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=EC 2022= Factory Arena

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7/17/2022 0:00:09   

Sunlight burst over the horizon, waves of blue rolling forth to subsume the fading curls of dawn. The golden rays slid across steel armor and threw sparkling motes of light along the edge of silvered weapons, marking out the fighters that moved amidst the throngs filling the city of Bren. Ozone still hung faintly in the air, the scent just detectable over the sizzling meats and heady spices of the food vendors that spilled into the streets. Shouts echoed and laughter rang across the squares, their fevered pitch growing louder with each newcomer that joined the festivities. From strangers to old friends, visiting nobles to lowly cutpurses, lone travelers and full caravans - all were drawn in by the Arena’s call.

Power hummed under the excited babble, a siren song that resonated throughout the entire city. Its notes dragged the crowd onward, through the gleaming city gates and across twisted streets of shops and inns. Onward, past grimy alleyways and grand courtyards and all the houses that stood between. Onward, up and over the final bridge to follow in the footsteps of Champions past, treading along the well-worn cobblestones of Supplicant’s Way. Onward, until the Complex itself stood before them; a looming gateway that swelled to fit the rising tide that surged towards it.

Here, the horde parted. Hundreds of spectators streamed towards the stands, shoving and jostling against each other in the hopes of achieving better seating. The handfuls of hopefuls instead found themselves alone. Whether by hired officials, their own finely-honed instincts, or by unseen magic itself, the Arena tugged them forward to their fate. A destiny written in bloodshed and carnage. A chance for one to stand victorious. A hope of earning a boon.

All that stood in their path now was the Arena itself - and the greatest fighters this world had to offer.

Busy, chattering halls suddenly twisted to leave the competitors surrounded by absolute stillness, and absolute silence. No screams, no cheers, not even the harried voices of any officials reached them - just a heavy presence, taught and trembling in the air. The dull gray of the rough-hewn stone was replaced by smooth, gleaming bronze that reflected the harsh, yellow light of regularly placed bulbs. Their beams lead to an iron door, simple and unmarked. Amber light seeped out from along its edge, pulsating ever so slightly as it captured every step, every shift, every breath of those approaching.

Leverage. Agitation. Animation. Decimation. No movement went unnoticed within the walls of the factory.

Locks clicked, doors swung open, and the fighters stepped onto short bridges that led into the arena. High above and far below hummed a series of interlocking gears - immense contraptions of twisted bronze that vibrated in anticipation. From beyond either set, panels of glowing amber illuminated the tower, their glare pulsing along the glossy metal of floor and walls alike.

With a reverberating boom the gears jolted to life - and the floor shifted. A cube of shimmering bronze rose from its center, growing taller with each click of the gears. Walls encroached upon it, panels clanking and shifting to overlap as the bridges fell away, closing in to narrow the gap. A sparse moment later and the motions all jolted to a stop, sending shuddering waves of recoiled vibration rippling against the copper floor.

A loud clank of the gears, and the cube went flying into the nearest wall, careening into it with a resounding, reverberating, floor-shaking boom. A following clack, and the shifting gears sent light skittering across bronze as the block reversed momentum and sped in the opposite direction to crash into the wall opposite. A final clunk, and it sped again along its course only to suddenly halt upon its initial starting point once more.

The hum of power and electric lights grew louder, tones layering and lapping over themselves until they formed barely intelligible words to call out to the fighters. “And so begins the Trial of the Hunted. Fight or Die, adventures, but let the Elemental Championships begin!”
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 1
7/20/2022 17:58:14   

Keep your eyes open… Just a little longer… Just another minute.

How many times had they told themselves those exact words? The edges of their vision blurred, darkness creeping into the corner as the riverboat slowly rocked beneath them. This wasn’t good… If they fell asleep here right now odds are they’d never make it to Bren at all. Rhythmically they tapped the end of their staff against the top of their head. A slow controlled thunk, thunk, thunk against their forehead with one of the metal studs managed to stave off the dread of sleep for just a little longer.

”You really shouldn’t be doing that, young man. Surely there can’t be anything so bad that you need hurt yourself. You look exhausted, it’s a long way to go to Bren yet. Get yourself some rest”
The voice snapped them out of their habit, having spaced out in the rhythmic motion while still staying on the brink of lucidity thanks to the light jolts to their head every few seconds. Looking up bleary eyed they didn’t bother to correct the old codger. They didn’t mind whatever people perceived them as at this point, it didn’t matter. They forced a weary smile as they met the old man’s eyes with their own, he looked kind and the old man didn’t know better, sentiment made simply out of concern. A conversation wasn’t all bad either, it would help stave off sleep when forced to stay stationary for yet another while.

”Trust me when I say I cannot.” They replied after what felt like too long a silence, shaking their head just a little at their own tardiness. They didn’t wish to be rude, but this close to the brink it was difficult to keep pace
”Hmm, something worrying you about our destination then? Or something so exciting waiting for you in Bren that you cannot sleep?”

Alder chuckled then, shaking their head just a little bit.
”Both, I suppose. I’m entering the Elemental Championships.” This of course got a stunned moment of silence, it always did. Alderbaran didn’t look much like a fighter, and truthfully they weren’t. At least not compared to some of the creatures they’d heard entered the tournament. But if there was even a chance to have a boon granted by the elemental lords… They had to take it, had to at least try. The old man hummed and scratched at his cheek through a scruffy grey beard.

”Haah? I see, I see. Truly the championships are probably why most outsiders would be heading towards Bren at this time of year. If I happen to pass by I’ll make sure to cheer for you.” he said with an amused laugh. While probably an empty promise, it did make Alder happy.

The sound of rapid heartbeats rang loud in their head, the unrelenting thud only competing with ragged breaths for sovereignty in their mind. Looking up above, the sky was black as night, not a single star shining nor a hint of a moon seen upon its inky black void. They rose to their feet, wrapping their arms around their chest to try to keep themselves from shivering. It helped only a little. Things moved within the darkness, creatures shambling just beyond sight. They could hear them, feel their presence at arms length. They didn’t want to see them, didn’t want to know what horrors lurked beyond the limits of their vision. The sky shifted. Black masses, giant tendrils entangling the heavens slowly moved, undulating against one another like serpents. Pulling the black veil from the sky above to reveal the stars beyond. Alder’s eyes adjusted, finally able to see what lurked just out of view just as they bounded towards them. A shrill cry of true terror rose from Alder's parched, cracked lips…

They awoke with a gasp, a sharp intake of air as they pulled their cloak tighter to their body. No… No no no no NO! The boat creaked in complaint as unrelenting currents drove it against the sandy banks of the river, unable to pull it from where it had stranded. Glancing around they didn’t see any of the other passengers… Perhaps they’d all made it out, all ran away. They hoped this was true…

The city of Bren was certainly lively, bustling with the activity spurred on by this annual event. The Elemental Championships drawing creatures from all corners of the world, and some beyond. Alderbaran paid the tourists, merchants, guards and street vendors little mind. They had a purpose and wouldn’t tarry any longer. The cut short boat ride had led them to have to hike the remainder of the way, and it had put them behind schedule… They only hoped they weren’t too late. Passing by impressive displays of jugglers with flaming implements, bards plying their lutes and merchants trying to draw in attention from all the people moving through the streets of the city. Alder moved past them all, supported by the slow clack-clack-clack of their staff against the stone as they walked up the Supplicants Way towards the arena that would hopefully offer what it was that they sought. Their weary steps were starting to lighten somewhat, with the goal so close within sight there was a glimmer of hope that had been absent from their life for a long time now.

With their foot past the gatehouse into the large complex hosting the competition, they let out a sigh of relief. There weren’t a lot of people but there were some, which hopefully meant they weren’t too late after all. Looking around and studying the various signage and path’s to take they looked for some way to sign themselves up. Perhaps there were better ways than to do this at the arena last minute… But if there was, Alder sure wasn’t aware of it. Eventually it seemed they’d found the right path, and stepped up at the clerk who honestly seemed like they wanted to be anywhere but here at the moment. One could suppose dealing with all kinds of strange personalities of the combatants might be exhausting, or they just weren’t very sociable and had only landed this gig as part of their contract. Whatever the case may be, Alder cleared their throat and scratched the back of their head, only further messing up their already scruffy black hair.

“Uhm… I’m here to join the championships.”
“Of course you are, running a little last minute ain’t you?”
The clerk said as they looked Alder up and down for a moment, seemingly sizing them up.
”Don’t look like much of a fighter do you. Ah well, no matter. Just fill out the paperwork and we’ll get you in there, just make sure whatever you’re about is impressive enough, eh?” They chuckled coldly, sliding a registration form over the counter to the tired Alder.

It seemed now like ages ago, even if it hadn’t been very long ago at all, the path of time between signing those papers and stepping into that strange arena. Time had a tendency to feel distended when you never slept, or at least tried as best as one could to not sleep. The roar of the crowds, the cramped filled halls and the cheers of an excitable crowd soon left behind. Near unnatural stillness permeated the air, silence, stillness… It made Alder sway on their feet wearily, leaving the bustle made them drowsy. Of course they wouldn’t fall asleep like this, there was too much excitement, nervousness and concern in the air but they did find themselves blinking their dry eyes more than a few times in vain hope to get the weight of their eyelids subdued. The door that stood before them now, barring them from the arena proper and the only barrier between them and their fate seemed to almost thrum with energy. The rumble of some dread mechanical beast laying beyond the heavy doors.

Then with a sudden click they swung open rapidly, almost as if in a hurry to see the combatants move into the field. Alder took a moment to straighten themselves out, rolling their shoulders to try vainly to look as dignified as possible even in their tattered garb. Thankful to their cloak for keeping their lower face hidden for it wouldn’t be befitting of a combatant to be seen yawning on their approach. With heavy thuds of iron-studded wood upon the bronze bridge below they crossed the chasm below. Bloodshot eyes sweeping back and forth over the arena. Other bridges leading other combatants into the field. Briefly Alder took note of them one by one. A monstrous creature. A child. Another child but a much grosser looking one. Then Alder. Left of them a four armed grey thing and finally a blue and white twig of a person.

”What is this, the arena of children and monsters…?” they barely had time to mutter into the wrap of their cloak before the room came to life with the whirring of gears interlocking with heavy clunks. A cube of metal slowly emerged from the floor, shimmering in the light with the gleam of polished bronze. Bridges withdrew as the walls closed the chasm left behind, leaving the combatants locked in with one another and the strange cube that… Alder braced themselves as the cube suddenly zipped across the room and slammed into the wall, shaking the room with its resounding boom, then reversing and pulling back into the center. One would advise caution from getting hit by that thing, surely. Their posture relaxed as the room seemed to settle down, the passive tones of electrical machinery somehow forming into a voice.

“And so begins the Trial of the Hunted. Fight or Die, adventures, but let the Elemental Championships begin!”

Alder twirled their staff, tucking it under their arm to free the other one and make sure they had freedom of movement, eyes sweeping the floor to see who would make the first move. The odd looking lizard child to their right seemed to be one of the first to move… Darting straight for the center of the room towards that strange bronze cube. Clever, or reckless? It wasn’t yet clear what manner of hunt this was, or what kind of interaction incentivized the cube to move. Towards the far wall the monster was also moving, a straight line towards the small human Alder had mistaken for a child at first glance. Seemed the fighters in this arena sure were lively.

Alder themselves made a couple of slow, measured steps towards the central cube, eyes sweeping back and forth across the room… Vary of making the first move until they had a better feel for what they were working with.
Post #: 2
7/20/2022 19:28:02   

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a lone adventurer in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of an inn to stay in.

Which is exactly what Regina manages to secure, in the city known as Bren. She talks with the innkeeper, a nice old man who was baffled that she was both a human and not a child, an amusing side effect of her build and height. She used to take offense to it, when she was younger, but now she just limits her anger to people who don’t believe her after she says that she’s an adult and stop her from entering bars.

She doesn’t look much at the people or the city on the way to the inn, not really, because she is exhausted from the trip. Once she sits in her room and drinks some hibiscus lemon tea she personally brought from one of her travels, however, she’s relaxed enough to look out of the window.

Her inn is on a relatively high hill, and thus things appear very much smaller than they are- so she doesn’t rely on her sight, and puts it aside to listen instead.

The city spreads below her, and she hears the wheels of the wagons that the merchants drive, hears the wind blow beneath the laughter of children, beneath them excitedly talking about their expectations of the Elemental Championship. She hears sounds of scissors cutting threads, sounds of bartenders pouring their drinks, sounds of boiling stoves, sounds of cleavers cutting meat in a rhythm that turns all the previous sounds into an unexpected song. If there is anything she doesn’t hate about her restrictive, stifling upbringing, it’s that she had the chance to learn music and listen to it, and be able to find it in everything in her life.

But this is only a song for those who sit above people, who don’t need to mingle and fight for scraps, either out on the streets or within gilded halls. This is a song for the unbound, the free.

She’s only doing a mimicry of it now, because she will have to travel on the ground and talk to people again. Because she doesn’t have the freedom to travel wherever she wants to be, not really.


She could ask the Elemental Lords for true freedom, for a way not to just fly above everything- but to truly soar.

Regina enters the arena with a half full glass of mango juice, and tries to find somewhere to sit down and gauge the other contestants, after giving them all a quick cursory glance and being aware of their locations.

As someone with a preference for elevated places, her eyes immediately land on the cube in the middle of the factory. She uses Wind Steps to boost her speed and reach the cube before anyone else does- especially that short lizard-like person who is also going for the cube already.

Once she reaches that cube, Regina starts to think about her next course of action. She saw that cube move, and her teeth clacked after hearing it slam to the wall, so she can see that this cube won’t just be useful as a simple high place, but as an offensive force as well. She sits on it with her legs crossed, deciding to firmly stick herself to it when it moves with Wind Steps, but ready to jump back to action at any time.
Post #: 3
7/21/2022 12:03:05   

Softskins were always so very angry.

Even now, three of the local ones had congregated below in a fervor. Snottrap watched from his perch above as they gestured wildly with their arms and bellowed with beet-red faces to each other in one of their strange rituals. His legs swung idly over the side of the roof as their voices carried their way up to him.

