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=WPC 2023= Field of Starlight

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1/22/2023 13:51:02   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

The world between worlds is still and silent. It waits for those who search for it and those who stumble onto its streets by chance or fate. It waits for those teetering on the edge of boundless life and final death. It waits without the passing of time, the movement of life, or the twinkling of stars to know how long it must wait.

Fate gazes upon it and decrees: it shall wait no more.

The Chequered City is facing change, as impossible as that should be. The skyline, once a perfect mix of blacks and whites, is dominated by only marble skyscrapers, as the obsidian structures crouch low in the shadows. Twisting roads seem almost plottable, staircases actually lead to greater heights rather than blank walls, and opened doors simply grant passage to the next room over.

At its outskirts Chaos prowls, newly formed gardens of blackened vines creating a familiar, maddening labyrinth around a City dominated by structure. Here, Order contorts to twisted paths, caves ducking under the ground, and bridges climbing over the walls, until they reach the first checkered tile of even streets.

The City stands, as ever, for those that support this Order, or those that wish to be lost in the fleeting remnants of Chaos in its streets. It is filled, as ever, with the motions of automatons, everyone and no one all at once. And it provides, as ever, food and rest and respite for those preparing to march away to War.

None can stay upon these checkered streets or in this dizzying maze. This is not a safe home, nor is it a doomed resting place; it is merely a final refuge or a deciding trial before those within find their gates, their doors, or simply fade away to beyond.

For Pawns belong in one place alone.

The Battlefield.

Through the darkness, a single star shines, pulsing gleam born from a dying soul. It waxes and wanes with eerie color and distant heat, the only beacon in a soundless gap. The only presence save for the Pawns, left with nothing but this light. This young, wild, blaze.

The light flares, pushing away the void and surrounding one and all in its warmth. It swells brighter and brighter until it steals away even sight.

And then, a new world, an entire realm built upon the final gasp of a heroine that traded her life for another’s in her last moments.

The star does not burn out, but it does dim. It sucks its light inwards as metal platforms swoop into place, held up by nothing and creating a perfect ring around the lone star. Its heat sweeps out, comforting rather than overwhelming as its glow dances off the sheen of the floor, then vanishes into the void beneath it. The Pawns can feel its pull, gentle at first, but more and more insistent, until it seems strong enough to suck all off their feet and toss them through the star to land safely on the opposite side. Then all of a sudden, the tow fades, until there is only a gentle drag at their grounded feet, and the knowledge that if they wish it, they may leap and fly.

Above each Pawn, a symbol flashes. A five-spoked circle. For some, the white of the spotlights, with straight and pristine lines. For others, the black of the surrounding darkness, etchings curved inwards in an endless spiral. The runes hovered above for but a moment, their presence made known to all, before quickly winking away

The light pulses one final time, an ultimate wave of heat blasting out as the ringing sound of an explosion bursts from its core, echoing out upon the gathered as one voice.

“Welcome to the Field of Starlight. No Good can guide your flight; no Evil can chain you down. Prove yourselves worthy, Pawns, or perish in endless space.”

Post #: 1
1/24/2023 14:13:31   


A great many things could have heralded the moment Kazerol became aware of his existence, but a distant female voice saying ‘oops’ was the last thing he expected.


He opened his eyes to a calm blue sky with clouds lazily floating along. He frowned and sat up, looking down at his right hand, examining it.

“No memories… but I know things…”

No recollection of parents or friends or anyone who knew him, but he knew his name was Kazerol. No recollection of having met anyone who looked like him but he knew he was part of a race called the Kezels.

“That voice… Whom does it belong to?”

That he did not have knowledge of. Looking around he saw no-one, but that he expected. The voice had seemed like it came from… impossibly far away.

He climbed to his hooves, taking in his surroundings as he did. He was in a forest in… the continent Ashtyellarra, which was not the continent his people hailed from, his reservoir of knowledge informed him.

“So… What am I doing here?” he mused to himself.

Bushes rustled close by and Kazerol snapped in that direction, claws ready and a low growl emanating from his throat as his animal instincts kicked in.

A pair of people emerged, male and female, Human and Aurk, his knowledge helpfully proffered. The pair looked stunned briefly, before snapping out of it.

“Woah!” “What is THAT?!”

The Aurk reached for a bow hanging on her back, while the Human went for a sword sheathed at his side. Kazerol held out a hand, palm facing the pair and spoke, softly.

“Please, calm yourselves.”

They both blinked, as if this turn of events was unfathomable.

“Uhhh…” “Non-threatening gesture… coherent speech… Oh my word, you’re sapient!”

The pair relaxed a little, no longer panicked, but still wary, which Kazerol found fair; he did tower over them, after all.

“So, um, what are you exactly?” The Human asked.

“I am a Kezel.” Kazerol responded simply.

“I’ve never even heard of a Kezel before… How far from home are you?”

Kazerol’s eyes twitched. “Home… Well, I don’t know about that, but Kezels are from Inciritatus.”

The pair’s eyes went wide. “Oh, whoah…” “From across the sea?! A long way indeed!”

Then the Human’s eyes twitched, as if something were seriously bothering him.

“Uh, hey, don’t mean to be rude or anything but… can you, like, stop it with the shapes?”

This question puzzled Kazerol and he cocked his head in confusion.

“The… Shapes?”

“Uhhh… The ones on your face… and your hand… and your stomach…”

Kazerol looked down to see what they were talking about and sure enough, there were shapes, meshing and pulsing and shifting on his stomach. He opened his left hand and brought it close and examined it.

He didn’t… Actually, he did know what this was. Having noticed it, the knowledge came flooding in. Tessellation… Fractured… An eye that could see the infinite possibilities. That last one really caught his attention and he opened the Eye of Many Facets.

Swirling. Churning. An endless maelstrom that raged against itself, tides clashing against one another, before ebbing in a billion different directions. Currents that swam in impossible directions and all beyond counting.

Kazerol beheld the width and breadth of time and his mind did the only thing it could.

He staggered backward. He knew now. The Aurk was concerned for him. Fool girl. Why be concerned for your saviour? He moved and her eyes went wide and her mouth worked soundlessly. Kazerol drew her close.

“Shhh… You’ve been saved. No more thrashing about, pulled and pushed to and fro.”

Kazerol heard the Human roar in fury. Poor fool didn’t understand, didn’t know, not like he did. Kazerol pulled his arm back and the Aurk collapsed to the ground. He didn’t even look behind him as he sent a powerful kick thundering backwards. Crack-Crunch. The Human’s fury ceased immediately.

Kazerol raised his hand up and let the crimson drip from his claws into his mouth as he considered his very first two Friends, both collapsed on the ground, struggling for breath.

“Shhh… Don’t try to hold on. Let go, float away from the currents” He smiled down benevolently at them. “Didn’t you hear me? You’ve been saved. No longer can Time parade you about as it wills, you’re free! Now all that’s left is for the pair of you to decide what comes next for you.”

Kazerol saw panic spread through his two Friends’ eyes. “I know, I know. It’s so hard to say goodbye to a good Friend. But you’ll be alright without me! And I have so many more people to save.”

Kazerol awoke with a smile on his face. He always enjoyed remembering fond times. He sat up, opened his eyes and frowned.

“Where… Am I?” Black vines formed an open corridor around him and he got to his hooves. Peering over the tops of the walls Kazerol could see that he was in some manner of maze, massive in its scope. In the distance marble towers rose proudly into the sky.

“Well… This is different. Where has the maelstrom gone?” He could no longer See, as if this place was removed from Time entirely. “Well, time for my morning exercises.”

One step, two, three, four. He took off slowly but quickly broke out into a sprint, dashing through a maze that abhorred direction. Every now and then he’d look for the marble towers, but they were never in the direction they should have been. He came to a stop, took a deep breath and let out a roar.

Whatever was happening was so new and different he could not suppress giggles that bubbled up and poured past his mouth, overflowing into roaring laughter that rang out. Kazerol was elated.

He sat down after running through the maze some more, a joyful grin still plastered to his face that only faded when the maze wall tried to strangle him. Kazerol struggled, but more vines simply grew out and drew him into their insistent embrace, pulling him in and then down, down, down.

His sensations were nothingness… and then, something. A Light. A Star, shining into void. Then the star grows bright until he cannot stand to see anymore and jams his eyes shut. Then he is standing on solid ground again and carefully he opens his eyes again. Kazerol realises he is not alone and a smile twitches on his face. New Friends

The star pulls, cajoling him to fly, but he is looking around at the others and stands his ground. Some symbols appear above their heads, but Kazerol ignores those. Off to the right… no. Those two don’t call to him. To the left… Heat blasts out as a great sound resolves into a voice, calling them pawns. Kazerol ignores that too. Off to the left… New Friends.

One should always greet a New Friend as quickly as possible, with appropriate decorum.

He sprints at the New Friend closest to him, his arms spread wide, ecstatic grin affixed to his face.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 2
1/25/2023 2:12:13   

“So, ya ready t’ make a deal with the devil, girly?”


“Huh? But ya jus - “

“Is the devil ready to make a deal with me?”

“Ship t’ starboard, Captain!”

A deckhand swayed precariously out over the ocean, hanging off the rigging by elbow and ankles as he squinted towards the horizon. The first mate glanced his way, then moved to the railing and drew her spyglass. It took several long moments to spot the dark shape against the slate-dull surface of the ocean’s swells. “Three sails, but she’s far out, Captain.” Another glance skywards, watching the slow roil of thick gray clouds above their own limp sails. “Hardly worth the effort of chasing her, we’d lose ‘em the second the wind shifts. Especially with this weather.”

“Don’t tell me yer falling for all that superstitious drabble they ‘er jawing ‘bout back at port, Malley.” The captain laughed, pleased with his own joke. “We’re flying no flags, and haven’ had any catch since last shore. We’ll jus’ wait for ‘em to come to us, nice and safe now,” he added as the mate opened her mouth, brushing past her to lean against the rail above the lower deck. “Reef them sails, boys! And get below decks if yer not busy t’ get your swords nice and sharp!”

Answering whoops and grins followed the captain’s orders, but his mate’s lips merely pressed into a thin line. She wordlessly slipped by him, then snagged one of passing boys with a brusque jerk. A few curt words later, and the boy went scampering up the crow’s nest to keep watch, looking askance at the first mate as he went. The other shiphands leapt into action, turning the ship's bow windward at a sharp word from Malley for better positioning before furling the main sails. One by one, the men finished their assigned tasks and ducked out of sight behind barrels or below decks. They set swords and pistols within arms’ reach, and they waited. And waited… And waited…

And all the while the skies darkened.

The captain paced the deck, gnawing at a pipe impatiently, every now and then turning to glare at the speck on the horizon. Finally, with a growl, he turned to the boy in the crow’s nest. “Oy, Cael, what gives?”

“They haven’ moved an inch, Cap’n!”

He snorted. “Don’t make me yank ye down with the whip, boy!”

“But they haven’!”

The man paused, then whipped back around to face the far horizon. Under his breath he muttered, “That doesn’ make any - ”

His words caught in his throat. A wall of clouds loomed on the horizon - pitch black and ribbed with jagged forks of lightning. The ocean curled up to meet it, dark water cresting to kiss the storm. His eyes frantically raked across the horizon for the ship, desperate to find a point to help him judge the distance and their chance of outrunning the storm, but it had vanished into the darkness.

And then a ship glowing ghostly, pale white sailed out of the center of the maelstrom, blood-red sails casting a crimson glow all about it.

“The Nightmare.” Malley’s voice cracked behind him, quavering.

