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=WPC 2021= Final Battlefield

 
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2/14/2021 17:18:21   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


In the beginning, there was nothing. No sounds. No sights. No colors or feelings or life. And into this nothingness are the Pawns thrust, alone in the empty void. Yet even in this lonely space, a weight exists. Oppressive, all knowing it brought with it a curious gaze. The pawns are seen, are watched, and are expected to perform.

A flash of violet lightning pierced the blackness, tearing through reality itself and splitting the space in twain. To the sky fled light and color, to the ground fled lines of darkest shadow and brightest white. Air rushed through, a wild gust of wind that tore at every loose thread and plate before growing still. The weight of the presence increased, coalesced, and the Pawns found themselves slammed to their knees upon a new battlefield. A chessboard of black and white, floating in the sea of an unborn nebula. The newest players in the most ancient game.

The Powers had chosen.




Tiles of harshest white and starkest black formed a smooth, mirrored surface. Cool to touch, yet signs of wear and tear seemed to mar what was once perfect. Though they still spoke of Structure, Security, Regulation, and Discipline, specks of blood dotted their surface, and gashes drawn by long-past blades tore at their perfection. Even still, the force was unyielding; promising unity as it called its Knights forward.

Knight of Frost, who commands its icy grip. To become a queen once more, you must first cross the board. Rise, Icarahael, and let your tempest rage.

Knight of the Forest, who hears all its voices. To defend your home, you must first hunt in mine. Rise, Tear, and let your arrows howl.

Knight of the Spearhead, who channels its force. To confront your blood, you must first spill that of your foes. Rise, Aurelia, and let your fists fly.

Knight of the Dragon, who wrestles with its presence. To stay as one, you must first slay the many. Rise, Ginevra, and let your flames burst forth.



“Join me.” Called out a single voice, ringing rich and true through this empty realm. “Fight in my name, and I will give you purpose. Fight for Order!”



Colors of every shade imaginable: fierce crimson and deep blue, metallic gold and silver, violet and emerald and thousands more without name. They rippled through the sky in an ever-changing, tumultuous display. They were more vibrant, teeming with light and energy. And way up in the cloud, the faintest flickers of lightning seemed to flash at random. This sky spoke of Formlessness. Fluidity. Disruption. Motion. An unpredictable force that promised change as it called forth its Knights.

Knight of the Spirits, who stalks among them. To slay the foe of your past, you must first face those of the present. Rise, Daiyu, and let your beasts roar.

Knight of Time, who steps from its flow. To abandon your systems, you must first follow ours. Rise, Pendulum, and let your timepieces swing.

Knight of the Wildfire, who burns with its ferocity. To protect the lives of the weak, you must first take those of the strong. Rise, Kunze, and let your blaze consume.

Knight of Hunger, who suffers from its pangs. To find answers to your questions, and sate yourself, you must first sate us. Rise, Scyon, Gluttony, and let your wails echo.



“Join us.” Called out a cascade of voices, at once discordant and beautiful. “Fight in our name, and we will give you freedom. Fight for Chaos!”



The thunder quieted, leaving behind a deafening silence, then violet flashed once more. Twin bolts of lightning, large beyond belief, fell from the ever-moving sky to strike the center of the ever-still ground. With a crack, two square-shaped sections shattered, perfect shards of black and white tumbling down into the emptiness. Thunder filled silence as the colossal, shining, linked-disks suspended above shook. On each sat a set of four glowing orbs, and from each disk came a constant cascade of crystal clear water and the roar of the falls. Lightning flashed once more, and the falls caught it, dispersing it into an endless dance across their watery surface. The scattered shards floated upwards and reformed, perfecting the ground once more, though the water flowed down through them as if unimpeded.

As the thunder quieted, and all that was left was the dull roar of the twin electrified falls, the knights stood, facing each other across the First Battlefield. Whether rivals or partners, past friends or past foes, they now shared a single goal. Tip those watery scales. Win this endless War.
Post #: 1
2/17/2021 0:01:30   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


The rain continued, relentlessly pounding downwards. It seeped through Kunze’s armor, frigid liquid finding every crack and seam to drench his skin as he and Icarahel struggled for dominance over her blade. Between the heavy downpour and the loose strands of hair plastered over his face, the prince could barely make out her motions. Still, he felt her weight shift just enough to draw attention to the fitful glint of firelight off her other glaive. Arrows scraped against the queen’s heavy armor, flickers of motion swiftly swallowed by the storm. She ignored them contemptuously, water surging from her weapon as she slashed the blade towards his side. Kunze yielded, slipping slightly on dripping stone as he shifted his weight backwards. The prince gave a final shove against the first glaive, then whirled about to parry her second an instant before it cut into him. His arms shook from the impact, nearly enough to jar the rain-slicked wood from his hands.

Blue radiance flashed from the woman’s brow, again and again, shattering and refracting in waves that bounced from one droplet to the next until Kunze had to turn his face away, nearly retching with the onslaught of azure light. Icarahael’s voice just reached him over the howl of her own winds - but his disoriented mind refused to process her words, only just recognizing her spitting fury over the pounding in his head.

A blast of icy wind punctuated her shout, and a shallow gasp wrenched itself from Kunze’s chest as the cold clawed deep into his core. The dryad attempted to twist away, to put more space between himself and the queen, only for his torso to seize mid-motion, muscles cramping at the suddenly shallow breaths he pulled in. The chill sunk deeper, frost creeping across the front of his armor as Kunze glanced down, eyes widening in panic. Inha- he choked, managing only a stunted breath as his lungs strained against the solidified shell of ice caught between wood and skin. He felt his heartbeat slow even as he dragged in another shallow breath. She’s trying to freeze my heart…

His partizan slipped from his hands; its flames sputtered, finally quenched by the ceaseless deluge as it thudded heavily to the ground. The prince gulped reflexively, darkness creeping into the corners of his vision. Memories flickered in the shadows. A young sparrow, wings broken as it died beneath an eagle’s talons. Numb fingers scraped uselessly against the greenwood, unable to fracture the spreading ice. A wolf-mother’s howl, her cubs lost to the winter famine. Golden eyes raked through the storm, latching on to the fading gleam of Icarahael’s crown. A human’s anguish at their fallen home. Lilly… and Kunze forced himself to fight.

Every inch of his torso blazed scarlet as blossoms burst forth. Fire bloomed at the heart of each flower, hissing steam as it burned hot and bright despite the pouring rain. Orange and gold crackled in an inferno about him, and Kunze inhaled, ice sloughing off his skin in sheets as he pulled in great swallows of air. Flames licked the greenwood of his armor, pollen blazed, and clouds of smoke billowed about him even as the chill of dying blossoms spread across his core.

The Flame of the Forest roared.

Kunze charged forward as Icarahael leapt away from him, petals spilling to the ground in a torrent thick as the raindrops. He narrowed his eyes against the stinging swirls of smoke and steam, hounding the trail of chilled air left in his foe’s wake. No more graceful dance of blades, no further exchange of clever barbs. Like the wildfires that ravaged a forest, the prince would burn her to the ground. First you, then all other murdering tyrants. His outstretched fingertips brushed cold, freezing steel…

Laughter curled through the storm, and the armor slipped away as the dryad jerked back in shock. He could no longer hear the rain, no longer hear even his own cry over the sudden cackle of mirth. A geyser of water erupted from the ground before him, throwing Kunze and Icarahael apart. The wave of water grew: taller than the prince, taller than the surrounding trees… then crashed downwards upon him. Stone vanished beneath his feet, and the river snatched Kunze in its current and dragged him away.



The small courtyard glittered in the starlight, green and gold tucked away between the curving roots that embraced the Living Palace. In its center stood a single tree, the warm chocolate bark of its trunk stretching tall before branching into an immense crown of strong, broad limbs. Curved ruby blossoms dripped in clusters from every branch. They glinted in the faint light, holding each shimmer of radiance tight until they glowed themselves, emanating warmth like miniature embers cradled within bejeweled blossoms.

Water pressed upon him from all sides once more. Burnt hands grasped at nothing, aching feet kicked hopelessly against the current, and bubbles escaped his lips one by one as he thrashed. His spear was gone. His fire smothered. His enemies and allies alike lost to the river that pulled him along, helpless in its grasp.

First a single petal, then a handful, then a whirl as the blooms cascaded downwards, a rain of crimson weeping forth from the tree’s fiery crown. They withered as they fell, blossoms charring to cover the glade in smoky ash. Warmth faded, the winter chill invading far before its time, in a place it did not belong. Frost crept across the boughs, and the last petal began to fall…

The last gasp of air squeezed from the prince’s lungs. Cold seeped into him, spreading from his chilled heart and the blackened markings now covering his body. Gold bled from his eyes, heat faded from his veins. Yet the prince refused to surrender. One last kick to where he remembered pinpricks of light, one last reach to where vines might be caught, one last surge of defiance to reach the surface and continue to fight. To keep his promise...

The blossom froze mid-air. It glowed - faint at fister, then brighter - light and heat illuminating its solitary shape against the ashen haze. It sparked, faded, flickered like a single tongue of candlelight; then it burst - and the tree before it ignited into flame.

Something old and vast brushed against his soul. A force. A presence. A Power. And suddenly he was nowhere; he was everywhere. The water had vanished, and Life itself surged about him instead, a river of magic and wonder. His heart beat strong, warmth carried by its steady song from his roots to his fingers.

The tree stood tall once more. Veins of gold gleamed amidst the dark wood, carrying life to the bunches of scarlet blossoms now restored to its wide-spread boughs. A curl of pleased laughter ruffled through them, petals rippling in its wake.

“Knight of the Wildfire,” hissed the laughing voice. It called fire to his core and strength to his limbs. “Are you prepared to die today?”

The prince stood restored upon a board of black and white, beneath a sky of unborn stardust. “I will live.”



Kunze frowned and shook his head slightly to clear the thunder still echoing in his ears. Freedom. Is that enough? His eyes swept across his scattered allies, their names blooming in his mind as he caught sight of each: Daiyu, of Spirits, a humanoid who seemed more smoky than solid; the curved black horn upon her brow stood in sharp contrast to the clouds of jade and white that encircled her face. Pendulum, of Time, the strange bronze statue Kunze had encountered within the stone city - though instead of standing motionless it now walked jerkily towards their final ally. Scyon, of Hunger, a form even less natural than the fallen monstrosity of the Current; its body of haphazardly woven flesh and metal held aloft by thick black tentacles, tipped in frozen blood. Kunze shivered involuntary, sweat trickling down the back of his spine. Are any of my allies even alive?

The dryad approached the two metallic oddities, a strange humming slowly building in his mind as he did so. He chanced a glance across the battlefield - squinting against the flickers of lightning that danced across the twin falls’ surfaces. He recognized Icarahael immediately, her armor restored and storm softened to a light drizzle as she glared haughtily about her. I guess being called a Knight is a step down for the Queen… The Wolf-Spirit, Tear, was there as well, and Kunze’s heart sank at the sight of her. Worry and doubt churned in his stomach - would he risk saving her, even here? If nothing else, I can avoid targeting her… Kunze just registered the names of the remaining two foes, Aurelia and Ginevera, before his focus slipped away.

The humming had grown louder as he drew closer to his allies - what had started as a note on the edge of his subconscious had crescendoed to a wailing lamentation, as if sorrow itself had somehow become trapped within singing crystal. The dryad shifted, wrapping a hand around one of his karambits as he warily glanced about. Unable to pinpoint the source of the noise, he turned his gaze back to his supposed allies. Another step closer, and the prince managed enough focus to call a brief warning: “Be wary of Icarahael; she freezes whatever her storm touches.” He swallowed down his discomfort and took another step forward.

The wail rose further, consuming the distant rumble of falling water, consuming even the sound of Kunze’s own suddenly-ragged breathing. He turned, eyes narrowed as they flicked from one fall to the other, tracking the movements of his prey. Pendulum extended a hand to Scyon at the edge of his gaze, but its actions did not matter. It was not alive. Chaos had declared he must take life here to protect those of his forest. A fire must consume fuel to grow.

Knight of the Wildfire. Flame of the Forest. Kunze pulled the Ever Flaming from his back, eyes trained on the lilac-haired human who had begun to move forward.

Consume…
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 2
2/18/2021 8:25:05   
kavyraya
Member
 

”Hey, Keralis. Are you sure you’re going to survive this other one? You look as good as dead.”

Eva frowned, looking up at Howard. Was he always this tall? And gaunt? Wasn't he also supposed to be in the naval unit? What happened? Had he been assigned to another battalion? Maybe moved? His skin was darker, not under the harsh Cordillera sun.

”Leave her be, she’s just barely coming around. Hey, Ginny. Can you hear me?”

Oliver? His face was so hazy, swimming in and out of her view. He was paler, the sun giving him an angry burn of red along the sides of his face. He always worried about her, if she was eating properly while disregarding his own. Why didn’t he take care of himself instead again?

You’ve been asleep too long. Were you always this bovine, Eva?

Xyl? What happened?

What do you mean, ‘what happened?’ You carried three bodies before collapsing near base. Us, saving mortals? I only am too glad that I am not physical. The shame it would have put me in. What would have my brother serpents said? That I have gone soft!

She didn’t have the energy to laugh at their retort. She didn’t have the energy to move her limbs, or her head. Her thoughts were moving too slow to process where she was, where she had landed at this time. This time? A memory perhaps? Instead, she remembered an arena, with tall pillars of crystal, their cracked tips dripping some acid down her wings, making her skin sting painfully. Her talons curled, remembering fighting an automaton, alongside a snake… Where are you, Eva?

”This… This isn’t where we should be…” she thought. Her mind felt so sluggish. Her heart beat too slow.

”That’s right. You don’t belong anywhere, really. Why are you still such a burden to me, Ginevra? You’re just as useless as your mother was. No wonder she left you on my doorstep. You two forever taint our family name. I should have left you to die.”

Her heart stilled.

A sob escaped her lips.

She had been so small then, when she watched as her mother retreated back across the shadowed streets, walking away from her, another one of her many problems she couldn’t solve. The lamplight shone above her auburn curls. It had been hours before her aunt found her, an unofficial orphan. She wondered if it would’ve been better if she ran away before being found. She had been a good child, she knew that as much. But sometimes she woke up with blood in her mouth, with scratches on the wall. One day, she woke up in the middle of a burnt forest, adorned with the gold armbands that still smoldered slightly. Even if she was a minor, she had been convicted of arson, possibly even mutilation of a few forest animals.

Useless.

Was she?

She remembered running back to the forest, a storm riding high behind her, her naked feet thudding on the ashen ground. And the dragon lay there, as if waiting for her all this time.

They exchanged no word. Just looked at each other with familiarity. She stood still, their coils wrapping around her languidly, like a cobra squeezing their prey. But she was no such thing.

Yes, you were so small, so insignificant in the face of my universe. But you were my reflection, Ginevra. You became a beacon. You are strength, you are stubbornness. Just like all the moons before you. Rise, little flame. Perhaps it is finally you who can spell our victory.
--------------------------

Lightning flashed before Eva’s eyes, and the ground was lost to her once more. She tipped back, spilling her weight to the side as bright purple tendrils of electricity charged across her vision. She automatically tucked into a tight ball, her hands feeling the engravings of her gold armbands and its ever-warmed metal, clutching at them as one would do with a cross.

It felt like another vacuum, threatening to undo her as she tumbled in space, but there was a lightness to her, a buoyancy. Her body was featherweight, and she opened her eyes just in time to see her talons retract, for her scales to fade away. Her head wasn’t heavy anymore, her horned crown dissipated, leaving her brunette locks free. The soot was still there, so were the glowing runes scattered across her arms...but it looked as human as anyone’s would be.

She panicked, but golden coils seemingly made out of sunlight wrapped around her. I am here, came Xylmaelyth’s voice.

Eva was then deposited gently to a newer ground; a large checkerboard stretching as further, but teetering to a nebulaic nothingness at the edges. The light that surrounded her still came from the dragon, but they had wound around her so tightly that she could only see the other personalities she stood with, and just a bit further than that. There was no sign of the snake, nor the other shining one with a sword. She glanced about, hearing their names, taking care not to stray too far from the other three, but not so close that she was imposing.

She felt Xyl tighten around her, their eyes on the tall female with silvery hair and scars on her forehead, marring that kind of classic beauty. She is kin. But be wary. There have been times when we too almost caused an apocalypse on earth.

But Eva’s gaze moved from her to across the arena, and she took a step back, her hand flying to her chest, where her dragonheart lay, their light pulsing through her bulletproof vest and through her slim fingertips.

The automaton was still there.
Post #: 3
2/18/2021 19:21:19   
Apocalypse
Member

Tick...

Steel crashed against glass with an ear-splitting crack. Pendulum reeled backwards from the blow as spiderweb fissures spiraled out from the corner of his visual panel. Structural integrity compromised, reported his analytical system. The automaton snapped his head back to face forwards, the neon blue light seeping through the fractures and illuminating his assailant’s scaled visage. His survival protocol kicked into high gear. Tactical retreat. Reassess engagement strategy. Calculate-

Inaction begets nothing.