“The little cretin has the handkerchief woven by my own nan, it was her last gift to me!” yelled the short softskin dressed in green. “I swear, if it’s done anything to it-”

“Yours is just sentimental, I’m actually losing something with actual worth!” interrupted the tall one with cascades of rainbow-colored hair. “I need my keys back, and I can’t just bust open the chest because it’s just as valuable as the contents inside!”

“Losing worth?” The lanky man holding a cleaver gave a sharp laugh. “He took my prized steak - a month of mine earnings and paid in advance last year! If I can’t deliver that steak…” He motioned the blade across his neck. “I’ll serve roast kobold as today’s special!””

The trio of softskins ranted and raved some more before eventually splitting up to scour their way through the town square. Snottrap watched them disappear into the crowds as he ripped another chunk free from the steak. He chewed for a moment before spitting the mouthful back out into the intricate handkerchief he had acquired that morning. Snottrap grunted - the steak had been spoiled by spices, not to mention ruined as all of the blood had been drained from it. He took another bite. Same result.

After a half-dozen more bites and spits, Snottrap had his fill. He neatly tied up the regurgitated mess of half-chewed meat in the silken handkerchief and tossed it into the hole of the tavern roof. Snottrap thought for a moment and tossed his most recently earned sets of keys in after it. Lightning had struck the tavern the night before - an odd occurrence due to the clear skies. But the charred wood made for a pleasant kobold bed, and the absence of softskins made for a perfect kobold hideaway. His fellow brethren had holed up within the tavern itself last night, though Gark, Gork, and Gurk had all been promptly koboldnapped when the city guard came for a midnight visit. Only Windcutter had managed to escape into a back alley, vowing on his life that he would free them.

At least, that’s what Snottrap thought he heard from the rooftop. It was difficult to understand Windcutter ever since he had decided to only shout his own name.

Snottrap stretched. More likely than not Windcutter now joined the others in a cell beneath the city. Either way, the rest of the kobold clan would not be seeing him off to this tournament. Snottrap bent low and wriggled his tail. There would be plenty of time for a prison rescue after he had won the Elemental Championships. He leaped from the roof, claws digging into the dangling sign that read “Plain and Simple”. The once beautiful floral patterns were charred black, and the sign itself was difficult to read as it now twirled round and round on account of the kobold clinging to it. After the fifth or sixth spin Snottrap dismounted from the sign with all the grace of a wingless gull. He bounced off the tavern’s wall, crashed into a nearby barrel of moglinberries, and tumbled across the street in a heap. Successfully on the ground, Snottrap stood up and dusted himself off, admiring the new moglinberry stains he had attained. Sucking on a purple patch on his vest, the proud kobold began his long march to the colosseum.

Today, the entire world would learn of the legendary feats of the -

“-Slayer of…dragonslayer…”

Snottrap’s vicious roar died to a whisper before it left his throat in awe of the arena. It stood gargantuan and daunting and wonderful.

Hungry lights of amber glowed all around the tower, illuminating the metal’s sheen of the floor and moving contraptions. Metal. Such good metal. Hard and unrelenting - so unlike the softskins that shared the arena. Snottrap bent down and stole a lick of the floor. Sharp and tasty. The kobold licked his chops. Once he had dispatched the others then he could take a bite for himself. As a treat. Snottrap dragged his eyes away from the floor and locked eyes onto the only enemy that mattered.

The Cube.

A fearsome entity, the Cube showed off its indomitable might and incredible speed by smashing into two walls in quick succession before settling itself back into the center of the arena, daring challengers to approach him.

Snottrap’s heart thrummed in his chest to the beat of war. This moment was his and his alone.

Shield clattered to the floor as the kobold drew the sword. Metal chimed against metal as the blade bounced and careened off the floor behind him in his charge. Snottrap - Slayer of DragonSlayer! - would cut down this behemoth as a testament to his strength and strike fear into the hearts of his opponents!

At least, that was the plan until the softskinned child outpaced him and stepped on the air itself to gingerly seat herself on the Cube.

Snottrap growled and pivoted on his heel to the right, chainmail cloak billowing behind him. The weak always flocked to the strong for protection. The kobold scowled as he continued to circle around his foes. The Cube made no motion to attack, confident in its own superiority to allow the enemy the first move.

Snottrap’s blood boiled beneath his scales.

“My name is Snottrap! Slayer of DragonSlayer!” The kobold dashed straight for the Cube again. He hefted his left arm back, Shield’s chain rattling behind him. “And today, I slay you!” With a swing, the makeshift flail lashed out at the metal behemoth. It clashed against the bronze surface with a sharp ring, though failed to leave any noticeable damage on it.

The Cube did not take this transgression lightly.

With a sudden spurt of speed, the Cube hurled itself at the Slayer. Snottrap’s heart skipped a beat and a panicked yipe escaped his throat as he threw himself to the side. By a narrow margin, the behemoth shot past the kobold, its sheer velocity sufficient to make his chainmail cloak ripple in its wake.

Snottrap jumped to his feet, heart steeled once more. “You can’t escape that easily!” Wrapping a handful of Shield’s chain around his fist, the kobold sprinted after his prey.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 4
7/21/2022 20:21:56   

The Exudation turned his head to the sun, eyes closed, enjoying the warmth on his skin. He treasured the rare moments like this because-

“Tool. Come here.”

They rarely lasted. His eyes snapped open and he walked over to the Chief. “Yes, Chief?”

“Pay attention.” The older Shtaratahn ordered brusquely. The man resumed speaking, but the Exudation immediately tuned him out. He’d heard it all before, far too many times. Blah blah blah ‘abomination’ yadda yadda yadda ‘must be cleansed’.

“So, you understand what must be done.”

“Yes Chief. After these Elemental Championships, the Vevalartraidan will be an issue for the Shtaratahn no more.”

The Exudation stood alone on a hill overlooking Bren, enjoying the sun on his face. For once he was simply left to it, no-one to chastise or reprimand. He allowed himself a wry smile, “Well what do I expect? I know where I stand.”

He looked down at the city sprawling beneath him, sounds of bustling industry rising to his ears, albeit muted by the distance. The Exudation found himself apprehensively wringing his hands, even from this distance, the sheer number of people he could see was overwhelming. He shook his head. “Get a grip… If you’re going to do this, you’ll need to deal with a lot more than a throng of strangers.” He exhaled a few times to calm himself and headed down into the city.

Among the busy streets of Bren, it was simplicity itself to tell the locals apart from those who had travelled in: The locals would spare him at most a single glance, long since inured against the strangeness of those who came to compete, while those from out of town gawked and stared, though the Exudation paid both groups no heed.

His path was inexorable, heading towards the Arena. He hadn’t bothered with signing up, he knew it wasn’t necessary. Bren was young, all told. But the Arena and the Championships were old. The people running around within were little more than custodians, tending to an entity that lay in service to the highest powers.

No-one questioned him, or attempted to block his path and suddenly the cacophony of voices from those set to watch ceased all at once. Stone gave way to metal- That’s bronze, I think- and harsh light bore down on The Exudation as his feet moved ever onwards. Soon, he came to an iron door that sat still.

A palpable tension seemed to enter the air “The calm before the storm…” he muttered to himself, then drew both pairs of hands together, and made a brief prayer in the Old Tongue. “Karaluman, pataret ko nalatet, korodel ko maramai, madrai jures.” (Father Light, bless me and praise me, lighten me and brighten me, I am beholden to your will.)

“Father, I have to ask you, is it really a good idea to let that thing into the Championships?”

“It is a tool of ours, my son. Nothing more and nothing but. And a tool that has accomplished its purpose is exactly as useful to us as a tool that could not.”

“Which is to say, of absolutely no use to us at all?”

“Precisely. Naturally, we would dispose of such tools.”

“Ah. Then I am assuaged. Thank you father. We will avenge my sister.”

The door before him swung open and The Exudation stepped out onto a small bridge, the seeming only sound a pervasive hum. He could see others stepping across similar bridges, but didn’t have time to take anyone in when the clatter-clank of gears surging into motion began to dominate the senses. The bridges fell away and the walls closed in as a large cube emerged from the arena’s centre.

A sudden Clack! and the cube raced to smash into a wall, before flying the other way to smash into the opposite wall, then finally returning to its starting point. The hum that had existed before grew louder and shifted, seeming to form words that bored into The Exudation’s mind. “Trial of the Hunted, eh? Does that make us the Hunted and the Cube the Hunter?”

He looked around to properly take stock of the other combatants. To his left was a wisp of a woman, but his gut told him there was more to her than met his eye. With no-one beyond her he swung his gaze back to, at his immediate right, a young man who looked like he needed at least a week of sleep, then some manner of small… creature. The Exudation wasn’t sure what it was.

Next was a pale young woman who seemed to have decided that taking the high ground was the best tactic, as she moved- very fast- to take a perch atop the cube. Finally, one last competitor lay directly across the cube from himself, and The Exudation wasn’t sure what to make of them, as it seemed like someone had taken the basis of a Shtaratahn and corrupted it heavily, though he couldn’t resolve the details too well from so far away.

Suddenly the small creature shouted out into the arena and The Exudation frowned. It almost seemed like it- had it really called itself ‘Snottrap’?- was… addressing the Cube of all things. Puzzled, he watched as the creature ran towards the cube and, indeed, lashed out at the cube rather than the woman atop it..

The response was immediate. The Cube shot towards the direction it had been hit from at the same speeds it had demonstrated before, the small creature barely getting itself out of the way of the barreling object. The little creature, for its part, seemed undeterred, drawing itself up and chasing its prey.

Having learned the nature of the Cube’s movements- or so he assumed, anyway- The Exudation stopped to take stock of the light level in the arena. “Hmm… not the brightest of places… but far from dark, either. Well, let’s start off small and see where we go from here…” The sleep-needing man to his right, who had taken a few steps forward and the woman to his left.

The Exudation raised both of his lower arms, pointing their palms towards those two nearby combatants and then he exuded. First from the left hand, then from the right, in swift succession two arrows of light shot forth. “We all have our reasons to be here… I hope you all at least got to choose so.” he muttered to no-one in particular.

"Stafa, skel skatan?"
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 5
7/21/2022 23:24:48   

How many times had she made this journey in her lifetime? How many more generations would have to suffer solely due to her existence?

…How many more would she lose to this lands’ permanent Winter?

“Fly, my Child. No longer shall this life be a burden. You are free.”

All who she came to care for were her Children, no matter their age.
She, who stood before one more unmarked grave.
She, who had witnessed countless succumb to the cruel sting of the Cold.
She, who had grown numb to the passing of others…

When would it stop?


Step by agonizing step, she made her way back to her village, certain that this would be the one that pushed the inhabitants over the edge…

But it wasn’t. The reaction to her presence was the same as it always had been. Welcoming, warm smiles and pleasant greetings weighing heavily on her heart as they always had.
The village was on the brink of collapse, a once thriving community reduced to just a few dozen people…

So why?

Why was she still accepted?

Why were the last remnants of the town so adamant on making sure she felt welcome?

It didn’t make any sense…


It was an odd day.

An outsider had visited the village. This didn’t happen very often, if at all.

And yet? Here they were, a red-haired woman wearing an outfit that definitely wasn’t appropriate for the unending frost, surrounded by captivated onlookers as she regales them with tales of a large city that hosts yearly tournaments.

None of these tales particularly caught Eirin’s interest, until the traveler mentioned the potential reward from the championship typically held in something called “Summer”...

Whatever that was.

“Is that true, Miss? The Championship’s reward, I mean.”

Eirin was content with the wanderer’s response of a simple nod and a smile. The chance to right her wrongs had been conveniently placed in front of her… and she would be a fool not to seize it while she could.

She would leave before sunrise, making sure to minimize the risk of being spotted by anyone else. It would be too awkward of a conversation for her otherwise, anyway.


Arriving in a large city like Bren for the first time was… an experience. It had been so long since Eirin had felt something other than the soft crunch of snow beneath her feet. Even the hard stone floor brought her a weird sense of happiness and the soft, warm breeze that gently brushed against her was almost enough to cause her to want to stand in the same spot for the rest of time.

That wasn’t an option, however, not now. Not when everything was on the line like this. Eirin took a few steps forwards with a frantic pounding in her chest, her grip getting tighter and tighter around her sword with each step.

“Calm your nerves, girl, you won’t get far being jittery like this.”

With a soft whisper, she consoled herself in the middle of a busy street, the countless inhabitants of Bren passing by Eirin without much of a care in the world. She was so used to having eyes on her at all times, but now? Now she was just another person moving with the crowd.

And it felt wonderful


She almost humored her urge to poke her nose into a couple of buildings on the way to the main destination, but decided against it at the last second. She had a place to be, after all, and being late wouldn’t give off a good first impression. Hastening her pace, Eirin found her way to the building described by the red-haired traveler, eventually reaching her goal.
Clearing her throat, Eirin grabbed the attention of the clerk, giving them a bow of the head as a sign of respect

“A good day to you, I was informed that I would be able to put my name forward to join a tournament here, is that correct?”

Perhaps taken aback by her polite demeanor, the clerk sat in silence for a brief moment before quickly stammering out an answer

“Y-yeah! Just need your name and you’ll be good to go.”


“Right, well. That’s all! Good luck, and be safe.”

And with that, the Clerk turned away from Eirin, going back to her tasks before she had arrived. With another soft bow of the head, she took her leave, heading towards her next goal.


”You remember your training, right?”

“Of course, Father. To master both the Blade, and the Mist is the final test.”

“Indeed, my child, our art is a sacred practice that only few have ever, truly, mastered. Are you sure you wish to carry on its legacy, and the burdens it will bring?”

“I am. It would be my honour.”


Eirin found herself stood before a large, metal door, the faint sound of something whirring coming from behind it. This was it, behind this door lay her one chance of redemption.

Her one chance of making things right

And she wasn’t going to let anyone else take it.

With a loud creak, the door slowly swung open, revealing a short bridge, and beyond that? The arena where her dreams could come true.

From the bridge, she stepped down onto the hard, metal floor, and immediately began to weigh up the competition she would have to overcome.
A Towering, Grey figure, who looked more stone than person.
A short, thin, pale woman, who belonged to the Sea.
A small, rat-like warrior, ready to pounce at a moments’ notice
A tall, tired looking man, who seemed to be at the brink of exhaustion.
And a Large, 4-armed, translucent being, who Eirin couldn’t get a good read on.