“To your posts!” The captain howled, fear turning his bullying roars sharp and shrill as he dove for the wheel of the ship. Wind rushed ahead of the gale, filling the half-furled sails and yanking the rigging out of the crew's hands. Sailors scrambled in a panic as they attempted to regain control of the lines and the mate shouted further orders. Swells buffeted the ship to the side, turning her just enough for the men to see the Nightmare leaping forward, impossibly fast as it skimmed along the surface and pulled the storm along in her wake. Then came curtains of sweeping rain, half-blinding the crew and sending many tumbling across the suddenly slick deck, their ropes whipping free to snap in the raging wind. “Turn th’ ship, turn ‘er, now!” the captain continued to scream, leaning his entire weight against the wheel. Panicked shouts and yells drowned him out as the crew fought the storm in a panic, managing in a last push of desperation to turn her with the wind and take off running against the squall. “Finally!” growled the captain, relaxing against the wheel. “Malley, get up ‘er and - ” a high, chilling laugh cut off his orders. Thunder roared in its wake, the flash of lighting barely a moment ahead of the sound as it cracked against the mast. Timber groaned and creaked, then fell - smashing into the deck below to the frantic cries of the crew and revealing broad sweeps of crimson sails drawn abreast with their bow.

Malley screamed behind him and he turned, hand fumbling for his cutlass when - a flash of white - and darkness.

A satisfied smirk curled up on one side of the Captain’s face as she paced her deck, glowing eye fixed on the prizes in its center. Beyond the Nightmare, the storm raged. Wind screamed, lightning flashed, and thunder boomed as sea and sky spun in their endless dance. But here, in the eye of her storm, the ocean was still as glass, and the only flashes came from her hand upon the rail, white sparks flaring against the magic of the ship in time with the drumming of her fingers. Her smile only grew as she turned to properly greet her… guests. “Welcome aboard, Captain Alek. Formerly the skipper of the… moderately successful merchant ship, The Gilded Rift.” The smirk turned predatory, her lip curling up into a snarl. “If only thanks to a side of piracy, and a first mate with more brains than you and the rest of your crew put together.” The Captain shifted, letting her gaze fall solely on the shade of the older woman - pulsing with the faint green light of fear - and considered her as Malley stared fixedly at the dark wood of the deck rather than meet the revenant’s gaze.

Long, almost translucent fingers caught the woman by her chin and forced her to look upwards, into the Captain’s mismatched eyes. Blazing white and dull black met pale green for a long moment as the captured woman shook, but held her stare. The Captain hummed. “You, I keep.”

Without turning away, she released the prisoner, and in the same motion pulled a pistol smoothly from the back of her belt. A shot echoed - a single, terrible crack in the eye of the storm - and the other spirit dissolved into a screaming mist. “You can go.”

The cry rippled out across the still water as the Captain rose, expression softening - although still more a smirk than a smile as she regarded her newest recruit. “Welcome aboard, Malley.”

The Nightmare creaked softly about her as its captain padded along the upper deck, ghostly fingers trailing along the dark wood of its inner hull. Her storm continued to spiral slowly about her, but above the stars gleamed unobstructed. The Captain sighed softly, turning mismatched eyes skyward as she paused against the side, feeling her ship slowly turn beneath her as she tracked the constellations.

“One year left…” and barely a handful shy of her ten thousand souls. She smiled, sharp, teeth glinting in the faint starlight. One year, and the deal’s lost, and she’s won. She exhaled, almost a soft laugh, something close to relief seeping down her spine. She’d been desperate, those first few decades; desperate and fighting so hard to hide it that she hadn’t realized her desperation had actually been courage until said courage had overflowed into confidence. Confidence that swelled with her strength, soul by soul and ship by ship in the armada secreted within the walls of her storm.

“Jus’ the one year, huh, girly?” a voice laughed darkly in her ears. The Captain tensed, fighting not to show any further reaction than projected boredom. It was hardly the first time he’d contacted her like this, after all, just to see if he could make her jump.

“Just the one,” she replied, coolly. “If you’re here to renegotiate, you can leave now.”

The laughter reverberated through the mast, hummed across the planks and shivered across the lines, his power clawing and straining for purchase in the wood and iron and rope only to be denied at every turn. The Nightmare was hers, had been hers for nearly a century. It only listened to one master now. Still, she felt the devil’s presence about her, a thick, oppressive heat as he continued to speak. “Nah, na’ that. Salute ya, maybe.” That… wasn’t what she was expecting. “I guess ye can call me impressed, girly. Ye’ve caught more n’ jus’ my attention. Hope ye don’t mind a little… interference.”

The Captain stiffened and shot upright, one side of her face tilting down in a sharp frown. “We have a deal, Devil! You swore your oath, same as m- ”

Weightlessness. A single moment, suspended above the mirror of the ocean, the Nightmare inexplicably gone. Then she plummeted, living limbs more than enough to send her hurtling seawards even as her storm buckled inward - to catch her? To kill her? She didn’t have time to tell before dark waves reached up to pull her into their embrace, plunging her deep and leaving only a trail of screaming bubbles in her wake as the depths pulled her down.

The last vestiges of the devil’s laughter echoed through her mind, then -

“Ready to learn to swim, little minnow?”

She jolted awake with a gasp, face down on a slight divot in an otherwise perfectly smooth marble tile. She pulled in lungful after lungful of sweet air, one precious moment to regain her awareness, before she lunged to her feet with neither care nor caution. “We had a deal!” she roared, voice bounding away across the stone as she whirled about in an attempt to pin the devil to this place with the fury of her gaze alone. “You don’t get to start adding new conditions whenever you feel like it; you follow what you signed! Now get me back to my ship, you vile, cheating, scum- ”

Her outraged voice died in a breath, eyes going wide. She… knew these buildings. She knew these streets. Pale marble shifted and resolved itself into a familiar marketplace; the shadows of familiar figures drifted about in the corners of her eyes. The Captain stepped forward, swaying unsteadily on the solid ground, and then took off in a sprint. Around that corner, by the new tailors, through the alleyway behind the stables, back to a familiar house - back to the mind of a young girl frozen in terror. Could she be home? Could they be there? Is she dead, are they waiting, please don’t let this be a dream -

Then the door swung open at her touch on the handle, a twist three quarters to the left just like so, and she stumbled inside, heart hammering in what's left of her chest and -

She plunged into darkness.

Blackness. Darker than pitch. Darker than night. Darker than the depths of the ocean itself. It surrounds her, cool and quiet and absolute; she screams, shaking off the memories of her desperation, and the blackness does not notice. She can feel herself twisting and turning, eyes searching for something, anything, doggedly pushing herself forwards even as the fury in her soul is swallowed the second it leaves her lips. She’ll not break, not here, there has to be - there!

A star, a single star shone in the distance. It pulsed, flickering away to almost nothing before blazing bright with renewed vigor. Warmth stretched across eons to wash over her in an echo of her rage. It’s not how stars behave, not the stars she knows, but still the Captain pressed towards it. A star meant a constellation, constellations meant a sky, a map, and if she could just reach it then she has a direction. A direction and a path towards survival, and so she pushes towards the blaze. She is the Captain of the Nightmare, teeth bared in a grimace as one foot falls after the other, driving herself forward through sheer force of her will alone. She would not fall here.

Another step - then the star swelled, heat caressing her in advance of its blinding, gleaming light. Feet thudded against solid flooring, sending welcome vibrations through her bones, her skin, her soul. Then the light rushed by her like the tide, a torrent of brilliance that regressed to a single sun, shining strong in spite of the blackness of the surrounding void. The ground shuddered beneath her as her vision cleared, the Captain blinking to make out the ring of metal that she now stood upon. The gravity of the sun, a tide of force with no flow to give as well as take, pulled her further. Her boots slid, rough soles against smooth steel, dragging her a step closer before the tow faded enough to regain her footing.

The Captain straightened her spine, one hand already on her cutlass as her eyes flicked side to side. She took a slow, almost unnoticeable steadying breath. Give no quarter, show no weakness. Bend if you must, but do not break. If the devil wanted to throw her at a few specific foes… well, she was more than happy to return them to him the hard way.

The wavering light revealed a motley collection - each one marked with a strange symbol. She didn’t need to look over her head to feel the pristine-spoked circle searing itself against her soul. Spiraling black marked the figures to either side; to her left, a human in rags and bandages, with a dirty tangle of black hair and… a green bowl balanced precariously on top of her head. Break that first, the Captain mulls, glancing away. To her right… the wraith raised her eyebrow. The imposing size of the monster was one thing; the amalgamation of lizard, livestock, and lion was quite another. Some sorcerer must have been compensating for something when he made that.

A quick glance across the ring showed a collection of humanoid figures, the most normal of which was a tall woman in a striking yellow and cobalt coat, followed by a formidable suit of sleek, black armor fused together with soft-glowing blue crystals, and culminating with a… human-esque thing in pale white, with crimson feathers crowning where its eyes should be and long, blood-stained claws. The Captain glanced down at her ghostly arm and grinned, the living half of her mouth stretching wide to match the skeletal teeth of her skull. I’ll fit right in. In fact, she may even be the least imposing. She did so love being underestimated.

The light pulsed, snapping her attention away from the other souls on the field to focus on the ringing explosions, their echoing blasts hurling words past her to the void beyond. A snarl curled her lips as it did, but before she could reply she caught motion at her side, the chimera already sprinting at her with a manic grin and its serpentine arms stretched wide. Time to determine which of those animals you have the intelligence of, dear monster.

The Captain waited as it approached, hands tucked into her belts as she met the creature’s fractured gaze. Steel shook beneath her as it drew closer and closer, as she forced herself to smirk in its face to keep her fingers from curling too tight. Steady… now! Barely a dozen paces away and the Captain sprang into motion, solid flesh curling about the grip of her pistol as she drew it in one smooth, practiced motion. A shot echoed - aimed point blank at the maelstrom of colors of the monster’s eye. In the same moment she pushed herself to the side, tucking and twisting to push her solid limbs further from the path of the rampage. Keep standing, keep moving - the Captain narrowed her focus to herself and the charging beast.

It didn’t matter in the end who she faced here and who she sent to the devil.

Good and Evil were such trivial things. But if she figured out what had dared to interfere with her bargain in exchange for a Pawn?

That soul would go to the depths with the rest of them.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 3
1/25/2023 21:51:49   
How We Roll Winner

She walked slowly through the charred ruins of the village, the fires of which burned relentlessly even in the battle’s aftermath. The black smoke would have been choking, but a light west wind mercifully blew the worst of it aside.

The aftermath of the great battle was a scene of eerie silence. The once-bustling village was now strewn with the bodies of the fallen, soldier and villager alike Armor and weapons lay discarded, broken and bloody, alongside shattered caravan wares, pottery and the occasional trampled flowers. The smell of death and decay hung heavy in the air, and the only sound was the distant cries of carrion birds circling overhead. The sky above was a hazy grey, casting a somber light over the scene, as if to reflect the sadness and grief of the survivors. The once-proud warriors now lay motionless, their bodies covered in dirt and blood, a reminder of the brutal reality of war.

The silence was deafening, a stark contrast to the chaos and noise of the battle that had raged only hours before. It was a silence born of exhaustion and sorrow, a silence that seemed to echo the finality of death. The only movement came from the gentle whisper of ash as it blew gently in the breeze, whispering a mournful song for the fallen. The silence seemed to linger, as if time itself had come to a standstill, and the only thing that could be heard was the beating of one's own heart, a reminder of the fragility of life. It was a silence that spoke of the futility of war, and the heavy toll it takes on those left behind.

No hope to cling to.

She cocked her head. Just the crackle of flame sputtering out, strangling on the ashes. Her tattered brown longcoat flapped in the wind, her long dirty black hair following suit. Without a hairpin, her hair blew in her face. Such a distraction would be deadly for anyone in these dangerous times, but she hardly cared. The reason became apparent when one saw her face: both her eyes were covered tight with an eyepatch over each.

But to assume she was blind would be a fatal assumption. She surveyed the destruction around her without hesitation. And in a way, she could see. She could see the bodies of innocent villagers strewn across the ground, bearing wounds turned dark with dried blood. She could see homes and shops looted and pillaged, like carcasses picked clean by vultures.

