and straightened. “Will you not approach? Would you let fear hinder the mercy of your heart?”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 6
8/7/2019 23:15:36   

Screeching echoed off the smooth stone containment, drowning all other sound to nothingness. The careful control Bassareus had exercised was ripped from him in one foul swoop. Ice became flesh, then returned. Each shard tinged with scarlet, each wound opened only to be forced close in an instant. Agony unlike anything Bassareus had felt before. His legs caved under him, splashing in the pool of blood glistening on the stone floor. His blood.

The curtains were falling on the Great Bassareus Laverne’s final performance.

Breathe. Can’t breathe.

The more he attempted, the more his stomach was unwillingly constricted. He could not see his enemy, only feel the horrible, unyielding force which held him fast against the floor. Every desperate breath brought the smell of fresh vomit to his nose. To his right whirred a circular blade, disappearing into the floor, spinning at tremendous speeds. It inched closer to the struggling man, slow, but true to its path. Bassareus had time. But with no way to escape, time was useless. The only thing keeping him from blacking out was the bellowing sound of the crowd. Their disappointment flooded his ears, heckeling sending his panic into a dangerous spin. No rigged tricks. No hidden levers. No way out.

“Come on.”

A familiar voice, though not a welcome one. “Get up.”

Peering over him was a cleric, wrinkled and dirty. His tangled beard dripped mud onto Bassareus’ face, a crime that would have normally sent Bassareus reeling. But now he could only struggle helplessly as the clouded eyes stared down at him. “Having some trouble?”

Gasping for air, it took all of Bassareus’ effort to croak out a simple phrase. “Help... me.”

“I thought I was just a ‘filthy old cultist?’”

Bassareus flinched as another drop of grime fell onto his eyelid. He tried to force out some form of rebuttal to the rudeness, some justification for the thoughts he had harbored after their meeting that morning, but the words died in his throat, replaced by a violent cough that refused to stop.

“Your utter blindness will cause your end.”

The blade was only a couple feet from him now, its screech drowning all other sound from his right ear. The man leaned down until he was about a foot from Bassareus’ left side. “This isn’t a game, you know. This is a fight to the death. I need to know you won’t get yourself killed… again.

Let’s face it. If Nigh hadn’t saved you, you would have died, right then and there. Show me that won’t happen this time.”

The blade spun close. A foot away, maybe less. Bassareus’ hair fluttered around from the wind of its momentum.

“What’s your wish, Bassareus?”

The scene changed. Boos became cheering, stone floor became wooden stage. Flags waved, bearing “Bassareus LOVErne,” “Cryomancer of the Century!!” and many similar slogans. His finale was about to begin.

They cheer for the grandeur of the moment, with no doubtful thoughts creeping in the dark, whispering about the emptiness of the future. For the presence of a finale means the show must end.

The same was true of all performers, not just their performances. Countless had gone before him, he knew. Their names so commonly muttered, their faces so easily recognized. But they all left. Faded, lost to time and to the dirt in which their wrinkled and shameful old bodies were buried.

Bassareus would not follow in their footsteps.

“Good. Now take it.”

No longer would Bassareus Laverne be humiliated in front of eager crowds. No longer would he be thrown around, desperately clinging onto the end of his fragile, mortal life. He would win the Elemental Championships and show the world that he would always be the greatest magician of all.

As the whirling blade searched for the magician’s flesh, it found only ice. Shards were thrown upwards, and as his senses faded, Bassareus could see the wrinkled cleric above him, his body and clothes alike turning to ash and bone. A triumphant cackling arose from his mouth, continuing even after the body had fallen apart.

Eight entered. Only Bassareus would soon remain. As the chanting voices announced the Trial of Desert Sands, Bassareus Laverne, Ice Paragon, stepped from the shadows of his entrance and into the brilliant arena sunlight. A refreshing change from Cellar’s artificial shine and stone. Cheers erupted from the onlooking crowd, a show of approval despite his lackluster performance in Cellar. He stopped at the pillar in front of him, a gigantic statue of an armored bear. Leaning on it casually, he felt assured in the idea that if a bear could gain acknowledgement in the Elemental Championships, so could he.

The Angel. She was directly to his left, some forty feet away. She had been chosen, as well? Nigh, announced just as the cleric had said. Such a pretty name… she was an opponent, like all the rest. She had humiliated him in Cellar, but she had also saved his life. He would leave her alone, for now, in hopes that she would withdraw before they were fated to clash.

Who else, then, would meet the full wrath of the magician’s power?

Across the way stood many others he recognized from the depths of Cellar. Among them, the disgraceful magician who had nearly ended Bassareus’ life. Jax. Even in his head, the name came out in a snarl. That one, he was keen for a rematch with, to prove who was really the better man. But there seemed to be an ocean’s worth of crimson sand between them, and Bassareus wanted a quick start to this victory. His right, then, would be a most ideal fight. He turned to see yet another maiden, this one with dark skin and a wild look to her face. If he remembered correctly, her name would be Arro. Though beautiful, Bassareus knew better than to let her charms catch him off guard. She was chosen as Paragon. She’ll be strong. Such gorgeous, silky hair… so wasted on a fighter like her.

Hands joined in front of him, tiny shards of his right arm scuttling over each other like bugs until they solidified into a double-edged glaive. He tossed it into the air, giving it a violent spin and catching it perfectly in his hand. Will you approach, little deer? Or must I come to you?
Post #: 7
8/8/2019 13:30:02   

She cannot make the jump with that foot!
To fly with clipped wings is death.
...I have a bad feeling about this…

Arro sneered. “Underestimating her, all of you.” She pushed off with her good leg and launched towards the feyling. Light gleamed as water rippled across its aquatic fur. The same trick twice? The Unyielding cackled as the two adversaries closed in on one another. Such a technique had been surprising...the first time around. Had the little wretch unleashed the full torrent of its waterborne steel, then perhaps it would have already claimed victory in this stormforsaken pit. But out of hesitation, out of cowardice, it opted for a half-measure — and a measure by-half was no measure at all. A plant half-grown bears no fruit. A man beaten half to death still lives.

Are You Going To Listen To This?

Heed his words and fall.
Arro...please, come back.”


Why indeed. The form of the feyling shimmered, tides of water reflecting the sunlight infiltrating the arena. Tendrils emerged from the shifting mass as Arro sprung into the air. White-hot needles pierced through her ankle in response to the exertion. The half-elf grimaced and sucked in air through her teeth. The taste of iron doubled as blood from her cheek was siphoned through the gap. No pain without pleasure. Was that the way it went? A vein beat feverishly in her temple with the rising roar of the crowd. It was like a hazy dream - her body moving of its own accord. Legs and arms tucked in to her chest as the volley of spikes hurtled towards her.

Is THIS How We Die?!

And thus, you have killed us.
...welp, it was a wild ride while it lasted…
Arro, I’m so sorry.

Losing herself in the dissonance within, she closed her eyes. Amid the din without, an embrace of half a hundred knives awaited their welcome of her.

“Is that all?”

Eyes of jade snapped open. The incoming barrage of waterborne steel was gone. She was no longer hurtling through the air but laying curled up on the ground. Arro climbed to her feet, hairs standing on end as a brisk breeze caressed her skin. No Iron Judge swung through the air to deliver its vengeance. No crowd clamored for blood and death. She pivoted in a circle to get her bearings and found that the throbbing in her foot was gone. A quick touch to her face asserted that the gash had vanished as well, healed as if the flesh had never been torn from her cheek. Her chest rose and fell with slow breaths as her gaze swept across the new surroundings. As strange as this inordinate conveyance was, it was a different mystery that plagued the half-elf’s mind.

The Whispers…

...where were they?

The platform on which she stood extended some thirty odd feet in every direction before falling coming to an abrupt end. The monk did not have to peer over the edge to tell that it plunged hundreds of feet into tumultuous waters. No obelisks of obsidian obscured the view of the unending ocean reaching across the earth in every direction. Caps of white rose and crashed in constant turmoil beneath the grey-blanketed skies. Even from here, the faint taste of salt lingered in the air. To her right stood a tall throne composed of white marble, swirling tempests cut into every square inch of its majesty. Arro swallowed hard. She had never intended to return to this place. But once more, the Unyielding Keeper of the Ruinous Tempests found herself back in the Skies’ Theater. The Windsgraced closed her eyes and inhaled deep as the permeating silence enveloped her. Breathe...

“Is that all?”

Arro froze. Her elusive Whisper had broken its silence. But it had not spoken from within her.

The half-elf spun around to face the Stormfather’s throne. Specks of dirt and dust spiraled in the presence of a cyclone. The appearance of such whirlwinds were not uncommon atop the temple, but the too perfect pattern of the earthen debris was. The streams of impurities wrapped and coiled around together in recurrent oscillations. And in spite of its zephyrous nature, the gale was very much sitting upon the marble throne.

“So Arro, this is what you wanted, right? All alone at the top, succeeding father when it was time.”

The next breath she drew in was haggard. The air felt so much thinner than it had been a heartbeat ago. Her jaw quivered for a moment as she fought to find words. “...Gant...”

“Don’t say it wasn’t. You could have left if that had been the truth.” Against all logic of nature, the cyclone that was Gant stepped forward, its form somehow moving as both mortal and storm. It - he? - settled a few paces from Arro. “I did.”

And you shouldn’t have.” Arro pivoted on her heel to find a second whirlwind behind her, dirt and dust rising above to tower over Arro. Seventeen undulating lines formed from the scattered earth in two swirling patterns across where a face should have been. Six of those familiar gusts were marred by breaks. “I voiced my opposition to the Stormfather that I was given the wrong twin to take under my wing. But the Stormfather’s word is law." Arro’s mouth ran dry as each breath grew more ragged than the last. "The Zephyr is but the lawkeeper.