She paused, looking down at her hand that clutched her blade tightly. Was she ready for this? It was certainly a strange bunch she had found herself facing, and she couldn’t be too sure on any of their abilities yet.

“And so begins the Trial of the Hunted. Fight or Die, adventures, but let the Elemental Championships begin!”

And with that, a few combatants had already begun their movements, with them immediately looking to draw first blood, or maybe even something more. Eirin would have been happy to simply observe to begin with, but the large, 4-armed figure appeared to have other plans.

Eirin couldn’t quite make out what they were muttering, but she did understand the dangers of the projectile that had suddenly been sent her way. With a heavy step towards it, Eirin thrusts out her right arm, a burst of visibly cold air suddenly surging forth from her very being as a large, snowflake-shaped shield materializes on her arm, causing the arrow to dissipate on contact.
With a deep breath, she slowly brings the shield down to her side, a thin mist beginning to snake around her form, almost like it was attempting to protect her.
Gone was her dress, now replaced with a brilliant silver breastplate with a snowflake-like sigil etched into the very center of it..

Raising her other arm up, she holds the bladeless sword towards The Exudation, speaking aloud so they, and whoever else may have been listening, could clearly hear her.

“I am Eirin. Known as ‘She who Drifts among Blizzards. May we learn from this confrontation, and grow as Warriors!”
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 6
7/22/2022 10:16:52   

Sunbeams danced behind her eyelids, falling to her from somewhere far, far above. She opened her eyes and saw a cloth, unmistakably purple, which wild winds let billow and dance like a flag. It was a tapestry showing a creature with wild black wings and many talons, many horns. She moved her small hand past, and looked up to see the top of the valley from which sharp light poured through. Sandfalls rushed in through the sides and tall black towers crossed the sky.

Sunbeams danced, filtering through a lush canopy of leaves, falling on feather, eye and earth. The air hung heavy with the scent of grass, and overripe fruit half eaten.

Three lonely stars shone on a slow rippling sea of reeds, their hum second to the brisk yell of the sea as it raged against sharp rock.

Ribali awoke to darkness.

A lone lantern hung from the cave ceiling. She rested her palm on it, running her thumb over the beads of glass and shards that made up skies and stars on its surface.

She rarely dreamed of colour these days. She dreamed of distant sounds deep in the cave, of the droplets of water falling the ceiling in a set rhythm, of the rasping and desperate ripples as a fish tried to avoid being caught. Of hums from even deeper below. But not colour. And though the dream was already slipping through her fingers like fine sand into the warmth of her cavern, blurs and feelings remained, making her darkness a shade less black. A smile twitched up her lip.

She worried that she’d lost them.

The dim heat of her breath set her flute alight as she reached into one of her bags, each holding sand infused with different minerals for tint. It was so long since she could tell which one was which, but she persevered, anyway. The one that felt smooth and silky had to be pink, smooth like petals and coral. Perhaps the one that felt cold and flowing was the colour of water, and the one scratching her skin was red, like her flame. In her hands, with the same gentle and careful touch they always had, she formed the glass into shapes. A bubble gave to a branch, to a tree, and she leant in, teeth bared and breath held, as her claws carved in the cracks of bark, the veins of leaves, and the feathers of birds. She created a deer of brown glass, and rested it aside. She created the most beautiful wolf of silver. Deer… deer had wings, did they not? They must have, she reasoned, as she shaped out each feather with her claws. She knew what she remembered.

A head, and shoulders. Two legs, two arms, and hair of flowing warmth. A human, she grinned as she placed the figurine into her sea of grass and admired the scene until she knew every crevice, every imperfection, every strand of hair and blade of grass, every crystal, until she could piece it together in her mind and see. Another human, far from the first, this one with short hair and feathers to line the shoulders. But when she placed them near a river, she couldn’t help but stare, maw frozen in a tired smile.

Her masterpiece was almost done. So why did the thought fill her with dread?

All that was left to do now was the sky full of moons and clouds of curled, silver tinted glass. Or perhaps stars… Stars. What did they look like, again? Specks. Clouds… The words were right there, the images fled her when she tried to grasp them, leaving nothing but the dark behind for a few moments before she grasped them again. She held the marble up to her head, and rested her forehead against it. Every scene needed a sky. Everyone needed the sun.

Everyone except her.

But once she’d close the sky... Ribali stood, walking over to the stone outcropping where the lone lantern hung. Under it rested her three marbles. She ghosted her hands over each, feeling, seeing nothing but a smooth glass surface.

The first one she made with a storm of quartz within, with dunes and deep valleys and a moon that burnt.

The second, made of lush forests and flowering blossoms.

The third, where she had tried something new, and chiseled each rock into a sharp, smooth surface that she would never feel again.

How do you cry when there are no eyes to weep from? Instead, the creature snarled, and let out a horrible scream, one that bounced off the walls.

It was time to go.

Ribali pressed her palms together, feeling the last shreds of old magic knit themselves between her fingers. She thought of things far above, melted iron hearts of stars and worlds. Two rings of debris and starlight found their way around her, and she sheathed her Flute within one’s light. Longingly, she moved her hand over the three marbles for one last time, as if hoping that she’d somehow find something new on their thousand-crossed glass surfaces. But every imperfection and crack was just as they were moments ago, and they refused to tell her anything else. She decided to keep them close to her heart, as they’d always been.

She gave one last look to the unfinished marble before scoffing and turning away, but the pins in her heart spoke of something else.

She knelt, and held it between her hands. She drew in on the last celestial flame within her chest, and let a deep exhale into the marble’s glass. Glitter and warmth swirled and rested on every colourful blade of grass, on every sharp growing crystal, and on the two humans. Then, she willed the sky closed. She placed it under the lantern to let it cool. With one last look into the darkness where it rested, Ribali left for the surface.

May you be safe. May someone find you, someday.

She pushed against the metal covering, dug her claws in the spaces between. Did they build over her? Did they bury her? With a feeling of burning in her muscles, she managed to get the damned metal to fall. The harsh noise made her tendrils flinch. She heard more noises. Ones she could tell were voices. Loud, ugly, high-pitched voices. She lashed out with her tail, and heard a satisfying thump, and then a thud that reverberated through the ground. Then, she heard the sounds of struggle, prey scrambling to her feet as she rose to her full height.

She let them go.

Though she couldn’t see it, the sun was shining on her. She felt its warmth, its lively rays that never quite felt as slow and heavy as the heat of lava’s flow, and didn't feel like the humid warmth of her own breath. Soon, there were new sounds, new things the earth was telling her. More were to come, ten, perhaps. Heavier than the ones she sent flying. But she did not move, fascinated by the breeze.

It was cold. It was moving. It flew with so much more than the dome of a cavern to see. It was free.

Her back suddenly felt so much heavier she was about to drop back down to her hands.

Their voices grew louder, and meant and said nothing still. What did mean something, though, was a javelin. Without a word the Maiden turned and swiped, deflecting the weapon and throwing it aside. Another swipe had the daring human’s collar in her hands. She leaned in, feeling the heat. She opened her maw and considered, for a moment… then decided to speak. But out came a croak. Words…

It was so long since she has spoken, the meaning escaping her as she tried to weave it into a word, and probably was expanding on the soldier’s already enormous impending therapy bill.

“...Wish…?” Ribali rasped, the effort making the word sound almost uncanny. “Wish.” She repeated after getting no answer, and this time, she could finally understand the garble of someone else’s words. Eleymeyal campion? Element… She let that one go so that they could recover from their newly gained traumatic experience. The words were hard to grasp, as if she’d heard them without ever knowing them. Or perhaps she did, once. Why would she even learn such complicated words? The words filled her with the same strength the earth brimmed with, the same energy the air was full of, and so they had to be what she was looking for.

She stalked.

There was no one to give such a false sense of security to by being upright, like them. The onlookers, quiet save for hushed whispers, deserved no such grace. They were just as the miners she had met earlier, though when that earlier was she couldn’t really place. Loud, disruptive, and having no dignity in dying when her tail lanced their hearts. She preferred the glass humans she had made. They were quiet. They were hers.

She would curse the human noise until it was gone.

She didn’t miss it.

But it filled up the silence she didn’t realize she was so used to. Now there was just the stone and her, and Ribali’s claw dragged along its surface, making marks. Marking them. Not at all listening to the screeching sound and spark glass made against rock to know that she is no longer underground, that this rock is different. Somehow not old and unmarred until she came.

Her claw hit metal, and through it she felt the earth-voice of something distant. Something enormous. Carrying many tiny legs, like insects, but so much different. The voice was so much clearer now, and as Ribali walked, she couldn’t help but straighten, her four hands dragging across the smooth walls and examining every lightbulb. They were made of glass. Glass holding almost no imperfections at all, just like the rock she met earlier. And though she couldn’t see it, they had to blink with light like a slow heartbeat with how warmth buzzed in them every few moments.

Ribali wondered what colour their light was. She wondered if it bounced off the walls.

Light did that, didn’t it?

She tried to remember the way light bounced, until a slight scratch in the floor warned her of a door. Iron. Simple. With no bulbs. Ribali frowned. But behind it was a hum she really wanted to hear, and so she pressed her forehead and palms into it and listened. She felt clicking deep inside the metal, and wondered if it was much more intricate under that opaque smoothness. And as if her touch willed it to open, what she felt were locks opening. Her weight pushed the door in, and she nearly stumbled.

Her maw gapped open in awe as she stared at nothing, tendrils shuddering in anticipation.

The clicks and vibrations of something of which was many, of somethings that worked together in synchrony, each movement sending ripples through the metal bridge she laid step after step on, each full and slow, to soak into the sound and listen. It was distant to her, but definitely there. The room must have been enormous.

Then a deep sound sent drumming through her feet, and the machine changed its pace. Something was happening in the center of this all, something heavy rising to the surface. Hungrily, Ribali rested her palms on the cold, metallic floor, feeling as it sapped her warmth and took it, and escaped from the heavy drumming she felt from behind. She wanted, needed to know what this treasure in the center was, and no amount of willing herself to see would break past the darkness for her. The sudden stop sent a violent ripple through her, so much louder than the voice of the earth as it moved deep below, though not different.

The Cube in the center finally spoke up. She followed its trajectory from one heavy slam to another, taking guesses as to what its size must have been.

And just as soon as it spoke it quieted, the ringing in her bones resting enough for her to realize that she was not alone. To her side stood quiet and vacancy. Emptiness she did not need. To her other, she felt nothing, and for a moment her heart froze under the thought of being alone. But then they shifted, and the heaviness dissolved. A strange sensation filled her chest after so many years of silence. She knew a name for it, once. But her tendrils fanned and her nostrils flared and the air was full of life and the earth was full of life and Ribali's tail flicked to this side and that in agitation.

And so begins the Trial of the Hunted.

Ribali smirked, not yet turning towards the one she chose for her prey.

Fight or Die, adventures, but let the Elemental Championships begin!

No sooner than the final syllable sounded she leapt. She saw it clear in her body, more than her mind. Claws raking at the opponent and tearing her to shreds. But her hand brushed her flute and gripped, remembering that hold. Was that how she used to fight things that weren’t animal?

Ribali landed heavy on two, leaving skid marks in the smooth metal floor. She swiped her Flute at the place she heard the quiet one last, voice rasping with what she hoped to be grace.


But her Flute struck only air. In confusion, Ribali listened, frustration bubbling within her armored chest. Did she already lose her prey? Was she being toyed with? Where did the quiet one go? She listened, palm to the floor, and heard…

A particularly high pitched yell. A clack. And then the unmistakable whistle and drum of something very heavy careening swiftly forward. On her hands like a startled cat, Ribali jumped up and away, narrowly missing a head-on strike from the bronze behemoth, its edge brushing her Flute and sending a xylophone clear note out. Her tendrils fanned as the maiden screeched, her tail swinging full force against the one that hurt her flute, obsidian biting into metal.

Her claws dug deep as she felt it change direction and careen off against the wall she felt more steps from. Have fun.


Ribali sped against the pitter-patter step of the one that dared to send the Cube after her, Flute momentarily forgotten and resting by her side.


She opened her maw wide, hoping to snap her teeth on flesh and bone.

DF  Post #: 7
7/24/2022 16:49:55   

It took all of half a moment for the arena to become pure chaos. The human looking child walked through the air onto the cube while the crocodile looking child announced itself as Snottrap (by design or by some cosmic joke, there never was a more fitting name for a creature) and then threw a sword at it. The reverberating gong of metal meeting metal drew Alder’s eyes. As soon as the force transferred to that giant cube it began to move towards its attacker, curious… Some insight into the workings of that metal instrument that seemingly was part of this trial. It was in the name, was it not? Trial of the hunted. It stood to reason then, that the cube would move towards whatever it was that struck it, no? Although the line it took as the little crocodile child jumped out of the way didn’t show much in terms of sentience. An automatic defensive response…

”Your name? Alderbaran means The One Who Follows. I gave it to you because I wished for you to always follow your dreams, no matter how rough things may seem, no matter how much strife we go through, we must always strive to reach them.”

“What is a dream?”
A curious young Alderbaran asked

”A dream? Well, it can be many things. The visions we see at night granted to us by the veil of sleep is one kind of dream, I always like to think they are premonitions granted to us by the stars, we only need interpret them to understand what the stars are telling us” their mother paused then, looking contemplative for a moment.
”But a goal, an ideal that you wish to reach sometime in the future, without plans of how or a set timeframe, just something one longs for to the deepest depths of one’s heart is also a dream. Do you understand?” She smiled towards them, a soothing warm hand stroking over their forehead and brushing strands of hair out of their face.

”Hmm… I suppose so” The sleepy Alder responded, even though they really didn’t understand it at all. It seemed too big a thing for them to fully comprehend, but the comfort of the bed was too alluring, the weight of their eyelids too persuasive to continue this line of questioning. They’d surely have more answers tomorrow.