She saw all these things, and yet she saw nothing.

No sight to distract from.

Ash, dirt, and mud mixed with blood and tears slipped between her toes. Waves of dying heat blew into the exposed skin of her arms, but the cold metal of her hiltless swords, which she grasped in each hand, edged into her palms.

No pain too great.

A chill began to take the air, she noted; the sun was beginning to set.

A cry broke the dead air, a wail of despair that chilled the bone. Her palms convulsed and the edges of her hiltless swords cut into them in response. Aside from this, she gave no other reaction. Without hurrying, she continued forward.

She saw a mother, her face contorted with fear, trying desperately to protect her baby from a group of brutal soldiers closing in. The woman – she could not tell how old she was, she could have been fifteen or forty – was backed against a wall, her arms wrapped tightly around her child, as if to shield it from the impending attack.

She could see the terror in the mother's eyes as the soldiers, their weapons drawn and their faces twisted in greed and lust, advanced on her. She could hear the mother's soft sobs and the baby's cries as they trembled with fear.

Quite suddenly–

“Hey, look! A xiaoguniang!”

Instantly, the soldiers forgot all about the mother and the baby; all their attention was focused on her.

“She’s blind!”

“What’s that thing on her head?”

The ding was the trademark of a Vessel Bearer, and once these soldiers recognized it–

“Probably selling an old family heirloom!”

Or not.

“Hey xiaoguniang,” jeered what seemed to be the biggest and burliest of the soldiers. “What’s a petite girl like you doing all the way out here?”

She did not even bother to respond. Approximately seven soldiers. A patrol perhaps? Or just looters looking to score with no one around. She registered all this with barely a glance; her purpose here was for something else entirely.

The soldiers must have taken her lack of response for something else, because they all started to laugh.

“Does she even understand you?”

“What if she’s also deaf?”

“Can you even talk, girl?”

One of the soldiers hesitated. “Hey, is it just me or do you guys feel that too–?” but his voice was lost amidst the others.

“I’m talking to you,” the big soldier sneered, placing a meaty hand on her shoulder.

He was very rude, a big brute, and definitely up to no good. That did not concern her. Indeed, her next decision had nothing at all to do with his crude remarks and equally crude manner.

They had not seen her swords, which she held along the backs of her arms. Before anyone could blink, she casually flipped the sword in her right hand and buried it in his gut.

Everyone froze. She twisted the blade and pulled it out in one swift motion. The big soldier’s knees buckled. He tipped and fell into her. She didn’t flinch. His body keeled over and fell with a splat into the mud.

The soldiers yelled and pulled out their weapons. Or at least they tried to. It was then they realized what that one soldier was feeling.

The vessel she bore on her head was no empty pot.

As flesh withers, hold the Ruin.

One of the soldiers successfully drew his sword. With a yell, he ran toward her.

The borne vessel could be very deceptive. She dropped to a kneeling position, faster than the vessel could follow. The soldier’s sword whizzed through the empty space where her head had been – with her left hand, she brought her other sword around and sliced his shins. She came back up and brought her right sword down into his neck. The thud as his body hit the dirt resounded with the vessel landing back on her head.

Perhaps another swordsman would have stopped there and allowed them to flee.

She was not one of them. The fight that followed was short and brutal.

She turned and looked at the mother who held the child. The mother stared back at her, quaking in her tattered boots.

“You … can … leave … now,” she whispered, her voice grating harshly against lips and vocal chords that hadn’t spoken nor drunk for the past several hours.

The mother didn’t move. If anything, she seemed to be sinking lower into her rags, almost like she was trying to disappear into them.

As bone crumbles, hold the Ruin.

And so that was the duty of the Vessel Bearer. She was about to turn away when she stopped. She turned back to the mother, whose eyes widened even further if that was possible.

Her attention was not focused on the mother, but rather the bundle in the latter’s arms.

The mother realized this instantly. “No,” she whimpered. “No, no, no no nonononono–”

She hardly heard the mother’s keening moan. She raised her right sword and with its tip, lowered the blanket protecting the baby’s face. The baby, not even a year old, stared wide eyed back at her.

Hold the Ruin.

Her grip tightened on the hiltless sword and the edge bit deeply into her palm.

Hold the Ruin.

She gritted her teeth.


Abruptly, she swung the sword away, so fast it almost cut the mother’s cheek. Without another word, she turned heel and forcefully stepped away.

The mother sobbed in relief.

In such a village, there were rarely more than two different taverns around. Too little people, too much competition. So it would be considered very lucky for her to be in this village, where there were not just two, but five taverns. And even better, this one stood whole, despite being riddled with arrows and scored and charred with torches and with all the furniture used as barricades, had an entirely undamaged cellar filled with drinks.

This was where she sat now, having pulled a table and a bench out of the debris and lit a campfire. Several empty jars lay around her, and she pulled off the cover of yet another one and poured the contents into a small bowl.

Ruin … well, ruined all that it touched, but such drinks designed to age through time resisted Ruin’s touch well. The liquid flowed down her throat, warming her bones. With a sigh, she leaned against the wall and closed her eyes, letting the drink and the silence of the destroyed tavern wash over her. The only sounds were the gentle crackling of the embers from the fire and the distant cries of the birds.

She did not dare put down the vessel, for the only thing preventing it from spilling was the fact it was balanced precariously on her head, its only lid being her will and nothing else.

And so that was the duty of the Vessel Bearer.

Sometimes she wondered if that was all there would be to her life.

To hold the Ruin until it overtook her and she joined what she fought against. To be hunted by the next Bearer once she finally fell to her own burden.

No hope to cling to.
No sight to distract from.
No pain too great.
As flesh withers, hold the Ruin.
As bone withers, hold the Ruin.

And then let go.

“Let go.” She spoke the words out loud.

What did they mean?

Ruin was evil. Ruin was bad. And as a Vessel Bearer, she had to clean it up. But it couldn’t be destroyed. Only contained. Contained until she couldn’t hold on to it anymore … and had to let it go?

She poured and drank again.

Will I ever be free?

She woke up with a start. She didn’t even know when she had fallen asleep. Her hands closed instinctively around her swords. The biting cold metal against her palms assured her they were still there.

But something didn’t seem right …

She stood up, tipping over the bench.

It fell over with a harsh, hollow clang.

She rushed to the door and kicked it open. Her breath left her in a ragged gasp. For a moment she wondered if she had been drinking a little too strongly.

No. She was not dreaming.

Before her lay a vast city, carved purely from marble. The architecture did not interest her, even though she could tell it was not from where she came from.

Will I ever be free?

Something moved behind her.

She whirled around, swords raised. Where the destroyed tavern had been before, it had now been replaced by an elegant, immaculate tavern, adorned with crystal chandeliers, soft leather chairs and tables, and a full wet bar. Rows of sparkling glass bottles lined the shelves behind it. And with it–

“Will you be having anything else today, miss?”

Behind the bar was a shapely woman wearing a simple apron and uniform of a bartender. Or so it seemed.

She did not lower her swords.

“Where … am … I?”

“You are now a resident of the Chequered City.”

A name that meant nothing; thus a response that was meaningless.

“Why … am … I … here?”

The bartender inclined her head. “All will become clear soon.”

She approached the bartender. The bartender did not appear even remotely perturbed by her appearance; instead she merely continued to smile pleasantly.

“Why … was … I … brought … here?”

The bartender made a small motion with her head. She hesitated – if the bartender attacked –

If the bartender attacked, she would already be dead. She turned around.

The entire wall facing the tavern’s outside was a solid wall of glass, affording her a perfect view of the cityscape. At this moment, the ground was rumbling. Obscured by buildings, a huge marble tower suddenly erupted out of the ground, carrying with it a huge crumpled metal ship. As she watched, the marble enveloped the ship, turning it blank white as well. It straightened out and seemed to merge into the tower, and all became still outside again.

“What … does that … mean?”

“The powers are imbalanced,” the bartender said cryptically. “There, once a knight of Order, now preserved forever as that side of the cosmos gains footing.”

“... who?”

“A young woman,” the bartender said, “not unlike yourself.”

“... what … happened?”

“You will soon find out.”

“... I see …”

She paused. A “knight” of Order? Powers? Imbalance? Truly a cruel analogy to her current predicament. Perhaps the universe was just toying with her at this point. But then again, when has it ever not?

She considered all these things, and made her decision. “Then … give … me … a drink.”


They stood in silence as she gulped the smooth, tangy liquid down. Once she was done, she tossed the glass aside and it shattered against the marble floor.

And when she spoke, her voice was clear. “And now I must go.”

No hope to cling to.

“As you must,” the bartender said.

The lights went out.

No sight to distract from.

It did not matter. She tightened her grip on her hiltless swords.

No pain too great.

The darkness was excruciating, but in a way, she welcomed it. A peaceful emptiness for her eyes which could see nothing but still saw everything.

A pinpoint of light broke the darkness and she squeezed the hiltless swords instinctively. The light began to swell, until where once all she saw was black, now there was only white.

Underfoot, marble became metal. The great light dimmed, and her new surroundings took shape.

Her tattered coat rustled but she stood stock still like a statue as an unseen force seemed to pull at her feet.

Is that you?

The great star pulsed, and its voice gave its declaration.

The Vessel Bearer heard its words and responded as she had always done.

She raised her right sword and swung it sharply in a downward motion.

All her life, she mused, she had only been a weapon, bound by a duty and a burden no one else could shoulder. No hope. No sight. No pain.

But she did have one thing.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 4
1/25/2023 23:02:48   

“Slow down, Miss; start from the beginning.”

“I-- I’m sorry. Give me a moment.”

“Take all the time you need.”

“No, I-- I think I’m okay now. So, I was sleeping like usual, right? And my partner and I have a baby monitor so we can hear when Greta wakes up and starts crying. I mean, she’s right down the hall so we probably don’t need it, but, but I was paranoid. So we got one anyways. I woke up, sometime around 2 I think? And I heard-- I don’t even know how to explain it. It was like this… faint crackling. It kinda faded in and out, I just assumed something was wrong with the monitor itself. So I got up, turned it off and back on a couple times, but it was still giving off that noise. So I thought, maybe there’s some feedback from Greta’s end, a tree branch brushing against the window or something. But something just felt… off. Call it motherly instinct or something, I don’t know. So I got up and went to check on her.

I opened the door a crack, just enough to peek in, because, you know, I didn’t want to wake her. And I saw-- oh lords…”

“It’s alright Miss. Do you need a break?”

“No… I’m okay. I… I thought it was Kirei, at first. My partner. I’d sworn she’d still been in bed when I got up, but, you know, who else could it be? Anyways, she was leaning over the crib, so I opened the door a smidge more, and whispered in, ‘Kirei, is everything alright?’ And… that’s when I got a better look at the thing.

I… don’t even know how to describe it. It was just wrong, so wrong in so many ways. It was… well, it had three arms, uh, so I suppose that was an easy tip off that… whatever it was wasn’t natural. Two of them were free, and one of them was holding some big metal thing that was just kind of stuck in the ground. And it was tall enough to be Kerei, but I realized it was… on its knees, with the bottom half of its legs flopped out behind it, like… lords, it was just… grotesque. It was absolutely grotesque.

I-- I froze, I mean, I should have charged in there and shoved the thing away and-- and kicked it or something, but-- I just couldn’t move. So I just… lords, I just stood there and watched. It reached one of its hands down-- I think they were hands, anyways… and I thought it was going to grab Greta and then, my baby girl… but, it grabbed her doll instead. It’s, it’s a really old thing, it must have been my grandmother’s. One of those old porcelain dolls with those poofy dresses and creepy painted-on faces. She shouldn’t have even been sleeping with it, frankly, but she loved the thing so much and-- anything to get her to fall asleep, right? …sorry. Anyways, it picked the doll up and brought it close to its… chest, or face, or, I don’t even know what it was, I didn’t get a look at its front. I don’t know what it did to it, but after that it just kind of… disappeared. It looked like, maybe it reached up to the ceiling? But I don’t know what it could have been reaching for, there’s nothing over there. But uh… that was it. And it was gone.”