She didn’t want it.” To the right of the gale that had been her master bloomed another. Smaller. Thinner. Gentler. Its stream of debris rose and fell at a tranquil pace. Arro pulled at the neckline at her gi, failing to alleviate the pressure at her throat. Each inhalation was deeper and yet drew less air than the last. Her beating heart began to pound painfully within her chest. “This was not her will. It was never her will.” Breathe...

Then Whose Was It?” Two more burst into being. Their patterns were identical yet the slighter of the two burned at a feverish pace while the larger’s dripped like molasses. Crossing the stonework with their unnatural gait, the pair joined the other tempests in surrounding the monk. Her throat constricted and burned raw as the muscles failed to deliver air. The half-elf’s suspirations hastened, her breaths only matched by the racing of her heartbeats. She pulled at her chest, ripping the gi to expose the earthen tunic beneath. “Who Is To Blame?” asked the slighter of the pair as it - she? - threatened to consume her.

"...not us, and certainly not him…"

The Windsgraced fell to a knee, hands braced against the stonework. Couldn't they see she needed air? The muscles in her throat throbbed against one another in vain. She heaved, each cough ravaging her throat raw. Not enough air. The taste of salt touched her lips as sweat ran down her face. With violent retches, Arro raised her gaze to see the barest breeze of a wind not an arm’s length away. It quivered, the debris within barreling back and forth without the barest hint of a pattern. As the world began to spin, she heard it whisper one thing over and over.


The world began to fade to black.




So exhausting. Rest a bit. Why not let me handle things?

Eyes of jade snapped open. Arro jolted awake and found herself in a stone chamber devoid of life. No enemies. No tempests.

No Whispers.


She tore off her bandana, her hair falling wildly across her shoulders. Eyes closed, the half-elf basked in the bliss of her lungs filling unabated. Whoever could have thought that air could taste so sweet? In the distance, the rumbling of a thousand voices were muffled by the earthen passageway.

Well Hurry On. They Won’t Wait On Us, I’m Sure.

Arro cried out. A pounding reverberated throughout the chamber as the monk smashed her left fist against the stone floor. Lightning raced up her arm as she struck the floor again and again with a relentless passion.

...that won’t solve anything…
Tranquility within, Tempest without.

Body shuddering, Arro came to a halt. The last blow echoed throughout the chamber, for a moment drowning out both the crowd and the Whispers. Yet the reprieve was temporary as the clamor and chatter was quick to fill the void.

It’s not broken.

Not yet. Any err in precision and it will be."

She pushed them out. She tried to, anyways, focusing on the stinging running along the bottom of her hand as she stood up. The monk unwrapped her injured hand in an autonomic fashion.

Unsightly Bruise.
...unwieldy injury…
No pain without pleasure.

The white bandage fell to the floor in a strewn heap. The Windsgraced flexed the fingers now free from the bindings. Countless lines of black ink were etched across her hand, spiraling around her fingers and encircling her wrist. Arro had tried counting them on numerous occasions, but she never made it past a few dozen. Sometimes she lost her place, the gusts being so compact that from a distance one could mistake the series of tattoos for a blotch of midnight on her skin. Other times the half-elf was pulled away from the act, it being too time consuming to do on a whim. And still there were times when Arro was given the cruel reminder that the break in each and every gust had once been attached to a living person. For some, this few coins’ worth of ink would be the only testament they left behind. A thought equal parts distressing and abhorrent that was quick to make counting lose its appeal.

Sunlight broke through the portal ahead. Arro stepped forward. For one precious moment the Whispers spoke in unison.



A sea of scarlet and a crowd just as immeasurable greeted the Windsgraced as she prowled into the Grand Arena. Eight monuments stood before their gateways, champions tall and foreboding over their respective elements. Arro would have enjoyed inspecting the guardians had not the Whispers been pelting her with their relentless chatter.

Be wary the Shattered Night.
That Ugly Little Thing Is Back.
...say, doesn’t that vartai look like the one from before? He mentioned a sister…
Take care of your path. You’re a target at range.
Left or right, I do not care. Just leave it red.

For all the choices within the arena, the answer was quite simple. Only two were close enough to reach in a short amount of time. And of those two, one had elected to come dressed for a marriage ceremony.

Or a funeral.”

Crimson clouds trailed in Arro’s wake as the Windsgraced bolted across the sands. Her prey lay before her under the fearsome gaze of a steelclad ursine. Shielded in plate, the memorial to Ice looked more prepared for war than its Paragon. The Windsgraced would put this contender to trial.

A Storm in the Sands.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 8
8/8/2019 23:59:26   

A Short While Ago, Fountain Arena

The intervention of an Elemental Lord truly is a thing of beauty. Just as the pair allowed their strikes to reach a fever pitch, sacrificing defense for full frontal assault, time seemed to slow for Nadia. The hulking form of Van that she wrestled with froze in midair, with his half-naked torso tensed to deliver another of his vision-blurring punches. Her own blows had torn ragged paths through his flesh, but the Manbeast was only now beginning to show signs of flagging… But there was no way that he would pull a punch now, of all times. Not when they appeared to be so evenly matched, and a single blow could tip the scales. Most curiously, when Nadia attempted to capitalize on the pause, she found her body unresponsive. Even more frighteningly, she had lost feeling in her legs.

If she had been able to utter any sort of noise to betray her panic, she most certainly would have. Seasoned warrior that she was, Nadia Shieldforged had not experienced anything quite like this.

Bit by bit, the colour bled from her form, as if her body was clay drying in the sun. Her brilliant red scales faded to sunbleached terracotta, and even the blood that covered her, nearly head to toe, had its vibrance stripped away. For all the moisture that plagued the arena, her skin had developed an array of cracks that looked very much like webbing. To Nadia’s horror, she was completely conscious as her body collapsed upon itself, leaving her stranded in a bleak expanse of darkness.

Or, she thought she was, at first.

Over time, Nadia recognized first the smell of deep earth, those fragrant tones of undisturbed soil. Its musk was something every mountain dweller knew well, as intimately as a mother’s perfume. She then slowly became aware of the press of rock and earth around her, but could not exactly identify where it pressed against. The dragonkin, without form, was somehow a part of the earth itself. Bewildered by the experience, she thought to cry out for some form of assistance, but quickly dispelled the notion. She had no lips from which the cry to spring forth. Instead, she would have to endure the peculiar event in silence, drinking in the scents and complete lack of sound or sight.

“Nadia. Wake up.”

While she recognized her mother’s voice, she could draw no connection between the ungodly hour and the urgency in Astra’s tone. With a mumble, the teenager rolled over, pulling the covers over her horned head. Something about ‘five more minutes, mom’ was mumbled from the safe warmth of the covers.

Astra was not having that.

Instead, the General of Hearthforge’s militia whipped the covers back, and had a glass of water at the ready to none-so-gently coax Nadia from her slumber. For one of her soldiers, the glass would have been full up; for her daughter, the glass was merely a quarter full.

“You’ve been summoned by the Elder. Get dressed. Now.”

With a gasp, the young maiden scrambled to her feet. Where was her pants? Her weapons? Her silks? In the dark, getting dressed was a challenge, but she managed it with as much dignity as her 16 summers could muster. To be summoned, personally, by the Slumbering Elder? It was practically unheard of! She could feel a fine trembling overtake her limbs the closer she got to the dragon’s den. She could only hope that she wasn’t about to get burned alive for kissing little Gendrick in the back of the training hall last week. In her adolescent mind, she could think of no other transgression so heinous.

Upon their arrival, the candlelit hall filled her with such dread that Nadia had eyes only for her taloned feet. The signature red was uniform across the Shieldforged line, but hues of the dragonkin ranged through to gold and purple. Her own red matched the scales of the Elder, as her line had been bred the least over the years. Shieldforged had once been considered royalty, but their military prowess had made their dragonic strength much more valuable on the battlefield than cooped up in some golden room, growing fat on the bounty of inherited riches.

In the deepest depths of shade, far beyond the reach of the torches that lined the walls, a shadow stirred. Easily, the shape was ten times the width of any horse that Nadia had ever seen, and its sinuous length moved with a barely-concealed strength. Most impressive, however, was that this length was merely a token of the dragon’s true stature. Before long, this glimpse of his neck brought the Elder’s impressive visage to view. Gnarled with horns and thick, gleaming scales, the dragon’s head held the beauty of any natural predator; dangerous, but all the more beautiful for it.

”Blood of mine… You’ve kept me waiting.” The Elder’s voice was a rumbled hiss. To any that did not share the blood of the dragon, the sound would be menacing, but altogether undecipherable. To dragonkin, the menace had meaning, and that meaning was loud and clear.

“I-I’m sorry-” Nadia squeaked, but her mother was quick to cut her off.

“Oh, Elder of our peaks, first of our kin; I’m humbled to present my firstborn child. I am honoured that you would ask for her by name.”

”Mm. Nadia; I’ve dreamt of you. You are to be the restoration of our power, child. Did you know that you are blessed by the element Earth?” The Elder leaned into the candlelight now, enough for Nadia to notice the wear on his snout. His scales suffered a lack of colour near his nose, betraying his grand age. Even the colour of his amber eyes seemed to lack the fire of his youth, as if his gaze was misty and half shrouded by prophecy.

After a quick glance at her mother, Nadia cleared her throat and lifted her chin. While she didn’t like to brag around her classmates, preferring to be an uplifting force in the upcoming ranks, it didn’t hurt to tell the truth.