Instinct drew their eyes to the other side, they’d been too caught up in watching the chaotic upper half of the arena to pay much attention to what was going on on their left. Thankful for whatever had made them glance for the creature nearest to Alder raised their hands and somehow shot out bolts of what seemed like pure light from their palms. Out of pure reflex Alder raised their staff and placed it between themselves and the bolt… Stupid! How’s a wooden staff going to stop light?! Though… Somehow it did! The arrow struck against the haft of their wooden staff as Alder’s body swayed away from the attack, taking a half step backwards to shift the weight of the attack away from them while they put pressure on their staff, with that push altering the arrow’s course just a couple of degrees out, enough to send it flying away from where it had intended to hit, crackling along the length of the wooden implement and scouring a deep groove in the material. Gods darnit that was surely going to cause them splinters later... Alder’s hairs stood on end and their heart raced in their chest. Damnit, this is bad… Calm down, we can’t pass out here!

They took a breath, centered themselves and looked back towards their aggressor.

”Oi oi! Did no-one tell you it’s rude to attack someone from behind?! I wasn’t even looking at y-”

Their rant was cut short by the sound of another resounding gong~ reverberating through the arena. What were those people up there doing to that cube?! Daring a quick glance over their shoulder… Oh no… The arrow they’d sent away had struck it, and now the bronze cube was careening towards Alder at terrifying speed. Why was it there in the first place?! Who’d sent it towards Alder’s wall?! They must have missed something while trying to parry that arrow. Considering the mass of that cube, it really would be ill advised to get hit by it! Time to think quickly! All this stress and pressure right out of the gate was really not good… Perhaps they could use the cube to their advantage and get some cover to calm their fraying nerves. From previous observation the cube would move in a straight line until it was stopped by a wall, or someone altered its trajectory.

All that in mind, Alder made a dash for the corner of the room. In just a couple of seconds the cube™ would give them a moment's reprieve as it would serve as a wall of bronze between themself and both of the combatants on that same wall. Putting their plan into action they barely managed to make it past that horrifying bronze behemoth as it moved level with them. Inches from being flattened Alder let out a deep breath, heart thundering in their chest and their vision blurry... This is good... As long as there were no more surprises, Alder should be able to stave off a sleeping spell. That is, of course, not accounting for the fact that Alder might have missed a potential threat riding the cube. Because let’s be honest noone would be dumb or crazy enough to do that in an arena fight to the death.
Post #: 8
7/24/2022 17:01:22   

Atop the cube, in the moments when she isn't almost getting smacked into the walls, Regina makes neat little assessments of the other contestants.

The human in the blue and gold cloak that is hiding in the corner behind the cube now looks so pathetic that she would feel bad about killing them, and since they're being harmless for now, she'll let them be. When the high priority dangers are gone, she'll deal with them relatively easily and like, squeeze them out the entrances of the arena.

Another creature she'd gladly toss out of the entrances is Snottrap, less out of mercy, and more out of the fact that having someone who is shorter and more idiotic than her is inspiring her to bully him thoroughly, preferably by hitting him with the flat side of her blade and sending him flying to the entrances, like he's the world's biggest and ugliest golf ball.

The two gray four-armed monsters, however, will have to go. The one with amber eyes and white pants is clearly here to get straight into business, even if he seems to be forced to do it, with the mutter that Regina picked up with her connection to the wind. She empathizes with his plight, but she won't die by his hands.

The other monster, with horns in place of eyes, is also dangerous because she tried to attack Regina before she reached the cube, but she is less urgent than the other one for two reasons:

First, she looked confused when Regina flew away to the cube, as if she no longer knew where Regina was- and considering that she doesn't have eyes, it may be possible that the way she senses things around her doesn't work when Regina is on top of the cube, which means that Regina has a relatively safe escape area.

Second, she seems to have decided to battle Snottrap, which is clearly going to be a legendary battle going by how they're both clearly feral, gods bless their hearts.

Another battle that seems interesting, however, is the one brewing between the one with amber eyes and Eirin, who announced her name and title to everyone. Looking at her makes Regina's bones ache from cold, as Regina's lack of fat insulation makes her quite weak to it. She is definitely not going to fight Eirin- hopefully the one with amber eyes finishes her before Regina has to.

In the end, Regina sees that the only battle partner available to her now is the pathetic human, but to be honest, she isn't sure how to motivate herself to fight them just yet.

And so, she decides to taunt them. She says, "Why are you here? Everyone has done at least one action, but you're just hiding. Do you really think that you can survive this championship in your little corner? You have to impress the Elemental Lords themselves, you know."

C'mon, do something stupid so that I can feel comfortable killing you in your weakness.

As an extra incentive, Regina smacks the side of the cube that is facing the pathetic human with her sword, prompting the cube to come running straight at them, all while she cackles.
Post #: 9
7/25/2022 19:24:37   

The Exudation’s gut feeling had been right. The wispy woman took a step in his direction and frost poured forth into the shape of a shield on her arm, which his exudation ricocheted off of.

Sleepy meanwhile had been focusing on what else was occurring in the arena and seemed to only happen to glance back as the exudation shot forth. Obviously startled, the man threw his staff forwards and was able to use it to deflect the bolt away.

Good, good, both are capable enough… but who do I actually focus on?

The wispy woman- Eirin, she called herself- spoke forth a challenge, while Sleepy seemed mostly just annoyed he’d been assaulted while preoccupied.

But then the arrow The Exudation had sent at Sleepy collided with The Cube and it immediately began to barrel their way and both men began moving at once. Sleepy ran for the corner of the room, while The Exudation went the opposite direction, so he had more space to work with.

He noted that the Cube Rider was still atop her perch, but decided she was a matter for later: He wasn’t going to just ignore a perfectly good challenge.

She gave me her name, huh?

He offered Eirin a smile, but it was not joy that crept into his face, but old sorrow.

“I’m sorry Eirin, I’d gift you my name as you have so kindly gifted me yours, but I was never afforded such a kindness. So please just call me The Exudation of Radiance.”

So how do I want to go about this? She has ice powers and that hilt she’s holding is suspicious… but I don’t want to play my cards too early. Wait and see, I think.

The Exudation raised his top arms into a fighting pose, while his lower arms remained down by his side where he’d left them since firing off the pair of exudations as he advanced on the woman.

“Grow as warriors, huh?” The Exudation’s sorrowful smile now crept into his voice. “I don’t think there’s growth of any kind allowed to me at this point.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 10
7/26/2022 0:00:45   

Snottrap’s eyes trailed the Cube as it hurled itself to the right after being struck by the tail of the towering giant. A following smack from the softskin child atop it proved sufficient to send it barreling towards the opposite end of the arena. The kobold’s neck strained to keep the Cube in sight. A big stupid lumbering behemoth with a cowardly coward hiding upon it to guide its big stupid lumbering self. His nostrils flared. None of these cretins had the makings of a true champion, not like Slayer of DragonSlayer! Snottrap turned his eyes forward-

-as an eyeless face with a maw of glistening glass descended upon him.

The fearless Slayer threw up Sword with a piercing scream. His little beating heart threatened to burst in his chest as crystalline fangs gnashed against the golden buckler. The four-armed giant rose to its full height, lifting the kobold off his feet with ease as its teeth cracked and splintered on the metal. Snottrap’s legs flailed in the air…

Rows of shimmering white fangs came crashing down upon the kobold. The deafening roar of the living mountain drowned out his whimpering cries. Trapping him between walls of slick wet walls of flesh, the dragon hoisted him off his feet.

“No!” Snottrap squirmed, but neither arms nor legs could find any purchase within the dragon’s jaws. “I’m not done! I’m not done! I-”

A breath of frost from the dragon’s throat itched his nostrils.

A speck of glass from the giant’s mouth tickled his nose.







Twin spurts of tar shot from the kobold’s nostrils. The sticky goo splattered across the giant’s snout, marring its grey with blotches of glossy black. It reared back with a shriek, thrashing back and forth at the unexpected counterattack.

Snottrap’s heart swelled in his chest.

Arm still strapped to Sword, the Slayer remained immovable. Indomitable! His scream warped to a laugh as he swung through the air. On the upswing of one arc, his face nearly brushed against that of the giant’s. “Indomitable!” With a snap, Snottrap latched onto the giant’s snout with his own. Heated blood boiled up through the puncture marks of his fangs as the taste of iron filled his mouth. Hot and delicious and perfect for consumption. A softskin - no - even a kobold would have been scalded by such intensity. But he was no regular kobold! “ I amsh Shhnotrapsh, Shlayer hof-”

The sudden snap of his buckler’s strap cut his declaration short.

One moment he was clasped onto the giant’s snout - the next, he was soaring through the air. The arena became a blur of lights and shapes streaking before his eyes. Bronze floor. Translucent abomination. Churning machiner. Blue yet not blue spirit. A boxy behemoth…

boxy behemoth?


Snottrap tumbled across the ground in a heap, knocking his jaw and both elbows in the process. He spit out a loose tooth before raising his gaze to his one true foe. The child still rode atop her companion, calling the shots for the dullard. Snottrap’s claws screeched against the floor as he curled them into fists. The giant almost made him lose sight of his true enemy! Gibbering to himself, the kobold clamped onto Shield with his mouth and dug into one of his pockets. He pulled out an array of sparkling gemstones and scattered them on the floor behind him. Let the giant trip on that if it dared to hamper his hunt any longer. Scampering on all four legs, the legendary kobold ignored the building aches and pursued once more after his worthy adversary.

Today he would prove himself!

And this time, the world would believe him!
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 11
7/26/2022 8:47:34   

”Now, Eirin. What have I taught you?”

A young girl was kneeling in the center of a large, dimly-lit room, left hand held in the right as she slowly rubbed her thumb across the mark left on the back of her hand.

“...To always be respectful.”

It wasn’t her fault, though! One of the other trainees had struck her hand while she was preoccupied with an honorable duel against one of her seniors… The fact that the perpetrator was lying in the infirmary and instead of a crumpled heap on the floor was a testament to Eirin’s patience.

At least, she liked to think so.

Eirin silently kept watch of the large figure, her grip on her weapon tightening and her heartbeat beginning to pick up. It was strange, no matter how long her life had been? She couldn’t ever get used to the feeling of a long-dead piece of her reviving on the occasion.

The snow woman took a sharp inhale, and a deep exhale, her frosted breath clearly visible as it escaped from her and into the world. The slow pulsing had stopped, she needn’t get so excited from the very idea of a worthy fight, it would lead to a misstep…

And missteps lead to an early grave.

She made a mental note to remember the warriors’ title, repeating it several times to make sure she wouldn’t be able to forget it. It was, after all, all he had, as he wasn’t fortunate enough to have been given a true name to call his own.

Information came in all different shapes and sizes, and this one happened to be on the more tragic end of the spectrum.

There was something behind the smile The Exudation had given her that seemed… off. Perhaps she was simply used to the ones the villagers showed her, but this simple act that almost always was a way to show one’s happiness was so, undeniably,


…Was it something she had done? Was her kindness a foreign concept to this being? She wasn’t sure, how could she be?
If it was anything that was related to her, she’d have to apologize afterwards. She couldn’t afford to lose concentration, especially not when they were, seemingly, moments away from engaging in combat, as the rest of the contestants had already done so.

“I don’t think there’s growth of any kind allowed to me at this point.”

These words resonated with something inside of Eirin, something she had buried deep long, long ago.
She, too, once believed those words, that she had reached the point where she had reached her potential… That something, or someone, was holding her back.

“I have learned many a lesson in my long life. If I may share one with you, it is that growth is inescapable, and endless. No matter the circumstance, there is always room for one to grow.”

She paused, another deep breath fell from her as she readied her shield, slowly easing into a defensive combat stance.

“While sharing experiences and philosophies can be considered a type of combat, I’m quite sure the audience would start getting restless if we didn’t cross blades. I can only hope that one as rusty as I can provide a worthy challenge.”

And with that, three medium-length shards of ice materialized above Eirin in a neat triangular shape. However, much like their creator, they remained still, the woman’s dissonantly coloured eyes locked to The Exudation’s slow approach.

She had to prove herself.

She had to win.

She had to. For them
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 12
7/27/2022 9:19:24   

They called those days the Eyes - the days where the storms of Rem quieted and sunlight peered through the cracks in the gray sky, golden and warm. Soft threads of falling sand drifted down from the top of their ravine, much different from the usual heavy sandfalls that followed a storm. Amit watched it drift and settle against her open hands. The words of their Elder were more of a background hum to her. The rare light bouncing off the grains made them golden and harmless, and besides, she’d heard this story countless times before.

Once, the Giants roamed the surface. They dug so deep and so wildly they split the world in two. In desperation they built the tall, humming black towers that hold the ground together and chase the sandfalls away from our homes.

Sometimes, staring down into the depths, she wondered if they were looking for Gods deep underground.

A shriek of pure fear let her know the prey finally noticed the gaping maw ahead of them. She relished in it for the short moment that she could, her tendrils twitching in anticipation. Then her teeth ground hard against steel, shrieking against the metal, the horrible sound sending shudders down her spine. She snarled deeply and her tail flicked from one side to the other. She couldn’t understand why the small ones were so adamant on protecting themselves against something as inevitable as her. She would find it amusing if she didn’t feel her fangs cracking and chipping under the pressure, didn’t feel the sharp, glittering dust cut at her skin.

You… Glassbreaker…

Ribali rose to her full height, lifting the creature as if it weighed nothing.

Let me get a good look at you.

The corners of her mouth curled into a smirk as her hand moved to meet the creature. She felt struggle as it flailed in the air, trying to escape her. She felt scales, she felt warmth. She felt… A breath.

A breath followed by a sneeze of disgusting, heated ooze.

She remembered the last time she felt such fire, remembered a blinding flash, a swipe, and then nothing but the blaze clinging and searing.

Nothing but the dark.

She thrashed against the heat, begging to get it off. She stumbled back. Her eyes, her eyes, she had to protect her eyes. Claws of obsidian flew up and clawed at the darkness that muffled her and made it hard to breathe. But the blackness was insistent and stuck to her claws and fingers, burnt in her new scratches, hardening into a brittle rock.