“Thank you, Miss.”

The Grotesque considered the square, wooden basket in front of it; a collection of poles woven together with an open top. Inside lay two human figures, both likely children; a large one and a small one. The Grotesque paid no attention to the large; it had rhythms of its own, a heart that beat quickly, a breath that hiccupped as the Grotesque leaned over it. No, that would not do. It could not compete with existing rhythms. It needed a silent one.

The Grotesque ran a crooked finger slowly across the small, silent being. It slumped against the large one’s arm. The Grotesque lifted its hair from its face to watch the child’s horsehair locks. They draped across the Grotesque’s finger and flopped against the child’s body when the Grotesque let go. It tapped a crooked finger onto the child’s pallid skin, and smiled crookedly as it made a satisfying ping

The Grotesque lurched, grabbing the pallid child in its fist and thrusting it into its mouth. I like this one, the creature thought, as it felt the oblong shape slide down its throat. This one sounds… happy. It would be a fitting form. The Grotesque was done here, then. It glanced behind it, where a taller human stood; was that how it was supposed to stand? Peculiar. The nearest door was above it; so it reached upwards, opened it, and slid through.

The Grotesque stepped up from the floor into a bone-white room. Its heart throbbed, insatiable; it would adopt the pallid child’s form soon. The Grotesque did not like it here. It would need bum a place to change form, and something about the rigid angles and walls of this building was entirely unwelcoming -- so absent of bum bum bum life. It left the rigid building, legs dangling behind it, and slid through choking corridors until it reached its respite. A tangle of blackened thorns that scraped across the Grotesque’s stomach and released its breath from its unbreathing body. This was better. This sung with Chaos’ rhythms. The grotesque clenched bum bum itself tightly and opened its mouth.

The Grotesque knew not how long the transformation took, for it had not enough clockhands to illuminate its mind to the ticking of time. It fixed its head first-- each porcelain section folding outward and setting with a ping Its three arms became two, with single joints-- ping ping Its two legs, each with a rather small platform below to balance its weight-- ping ping And its torso. ping It attempted to mimic the pallid child as best it could, pulling on the folds and bright colors of the child’s clothing, yes, that was what the soft bloodlike arrangement must have been. ping

It rolled its head atop its new neck, testing the new body’s joints. There was still something missing from this one, though it could not identify what. Perhaps human children did not have all the same features as human adults? No matter. They were closer than before-- much closer.

They stood and, with the help of their clockhand, carefully positioned their legs to mimic the human they had just seen. Yes, they remembered now; they had tried this before, but the last vessel’s legs had broken under the weight. This one seemed much more stable. They brought a hand up, testing the movement of their new arms, and placed it over their bum-- bum heart. It was a good heart. A happy heart.

Their new name came to them on the whispers of the blackened leaves around them; as it always did. They had many names; they always found a favorite with each new form.

She would be the Parodist.

As the Parodist rolled her name around in her head, she sensed a second heartbeat. It was slow-- slower than a human, the Parodist knew that much. The Parodist turned around with a staggering step bum to face the being beside her. Something on four legs, with a bottle-shaped face and a torso that could perhaps fit a large bird. A… deer. She stared as its torso moved with breath and mimicked its slow rhythm; slid her heart into sync with the animal’s easily. It always sounded so happy, when her heart beat in time with another’s.

bu-bum. The animal glanced up at her, its mouth full of the night-black bush that surrounded the Parodist. It let out a deep, slow sound that yanked its chest inwards. The Parodist moved her chest the same, though no air moved with it. The Parodist touched her ear to her shoulder, glancing up and down the animal. It had asked… something about the bushes. Did it think they were hers?

bu-bum. She had not spoken for some time; and the words of this strange animal’s language felt harsh in her mouth. “Not mine. Should… eat?” She reached forward and ripped a handful of leaves off of the deer’s bush. But as she held the clump towards her painted-on lips, the deer exhaled and spoke again. It did not want her eating the leaves. “You want… a fight. Is that right?” The deer bent its head down. Did that mean yes? The Parodist could fight, if the deer so wanted, but she had just now taught her body to stand. She needed time to learn how to move properly. She stared for a moment, worried the deer would advance; but he simply continued to eat, barely moving save for the rise and fall of his chest and the grinding of his teeth.

It would be better not to fight. She would leave and let the deer have his bush.

The Parodist bent their top half forwards, as they had seen humans do sometimes before leaving. They wrenched their heartbeat from the animal’s bum-ba bum and continued onward, their legs clicking with each practiced step. ping ping-- ping

They explored for a while, adapting to their new body, bending and breaking the pallid skin until it moved freely over new joints. Though they saw many other human-like forms, they did not meet another rhythm, and none seemed quite as happy as the pallid child. bum b-bum When the call of Chaos fell in time to the Parodist’s own heartbeat, they opened a crooked door and left the City for the fight beyond.

bummmm. Before the Parodist was nothing, absolutely nothing save for a small, bright orb. They stood motionless, absolutely transfixed by its light, its low pulsing rhythm. Faint red pulsed from their chest to meet the glow, two suns beating in time with each other.

bummmm. The light grew and grew until it filled the Parodist entirely, enveloping them in a weird, tingling feeling the Parodist could not place. Then its pulsing abruptly stopped, and bu--- bum the Parodist’s beat returned to normal.

There were five other beings here, and the Parodist straightened proudly as it realized all beings were standing on their two feet and two upright legs. It had done it right! It was standing like the humans did! It tapped its Clockhand bum against the ground to steady itself. It could sense the rhythms of the two beings closest to it. One was shaped much like itself, and the Parodist again felt a surge of warmth towards the pallid child. The Parodist recognized this one’s heartbeat, a rhythm and speed similar to most humans it had met. Perhaps they would be a good start.

The other being was… strange. It hummed like vaguely-tonal static in the Parodist’s head, not overwhelming, but… certainly nothing she had ever met before. The Parodist’s head lurched bumbum sideways in time with her heart and Clockhand as she stared at the humming being.

Chaos’ pulse had called her here; and though she could not hear it as she could the others, she knew it urged her to fight. So her foot hit steel bum-- floor alongside her Clockhand as she approached the humming one, examining it.

Maybe here they could learn bummm bum how to show that they lived.

Post #: 5
1/26/2023 22:00:13   

“... This is torture, Stephen.”

Asurah let out a sigh as she looked out into the crowd before her. For the past hour, the Director kept silent as she tried to keep her composure. As K Corp’s CEO addressed the masses, Asurah felt every muscle in body twitch. She let out another whisper.

“We shouldn’t be here.”

The seal was broken. Another hushed voice followed.

“You know as well as I do how important this is.”

Stephen’s eyes remained fixed before him, ever careful not to draw attention away from the memorial. Thankfully as “honored speakers,” the two were seated away from most of the others present. It gave them some space to breathe.

“I don’t like it.” Asurah’s voice cracked as she tried to restrain herself. “All these people in one area, so soon after the attack? They’re sitting ducks; We should be out there finding the–”

Asurah stopped as she felt a tap in her side. Though she couldn’t see his face, Asurah could feel the look on her associate director’s face. She wanted to apologize, but all Asurah could muster was more unbearable silence. Thankfully, she did not have to wait long before Stephen continued.

“... And that is why we are here, Director. The terrorists could be here right now, but you know they wouldn’t dare act so soon. Not with all the divisions present. And why would they?”

“Look at them.” Stephen’s tone went soft. Asurah could feel him beckoning to the citizens. To the sea of green light that surrounded them.

“They know they should be afraid; they are afraid. Even if we found every single one of the perpetrators, they would still feel in danger.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Asurah saw Stephen turn to face her. For a moment, she felt the pressure slip. She forgot about the memorial, the crowds, the other figures on the stage. As Asurah met his eyes, she could see the color wrap around his form.

Green. He was scared too. Yet he spoke with such conviction.

“We are here to be their shield. They need us. They need hope... They need you, Asurah.”

For a moment, Asurah’s mouth went wide. Then, a wide smirk swept across her face as she let out another sigh.

“Thank you, Stephen. I had... forgotten myself. When I bite it, I know I’ll have a great replacement.”

Stephen could not help but let out a laugh as he pushed his glasses back in place. “I learned from the best, after all.”

Before the two could settle down, a voice called out over the speakers. “... Director Walsh?”

Suddenly, Asurah felt the pressure again as thousands of eyes snapped towards her with expectation. The CEO was looking directly at her with a confused expression on his face. She could see that same shimmer of green wrapped around him.

Asurah had no time to be embarrassed. She snapped into character, straightening her tie as she approached. As the CEO stepped away from the microphone, Asurah gave a bow before turning to the masses. “Thank you, Dr. Kwartz.”

She could feel the bile rising in her throat, but she took a deep breath and remembered Stephen’s words.

Give them hope.

“People of District 11...” Asurah looked out into the sea of green and let her heart out.

"Over the past few days, our city has suffered immense tragedy. A multitude of areas have been devastated as a result of a coordinated assault by the Syndicates. Many of you have witnessed it first hand with your own eyes...” The crowd went silent. Asurah took another deep breath as she slowly found the words.

“As the situation evolves, new details will emerge. But in this time of uncertainty, I want to stress one constant. You are not alone. Support from across the City has been abundant. I along with many of our association were among the first responders. I can personally attest to K Corp’s aid. Dr. Kwartz has spared no resources in helping us fight against these terrorists. As we secure the support of others in the city, know this: we are your shield. If you want anything; food, shelter, company, know that we are ready to give up our lives for yours.”

As the crowd began to murmur, Asurah looked across the sea of people. One by one, she saw it. The ocean of green began to fade. For some it was quick. For others, it came more slowly. And for others still, their hearts were still afraid, but the colors had dimmed, nestled in a curtain of bright blue.

Asurah felt her heart ache as she saw the change before her eyes. All it took was a few words. But just as she was to step away, to find peace in the fruit of her labors, one soul called out to her.

“What about my child?!”

Asurah locked eyes with the source of the voice. In the blur of a moment, she tried to make out the details. It belonged to a woman; she was covered head to toe in dirt and ash. The figure pushed through the crowd, ready to leap on the stage. She didn’t make it far before one of the K Corp guards lunged to restrain her. Asurah watched with horror as a red ephemeral sheen wrapped around the woman, its color red like blood.

“Where was the association when East Side was attacked? Not in the backstreets! No, they were more concerned with protecting assets than people!”

Asurah felt the drum beating in her chest. A threat. Her voice echoed across the speakers for all to hear. “That is not true! As we assessed the threat, I personally sent out as many members as I could afford and led them firsthand in securing the East Side.”

“Where were you, then? My son is dead, and he will never be back!”

“... I’m sorry.”

As the victim was dragged away by K Corp officials, Asurah’s eyes fell to the floor. She couldn’t bring herself to look at the crowd. Eventually, she felt a familiar hand on her shoulder.

“You did good, Asurah.” Stephen was no longer whispering. The memorial was effectively over. Soon his voice was soon joined by another.

“Indeed.” Dr. Kwartz moved in front of Asurah. As she looked up at him, the CEO tried to put on a brave face. “I’m sorry you had to endure that, Director Walsh.”

“No, no– It’s fine. Just doing the best I can.” Asurah's voice cracked as she tried to convince herself. “Hopefully we will have some good news soon. Speaking of which, I believe it’s time we left. There’s work to be done.”

“That... won’t be necessary,” the CEO replied.

“Excuse me?–”

Asurah could not help but snap back, but Stephen put himself between the two and interjected. “Asurah, you need a break. K Corp’s support has taken a lot of pressure off of the association. I spoke to HQ, and they believe that it is in everyone’s best interest if you take the rest of the night off.”

Asurah was stunned. “I thought you said they needed me?”