“I am the most promising mage the mountain has seen in an age. My skill with metal is unmatched, even by my seniorss… But I always thought that was a gift from you, Elder. Are you telling me that the elements themselves have Lords?”

The towering drake chuckled, a spark of amusement lit in his gaze. The rumbling had shaken loose a few coins of gold from his scales, and shaken loose dirt from the roof of his den. His massive size could not be captured in the low lighting of this cavern, nor did he ever wish his children to attain a measure of his true size. He considered himself equal among them, for all their insistence on raising him above their own ranks.

”Yes, child. Seek the Lord of Earth by proving yourself in the Trials, but only after you have been forged in battle. You will return to peace and prosperity for your people. Go forth… and find your path.”

’How long has it been?’ She thought, feeling her mind meander through past and present without any regard for chronological sense. Was this now her reality? She couldn’t stand it. Nadia knew she would be driven mad before long, unable to do so much as twiddle her thumbs to pass the time. In her mind, she could scream into the abyss, but only silence answered back.

The Grand Arena, Less Than an Hour Later.

Movement at the feet of the pillar of earth came first in the undulation of the sand. It seemed as though there was something that lay beneath the crimson surface, but it was impossible to tell what. The movement began to slowly gather the sand in a sizeable pile at the feet of the skeletal cloaked figure that bore the image of the past earth paragon, prompting pointing and a few excited whispers from a few particularly observant spectators.

With a gasp, Nadia was spat into the arena in an explosion of sand and great gusto. Somehow, her modesty was preserved by the same cloth she had first entered with hours before, revealed as great clumps of earth and rock tumbled from where it had clung to her form. The dark tones of the soil clashed with the vibrance of the sand upon which it lay. With a frantic touch, she reached for the bearings around her waist, and found all twelve nestled snugly to her skin. Her daggers had been replaced at her thighs, as well. With a start, she realized that she could have very well been born anew by the earth, for her scales and skin were smooth and unharmed as could be. Nadia barely had time to lament the loss of her prized chakram before it was spat out of the earth but a few scant meters away, unable to resist orbiting her with the comfort of familiarity.

’Brilliant. Now, where in the name of the Elder is that brother of mine?’
Post #: 9
8/9/2019 0:24:09   

Red sand.

It was a grisly thing, though oddly beautiful as well. A sea, a wasteland of crimson grains, scattered about with each footfall those within took. She had seen it last year, when Maled had competed, but being in it herself, feeling the heat of the noonday sun rising off the sands, it felt different. Had these sands once been clean? Had ages of spilled blood dyed them with the lives of countless beings? How many had made it this far, only to fall and be forgotten?

How many of those depicted in the statues had used their boons to make a difference?

Her eyes drifted to her fellow paragons. The showman to her left, Bassareus Laverne. He had proven himself at least competent in the Cellar, but she would still keep an eye on him should he falter, or lose himself to vicious bloodlust.

Beyond him lay the Paragon of Wind, Arro, her sights already set on the seemingly defenseless performer. So be it. Perhaps he will drive her to the point of surrender. Be it with blade or his senseless prattle.

“Would you not grace me with your blessing?”

A raspy voice, worn out from years upon years of use. As she turned to the speaker, her blood seemed to freeze in her veins as a chill ran down to her very core. A broken soldier, garbed in faded clothing and battered armor, armed with a broken ranseur. He presented his free hand, fingers spread. The hand was dark, unnatural, as was the arm above it. “Cannot you see I have need of such benevolence?”

Lies. Taunts meant to goad and agitate her. Though her attention had been elsewhere, she had still been fully aware of his actions within the Cellar. The blades, those gruesome tools of execution. They had been fired at his command. Over and over again. Endangering her. The performer. The child. Benevolence? Blessings? For one such as him, she had none.

He bowed, flourishing with an air of false elegance. “Will you not approach? Would you let fear hinder the mercy of your heart?”

Who was he to speak of mercy? No. This man, Sark Ynet, had given none and would receive none. The sparing of his life would be a punishment, as he exited the arena with a broken spirit and an unbloodied blade. Perhaps her anger was what he was trying to rouse. Perhaps he had even succeeded. But he was underestimating her. And she would not need to approach to show him that he had been mistaken. The pain would sear the message into his mind until he wished for nothing else but respite from the suffering.

But first… to her left, beyond the statue. A strange figure was approaching. It was humanoid, but small. Very small. Its halberd in hand seemed to suggest a killing intent, but why? Was its odd race just naturally violent?

Sorry, Gary? Odd name. I don’t have time to entertain you. She dipped her foot into the sand, the slight heat of it kissing her bare skin, then swept upwards and across, kicking up a wall of crimson grains between herself and the Paragon of Water. Nigh followed up with a strong flap of her wings, launching her back and whipping up a small smokescreen of sand to hide her maneuver from the Paragon of Darkness. She slipped to the side and raised her bow, leveling it at the man’s armored chest.

Smooth wood.

Anger welled up within her, but she tried adamantly to push it down. Still, this man had wished to turn Cellar into a true bloodbath. It was by his will that lives were endangered. She supposed he was even lamenting the lack of external danger within this Grand Arena.

Tight muscles.

Silver light danced along the string and into single file as her fingertips held the bent line back.

Breath in.

Did he deserve her healing, or should she leave the wounds to pile on top of the many he would gain here? No. All deserved to be healed, to have their bodies and souls cleansed of sin and mar. The Lord of Light had just cleansed Nigh herself, after all. Should she not share that bounty?

Breath out.

She couldn’t say she would enjoy the pain she intended to afflict, but there was a slight amount of satisfaction in delivering punishment to a sinner.


and repeat.

Gold followed silver, both trailing through the desert sky to greet their new home in the sinner’s chest.
Post #: 10
8/9/2019 19:36:58   

“Will you not approach? Would you let fear hinder the mercy of your heart?”

The Darkness Paragon stood past his Pillar, his voice cracking as it attempted to call towards the Angel across from him. Must there always be a large declaration? First the Angel’s surrender plea, and now this obvious taunt. Such announcements were merely feeble attempts to steal the audience’s eager eyes. Their names had all been called- there, the competition for eyes and ears had ended. Bassareus Laverne’s name alone would be enough to dominate their senses. He would show the Lords he was worthy of such enrapturement. Sark Ynet was merely an extra overstepping his role. Perhaps the "mercy" he spoke of would become not salvation and healing, but a quick death.

Though Bassareus had passively observed Sark Ynet during their time in Cellar, this was the first time he had truly considered the appearance of the man. His armor seemed more like it belonged in a junkyard than on a Paragon in the Championships. White hair revealed a body well past its prime. He was, overall, a terribly pitiful sight. Everything about the man, especially his “mercy” speech, caused Bassareus’ nose to curl. After the Wind Paragon was dealt with, this Sark Ynet might very well be next.

This was all, of course, provided the Angel didn’t finish the man off first. She seemed to have learned from her time in Cellar, seeing through the meaningless plea to the malicious intent underneath. Crimson sand sprayed from her position by the Pillar of Light. Soon, the colored sand would darken even more. She would likely be able to finish him off from afar, so for now, Bassareus’ attention could safely be turned elsewhere. It’s time, little one.

As if she had heard his beckoning thoughts, little Arro ran straight for Bassareus, intentions bared for audience and Paragons alike to see. With such a shape and dress, perhaps she would have been more suited for a stealthier tactic. But, it was no matter, for her straightforward approach would make things far more interesting.

His bare foot slammed into the sand it stood on, a silent command of obedience. Cold ice twined with hot sand, spreading outwards from the great magician in waves until the area to his right was coated thinly and entirely with his magic. Many tiny thorns sprouted from this new soil, a minefield for the dark-skinned girl’s delicate feet, wrapped in nothing but bandages. “Come dance on the rose’s thorns with me, little darling.”
Post #: 11
8/10/2019 0:10:40   
Eternal Wanderer

It was not, of a certainty, his most successful attempt at baiting an opponent into rash action. Nigh heard him, of that there was no question. The flash of fury in her eyes and the momentary twist of wrath across her beatific visage assured Sark Ynet so. But she did not charge. Instead, she swept a foot through the sand, kicking up a scree of grit; one that was augmented a moment later by a heavy beat of her feathered wings, hurling herself back from his approach.

In truth, the jagged man had not expected a head-on assault in response to his words. The exemplar had reminded him of Rissa, who herself had possessed a reserve of calm that made many think her cold and distant. But he had known better, seen deeper. Beneath her placid facade, the Fairest Maid of Rodeken was as fierce and headstrong as any Dragon. Still, for all that inner fire, she was not one to come undone at the merest fillip of disparagement.

Perhaps the Paragon of Light was the same. He believed so. And even if the metaphor was not exact, nor Nigh’s response what he had wished... he had learned somewhat from it. The angel, for all her beauty, was no more perfect than the wiry man himself. Less so, in truth. After all, this one was deluding herself.

In the first moment that she had heard his words, Nigh’s expression had been open, unguarded. The acrimony he had seen bloom there told him all he needed to know. She thought - knew - herself to be better than him. She was above him, and thus set in judgement over him. And from her high perch she would deign dispense her castigation upon his plight.

It was almost too bad the exemplar did not know the jagged man had already been adjudged by powers greater than she knew. Soon enough the angel would find out the truth.

--Make of anger a tool, o Dragon mine. Let her see what true fury is.--

Rage alloyed to purpose. And rage was never still. That was a lesson Torthol had learned too late.