The many scents of the room were gone. The metallic tang of the copper disturbed by the Cube and the heat and iron of her own blood, both replaced by a heavy, pungent stink that covered everything else. She couldn’t drown. She couldn’t lose where she was. Her heart deafened any sound coming through. She was alone. Ribali screamed, bringing her shaking claws down against her snout. She felt pain like a thousand tiny stinging bugs, burning, searing-

“I amsh Shhnotrapsh, Shlayer hof-”

Sound. She could still hear. She wasn’t lost to the nothing. Her mind snapped after the sound, holding on to it. the world cleared just enough for her to throw her head viciously to the side with a heavy snort of her own. Then she heard the sound of something snapping, and the shield in her teeth was suddenly less heavier, and less annoying.

She could breathe again, even if it meant snorting all over the creature. She felt it hit the ground, felt it scramble to its little feet. Rage swelled in her heart. This creature sneezed at her. This creature blinded her. This creature made her snort and panic like an animal.

And like an animal enveloped in emotion Ribali reached for a marble resting around her throat.

A shadow fell over the Valley. Amashra’s eyes barely grazed the sight before she turned, whispering over the silence.

“The burrow, Amit. Now.”

Amit nodded. Though they were quiet, a question hung in the air. Was this another attack?

“I… I think it’s just a sandstorm starting. I’ll join you.” Amashra whispered, and she wouldn’t hear any more questions.

What started as a furious grapple for one of her weapons turned into a gentle ghosting of her palm, her fingers flinching as the cold glass touched her heated skin. She could see it clearly. The marble flying at the creature that was getting further away with each tap of its now four feet. The cracking of glass. The sand unleashed, blinding them and bringing them to their doom as she tears them to shreds, repaying them all that’s due.

The cracking and breaking of glass, all her sandstone mountains and creatures. All the things and humans she blew from black glass, and painted with many eyes, decorated with horns and claws.

Her sandstorms, their sandstorms. Gone.

A heavy feeling closed around Ribali’s heart, and her hand slowly moved away from the marble. At the back of her mind, her feet let her know about the small one’s whereabouts. She felt a single clear point in her mind as a gemstone hit the floor. Ribali sped into a run, feeling another, and then a sea of little waves that made it impossible to tell where any of them landed.

The choking feeling spread to her throat. She jumped away to avoid a gem, and then another, but there was nothing she could do against the many that lined the ground. All six of her limbs slipped and hopelessly swiped against the slippery, sharp floor. Her tail was frozen in a straight line hoping to win her some balance. She grit her teeth trying to breathe and calm the anger threatening to break through.

No. She was not doing this to get back at a creature that seared her senses closed. Though the indecent way she was sliding on those gems did make her truly want to break that vow and snap that thing’s neck.

Ribali breathed out a fume of heated air, her teeth grinding as she felt more of the awful tar that stayed there. Somehow, she made it without tripping and splattering on the ground. Someone else didn’t have such luck. Not far from her, she felt the creature’s panicked pace come to a halt. Then for a breath, quiet, and then a jumbled sort of vibration that only the falling flat of an oaf could produce. They tripped, Ribali realized in disbelief. What would bring joy just a moment ago only gave her disgust. There was no hunt when the enemy threw itself at her feet. She could feel no joy in revenge when she’d nearly lost a marble to it a moment ago. But this close, she could feel something else through the ringing copper floor. Something huge that the small thing never stopped hunting. Ribali ran, thinking, refusing to let the thoughts scatter and escape, pouncing on them, holding them down just enough for them to listen.

This hunter, this Cube, was the center of it all. It was what the small thing chased. It slid across the metal against more panicked steps. This cube was large. This cube was closer to heaven.

She would be the center. She would be closer to the Gods. She would scream so loud they’d have to see her.

A quiet, pained smirk played on her lips as she sped up. Gentle, clear tones rang from behind her as a few gems had enough of stabbing through her feet.

No hiding this time.

Not from the searing light, not from the sky.

The Cube’s groan grew much closer. Leaping on things was a much easier endeavor when one knew how tall they were. But at this point, there was no way but forward, and so Ribali’s memory swam awake with vibration. Where was that sound when it smashed into the wall?

Where was that wailing wind when it whirled past?

Was this a good enough window? No. But she had a guess. Just like she had a guess on how to say a very difficult word. But was it worth it for the sole purpose of getting back at Shhnotrapsh, the Shlayer hof?


“I am… Innn….domi…table!”

She bared her teeth, snarling her words through their broken edges. Muscles under glassy skin moved as she launched up into the air, sailing clean over the Shlayer. Her voice rang unwavering even as a forgotten gemstone burned, digging deep thanks to her jump.

“I… am Ribali!”

Up in the air she was sure of it. Even though this was a descent more than a flight, she couldn’t mistake the wind as she broke its stillness. On instinct, she tried to open her wings only for their obsidian prison to stop her. Her flame grew brighter as she barked out at whoever she might be landing on.

“And the Sky will see me!”
DF  Post #: 13
7/28/2022 15:18:24   

The sudden voice startled them. A sound coming from so close by… Was the cube itself talking to them? A quick glance thrown towards it, no… The short statured woman from before was seated upon the cube still, even despite all its sudden movements and shifts in direction. Things were really getting out of hand. They could feel their heart racing, growing louder in their ears as its rhythm grew faster. They only had moments to act. The taunting voice was not enough to unsettle them in its own right but the clang of metal against metal and the sudden shift in direction of the cube certainly was. With only a couple feet between the cube and the wall, with Alder stuck squarely between them, the possibility of getting crushed was far too real.

The first time it happened Alder awoke in a cold sweat, their mother’s hand on their shoulder. They’d never forget the look in their mother’s eyes that night. The pure terror in her gaze startled the groggy, confused Alder awake in an instant.

”W-what’s wrong?” They asked with a shaky voice.
Their mother glanced around, fearful yet surprised that something seemed to have happened.

”There… There were creatures and mist, strange unnatural structures… Terrifying things trying to take you away from me. They… They seem to have vanished, disappeared as soon as I touched you.” she replied eventually, her voice still trembling. Alder remembered then, the nightmare that had been plaguing their nights sleep. The strange beings with hooked claws and dripping fangs that had been chasing them through mist-covered woods. A chill running down their spine.

”That’s just like my dream…” they said eventually. No-one had been hurt that time. That time…

The cube struck the wall with an earth-shattering boom, sending ripples throughout the arena. Alder barely managed to get out of the way, stepping to the side as the cube struck against their shoulder. The force of the unrelenting bastion of copper ramming past them was terrifying, but they managed to use that momentum to spin out of its path and avoid the certain death of being crushed. Keeping the momentum of the spin Alder leveled their staff, swiping it out towards the back of the woman atop the cube hoping to unseat her from the terrifying mass.

”You know nothing of why I’m trying to gain a moment of peace. I’m trying to protect all of you!” they roared as their staff swung towards the body of the small woman. Though their weapon striking only air as the fighter’s reflexes and the strange distaste for gravity she seemed to possess managed to carry her several feet up into the air in a sudden jump. From sitting, especially after the cube’s collision with the wall this was quite a feat. But at least Alder had a chance to separate them now. Thinking quickly they pushed through the failed swing, spinning the back end of their staff against the left side of the cube to send it careening away from the two of them.

”Get away from me! They snarled all while their vision blurred, a harsh pressure enveloping their chest like an elephant was suddenly sitting on it. Alder slammed the end of their staff down against the ground to support themselves upon it, the other hand reaching up to grab their head. Not now… This was bad… Alder stumbled, their body felt like it was moving through syrup now, like running through water, resisting them the more they tried to move. They had to get away, get some distance…

Why do you run from us…?

That sickly sweet voice ringing through their ears, the infernal whisper of something terrifying hooking its claws into their shoulders made them shiver. It was happening, there was no stopping it now. Slowly a wispy pale mist spread from Alder’s feet, not thick enough to obscure any vision, spreading out in an area around them. Above them a pale translucent full moon began to materialize, shedding no light but setting the tone of what was to come.

Get out of my head…
Come now, Dreamer. We have so much to do.

A wave of fear pulsed around Alder’s body, a premonition that to let whatever was happening go on would have disastrous consequences passing the minds of the combatants closest to its source. A Creeping Dread of things that might come to pass. In that same moment was when they all would be able to see it. Slowly tearing itself away from Alder’s body like some form of flesh-suit. As if it had been trapped against Alder’s skin the translucent shape of a woman pulled itself free. Or at least one could assume it was a woman. The bloated, waterlogged flesh of one who had drowned and been left to rot in the waters made certain features hard to distinguish fully. The normally pale skin rendered a blueish green from the ravages of the sea. The teal hair clinging wetly to their shoulders like limp seaweed and the tattered white hat with its telltale black and white feathers covered in barnacles and showing signs of rot and decay, its shape buckled and twisted.

It pulled from Alder’s body fully, towering behind the stumbling Dreamer’s frame, its proportions all seemed wrong. Short legs supporting the bloated swollen torso barely able to be constrained within the navigator’s coat. Ghostly presence making it mostly see through. One arm terminated at the elbow as if it’d simply fallen off from decay, replaced by an undulating and squirming tentacle that seemed to have a mind of it’s own, caressing the dripping wet form of the apparition as if tenderly inspecting it, suckers pulling and plucking at the pale, waterlogged skin that seemed to ripple at the edge of bursting at any moment. As if it would rend and simply spill forth gallons of seawater. The other hand lazily dragged a rusted, pitted saber against the ground, a low scraping sound audible as it moved across the hard floor. Its head turning, bloodshot oozing eyes seeking creatures within its reach to drag to the depths of Alder’s nightmares from which it had been dredged. It opened its mouth, parted swollen blue lips and exhaled through yellowed rotting teeth with a low, hissing bubbling sound as brackish ocean water spilled down its chin.

"Finally... Free once more."

Post #: 14
7/28/2022 15:52:41   

Regina avoids the pathetic human's attempts on her by jumping up in the air, which gives her a second of clear view of the rest of the arena: she can see that the four-armed creature with amber eyes and Eirin are going to fight using ranged weapons, while Snottrap and the eyeless four-armed creature are currently tripping on… marbles? Gems? Regina can't see what they are and doesn't have time to check, considering that she can't fly and gravity is starting to work again.

But while still up in the air, Regina has two choices:

She can either chase the cube again, keep using it as a warhorse to trample others under its might, or- okay, nevermind, the eyeless four-armed gray creature decided to land on the cube just a second after she jumped away to avoid the pathetic human's hit.

No choices now, she is fully free to go and bully the pathetic human a bit more.

What they scream, however, piques her interest, so she chooses to land a safe space away from them. They shout at her to stay away, and she criticises them, saying, "Why would you join a fighting tournament if you're trying to protect everyone? That's preposterous," but then she recognizes it: the aura of Fear.

"Don't tell me… a Necromancer…?" Regina thinks, for Necromancers do not only deal with the Undead after all- they also deal with Fear. Using it to stun their enemies with dark dreams or, alternatively, just killing them by sheer terror.

But this Fear is doing neither- instead, it's a warning, and Regina is on high alert, and watches as an apparition tears itself off from the not-so-pathetic-now human.


Regina is not someone prone to fear of dead bodies. As a novice sailor she saw the bloated bodies of her fellow crew members on more than one occasion, before she learned how to grab them before they fell, and as a Necromancer she was straight up summoning corpses from the ground.

She has no fear of death- she had countless brushes with it after all.

But she does hate the grotesque, the ugly, so she can't help but wince when sees that mockery of herself. Well, at least she knows how ugly she'll be if she drowned! She'll do her absolute best to have a prettier death than this!

Her Rage increases, but she focuses on the important things to know: this thing is a warped copy of her appearance, but is it also a copy of her abilities? Does this thing use her Wind magic? Her mana? Did it copy her strength?

She sucks a breath when her eyes land on the thing's arms- its left arm, the one that is whole for Regina, is the one that has tentacles come out of it, but that doesn't disturb her as much as the other arm looking normal, like her own dominant arm now, like the other contestant knew-

She wakes up in agony, which is the exact opposite of what she wants. Isn't a fall from this cliff supposed to kill anyone?

She has chosen this day in particular because it is a stormy and windy day, and she wants to have those winds carry her soul after she takes the last plunge, so why?! Why is she awake and still suffering?

So she has to go crawling back to her father for medical help? When he is the one thing she tried to escape with death?

No! She won't!

She tries to move her body and immediately locates the source of the pain- her right arm, her dominant arm, is a tangle of blood and bone, and is likely what broke her fall.

The pain is blinding, but she has to stand up, because she does not want to die a painful death, but a peaceful one. She wants to be free, for Avatars' sake, not to suffer!

So she walks, searching for someone to help, or someone to put her out of her misery. She doesn't know how long she walks, doesn't care to count either the time that passes or the steps she walks.

After what can be seconds, what can be eternity, she hears the sounds of a camp. She can't make up the campers' words out of sheer exhaustion, so she has no warning when she walks upon a Necromancer with two Undead skeletons, arguing over- soup?

Regina doesn't remember anything more, as she passes out immediately.

Her Teacher couldn't save her right arm, her dominant arm, but he did teach her Necromancy, which is why she now has a skeletal arm hidden under her long Navigator's coat and her gloves.

And no one should have any idea about this- the fact that her dominant arm isn't all flesh and tentacles like the other one is disturbing her, making her wonder what they know about her.

And so she comes to a decision- she will cut off that arm and run to a secluded corner in the arena, inspect the nature of that arm, then assess the force she'd need to deal with this on her own.

She takes a deep breath, and with Wind Steps, she leaps at the horrifying mockery of herself, sword raised and ready to cut.

Stacks of Rage: 1
Post #: 15
7/29/2022 19:43:38   

The Exudation couldn’t help but give a sad short chuckle to himself at Eirin’s words.

Growth is inescapable, no matter the circumstance, she reckons? Not when death is all that’s left to me. In here, at the hands of strangers. Or out there, at the hands of my ‘family’. Win or lose, my fate is sealed.


That was a mistake. Disgust and fury blaze equally in the Shtaratahn Chief’s eyes as he whirls around and his fist cracks against The Exudation’s face. The young boy crumples to the ground, dazed.

“Do not. EVER. Call me that. You are no relation to my daughter, or to me.”

The young boy fights back tears and shakily nods his head as the Chief leaves, slamming the door behind him. Slowly, he sits up and cradles his knees against himself.