“They do–” Dr. Kwartz interrupted. “We do. In your best shape possible, alive.

“I and the other sections have it covered. So please, get some rest Asurah.”

Stephen was practically begging her.

“... I guess I don't have a choice.”

"Good." Pleased, the CEO put on his best smile. "Anything else I can help you with, Director? If you'd like, I can arrange a train home."

Asurah could see the recoil on Stephen's face, but Asurah simply shrugged.

"No thanks. I don't do well with trains."

Despite their insistence, Asurah could not find rest. As the Director laid in her bed, sleep would not come to her. Tossing and turning, her mind kept racing back to the woman. Asurah tried to push the thoughts away, but just as her mind began to settle, the woman came back. It made her sick. The Director felt the call in her veins. She wanted to leap off the balcony and find her and–

The never-ending tumbling of her mind came to a halt. It was almost midnight when she heard the sound of her phone buzzing on the table. Out of instinct, she reached out and answered it without looking.

“... Director Walsh, who is speaking?” Despite her lack of sleep, her voice was hazy.


“Mother?!" She recognized the voice immediately and shot up from her bed. "Mom, is that you?”

“It’s been awhile, Asurah!” Her mother’s voice was vibrant as she teased her. “When was the last time you called?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry... I’ve been busy lately.” Her voice trailed off as Asurah felt the guilt in her chest.

The playful tone turned solemn as her mother spoke. “I know. I saw you on the news today. I want to make sure you are okay.”

“I’m fine... I’m actually at home right now trying to rest.”

“That’s good to hear...”

There was a pause before Asurah’s mother changed the subject. “By the way... I went and saw Amerya today.”

“Oh, really?... “ Asurah reached beneath her pillow. She pulled out the ebon blade. She traced her fingers down its sheathe, touching the tiny purple heart at the bottom– a keepsake of her sister.

“Mhm... I know how much she meant to you. I want to say that... I know she would be proud of you, Asurah.”

Tears trickled down Asurah’s cheeks. It felt like fire on her skin. “I know, Mom. Thank you. When this is all over, maybe I can come visit you and see her again.”

“I’d like that...” Asurah could hear her mother’s voice crack over the phone. “In any case, thank you. Get some rest, Dragon.”

Asurah chuckled at hearing that old nickname. "I will Mom. Love you.”

Slowly, Asurah placed the phone back onto her nightstand before pressing her face into her pillow. As her mind wandered, something snapped, and Asurah began to sob. It was as if Asurah was being pulled in all directions. The woman in the crowd, her mother’s words, her sister’s face– She let out all of her pent up feelings.

It hurt's so much... Why did it have to be us? Why did it have to be me? Couldn’t we have just lived a normal life?... I wish this would end. I wish I could have saved her.

With that thought, Asurah felt a numbness crawl across her body. She gave herself to that feeling, and finally sleep came to claim her.

Wake up.

When Asurah opened her eyes, she felt strange– perhaps a night of quality sleep had become so foreign to her. And yet, Asurah something more. Something, someone, had called to her–

As Asurah opened her eyes, it was staring at her.

An intruder. The Director shot up, arms reaching for Midnight beneath her pillow. However, as she did, she found only cold stone. The sensation–

This was not her home.

As Asurah gathered herself, she saw the being before her. It was a young child. The boy couldn’t have been in his teens yet. He was sitting on the ground and staring up at Asurah. Most concerningly, he had no aura to him. Not white, nothing. Not a single ounce of color to him.

“... What are you? And where are we?”

The boy remained silent as Asurah looked around. She– They, she corrected, were in some kind of twisted park. But this was nothing like the city Asurah knew. Streets of checkered stone. Alabaster towers like obelisks that stretched into the monochromatic sky. Asurah was at some kind of intersection as various paths crossed together. At the center were a few benches and a water fountain.

Eventually, Asurah turned her attention to herself. Much to her surprise, she was not in her nightgown. Clean cobalt suit with stripes of yellow. She could suddenly feel the badge against her chest, the silver shield of her organization. It felt heavy. And as she looked down, Asurah saw the familiar sight of the tachi at her hip.

Wherever she was, Asurah was dressed for work.

As the Director turned back to the child, instinct took over again as she reached for her blade. The young boy from before was gone, replaced by some kind of specter. He was covered head to toe in ash and dirt. His eyes seemed blank, emotionless.

“... Help me.”

The boy’s voice was discordant, like metal upon metal. He rose up from the ground and started stumbling towards the Director. As he did, another distant voice called out.

“... Asurah, help.”

From behind the corner, another being walked out. An older man dressed in cobalt blue His uniform had holes in it that leaked blood.

An association member... But you died in the attack?

Before she could process the thought, Asurah watched as more and more figures rose up from every corner and walked towards her. They were pleading, begging, all of them closing in on the Direction.

“Stop... Stay back!”

In an instant, a new light was cast across the monochromatic streets as Asurah drew Midnight from its sheath. Flames rippled across its ebon edge. She held it with both hands in front of her, beckoning the figures away. “I order you to stand down! Stay back!”

The crowd was unswayed, however, seemingly unphased by the threat of fire. Asurah stepped back, trying to put some distance between her and them, but the crowd drew closer and closer. They were mere inches away, hands reaching out as they called her name together.


“I’m warning you... Don’t make me–”

Her words were cut short as the young boy leapt towards her. One child wasn’t enough to restrain her, but soon the entire mass of the mob was upon her. Pressed against the wall, Asurah was out of options. She felt her heart race before suddenly–

... I’m sorry.

–with what room she had left, the Director slashed the blade forward.

For a moment, she had blacked out. But as Asurah came to, she was standing over their disfigured bodies. Bits of oil, and wire, and metal, and crystal were strung out across the floor.

“They’re... robots? Not people.” Asurah told herself. But she couldn’t accept that. Her own voice echoed like thunder across the checkered streets.

“But you didn’t know that.”

Asurah stood there, wrestling with her conscience. Midnight felt heavy in her hands.

"These were the people you couldn't save. You failed them with your negligence."

For a moment, Asurah resigned herself to silence. But then, she felt her hands tighten around her sister's blade. The Director yelled back at the city.

"No. I did what I could. Many have perished, but many more would be dead were it not for me... "

As Asurah spoke, the flames grew brighter on her blade.

"I did it for her."

As she spoke the words, a wind blew across the checkered park. Asurah felt her eyes drawn away to one of the paths. Off in the distance, there was another figure. Asurah could barely make out its form, but it was unmistakable.

"... Amerya!"

She didn't waste a moment. The Director rushed down the path. It didn't matter if it was truly her. It didn't matter if it was just a robot. Throwing all sense to the wind, she had to see her.

"Amerya, please!" Asurah called out to her younger sister, but no matter what, the figure did not look back. She kept walking, and Asurah chased after her.

As Asurah drew closer, Amerya turned the corner, disappearing behind one of the marble towers. She was so close... But as Asurah followed, her steps found no purchase. The stone ground disappeared, and the Director began to fall.

"No!... Amerya!"

The city was gone, replaced with a never-ending abyss. Asurah found herself tumbling in the void, the sound of wind rushing in her ears.

The voice in her head reached out again. "Do you want to see her again?"

Her response was certain. "More than anything."

The voice spoke again, and it was no longer hers.

"Then close your eyes..."

Asurah made her choice. She closed her eyes. Once more, she felt the numbness fall across her–

–And when she opened them, Asurah felt the warmth wash over her. It felt serene, peaceful...

A star.

From above, a miniaturized sun kept the abyss at bay. As Asurah looked around, her eyes traced the metallic disks at her feet. Soon her gaze caught sight of the others. The Director was not alone.

Surrounding the heart of light, six symbols were drawn into the air. White stars, black spirals– they alternated back and forth. At her sides, the spirals.

As the Director looked to their left, what she saw could only be described as a monster. A white husk of shattered glass, blood dripping from its monstrous claws. The deepest of blues wrapped around its form. Asurah immediately fell back onto her training.

“Abnormality, class unknown. Current state is calm. Elimination is a high priority, but keep distance until further study.

To her right, a much more pleasant sight. A human, or something far closer. It appeared traditional, almost ancient. Some kind of green jar sat above her head. She too bore a blue aura, but it was flickering. One second, it was there; the next, there was the faint shine of purple. Peace and craving– Some kind of internal conflict.

“Humanoid, swordbearer. Emotion state undefined. A safer option than the abnormality, but details still unknown.”

Before Asurah could dwell on the rest, the star heaved, growing bright for a moment as it pulsed for one final time. It spoke to Asurah and the others.

“Welcome to the Field of Starlight. No Good can guide your flight; no Evil can chain you down. Prove yourselves worthy, Pawns, or perish in endless space.”

“Then so be it. If I am to make things right...”

This was a battle, Asurah understood. She felt the call in her chest, the fire running through her veins. Immediately, Asurah felt something call out to her. A pulse from the Abnormality. Her heart surged in return, beating faster. She air ignited with a hiss as Asurah drew Midnight from its sheath. She held her fate in her own two hands.

“Let the operation commence.”

With her mind centered and the crucible stoked, Asurah advanced along the edge of the metal disk with the swordswoman in her sight.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 6
1/26/2023 23:23:20   

The cold smelled of lilacs today.

Thorn shifted within the confines of his living quarters. The vibrant crystal clinging to his shoulders scraped along either side of the narrow walls, the sound verberating a multitude of violets and golds in violent patterns all along them.

Oceans endless caressing
Gold then violet then violet then gold
An abyss fathomless
Within a hair’s breadth’s of space
His own infinite expanse

Thorn’s eyes followed the soothing colors until they died along with the sound. He did not like that sound. But he did like the colors. He brushed up against the wall again, unleashing the torrent of shades once more in their tumultuous dance.

The vents hissed as another pulse of frigid air flooded the chamber. Thorn stilled himself to better appreciate the lilac fragrance. He shuddered as the cold bit through the S.O.L.A.R. suit. Another vent whirled to life as it sucked the surplus radiation from the room (or so he had been told). Thorn greeted it with a mental humming. His shoulders drooped as the scent of lilacs grew fainter and fainter, disappearing into the hidden machinations of the ship’s cleansing units. The smells never lasted long - he wished they would. Even a stale aroma would be preferable to the absolute absence left behind. Thorn bumped into the wall to summon the mirage of colors once more. Perhaps he would request a scent for his quarters next time Star Leader Qanius recruited him for a mission. He did not mind standing for days on end, but he missed the touch of fragrance.

Crimson light pierced through the hatch’s window. Thorn froze and then stooped low to peer through the glass. Each flash tasted of ash, strong and pungent on his tongue. A smoky black curled through the reinforced door where the low blare of a horn crept in. Such stark sight and sound to devour…what could it mean? He leaned closer until his helm touched the viewing window. Could he walk among the stars again so soon? The metal cracked and groaned with cool gray as the operator subconsciously pushed against it. To be lost among their nebulous colors and intoxicating tastes and -

A gloved hand slammed against the window.

Thorn lurched back, knocking his head against the back wall. Fluttering shapes of icy blues shot across the room in a flurry. They dissolved in an instant, leaving the operator staring at the hardened expression of a familiar face. Thorn smiled beneath his helm, his crystals glowing brighter at the sight. ...Qanius…

The star leader’s face only grew more stern. “Do not reach out to my mind without permission! He spit shards of sickly green with every word. Operator Thorn gave a slow nod - he had forgotten himself and deserved to be reprimanded. He must prove himself worthy of the Network if he wanted to walk among the stars again.

Star Leader Qanius’s face relaxed by the most minute of margins. “Good,” he said with a curt nod. He leaned in close, his nose almost touching the glass. “You have a new mission-” The floor lurched beneath Thorn’s feet, sending the giant bouncing off the walls. A kaleidoscope of darts fired off in every direction from the points of impact. They rebounded and refracted off one another before detonating in a culmination of light. When his vision cleared, Thorn spied the star leader climbing back to his feet.