The jagged man burst into motion as the incarnadine screen rose, darting south and west to cut a swift line to the edge of the haze. Motes, black in contrast to the rusty airborne grains, trailed behind him as he ran. And not a moment too soon, for Sark Ynet heard the hiss of cleft air from his right, arrows singing through the space he had so recently occupied. Nigh was putting her bow to use, of course. Teeth bared in a grin, the wiry man emerged from behind the cloud and spotted his target, backed against the Arena’s wall.

His course adjusted, charging for the gap between the great Pillars of Light and Ice, noting as Bassareus turned to face Arro, Paragon of Wind. Well and good, the wiry man wished them joy of one another, and they would be out of his way as he dealt with the exemplar. It was closing to grips with her that would be the problem.

But perhaps the answer to that was simply to continue wearing at her composure. He had seen a flash of fury. A blaze of rage would follow, if he but found a way to fan the flames.

“I had heard the messengers of heaven keen sighted, o winged one. Where then, their fabled perception? Perhaps you are no more angel than I." His umbral hand rose, drawing one demoniac finger across his throat mockingly. "Tell me true, are those wings so false as your missing scar?"
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 12
8/10/2019 22:53:31   

The high sun bore down on Morrigan as she brought her blade to her eye, scanning for her competition. To her left was the pillar of wind. The statue seemed elusive to her, it’s form so minimal and bare. Its champion Arro was much the same for Morrigan caught only a brief glimpse of the figure before they dashed out of her gaze, moving away towards the other pillars.

Morrigan briefly considered giving chase to this Paragon of Wind. She hadn’t encountered anyone in the Cellar with wind magic, so this opponent was completely new. Suffocation, poison, wind shears, storms. Her mind rattled off all the gruesome ways wind could harm a person. All of these and more were possible; her ignorance would be to the paragon’s advantage. But this went both ways, Morrigan understood. In the same fashion, she was a mystery to them.

With their quick retreat, the paragon could already be preoccupied with another. If so, then the advantage was hers. Entrenched in their battle, Morrigan could ambush the competitors with her empowered magic. A hopeful option indeed.

However, this would not be her quarry, not yet at least. Morrigan would not run blindly into danger as she did in the Cellar. No matter how wide this battlefield was, the others would always be close, too close. If she were to advance, she must first find the other closest to her: Paragon of Darkness.

It was then that a voice echoed across the arena, piercing through her thoughts.

“Golden seraph! Celestial vision! Would you not grace me with your blessing? . . . “

Most curious.

Morrigan dashed towards her pillar’s left side. Its form crackled with unbridled fury, but as Morrigan drew close, the energy seemed to part for her, allowing her to brace against the pillar’s smooth stone.

Another feature of the blessing?

Morrigan pushed the thought aside as she crept around the pillar to peer towards the voice’s owner. Her fingers twitched at the sight of the warrior. Even at this distance, she did not have to squint her eye. Its form was unmistakable.

Darkness was indeed familiar company for she now had a name for its champion, the jagged man, Sark Ynet. The warrior had marched to the center of the arena, calling out to what she assumed was the Paragon of Light.

“Cannot you see I have need of such benevolence?”

It was obvious; he was baiting them, announcing his presence for all to see. A bold move. In the Cellar, she had done something similar, but only as a last resort.

“I swear, I will kill you all!”

Her words echoed in her mind as she stared at the jagged man. He was the one who toyed with the Cellar’s blades, allowing him to control the flow of the entire battlefield. Indeed, she had planned to do the same, but he seized them first.
Morrigan knew that this was no madman nor an ignorant fool. He made this bold move because it was the best one.

A tactician with the courage to act— he was the most dangerous; he had to die first.

Morrigan reached out with her right hand and waved her digits, bidding her mana to flow once again as tiny sparks formed at her fingertips. As the jagged man charged towards his target, Morrigan dashed around the pillar, her eye focusing on his every movement. A flash of gold and silver swept through the air as the arrows kissed the sunlight, just missing the jagged man.

Her eye darted left as she looked for the arrows source. In the far distance, a form of pure white against the blood stained sands. Wings spread, bow in hand, a familiar white dress — the Paragon of Light was the woman from before. She never had the opportunity to witness her powers beforehand. Now, the light’s champion had brought all she had to bear against the darkness.

But in the corner of her eye, Morrigan caught another familiar sight. Streaks of black and gold, an outfit for a showman. But not just any showman, theshowman from before.

Who else from the Cellar is here?

The showman was fixated on something, facing towards. . . the pillar of wind, towards where Arro had ran.

She was right. The Paragon of Wind had engaged with another. If she had blindly followed them, it would have brought her dangerously close to Sark, opening her back once again.

How her fortunate she was that her patience had paid off. This was her chance in the making.

As the mana quickened through her hand, its heat rising, Morrigan dashed towards the direct center of the arena, her path far enough from the showman and the wind-wielder to hopefully avoid their ire, but just close to make some ground on her prey. Sark was still too far from her magic’s reach, but she had time. He had committed to a charge against the angelic woman. Morrigan was not so foolish to think that the jagged man had not seen her, but fixated on the angel, his focus was divided. If Sark ignored her advance, then the metal he wore would betray him. If he turned to face her, the angel would have her dues.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 13
8/11/2019 2:04:57   

Crystal glinted in the sunlight as gem shards ruptured from the noble’s right arm. The fragments shimmered and poured over one another, converging into a shifting mass in his outstretched hands. Blades of diamond sprouted from either end of the stalk that burgeoned from the paragon’s grasp.

He Can Create Such a Jewel On A Whim?
...mighty impressive…

No. Not diamond. And not on a whim.

With a flourish and the ghost of a smile across his face, Bassereus Laverne of the Dancing Blades cast his weapon into the air. The crowd applauded as beams of light refracted off the ice and dyed the scarlet sands all the colors of the rainbow. With all the bravado of a man who has done this a thousand times before, the performer plucked the bladed flower from the air mid-fall. But the Windsgraced was far from interested in his showmanship. Rather, what claimed her attention was-

-a missing arm.
What A Stunning Display.

One with the glacier.
...a neat trick. Wonder if he can change it back…
Will a man of ice still bleed?

At the edge of her vision the Shattered Night trespassed on the Paladin’s domain. Armor beaten, battered, and broken, the ancient one evaded the Seraph’s gleaming arrows; shadows clung to the air in his wake and devoured what light they could in their brief lives.

Their clash will be close.
One suffers scars by weathering storms.
Perhaps One Will Kill The Other.
They will fall by our hand. They will ALL fall.

Arro winced at the discord in her head, the Whispers clamoring over one another in an unending roll of thunder. She clenched her eyes shut for a heartbeat of her charge.

“That seems unwise.”

Viridian eyes were open in an instant. From Bassereus stemmed a dazzling field of ice, naught but thorns as slight and plentiful as blades of grass proliferating from the arctic garden. No time to react - she was already upon the frozen brambles. Cloth and flesh broke through the faint layer of frost violating the coliseum, her blood staining the thorns red . Arro sucked in air through her teeth as dozens of barbs carved across her ankle and the sole beneath.

Such Underhanded Methods.
Err’s in judgment are paid in blood.
The wounds are not deep. She will persevere.

So. Make. Him. BLEED.

On that, we agree”.

Only half-hearing the performer’s taunt, Arro finished her stride and jumped. Leg strength pushed her into the air. Momentum carried her forward. The Whispers quieted as the half-elf received the satisfaction of seeing the noble’s eyes widen in panic. Damaged wraps billowing like banners, the Windsgraced struck out with her unscathed foot. Bassereus seemed unable to decide between counterattacking with his glaive and dodging, resulting in a stumble somewhere in-between and with the grace of neither. He took the blow to the chest and was sent tumbling to the bloodstained sands. It was by a narrow margin that he did not crack his head against Ice’s ursine guardian.

From failure, opportunity.
Ha! Absolutely Magnificent!
...mighty fine work…
Brilliant execution of Winged Fury, Arro.
Good. But he has to run red.

Pain bit into her leg as Arro landed. A cloud of crimson erupted around the monk upon impact, her many lacerations stinging as the scarlet grains coated her fresh wounds. Spitting the grit through her teeth, Arro scrambled to reach her feet before the bladedancer could.

Guard and goad.
Pursue and punish.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 14
8/11/2019 8:58:19   

As Gary ran he found himself wondering what exactly he was doing. The Aofeyfetarl may not have known particularly too much about humans, but occasionally every few hundred moons one would venture down into their small corner of the world and he found himself thinking of a tale Prisma had once told him offhand.

”...And as happens every now and then, a human came down here. As usual, he was captured and made the demand that he tell of something worth of his life. He spoke of Angels. As he described them, they were beautiful winged individuals, who brought the blessings and divine light of ‘God’ -I can only assume he meant the Lord of Light there- to the weak and suffering. Beings of great virtue.” “Was it worth the risk of letting him live?” Prisma sighed. “Dear boy, it’s never worth the risk. He was at least let to believe he was freed, but he’d been given some Bressing Pears.” [Hope for the Future] shuddered. “Fodder for the Gobles… A horrendous fate…” “Indeed. Now, back to what I was saying before…”

But here he was now, many Moons later charging at one of those virtuous beings. She, however, seemed to have no plans to combat him. Rather, her focus was to the individual by the centre of the Arena. He was goading her with words that beseeched compassion, but even Gary could feel the malicious mockery dripping under his words. The Angel, however, seemed unmoved by his false pleas. At least from what Gary could see, which was rather a lot less now that she had beat a great amount of sand into the air with her wings, seeking to distance herself from both Paragons.