After a while the door opens and he looks up. She is there.

There is no fury in her eyes, but the disgust dwarfs that of the Chief.

The Exudation closes his eyes and rests his head against his knees. After doing what she came to do, she leaves without saying anything. She never says anything.

After all, she’s the person who most despises his existence.

The Exudation snaps back to the present. To Eirin’s crimson eyes boring into his own.

The woman had readied herself for an assault, shield raised, while weapons floated above her.

Shouting from behind caught his attention and he threw a glance over his shoulder. The Cube was now hurtling towards Eirin, with the four-armed… creature atop it.

The Exudation’s features twitched and he raised one of his lower arms and exuded. As earlier, an arrow shot out from the palm, aimed at the Cube’s face in hopes of sending it away.

The arrow hits the Cube and bounces off, but it cares not, continuing its relentless march as its latest rider leapt from it.

“This Cube is starting to get on my nerves…” The Exudation mutters under his breath.

He turned back around and saw Eirin moving to the side to avoid the Cube, but her eyes never left him. The Exudation let the Cube trundle on by, taking a deep breath.

Wait and see… Well, so far I’ve waited. Now let’s get to the seeing.

He rushed at her, his eyes flicking here and there, looking for any reaction. It came in the form of one of the spears, darting forth.

The Exudation weaved around the projectile and as he neared Eirin, let one of his fists fly toward her face.

Sitting in the stands the Chief watched the fighting unfolding before him, when his son tugged on his arm.


“I know. I saw it.”

The Chief’s eyes flick up, locking with the Monster’s. It offers him a grin, while a frown graces his own face.

“If our Tool does its job, that thing will live no more. If not, we will deal with it another time.”

“What if the Tool simply dies, as it ought?”

“Then that will be another time.”
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 16
7/30/2022 0:00:22   

Scale and claw clacked against the floor in a furious rhythm. Closing the distance to the Cube, Snottrap’s hungry eyes trailed up the metal behemoth to the softskin rider perched atop it. Her cowardly ways had already thwarted the kobold’s initial attempts at slaying the Cube. He would swallow Shield whole before she would be allowed to-

White-hot lightning pierced through the ache in his elbow. The little kobold’s arm gave out mid-stride, and he conked his snout on the floor with a resounding crack.


Shield spun forward over the sheen of the factory floor, its chain clattering close behind. Snottrap sat up on the floor, tiny paws clasped onto his nose. “Ow!” Hands flew away from his nose as flaming daggers shot up the length of his snout from the touch. “OW!” came the reply when he touched his nose again. “OW!” Tears flooded his vision after the third touch.

The Cube would pay dearly for this.

Snottrap poked his snout one more time and hissed through clenched teeth. Done testing the limits of the pain, the kobold clambered to his feet as a shadow passed over him.

A shadow passed over him.

A knight dressed in gleaming silver leaped over the kobold, the blue plume on his helm fluttering in the wind. Ice and snow cracked and crunched beneath his armored feet as he landed on the canyon floor. With a grace beyond measure, he tore after the flailing form of the white dragon.

The white dragon choking on the now solidified tar coating its throat.

“No!” The battered and bleeding kobold picked himself from the black rock splattered red. “No, that’s mine!” He chased after the knight, falling further and further behind as his limbs ached and screamed in protest. “I did it! It was me!”

The knight paid no heed as he raised his sword up high. Its emerald hilt glittered in the winter sun’s cold light.

The kobold howled.

“You can’t take this from me!”

Snottrap did not even realize he had already started running, the dull emerald hilt of Shield firmly in his grasp. Translucent third eyelids wiped away the tears spilling down his face. He snorted through a nose full of blood and phlegm as his helm skewed itself on his head. The kobold tugged it back into place by the frayed and dirtied blue flume upon it. The giant of grey and black and white and grey again had catapulted itself forward on its broken wings. The softskin child took one look at its claws and maw and tail and even more claws and abandoned her position.

Snottrap’s heart jumped into his throat with every rapid heartbeat.






A boiling sensation tickled Snottrap's throat. Tar, slick and black, bubbled and spewed forth from the kobold’s mouth and towards the giant atop its throne. All the foes had bunched together on this side of the arena, but Snottrap had eyes only for the giant as he leapt forward with jaw agape. The viscous material arced through the air, amber light caught in its glossy surface.

“Sshervesh you wight!” Snottrap shouted through a mouthful of tar as he turned his efforts back to the Cube. His trophy had yet to be claimed. More of the shiny black substance secreted between the scales on his chest to cover it in a vibrant sheen. With a burst of speed, he threw himself at the back of the behemoth and landed against it with a solid splat. Snottrap yelped as new indulations of pain throbbed though his elbows and snout from the impact. But as the Cube reversed its momentum with the kobold as its unassuming passenger, Snottrap's cry crescendoed to a roar of triumph.


AQ DF MQ  Post #: 17
7/30/2022 18:46:50   

Rem had different gods before our tribe came along.

The Giants left us shrines built upon crevices, rising in number the more one scaled the ravine walls. In them, a black creature with many strange, fluttering arms, always looking upward.

The Elder says it was a Hawk, a horrible beast roaming the surface. He says it was a demon, cast deep underground for his treachery against the Sun. He says he tried to fly above the storms and eat the sun, casting us all into darkness.

“Aunt Mashi? What’s flying?”

“Flying is burrowing deep into the sky, just as we do underground.”

The very air shuddered as the Hunter crashed against the wall.

Her flight finished with talons skidding against bronze. She felt the cube resonate with her claws, answering her in deep echoes as she howled. It sent ripples through her skin, and Ribali opened her mouth in joy. Her flight was short, a leap at best. But it reminded her of all that she missed underground, even as the winds lashed against her skin, even with how cold they were. The air had been so still down there, and now it bit into her lungs clean and sharp.

She was awake, and even though her eyes weren’t open, she could hear and feel so much that went on. A sudden slam against the cube sent such a loud pulse through her that she had to grip on the cube’s sides to not lose her balance. Whoever this fighter was, they must’ve been someone new. Even as the hulking mass of the cube quieted their steps she could make out the strange, dancing rhythm of their steps. Ribali turned her head towards them, and felt the quiet rumbling of an enraged cube ready to pounce.

Many things happened at once in that short moment before the cube started hunting. A burning rain scalded the giantess’ back, and she was about to turn towards that foolish, scaled little creature. But a strange, seeping feeling of dread reached Ribali. Her chest tightened as she tried to desperately look for the source of the sudden chill, her tendrils undulating in a confused craze.

Darkness fell on Ribali’s senses, casting her deep below and under the ground.

Amashra barely managed to push the door closed against the sandstorm’s howl, feeling it lash out against her skin with frozen quartz. She breathed out, heavily, and found Amit shuddering in a corner of the room.

The storms filled the sky with so much sand that one was never sure if there was a sun to begin with, really - just a sky dancing with many, many colours, always in motion. But today, as Amit glanced out of the hardened glass covering their home to catch any light that made it through, she saw nothing but darkness. If the sun kept darkness out, why was the shadow staying? Rem’s red skies heated sand into burning glass that assaulted their valley. So why was it suddenly so cold?

With eyes clenched shut, Amit prayed. Not to the sun she’d never seen, but to the many black murals painting Rem’s walls.

Ribali’s hand rested against her chest. In the darkness, a light had sparked to life somewhere deep under her rock plated chest. A feeling of horrible doom befell the demoness, and her head snapped towards the direction both the darkness and light begged her to run.

The Dancer.

Suddenly, any fight for her place on the cube, as important as it was mere moments ago, faded into background noise. Her body burnt and itched with tar, gemstone and many, many bites, and yet she regarded that pain as no more than annoying flies. Stardust glittered into the black as she unsheathed her Flute, two of her palms beating against the floor to not let her lose her momentum. The floor seeped with cold, each step like a tap against the snow.

Get away from me!

The dread she felt in the Dancer’s voice was unlike the dread she heard in her prey. This one wasn’t afraid of death. This human wasn’t prey at all.

I can’t. I won’t,

This Dancer was the hunter.

Ribali felt steps that weren’t there a moment ago. She couldn’t place them at first - had she heard them before? They were lighter than the Dancer’s, almost like phantoms. She didn’t believe that she would miss something, someone like that. Perhaps they flew, just like her? The creature spoke, assaulting the dancer with words she couldn’t understand, all while still out of their reach?

With dread, Ribali realized that the Dancer wasn’t telling them to get away.

The copper floor rang with the quiet thunder of many steps, more than there should have been. The air was heavy with the scent of brine and decay. Ribali felt herself losing her footing and grasp, and held on to that light in her chest.

Hatred swelled in her heart as she felt the steps once again disappear. Nobody but her would be allowed wings, she thought as she lashed out against where she expected the two windsteppers to clash, her tail raking against them to trip, sharp obsidian ready to cut. “Be quiet.” She hissed. As much as she meant to show those two their rightful place under her claws, but there were more important matters for her to tend to.

Fly above the storms. Give us back the sun. Please,

I will, I promise, The maiden called out against nobody and nothing, desperately clawing after the source of her dread and the strange warmth. She itched horribly, and yet she kept going. She slipped when her leg gave under the wound, unable to support her ferocious run, but she managed to steel herself enough.

Ribali struck against the teeter-step, Flute swiping against the click she heard earlier when they screamed. She assumed a support of some kind, a polearm, a staff.


She roared, her voice carrying through the cold metal, vibrating up her feet. With force, Ribali headbutted against the Dancer with horns pointed, marbles shaking violently against her neck with the motion and thunder of her voice.

The sea of blue reeds shuddered against the wind, shards of glass forming whirlpools among the frost struck leaves.

The birds fled from the jungle with the wild beating of wings, sensing an oncoming storm.
DF  Post #: 18
7/30/2022 19:53:53   

”But Master, I can use the Sword just fine… Why can’t I just use that to block?”

“Young One. You can only do so much with a blade, especially one as unique as yours. Your special circumstances allows you easy access to something far greater. You would do well to remember this.lesson going forth.”

The young girl sighed and nodded softly, clearly not interested in what this old man had to say. Her reactions were quick enough, and she was definitely skilled enough with the Blade to be able to deflect any blow that came her way.

Yeah, that sounded about right.

Eirin could no longer concentrate fully on the Exudation, not with the loud scraping of the Cube getting louder as the shape grew closer. With grace, she shifted herself to one side to move herself out of the way of the Cube’s trajectory while keeping an eye on her target.

“Concentrate, Eirin… You cannot allow this to distract you.”

Muttering to herself, the snow woman took a brief moment to realign herself to the danger in front of her, finding her grip tightening around her blade even more as she prepared for the oncoming assault.

“Above all things. Trust in yourself. Look for that one moment where you can seize victory in a single, swift, motion.”

The final words of her mentor had always stuck with her, even throughout her long and eventful life. They had always found a way to bring themselves back into relevance no matter the situation… It was something her mentor was incredibly good at.
She had always hated him for it.

The Exudation sprang into action, speeding towards Eirin with great haste and a singular purpose. She could only react by trying to slow the approach with one of her spears, something that The Exudation swiftly dodged out of the way of, raising a fist and thrusting it towards her.

Eirin felt the full force of the blow, even from behind the shield she had just managed to raise in time to protect herself from the attack. Light as she was, though, Eirin couldn’t stop herself from skating back a few feet, letting a frosted breath escape her.

Counting the arrow from before, her shield could only take one more blow before shattering, and she would have to make that one count…

But for now? She had to retaliate. She couldn’t just play defensively the whole time, and hope she won the Lord’s favour by just outlasting her opponent! She had to act, and fast.

With a hidden smile, one of Eirin’s spears shot upwards before coming crashing down next to the Exudation, shards of ice spraying in all directions causing him to shield himself to not let any proper damage come to his form.


Pushing off from her back foot, Eirin closed the small distance between them in an instant, arm held outstretched to her side as The Mist finally sprung into action. Suddenly, a thin mist had covered the small space between Eirin and The Exudation, one that had a comforting, soft chill to it.
As she swung the bladeless handle of her Sword towards her target, the Blade’s secret was finally revealed as a thin blade formed as the weapon was swung through the air, and into The Mist.

With this strike, she hoped she would catch the small part of The Exudation’s body that he left unprotected by shielding himself from the remnants of the spear…

She was sure this strike wouldn’t end things… She could only hope this blow was debilitating enough to soften the blow she would, most definitely, be receiving in response.
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 19
8/1/2022 15:01:34   

The ebbs and flows of combat were not strangers to Alder, not truly. Even if they looked like a stiff breeze might knock them over they’d been in a fair number of scraps of their own. However this was something different entirely. There were so many impressions to take in from every direction, bloodshot eyes darting back and forth to try and keep ahead of all the things. The short-statured human Alder had struck at berating them, mocking them from the air.
”Why would you join a fighting tournament if you’re trying to protect everyone?”
She didn’t understand, of course she didn’t. How could she possibly. Alder grit their teeth together, hissing through parted lips as they fought dreaded sleep with tooth and claw.
I’’m supposed to fight, not them! came Alder’s response while throwing a glance across the battlefield.
The small ugly looking crocodile child had fallen over, his pursuer missing… No, not missing, soaring overhead and making a mad dash for the cube that Alder had just sent reversing from the eastern wall.

Stop fighting us, Dreamer. Unleash us.

And on top of all of the rest of it… The nightmares trying to break themselves free, force Alder’s mind to succumb to their infernal influence so that they could roam the plane of the waking through their conduit. The thing that had already been summoned turned away from Alder, facing the waking creature from which its image had been drawn. The bloated apparition facing down the small-statured human and hefting its saber, pulling it back with great effort which made its waterlogged body rippling and jiggling with the exertion.

Once the nightmares had started there was no stopping them. Night after night they forced their way into Alder’s dreams and from there pushed through into the world of the waking. At first they’d been minor, harmless… But as time went on they became more and more ferocious, protecting their stay in the waking world as much as they could. Alder began to dread sleep, doing everything in their power to stay awake.

First simply doing so by pure power of will, keeping their hands busy with tasks and staying outside in the cool, fresh air. This only worked for so long, a human body is not made to live without sleep and eventually it demands it irregardless of the circumstances surrounding it.