“You are to escort me to the escape pods!” This time crystal white and yellow traced his sharp words. “At all costs! See that I disembark and then return to your chambers for further orders!” His breath fogged up the window. “Do you understand?”

Thorn looked at Qanius’s face, from the contorted lines etched into his skin to the beads of sweat dripping down his brow. The taste of oak with a hint of salt. Exquisite. Novel.


“What did you say?”

The operator admonished himself silently before nodding.

The corner of the star leader’s mouth twitched, but he made no further remark as he began fumbling with something out of sight.

Clink went the first lock, burgeoning with vibrant pink.
Clink went the second lock, flowing with neon green.
Clink went the third-

A torrent of burnt orange flooded the quarters, devouring the sparkle of red and throwing Thorn against the wall. Stars flitted in and out of his vision as the operator clambered back to his feet. He stood with one foot on the floor and another on the adjacent wall. Thorn felt…heavier. ...gravity shift…?The low blare drummed with spiraling tendrils of smoky black lashing in and out of sight. And the red flash…

…the red flash illuminated the now open doorway.

The crystals adorning the S.O.L.A.R. suit glowed bright as the operator stepped through the threshold. The taste of ash now coated his tongue with every flare of crimson. Thorn gripped the doorframe to maintain balance as he surveyed his surroundings. Gray tasting of dust, gray tasting of dirt, gray tasting of mud…graygraygraygraygraygray as far as the eye could taste. Shallow hallways and bent beams and twisted metal and…

…a hint of a black sleeve and gloved hand protruding from a pile of rubble.

Thorn let go of the doorframe and steadied himself before sliding down the hallway to the mass of broken steel. He gripped the arm of his star leader by the elbow and pulled, freeing it from the pile. Thorn set it down with its new splash of red and hefted a large chunk of wall from the debris. He pulled out Qanius’s torso, set it down next to his arm, then repeated the process to gather his legs as well. Scarlet blood stained the once pristine uniform, honey’s sweetness blending with the oaken flavor. Gently, the operator gathered the pieces of Star Leader Qanius in his arms. ...escape pods… He twisted his head in both directions before bounding down one of the bleak hallways, the stench of rot immersing him as blood seeped into his exposed crystals.

First left, then right, then left. All ruptured hallways. All screaming and cursing crew members. Some shouted threats as they drew pistols, but all fled when Operator Thorn approached. All as well - their words were far, far too bright. After minutes of searching, he found the correct dock. Only one of the five capsules remained, but that was all the star leader required. He slid down across the tilted floor and set down Qanius against the wall. Metal screeched in jagged ivory as Thorn wrenched the entrance open. He wasted no time in collecting the star leader and depositing him within the vessel. ...escort complete…now… Thorn pressed the now blinking button beside the escape pod’s entrance with a finger, its glass shattering with crisp white. The room shuddered, the capsule shifted and… nothing. Thorn peered down the slight crack between the escape pod and the wall; twisted fragments jutted out from both. The operator moved back and braced both arms against the door to the capsule. ...must not fail…Star Leader…

Metal strained and screamed with silver starbursts as Operator Thorn pushed against the capsule with all his might. His arms strained and burned with the smell of moss until one final shove knocked the escape pod free. It drifted into the empty expanse of space, the dark void filling his mouth with a richness beyond measure.

A richness unbound
Drowning the whole
Coursing through every vein
With starlight and joy

The taste of the universe - its lavishness, its luxuriance - struck deep into his core and permeated through every bone. All tension wiped away in an instant. All thoughts of tomorrow banished. An ever-continuing bloom as star after star after star delivered its many delicacies unto him…

Thorn could not recall stepping forward into the eternal night; only the weightlessness of drifting in the blanket between the stars. He did not remember in which direction the escape pod disappeared. He had no recollection of the pod even taking off. A chilling voice prickled in the back of his mind with cruel words of inevitable reprimands and punishments for disobedience, but even it fell silent before the majesty of the universe.

And before that majesty, Thorn sang.

Words only he would ever hear.

Words that only he could ever hear.

His words, and his alone.




Hours, days, or weeks passed by. The sights and sounds and touches and tastes and smells grew only stronger. But in time, a new taste found its way to his tongue. A taste of contradicting flavors. Savory and sweet. Fresh yet aged. An impossible dichotomy at odds with itself even as neither would be complete without the other.

A taste that graced him as a grandiose city floated towards him.

Thorn’s heart quivered at the thought of relinquishing his astral flight, but something about the city with its blacks and whites enticed him. They…did not taste as they should. They tasted like the other. The operator found himself being pulled towards the checkered city, and he turned his back to the stars above to greet it. Like a marionette lowered by its strings, Thorn descended towards the anomaly. He touched down with naught a sound. And silence greeted him in return. .

The operator went to take a step and stopped himself. The city was not as it should. The tastes of the colors were wrong. Intriguing, but wrong. Thorn knew he had made a mistake, falling to this place. He should not go where he did not belong. The operator looked up.

No starry skies traversed above his head. Only a simple gray wall loomed over him..

The goliath slumped his shoulders. He had forsaken the cosmos for the breath of something new, and for that it had been stripped from him. The operator turned left and right to survey what he had received in this trade. Buildings of black and white, that same savory and sweetness repeated over and over. A hollowness carved itself in his chest. This…was nothing. Thorn looked skywards to the promise of unending nebulas and beauty locked away behind a curtain of gray. Its intense sourness did little to sate the hunger and yearning deep inside. If only…

“D O Y O U W I S H T O W A L K A M O N G T H E S T A R S?”

Thorn turned to the source of the voice. An automaton, less than half his size, stood a pace away from him. Its faded grays and bronze tasted both new and old.

The automaton repeated itself, smooth amber dripping from its lips.

“D O Y O U W I S H T O W A L K A M O N G T H E S T A R S?”

Thorn’s eyes flicked to the dull, sour skies and back again.

...more…than anything…

The automaton stepped back. “T H E N E A R N I T.”

Thorn stumbled as the ground shook beneath his feet. Before he could right himself, the tiles beneath him gave way and the operator plunged into darkness…



…and then light

A star birthed before his very eyes. Flaring with the searing flavor of flame and receding with the coldest taste of ice, the wonder manifested itself within reach. Its pull tugged on Thorn, threatening to yank the goliath off his feet with ease. Crystals pulsing with emerald energy, he almost let it do so. Almost. The operator planted himself firmly on the ground and leaned away from its sway. Witnessing it was simply too glorious to concede. His crystals shimmered from greens to reds to blues and back again in their little tug-of-war. Playfully, the star renounced its hold on him but maintained a tether. A promise of the connection binding them. A star to call him its own.

Only then did Thorn realize that others had joined him. They stood scattered about on the platform, each the same healthy distance away from the newborn star. Above them burned symbols of onyx and ivory, each tasting the same as that checkered city. The operator glanced up to see one of the spoked rings of white hovering above his own head. He reached up but his hand passed right through it. It vanished a moment after.

Thorn turned forward again, braving the star’s brightness to drink in its brilliant light and aroma of thunder. The others spurred to motion but Thorn contented himself to observe…

…until the discordant crashing began.

Blows, heavy and erratic, fell like hammers. Each one shattered the star’s salience and ricocheted within the operator’s mind. Thorn’s crystals brightened and dimmed as he snapped his gaze to the source: a figure with wings adorning her face and a large bladed instrument in her grasp. As she made her approach, she slammed her weapon upon the ground in sprays of earthy amber.


He opened his mind to the stranger and raised an arm.. Placid blue light illuminated the prism glass along his shoulders and arms. ...no… The light flickered and faltered in his grasp, her beat persisting in its disruption. Thorn tensed his shoulders and chest, feeling the radiation course through his body. ...a little more… The energy burned cold as he channeled it into the gauntlet of his S.O.L.A.R. suit.

...leave me…be..

A radiant beam, surging with dark and twisted blues, rocketed towards the interloper to bring an end to her mercurial performance.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 7
1/29/2023 0:39:09   

As Kazerol bore down on his New Friend, a tinge of worry shone through his features. Why was she just standing there? He didn’t think she understood, as she clearly wasn’t accepting his affections. Self-assurance painted her features, so she wasn’t one of those Friends who shut down when facing him. He opened the Eye, infinite possibilities flashing before him in rapid succession. No, she was certainly not simply waiting for him, as possibilities still spread ahead of her.

When she made her move it wasn’t anything Kazerol had seen through the Eye that made him respond, but pure instinct. He ducked his head down as she whipped something out and a crack of thunder roared through his left ear as his right exploded into shreds. She threw herself to the side and he tried to grab hold of her, not willing to let his New Friend go quite so soon, but his arm merely passed through hers.

Kazerol pressed his hooves into the steel, coming to a skidding halt. As he turned to face his New Friend, wonderment shone through his silver eye as he raised a hand to the crimson suffusing his fur, as delicious pain coursed through his mind. He realised he’d been wrong about his New Friend.

She did understand

A new grin suffused his face, infused now not with manic energy, but purest ecstasy. It had been far too long since a Friend understood him, after all.

”Pain is how you know you’re alive! If you’re not hurting, you’re just dead!”

Well, this New Friend hadn’t rushed to him with open arms like his Best Friend had, but how could he expect anyone to live up to that standard? No, quite pointless.

“Let’s have fun, New Friend~”

Kazerol lunged forward, his left arm reaching out for his New Friend. She had accepted him, so he had to do something nice in return. Regressing that weird ghost arm thing she had going on seemed like a good choice. She threw the thing in her hand and it smacked into the tessellation on his face, leaving a dull ache as the patch crept outward. He caught hold of her coat, which seemed like there was an arm beneath it… Albeit a soggy, squishy arm. But Kazerol could tell there was nothing there to Regress.

His New Friend had drawn a sword and put it… to the sleeve he had hold of, an expert swipe leaving him holding a scrap of cloth. He took a swift step away before she could gut him with it, turning to face her fierce gaze, her sword glinting dangerously.

“Oh you are an interesting one, New Friend~ What will you do next~? Will I be subject to your blade’s Kindness now~?”
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 8
1/29/2023 20:49:04   
How We Roll Winner

The great sun in the center of the arena was so odd. How strange it was, to be so near such a source of light and warmth, yet truly see none of it.

So she did not look at the sun. Her all-seeing, sightless gaze rapidly took in her surroundings. Counting herself, there were five others. She briefly registered the appearances of each. Of the two on the other side of the arena, the one to the left was moving in on the one to its left. And the one all the way to the far right was moving in on the one to her own right.

They would be busy for a while.

Two to the front, two on her right, which meant–

She turned her head to the left. For a moment, she and her opponent both stood with bated breath.

A tall, muscular woman, tanned skin, short black hair. Well-dressed, perhaps not unlike the nobles of the Red Manor, though the style looked more like that of a Glass Table member.

At this woman’s side, she noted, was strapped a sheathed great curved sword not unlike her own hiltless swords, though hers was even longer. If it came to blows, the size discrepancies in their weapons would prove dangerous … unless she got in close.

Which would serve to her own advantage in more ways than one.

She noted the swordswoman was not getting closer. Rather, she appeared to be skirting to the side. So, she was circling, unsure of whether to attack.

Almost unconsciously, she found herself mirroring her opponent’s movements, skirting the other side, so that they were circling each other. Circling like wolves fighting for territory. Or perhaps, she thought, like dogs fighting over scraps.

The cold of her hiltless swords and bare feet against metal made her keenly aware her heart was beating a little faster.

This swordswoman was positively pouring out Ruin. If she had not been so used to balancing the vessel on her head – she wouldn’t have staggered – but she might have at least flinched.


Of course, the amount of Ruin in this woman was hardly near the amount contained in the borne vessel.

No hope to cling to.
No sight to distract from–

Enough, she growled. She had other things to take care of.

Like Holding the Ruin–

The swordswoman had not drawn her sword yet. One well timed strike, or perhaps two, would–

“What did it promise you?”