That’s just fine by me, Nigh Weathers. What a peculiar name. Though am I one to talk, going by as I do, a name which is merely the first two syllables I thought of at the time? At any rate, this… Sark Ynet seems far more deserving of my attention. Two points of light flew forth from where the Angel must now be, but their quarry was already moving, the two lights flying past him serenely and Gary made to intercept him before he could get too far.

As he ran, he saw another coming from behind Sark Ynet. The Paragon of Energy, Morrigan, was it? ...Why do I feel I’ve heard that name somewhere before? A matter for another time. She too seemed none pleased by the man’s targeting of an Angel. Or perhaps he was misreading her from this distance and she sought to assist him. Gary did not know. What he did know was that as the man hurled more mockery at the Angel, Gary neared him, the man seemingly unaware of his presence.

Somehow I find it hard to believe he would simply not notice me, but whether he knows I’m here or not is immaterial. What I need do remains the same in either case. So as Gary came on Sark Ynet, he lunged out at his legs with his halberd.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 15
8/12/2019 1:18:16   
Eternal Wanderer

The plains of Pretu were best known for their fertility, for acres of wheat growing golden beneath the gaze of the sun. It made for an idyllic scene, but the nodding grains had also served to disguise the dangers that roamed Pretu’s prairies. The deadliest of these had been the stalking cats; great golden felines that hunted at will through the fields. The beasts would strike from ambush, and then drag their prey off for later consumption. They were not, however, the only predators who made their homes on the plains. There were also wild dogs, feral canids that scavenged from the kills of stalking cats, or occasionally banded together in packs to take down prey of their own.

It had been a long time since the Great Razing - that swathe of plunder and pillage Sark Ynet had carved through the heartlands of Pretu. The Empire, stricken by drought and famine, had needed bread, and Iawn had decided Pretu's granaries would provide. They had required... convincing to do so. It had been a long time since that campaign, but the jagged man had never forgotten the feeling of being watched; the quiet murmur of instinct had come to him, riding along the edge of fields that would soon be dust and ash. That sixth sense had warded him, whispering to him of the net closing.

As then, so now, and he had seen them both creeping from the corners of his eyes.

The knife-ear - his ersatz Torthol - trailing after him with the sword she had drawn in her last extremity of the Blade Dance. She would have been better served by taking it up earlier, rather than playing her ineffectual coin trick. Well and good, it would seem she could learn; his son had been a swift learner too. But the true measure of learning was praxis. Should Chase close he would test her. Until then, the wiry man would be mindful of her position while he resolved other matters.

The one called Gary, Paragon of Water, had been harder to spot. In truth, the thing’s appearance had nearly been enough to halt Sark Ynet’s advance. It was not everyday one saw the subject of a fairy tale in the flesh. Short of stature and vivid of coloration, this Gary looked like a ysgarth, one of a number of nature spirits revered by the mountain-dwelling people of Abaret. Of course it was not - the ysgarth were nothing more than superstitious blather - but the resemblance was striking.

--They are only jackals, o Dragon mine; hungry for a bite of meat prised from your jaws.--

That may have been the case, but unlike the wild dogs of Pretu, these three - the exemplar, the ysgarth, the knife-ear - were no pack. In the end, only one could wear the blood-soaked crown, and the jagged man did not doubt any of them would truly scruple to strike the others should the opportunity present itself. Even if they could forebear, they would have no true experience in working as a team. Like as not they would get in each other’s way as much as compliment one another’s attempts.

So it had proven when the self-named “Drakes” sought to overthrow him. In his memory the doors to the throne room crashed open and Letta’s voice scythed through the marble-columned room. “You will ignore me no longer!”

Sark Ynet had never taken to interruptions kindly. A snarl slipped his lips as the wee one encroached upon his hunt, knowing that even once this nuisance was dealt with the swordswoman would be waiting in the wings. Nigh - much to the jagged man’s displeasure - would be a matter for later consideration, after the scattering of this would-be troop. And it would begin with Gary, lunging to strike at the wiry man’s legs.

The weapon wielded by the ysgarth was short - though for one of its stature it was surely a longarm - and more strangely, made of water. That odd fact was noted for later reference, but at present a reply was required. As such, Sark Ynet spun the ranseur, feeling the weapon’s haft play out of the gauntleted fingers of his right hand as he choked down and swung the weapon in a rising arc that battered the aquatic halberd away. Reaching across his body to brace the ranseur’s helve with his umbral hand, the jagged man set his feet, letting the crimson sand sap the momentum of his rush as he half-turned and then slammed the ragged blade affixed to the polearm’s butt down at Gary’s chest.

Black motes swirled into the air about Sark Ynet and the ysgarth, and the wiry man cried out again. “Look now, o bright one! Here then is your champion. I shall deliver him to you ere long. One more sacrifice upon the altar of your vanity!"
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 16
8/12/2019 11:34:37   

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP

With only the faintest hint of brimstone as a warning, the Pillar of Fire was once more engulfed in flame, each tongue a shade so brilliant that it couldn't help but draw the eye. As the entire arena turned to watch, the fairy's opalescent skin began to chip, magma seeping through the cracks to pool around the pedestal beneath. Eyes of liquid amber slowly turned to find Jax, just as a fissure split the sprite's chest. Then, before the chanters could react, it spoke. The Pillar's voice was the sizzle of a bonfire, magnified by the roar of an erupting volcano, carrying across the sands with startling clarity.

"You are unprepared, oh Child of Bren. Unready for what awaits you." Lava drizzled over her lips, marring the frown that could be heard in its words. "Do not insult me by returning before that has changed." The temperature rose to an uncomfortable degree as the lava surged over the sands, both the Paragon of Fire and the gate behind him swallowed by the flow. There was a flash, accompanied by a final crack, and then the pedestal was empty. Of Jaxdon Davros, naught remained but a single scorched circle. A reminder to all that the Elemental Lords were not to be trifled with.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 17
8/12/2019 21:57:44   

False wings. Missing scar. He was jabbing at her, testing her. Aiming to enrage her so she would lose her clarity. She had failed to quell the flames of fury on his first taunts, and he wished to capitalize on it. And it worked.

Nigh’s first quills had missed, failed attempts avoided simply because her target had been advancing, and she was angled. But now he was advancing straight, and she would not miss again. She would show him keen sight. Right here. Right over these dyed sands.

Her right hand dropped, a small spot of light glowing on her finger. Slowly, methodically, she spun it in a circle, the magic circle flaring to life at her side. Nigh reached in, bringing her silver arrow to mind, calling for it so that she may draw it back and it may pierce the sinners skin. Her eyes drifted across Sark Ynet, and found her target.

His neck. Her arrow could pierce it cleanly. He was distracted, Paragon’s approaching him from both sides. It would be so easy. String would bend, silver would fly, and bone would shatter under silver.

Cold silver.

Cold steel.

Maled Con’s gift, his dagger, flashed in her memories. When she pulled her hand from the golden ring, it was in her grip. Its black blade glinted in the noonday sun, remembering this place, these sands, this sky. Here it had thirsted for a young man’s life, but it never got it. Maled Con, the murderer, never left this arena. He died here, and an unburdened man had left.

No. I will not take a life here. Not even his. No matter how much he sinned. No matter how readily he would take my own life, if given the chance. No matter how much he goads and inflames me. I will. Not. Kill.

Nigh threw down Maled Con’s blade, her golden ring shattering as she dismissed it before the blade could return to storage. She focused once more on the battle before her, Darkness and Water locked in combat. Energy rushing to join. Light would drive them back, and out. One by one, like winking out candles. And it would start with The Dark. He was prattling at her again, more poisoned words. She paid them no heed.

Nigh’s bow raised, the fire in her eyes sharpening into ever-quiet resolve and concentration. Fingers danced, plucking a lively note as a harpist would, and silver and gold once more flew in tandem towards Sark’s chest.

As the darts flew, flames erupted from their Paragon’s pillar, and Nigh beared witness to the first loss of the Lords’ favor. Jax, the mage boy from Cellar. Swallowed whole by a wave of magma. He was gone. A scorched circle was all that remained.

Nothing would stop the will of the Lords.
Nigh had failed.

Post #: 18
8/13/2019 15:35:28   

Let go. LET GO!

Vision flashed red as the girl’s kick caused his lungs to fail once again. Crimson sand became white stone, and Bassareus fell onto the thin line signaling the guillotine’s path. The cleric’s cackle echoed in his ears. “You’re not ready, are you? What sloppy movement. You flounder under the pressure of the blades.” The alarm rang. It was time.

“You are unprepared, oh Child of Bren. Unready for what awaits you."

The alarm abruptly cut off: Bassareus found himself lying in the Grand Arena sands, the Wind Paragon rising to her feet beside him. Across the Arena, the fairy-like Pillar of Fire seemed to combust upon itself, spewing a violent lava which consumed the Paragon standing beside it. Jax Davros, Bassareus’ one true enemy in Cellar… was utterly erased from the world. It felt wrong. Bassareus had no shortage of resentment towards him for their brawl, but the boy hadn’t even started fighting yet. He should have gotten one final showdown, a valiant fight only to be forced into submission by the very man he’d fought since his first moments in the spotlight. Though this death certainly drew the audience’s eyes…

Bassareus’ eyes, however, returned quickly back to his opponent, already standing back up after an apparent fall to the sand beside him. A monk that couldn’t even land her jumps… an interesting choice for Paragon. Icy thorns and glaive alike shattered and returned to their master, yearning to start anew. He stood to face her in one fluid motion, aiming to take advantage of her fall, but the girl had already risen to her feet. Too quick… already onto her next attack. No time to dodge now, and Bassareus winced as a fist flew towards his face-

Ice shattered from his jaw as the punch connected, shards dancing for but a moment in the arena’s brilliant sun. Genius! A mere martial artist was no match for the Great Bassareus Laverne, his superior intellect predicting exactly where she would hit without even a thought! Truly his skill would never fail to amaze even the most perceptive mind. Shards returned even before they had finished flying, forming a perfect jaw unharmed by the blow, featuring a sly grin. The rest of his left side, also icy, returned to normal skin with ease. “Your movements are always clear as ice, little dove.”