They’d awoken in a mossy glade, shivering as the cold air chilled them to the bone. Their mother stood over them, gently draping a large, blue cloak over their body, offering protection and warmth. The stars glittered overhead, night’s grasp not yet released the sun to herald the morning. The liquid dripping from their mother’s fingers seemed black in the insufficient light. The tang of iron in the air that caressed Alder’s nostrils soon made them realize the truth. Blood.

Despite themselves their mother smiled, though it seemed forced.
”Rest, child, I fear there will be little of that on the road ahead. We must travel to the city to seek the aid of the church.” She said softly.

The small-statured human woman dashed through the air towards her nightmarish counterpart in the midst of its swing, striking its weapon wielding arm with her own saber. The illusion adapted, the weapon seeming to bite into incorporeal flesh and bone, severing the apparition’s arm which fell to the ground with a sickly wet thud. Ocean water seemed to spew from the wound. The moon above Alder faded into obscurity as the illusory water dripped onto the floor beneath the bloated figure. The rusted saber clattered to the damp ground with ringing metal against metal.

A spattering of hot tar showered the side of Alder’s face, small droplets of sticky black ichor burning as it began to harden into little black dots over Alder's cheek. The sudden searing pain made their head turn just in time to notice the obsidian demon leaping at them. Dragging their heavy arms around just in time to interpose their staff between their body and the demon’s weapon which struck the wood with resounding force. The heavy wooden implement vibrating in their hands and the shock to their forearms made them ache, barely holding onto their weapon. It took all their effort just to stand their ground and…


They’d missed it… The horned head of the obsidian demon had pulled back and slammed into Alder’s forehead with thunderous force, rattling their brain in their skull as hardened keratin met soft human skin. Their fingers slipped on their staff, releasing it from their grip as they stumbled on their feet, tipping backwards as the wooden weapon clattered onto the metallic floor. Stars swam in the edges of their vision and then…

The world went dark, their consciousness faded and threw them forcibly into the greedy claws of the Nightmare. With Alder asleep, or rather unconscious, awoken was the Dreamer. To protect the host it pulled the veil of night from the dream upon the world of the waking. Surrounding the area around the Dreamer with a near impenetrable veil of blackness. Within the dark the Nightmares could roam freely. Somewhere in the interim the short-statured human had fallen while the apparition of its drowned self recuperated. Its severed arm in the human’s grasp for some reason. It wasn’t important, it was too close. The nightmare would hunt. Reaching up its stumped arm while it trudged across the floor, the visage of the bloated corpse the only thing that could be seen within the darkness. The waters seeping from its wounded stump began to move strangely, slithering across the floor like long slender tendrils, finding its counterpart in the human’s grasp and starting to pull it back. The creature’s left tentacle arm slung back, picking up the weapon it had dropped when its arm had been severed, the arm it was now trying to reclaim.
Raising the weapon up high it swung down against the human on the ground with unnatural force, its visage now fully solid within this black void so close to its host.

Meanwhile other apparitions began to tear their way free of the Dreamer’s Nightmare. The obsidian demon that had unknowingly created this disaster, lacking eyes, would not see them… Thus they need not be seen either. This one slowly pushed itself up off of Alder’s body as a shadowy, unconsolidated form of black smoke with its only defining visible features were rows of jagged white teeth, shadowy limbs terminating in ivory claws.What it lacked in visibility it made up for in other realms. The smoky form reeked of soot, of ash and the stench of brimstone. The obsidian demon so near to it could feel radiant heat as if the smoke from her forge itself had come alive in a mockery of her own form. Its footfalls against the metal floor rang out with a persistent click, clack, click, clack as its claws met the metallic floor only for its presence to vanish into the darkness. They then reappear behind the obsidian demon, its clawed feet click-clacking against the floor heralding its arrival. Its voice slow, hissing and crackling like fire so close to the obsidian demon’s ears.

”Thank you, creature… For freeing usss...”

The shadowy apparition opened its maw, behind those sharp jagged teeth burned the inferno of a furnace, white hot breath washed over the glassmaker in mocking laughter as its shadowy limbs lashed out, slashing claws against the obsidian demon’s body.
Post #: 20
8/1/2022 15:14:18   

Regina is starting to hate how crowded this little corner of the factory is becoming.

First, the human with the blue and gold cloak summons this apparition of theirs, which is fine, Regina will jump straight into the subject and cut off its arm, after replying to what they said. She scoffs at how they say that the illusions weren’t supposed to be fighting, but the human themselves. She heard similar excuses from her father before, about how he can’t control himself and how he makes her life miserable in his rage. “You are what you do,” Regina says, both to them and to her father, ”and saying that your power of apparitions isn’t you yourself means nothing, because you still have responsibility for what you do.”

But if they can’t control their power, truly… then this could be the reason they applied to the Championship- to gain control of themselves.

However, as soon as Regina cuts the arm and carries it with her left hand, and is about to retreat, a splash of hot tar suddenly rains on her, and she uses her bony arm and sword to shield herself, leaving a chance for the eyeless four-armed creature to appear and trip her with her tail and its obsidian stones.

Regina trips and falls on the ground, nearly hitting her head. What she does hit, however, is her left leg, and she is definitely going to feel the hit’s effect on her balance. She seethes with Rage, and turns to scream her frustrations at the annoying four-armed thing, but then the world becomes black, after the thing screams and she hears the sound of a solid head smack (ow). Regina can’t see anything, can only listen as the sounds of new creatures fill the darkness, as only her own distorted visage remains visible.

The visage tries to retrieve its arm from her grasp, which gives her a good amount of information about the visage itself- it is all slithering sea water forming the body, including the arm she is currently carrying, no matter what they felt like when Regina was cutting through them. She breathes a sigh of relief that the visage doesn’t know her full power, that it won’t be able to replicate every single detail of her, before turning her attention towards the problem at hand: the blackout and the apparitions.

Her visage keeps pulling on its arm, but she doesn’t give in, stands her ground to not allow it to be whole, and thinks of the next step to take. Obviously she can’t hit the human, because hitting them clearly makes the apparitions worse, evident with the blackout and the claws and crackling fire she hears, so what else can she do? From the way they were talking, they were barely keeping these apparitions at bay- does this mean that she has to find them and return them to full health so that they return to being harmless?

…actually, she can work with that- she can feed them her Rotten Hardtack, which won’t only heal them, but would probably also give them enough of a stomach ache that they’d be harmless! And then she’ll squeeze them out of the factory exits and be done with it.

She throws the arm she’s carrying back at her visage’s face, who mustn’t have expected for her to let go of its arm after how hard she resisted its pull, as it stumbles back for a second. She takes this moment to shakily power walk to the direction where she last saw the human’s body- the direction of the four-armed thing and the claws and crackling fire. She goes around the noise they generate, around their faint silhouettes, as quickly as her messed up leg allows her, her wind-enhanced ears helping her not run into the creature fighting its enemy.

She is chased by her own visage, and will be chased by the four-armed thing after it’s done with its opponent, so she walks and walks and walks, regardless of how bad the pain is becoming, and when she feels that she is far enough from the fighting noise at her back, she slides her sword on the floor, using it as a walking stick so that she recognizes the human’s body lying on the floor when she reaches them.

The steps of her visage are following but she won’t stop, she can’t stop- not until she reaches the source of this disaster or until she gets pulled into another fight. That is her only chance to stop being the Prey in this situation, and that’s not even counting the fact that she doesn’t know where the Cube is.

Stacks of Rage: 2
Post #: 21
8/2/2022 15:57:20   

The Exudation let all the various sounds of the arena fade away from his consciousness as he narrowed his focus on Eirin alone.

The wispy woman raised up her shield and the weight of his fist thundering into that barricade forced her back.

But she was not content to sit on the backfoot constantly, loosing the second of her readied weapons.

The Exudation stood ready to defend against the hurtling spear, but was taken aback when it slammed into the ground a short distance from him.

Grimacing, he threw an arm in front of his face to defend against the icy shrapnel spraying everywhere.

Eirin took full advantage of that brief opening and darted forwards, swiping towards his chest with the hilt she held as mist covered the span between them.

When her hand flew through the mist however, the hilt grew a blade that hungrily honed in on his unprotected flesh.

The Exudation gritted his teeth.

I don’t have the kind of fine control to exude only where that’s going to hit…

The Exudation sat atop a lonely hill under the scorching summer sun, constantly switching between exuding and taking short breaks, attempting to push his limits when a furious voice rang out.

“Tool, what in blazes do you think you are doing?!”

The Chief was striding towards him, his hands clenched.

“Chief, what-”

The Exudation got no further than that before a fist cracked across his face. Unlike when he was younger, no tears sprang to his face, as he’d long since gotten used to this treatment.

“I said what. Do you think. You are doing?”


It was the ‘wrong’ answer and he knew it, so he tensed for the blow that swiftly came.

“No. Training is doing what we tell you to do. This is not that. Go inside.”

The Exudation stood up and walked down the hill.

He knew they were keeping his potential shackled, letting him be just strong enough that he might be of use to them in killing Sledaristan, but not too strong that he was a threat himself.

He glanced over his shoulder up at the Chief, who was staring coldly down at him. There was nothing he could do, so he turned his head and meekly followed orders.

He had two options. Option one, exude and protect himself from the blade, sapping a significant amount of his remaining reservoir and lose the element of surprise, or…

The blade bit into his flesh and he cried out as pain coursed up his body. But he’d committed to this course of action and he grabbed the blade.

Eirin seemed startled as she was suddenly yanked forwards by her own death grip as The Exudation raised up both his right fists which thundered forth before the woman could think to shield herself again.

The twin blows landed heavily against the chest and stomach of her breastplate as the mist that had bridged the two dispersed, causing Eirin’s sword’s blade to wink out as swiftly as it had appeared.

With nothing left to anchor her, the woman flew back several feet from the force that had hit her. The Exudation clutched at his side, crimson spilling forth as his breathing became ragged.

He raised up a hand and fired an arrow at the woman, while with another he exuded a sword to defend himself with.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 22
8/2/2022 23:54:42   

Jagged teeth gnashed against polished bronze to no avail.

Snottrap snarled at his own failure. The behemoth’s tough hide resisted bite and venom alike, showing no sign of wear as the two hurtled alongside the arena wall. The kobold reared his head back and bawled his frustrations out to the gears above. Gears? Hmmm, heavy and strong. Magnificent. Perhaps he could-

A sudden wave of cold pierced through his scales and made him shudder.

Snottrap turned his head and met a veil of darkness. Not purest black yet far too dark for the kobold to make out any details behind its blankness. Beady eyes darted left and right as his heart thrummed against his ribcage, threatening to burst straight out of his chest. A thought flashed across his mind: that gangly softskin needed to be awake. Wait, how do I- Snottrap shook his head. Of course he would! Only the ingenuity of koboldkind could solve the puzzles beyond the rest of mortalkind. It just took him an extra moment to catch up with his brain - that’s how smart he was! Claws scraped against metal as Snottrap clung tighter to the charging cube and peered into the pitch black. He spied no moving forms within its veil, but the howling of demons and singing of metal rang out from it. The giant and softskin child must have attacked the gangly one after coming to the same conclusion as him. Snottrap grit his teeth. He wanted nothing more than to tear this Cube asunder, but it remained so resilient and that stupid softskin needed a rude awakening. Hefting the chain of Shield around his wrist, the Slayer stole one more look into the darkness as the Cube drew up by its side. This time the faintest outlines of figures could be seen. Snottrap eyed one who stood taller than the rest…

The crowd clamored around one of their own who stood taller than the rest.

He took off his helm, blue plume swaying in the light breeze that graced the village square. Locks of golden hair spilled into the open air as he revealed a brilliant smile of perfect pearls. The knight waved to the crowd as his squire removed his breastplate, leaving him standing with a shirt of chainmail. Every piece of it, from the armor to the man himself, flaunted righteousness.

This was not a knight who did battle with a dragon.

This was a knight who killed what was already dying.

Snottrap stepped from his hiding place beneath the steps of a nearby house. One foot throbbed as he dragged it behind him. With one eye swollen shut, the kobold cocked his head to the side to better see. He slipped between the legs of the crowd, trying to get closer to the knight as the people cheered him.

“Wait!” Snottrap coughed as his ribs ached from exertion. “It was me!” No one paid heed as the knight’s booming voice held their attentions captive. “I did it!” His words, rasp and hoarse, could not break through the din. “I’m the slayer!” He adjusted the scarf around his neck to better breathe.

“Not him!”

Snottrap adjusted the makeshift chainmail cape around his neck as nausea once again washed over him. This gangly fellow wanted to steal all the glory? The kobold swallowed hard in a futile attempt to quell his beating heart. He would have to deal with them first then. The Cube - Snottrap hissed at himself - would have to wait.

With the greatest reluctance, the Slayer swung Shield on its chain around the corner of the metal behemoth. It clanged against the bronze side and diverted the path of the beast into the black pitch. As darkness enveloped them in its embrace, Snottrap’s heart leapt into his throat. On instinct, he slurped up a mouthful of the tar binding him to the Cube before absorbing the rest back between his scales. The familiar smoky taste helped him fight back the urge to vomit, and with that comfort the little kobold pushed himself off of the Cube and plunged into the pitch surrounding him. As good as blind and with his breath caught in his throat, the Slayer of DragonSlayer spun through the void and lashed out with Shield in a mighty two-handed strike. “It’s my turn! It’s me!”, he cried out through a mouthful of sticky teeth, voice shaking with every word.

Softskin child, howling giant, gangly one, shadowy unknowns? Any and all would do.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 23
8/4/2022 5:47:07   

The three stars were never lonely with the songs and winds they shone upon.

The wind ravaged the rider’s scarf as he struggled to secure the final rope around the copper hook. Nights on Tamalhan were full of vicious winds, Glass-strayers, they called them for their biting nature. He liked to think those were the very silver winds that shaped the cliffs of my homeland into their sharp, shard-like shape. As they shred down on the rock, brown revealed blue, and blue gave way to silver.

He couldn’t tell if he overslept today, rushing through the waving and rippling ocean of reeds in a vicious run. Frost cracked under his lizard’s feet as it ran. He didn’t sleep, he was sure, but the sky was dark and the stars shone brightly. An unsecured monolith meant discord in the winds’ song, made the spirits angry, and sent glass shards against their homes.