Caught up watching for an attack, the question caught her by surprise.

“... it?” was all she managed.

“The voices.”

The voices? They were not just voices, she thought, but now they might as well be. But what did they promise her? All her life, this thought had never occurred to her. She had nothing, had been promised nothing, would have nothing.

So in the end, she did have one thing. She shook her head. “I … was promised … nothing.”

“Then why are you here? Do you not value your own life?” the swordswoman asked. “What’s stopping you from just letting go and going home?”

Letting go.

Going home.

“I cannot.” But the offer, the idea, once repeated from someone else, was very tempting. Tempting indeed …

No hope to cling to.


Why indeed?

She had not moved her eyes for so long, but now she actually felt her brows furrow. “... because … I must.”

The swordswoman’s eyes narrowed. That answer clearly did not satisfy her. “... Must what?” she demanded. “What are you so attached to that it guided you here? Is it for the sake of others?”

As flesh withers, hold the Ruin.

A hollow laugh escaped her lips, as hollow as terrible as the force contained in the borne vessel. “The sake of others?” she asked dryly.

How can I do this for others when I cannot even help myself?

The Vessel Bearer raised her right sword and pointed it at the swordswoman.

“Perhaps … this … is for others.”

She lunged.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 9
1/29/2023 23:00:24   

The Parodist flexed the fingers in its free hand as it watched its opponent raise their own. One, two, three, four… five. Good. It hadn’t even thought to count bumbum fingers when it sought the pallid child. But it had gotten that right, too. What a happy child it was. Its opponent stretched their fingers, too, and from their hand shot a murmuring bite of light that echoed the center star. The Parodist jerked bbbum sideways as the miniature star flew a fingernail’s width from their form. It prickled harshly as it passed and brought with it a strong smell that wafted through the Parodist. It felt like… that fire they had created in the humans’ metal complex. Porcelain crunched as the Parodist forced crumpled wrinkles into their face. they’d seen them on the man there; the man who entered when they were swinging the levers like he always did. The person in front of them did look rather like the ones that had come with big, screaming trucks that day. Covered in bulky, bloated skin. But this one didn’t beat like the screaming ones did. This one hummed. And hummed. And hummed.

uuuuuuuuuu The Parodist shuddered as their heart lurched into sync with the bloated human. What had the people called that place the next morning… something about chemicals. The Parodist turned the word around in its mouth, gave voice to it, felt its pulse. It was a happy word. ”Chemical. Chemical.”

uuuuuuuuuuuuuu They broke into a run towards the bulky human. Their steps clinked oddly, hitting the harsh metal in a slightly stumbling beat, trying to find pulse in a rhythm that had none. But the Parodist spared no thought for their steps; the voice that had drawn them to this form felt so impossibly far away now, drowned out by the harsh, constant screech of metal on metal as they dragged their clockhand against the ground. They felt its hum, the constant circulation through their body as their heart vibrated. They did not know what circulated. They did not feel the need to wonder.

uuuuuuuuuuuu The human’s voice slashed through the drone that consumed the Parodist’s senses. Why… do you… intrude?” His final word, unfamiliar to the Parodist, poured from her mouth like oil as she attempted to form its bulbous shape. ”Intrude…” She understood the first word as a question. What was there to question about her? She was simply fighting for Chaos.

uuuuuuuuuuu She felt bound to the bulky human, strung up as if they were two sides of the same being. Their strings tangled until she was an arm away from him, staring deeply into the dusk-like glare of the dome that encircled her partner’s head. The Parodist knew, as she lifted her clockhand from the metal and swung it in a wide arc towards his head, that her partner would block. He raised his dark arm upwards to shield his head from bbum

At the first sign of movement from her partner’s limbs, the Parodist yanked herself from the pairing as if ripping her form from a pool of viscous liquid. She dropped --bum her arms low and swung the filigree hand towards his bulging torso. He had asked a question; and humans answer questions. So… why? The Parodist’s answer sloshed around in her cheeks before rattling out of her painted lips. “To live.”

Post #: 10
1/30/2023 1:30:24   

Hoofbeats rang against steel as the crashing wave of muscle bore down on the Captain. She wove backwards, the ever-present sway of her Nightmare in her steps as she slipped away from its clawing grip. Its scaled hand managed to find the ghostly imprint of her arm as the thing hurtled past her. Verdant fingers trawled through her wrist, their nails dragging eddies of energy free before translucent skin reforged once more. Faint imprints of dappled gray bruises shone against the ivory of her soul, quickly swirled away and lost like foam upon the sea. The dull ache remained - a phantom pain on long-lost flesh and bone.

Alabaster fingers meet polished silver, her sword a comforting weight in her hand. Shining steel flashed in a sweeping arc - but carved its path through empty air. The beast proved fast. Faster than me, she winced at the screech of the creature’s hooves against the floor, then eyed the ashen skid marks in its wake and smirked. But far less graceful. Eyes flicked back up to the chimera’s face as it turned. Her pistol had shredded this thing’s ear, silvery curls now matted and dyed bright crimson, but her attention instead fell upon the creature’s grin: wide, manic, and deranged. She shifted to meet its gaze, expecting blank, savage eyes - and instinctively took a step further away at the bright, euphoric joy that filled them instead.

That’s… intelligence, in there. A person, then, rather than a creation. Her eyes narrowed as she studied its expression. Or perhaps a monster. The revenant shifted her weight, bracing subtly as the chimera’s grin stretched even wider to display every fang in its maw. Only a monster would take such pleasure in their own destruction. People were driven to survive, to preserve their life above all else.

A monster’s drive to kill superseded their own survival.

“See ye’ve made it halfway through, girly.”

The Captain jumped, cutlass in hand as she whirled - finding nothing but empty air as she did. The devil’s laughter echoed all around her, and she snarled out a breath, struggling to regain her composure. They had a deal; he couldn’t touch her. She leaned against the mast to steady herself and countered, “Come for another visit? I’ve still no intent to renegotiate.” Her scowl shifted into a wolfish grin, sharp and proud. “I’ve caught up for all my lost time, after all.”

“Oh, ye’ve time t’ mess up yet, girly, I’ve faith in that.” The devil’s tone soured, voice curdling slightly at the last quip before smoothing back over. “Jus’ came t’ ask ye a question, is all.”

The wraith raised her eyebrow but pointedly said nothing. She had no plans to ask him for anything else, to give him either ground or quarter with which to push further. She would not bend to him.

“What’s it like now, bein’ a monster?”

A chill raced down her spine, ghostly energy crackling against her flesh. She opened her mouth - to snap a retort, to say something… but nothing came out. The devil didn’t wait for her to answer regardless, merely gave one more laugh that echoed in her ears as the heavy, cloying heat of his presence faded. The Captain stood motionless in its wake for long moments, her ship creaking uneasily beneath her as her thoughts raced and the sun tracked slowly across the sky. Just as it kissed against the horizon, dyeing the ocean a deep crimson, she found her voice and spoke softly.

“I am

Snarling words, distorted by fangs, snapped her attention back to the creature, its guttural rumblings a scant portent before it charged towards her once more. She hurled her pistol at the beast’s face, more to free up her hand than an actual attack, and switched her blade to the flesh-and-blood limb for greater strength. Emerald claws clamped about her bicep, the coat crumpling slightly under its grip as the ghostly energy rippled to maintain its form. Its eyes flickered with some other emotion - confusion? - but the Captain wasted no time pondering. She brought her cutlass down and through her own shoulder, biting back a scream at the lance of searing pain. The woman staggered a step backwards, leaving the monster standing with the severed sleeve of her coat, pearly arm now fully exposed and spasming slightly. Lips curling into a sneer, she drove herself forward. Her sword sliced at the beast’s side yet came up clean once more as it leapt back to put space between them.

The monster's grin grew even wider.


“Kindness?” the Captain spat, rage leaking through her poise. “I don’t have kindness. Let me show you mercy.”

She lunged, blade forward in a clear thrust at the creature’s throat. At the last second, she loosened her grip and let the hilt slip through her fingers into the ghostly hand beneath it. The wraith shoved the razor-edge forward, more as a wall of steel than a proper slash, and in the same motion dropped her free hand to her bandolier. Mismatched eyes, glowing white and solid black, bore into the twisting fractals of the monster’s visage as she drew a second pistol.

The Captain leveled the pistol towards the monster’s heart. Let’s see if you consider your own death a kindness.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 11
1/30/2023 19:27:02   

As the Director made her way around the metal plane, Asurah felt her heart beating her in her chest. The ground, her mind, her body– all was in harmony. With each step, the Director felt it, the potential escalating in her veins.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump.

The drum rose slowly in cadence, and Asurah followed, picking up her pace. Soon, she was running.

Asurah looked to the path before her, and the swordswoman was still there, unmoved. But the Director’s eyes narrowed as she looked further ahead.

“... Additional targets spotted. More Abnormalities.”

A sense of unease washed over the Director as she took in the sight. Just beyond, two figures had already engaged. Two monsters vying for supremacy.

One was something out of a fever dream. It stood on two legs like a human, yet it was anything but. A whole menagerie and more fused together into a single abomination. Goat hooves, serpent claws, wings like a bird and the head of a lion– All wrapped in golden light so thick that it was almost opaque. The beast was content in its blasphemy.

It made Asurah sick to look upon it.

As the monster lashed out, its aura intertwined with another’s. Even before Asurah could focus on them, an otherworldly shimmer was there for all to see. A sailor, taken straight out of history– or what was left of one.The woman’s form was split in twain, seemingly caught in the threshold of reality. As their soul was revealed, the revenant’s ghostly visage seemed to only grow brighter. White on white. Yet it slowly began to change... A transition. A focusing of intent.

“I repeat, more Abnormalities...” Her thoughts turned to words as Asurah assessed the situation. So many in one place. Had this been in the city, the area would have been condemned. Yet here she was, surrounded by them.

Then, you too?

The air felt heavy as the Director turned to the swordswoman. The warrior’s eyes were covered by some kind of leather, yet Asurah could feel her staring right at her.

There were no words. Asurah could hear the sounds of distant conflicts, but here, right now, all was silent save the beating of her heart.

The Director circled the warrior, inspecting every fiber of her being. At this point, it was all but certain she too was an Abnormality. A being of emotion born from the worst humanity had to offer, trauma and despair given form. She could see the signs– The closed eyes, the great vessel, the blades with no sign of self-consideration. All paths to exploit. Soon, the warrior mirrored her, and the two spun in sync. Asurah was waiting for her opportunity. No doubt the warrior was doing the same. The Director watched as their color continued flickering. Blue then Purple. Calm then Restless.

Though blindfolded, the swordsman's gaze drifted. Her head was tilted ever so slightly towards Midnight. She had given herself away.

So, you can see.

Her assault began with a breath. “What did it promise you?”

“... It?”

The Director’s words found purchase. Though the two kept circling each other, she could sense the pause in the warrior.

“The voices,” the Director continued. Something had brought them all here. Asurah felt the compulsion in her veins. Blood in exchange for that which was precious to her. What did the Swordswoman wish for?

“Abnormalities are not human,” the Director once told her associates. “They are fundamentally unstable. Attack its core, its stolen humanity, and it will fall.”

Asurah did not expect her answer.

“I … was promised … nothing.”

The Director raised an eyebrow at the display. Nothing? Was she deflecting? Yet Asurah's intuition said otherwise. Even monsters had to cling to something.

“Then why are you here? Do you not value your own life? What’s stopping you from just letting go and going home?”

“I cannot.”

Asurah did not hesitate. “But why?”

“... because … I must.”

A crack in their ego. She was being compelled. The Director raised her voice as she focused on the opening.

“Must what? What are you so attached to that it guided you here?” As Asurah spoked, her family’s voice was echoing in her ears. And with her back to the abyss, Asurah reached out to her rival.

“Is it for the sake of others?”