Finally, the protagonist could take back the stage. His leg kicked upwards, aimed for just above his opponent’s curved hips. Though a simple sidestep seemed to avoid the blow, Bassareus’ grin broadened knowing he had hit his target.

At the uppermost part of the kick, two transformations began. Lower leg and foot wrapped cleanly around Arro’s waist, forming a thick belt that pushed much too tightly on the girl it held. It was decorated with ghastly images of misshapen hands, their fingers much too long, their nails curled and malformed. To offset his imbalance, the upper leg elongated to become a single post, intricate carvings depicting a mighty hunter chasing a group of deer, birds, and other wildlife. They flee in fear, only to run around the carving and straight into the hunter’s trap…

Post #: 19
8/13/2019 22:25:27   

As Morrigan closed with her quarry, there was a flash of movement from behind Sark, another determined to join the quarrel. The muscles in her back grew tense as panic rolled through Morrigan, mana surging in fear.

An unseen foe? She knew that some of the champions were unaccounted for, but how could one be so close and yet remain hidden? No, she would not let this champion ruin her endeavor.

No, No, No! . . What on—

In all her days, Morrigan had never witnessed such a sight. Her eye went wide as a speck of cobalt fur entered her focused gaze. The Paragon of Water. . . was a water-dwelling cat? It had earned her amusement. The aquatic vermin stood nearly a fourth of her height, and brandished a puddle of water. To think that she was worried. . . it almost made her laugh. Almost. Those who made it to the Grand Arena had earned their place; surely there was more to this water-dweller?

Still, his existence stirred some intrigue in Morrigan. It was an interesting specimen to say the least; there was no creature like it in Lynaria. After she had dealt with the jagged man, perhaps the water-dweller would be next? A biopsy for her curiosity; she would take him apart.

He will wish that he had stayed hidden.

His intentions plain to see, the aquatic vermin lunged towards the jagged man with his conjured weapon.

A spark of inspiration. She would have to thank the paragon later for his appearance.

At its essence, magic was fundamentally unstable and formless. Raw power and infinite potential, interwoven with the fabric of reality. If one wished to wield this power, they would need to find a way to control it— give it form. But magic was most potent in its true state, formless, chaotic.

Such were the powers Morrigan wielded. The mana quickened in her blood, pure unrepressed emotions flowing through it. And it flowed like lightning.

Although Morrigan embraced this chaos, she knew that there was some order to it. Electricity favored some materials more than others, namely metal. There was only one major source of metal within her reach.

The jagged man. And he was in the midst of one who wielded water. Perhaps she would end both of them at once.

As the water-dweller swung at Sark, the jagged man brought his pike up to parry the attack, the halberd splashing against it. He then carried the momentum forward, spinning around to bring the metal pike down. He was committed.

Morrigan smiled as a faint spark of energy wrapped around her right shoulder, the burning magic growing brighter and brighter as it swirled around her arm like a hissing viper. She thrust her hand forward, and with a gasp she set the magic free.

Thunder echoed in the arena as electricity flew from her grasp, but only for a moment, the sound overlapped and silenced by the Elemental Lord’s decree.
"You are unprepared, oh Child of Bren. Unready for what awaits you. Do not insult me by returning before that has changed."

A loud crack pierced Morrigan’s ears as she felt the pulse of fire flicker and die. One had failed. Now there were only seven.

A small handful of streaks trailed on the ground around her, etching burning cracks into the bloodied sand, but three large bolts of searing mana now pierced through the air. Two of them were aimed towards the jagged man, one for his chest and his left leg. The other was poised to strike the vermin in his head.

Through her momentary panic, she had allowed a large portion of her mana to surge out. Morrigan knew the results too well. She was a victim to it once; those in her experiments shared a similar fate. Melting flesh, locked muscles, screams of agony. If any of the bolts found their mark, then the unfortunate foe could be in danger, vulnerable to another champion. But if Sark’s attack connected and neither could flee, then both would share in her terror. Would they too be found wanting by their patrons?
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 20
8/13/2019 23:09:31   


Reaching out within her mind, Nadia did her best to locate her brother, but that same stillness plagued her the way it had in the previous arena. Where she would normally be able to feel the stubborn thoughts and bold presence of Aidan Shieldforged, a distinctive lack of him filled their bond.

Feeling a lump rising in her throat, Nadia did her best to make sense of the rising chaos that existed around her, as competitors found their opponents and set out to make their marks. Battlegrounds like these should have felt like home to her, but she couldn’t help it; all she could think about was how strange it was that her brother had not made the cut. She had been so looking forward to beating him to the title of Champion, and giving him the thrashing he deserved for disobeying a direct order from the Elder... and yet his familiar red scales were nowhere to be seen, giving rise within her to a feeling of familiar dread. Every time Aidan tried to rush the enemy line back home, or lead some ill-advised flanking party, or just attempted to prove that he was worth something more in general, the dragonkin seemed to invite death to his door. Her mind whipped through past images of his body, broken and torn, barely making it back to their side. Nadia’s breathing became shallow as she recounted how easily Van and herself had disposed of Exsecratus in the previous arena.

The snapping of bone.

The tearing of flesh.

Death rattles.

Dull, lifeless stares…

’Was that what happened…? Aidan, you stupid boy! Elder, please tell me he’s safe.’

It seemed that none of the other competitors had noticed her grand entrance in a flurry of crimson sands. As Nadia was the last to appear, the others had other targets in mind, likely to capitalize on some perceived weakness. She had no mind for the others as she frantically attempted to peer out over the arena walls, praying to find at least one glimpse of Shieldforged red. Aidan would have been there, wouldn’t he? Even if eliminated, he had to be there. Unless…

Tears welled unbidden to her eyes as she took a couple steps, her back to the imposing tower that cast her in its shade. She felt the energetic hum of Earthen energy as she neared the statue, curious but encouraging her forward into the fray.

’What if… Aidan is dead?’

Her throat closed against a soft moan of grief, but she couldn’t fight a rising wave of nausea. Never had magic cut her off from her sibling like this; even on separate ends of the mountain range, there was still a lingering hint of him, like the warmth of someone’s hand in one’s own in the darkest depths of the caverns. For all the carnage she had seen today, she knew any one of these fighters could have killed her brother. This was the grip of uncertainty, of so many truths existing at once; the anxiety of the unknown was crippling, crashing over her in debilitating waves.

He wasn't strong enough.

Why hadn't she stopped him?

If only she'd had a couple minutes more to protect him, to convince him to withdraw to the stands…

What if she never saw him again? What if he had fallen to some stranger's blade, eyes cast to the sky with a plea upon his lips? What if he had called out to her in his final moments, only to be met with silence?

'What if…'

For a moment, the familiar, comforting scent of the deep earth swelled up to meet her, but Nadia pulled away from the pillar, unable to face the judgement of Earth at that current moment. First, sensory deprivation without form, and now this surge of emotion? She could not continue. Nadia knew she had to find out for certain Aidan’s fate, lest her mental instability sacrifice her chance at the title, or worse, supply an injury that she could not recover from for next year.

Pulling together what scraps of dignity she still held, she spun to sink into a low, respectful bow to her pillar, whispering a quiet apology before pacing toward her awaiting gate. The clank of metal against stone as it rose made her wince, but she forced herself to remain passive until she could comfortably walk beneath. With one last glance to the arena she was about to leave behind, Nadia bolted through the tunnel as if hounds were on her tail.

After having been defeated in the Spike Arena and its trials, Aidan felt a surge of shame. He’d travelled all this way, told off the Slumbering Elder, and for what? To be eliminated in the first round? He could practically imagine Nadia’s smug face now, and hear her ‘I told you so!’ ringing loud and clear in his ears. It brought heat in his blood, and after the healers had fixed him right as rain, he took right off from the hellish arena. He didn’t want to stay, for fear he might run into Nadia and all her condescending attitude.

‘I’m not a kid… I wish she’d stop being so ‘holier than thou’!

Kicking up dust with his talons, Aidan shifted his shoulder armor piece with a shrug of his massive shoulders and a growl. Once the metal had shifted back into place, however, he realized that his mind was still far too silent. He was out of the arena now, so what gives? A sinking pit of doubt nestled itself in his stomach, as his mind fled back to years ago.

Even a warrior like Nadia had her limits.

Casting his eyes back toward the grand arena, he shook his head and mumbled a curse under his breath. He needed to grab the rest of his gear from the room he’d rented not far away. If not, the innkeep would likely be crowing for another night’s rent before long. Besides, Nadia had to be alright, right?


The moment she burst through to the outer gate, their bond enveloped her in such a suddenness that she stumbled for a moment, and had to press against her chakram for balance. There must have been a cry of relief that burst from her, for the sound attracted the glances of a couple guards stationed outside the grand arena. Sheepishly, she slipped her chakram to rest against her back and took off at a sprint for her brother’s retreating back. He didn’t feel too far away, but her legs still couldn’t carry her fast enough.