“I see you were startled too.” He heard a voice coming from behind the monolith.

“Kwah!” The rider jumped, spitballing his words. “Why are you here? It’s night!”

“Do you hear it?” The priest slowly asked, eyes turned towards the stars.

“Hear… what?” There was so much to hear for the Rider. The quiet hum of the sacred singing stone he secured. The wind’s howl. The leaves, waves, and birds.

“The Flutist’s song.”

Her Flute struck true against the dancer’s staff with a resounding, beautiful note that sent vibration through her whole being. So close to her stood the Dancer, so much so that she could feel their heat on her tendrils, hear their labored breathing. Without knowing, she leaned in, eager to close her fangs on all of their dread. Instead, the demoness used their fear to deliver her scare, a headbutt that sent all her itches aflame and knocked the Dancer back with a crunch.

How could something so weak and afraid dare to face her?

How could they make her so scared?

The grin stayed on Ribali’s face for less than a moment’s worth. The light within her waned in its flame as she realized that the Dancer wouldn’t be getting back up. A sharp wave of impending doom and nausea rose in her stomach as she grasped after the Dancer with her hands, her fingers closing around their arms with ease. She must have knocked them out in her bloodlust.

Her tendrils twitched. The scent of smoke reached her tar-heavy nostrils. The Dancer’s body shifted within her grasp, their skin growing thicker and glassy under her palms, their serene sleeper’s breath heating into an inferno. Clacks of her own feet multiplied scratched the floor at the edge of her senses as a second Her lifted its head. Ribali gapped at the twisted mirror, releasing her hold.

Why would something so weak and afraid dare to face her?

Why would they seek the stare of the Gods?

With a defiant cry to hide the dread building inside of her, Ribali struck against the Dreamer transformed, Flute flying high with a claw in tandem.

She hesitated. Her strike stopped just shy of where the other Her’s eyes would’ve been if she had any.

She remembered them. Two pairs just like her arms, blue as the deepest ocean, so deep and black and dark. Her mercy cursed her second strike, claws landing in nothing but warm soot and the heavy air of smoke. Ribali flinched, turning into every direction she could. Where did the Dreamer go?

Her tail brushed their sleeping body. Did she feel them fall? She couldn’t remember.

They were tiny and harmless once again, and yet she couldn’t get the other Her out of her head, breath burning and eyes glaring even if there were none to see. None to glare, if it was truly her. The Arena brimmed with noise, with clicks of obsidian against copper that couldn’t have been just her own. The rushed steps of the Windwalker that barely touched the ground. The heat and scent of soot pressed against her senses just like the heat that tore into her back like gnashing teeth. Disgusting, sizzling, scorching. Ribali stumbled back, shaking wildly, but the tar clung and stuck no matter how much she managed to get off.

Tendrils stuck to her face to block out the noise. She wanted nothing more than to make it all stop.

“Thank you…”

What stopped instead was Ribali’s heart.

Heat cascaded down her back as her own voice rasped unbearably close, making the tendrils jitter and jerk as they tried to get out of the way of the unbearable heat. Whatever the Nightmare wished to say was second to her as her memory burned awake. A distant voice echoed the words, oozing with the golden heat of distant suns.



“For releasing us.”

For letting me know I need to be afraid of my own children.

“Mother?” Ribali breathed out, the word coming out whole and natural even after eons of time. “Please - I just w- wanted to-”

I just wanted to show you what I could do-

They wept - They laughed as their- her? Claw? Axe tore across her back, tearing her wings clean off with a storm of feather and ichor.

The sound of shattering glass filled her senses as deep obsidian gave against the blow like it was nothing. Heated blood stained Ribali’s skin as it seeped out through the cracks and cuts on the glass.


The axe- Claw stopped in the middle of cutting through a wing.

Deep wrath rose in the Maiden as she held on to that feeling, as it burned and stung, as it ached. Ribali’s tail struck against the imposter’s legs with the force of a whip, tearing at their skin all the way from their knees up to their chest. Obsidian skidded against rocky armor and rained warm sparks. The false Her stumbled back with an enraged screech, stumbling in their step. Her tendrils unveiled her face once again, tips burning as they caught on to this new heat. The monster’s claw dislodged, and she felt obsidian feathers ring on the floor below. She snarled, feeling it carry vibration through the rock on her throat. How could memory trick her like that?

The false one’s blow caught glass instead of her flesh. The false one’s blood held the same heat as the red trickling from breaks in obsidian. It was not the heat of a sun up in the sky.

It was the heat of the sun underneath the ground.

Mother was not here.

“Evened. Out.”

Ribali spat, and kicked. With a ring and pulse somewhere at the back of her mind, the gemstone dislodged out of her foot and landed. If the Dreamer wakes up, they can slip on that for all she cared. Her time of caring for their doom was over. Ribali lunged forward, hissing as the vulnerable skin of her foot pressed against the metal. She felt the false Her’s heat, felt the click of it rushing forward. With her Flute poised to strike, she aimed just under the heart, into a crack between her rocky armor that she knew far too well, having received it in a fight with a cave… cave…. creature. She drew a blank on its image.

“I am…” She started even as she felt a distant drum of metal under her feet. She had time. Nobody would take this away from her. Nobody would take her prey from her, not the Windwalker, not the Dreamer’s blights. She relished in the way the sharpness drove deep, with a resounding gurgle and a splattering of warmth. Ribali hunched over above the face of hers, tendrils dancing wildly, her back arching under the weight of her bleeding wings and fire of the remaining tar.

“I am,” She tried again, breath heavy and uncertain in her lungs as she once again felt those four eyes staring back. No horns but floating hair, no sharp jagged teeth of a monster. Silver shining wings. The earth rumbled ever louder, but Ribali could not tear herself away.

No. She couldn’t see those things. She couldn’t see anything. She was a prisoner to the darkness ever since Father took her eyes. All it was was a memory.

“A monster,” The Flutist spoke out, her voice a song.

“N-!” Not even a whisper could leave Ribali in her shock before the Flutist’s singing voice turned into a scream, feathered arms slashing against her, nails turning obsidian with every strike. Glass cleaved against skin and rock on the Maiden’s arms as she cowered to block the sudden barrage of hits.

She couldn’t fly ever since Mother took her wings.

It wasn’t the Flutist. She wasn’t her, not anymore.

She couldn’t find her Flute. She couldn’t fight her without claws. She couldn’t fight her without teeth. She couldn’t fight her without being a beast.

Her whole body screamed out in alert so loudly she finally had to listen, the reverb in her bones warning of a Hunter leaping for a kill. It was an animal’s instinct that saved Ribali from its heavy bronze teeth, letting her jerk from the center of its warpath. The Cube’s sharp edge tore into Ribali’s flesh, heated blood droplets singing against the surface, louder to her than the cracks in her bones. She felt the air sway coldly above her as the Cube threw her aside. She heard its rider's battlecry cut short in her mind as she fell, true darkness taking her upon landing.

“The winds,” The shaman whispered, forcing the rider to gaze at the reeds. Both their seas were horrifyingly quiet.

“The winds have stopped blowing.”

The shaman nodded.

“Has that ever happened?”

The shaman didn’t answer, staring instead at the sun’s fiery light pooling over the still waters drawing far past the horizon. The stars paled against the dawn.

“The glass-strayers,” The shaman spoke softly, staring into the sun. “They didn’t come.”

Ribali whimpered as the world came back, loud and dizzying. Her palms felt full of sound, but she couldn’t make anything clear out past the closest click of obsidian claws. Its Flute dragged on the floor, ringing. Screeching against the metal. Cracking.

Ribali gnashed her teeth, heart burning. She tried again and again to pull herself up as the screech drew closer with each insistent click of her steps. Her back arched with effort as she struggled to stand, but the arms the Hunter struck felt limp. She couldn’t trust them with her weight.

You would mistreat our Flute for nothing. You. You are not me. You are not… any… artist… fighter…

“Yyyou…” She rasped, back arching with effort as she finally managed to hold her leg in place without the limp betraying her. “Yyou, are nothing.” She lifted her head towards the click. She wished her voice didn’t shake with just as much fear as rage as she spoke.

You aren’t here to fight for a wish like them.

She felt them now, hazy but there. The halfsteps of the Windwalker, and the tap of her sword against the ground. The scratching struggle as something must have tumbled. Again. The disgusting one was brave. She had to give it that. Ribali smiled, mouth curling into a shaking grin as she tilted her head up at the one approaching. She felt the shuffle of someone else trying to get up, a signature clack revealing a staff. Humans and the like… they were more resilient than she had anticipated.

Click. Click.

It is a shame it all ends here for you, Ribali thought, listening to the waves their steps made. They were all so clear. So close. She came up with a plan with one step, one she would’ve cursed with her whole soul any other day. Ribali’s heart shook as she pressed the Cliff marble against her forehead while it still rested on the chain, making the others ring in response. She never said she wasn't an ambush predator.

“I’m sorry. I’m so… sorry.”


There was not even the slightest twitch in the last frayed remains of nerves that once were her eyes. There was nothing left for a teardrop to form, so it was just her body that shook, her voice that sputtered. There was no time to reminisce about the cobalt glass, about the thinly chiseled mountains and their folk.

Her claws closed around the marble’s glass, shaking. She remembered the brush of her fingers against the glass and how blind it made her. Remembered the depths, the darkness that she let in for so long. Wrath overtook her, burning bright against the sorrow even as the words of the Windwalker resonated in her mind in warning.

“You are what you do.”

The final click and laughter howled and chimed as the False Her swung the Flute against her head.

“Thennn let me be a monster.” Ribali answered, smashing the Marble of Cliffs against the metal floor with a loud, discordant ring.

For less than a moment, she caught the scent of distant brine, the calls of birds.

The Three stars of Tamalan started falling.

A blast of razorsharp rock and glass erupted from under her hands, striking at anyone and anything caught within its grasp with thousands of shards.
DF  Post #: 24
8/5/2022 9:27:33   

His ragged breathing burning hot in his own ears, The Exudation watched as Eirin raised her shield to block his arrow. Ice and light connected and the ice shattered, fading away into mist that curled around its mistress.

Her crimson eyes burned bright as she watched him. She held what had been her shield arm down low, as if there was something she wished him to not see and seemed to mutter something, before she leapt forwards, seeking to capitalise on his weakness.

The Exudation readied himself, two hands clenched tight on his summoned sword as light flowed through his hands to reinforce it, as the final spear darted ahead.

A swift swing of his sword deflected the spear, sending it sailing harmlessly by. In that short time, the mist that surrounded Eirin flew forth from its mistress, bridging the gap between the two.

Going for the same thing again? I think not. You were on about growth, weren’t you? You wouldn’t simply try the same thing twice.

The woman swung high with her sword hand, the blade materialising as it passed through mist. The Exudation blocked it with his own sword and a grim smile came over Eirin’s features, as if she were about to do something she wished she didn’t have to do, but that it would at least be done.

She brought her other arm up and The Exudation caught the glint of light off ice she held between her fingers. Her clenched fist honed in on his heart, her gambit revealed.

But The Exudation had laid his own gambit out in advance when he chose to take her blade earlier.

He exuded, gleaming light covering his chest. Eirin’s features transitioned to shock as her assault bounced harmlessly off the armour that had appeared from nowhere.

The Exudation pushed up, gritting through the screaming in his side and the pain that coursed up his body, forcing Eirin’s sword away and leaving her fully open, before bringing his sword whistling back down, slamming into the woman’s breastplate.

Her armour failed to survive that blow, shattering with the sound of a thousand tinkling icicles, leaving her armoured by naught but a flowing unstained white dress.

Shock turned to panic as the woman realised how precarious her situation had become on the edge of a blade. But swiftly she regrouped her thoughts and came back in, pressing the attack.

Blade intercepted blade, each taking turns going forth on offence. But the wound he had suffered was taking its toll on him and soon The Exudation faltered on a swing.

Eirin brought swift reprisal, her blade cutting across his hands. The Exudation cried out as his sword fell from his grip and clattered across the floor. His free hands were clutching at his wound and he glared at his opponent.

“I am sorry, Exudation. But I cannot lose here.

Her resolve solidified, the woman’s expression became grim once more as she prepared a thrust.

Then, as Eirin sprang forth, time seemed to slow for The Exudation. One moment seemed to him to bleed into a thousand more as his mind raced.

I could just… let this be. Hers would be kinder hands to die to than those who must be watching, even now. My ‘family’. An image flashed through his mind. But if I curl up and die… she will be forever hunted. For that ‘crime’ of hers.

They sent me here to erase her. But I came here to set her free. And I’m not giving up on that just yet.

Time resumed its natural course and The Exudation pivoted on the side away from his wound, bringing his leg around in a roundhouse kick.

And he exuded.

A blade of light burst forth from his leg, ripping through his pants. His final card to play. Eirin’s eyes widened as a pair of blades made their final, fatal impacts.

The Exudation grimaced, burning pain spreading from his shoulder, where Eirin’s blade had buried itself.

Eirin’s mouth gaped, as her pure dress slowly faded to the colour of her eyes. The Exudation’s leg had caught her just below her arm, while the point of the blade had exited her body directly opposite.

Receiving no reinforcement from The Exudation and cradled within the darkness inside Eirin’s body, the blade shortly winked out of existence. The mist no longer held itself steady, slowly floating every which way, taking with it Eirin’s blade.

The Exudation’s leg fell to the ground, causing a spike of pain to blister through his body. His legs buckled and he crashed to the ground.

Eirin, no longer supported by the blade that had pierced her through, collapsed to her knees. She stared at the ceiling, frosted breaths escaping in gasps. She spoke, her words a mere whisper that The Exudation struggled to hear.

“I… I wanted… They would be… It was… Not meant to be…”

With one final breath, she exhaled the last of her life. Her eyes grew dull and her body toppled forward.

The Exudation, taking great, rasping breaths, stared at her body in grave remorse.

“I am so sorry, Eirin…” he whispered to her corpse.

He was exhausted, spent. His reservoir was all but empty and his body severely wounded. His fight was over.

“Karaluman, skie tetal.” (Father Light, I pray this is enough.)
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