...tock.

Pendulum denied the call for safety, instead rewinding first one arm then the other as Adversary Snake coiled tighter around his chest. Holes had been burned into them from the draconic one’s flaming talons, and the metal itself still glowed orange-hot from the exposure. Nonetheless, an instant diagnostic check determined that they were functional, and thus they would do. Bronze hands lunged out to grasp the troublesome snake and wring its neck. Conquer, commanded Pendulum.

Tick…

An overbearing wail interrupted his momentum mid-strike. The vicious cry cut through his thought processes, disrupted his consciousness, and tore at his mind. He demanded for damage reports that were not there, his receptors failing to acknowledge any sonar attack. Pendulum’s hands grasped nothing in their hunt for the snake behemoth’s neck. He slammed his fists down upon his sides to strike the serpent’s body but only struck himself.

...tock.

Not possible, asserted his prognostication unit. Crystal shards ricocheted off his visual panel, their odd glow distorting what vision he had left. Where was Adversary Snake? Pendulum’s arms swept left and right in wide arcs in search of his enemy; an action done in vain. Impossible. It could not have escaped on a whim.

Ti-

The falling rain of prismatic glass came to an abrupt halt, time itself stringing the shards in the air. Priority alpha: locate Adversary Snake, Pendulum exerted what focus he still maintained to decipher the disarray of crystals, fractures, and reflected light before him.

And found nothing.

It was more than the unexplainable absence of the snake behemoth - it was the lack of anything else at all. Pendulum captured the striation of shades and hues, following each and every one as they rebounded from fragment to fragment, but beyond them there was simply nothing, nothing at all. A sudden darkness had devoured the walls of the arena, and with them the pillars and the automaton’s temporal field. Perhaps it had devoured Adversary Snake as well. Priority alpha: escape. Once again he gave the command to reinstate himself within the flow of time. Once again he found himself denied.

Once again he was alone.



Time did not pass.



He counted the shards. He counted them twice. He counted them until he had counted more times than there were shards. He poured over their contents, scouring for some key hidden within the constellations of glimmering light. The automaton drew up three-dimensional shapes from the mass of crystals, reconstructed the shards from their broken pieces within his mind, and applied every optimization algorithm and differential equation that seemed applicable by even the barest of margins. None served to give him an answer.

He was in the midst of compiling what else he could form from the shards when the sound of footsteps interrupted his thought processes. Pendulum strained his visual unit to make out what loomed in the darkness beyond the suspended crystals. “Second Generation Chronomantic Engine, last unit of his kind, given name of Pendulum,” spoke a deep voice, full of command and one that relished every word it spoke. A voice that was all too familiar to the automaton.

Architect Hollow stepped from the void, long blue robes alight with hellish red runes that twisted and sparked in the darkness. Tall but slight of frame, the maegistra slipped through the labyrinth of razor sharp crystals with an unnatural nimbleness, as if his body itself was warping around their serrated edges. Pendulum's analytical system decreed that his visual perception must have sustained damage beyond the panel despite the lack of corresponding signals. Even if it was true, it was of little help as the maegistra approached the frozen automaton. Pendulum commanded his body to move, to do anything in response to the ghastly apparition but found himself unanswered.

“Combat trial results,” Architect Hollow continued as he stepped within arm’s length. “Under use of the temporal fields, over reliance on brute physical force.” He took another step closer, allowing Pendulum to peer beneath his hood. Empty sockets rimmed with scorched flesh stared back at him. The maegistra’s pale lips pursed. “Rewind abilities functional yet unoriginal over the course of battle. I dare say.” A long, bony fingered ending in a sharp nail tapped twice on the center of Pendulum’s visual panel. The architect sneered. “With such results, how could they even think that you could stand up to our Scyon?”

He paused there, still as death, the crackling of crimson sparks upon his robe the only indication that he had not also been constrained by time. Scyon…

Their Scyon.

In a blur of motion, Pendulum’s hand grasped Architect Hollow by the wrist. A sickening snap accompanied the movement as the pointing hand twisted to an unnatural angle. The maegistra made no attempt to cry out, but that did not stop the automaton from clasping his other hand around the architect’s throat. With no resistance, Pendulum lifted him off his feet, crystal shards gleaming all around them. The frantic questions relayed by his systems for how he was moving in this time without time were deleted upon arrival - only one thought dominated his consciousness.

We are not yours.

Metallic fingers tightened.

Not anymore.

As the blood drained from his face, Pendulum heard the architect utter one last word as if he could read the automaton’s thoughts.

...good…"

When all life had been drained from the body, Pendulum let it fall - and fall it did. It tumbled end over end, robe fluttering in the non-existing breeze as the floor gave way into nothingness. The crystal shards followed, taking the last of their light with them as they cascaded down into the void after the architect. Pendulum commanded his consciousness to thrust out of time so he could capture the dancing lights of the shards but was, as expected, denied. His splintered gaze followed them as they fell down, down, down, becoming mere glints in the abyss before winking from existence…

...and leaving Pendulum alone in the dark.

***

-ck…

A moment, a minute, a millenia later, the automaton was graced with light. Solid flooring once again pushed against his feet. The empty expanse was no more, now replaced with a field of interlocking ivory and obsidian. Two columns of flowing water fell from the tumultuous storm clouds above, piercing through the platform. Within one of them crackled an arc of energy that illuminated the liquid pillar in a flash before dissipating. A lightning bolt, fit for observation, declared his logical unit. Pendulum placed that information in priority gamma as he scrutinized the impeccable status of his visual panel. A quick diagnostics check determined that all damage had been repaired - or more accurately, been undone. Structural integrity at maximum, piston acceleration at minimal capacity, all three pendulums accounted for- The diagnostics system was interrupted by a myriad of voices speaking in unison as they announced the other arrivals to this voidscape. Pendulum’s head swiveled from combatant to combatant as one after the other was introduced only to freeze on the Knight of Hunger as his name was spoken.

Scyon.

...tock.

Not the scion, not their Scyon, just that: Scyon. Ally Scyon. The Blinding Radiance and the Architects had sought to pit the two against each other to achieve their own goals, but each offered the same: servitude and chains. They were both objects, weapons, and the means to an end. But not here: here they were free.

Tick…

Pendulum’s heavy steps clunked against the marble of the battlefield as he approached Ally Scyon, observing the various metals sewn into his flesh. They experimented on one of their own? His systems logged the advice given by the ally wielding the incendiary infernos, but he gave no physical notion of having heard him. Instead, the automaton raised and clashed his forearms twice together in quick succession. Adversary Scyon’s head jerked in his direction, the bulbous appendages skittering across the ground to face his body towards the Chronomantic Engine. An iron band hid the eyes upon his face, but the large one in the center of his chest leered out at him unblinking. I am an ally, Scyon, Pendulum thought as he grew closer to the lumbering leviathan. He outstretched an arm in the same manner he had seen the acolytes do so often in the past. A sign of trust, he had determined. Of kinship.

...tock.

I am the same.

One appendage rose off the floor, slithering through the air towards him. Pendulum stopped in his tracks, allowing Scyon to bridge the last of the distance between them. The tendril snaked its way into his palm and wrapped around his wrist. The flesh seemed to pulse against his metal grip. Together, Scyon. Pendulum turned to face the Knights of Order-

-and was thrown off his feet as Scyon ripped his arm clean from its socket.

Tick....
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 4
2/18/2021 21:33:14   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Get away!

After she had almost lost her weapon to the dryad, Queen Icarahael had managed to drive him away, her storm finally extinguishing the flames on his lance. But her eyes grew wide as the dryad engulfed in flames with a screech that wracked the queen’s ears, his bonfire heating the welts on her skin. She stepped back once, determined to stay her position against this offensive monster. But he careened towards her, and her stance failed her, legs turning to flee what had become a living inferno. A laughter in her ear, the same one as before, and she could not tell whether it was comforting or taunting her, as she sidestepped too late and felt the flaming body’s fingers brush her shoulder before the waves surged forward, pushing his body away from her and plunging her into darkness.




“Our borders have expanded outward, my king.” The silver queen’s voice rang strong and triumphant through the cave, her rising pitch betraying an almost girlish excitement. “Soon we’ll have the entire mountain range!” Icarahael stood beside her in human form, disoriented and sopping wet. She recognized the drakon form as her own, and could not help but marvel at the body she had never seen clearly. Her neck was shorter than she’d expected, but her frame was magnificent, reaching almost to the halfway point of the towering cavern. Her tails curled low against the floor, an array of lithe scales and dark spikes. The middle was shorter and sharper than the other two, and Icarahael stared mournfully at its swaying movements. She curled her hands and realized they still held her glaives, though she had felt no effort in the grip until now. She held one up, its blade reflecting a light that had no source in this dark cavern. Its shaft shares the same color, my spikes hidden in thin black curls… Something about it struck Icarahael as remarkable and beautiful in a way she had not noticed before.

A voice not hers, deep and silky, pulled Icarahael’s glaive to the ground and her eyes from her form. “I would like to go out on a patrol of it.” Icarahael’s breath caught as it washed over her. Icirion… Her eyes rest upon a drake of the same grey as an oncoming stormcloud. He stood shorter than her drakon form, and his body was marked by countless scratches, wrinkles, and missing scales. A curling beard fell in waves from his jaw, exactly as Icarahael last remembered it. Age had been particularly harsh on Icirion. He was born to parents too close in lineage to have a truly healthy child; though in his prime he was Icarahael’s equal in combat, his strength began to fail him after their son’s birth. But his mental resolve and strategic eye lent him strength in other ways. Now, his tone seemed almost cross- but why would he be cross with her?

Silver drakon muscles shook, and human arms shook reflexively, as Icarahael’s voice once more echoed through the chamber. “I would advise against it for now, Icirion. We have not hunted down the last of the manticore packs, and the southern storm has proven too strong for me to control.” Icarahael had grown more protective of the grey drake over the years- as a cryodrakon, and her mate and co-ruler, she wanted him to be--
“If it is not safe for us, then it is not - safe for you. - safe for our tribe.”
It was as if a second copy of Icirion’s voice had spoken over the first. Icarahael’s brows scrunched, confused. Was she hearing things?

“You will protect me, won’t you, - my hate. - my love?"
His tone was almost taunting, and Icarahael felt as if, for a moment, his face had contorted into a snarl… But her drakon form responded as if Icirion had been loving. “Of course, my treasure.” She stepped forward to rub the side of her face against his. “I just… do not want you to put yourself in danger.” The last word was practically a split, and her drakon eyes blazed with fury, a deep red- black- no, those aren’t my eyes, I wasn’t angry, I...

Her vision fizzled suddenly, and pieces of a different scene slowly faded into view, bit by bit, as if constructed as she watched. The clouds were dark, landscapes barely visible through the storm Icarahael could see, but not feel. The two drakon appeared last; Icarahael watched as the gray and silver drakon flew further into the storm, wings buffeted by heavy winds, faces battered by harsh hail. They had flown side by side, but Icarahael watched as her form began to pull ahead, Icirion’s wrinkled wings struggling to stay stable in the gale. His neck was covered in golden liquid that streamed down his back, stemming from a sharp cut on- no, she must have been seeing things…


Dark blots crowded at the edge of her vision as the queen watched her drakon form look back towards her mate before pushing ahead- but she had turned back, hadn’t she? She couldn’t remember… somehow, they had both ended up on the ground, she had stood beside Icirion to tend to his wings and-- yes, there, just as she remembered. She watched the snow fly as both drakon landed heavily. Her silver form stepped towards Icirion, reaching out her neck- her tails?- Icarahael’s eyes couldn’t focus as their frames blurred together, and she felt her stomach drop, though she had seen nothing wrong. A growling filled her ears- was it coming from behind, or ahead? It wasn’t drakon, but she couldn’t… fear struck her, and she swung around, glaives bared, ready to-- Her vision went black, surrounded by the sounds of screaming, of her screaming, of his screaming, of hissing and rattling and howling, and-

Silence.

What happened? Icarahael wracked her brain for the memory, but everything was chaotic, so chaotic, everything was dark. It wasn’t there. Her breath quickened, and she brought her hands up to her face- when her glaives had slipped from her grasp, she knew not- she pushed her palms into her forehead, sending a prickling ache around her skull.
Murderer.


Icarahael was plunged back into water, the River slamming into her from behind and scooping her up into its grasp. Before, it had been comforting; now, it felt almost sinister, surrounding her in a pitch black pool of nothingness. Icarahael flailed desperately, searching for the surface, for an escape, for breath. She felt a sharp throbbing from her sprained ankle, a thick, freezing band that pulsed and pulled as if she were putty. A shake of her leg only awakened the sting in her thigh from the dryad’s first attack. A prickling sensation spread along the outline of the wound, and popped up in little specks around her neck and face, the worst of her burns. Icarahael clawed at her cheeks as the prickling spread outwards like millions of tiny bugs, until her entire face, neck, and thigh were engulfed in an irresistible itch that completely distracted from her ankle’s ache. Icarahael’s fingernails revealed the thin sheet of ice that now clung to her, and with each rake of her hands, shards of ice flew off into the river around her. She took a ragged breath but found only water. A cramp pulsed across the front of her stomach as the ice that had covered her wound earlier caved inwards, digging into her skin. Icarahael curled around it, bringing her hands from her face to wrap around her knees.

This body is fragile.

Icarahael could not have been more relieved when her feet touched solid ground. A field of stone, black and white, stretched before her; within its center, two small waterfalls flowed from a set of scales. Eight spheres balanced within its bowls: four on each side. Including herself, eight beings stood on the board. It was not hard to gather the rest.

Voices boomed, and she listened intently as they finally identified their nature. Chaos and Order. So these were the powers that bent reality as they chose, that brought about healing or death at their whim. And Order had chosen Icarahael as one of its knights. This is… interesting. Is this a privilege, or a curse? Though she wished to rid it from her mind, Icarahael could not help the fleeting thought that questioned whether Order had been the one to thrust her memories at her-- and whether it could see more than she had.

Of her own side, she recognized only one. The huntress with her trophy pelt, who had turned against the queen in the final moments of their battle. Seems the world has given you a second chance. This time, ensure your arrows fly away from my frame.

A shorter woman, her hair brown as bears’ fur, her hands empty. Knight of the Dragon... Was this another drake… like Icarahael? One who has lost her drakon form, searching for the last parts of herself in an attempt to become whole again? But the bands on her wrists glowed so brightly against her otherwise unnotable frame… perhaps those were her tails, or simply chains that bound her to the earth like a slave. Icarahael could not help the hope that flew from her chest, the instant relief that such a noble creature was her ally. Though it was not one of the queen’s own tribe, it was a drake, and after seasons of loneliness, that was enough.

Among her enemies, there was also one familiar, one given the title of Wildfire. A reflexive step back as the queen was met with the face of the flaming dryad, whole as he was before their blades had crossed. Flames flared in her mind, the image of the form erupting and charging towards her,
the flicker of a manticore’s hot breath against her face-

Get a hold of yourself. They numbered four each. This time, she could simply avoid the flaming dryad, and hope someone else would handle him instead. She had to choose strategically- and she did not want that boy’s flames to scorch her again. This body is fragile. His flames had caught her by surprise last time, unleashed a ferocity within her that had led to a recklessness. Of the foes she had fought in her mortal form, he was surely the most persistent, and she was unfamiliar with the fragility of her body. A frustration, but another factor I must simply incorporate into my movements. Her tempest swirled above her, roiling mists releasing a harsh, slow drizzle.



With so much at stake, I will be sure not to fall.

Post #: 5
2/18/2021 22:26:42   
Anastira
Member

Dragon, Bird, Tiger, Tortoise snap out of existence.

The long-coated woman disappears.

The Field of Silent Steel disappears, too, its monochromaticity melting into a galaxy of colors that spiral around Daiyu incoherently, brilliant and terrifying, sweeping her up in their arms and spinning her away, far away into a field of memory, things she has not remembered for a millennium -

______________________

Hua Daiyu opens her eyes.

Around her the men sweat, the fires burn, the wall rises in front of her, this fortress of snaking stone winding through her mountains, sneaking past her rivers, cutting through swaths of her trees. In the darkness the bonfires burn like beacons, swirling smoke into the night. She hears words, names - Mongols, Xiongnu - whispers that run through the workers like silk thread through hands. A man kneels in front of her, bawling. There is blood. A soldier walks forward, blade singing in the night, flames glinting against its ruddy bronze.

This is not the Field of Silent Steel, but this is not the Chequered City, either.