Buildings blurred past her in a rush as her breathing grew faster, and her talons clicked at a fast lope upon the cobblestones of Bren. He turned just as she was upon him, as he seemed to have been engaged in a heated debate with the establishment’s owner. His travel pack was slung off one shoulder, but Aidan dropped the bag as soon as they locked eyes. At that moment, he could sense just how distraught she was, even as waves of relief had started to turn the tide. Bewildered, he stumbled as she flung herself into his arms, unable to even breathe as her grip crushed his ribcage with a tad too much strength to be comfortable.

“N-nadia,” Aidan wheezed, feeling as though his eyes were about to bug out of his skull. “You’re… crushing me!”

“Shut up. I thought you were dead.” She growled lowly, but relaxed her grip nonetheless. As she closed her eyes, she could finally breathe a sigh of relief as Aidan chuckled. They were going to have to have a very long talk on the way home.

With Aidan’s tab settled (it appeared that he had not paid the full, enhanced rate due to the Elemental Championships in town, and had been arguing that he paid the normal, posted rate. The innkeeper would have none of it), Nadia had her own affairs to settle. It took some asking around, but it seemed that her fellow competitor from Fountain Arena had taken up lodging a few blocks down, at a place called ‘The Old Fang’. As she stepped into the establishment, musk met her nostrils, a variant for every sort of folk that frequented the place. Her gaze scanned the crowd, with eyes for only one Manbeast in particular.

Nadia would find the object of her search in the far back corner of the moderately filled taproom. Van sat in a meditative state, eyes closed as he measured his breaths. Plates littered the table before him, both stacked and strewn, and if she had to guess, he’d eaten much more than even that massive stack of porcelain let on. Mildly impressed, she made her way to his table and carefully maneuvered herself into the booth in such a way that her silks would not catch on the edge of his dirty plates. She studied his passive face for a minute or so, spinning all sorts of reasons for his ferocity in her mind, before clearing her throat.

“Van, wasn’t it? You fought well. I’m proud to have held my own against you.” Her voice was soft as one of his eyes peeled open and focused on her. He didn’t seem too bothered by her interruption, but she could tell that he would much rather return to his meditation than hold a conversation at any length.

“You should be.” Although he did nothing to hide his reluctance, the strange-eyed Manbeast was not so proud as to pretend he hadn’t been impressed in turn. For all his tension, easing barely as quickly as glaciers drift, he spoke without hostility. Any danger to his presence was implied, or perhaps directed elsewhere. “It’s been a long time since anyone gave me that much trouble. You think fast enough to make up for the difference in experience.”

Considering him for a moment, she hesitated. There was just so much of her curiosity that was piqued by his mannerisms. Something deep down urged her to continue along her current path, and seek something that may just be ill-advised.

“Could I buy you a drink?” She asked, gesturing toward the mountain of dishes with a small smile. “You must be parched after all this.”

His eyes briefly sought the stairs, as if he pondered simply departing for his room before slacking ever so slightly at the shoulders. “Any other day, I’d object. But you could. At least you seem to know what you’re getting into.”

"Better than most, I'd expect." Smiling as she turned, the dragonkin managed to flag down a server that introduced herself as Shanna. After an inquiry about Van's previous preferences, Nadia placed an order for another of the same. Noticing a particularly toothy grin flashed Van’s way, Nadia pondered the nature of beasts in human clothing. Like birds, they certainly seemed to flock together. She couldn’t decide if that was a particularly good or bad thing, but that was mainly due to a lack of knowledge. For all Nadia knew, these beasts had been born that way, just the same as she. That ignorance would have to soon be remedied.

Noticing that she had let silence hang in the air a touch too long, Nadia had to scramble for the correct phrasing of her inquiry so as to not cause too much offense. Perhaps it would be better to start with some small talk, and see how much information he volunteered. Afterall, it wasn’t as if they were in the arena any longer; the duo had all the time they wanted to meander through (hopefully pleasant) conversation.

“So, where can I find more Manbeasts like you? You’re not much of a looker, but I bet we could find a handsome cousin of yours somewhere.”

“I could tell you about a few places that get lively by the moonlight. But you’re a few hundred years too late to find any actual cousins.” Although it wasn’t overtly predatory, Van’s demeanor abruptly took on an expectant air that sought answers as directly as different circumstances would see that same gaze seek prey and not Nadia’s own eyes. “You can skip the ice breaking, Red. Why are you interested in me?”

"First off… My name is Nadia, and I am a Shieldforged. Ironic that I would find you at a smithy, seeing as my family forges the highest quality steels in these lands. I half expect this place to have set aside some of our stock for the highest paying clients.

"And secondly? It's something in your eyes; you seem restless… or perhaps hunted by ghosts of time passed. Even in the arena, you seemed as though frantic to prove yourself… And yet I find you here in a corner, meditating? Are you here alone?"

“Whenever I can help it. You can chalk the rest up to age — Live long enough and you’ll find a thing or two you might ask the Lords to turn their eyes on. I just have to go back to doing that the hard way. Or you could take the credit for some of it. I pride myself on my restraint, but you did a number on that.”

It was excellent timing then that the brew she had ordered for Van arrived. Nadia could not ask for clarification until the female server retreated once more. Until then, it was awkward smiles and pregnant pauses. Thank goodness the moment was blissfully brief.

"I'm no saint. I do highly doubt you've committed such a crime to make me think lesser of you. Try me." Sliding the brew toward Van, Nadia's gaze was expectant.

Nadia couldn’t explain why such a swell of emotion rose in her chest. Perhaps it had been her upbringing, or the prophecy she had carried all her life. At Van’s words, something just seemed to click. She knew in that moment that she was honourbound to assist. They’d forged a bond of blood and sweat in the arena, and it seemed fate wasn’t quite satisfied with the way they’d left things.

“I’m coming with you.” She announced with a confident air. Nadia’s hand had already risen to call Shanna over to close out her tab. “I’ll just have to send Aidan back ahead to inform-”

His hand shot out to grab her wrist.

“This isn’t an adventure. I’m not setting out on some tale of romanticism to put my ghosts to rest, nor do I need help. I’m walking to the far West on my own. What do you suddenly find so interesting about that?”

Calmly, Nadia returned her gaze to the man across the table. She seemed unphased by the contact, and even kept two fingers raised to indicate her request for a server.

“I wasn’t asking. This quest? It’s far bigger than you. Where I come from, if I didn’t help you in a task that you were honourbound to complete, it would be a smirch upon my own standing with the Elder. I’m going to see you to your homeland, even if it takes years of convincing. Really, resisting is just going to drag out how long you’ll have to put up with me.”

“You figure out what I am, and still seek me out. Then you prevail over me, and knowing full well that I have nothing to offer you, decide to latch on over...” He released his grip on her wrist, momentarily taking the freed hand to his temples. “The last time someone talked to me like that was... I can’t even remember her face, that’s how long ago it was.” Resignation and amusement blended into a guttural chuckle, followed by the rasped-out words: “We’ll have to see how well you can keep up.”
Post #: 21
8/14/2019 19:52:56   

I figured, he did see me coming after all. The man swung his own weapon up, knocking Gary’s away with ease and looking now into his face, Gary found himself reminded somehow of the Ziltain, an incredibly dangerous creature from the True-Deep that needed the concerted effort of hundreds of Aofeyfetarl at once to deal with as they could continue rampaging even after being pierced thousands of times, even through vital points.

Gary bent down, his proto-fins adjusting upwards as he did so as the man braced himself to strike. There was a great sound from behind him to his left, but Gary had not time to pay it any attention. Then he leapt up, barely avoiding Sark Ynet’s ranseur as he soared up over thrice his own height. As he did so he saw something sent forth from the Morrigan barrel through where his head had been moments earlier. Oh! Right, The Morrigan! I doubt the two are the same though… Instinct informed Gary that if he had been hit by that blast he would likely be dead.

He arched his body backwards as he reached the apex of his leap and began gliding away from Sark Ynet and Morrigan. That Morrigan could easily kill me… and Sark Ynet… unless I go all in on offence I feel I haven’t a chance against him… but also I cannot leave myself fully exposed, so… As he thought he began shifting the water in his fur, directing all but a single litre to his right arm, that solitary litre left spread across his chest as the rest flowed over his hand onto the halberd, a thin trickle remaining behind to link chest and weapon.

I happen to like this shape, but I’ve a need of both more range and power. Gone then, was the halberd. In its place emerged the blade of a great scythe, the blade running three feet total, a thick ‘cord’ of water seven feet in length connecting the blade to Gary’s arm. As he landed once more ‘pon the sands he brought the great blade of the scythe down at Sark Ynet. I find it distasteful… but I am here to win and kill everyone I must. You are not an opponent that can be defeated without ending your life anyway.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 22
8/14/2019 23:31:39   
Eternal Wanderer

Archers, Sark Ynet reflected, were best met upon one’s own terms. Preferably from ambush and at less than arms’ length. But there was little time for such consideration as Nigh worked her bow once more. The twanging string sent another pair of darts - one winking silvery bright, the other sparking with a golden sheen - winging across the crimson sand at him. As if to punctuate the shots, a mere moment later thunder grumbled from Morrigan’s direction, cracking the sky and drowning out the crowd’s calls for blood.

No sound, however, could overbear the voice that followed. If the clap of thunder had roared, the flaming voice that rolled over the Arena bellowed, decrying the riot-haired fop who had been Paragon of Fire.

Not that the jagged man had the time, or interest, in listening to the denouncement.

“Tell the God-Emperor that time grows short. If he will not act decisively to save his Empire, then I will do it for him.”