She is a nian, her tail slinking behind her, her form hulking; but she is quiet and clings to the shadows, and the men do not see her. They have always been blind. They do not bother to see. She might as well be a gnat to them. In a place where the swords cut freely and the arrows whistle constantly against the wind, what does it matter how one dies? By an animal’s claws, by a man’s weapon, it is all the same. The same loss of life, the same descent into the darkness, the same empty sinkhole of nothing, the void that lies beyond. Or, as Buddha would have it, the wheel of reinvention turning over and over, infinite lives waiting inside the skins of creatures who are not human. Daiyu thinks she understands what that wheel is like.

One life lived infinitely is not so different than a million mortal ones, is it?

Someone shouts a name, an order - Qin Shi Huangdi. She has learned to recognize that name by now, at least, the emperor himself. She prowls to the side, her fangs dripping in the night, her horn black and tingling. The Great Wall is so different in this remembered reality than in her present one: this Wall not yet finished and still gleaming with the glow of something made new, the stones polished in the light, moss and leaf and nature not yet climbing across its snaking profile, not yet claiming the Wall for its own. Soon, she vows. Soon this barrier, too, will be conquered.

She paces towards the worker whose screams had filled the night, her claws brushing against his lifeless body. No one has come to take him yet, but she knows what will happen soon. She has heard the guard whisper of it; she has seen it happen, already, in so many other parts of the Wall. She has seen the hidden tombs, the trapdoors, the hollowed-out spaces. She knows the smell of death and decay. She is curious. She wants to know this forbidden place.

In the dimness, she sees the door, a great wooden thing with a crossbar wedged against the Wall.

Hòutu whispers in her mind. My child, Hua Daiyu, what are you doing?

Daiyu smiles a fanged smile, her lips stretching back from her teeth. I am curious.

This thing you do - it may kill you.

Daiyu rumbles, deep and mirthless in the back of her throat. The humans, maybe. They are tiny and weak. But I am a flower of Black Jade. I need no sunlight. I need no sustenance.

Daiyu. Mother Earth’s voice is angry now, a shock of cold creeping like poison lacing rice wine: frost shimmering across a warm spring pond. You may not do this. As you are, you are one of mine, and if you go into that place -

I will not die. In this memory, everything is sharp and crisp, not dream-like as it should be, and Daiyu still has her humanity. She prowls the forest as a lioness and she can still think. The spirits do not yet flock around her like guardians, flitting against her shoulders or wheeling in front of her. You would not let me. She lets the words hang between them, thought but not spoken, and pauses by one of the humans, kneeling, her mane murmuring against the ground. You did not have to die, she thinks. You were one of us. It is not your fault you are slave to someone who destroys nature and takes my forest from me, upends mountains to create this barrier of mankind.

Daiyu. If you do this, I cannot promise there will be no price to pay. To willingly give yourself away -

But Daiyu does not listen. The door is in front of her; the bonfires snuff out one by one. The work comes to a close. Behind her, the men she has touched are cradled in rough-hewn arms and brought to the door, bundled inside. Their bodies fall against the ground with a soft thunk. Someone brings a torch inside and Daiyu slips in after the soldier, silent, her body melting against the shadows, unseen by the soldiers. She is nature, invisible, and when they look at her they see only the shadows cast by the torchlight, the dark forms of the bodies on the floor.

There is a silence, and then the shuffling of feet. A shout. One of the working men raises a sword and a soldier bats it carelessly away; another soldier shoves the man roughly, and he goes tumbling inside. There is a panic, a press of people against the door trying to fight towards the forest. Daiyu closes her eyes. She remembers this. The secrets of the Wall must be kept...forever. Those who build the Wall die when it is done. The people begin to subside, to let themselves be herded inside like sheep; she watches them reverently, silently. This is not your fault. You do not deserve this. They are as much Mother Earth’s people as the bamboo trees or the xióngmao.

The door closes with a heavy thud.

Three days later, the last of the torches goes out.

Eight days later, the first living man dies.

Four weeks later, the last man dies.

For another week, Daiyu does not move.

Around her, the walls of the tomb seem to close. She imagines she can hear the trees, the rivers. On the fourth day after the last man dies, she throws her weight against the door, but it is barred shut and barricaded from the outside - with stone, with packed dirt, she’s seen it before, the entry to the tomb buried so it will never be discovered again. She hisses, roars, but the sound bounces back at her, a million echoes from a million different angles ricocheting against the dark and the silence and throwing themselves back at her like taunts. She begins to remember Mother Earth’s warning.

But I will not be here forever, she thinks. I would rather die than be here forever.

This, she thinks, this is the price. The thing she did not think about. Yes, she will not die. But to be in here forever, stranded for decades, centuries, millennia, till the end of time - to pace endlessly in the darkness and the silence, starving and alone. To watch the bodies decompose into skeletons and feel time and meaning slip away into a place they can never be recovered. To be entombed forever in the belly of Hòutu’s kingdom - this is the price that she was warned of.

Worse than death.

She roars at the top of her lungs but there is nothing, no way out, and then she retreats into the corner, her skin crawling as her claws touch the corpses, and she settles into the darkness.

Forty-four days later, she turns to stone.

Forty-four thousand years later, a monk taps at the entrance to the tomb, the Great Wall sinking above him into the dirt, its stones sprawled wide, its foundations crumbling. The door opens. Inside he finds dirt pressed tight around the sculpture of a lioness with a great horn, her black-jade body frozen as though in sleep, her eyes shining wide open. He taps his staff and the dirt falls away. He excavates her.

He leaves her in the forest for Hòutu to reclaim.

______________________

She wakes to the sound of water and the rustle of tree branches.

She has no thought. She is mindless, hungry, starved, ruled by the wild instincts of an animal. A part of her understands, somehow, that she has lost something of herself, but what it is remains beyond her reach, drifting somewhere above the treetops or among the stars, as far away from herself as the galaxies that stretch across the skull-cap of the sky. A crimson bird swoops through the branches and away again, playful. A white tiger prowls at a distance. A tortoise basks in the sun, its shell as black as her horn. A sapphire dragon swirls through the clouds, imagined or real - impossible to tell.

Hòutu weeps. The earth is damp and wet beneath Daiyu’s claws, but she is too mindless to know, and far too mindless to understand.

You will not be alone again. You will not be foolish, Hòutu vows. The spirits of the stars will make it so…

The Dragon glitters with stars and dives lower, but Daiyu flicks her head at it and bares her teeth and still she does not understand. The Tiger prowls close, but Daiyu hisses, and steps over the Tortoise, snapping at the Bird when it flies too close.

Oh, my child, Hòutu thinks. And she does the only thing she can think to do.

She gives the minds of the constellations to the nian that prowls the Earth, and in doing so, in giving her the creations of humanity, she makes Daiyu human.

______________________

There is a nebula of color, a stutter of thunder, a whiplash of lightning. Across the field, the long-coated woman stands, unharmed.

Daiyu is a human.

And, for once, she understands.

I cannot take you back until you take yourself back.

She growls. She is not Order: she is not one thing or another, nature or humanity. She is both. She is Chaos, unknowable, incomprehensible, unpredictable. She is human and she is beast. She is everything there is to love and everything there is to fear, as beautiful as she is deadly. She reaches to her back, her clawed hands closing around the long handle of the Azure Dragon’s glaive, the guandao perfectly balanced in her hands. She shakes her head once, sharply, and her mane rustles with the sound of stone sliding against itself, grating.

She was right. The Field of Silent Steel was not the end.

It was a beginning.

As all things are.
AQW  Post #: 6
2/18/2021 22:49:40   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo



“I don’t think you understand just how beautiful you really are.”

Smooth, cold steel pressed firmly back against Gluttony’s palm. Had the prison always been this narrow? Tendrils squirmed past each other, writhing. Now more than ever, the cage had become suffocatingly small.

“You… You are the result of The Speaker’s absolute foresight, of the Aether’s infinite possibilities.”

The voice outside continued to speak. It often came to speak around this time. Often it spoke of nothing interesting. It understood very little about the existence of others, only understanding what its own eyes showed it. With enough silence, the voice would surely lose interest and leave.

...so…very…hungry...

“You are the culmination of everything we know of the Aether and of the soul. You and your kind are the keys to our empire’s continued prosperity!”

So…


“If we have in our possession the key to understanding the Aether, why is it that we keep you locked away in a cage!?”

The voice now spoke of interesting things. Gluttony climbed up the side of the steel prison until their one large eye occupied the slat open to the outside world.

Very…


“You seek… to understand….aether…?” Gluttony rasped out. Their chest heaved to force the words from their glass laden throat.

“I seek to understand all of its secrets.” The voice retorted.

“Your speaker… understands…” Gluttony responded, grimacing.

“The Speaker hoards all knowledge for himself. He won’t share it, not even for the good of the empire. But I… I must know.”

Hungry...





Emptiness…

In merely an instant, the flaming one had collided. The cruel spider had continued their thieving assault. The walls wailed, crying out for tribute. Crystals rained down, catching, scratching and clawing like knives.

In but a moment, the Scyon had been buried.

Void. Vast. Nothing.

Emptiness clung to the Scyon like ink. It would not be escaped; it could not be wiped away.

The absence, this new prison, shattered as quickly as it had been created. With a violet flash, lightning tore through the center.

Ink turned to stone as the flash faded. The Scyon stretched up to their full height upon the newly revealed marble floor. They licked their lips as the scent of flesh drifted across the gameboard - each one of them summoned by voices which thundered from the stars.

Answers were promised. Blood was demanded. The Scyon’s eye drifted along the chequered board, keeping the horizontal pupil level with the horizon. It surveyed those four which the voices called “Order”. Glass claws bristled against the marble floor before a metallic clanking rang out.

The bronze one had calmly approached, its own hand extended. This one’s metallic shell gleamed like the ants from before. This one, however, did not run nor scatter. This one was a brave ant.

The Scyon leaned forward, allowing its eye to examine the brave ant’s hand. Did it offer tribute? Did it understand hunger? Gluttony raised a tendril and wrapped it around the brave ant’s hand. It salivated in anticipation as the tendril sharply ripped the arm from its socket.

Nothing.

There was no blood, no scream, no satiation. Gluttony’s core groaned in agony at this revelation.

Empty!

The tendril whipped around and launched the disembodied arm towards those called “Order”. Gluttony then turned and bared its teeth at the brave ant. It had tried to trick them. The Scyon snarled and grasped the brave ant with two tendrils. It was heavy. It would at least be useful. Scyon turned back towards the “Order” and attempted to fling the brave ant in their direction- yet it did not budge. The Scyon again hissed, fangs drawing a black ichor from its lips. It wound its stance back once more and leaned its full weight into flinging the brave ant. This time, the ant flew.

DF  Post #: 7
2/18/2021 23:43:19   
Dragonknight315
Member

Searing heat clashed with unyielding ice once more, and as the Woodkin jerked his glaive to disarm the queen of hers, the ice matron moved in tandem. She held her head and her weapons high.

Now—

The twin arrows hissed through the air as they soared towards the jagged queen. Her desire to protect the Woodkin, her hopes of seeing her home— Tear placed all of her remaining strength into giving Kunze one chance at victory. But the jagged queen stood in living defiance. As the bowstring snapped, the queen slashed at her side, cleaving one arrow in twain. It took so little effort; it was as if she were swatting a fly. The other arrow missed mortal flesh and slid against her armor before splintering against the ground.

That was it. Tear could not even muster a sound as her knees gave out. For the second time, Tear collapsed, falling onto her side as the earth dug into her numb skin. She couldn’t feel it; she couldn’t feel anything. As the world seemed to grow dark and small, Tear’s gaze fell upon the Queen. Her eyes flared with indignation, full scorn for the wolfkin.

I have made my choice.

Tear’s eyes began to close as the sound of a heartbeat filled her ears like a lullaby.

Finish her, Kunze.

Just as Tear was on the edge of the waking world, laughter filled her mind. They spoke with absolute clarity.

“Don’t fall asleep, Motherwolf. We want you to witness this.”

Suddenly, there was a roar. Tear’s eyes snapped wide as the sound pierced itself into her spine. In that instant, her body was compelled to feel pain, to be flushed with torment— to be lucid enough to feel the river rushing at her skin. Tear watched in horror as a surge of water towered above them all.

She was right. The voices were going to kill her; they were going to kill them all.

“No! Don’t let me die here!!”

Tear screamed as the water rushed to meet, the force drawing her under as she returned to darkness.

Falling.

Drifting.


For an eternity Tear seemed to drift in the lightless expanse. At first, she felt the water turn to fire in her chest. But in time the burning faded, replaced with a cold presence in her veins. Soon enough even that sensation disappeared.

Falling. Drifting.

Tear had no names for this experience. Dying, she wasn’t dying. It was if she had moved beyond death and into something far worse. Time held no meaning here. She could not feel anything, hear anything, see anything— yet she was aware of it all. Dead, but awake.

Is. . . Is this my punishment? Is this it?

“It all depends—”

As the voice resonated with absolute clarity, Tear felt something. Tear could feel the creature reach out and grasp her soul as when they had first met. Suspended, Tear could not help but listen.

It peered into the wolfkin’s thoughts to hear her wordless response.

“Why did you save the princeling named Kunze?”

“I needed to.” Tear spoke without hesitation. “I am sworn to protect nature, and he needed to live.”

“You hardly knew him. Besides, was he not your enemy?”

“He is not my enemy!—” Tear snapped back. “Just because you say so doesn’t make it right.”

“Ah yes, he is not your enemy. No, your true enemy are those pesky humans. . .” The voice seemed to purr as it spoke. But then, it grew cold. “Why did leave Finn alone then?”

“Finn, I. . .” Tear paused for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. “It wasn’t worth it. Killing him meant losing Kunze.”

“It was that simple? Just a matter of circumstance. Were it not for the Dryad, would you have killed Finn?”

“Yes.” Tear could feel a thump in her gold chest as her heart pulsed with life.

“Why?”

“Because he’s human! They are the ones who are running my home, the ones who killed my family!” Blood now boiled in the wolf’s veins as she reached out to the spirits. “I will never forgive them!”

“All of them?”

“Yes! I will kill any human who steps into Satherrung!”

“Even Finn?”

There was silence. Another eternity passed before Tear spoke once more.

“Are we done? Let me go home.”

“No. You have learned nothing!” The voice bellowed with fury. “You are weak, Motherwolf. You are the victim of your own failure, yet you cast that blame on the lives of countless others. You punish them for sins they have not committed. Only when it is profitable do you even consider sparing them.”

Tear gasped in the empty space as the voice wrapped around her soul and pushed. As it crushed her, all Tear could think about was home.

“Listen to us if you want to go home. Don’t you dare disappoint us again.”

Suddenly, the darkness flashed with overwhelming light as the hand carried her out of the abyss.

The searing light disappeared as Tear felt her feet touch ground. It let her go with a declaration.

“Knight of the Forest, who hears all its voices. To defend your home, you must first hunt in mine. Rise, Tear, and let your arrows howl.”

As Tear gathered herself, she looked to her surroundings. The air was neutral, seemingly ethereal, much akin to the city from before. However, this place seemed even more alien than before. Even shapes of white and black were placed together to form a floor. A sea of colors illuminated the dark sky in place of a sun or stars. Then, the lording spirits filled Tear’s mind with names, with purposes. Her eyes seemed to move on their own, drawn to each of the figures.

First, there was the jagged queen. She was in her full glory, her armor and weapons immaculate. She growled as her eyes traced her form. They were certainly testing her.

There were two others close by, two human females. For one, swathes of different browns made up their form. Brown hair covered by brown cloth. Ginevra. Tear raised her eyes as she looked over her armor. It shined like metal, Tear understood, but she could glimpse nothing else. Then there was the other figure. Aurelia. She was perhaps the most unusual human Tear had ever seen. Blue hair, exotic clothes. Her ivory swords made her intentions clear, however.

The firm voices from before turned into a cacophony as Tear turned to the others. At first, Tear thought that the Mountain Giant had returned. But a new name echoed in her ears. Pendulum. This giant was made of pure metal. It was shaped like a human, yet it bore no face, its features replaced with a singular blue light. Veins of steel ran across its body with specks of swaying gold at its chest. Tear felt uncomfortable looking at it. But this was just the beginning as Tear reeled in horror at the next sight. It was. . . unfathomable. Its flesh was like a corpse. Behind the being was a glowing white ring with four streaks of flesh. Two carried the monster like legs. The others waved through the air like arms. It was clothed in bands of metal that wrapped around their entire form. Scyon. Gluttony.

The next figure stood out from the abominations. They bore some features like a living human female, yet they were certainly something more. Daiyu. A dark green feline mane flowed from her head, flashes of white streaking through its form. It was if their body was fused from two separate creatures.

Are they. . . like me?

Before she could ponder it further, her eyes were dragged to the final combatant, a familiar one. . .

Woodkin— Kunze! No—

It was unmistakable. Golden hair, flaming spear, armor made from the most sacred of trees. His eyes burned with resolution once more as he stared at his opponents— at her.

Please. Don’t make me do this. I can’t—

She was shaking with fear as the voices echoed out.

“Fight for Order!”

Fight for Chaos!”

The voices were clear; they demanded violence. Roars filled the arena as many rushed to the center. But she did not move. She wouldn’t dare. Tear’s clutched her bow as she raised it forward.

“If I fight, I will do it on my terms, not yours.”
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 8
2/19/2021 23:59:57   
Kooroo
Member

The ensuing explosion and projectile lion did little to assuage the burn of the beast’s final gift. Granted, ‘final’ was dependent on whether her ‘allies’ were going to make themselves useful and finish the blasted cat off. Polaris had struck true, but it’d struck at range. Not enough power to give the feline circus attraction a frontal lobotomy, but it was sufficient to deliver it to Aurelia’s deadweight comrades.

Suffice to say, their (lack of a) track record didn’t really impress her. While the Imperator had managed to vanquish… what, four-and-a-half beasts? The jiisan and the suit of armour hadn’t managed to take down one—that’s right, one—rat, playing a guitar. Sure, they could argue that it was a bloomin’ big rat, and that the vermin’s instrument was an electric guitar, but all excuses were bad excuses.

At this stage, Aurelia wasn’t really sure if she was going to need treatment for the hole in her stomach or her back.

The Imperator crouched down with a hiss of pain and let right hand drifted to her lips, while its polar went to the hole in her vest. Both came back wet, the latter more so, drawing an annoyed cheh from Aurelia’s lips.

Lesson for the day? Don’t mess with the animals—finish them off as quickly as possible. Hells, she probably still had to do that last part, didn’t she? The fight wasn’t over ‘til the last foe was down and she’d just gone over the whole ‘teammates’ spiel.

She took a sharp breath and forced herself to stand for a moment, before almost dropping back down into the rapidly growing pool of crimson. But it was going to take a lot more than something trivial like blood loss to keep her down.

Without that oversized, crimson cuss nearby, though, there didn’t seem to be any immediate threat. Nothing, save the spectral battle right behind her, though the ghostly combatants continued to ignore her.

And on that very thought, a sombre, haunting song droned through the land, and every phantasmal warrior spun around to face her.

Aurelia froze, eyes shooting skywards to glare at whatever deity was messing with her. Was this seriously about to happen?

Simultaneously, the ghosts fell to their knees in a unified show of fealty. She began to sigh, only to abruptly cut off mid-exhalation and squint. Was it her eyes, or was everything getting br—

Yabe.

Yep, it was definitely getting brighter. The grey sky, the monotoned ground—everything being covered in a blinding whiteness.

This… this was gonna suck. There wasn’t any cover, there wasn’t any time, there wasn’t any bloody—

With a piece of vitriol, the Shattered Dream raised her forearm and dove to the ground as the light consumed her.

Even Flash Grenades had nothing on this. Aurelia imagined that the light would’ve been bright enough to dazzle or possibly blind her through closed eyelids, if she hadn’t been eating her jacket’s sleeve.

And then singing stopped, ending as abruptly as it had started. Aurelia stopped clamping her eyelids shut and relaxed them fractionally. She tentatively lowered her arm, bracing for the unbearable light—

Nope. Well, alright then.

There was a soft click and buzz as something above her activated. Then… more music…?

Hang on… She knew that song. It was an old favourite of hers.

Aurelia opened her eyes. There was a small, square screen angled down from the sky, showing an old, staticky... music video? The quality was less than fantastic, but she could make out what appeared to be subtitled lyrics at the bottom of the screen.

She frowned and began to push herself up—

—only to slip off of the seat she’d been lying on, and crash to the floor in a heap.

Aurelia gave a tired sigh, then grabbed the nearby table and pulled herself. She gave the room a quick once over, and frowned as an uneasy weight settled in her stomach.

A square, budget-sized monitor. Stained booth seats. A dusty, little table, littered with cans and drinks. And the MV—a classic, but she preferred the version that wasn’t covered in white noise.

A karaoke room.

Or what had been a karaoke room. Pretty major scenery change compared to the battlefield, but just as gloomy, so long as the lights were out. Seriously, where the hell were they?

She scanned the walls for a switch, but found little more than flaking paint and a vacant cobweb next to the door. Even the spider had decided this creepy place was the dumps. Was the switch outside mayb—

The shadowborn closed her eyes and took her hand away from the doorknob, before dropping into a seat with a grumble.

Of course it was locked. Fantastic.

She had a hunch that having Polaris ‘negotiate’ with the door wouldn’t make it any more affable. Regardless, it wasn’t like she was in any state to try it. Not with a gaping hole in her—

Hold that thought.

Both gauntlets went down to her belly to find naught but taut muscle and tender flesh. The paladin frowned and checked her sides, only to find her swords had come home. Well, that was nice of… ‘them’. Whoever ‘them’ was.

Still, being locked in a room was hardly good hospitality. She glanced up at the monitor in time to see the lead singer perform a reverse handstand backflip and she sighed again. This day was gonna make that a habit out of her.

Well, she might as well take the bait. The shadowborn looked amongst the litter on the table, searching for a microphone—

Just as the video cut and the screen glowed gold, bathing the room in aureate light. Harmonic, choral chanting flooded her ears, replacing the song’s crackly, but peppy beats.

That was enough. Aurelia closed her eyes and counted to three, before opening them and putting an arm through the monitor. The music stopped and she grinned to herself triumphantly, until she felt something grab her armoured fist.

An “Ah,” was all she managed before the entity in the display threw her at the far wall.

Contrary to her earlier expectations, the door offered no resistance and exploded into fragments on contact. She landed heavily in the passageway beyond, boots and gloves clacking on the tiles, as ashen scales rained upon her.

Wait. Scales? Iyaaa…. Nononono—

Aurelia blanched and scrambled up, gagging as a black, foul-smelling haze poured into the darkened hall. Clanking footsteps echoed from behind her and the paladin froze between coughs. She was about to turn around, just as the room turned violet and the being roared. Her hands flew down, searching for the Mandates as she finished pivoting—



Too slow.






The world erupted in a cacophony of purple light and abrasive noise.

Everything flipped and spun, blurring past in a whirlwind of light, as Aurelia was turned around and around, head over heels. Something hard cracked into her elbow, then her head, against her back, and then—

And then the shadowborn landed, flat on her back, sliding along the polished, marble floor. Twin rows of ebony pews flanked her passage and paintings loomed above her, their story lost amongst the stars clouding her vision. An organ droned solemnly in the background, heralding Aurelia’s less-than-graceful arrival.

That… had not been fun. It was like being punched into a washing machine, then launched from a spin cycle on to an ice rink, minus all the cold bits. Gods Above and Below, she was going to be spectacularly bruised tomorrow. Not that she’d be able to see them, but anyway.

Aurelia groaned and blinked, willing the spots from her vision.

It was at that moment that she noticed the pale, outstretched hand. The darkforged blinked, then grasped it, and was awarded with a free trip back on to her feet. She blinked again and her saviour—a robed... person with lightless eyes.

“I, uh… thanks. I can, uh... explain,” Aurelia said hesitantly, as she hurriedly scanned her surroundings.

A bone-white altar stood proudly at its rightful place at the room’s head. Surrounding her were rows and rows of ash-black pews, of which she and the robed person stood in the centre aisle. Stained glass windows, towering marble pillars, and monochrome motifs tied the ensemble together.

So… a cathedral. From karaoke to cathedral. Aurelia’s eyes focused on the floor, noting the checkerboard pattern. Well, that answered where she was at least. Now, as for getting out...

It then occurred to her that the cathedral’s attendant was staring blankly at her. Well, she certainly wasn’t one to turn down a staring contest, but even so, that was a tad… odd. Aurelia gave the person a look, and drank in… their features.

Inky, mid-length hair. Milky-white skin. Robes, embroidered with eyes girthed by triangles and . And a face that was equal parts handsome and pretty.

… Yeah, alright. ‘They’ would have to do.

Aurelia frowned, then shook her head apologetically. The... priest had been talking to her, but she couldn’t understand a lick of what they were saying. Their vacant expression certainly didn’t help—at least with normal people, you could try to read them.

A head tilt was the holyperson’s response, with another smattering of… Pallivian? Didn’t matter. Aurelia shook her head again, and then the priest sighed, before addressing her in Standard Common.

“An Imperator that doesn’t know their own tongue?” they asked, in a soft murmur. A gentle hum seemed to shadow their words, echoing and making Aurelia’s temple throb.

Aurelia bristled. “I’m sorry… but... Look. I’ve had a really long day, so if you could give me directions on how to get out of this kooky place, I’d really appreciate it.”

“There was a time where you would have stayed and listened, no matter your trials,” they said, with a small smile.

“Uh, yeah. Sorry, no. Not me. I’ve always been a hands-on lady,” Aurelia responded brusquely. Then she frowned. “Hang on a— Have we met? ‘Cause you seem to know me, but I don’t recollect anyone quite as unique as you.”

They nodded and held their hands out to either side. “I’m the Lightless. And I’ve known you since the Coming of the Dawn, Imperator.”

“That’s… quite creepy. I’m Aure—”

“Kurouji Taiyane, eldest of Tsukino and Hironobu, sister of Shion and Yura… First born, first slain,” they said, smiling at the shadowborn’s face. “Or as you prefer, Imperator Aurelia… Once forged, twice slain, thrice born of Shadow. Though we would rather—”

“Yeah, okay, but no. Huge fan or not, you may not have the rights to my autobiography,” Aurelia snapped. “What do you want?”

“We come with an offer for you.”

“Not really interested, but I’ll take a coupon.”

“A choice. Your sister’s life for your killer’s.”

Eh? Aurelia shut her mouth and raised an eyebrow inquiringly.

The Lightless smiled and uttered a single name. “Arturius”

The organs stopped. Not a moment later, a hidden door set into the far wall slammed open and Arturius stepped out, as a weight dropped into the darkforged’s stomach.

“Man, finally. Do you know how hard it is to play an organ with plate gauntlets on?” He paused upon spotting Aurelia. “Oh, hey kid. Made it through, did we? Heh, you’re gonna wish you hadn’t.”

“A life for a life,” the Lightless Priest said, as Arturius walked up to stand beside them. “We offer the King of Kings, for the Tyrant of the Mountain.”

Two stained-glass windows filled with light above the altar; one bearing a purple-haired woman, perched atop a mountain, whilst the other displayed a black-clad man, surrounded by golden flames. Aurelia said nothing, and turned her gaze on to the madman’s leering face.

A few moments passed and Arturius turned to the priest. “Yeah, she does this sometimes. Silent-angry type, you know.”

The Lightless Priest ignored him and approached Aurelia. Motes of light gathered in their raised hand, coalescing into a knife, which they offered to the darkforged.

“A single thrust,” they said. ”And your journey will be at an end. One stab, and your vengeance will be complete.”

Aurelia took the proffered weapon and regarded it warily. “And Shion?”

“Will live. That is the price that must be paid.”

“No. Not happening,” she shook her head, and held the shiv back to the cleric.

They gazed at it, but made no move to take the weapon back. “The tyrant will live, but nothing lasts forever. She will meet her end, but not by your hand.”

“Not good enough.”

“But why?”

“Because I owe it to them,” she answered, handing the weapon back.

There was a clap and Aurelia turned towards the sound. Arturius laughed.

“Oh, that’s rich. Knew you didn’t have it in you, pumpki—,” he started, as the shadowborn rammed a fist into his face.

He stumbled back, reeling, as Aurelia moved in and shot her foot up into his groin with a reverberating crash.

Arturius went down like a sack of bricks.

She turned back to look at the Lightless, who was regarding her with a mixture of curiosity and… pride?

“Tell me then, Aurelia,” they asked, voice echoing throughout the chamber. “To whom do you owe this? Your father? Your family? Your people?”

“All of them.”

“So even now, you serve? You let others command you?”

That drew a frown from her. Something wasn’t right here. Something was suss.

Aurelia glared at the priest. “Right, listen. I serve no one. I command myself, you—”

A loud rumble resonated through the hall, cutting the Imperator off, before a large chunk of stone slammed to the floor behind her. Coloured glass shattered and pews splintered, as an invisible force began to tear the cathedral apart.

The Lightless Priest closed their eyes and smiled, dispersing the knife in their hand, which vanished into the air, as did the Arturius’ caricature on the floor.

“Never would we have thought that we would have ever heard you say those words,” they whispered, their words carrying and resounding through the ruined hall, through Aurelia’s mind.

She winced and made to grab the cleric, but a large chunk of ceiling cut her off. There was another groan from behind her and she turned, to see a pair of wide, double doors open before her, leading to darkness beyond.

“Who in the hells are you?!” Aurelia roared, drawing a gentle smile from the Lightless.

Once, we were all. But that time has passed, and now we are none,” they said, voice cutting through the din. “But worry not, Aurelia. There will be a time for that. But for now—”

A sense of vertigo came over her, and Aurelia was suddenly beyond the double doors. The Lightless Priest watched her through the archway as the cathedral entered its final throes around them.

“Now, you fight—”

There was a wretched howl that drowned out the priest’s final word, but Aurelia heard them in her mind. Her eyes widened on realisation and she rushed forward, as the double doors slammed close in her face. Heart hammering, she shouted and smashed her fist into the door, again, and again, but to no avail.

The Lightless and the cathedral were gone, closed off to her.

She stepped away from the door, panting, and looked at her surroundings for the first time. There was nothing but darkness around her, save for a single, spiralling staircase, that rose into the heavens.

Aurelia grimaced. So it was time.

The ascent felt like an age to the paladin. It may have been only five years since she’d left—at least, on Tengamine—but if there was one thing that Aurelia had learnt, it was that time was malleable across the realms. As such, the staircase felt much longer than it had, but she hadn’t climbed those stairs in over thirty years.

The Peak hadn’t changed at all, though. A single room girthed by a wooden platform, at the tallest point on the mountain. It was little wonder that the tallest tower was referred to the Peak of Heaven.
And on that platform stood her sister, back-turned, gazing out at her ill-gotten kingdom.

Shion Kurouji, the Tyrant of the Mountain. Tall for a girl, but not exceptionally so. Long, neat, purple hair, with traces of silver forming through the underside. And probably with a frown on her face. That girl had never learnt how to smile.

Aurelia inhaled and then stepped forward, out of the room and on to the platform. Her sister didn’t react, oblivious to the threat that loomed behind her as the shadowborn stealthily approached.

It would be so easy to kill her now. A single thrust. Or a simple slash, straight across the neck. She would never see it coming—both literally and figuratively.

She took a breath and steeled herself, then whispered. “Hey sis.”

“Hah, knew it. That wasn’t all, was it, kid?”

Aurelia’s eyes widened and she made to whirl, just as an armoured boot struck her, right between the legs. She paused for a moment before the pain hit and she fell, swears and curses flowing freely.

Grimming, Arturius crouched down next to her. “Hurts a touch, doesn’t it? Ah, well, we’ve all been there. Still, the worst wounds are mental ones, and I think you are in for a real treat in that regard. Heh, hell, I think we’re all about to see a good show.”

He stood back up. “It's been real fun and all, sweetheart, but I think it’s time we wrapped things up. Time’s a wasting and you’ve got a battle to fight. Want to do the honours, Shion? For old time’s sake?”

Aurelia gritted her teeth and looked up. The image of her sister approached, warping and blurring, as it approached. There was a screech as she drew her purple blade, and levelled it at the Shattered One’s face.

Arturius winked down at her. “See you on the other side.”

Then to Shion. “She’s all yours.”

Her sister’s blade flashed as Shion gave a mighty slash that cut through reality.

The world shattered.



It would’ve been dishonest to say that the descent was unpleasant. On the contrary, the scenery was fantastic. It was only the departure and the arrival that made it awful.

The shining cone that was her conveyance screamed and howled as it scorched down from the heavens, splitting time and space alike. It was like a ‘falling dream’, but taken to incredible extremes.

But unlike a dream, this journey had an end.

Light met marble in a tremulous clash, the impact shattering the magic cocooning her and shaking Aurelia to her very core. She took a deep breath and wet her lips, before flinching as words echoed through the realm and within her head. Names and titles, proclaiming the champions—the Knights—for the opposing powers.

And then it was her turn—the Knight of the Spearhead.

Aurelia inhaled and then rose, with a glance to the lance strapped to her arm.

Koumetsubou—the fabled Dying of The Light. A priceless treasure that she’d inherited—not earned—that had seen her through thick and thin. Through several lifetimes.

Granted, a lifetime was considerably shorter when someone stabbed you through the chest, though she doubted most people had the ‘pleasure’ of experiencing that. So that claim might not have been as impressive as it sounded.

A grin came to the shadowborn’s face and she licked her lips, as she looked over their opponents. All news faces, huh? Oh, ‘cept one. That’d make her... Spirits, huh? That made sense.

“Right, listen up!” Aurelia shouted, looking back to her own disparate comrades. “Lion Face over there’s a full circus. She’s got pets; at least four of ‘em. Lady herself turns into a bloody big cat—and I don’t mean a cuddly ‘tabby’ either. Found that out the hard way.”