The exemplar's arrows from one side. The knife-ear’s assault from the other. As Sark Ynet drove the ranseur’s spike down at the ysgarth, he twisted his hips and began to pivot. It was a visceral reaction, a logical leap based upon his observations of Chase in the Cellar.

The coins had been lovely. Lovely and silver.

“I said that I would have to wife the Fairest Maid in Rodeken. You are not so pretty now, Rissa.”

The blade drawn in her desperation had coruscated, dense with skyfire waiting to be released.

“We begrudge the massacre you brought forth in Pretu, but we admit that betimes such measures are necessary. We order you now thus: Ride to Brenth. Bring this rebel lord to heel, by whatsoever means you deem necessary. All we ask is that you spare as much of the city as you may.”

The resultant burst had been not only force, but energy as well. Seething tongues of lightning searching out their paths to ground.

A bolt of energy. That was the wiry man's instinct as he swiveled to face the knife-ear and planted the polearm solidly into the red sand. At the moment, he cared not for the fact Gary had evaded his strike, gliding away with surprising grace. It was the strike of coming energy that was his chief concern. The ranseur held, angled in Morrigan’s direction as though it was a boar-spear ready and waiting to receive a maddened charge. And it did - after a fashion - as Sark Ynet left the weapon behind and hurled himself into a sidelong roll to clear the flight of arrows and bolt like.

The exemplar’s darts buzzed malignantly through the space he had just occupied, crossing paths with the humming flash of skyfire. Chase’s lightning found the ranseur’s head, snapping down the improvised lightning-rod to dissipate harmlessly in the sand. But there had been another strike - he had misjudged the knife-ear - a finger of lightning that found his left leg as he rolled. The metal plates of the jagged man’s boot were to the boltlet’s liking, and it surged through Sark Ynet in a jolt of seizing blue-white pain.

--A true sky-caller. How… intriguing.--

Snarling, the wiry man came to his feet, unsteadiness from quivering muscles held at bay by the upwelling of fury. The hacking blade scraped free of its battered scabbard, almost leaping into his right hand. He had been correct. She was Torthol. Torthol who had undone him in the end. Laid all his plans and dreams to naught.

--It was your love for him, o Dragon mine. It blinded you from his threat until it was too late.--

But he was not free to offer his reply just yet, for the ysgarth had made of its watery glaive a great reaper’s scythe. The jagged man twirled away, the strike furrowing a trench in the Arena’s gritty floor behind him as he snatched the ranseur up in a reverse-grip with his left hand and pelted toward Chase. Black motes swirled in his wake as he charged, stepped, lunged, extended, and drove the metal spike on the polearm’s rear straight at the knife-ear’s chest.

“Let them come. Let them all come. I am still waiting to be impressed!”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 23
8/15/2019 0:56:20   

Be alert, not alarmed.
It Is WHAT?!
It’s not coming for us. It won’t be coming for us.
...well fatten me up and take me to market…
Ignore the boy, kill the man.

The half-elf’s gaze remained fixated on the blundering performer, but even the Keeper of the Ruinous Tempests could not ignore the unbridled heat emanating from Fire’s Pillar. The Windsgraced had practiced and fought countless times with her fellow acolytes - and later with the temple’s plethora of challengers - under an unrelenting sun which beat down upon them with heaven’s own flame. Yet this fever was not only matched but outdone by the molten rock gushing forth in vehement bursts from the elegant sprite. Head throbbing, Arro fought the urge to turn tail and flee at the incessant behests of the most cowardly of her Whispers.

The half-elf reached her feet just as Bassaerus Laverne of the Dancing Blades did the same not an arm’s length away. But their movements were not mirrored; only one of them stole a glance towards the thundering guardian administering judgment against her own paragon.

And one less…
An opening
An ending!

Her fist lashed out, a viper striking for its prey. Bassareus froze - in more ways than one. His visage shimmered as frost glossed across the noble’s cheek, over his jaw, and down his neck. The fear in his eyes made it impossible to tell how much of the stiffness in his frame was from the crystalline prison and how much was induced by sheer panic. A shrill crack erupted from the impact of flesh against ice, the performer bringing new meaning to the term 'glassjaw' as half of his was torn off in a froth of snow.

It’s Beautiful.
Only ice after all.

It’s a distraction. Focus your efforts on the Shattered Night.

Arro pulled back to a neutral stance and shifted her weight to her good leg. Emerald eyes followed the spray of frost as she flicked her gaze to the heart of the coliseum...and then followed them back to the magician as the hailstones reversed mid-air and darted back to their owner. Misshapen shards filled the cavity that was his jaw, reconstructing the infuriating puzzle of a smirk that just begged to be shattered again. As his cheeks regained their rosy pigment, Bassareus Laverne cooed to her, “Your movements are always clear as ice, little dove.”

Yes, he can be broken again and again and AGAIN!
Don’t let him push you to anger
...you know, I’m starting to think our bloodthirsty friend here is right…

Clip Wings!

Heeding the Whisper that had once been her master, Arro sidestepped away from the kick aimed at her hip. The maneuver bought the Windsgraced another breath before the leg would make contact; in the midst of storms, any breath could turn the tide. Pained leg dragging in the sands behind her, Arro’s right arm snaked through the air to encircle the offending limb and pin it against her side-

Fingers curled around not warm flesh but frigid crystal. Perverse hands of frost coiled around the monk’s waist and crushed. She gasped for air, spittle flinging down her chin in viscous wads. Knuckles turned white as the Whispers buffeted with renewed frenzy against her consciousness, her abdomen straining against the icy manacles to no avail. Breathe...breathe...

...don’t like this, not one bit…

Lose your breath, lose the fight.
It’s Your Fault For This Anyways!


Teeth clacking shut, Arro stared hard into the smug face of the coxcomb before her. Her left palm rose and fell against the fetter in a hammer strike, ice splintering in a shower of glass upon the bloodstained grit. Her jaw quivered as she drank in the next breath.

Sweeter Than Honey.
All will be well.
All will be well once this court jester paints the sands red.

One leg having already traced a crescent in the sands, Arro pivoted on the ball of her back foot and breathed. Her body twisted, the energy within shifting naturally from leg to torso to shoulder and to the fractured chunk of ice in her grip. The makeshift weapon, hollow as the man it belonged to, whistled through the air. The Whispers voiced their affirmations as the jagged edge slashed towards the pitiful heart of Bassareus Laverne.

He will learn to respect the Way of Four Winds.
He will learn to respect us.

I will teach him to respect the storm.”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 24
8/15/2019 22:42:27   

Morrigan’s jaw went slack as the wet cat leaped into the air and over her assault. At the apex, he unfurled his fins and glided out of sight like leaves on the autumn wind.

Alumna’s name, what on Lore is that thing?! She was wrong. It was not comical; it was absurd. The thing seemed so ridiculous, so beyond her expectations that she didn’t know what to expect. After Sark, he was next; he had to be next.

Speaking of which—

Although the creature escaped, her work was not completely wasted. When she had released her searing bolts, the warrior leaped to the side as the lightning approached, leaving his pike behind to take the strike in his stead. He had managed to dodge the angel’s arrows and some of her magic. But this was not enough as one of the bolts clipped his leg, seizing in pain as sparks the sparks coiling throughout his body. Morrigan watched as the jagged man staggered to his feet, his form unsteady as he shook off the experience. Both of his eyes were trained on Morrigan, fixed to her with murderous intent as he unsheathed a machete.

Her heart fluttered at such a sight. Finally, she was the one on the offense, the one in control. She had to seize this moment.

“Oh champion, where is your mockery now?” She spat the words out at the jagged man. “It is easy to speak of such things when you are in control. But I see no strength now, only a slave to circumstance.”

She spoke as to mock the paragon, to goad him to desperate measures, but in truth, it was a warning to all, herself included.

In her mind, they were all unknowing slaves to the world’s grand design. Momentary, fleeting. But were they really slaves in their ignorance? They were not bound by fear for only she was burdened with the truth. A cruel gift, she thought—

“Kill me, and still you will be a slave.”

Truth that gave her fear.

Fear that led to action.

Action taken at any cost.

Through their deaths, Morrigan knew that she would be set free. She would be a slave to fear no longer, able to make her own choices. She would live again, and forever. But in this moment, Morrigan was still a slave in her shackles.

When the words left her mouth, Sark scowled and dashed away as an edge of pure water carved into the sand where he once stood. Her eye darted to the right to find the water-dweller once again, this time wielding a conjured scythe instead of a halberd. She wasn’t even surprised. Morrigan had other concerns as the jagged warrior ran and grabbed his pike. With a shout, he held it forward, aiming to lunge towards her chest.

“Let them come. Let them all come. I am still waiting to be impressed!”

Spoken like a true warrior. But I don’t need your praise; I've had enough of it.

With Sark approaching, Morrigan first used her left foot to kick the crimson sand up towards Sark’s face. As he went for the lunge, she pushed off of her right foot, stepping to the left and circling her blade down around to deflect the blow outward. As she slashed with her runeblade, Morrigan closed her eyes with a single word echoing in her mind.


In an instant, the blade ignited as it had in the Cellar with a bright flash of spiraling teal as sparks pulsed along its edge. It slammed into the warrior’s weapon, scrapes of wood singeing as it bruised the pole. Her blade was ill-equipped to cleave the man’s weapon, but if she continued her assault, it would break eventually.

But destroying the pike was not her true goal. As the blade soared with energy, Morrigan hoped that the sand and the flash would be enough to scare or at least blind Sark for the instant. She braced her feet against the ground, leaning forward as she spun her blade back around with both hands to slice at his left flank.

But as you wish. Here I come!
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 25
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