She gave each of her allies a quick eyeball as she finished, raising a brow when her gaze found the caped woman. Everything about her practically screamed ‘let eat cake’, and Aurelia doubted that she was gonna supply them.
Eh, whatever. They could all dress how they wanted. Hells, they could fight stark naked—though admittedly, she’d rather that they’d not—so long as they each pulled their own weight. After all, in this situation, beauty wasn’t simply skin-deep.

Back strength was a major factor as well.

“Anyway, all the best, folks.”

With a flourish, the self-styled Imperator drew her blades and strode towards the crackling pair of water features. An opposing Knight broke off to intercept her—a slim, wood-swathed fellow, wielding a mighty big fire poker.

Gee, which Knight could that possibly be?

Aurelia smiled and shot the man a grateful wink, before raising her swords and quickening her pace.
AQW Epic  Post #: 9
2/20/2021 22:30:22   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Consume…

Kunze took a step forward. His eyes locked onto the violet-haired human. Scarlet blossoms huddled in his footsteps. His spearhead dragged along the bleached floor beneath him. Its tongues of golden flame left scorch marks in its wake. The dull grind of metal on marble was drowned out by the wailing in his ears. The rest of the battlefield faded out of focus. His prey stood before him. Consume…

A sudden squeal of scraping metal cut through his ears, and Kunze jerked his head to the side with a wince. The broken screech momentarily pierced through the keening lament in his head, clearing the haze from his vision as he turned back to his allies. What..? Scyon had torn one of Pendulum’s metallic arms free and hurled it across the battlefield, its bronze surface glinting as it sailed past the rivers of lightning. Two black tendrils whipped forth from the monster and curled about the moving statue. The dryad took a hasty step closer, intending to intervene, and the sorrowful howl grew even louder even as it pressed in from all sides. Kunze didn’t understand, he couldn’t -

“Kunze, please focus,” the first prince sighed, exasperated. At his gesture, one of the slim vines of the surrounding trees darted forth and wrapped itself about the younger dryad’s waist, pulling him back into a sitting position. “This is important.”

The princeling slumped onto the grass and pouted. “Tamiel, I don’t need to know this stuff! Mother already has you for ruling and Angina for singing! I’m just the fire, I’m supposed to run wild. I don’t want a greater purpose!”

“What you want does not matter today, princeling,” Tamiel replied, tone dry. “The Forest gave you both Life and Purpose. You must fulfill one to earn the other.”


Pendulum went flying, bodily thrown across the battlefield. Kunze wanted to turn and follow; the need to slaughter his prey burning within him, but he could not tear his eyes away from Scyon. The dryad stood rooted to the spot, with wailing in his ears demanding satisfaction, as the eldritch thing slowly turned towards him. A green eye in the center of its chest narrowed, watching him from its spot nestled within steel bands and pale flesh. Above, its head tilted - an almost human face examined him, pale lips frozen in a straight line and any eyes hidden beneath a heavy iron band. The green eye, though… Kunze knew that expression - had seen it in countless animals caught in the throes of winter famine and in the eyes of every human who had staggered, desperate and dying, into the Forest. Hunger. The prince’s grip tightened, knuckles going pale against the haft of his spear. I was wrong.

Scyon turned and scuttled after Pendulum, its movements punctuated by the heavy thump of its elongated limbs and shrill scrape of glassy claws on stone. The wail in Kunze’s head quieted as it did so - the creature’s starving, sorrowful lament fading as Kunze stared after it, horror and pity warring in his eyes. The flames upon his blade quivered violently - his hands trembling as his mind cleared. You are alive...

They stood alone in the cavern, Tamiel with his back to the ancient altar. Firelight played across his solemn features. Flickers of emotion occasionally reached his dark golden eyes - hints of trepidation, but also of pride. He held the spear out to his brother. “Kunze of T’rea, Third Prince to Parya Balurnae, Mother Tree. Do you swear to protect our forest, and the Life within?”

Kunze faced the elder prince. He had yet to master the same level of control over his expression, and his eyes sparked with excitement. Still, he restrained his urge to grin or shout, and replied with a firm, if exuberant, resoluteness as he took the weapon into his hands; golden flames flared along the blade as it warmed at his touch. “I swear.”


Kunze adjusted his grip on the Ever-Flaming, shoulders tense. If something as unnatural as Scyon was alive, even torn apart as it was by hunger and grief, then the other Knights of Chaos likely were as well. Lives under my protection. The prince turned back to the not-so-swiftly approaching Knight of the Spearhead, narrowing his eyes slightly as he took note of her two curved swords and distinct lack of any polearm. With luck, Scyon and Pendulum could handle their half of the conflict - Kunze would keep this one from endangering them.

The dryad dashed forward, petals scattering in his wake as he raced towards Aurelia. He moved far more quickly than his target; his path taking him just close enough to the waterfall to feel static tingle along the metal karambits at his waist, sparks lightly singeing the greenwood. Icarahael and her plate will not fare so easily…

As Kunze drew near, he darted around towards her unarmored side. The dryad slid neatly along the smooth stone, dragging one foot behind him just enough to jostle and rupture the flowers blooming in its wake; scarlet petals and golden pollen burst into sparkling galaxies upon the midnight-black tile. Aurelia whirled with him, her own blades flashing and long coat flaring about her at the motion. The dryad took the opening and lunged forward, spearpoint aimed just above the now-revealed golden belt at her waist. Plenty of loose material to set aflame...

A gasp rippled through the crowd of onlookers. The elder prince lay open his back, looking upwards at his brother. He held up his hands in surrender. “I yield!”

Kunze smirked, the tip of his spear pointed at his opponent’s throat. “Smart move, brother.” He stowed his blade and offered his sibling a hand, grinning at the other dryad’s frown. “Hey, you wanted me to have a purpose, Tamiel! Not my fault it involves beating you all the time!”

Tamiel sighed and shook his head fondly. “You’re right - fighting is not my specialty. I fear for the day you actually face someone at your level, little flame. You will set the world ablaze...”

AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 10
2/22/2021 8:32:57   
kavyraya
Member
 

The glow receded from Eva’s arms, leaving the everlasting heat of the dragon coiling perpetually over her armbands despite the chill that the arena brought to her. Xyl? How had she started feeling like a child all of a sudden? Even the inferno she breathed from her mutated lungs felt snuffed out, asking, needing another source, any kind of kindling that she could reach. But even that felt null, void. Xyl, I don’t like you quiet… Eva clung to herself, a hand subconsciously reaching to her chest and clutching at her vest.

That was only then that she noticed the metallic sheen of the familiar adversary: Pendulum it had been called— sailing just past her vision towards the other one Xylmaelyth had called kin. She opened her mouth to call out to her, but not before the other one— Aurelia, she remembered— called out one of the opponents.

Pets? A shapeshifter then? she couldn’t see who she was talking about, not with the sudden electricity and ice arcing through the twin falls, and another who broke out through the spray with what looked like a flaming rod.

She blinked, and took in a shuddering breath. The pause. Everything grew sharper, more into focus. Her scales retracted, her talons elongated.

The dragon nears.

Eva’s dragonheart thrummed in anticipation.

The arena had been cold, but she found it to be a delightful surprise for more heat to come in the form of someone-

Disposable, Xyl finished for her. Expendable, she admonished them, not before drawing her own hunting blade, flipping it from hand to hand, watching the slim male scatter petals and flowers in his wake. She slid down Aurelia’s flank, and tapped her by her left thigh.

“Duck,” she said simply before letting her trusty blade fly towards the Knight of Wildfire’s chest.
Post #: 11
2/22/2021 21:07:03   
Apocalypse
Member

...tock.


Glass scraped against metal as the leviathan’s tendril coiled around the automaton’s waist. With surprising ease, the Knight of Hunger lifted Pendulum off his feet and into the air. Chance of hostile intent- His consciousness cut the message short. This was a battlefield - there was naught but hostile intent.

A second appendage joined the first, twisting around his remaining arm to grab at his torso. Ally/Adversary Scyon hauled the Chronomantic Engine over his head as if to smash Pendulum into the ground. The prognostication unit judged that from the raw strength displayed by the leviathan thus far, such an act would lead to irreparable damage to most of his processing systems. A suboptimal outcome.

Chronomantic Freeze Status: Primed.

Tick…

Countermeasures in place, Pendulum accelerated the pace of his pistons as the Knight of Hunger reeled him back. The two monstrous limbs lurched forward with surprising speed. Initiate. Metal groaned as the torso locked into place, halting the automaton in its plight. A hiss escaped what passed for the leviathan’s lips as he failed to budge the Chronomantic Engine even a fraction of an inch. Momentum stored, began his analytical system. Current trajectory-

...tock.

Trajectory, interrupted his consciousness. A prognostication error: the Knight of Hunger had not been seeking to shatter him upon the ground but hurl him through the air. Ally/Adversary Scion’s grip tightened as he readied itself for another attempt. Pendulum spurred his analytical unit into motion, calculating the anticipated additional force to be applied by a second effort from his current captor. The glasslike claws scraped against his bronze frame as they struggled to move the automaton from his suspended state. But try as the leviathan might, he could not overcome the shackles of time. That only Pendulum could do, and he would take advantage of the the gluttonous one’s brute strength. He turned his gaze to the Knights of Order on the opposite side of the falling water.

Release Chronomantic Freeze.

Tick…

Without warning, Pendulum hurtled forth from the leviathan’s grasp. Propelled by the accumulated energy built up by Ally/Adversary Scyon’s consecutive endeavors, the automation flew over the battlefield towards the Knight of Frost. Body spinning in a slight spiral, Pendulum’s visual panel aimed straight-forwards, his head rotating in the opposite direction to maintain a concise field-of-view.

...to-

Just before Pendulum collided with the column of water, the world ground to a halt. Through the veil stood the visage of his intended trajectory and target: Icaharael, the Knight of Frost. Her image was obscured by a spray of light emitting from the column just outside the peripheral of his vision. Lightning. A single bolt in its perfect splendor but just at the cusp of his perception. A shame, Alzeerha would have said. Yes, that was the phrase. A shame he would not be able to observe a lightning bolt at the peak of its wonder. The chances of him timing that with his slip from time by accident were staggering.

Pendulum calculated the odds of such a circumstance occurring before examining what he could from this Adversary Frost. She was tall, bearing a full set of armor and carrying two glaives that each rivaled her in height. Potentially superior strength. Evasive maneuvers prioritized over direct blocking. He could discern little else, for beyond the disruption of water and light was a wayward cloud dripping precipitation upon the once queen. “She freezes whatever her storm touches,” Ally Wildfire had warned.

Ally Wildfire.

The automaton thought back to their brief encounter in the city. His fellow knight had taken a moment to examine him before uttering a phrase and planting a flame in the palm of his hand. A flame that had engulfed him in a vivid conflagration. As far as allies went, only the Knight of Spirits had yet to inflict some harm on the Chronomantic Engine, and his logical unit could not rule out that this was only due to the lack of opportunity.

Priority Alpha: Eliminate Knights of Order.
Subpriority Alpha One: Prioritize self well-being over allies.
Subpriority Alpha Two: Do not leave self exposed to allies.


Pendulum’s consciousness braced itself for the inevitable influx of damage reports from passing through the energy-charged water before slipping back into time’s shackles.

-ck…

His vision burned white as the automaton breached the veil, lightning coursing through his system. Limbs twitched and sockets whirled as they sought to obey all contradicting commands. Messages, signals, and relays all intercepted each other in the ensuing chaos.

Reconstapriorfiguratusrepitybeionreportintaavoidquircomingcontactwithedpillar.

Delete all.

Elimpriordonotinateknitizeseleaveseightsoforlfwellbelfexpoderingovsedtoeralliesallies.

Delete all.

CONQUER.

Tick…

Pendulum exploded from the column of water, mage iron alight with the electric blue glow of the sky’s own fury. His visual panel snapped to Adversary Frost, glaive hefted back to deliver a fierce counterblow. The automaton raised his remaining arm to deflect the onslaught, energy crackling all along its form.

...tock.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 12
2/22/2021 21:22:22   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Knights of Order and Chaos… It has a nice ring to it. If they truly embodied their namesake, Icarahael knew Order would prevail. Chaos was anarchy, recklessness- a recipe for despair she knew she must not fall into. Order was organization, leadership, and law. It was the very burden of a leader to maintain order in a tribe, to give a unanimous rallying cry and a voice for all the tribe’s triumphs and disappointments. Every union. Every death, from the withering elder to the starving child. I was there for all of their joy and mourning. Icarahael’s heart ached with the memories. Now was not the time to reminisce. Now was the time to fight for the crown she deserved and treasured.

The queen’s lips curled into a smirk as the Knights of Chaos threw their first haphazard attack. They attacked not with glaive, fist, or fire, but with flying metal. Characteristic. If this is their strategy, this may not be much of a battle. Across from Icarahael, obscured by the waterfall, a strange humanoid creature with many arms had taken a bronze object from its ally and flung it through the water towards her. She struggled to focus on it as it spun, reflecting the light as mountain snow did on a sunny day. Icarahael realized just in time that the contraption was coming straight for her head. She brought her left knee to the ground to drop her body low as the projectile flew above her, trailing mist as it brushed the underside of her cloud. Her ears rang as it clanged behind her, but she kept her eyes alert for its source- which did not take long to find.

Shooting through the waterfall towards her was a man of bronze. It appeared relatively humanoid, though seemed to only have three limbs. Was that an arm that was just thrown at me? It was large- perhaps even taller than Icarahael’s mortal form- though in her drakon form, it would have looked like a snack. Whatever had thrown it would likely have the strength to throw her, too. Fitting that the Knights of Sovereign entities do not number among the weak- though I am still not convinced they number among the intelligent. She was struck by how similar this creation seemed to the automatons in the Chequered City. The first to bow. Was this of similar make, a living metal? Had Chaos created a Knight of its own out of the City’s mysterious beings? Or perhaps Order had tricked Chaos into choosing a weak subject for battle. She would be proud to ally with a being such as that.

In its haste to reach her, the contraption had shot through the waterfall- covering itself in water. You’ve made my job much, much simpler. “Stop!” Icarahael’s crown awashed in light at her command, demanding the bronze man’s obedience. The queen concentrated on his chest, though she knew not what might rest inside such a strange machine. Do you have a heart, I wonder? Icarahael was tempted to meet the metal man’s body with her own, to stand in his way and allow his body to shatter against hers.

“You needn’t move for others, Gaendriel. You will be king. They move for you.”
Her son hesitated, his head tilted, before giving in. Yes, Mother.


Gah!
Icarahael’s stomach prickled along the site of her former wound, reminding her how easily damaged she had been. This stupid form- I must move! She pushed up from her kneeling position and thrust her body out of the humanoid’s trajectory. Water splattered the cold stone as she swung her glaive upwards, a blunt slam to jar the metallic creature.

The queen flicked her tails behind her, sending the monster airborne.

Wait, what monster? What had I been swinging at?

Icarahael’s brow furrowed as the movement poked at the clouded memories in her mind.

As solid metal slammed into Icarahael’s weapon, her arm erupted in white-hot pain. Electricity crackled down Icarahael’s staff, carving jagged cracks across its shaft in a flash of white. Fingers released reflexively as, like a tunneling mouse, the spark traveled underneath every muscle in her arm, her spasms nearly unbearable. It crawled down the tendons of Icarahael’s underarm, tracing a path of agony down her breast and stomach as Icarahael fought back a retch. Though the spasms escaped down her leg and through her heel, her entire side throbbed from the experience. She strangled for the breath that had been robbed from her. The queen had never felt more violated.

She felt the shattering of her weapon before she heard it.

At first, it echoed the torture she had not yet had time to process. A hundred sharp pangs erupted at once from an area that felt centered behind her; as if someone had grasped one of her tails and carved it apart. Icarahael’s shriek rivaled the sound of her weapon’s metal fracturing against cold stone, hundreds of pieces scattering across the floor and pinging like hail. Sleet and rain echoed the dying glaive’s cries as drizzle became a downpour that clinked off of stone and metal. Icarahael watched with blazing eyes as each fragment clattered to a halt before dissolving into the obsidian like snow into warm dirt.

She did not see as shards formed from the ground behind her, each raindrop awakening a new piece which flew from the ground into the space behind Icarahael. As each found its place, a pang resolved, Icarahael’s torment meticulously healed and she drew a deep, slow breath. Weight trailed behind her- a weight she had not known in a very long time. A weight that felt entirely unnatural in this form, yet brought a relief and nostalgia that flushed through her body as a smile slowly crept across her face.

Flipping behind Icarahael, silverine with a series of five thin blades on its end, was a tail.
Post #: 13
2/22/2021 22:54:43   
Dragonknight315
Member

The final hunt was on. As the others crossed the battlefield, Tear scanned her eyes across the chequered field for her new prey. Yet, she could not shake this ill feeling from her mind. The bowstring was drawn with ease, yet Judgement felt heavy in her hands.

You are weak, Motherwolf.


. . . I am not weak. There is no strength in bloodlust alone.


Across the arena past two sparkling waterfalls, the metal giant and the haloed abomination waited. Just moments ago, Tear was fighting for her and the princeling’s lives against the Ice Queen; she thought her unending fury was unnatural. Monstrous. Yet these two entities were far beyond anything in her comprehension. She watched in horror as the Scyon tore off one of Pendulum’s arms. There was no blood. The metal one did not even seem to react.

Perhaps the queen and I are not so different. We bleed; we cry. Do they?—

Suddenly, the haloed one hissed, tossing the metal arm in her direction. Tear gritted her teeth and leapt, tucking into a roll towards the right. As she landed, Tear looked back, and her eyes went wide. Gluttony was clutching the metal one with his tentacles, heaving him into the air!

Such force! How can I— how can we kill them if they aren’t alive?

As the metal giant sailed through the air like a meteor, the Scyon followed close behind. Tear hurried towards the edge of the battlefield. The most primal of instincts raced through Tear’s mind. In the garden against the Queen, the wolf called her to fight. Now, it told her to run. She kept glancing back, ever wanting to put some distance between her and the monsters. As Tear did, her heart leapt from her chest.

Woodkin—

As was his custom, the prince of flame rushed to the center of the action, flame-tipped glaive in hand. The one called Aurelia the Spearhead rushed to embrace him. At the same time, Ginevra rushed to strike at his flank. The sight nearly drove her mad with tears.

Woodkin, Kunze, please— I want to help, but I can’t. Please survive. Your home needs you, and so does mine.

Tear cursed under her breath at the pointlessness of it all. Kunze, Finn, Queen, Aurelia, Ginevra— They all had blood. They all had names, lives, purposes. Why now? Was this “lesson” worth losing a fellow nature spirit? Her home? Would the answers even comfort her? Tear began to question all she knew.

She almost wouldn’t find out. Lost in her thoughts, Tear turned to look ahead only to see nothing— Her whole body leaned forward as she teared on the edge of the battlefield. For a moment, Tear sat as she stared into pitch darkness below. It seemed to go on forever without end, with no ties to reality. So far away from home. . .

Tear fell back and shuffled away from the edge, her heart pounding from the sheer dread. She pushed the dark thoughts away and rose to her feet.

We have to go home, Tear. Survive. We shall survive!—

As Tear gathered herself, a sound fell on her ears. It was soft but decisive, growing louder and louder. The huntress turned the source, and in the distance was the lioness, Daiyu. Half-human with steel in hand. Half-animal, her eyes scanning for prey. The irony was not lost on Tear. An equal yet opposite— In her heart, Tear held some respect for her. Tear would not dare to fight the others, but the voices demanded violence. If Tear had to fight, then she was her only prey. She called out to the lioness.

“Hunter, I am Tear, Speaker of Satherrung.”

The bow seemed to grow light in her hand as Tear reached for the string. The cold pricked her fingers, and her thoughts became reality as the light turned into an arrow.

“May the spirits watch our souls in this hunt and guide us home.”

The air snapped as Tear released the bowstring, arrow flying into the distance towards the lionkin’s chest. Her enemy was far for now; Tear had to take this advantage before Daiyu was on top of her.

Volley.

The human name rushed to her mind once more. This time, there was no cloud obscuring her. Tear wasted no time as she drew the bowstring again and again as she traced the lionkin’s movements.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 14
2/22/2021 23:39:08   
draketh99
Purple Armadillo



“Amadeus, no!”

A figure in black robes dashed out beyond the corner. His face was grim, etched with aging features. His chest heaved as he gasped for breath. Behind him, four like-dressed mages sprinted up to flank him. All four of them raised a palm forward and conjured sparking arcane runes into the air. Across the room stood an identically robed figure. His slight and wirey stature contrasted sharply to the heavy steel door before him. With a flick of the wrist, he turned a black iron key. It loudly clicked into place just before the world went silent.

One second.

Two seconds..

Three...

The silence shattered as the room began to rumble. Steel groaned as the large door fought to contain what was inside. A loud hiss as hot steam escaped the door’s seam.

The slight figure turned to face his companions, beaming with elation.

“It’s too late, my fellow Maegistra.” The slight mage said. He removed his hood and bared his teeth in a gleeful grin. A dark tendril slid out from the crack in the prison door.

“Do you know what you’ve done!?” The elder Maegistra bellowed. Each of the flanking mages took a step back. Hinges screamed as another tendril tore the door from its frame. A dark shadow slowly emerged from the rolling steam.

“I know exactly what I’ve done!” The slight Maegistra shot his arms down to his side. His eyes, dilated with desire and anticipation, locked firmly on his new audience. “I’ve befriended what you tried to imprison! I have released what you sought to control! You arrogant fools thought that you could control the Aether just by creating a body!?” The crazed mage spat as he shouted. Another tendril cracked the stone next to him as its weight settled. ‘But I- I myself have aligned myself with the Aether! You old fools are done for! I grant it freedom, and in return I shall be granted all of the secrets which the Aether has to off-”.

A loud crack echoed from the stone walls. The boy’s jaw wrenched from his skull in a glassy flash of crimson; his scream of pain quickly squelched by a thudding impact. A second tendril reduced the quivering body to a collapsed heap against the floor.

Blue lights flashed. Colorful bolts of fire launched from the mages’ palms. Each one of them snuffed out before they so much as touched the creature’s hide.

“He’s doomed us all…” The elder Maegistra whispered. “All of you, go! Alert the containment team! Lock down every passway behind you!”

Each of the flanking mages turned on their heels and fled, the slamming of heavy doors echoing behind them.

The room echoed with the hums and pops of stretching sinew as sixteen large tendrils squirmed their way along the walls, floor, and ceiling. A pale, banded body revealed itself from amongst the writhing mass. The Scyon licked their lips, savoring the young meal. A single rectangular pupil settled on the standing Maegistra.

“Are you....

Who plucked me…

from paradise…?”



The Brave One flew.

The Scyon turned and surveyed the battlefield, the single slitted pupil darting about. Another “Chaos” met their gaze. The creature bore the same shape as a Maegistra, as food. This one was not food. This one smelled of wildfire. Perhaps “Chaos” were then not to be food. A flash of lightning gripped at Gluttony’s attention. The Brave One had landed. The Brave One engaged with an “Order”. Perhaps “Order” would satiate.

A loud crack echoed off of the marble floor. Lowered onto all fours, the Scyon lunged into a full sprint towards the Brave One. A shrill scream of glass against marble rang out. The beast’s claws dug into the floor as it rounded the waterfall.

The “Order” no longer bore the shape of a Maegistra. It stood stronger and smelled of howling winter winds. The Scyon’s lips folded up into a grin. The constant hum of gnawing voracity grew louder. A tendril rose from the ground and struck out through the rain of ice and sleet against the Strong One. If she were not food, she would not fall.
DF  Post #: 15
2/23/2021 5:40:43   
Anastira
Member

Daiyu turns her head against the sound of the waterfall rushing past. A voice comes to her, a knife cutting against the water’s music: Hunter, I am Tear, Speaker of Satherrung. Tear. The first name Daiyu has heard since Hongjun Laozu banished her to these arenas. What does it matter? A name is a label, meaningless. This is what matters, in the end: how deep the wound bleeds, how sharp the blade is, how poisonous the venom. She walks a tightrope between life and death: she senses it, here on this final battlefield. She thinks, if she were to be cut down now, even the Mother Earth might not be able to save her.

An arrow comes hurtling towards her.

Instinct tells her to dodge, but she ignores instinct. This place, this battle - it is a final ultimatum of some sort; she feels it in her bones. Instead she forces herself forward, her feet digging against the ground, the glaive balanced in her hand; in an instant she draws the bow from her back and nocks the Vermilion Bird, the glaive thudding solidly against the wood of the bow as she shoots without letting it go. For a moment, she snaps, and she can feel the wind under her wings, see the waterfalls blurring behind, feel the pure heat of herself as she dives through the air, a streaking red arrow of feathers -

She pushes the bow back onto her back and keeps running, the glaive in both hands now, balanced perfectly. The air tastes crisp here, sharp, without the same muted taste of the Field of Silent Steel. In front of her she sees the long-coated woman from before, and a strange elfin figure locked in combat with her. The gray-haired monk with his floating stones is nowhere to be seen. Could it be he was not Hongjun Laozu after all?

She hisses through her teeth, fierce, angry. I know your tricks, she wants to scream, I will not fall for them again, but even so she can feel the doubt tugging at her mind, a shimmering nervousness that is foreign to her. If the monk was not Hongjun Laozu, then who is it? He must be here. He would not banish her here to teach her a lesson without being here himself, too. He has always liked to do things the hard way.

The long-coated woman - she is not Hongjun Laozu; that much Daiyu knows. Her style, her wit; it is too different from his. He would never be so brash.

But the huntress with her arrow, this Speaker of Satherrung, could she somehow be -

A whisper of air; Daiyu has forgotten herself. The arrow is almost upon her and the Vermilion Bird comes wheeling back at her command to stop it, a death-plunge, but too late; Daiyu’s instincts are slow and the Bird lags uselessly -

Daiyu drops to the ground.

The arrow skims past overhead.

It whistles so close to her head that she swears she can feel it against her mane. She’s flattened against the ground, her claws digging in for purchase, skidding; her belly against the ground and her chin an inch above it, barely holding onto the Dragon’s glaive. A piece of her deep inside roils angrily again; she lets out a low roar and pushes herself back up - wasted moments, precious time - and lunges forward. Above her the Bird snaps forward, too - wind passing ground blurring the whistling of seconds slipping past murky thoughts faraway master - so far ahead it feels as though it’s tugging her conscious in two, displacing part of her mind somewhere too far from her own body. There is the sensation of an elastic band pulled too taut, ready to snap back or break into halves. She grinds her teeth against it, her eyes flaring. The glaive twists in her hand as she throws her arm to one side, the other in front of her, her momentum flying forward too fast, realizing too late that she will not be able to stop in time -

But why stop? This is no noble fight, no duel of honor. This is a bestial, primal game of survival. She is a pawn and she cannot afford to lose. The cost of losing is her freedom.

Mother Earth -

She drags the glaive out in front of her as she skids across the ground, her claws tingling with pain, and she summons the Dragon.

For an instant, time seems to hang in the balance, suspended on some precarious equilibrium, unsure which way to tilt. And then it cascades forward again, and the Dragon bursts free: its head rearing forward first, fangs flashing sapphire in the light, eyes flaming with blue smoke, and then its body; its wings unfold all at once, so wide they nearly obscure Daiyu’s vision, and its tail snakes free from the glaive, swirling through the air in a deadly spiral. Ahead, the Vermilion Bird circles above the huntress who had fired off her shot, readying for a death-dive, and Daiyu closes her eyes and feels the threeness of it: her Bird’s self gauging the distance, the speed, feeling the wind beneath its wings; her Dragon’s corpse spinning through the air at distance, sweeping wind under its wings, keeping its eyes steady on the huntress, its wings spread wide to shield Daiyu; and Daiyu herself, sprinting now with the glaive to one side and her eyes flashing.

You chose the wrong enemy, she thinks, but the thought is drowned out by the sound of the wind as the Bird makes its first dive; and all she knows after that is the red of her wings and the ground coming up at her like a kaleidoscope.
AQW  Post #: 16
2/23/2021 9:06:43   
Kooroo
Member

As far as Aurelia knew, the term ‘being on point’ had two different meanings.

The first was one way of describing Aurelia’s current position, at the head of their little Order entourage. The second definition was something along the lines of ‘perfection, excellence, impeccable’. While Aurelia would’ve liked for this second definition to’ve been just as relevant as the first to her, what the paladin really needed was for her teammates to demonstrate how ‘on point’ they were.

As such, the Imperator found herself at the fore, preparing to head off Kunze’s flame-lead charge.

Unfortunately, the eager little arsonist wasn’t completely alone.

Two more Knights were relatively near their woodswatched brethren—Pendulum and Gluttony, unless the Lion Lady had swapped names with one of them, for whatever reason.

Three-on-one weren’t the worst odds Aurelia’d faced—she’d survived Daiyu and Friends after all, and that extra navel she’d received had, uh, buffed out in the end.

But attacking three of them head on, by herself? Whilst flanked by a pair of electrified water features? There were probably less painful ways to get stomped.

‘Course, it wasn’t like the paladin was alone, afterall—she had her own team of Orderlies (supposedly) backing her up. With no due respect, Aurelia was certain that she could throw each and every one of them further than she actually trusted them.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if it had been Shrike and the others covering her instead. Sure, they might’ve been an odd bunch, but were reliable when push came to shove. A bit trigger happy, but their reliability had been proven in the years prior. That was probably why Aurelia had been confident that they were doing fine without her.

She still had to make it back, though. The years could change a person, but she doubted that Shion had grown compassionate enough to just dig a deep hole and bury herself. Tyrants and dictators weren’t exactly known for being considerate of their subjects and those around them, so someone had to dethrone her.

So… why on earth was she about to put her life into their hands? She must’ve been addled or something. Maybe she’d taken a spill and this was all some crazy dream?

She grinned at the thought, just as the Wildfire dashed, lunging towards her left. Matchstick was quick, she’d give him that, he wasn’t that fast. Either he’d overestimated his own speed, or underestimated Aurelia’s.

How hurtful.

Vermillion corollas scattered in the Bark Knight’s wake, as he darted in, thrusting at her pelvis.

Straight for the kill, right from the get-go? He certainly didn’t look like the joking type, but she could respect that, at least. No more time for messing around.

Heh, that was a good one, though—the Knight of Wildfire, not having an ounce of chill.

She barked a laugh as she spun on her heel and parried, twisting her wrists to swipe the blazing spear aside.

The Wildfire stumbled, off-balance, and Aurelia slipped in, right under the firestarter’s guard. Two lunging steps forward, then she lashed out, launching off her left heel to send a vicious right into the arsonist’s breastplate. There was a dull thuk as plate struck bark and Kunze was sent reeling back, his fire prodder in tow.

Something flashed from the side of her vision and Aurelia froze, narrowing her eyes. She jerked her head slightly left as the Dragon Knight slid by, only to violate the shadowborn’s personal space.

Taptap.

Her thigh itched. The darkforged glowered and prepared to unload a barrage of vitriol on the smaller woman, just as her overtaxed braincell registered Eva’s words.

Aurelia threw herself down as her ally drove her blade towards Kunze—the Kunze who was no longer there.

Teamwork.

She sighed. “Good hustle.”
AQW Epic  Post #: 17
2/23/2021 11:15:35   
  Chewy905

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP


Thunder rumbled high above, the chequered board and colored sky both quaking slightly at its passing. The scales above tilted, first towards Order, then towards Chaos, dropping two orbs, one of brilliant gold and one of glorious emerald, deep into the ever-flowing falls. The waters split to reveal two paths, their destinations shrouded by mist. The Powers spoke, their distinct tones overlapping as their calls echoed across the board.

Knight of the Dragon. Order requires decisiveness. Yet you have proven hesitant. You are not our champion. You are Dismissed.

Knight of Hunger. Chaos is everywhen, but especially in the now. You are lost in the past. You are not our champion. You are Dismissed.


Silence fell as the last echoes of the voices faded, but a slight energy remained in the air. The Scales shuddered, balanced, then stilled once more.



Post #: 18
2/23/2021 23:00:08   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


Kunze’s eyes widened as the Knight of the Spearhead turned neatly with him, her reactions far swifter than the pace of her initial approach had divulged. Her twin swords twisted to slam into the side of his spear, diverting his strike. Flames snapped hungrily, unable to find purchase upon the crystal blades. Despite the parry, Kunze’s momentum pulled his body forward, and the dryad skipped hastily to prevent a full-on tumble. Aurelia pressed her advantage at his stumble and ducked under his weapon’s reach. Too close- Movement flashed over her shoulder as she bent slightly, enough for firelight to dance along the brilliant golden armbands of the approaching Knight of the Dragon.

Before the dryad could fully recover his guard, Aurelia lunged forward and pivoted on one heel. Her other leg swept up towards the dryad’s chest, but his gaze was drawn instead to the flash of the long knife in Ginevra’s hand. Kunze rocked forward slightly to lean into the coming blow, feet loose upon the tiled floor as boot and blade approached him. Golden eyes flicked swiftly between the two in the moments before the purple-haired struck. She seemed unaware of her ally’s approach, yet their eyes blazed with matching intent...

“..and we’ll have restored peace!” Kunze concluded, triumphant. Scarlet blossoms coated the floor, shimmering in the afternoon sunlight in testament to the prince’s agitated pacing as he explained his plan. Now finished, he turned to face his siblings, eyes burning with conviction.

Tamiel and Angina stood motionless, their identical golden eyes fixed on their younger brother. Tamiel stared at him with open-mouthed incredulity, but it was Angina who stepped forward, resting her hand upon his shoulder. “Kunze. No. Our duty is here. Leave the humans to their own wars.”


Wooden armor cracked as heavy metal slammed into it. Kunze gasped and reeled backwards; the sheer weight behind her strike turning his intended controlled slide into a floundering stagger. Ginevra lunged too slow, the dull metal of her blade plunging through empty air. The prince resisted the urge to taunt her as he sucked in a breath through his teeth. He regained his footing, pressing his arm against his side as he did so. Ribs ached at the contact, but he received no sharp pain from it. Just bruising.

An ear-splitting shriek echoed out from behind him - Icarahael. Kunze grinned even as he winced against the noise. Pendulum or Scyon must have scored a solid strike against the queen. Helps if I’ve got the attention of these two while they take care of her… With her scream still reverberating across the tiles, the dryad could not make out anything from Aurelia and Ginevra. The former had apparently realized the latter’s presence just in time and thrown herself to the flower-strewn ground to get out of the way. They’re not doing a good job of supporting each other…

The elder dryads regarded their brother with matching looks of disappointment. As one, they turned away. Tamiel paused at the door and called back, without looking, “We serve the Forest, Kunze. Not the human vagrants who happen to enter it.”

The door slammed.

And Kunze was left alone.


The prince slid his weapon lightly in his fingertips, wood warm against his skin. Scyon and Pendulum faced Icarahael behind him, Daiyu charged towards Tear in his periphery. He could not rely on any allies' aid in this fight - but I can prevent our foes from attacking them instead. Kunze tightened his grip at the last moment, slashing his blade in a low arc along the broken flowers that marked his path. Flames burst forth from the dying blossoms, curling nearly to eye level as the golden dust reached the peak of its explosion. Without hesitation, Kunze lunged forward, the warmth seeping into his core as he reversed the direction of the partizan and slashed at the neck of the nearer, still-standing Ginevra.

Before he could connect, a deep peel of thunder shook floor and sky alike; the inferno before him wavering in its aftermath. The scales overhead tilted, and Kunze glanced to the side just in time to see a brilliant flash of green - the same shade as Scyon’s eye - split the nearest fall into a curtain of mist. The voices from before called out, lapping over each as the dryad turned his attention back to the opponents before him; Ginevera had managed to dodge backward in time to avoid his blow. Lost in the past…

Kunze turned his attention away from the Knight of the Dragon. She’s dismissed. He hoped that meant that somewhere behind him, Scyon had escaped the battlefield somehow. Perhaps outside of war, the creature could find a life of peace and plenty, a life where their wails would be comforted rather than drowned in bloodshed. A life with a future. Flames flickered before him, and Kunze briefly saw the mild orange of a campfire, rather than the crimson conflagration of war. Gerard, Lilly, Sissy… Whoever and whatever stood in his way, he would secure them a future. No matter the cost.

The dryad lunged forward, eyes fixed once more on the Aurelia, her semi-upright form flickering slightly as the curtain of fire began to dwindle. He drove through it all the same, flames licking along the wooden shaft and across his forearm.Wood smoked as the last tongues of fire charred the greenwood black, but Kunze kept his aim true, spearpoint centered on Aurelia’s chest as she scrambled backwards away from the flames.

Kunze stood alone, the only sound his own breathing echoing off the walls. Inhale, hold. exhale; over and over as the last of the light slowly faded about him.

Laughter broke his dark ruminations, drifting faintly through the walls from the courtyard beyond. The humans, who after all they had faced, still strove to bring each other happiness.

His mind was made up before he even left the room. They deserved that happiness. They deserved Life.

And he would ensure they got it. No matter the cost.

AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 19
2/25/2021 19:54:30   
Dragonknight315
Member

Both beast and human—

As Tear released her first bolt from Judgment, the lionkin pounced forward, the arrow missing her by only an inch. Tear expected her to be fast, but she was so much more. In her movements, there was instinct but also intent, raw strength and precision.

The wolfkin’s nerves were on fire as Daiyu closed in. Tear reached for her bowstring, but before she could fashion another arrow, the lioness adapted. One hand clutched the center of the glaive, the other reaching towards something at her back. Then, Tear’s eyes narrowed as the lioness brandished her own bow.

You wield a bow as well? Perhaps the voices find delight in this.

Without hesitation, the woodkin and the lionkin notched their bows. Once more, Tear could feel the cold bite into her fingers, white light swirling into the form of wood and metal. The string grew tense, begging for release. Then finally, two snaps echoed in harmony across the battlefield. One arrow sailed passed the lioness, again brushing close without drawing blood. The other erupted into a cloud of brown flames. Tear could see the brown glow in the lioness’ eyes as a flash of fire flew high through the air, bright feathers trailing behind it.

What was that?!

Tear had no time to look as she took aim at the lioness. The air snapped again, but the lioness did not continue forward. Instead, Daiyu ducked low, chest pressed against the white floor before leaping to her feet. Tear gritted her teeth, and another arrow hissed through the air. The lioness twirled her glaive, and with a flourish, it seemed to come to life. One red eye turned to blue as waves of sapphire scales came forth. The serpentine head seemed to move as it ripped itself from the metal. Finally, there was a flash of light, and a pair of wings opened wide as the serpent lunged forward, arrow splintering against its form.

Tear’s eyes went wide at the sight. As the spirit floated in the air, its form spiraling in place, Tear watched in awe. Where as she only caught a glimpse of the bird, she could see this creature in its full glory.

So, you command your own spirits?

Tear’s heart sank into her chest as she watched the spirit dance. The sight only reminded her of how far away she was from Satherrung, from her home and her family.

The lioness continued behind her spiritual serpent with her bare glaive in hand. As Tear readied for another shot, the sound of thunder roared through the air. Her ears swelled with pain as Tear clutched her face. She could hear the voices speak, their words shaking the entire battlefield.

“Knight of the Dragon. You are Dismissed.”

“Knight of Hunger. You are Dismissed.”


As the ringing faded from her ears, Tear tried to process what had just happened. Ginerva. Scyon Gluttony. They were gone. As disappointing as it was to lose an ally, the feeling was dwarfed by the sense of relief. That abomination would not haunt them any longer.

That relief disappeared however as a flash of brown light crossed the corner of Tear’s eyes. She raised her gaze to find a resplendent bird unlike any Tear had ever seen— and it was diving towards her. With only a moment to spare, Tear duck to the side and pushed off into a leap. She could feel the cold air rush past her. It sliced into her leather, the edge tracing against her skin.

As Tear landed, she moved her hands across the wound. It was flared with heat, warm with blood. As bad as it was, Tear knew that it could have been so much worse. It would impede her aim. Not that she had any time to fix it, anyways. Tear had to think fast before the three would surround her. The glowing bird was circling around, ready to make another pass. Meanwhile, the blue serpent moved ahead of the lioness as she closed the distance. Three bodies, three sets of eyes at the lioness’ command.

With a deep beath, the wolfkin turned and ran, sprinting as fast as she could away from the lioness. She took one glance back at Daiyu. Tear could see the strain on the lioness’ face. She was gaining distance, but not fast enough.

I know what it is like to see through a spirit’s eyes. It requires absolute focus.

Tear’s breath grew heavy as she placed one hand on her heart. Once more, she poured her focus into her palm. Her blood obeyed, and she felt a large part of spirit flow through her veins and into her arm. Just as the lioness was within reach, Tear closed her eyes as she spoke the name.

"Light!"

Suddenly, she ducked to the side and raised her hand to the sky, and a flash of golden light erupted from her palm. With such intensity, Tear could only hold it for a few seconds, but that was all she needed. Her whole arm and shoulder felt numb as Tear moved for her bow and took aim, firing at the lioness’ neck.

No matter how far away I am, the spirits hear me.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 20
2/26/2021 10:27:29   
kavyraya
Member
 

The sudden shriek sent an icy tendril of fear up Eva’s spine, no longer looking whether her knife hit or skidded where as she landed hard on some of the strewn petals on the chequered floor. Her eyes followed the shards of bright blue metal as it shattered, her own dragonheart thundering hard. We have to help her, she thought haphazardly, scrambling to her feet, forcing herself to stay alert on the other opponent in front of her.

The Knight of Wildfire, Xyl mused. Eva’s nose flared, feeling her dragon’s strength swell into multitudes along with her own-placed anger, all under her mortal skin, but he was no longer something important. Her breath slowed; she watched as the giant scales tipped to and fro, as thunder and voices streaked overhead.




”What do you call...souls?” she asked as they settled before the fire. Eva had found that these people learned languages faster than she, and reveled in their infinite yet homely knowledge about the universe. Liway was barely ten, yet the inked tattoos that raced up her own forearms indicated that she was not like the others.

The beads in her hair swayed lightly, clicking together to the evening breeze. “Kaluluwa,” she answered after a few moments. “‘-Luwa’ means freedom. The soul… ‘is to be free’, not gone. Not dead.” She pointed at Eva’s chest as wood sleepily crackled from the fire before them both. “Like them.” Then she pointed upwards, towards the heavens. “Like those. Some gods don’t die. They just find their own freedoms. Sometimes they come back, changed because of their desires, or shaped by the world’s needs.”

Eva was quiet. She never quite thought of it that way, thinking that having Xyl was like having a yoke, heavy upon her shoulders. Taking offense, Eva hitch-coughed, a gout of flame erupting from her tongue. She clapped her hand over her mouth. Liway laughed, and soon a grin stole over Eva’s features before she too was laughing mirthfully. The dragon, settling down after seeing what their container saw, purred in relinquished amusement.





She watched as if she was looking at a slow-motion TV— something that she was still astounded at as the centuries changed. The globe of golden light, along with a partnered verdant green orb, tipped from the scales’ edges, sliding quietly from its surfaces and disappearing over the froth of charged waters.

Whatever god there was, it looked as if they were a spoilt child just learning to play with giant Orbeez. She smirked at the thought. Xyl, we’re leaving, she looked upwards, towards the swirling soup of nether and galaxies.

I know, child. It is time to go.

Eva turned— and just narrowly yanked herself back before steel could bite her neck. Wildfire was still advancing, though the look in his eyes echoed a kind of emotion some of the soldiers held in the war that Eva knew herself: that a comrade had the rare chance to go home safe. She turned her thoughts towards Icarahael, towards Aurelia, and her other ally, Tear, fighting at either side of the arena with her smack in the middle.

Oliver. Howard. Liway. Isagani, she said their names like a prayer before Kunze’s flames raised up like fluttering doves against her body.

Their breath shuddered in anticipation. Let go.

As a bright light escaped from Tear’s palm from the left side, Eva slammed her taloned fists down on the ground with a mighty roar. A gust, an exhale— and hot blue flames streamed from her body, erupting into swirling golds and reds around her body like a fiery tempest, snapping and snarling like hellhounds encircling her as she set herself ablaze, brighter and fiercer than Wildfire’s that the petals and flowers from him disintegrated instantly. Eva’s dragonheart flared brighter, her talons swirling at the flames that cloaked around her as if they were nothing but silk pieces fluttering in the wind. Her eyes too were aflame; her brown hair flowing as if buffeted by an invisible wind as embers wreathed its tips in large sparks.

She glanced at Wildfire, and tugged insistently at the dragon as they set their sight on the flame on his spear. The latter only bared their teeth in a toothy grin before relenting to Eva’s intentions, setting off in a run towards Icarahael and the two adversaries she was trying to fight off, leaving fiery and sooty imprints on the arena floor.

The ice drake had frozen one of the tendrils of the creature standing further away while she tried to hold off Pendulum, and Eva shuddered as she beheld it in all its terrifyingly grotesque beauty. A metal band encircled its human head, obscuring its vision, but it seemed pointless, with that larger emerald eye swiveling to glare back at her. It sent her chest numb as she neared, her inferno almost sputtering out to nothing.

The green orb, Xyl’s voice now sounded strained. There was something emanating from the creature that Eva couldn’t comprehend even if it stained the air like a malevolent spirit hung between the air. She barely could register the dragon’s voice before something colder than ice slammed against her body, ripping her bulletproof vest away from her chest.

Bright gold light spilled down the arena floor, her dragonheart pulsing in undulating waves of alarm as it was left exposed, her black tank top offering no other protection. Ginevra spat ichor as the tendril she never saw coming dug its cold glass claw into the side of her ribs, making both girl and dragon scream.

COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD-

Eva grit her teeth as she thrashed; the claw felt like it was inching its way into their body. Xylmaelyth’s screams rang through her head like discordant bells and cymbals being crashed in such cacophony that it, along her own pain, brought tears to her eyes. Xyl-

Her talons pricked together, and whatever was left of the inferno she fueled into her claws and she dug them deep on the tendril, clamping hard, determined not to let go. She took a shaky breath and bellowed fire down the tendril desperately, the urge to burn and tear it off strong as she planted her feet firmly on the ground, warm blood gushing down her waist.

There was another sound she heard, so far away yet so distinct: of something cutting through the air so cleanly. It was so different from the bullets and the crash and bang of a gun, sliding so seamlessly through the air in a single, singing trajectory. She didn’t turn to look, only concentrated on the grey creature as a blur of shining diamond flew past her head.

The wail came like an electrified wave crashing over her senses, and Eva doubled over, almost letting go as a new wave of uncontrollable- no, alien rage lanced through her brain like unrelenting knives. Her flames flared into a greenish hue—




Xylmaelyth found that Eva was fragile, as all humans were to be. They were fickle, unpredictable, unresistant to change whenever they willed it. They also were stupidly brave, never thinking too long to dwell, never staying still, all with that courage, recklessness and happiness that they have. What were they supposed to do with a child? They could only watch her grow up.

But Eva never had the time to laugh, never had the time to smile, to be at peace. Her thoughts were as mutinous as the tempests the dragon had once stirred up across the world’s oceans, her anger bottled up like volcanoes waiting to erupt. She felt the loss of her mother, and of her soldier-brothers so avidly that they thought she’d be consumed as fast as a lit match.

They knew this. They welcomed it, thinking it was the best way to get by.

But then, her anger, her resentment, all the scrapes, the battering she had that erased whatever little childhood memory she had left … disappeared.

The child of the last moon smiled.

Xylmaelyth’s child smiled, and she laughed at the freedom she had wrenched away herself with her own fists. There, Xyl decided, even if they never let her know.

Some flames were to be snuffed out, but some burned brighter enough to be worth protecting.






Red and gold flame clashed against emerald in a death-defying dance as the golden silhouette of the dragon erupted from Eva’s chest, encircling its coils around the girl’s body as if to protect it from the onslaught of the creature’s devastating wail. Light poured across the arena like a giant beacon as Xylmaelyth reared back, and Eva, as one, gripped the tendril attached to her and yanked the creature towards them, towards the edge they were nearing.

Icarahael, Queen of Frost, you know what to do,” Xylmaelyth spoke through Eva’s lips, making their voices blend in a harmonious unison that boomed even if it came from a body far too small.

Eva’s heart thrummed in her chest as she concentrated back on her grotesque adversary, gripping the tendril harder, pulling and yanking it as if in an infernal game of tug, digging her talons into its leathery exterior deeper to prevent any escape. But it was getting heavier, resisting. Xyl’s bout of sudden strength was fading fast, and Eva felt herself being yanked back after every pull she made.

A glint of bronze metal caught her attention, and she remembered avidly the punch that sent both of them reeling to the floor from a certain robot.

She cast one last look at the scales then at the Icarahael, a smile serving as a salute before she yanked one more time at Scyon’s tendril and held fast, grim satisfaction coming from both dragon and girl as a metal fist collided hard with a sickening crunch at the creature’s head, tipping it backwards with more force than necessary. But it had been enough.

She caught the lingering but stricken look on the other drake’s face as Eva, too, pitched to the side, the claw still dragging her along like a hook. She watched as Icarahael’s armoured hand stretched out as if to catch them, but only gripping empty air as she, too, fell.

Eva sighed in relief as she went weightless; the pain, Scyon, the arena- all fading away into starlight, final strands of the dragon’s spirit wrapping around her small frame like a cocoon.

“Xyl, we’re going home now, aren’t we?” she asked softly.

Yes, child. We are.

Post #: 21
2/26/2021 20:59:28   
Apocalypse
Member

Tick…

A fusillade of lightning christened the union of steel upon steel as the automaton hurtled through the air. Arcs of energy swarmed up Adversary Frost’s glaive, the blade shattering as her body beamed with the storm’s bluewhite fury. She screamed, a desperate wild sound that reverberated inside Pendulum’s consciousness, further disrupting the thousands of misdirected interlays: damage signals routed to prognostication, analytics demanded from self-preservation, and basic movement commands relayed to diagnostics. He crashed and tumbled across the monochrome floor; a heap of metal and punching pistons seeking to steady both body and mind. He at last came to a skittering halt along the ivory edge that overlooked the abyss below. Pendulum slowed his pistons, the messages quieting their clamor as he climbed to his feet. Wisps of smoke and remnants of static danced across his bronze frame.

Status report.

...tock.


Moderate laceration on right ulna, replied the diagnostics system. Structural intensity compromised. Recommendation: avoid-

Disregard recommendation, commanded Pendulum, his gaze falling upon his nearest foe. Adversary Frost had not moved from the location of fulgur transference, one glaive broken but now possessing a long tail that swept in the air behind her. Alchemical exchange? Pendulum dismissed the thought process from his analytical unit, though stored the sentiment of transfiguration as a possible ability of his enemy. The Knight of Order took no notice of his observation, her attention instead claimed by Adversary/Ally Scyon barreling towards her. The two exchanged blows, leaving a trail of ice all along one of the leviathan’s monstrous limbs. Pendulum used this moment of reprieve to restore his missing arm, the metal unblemished by his first foray as a living lightning bolt. Unorthodox, yet effective. The automaton braced himself to charge back into the fray but was interrupted by the rolling of thunder overhead. The storm called out once more, voicing its displeasure for the Knights of the Dragon and Hunger as two orbs - one gleaming gold and the other shining emerald - fell to the chequered marble below. They crashed within the cascades of water, giving birth to twin portals meant for retreat.

The automaton’s glow snapped back and forth between the dismissed combatants.

Tick…

And found neither relenting.

Adversary Blaze wreathed herself in flames, transforming into a living inferno, before bounding away from her current battle partners and towards her fellow dismissed knight. Adversary/Ally Scyon showed no indication of having heard the powers above as the star-shaped crown floating around his head began to glow first fierce white, then burning red, and finally a resolute black before shattering in a hail of obsidian shards. The leviathan roared and the inferno howled, the two clashing in a whirlwind of fire and flesh. Pendulum encircled the dismissed knights, staying out of their violent reach as he put them between himself and the arena’s edge. Fury and flame collided in defiance of the entities’ judgement, daring them to govern the experiment themselves. Such results would never have been permitted by the architects-

CONQUER

...Claim-


The cry of glass cut itself into Pendulum’s consciousness, the foreign command echoing across every single one of his systems before they went silent. The automaton’s legs carried him closer to the fray as his pistons overclocked of their own volition. Pendulum executed the command to halt. A command that was ignored.

-what-

No, not silent. His consciousness reached out, feeling the tenuous pulls of relays between his diagnostics and prognostication units. His systems still functioned - they just no longer communicated with his consciousness.

-is-

Pendulum’s mind raced with possibilities, instinctually reaching out to his systems for support only for the messages to fizzle out upon reaching interlay status. Who is commanding me?

And to what end?

-yours-

A failsafe from the architects? A protocol established by the Blinding Radiance? Or had the entities intervened with the tools already at their disposal, Chaos taking the reins to rid itself of a failure? His arm swung around in its socket, momentum building for the inevitable strike...but for who?

-all-

Adversary Frost was the clear choice: a Knight of Order, and one permitted to continue the fight. Eliminating her would be a necessary step if Pendulum were to emerge from this war victorious.

Bronze feet thundered against the voidscape.

-is-

Next would be the Knight of the Dragon, Adversary Blaze. One allied with the enemy who refused to submit, her mere presence on the battlefield could spell disaster for both sides alike if the powers that be intervened on a titanic scale.

Metal whistled as his gyrating arm collected more force for his target.

-yours-

But no - Pendulum’s systems heeded the foreign call pulling at his consciousness, and with one final revolution launched his fist at the visage of Adversary/Ally Scion, supposed nemesis in life and tentative confederate on the battlefield. His singular eye tracked the bronze missile as it struck the leviathan’s skull with a loud crack, sending both Dragon and Hunger plummeting over the edge.

-tock.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 22
2/26/2021 21:17:26   
roseleaf320
Creative!


For the first time in many moons, Icarahael smiled in pure, genuine joy.

The curl of her long tail as she swung it in front of her came as naturally to her as breathing. She stood transfixed by its shining end, five bladed leaves rippling in the rain. Every drop she watched splash against its surface sent a chill crawling up her spine. It is as if it never left. In all her mortal time, Icarahael had never considered the possibility that the destruction of her weapons could revert them to their original form.

“This form is only for fitting into small spaces, Gaendriel, and only if you know you are safe.”

“What are these, Mother?” The humanoid form held up two large maces, their blades shining obsidian.

“Those are your tails, Gaendriel. Promise me you will never hurt or lose them, for once they are gone, you will not be able to return to your drakon form.”

The man frowned. “Has anyone ever done that, Mother? Lost their tails?”

“A very long time ago, the first king had his stolen. Since then, we know not to let them out of our hands.”


If breaking a glaive caused her tail to return to her…

The queen’s mind was distracted from its whirling by another- not the automaton, but a massive creature with a glowing halo harboring six extra limbs. The rampaging being from the Chequered City. As if I didn’t already hate Chaos enough. Icarahael wrinkled her nose as she met its bloodshot eyes. The last trickles of her rainfall subsided- but not by her own doing, as she willed it to become a shower once more to no avail. Was the abomination somehow quelling her storm? What a pitiful attempt to calm the queen. As a monstrous limb lashed out towards her, the queen batted it away with her tail, feeling the impact as a blunt ache overpowered by the sheer satisfaction of the movement. Icarahael broke once more into a grin.

They will not stay silent.

The boom of the Powers’ voices halted Icarahael as she readied to move towards her enemy. Knight of the Dragon. Icarahael glanced to her companion, locked in a battle with the wildfire and their purple-haired ally- Aurelia. Dismissed? But was her ally not a dragon? Surely the drakon were not dismissed so easily, so quickly! There was not one among her tribe whom she would deem incapable. Icarahael’s eyes flared with anger. The Powers would not surely disgrace her kind…

But she must remember this dragon was not of her tribe. She knew little of other drakon, only the myths that had been passed down, speaking of power and kinship. Hesitant. That was the weakness Order had scorned. The line between hesitancy and composure was indeed a fine one. But to withdraw favor from a drakon before the two humans… Icarahael suppressed the low growl that rose from her throat.

“You must have pride in your kin, Gaendriel. The cryodrakon are among the most powerful creatures on this earth. Never underestimate even the smallest fledgling."

"Of course, Mother."


She paid little mind to the rejection of Chaos- just enough to know the Wildfire was not called. With a hiss, Icarahael commanded the abomination’s limb to freeze. I will pick them off one at a time if I must.

Wildfire!

Icarahael’s eyes darted to the bright light in her peripheral, catching sight of not the dryad, as she had expected, but the dragon. Its body was consumed by a fury of flame as it charged towards Icarahael’s enemy. Her eyes flicked between the two as orange fire mixed with white light from the abomination’s halo- which glowed intensely until all light left it, and it shattered.

The abomination let out a guttural wail more poignant than any growl or screech Icarahael had ever heard. She brought her free hand to an ear and turned away, desperate to protect herself from the noise. Her eyes landed on the automaton, who charged forward, unphased by the noise.

Through the soot covering the automaton’s bronze figure, Icarahael caught a glimpse of a familiar silverine face. She paused, entranced by the drake reflected to her; its maw seemed even more elegant than Icarahael remembered and its horns towered above its head, so large that the reflection tapered off before they did. Sitting atop the drake’s head was a lavish crown, its intricate fractals set onto a snow-white frame. It echoes my own… Yet the frame was much larger than the queen’s, encircling the drakon’s horns in a solid, thick band. Five strong, straight bars rose from it towards the sky. The Icarahael she was looking at was not just a queen. She was something much greater.

Icarahael needed it. That. Crown. Is. mine!

Icarahael stepped to follow the reflection as the automaton pushed forwards- and its metal fist flew through the air to push the Dragon and the abomination plummeting from the field.

The queen barely registered her own movements as her legs took her towards the edge of the battlefield, her free arm reaching for the dragon as they fell. However pointless or counterproductive it might be to save Order’s rejected, she was reminded of the frustration and hopelessness that followed her own tumble in the Chequered City. You cannot fly in that form!

Her gaze was met with two glowing eyes and a farewell laced with two voices, the ancient and the young. Her ally’s human body was wrapped in a golden light, the form of a wyrmlike drake that curled protectively. From her chest gleamed a golden stone- a larger echo of two Icarahael remembered from her collection. The dragon was long past what Icarahael’s hands could reach. “Icarahael, Queen of the Frost-” Queen of Frost. Not the cryodrakon- of Frost itself. Icarahael failed to hear the rest of the dragon’s words as its body fell long past where she could ever reach.

The Queen glanced over, triumphant in her own fight-

Only to see Icirion’s body slump to the ground, swarmed.


No! Icarahael growled, her tail flicking in agitation. I did not fail to save them. I did not, I could not! Order had no room for hesitation. The golden dragon deserved to die.

Murderer.


Icarahael turned to the automaton- The Knight of Time. It must be, for its shuttering, moving parts seemed the only “system” among her foes. Smoke leaked from its remaining arm- the other one used to end the lives of the dragon and abomination. His strength was clear. But the strength of a drakon was far greater than any contraption could mimic. Her reflection was no longer present against the creature’s metal skin, but Icarahael’s tail flicked as she remembered the power that image had radiated, the crown that had rested upon her head. This hunk of metal was merely an obstacle on her path. Resting her hand on her remaining glaive, Icarahael brought her cloud to a rain once more, and charged towards the bronze man.

Post #: 23
2/27/2021 3:25:52   
Anastira
Member

Focus.

This is what Daiyu feels. Not the arrow barely missing her on its trajectory; not the ground beneath her feet. The woman with the bow, in front of her. The wind funneling her towards the ground. Her wings spread wide. An intensity she hardly understands. She is the Bird, in this instant: the Dragon hovers in the air with its eyes locked on the huntress; her lioness’s form thunder across the ground. Both meaningless. Mindless. Reckless. Only the Bird holds her mind within itself.

She does not even hear the Powers speak.

The Bird cuts the huntress.

There is pain - imagined, someone else’s. Blood. She does not stop to think: is it real, is it her imagination, is it her other body, is it only the image of the woman in front of her reeling from her attack. She plunges to the sky, the world turned upside down, her wings swirling crimson around her. The wind screams the wrong way, shrieking in negative, inverted music, and the ground grows distant. The pain is sharper - a singing that cuts through her focus and calls her back, but she resists it, angry. She whirls in a circle. The Dragon is nearly above her, now, a great expanse of blue, so much bigger than she is.

So much slower than she is.

She turns toward the huntress again and she dives, and this time the intensity of her focus is a fierce pleasure: sharp and vivid and vibrant, so much larger-than-life she feels herself almost gasping at it. The wind tearing at her wings is like a thousand icy knives, each of them slicing through her so fast it feels like fire; she closes her eyes against it, flattens her wings against her back as she streaks down. The huntress is directly beneath her and she lets herself go -

And snaps back into herself, her mane cut open, black blood flowing like molten lava across the expanse of her neck - panting in place, her claws digging ruts into the ground where she’s skidded to an abrupt stop, the Dragon tented a little ways above her like a shield.

Daiyu screams.

For an instant she is back in the Field of Silent Steel with the long-coated woman’s blades slashing at her and the rage rising inside; for a moment she is on the edge of a village in Anhui and the monk is standing in front of her with red banners flowing from his hands and firecrackers lighting up the streets. For a moment she is locked again in the Great Wall with the corpses of men as pillows to sleep on at night. For a moment she is a cub, barely emerged from a statue of black jade, the tears of a human child still staining her skin, blinking in the sunlight and scrabbling at the dirt, lost, confused. Not understanding what she is - beast or stone, animal or human.

And then she is back on the Final Battlefield, this place of all beginnings and all endings, with Mother Earth’s voice and Hongjun Laozu’s smile taunting her. And the blood, free-flowing. Protect me. I thought you would protect me. Why this? She’s forgotten herself. She knows that much. She’s become too animal, so single-mindedly in love with the pleasure of the hunt, so enchanted by the anticipation of the kill. And she is bleeding because of it.

She reaches to her neck, clenches her claws around the arrow, and pulls.

It does not move.

She screams again, a furious angry sound, the blood beginning to rise within her, and she digs at the wound with her claw. She can feel herself gouging at her own flesh, the blood pooling into her hands. Get out, she thinks. This thing, foreign, not part of her body. She needs it gone.

She throws her head back and roars to the sky.

The arrow comes free.

The Bird completes its dive. Daiyu flashes into it for an instant - wind air screaming pain - and then back to the Dragon, urging it away from her, forward, its wings spread wide. Take her, she thinks, her mind a mask of blank faceless anger. Make her pay.

She throws the arrow to the ground and bounds forward again, her hands tight on the glaive, and she knows: she is on a cliff edge. A precipice. Hanging by one claw. In danger of - what? She doesn’t know. But she knows that if she falls -

No. If she lets go.

She will not fall. She is Hua Daiyu and she is black jade, and stone is unyielding.
AQW  Post #: 24
2/27/2021 8:02:24   
Kooroo
Member

It was nice to have some proper backup for once, although ‘proper’ was a bit of a stretch when you considered that Evra had just missed her target because of Aurelia, and Aurelia was lying on the floor because of Ginevra’s untimely intervention. But an extra blade was always welcome, so long as it hurried the job along and said blade didn’t end up in her chest, or back, or any other bits.

A sharp, metallic screech stabbed at her ears, with a piercing scream right on its brethren’s heels. Aurelia flinched, before jerking her head roughly towards its source. What she saw made her wince again.

It looked like there was someone else that was in charge of the heavy lifting this time, and they didn’t seem to be enjoying it.

She grimaced, but turned her attention back to her more immediate problem. As much as Aurelia wanted to help Icarahael, it wasn’t like she could just up and ditch Ginny, especially after she’d accidentally outplayed the younger girl. Poor form, that’s what it would’ve been. In a perfect world, the Scaleless Dragon would have paired up with Frosty instead to make that fight a two-on-two, instead of butting into this one.

Griping or berating Evra wasn’t going to help, though. From her experience, whinging and salting allies and friends never ended up teaching them anything. In fact, it could have the opposite effect. It was amazing how stupid or irrational some people could get when they were angry or upset, even if they were the ones at fault. Especially the stubborn ones. Her sister had been like that—her other sister, though, not Shion.

A fuzzy face, obscured by time, started to form, stopping only once the Imperator mentally slogged herself.

Now was really not the time for that. Reminiscing could come later, when she wasn’t fighting someone trying to fumigate her chest cavity.

She pushed herself up on to her hands and knees, just as Kunze swiped his spear, low and through the—

A blast of heat. A flare of gold.

And pain—a face full of searing pain.

Startled, Aurelia yelped and launched herself back—back and away from the scorching curtain of flame. She blinked rapidly, gritting her teeth as she willed away the blackened motes dancing in her vision.

Void, that had been really, bloody close. A spot further and she’d have a freshly toasted neck and head. The last two parts of her that still had flesh to burn and Barky had tried to complete the set.

Uncool. Both literally and figuratively uncool.

Blades in hand, the shadowborn started to stand, when there was a resounding boom, crashing through the monocoloured ground and chromatic sky. The voices of the opposing Powers sounded, their proclamations echoing through the surrounding air and the Shattered Dream’s mind. Aurelia hissed at the unwelcome inclusion, but the words rang loud, their meanings all too clear.

Two Knights down, six left. But what did that mean for—

Ah. There.

Her searching eyes found the twin portals, each gateway swathed by a veil of fog and water. One for each Knight, huh? Very thoughtful of them, though that raised a lot of questions about how she’d been brought here, if this had been an option.

Despite their hosts’ generosity, neither of the dismissed seemed like they were prepared to leave quietly.

Fists met stone in yet another raucous crash, as the Dragon Knight brought meaning to her title. Golden fire swirled around her, the flames whisked from the Woodsman’s wall of flame, before Evra took off.

Off towards Icarahael and her entourage, but away from the portals.

Aurelia frowned, cutting off the small scowl that had appeared with Ginevra’s scales. Was that commitment to the cause or something else? It was an... interesting choice—a heroic one, for sure—but she wasn’t in a position to judge. Not while she was on the floor.

After all, she had a new problem, now that she was flying solo once again.

The screen of flame shimmered as its creator strode towards her, now free to finish his marshmallow roast.

Too bad for him; she was going to disappoint.

Aurelia smiled pleasantly. Without warning, she slung her left hand across her body, launching her shining blade at her foe, with a cheery “yoisho”. Then, with a preliminary leftwards glance, the darkforged swung her right arm up and across her body, hurling its caroling twin at one of Frosty’s foes.

The Imperator followed through with her throwing motion and allowed it to twist her torso around. Her right gauntlet cracked against the obsidian tile she lay on, while its polar hung open beside her. She pulled her left leg in, just as a rapidly rising hum filled the air.

Koumetsubou shone, illuminated from within, as a dull ache pulsed through Aurelia’s limbs. Her left hand shuddered.

She drew in a deep, calming breath., and then closed her fist.
AQW Epic  Post #: 25
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