Immediately, the Director felt it. A change within. In the soft light of the center star, Asurah watched as flickering light began to settle to a lavender haze. The swordswoman let out a bittersweet laugh. She raised one of her twin blades, and Asurah traced her eyes along its sharp edge.

“Perhaps... this... is for others.”

This time, it was the swordswoman that did not hesitate. The warrior thrusted her right blade forward, intent on drawing blood. But Asurah had prepared for just this moment. The Director stepped back, dodging away and circling the left. The two were now right at the edge, both of their backs towards the abyss. One wrong move, and either would go off the edge. But Asurah trusted her instincts as she led the warrior closer.

Twin blades. Fast and lethal, yet lacking in reach. She needs to move closer.

The strike went wide. Just as Asurah. had anticipated, the warrior slid forward and followed up with her other blade.

With no guard and little weight, they cannot hold against Midnight.

Asurah braced herself, dropping to a knee. Her right arm seemed to move on its own. She pulled her tachi up, twisting it to the side as the Director raised her left hand along its frame. As she touched the flames, Asurah sensed the warmth through her gloves and waited.

Metal clashed with metal. Sparks flew as Asurah’s sword held against her rivals.

“A good start.”

A point of contact. A ripple in potential like a vibrating string. It traveled through Midnight, through Asurah. She seized it; made it her own. The force was small, but it would be enough.

Then, the Director closed her eyes and turned that potential upon the world.

Midnight turned to Noon as the black blade flashed with daylight. In that instant, it shone as bright as the sun, eclipsing even the light from above. If the swordswoman was watching her, then Asurah would give her all she had.

"Let that feeling guide you.”

As the light faded and Midnight turned cold, the Director opened her eyes and pushed forward. She shoved the tachi at an angle to knock her opponent off guard– and potentially over the edge.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 12
1/30/2023 23:13:11   

The wing-masked mannequin lurched to the side, her porcelain skin reflecting the beam’s cerulean light. Waves of salty aftertastes mingled with the stench of wet earth cut by the barest hints of jasmine. What…what was she? Thorn took half a step back as the mannequin bounded forward. Her heavy blade spewed violent froths of foamy mauve as it screeched across the metallic floor. Her steps splashed from iridescent orange to smears of darkened coal. Something…different…strummed through her being. A dance, a flutter. A rhythmic cadence that felt both familiar and foreign.

Thorn raised his hand again, crystals shifting from shimmering violet to deepest red.

...why…do you…intrude…

Energy, rippling scarlet and rank with sulfur, flooded into the gauntlet’s prism glass. ...too slow... The mannequin cut the distance between him with ease, her unorthodox blade singing through the air. Thorn threw up an arm to intercept the blow, but the mannequin deceived him. The steel, bleeding with blotchy blues, warped in its arc to strike at his side. She whispered, deep and coarse “To live.” Pinpricks of jade glinted on her ruby lips. The operator tried to follow the blow, but the pungent flavors, dazzling words, and piercing song tore at his mind. He missed its trajectory, the blade crashing into his waist with a cascade of sickening crunches, a burgeoning of splinters and burning thorns-

He screamed and bellowed and cried
Thrashing, pleading, begging
Jagged and ruptured cosmic rock
Clinging and carving and digging
Burrowing deep
Spreading roots
Beneath his skin
Filling him with howls

With a psychic roar, Thorn slammed his arm down to his waist, pinning the blade to his side. Seething tendrils and sharpest mentha permeated the wound but the operator only tightened his grip. The mannequin belonged to him now. It had intruded on his joy, his star. It would pay.

...if you..wanted to…live…

Thorn reeled back his free arm. The mannequin yanked upon the blade to no avail, bubbles of translucent gold born from the grind of steel on steel.

...then you…should…have…

He swung with titanic might towards the interloper’s chest, gauntleted fist pulsing scarlet and stinging his throat with copper.

AQ DF MQ  Post #: 13
2/1/2023 17:19:40   

What was up with this New Friend? No Kindness, so she would give him Mercy? Salvation was Kindness, so to say the two were different… Kazerol closed the Eye. What he needed now was not the Infinite Possibilities, but a good gauge of his New Friend. He was ready to deal with the Mercy she offered, but she herself deferred, her blade falling into her other hand. Kazerol’s face flickered into a frown and he stepped forward, bright delight blossoming on his chest.

He gazed into her eyes and she gazed into his. What he saw there was… unexpected. He saw himself, but his body was stained crimson. Grand artist’s strokes carved through his flesh and his eyes were dull. It rang through his mind clearly: This was himself, ceased. The thought provoked a smile to twitch on his face again. While his eye saw the Infinite Possibilities, it seemed his New Friend’s saw Impossibilities. After all, he couldn’t-

Or could he? The thought thundered through his mind. This strange space that had named him a pawn… Could it overturn what was and was not possible?

Knowledge from the deepest trench of his mind brought him back to himself for the first time. He looked down at his blood soaked hands, disgusted with what he had become… but he had other matters to consider.

“I will die when I am born… Then I will turn away from that distant event! I will not perish… I will not.”

He turned and clawed against the tide of time, wading through the maelstrom that had made of him a monster. His progress was slow, but steady and he could feel himself getting further from the event of his birth… until he was approaching it again, but from the other direction. This startled him and he tried to reverse direction again… only to be approaching the same event once again.

“I cannot avoid it, it seems… But I…”

He snapped back to the present. His foe had another one of those devices in her hand. Kazerol roared and thrust his arm out, shoving her backwards. Another retort of thunder rang out, but no pain erupted in his body. Whatever that thing was, it had missed him this time. He raised a hand in front of him, watching it tremble. Beyond, he could see his enemy thrust her sword up with both arms, clearly intending to skewer him, but he hadn’t charged her blindly like the thing would have.

“I… I may have no idea what this place is, or why I’m here… But I…” He gripped the Shard in his forehead and pulled “I will do what I must to survive.” One shard emerged, then two, three, four… Until the whole of the Blade of Many Shards emerged. Progression. With purpose, he swung the Blade again and again. His foe did a good job parrying his strikes, until her blade slipped through the gap between shards, letting the Blade cut into her shoulder, which erupted into a series of small wounds, his bite profile, if he was not mistaken.

But then the thing surged forth in his mind. Kazerol cried out, his free hand grasping his head. “No… so fast… too fast… My bouts of sanity are brief… and leave it unchanged…”

Kazerol reclaimed himself from the Boring One. He regarded the creature in front of him. The Boring One taking over had given him time to consider her. She disgusted him. He dropped the Blade and lunged forward, Clamping both arms around her, he growled. “You are Not A Friend. See where your burning selfishness gets you.” Spinning around he hurled her at the sun, then looked around. Surely there had to be a Friend here…
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 14
2/1/2023 21:44:46   
How We Roll Winner

She stood amidst the dead and dying. Once a battlefield, now a death ground filled with carrion for the crows.

Kneeling at her feet, a warrior clad in soft white and blue, turned red with wounds.

She placed her sword at his throat.

“Wh …”

She cocked her head.

“What … do you have … to gain … from this?” the warrior whispered.

Before she could end him, he grunted and sat up straighter, meeting her blindfolded gaze. “I’ve heard of your kind. The ‘Vessel Bearers.’”

She did not respond.

“Don’t you seek to end ‘ruin,’ or whatever you call them? Can’t you see?” Seeing that she did not move, he must have sensed a glimmer of hope. “Why don’t you join us? Join the Snow Leopard clan! You can help us stop the Locust assassins! The Red Manor!”

She listened to his request, and gave her answer.

“They are as Ruinous as you.”

His eyes darkened. “White Noise … will come and kill you,” he breathed.

“He may try.”

She saw the flash like a neutral observer watching a play; there was a flash, and it was meant to be blinding to a character, and she observed it do so. But it did not blind her.

No sight to distract from.

It did, however, make her falter ever so slightly. Not because the flash itself took her off guard, but rather the source of it. Emanating straight from the jet-black blade.

A mistake.

By faltering in the middle of her attack, her momentum carried her even closer to the swordswoman. Too close to use her swords effectively. But close enough for her to bring the handle of the black sword around, red-ribboned handle pointed directly at her midsection.

Not a deadly move in and of itself, if what was directly behind her wasn’t a bottomless void.

No hope to cling to.

Vessel Bearers did not carry the borne vessels on their heads merely for ritual and show. Its weight and the deadliness of its contents ensured she had to master balance and coordination long before she ever wielded a sword. What would make most other martial artists balk however, was that balance was not enough; they could not drop the vessel. Not without dire consequences.

(Consequences she had, at times, entertained the notion of.)

“Let that feeling guide you.”

So instead, as the sword’s pommel hit her abdomen, she merely spun and rolled along it, borrowing the swordswoman’s momentum. Swiftly, the situation reversed, so the Vessel Bearer was now behind the swordswoman.

She slammed one foot down into the metal floor, launching herself into the air, and brought her right sword down in a sharp, downwards cleave–

The swordswoman acted fast, already bringing her sword out, black blade lashing–

–the tip split the exposed skin against the Vessel Bearer’s abdomen–

–the swordswoman whirled, but it was too late, she would never bring her sword in time to catch the cleave, so she would have to use her arm–

Her sword cracked hard against the swordswoman’s arm. It cut cleanly through the coat sleeve but instead of cutting flesh, it bounced off as though she had hit a metal pole. The jarring impact forced the hiltless handle into her palm. Quite suddenly, in her hand she felt a mix of cold metal and something hot, wet, and sticky.

No pain too great.

The Vessel Bearer landed on the edge of the platform, half of each foot hanging off the edge.

"You … are … very … strong."

As flesh withers … hold the Ruin.

She whirled her left sword and then her right – the gashes in her right palm and her chest stung but she barely noticed now, with her blood pumping –

Rapidly, with elegant ease and rapid footwork, she rushed again toward the swordswoman, spinning in a whirlwind of blades.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 15
2/2/2023 22:33:22   

The bulbous man’s skin let out a happy screech as the Parodist’s clockhand tore into its bu-bum depths. No beautiful scarlet bled from his flesh; instead, a shimmering dust poured from it as if she had ripped open a sandbag. She tilted her head, curious; she had never seen a human that did not bleed. Perhaps this strange creature had not learned of his blood. Someday she, too, would understand how to bleed. Though… bum the Parodist flicked her eye-feathers. She had made herself a rhythm; that was the most important part. At least this creature had a rhythm, too, albeit a primitive one.

The creature spoke to her, but she did not understand its meaning; she could barely hear his syllables above his heart’s relentless drone. He clamped an arm down around her clockhand, holding it against his body. The Parodist bbbum tugged on her clockhand and slid her porcelain lips together in an aggressive rattle. She did not like others touching her clockhand. She did not have many objects; this object was bum hers. But the creature held it firmly, stronger than any human the Parodist had met. Was he human? Perhaps he, like her, had chosen his swollen form. The Parodist did not particularly agree with his choice. It was too… faceless, she decided. She did so like human faces. She bumbum clacked her arms together as she continued to pull. Human faces had teeth and so many folds for her to run her fingers over. People could move their faces in so many different ways. This person had merely a smooth dome. No face at all. The Parodist did not like it.

A break in the obsidian skin pulled her focus back to the man. It was a much thinner portion right around his arm joint. Weird-- most humans had lots of skin folds in places where their limbs angled. This man’s skin must be too bulky to begin with, or perhaps too hard. The Parodist, too, had a weird break in her skin where she bent her arm. Her right foot b-bumm twitched as she considered. Maybe she had misjudged the texture? But this one had sung to her. Perhaps humans just have different textures. People were so complicated. But this one’s thin portion would make it easier to touch him. The Parodist reached buum and wrapped her long, jagged fingers around the soft, flimsy patch of skin.

b-b-bum The Parodist’s grip tightened as a wave of elation surged through her. See! The strange man’s constant hum, for just a moment, found a bummm beat. Her beat. See me! I live! Her partner’s arm bumbum loosened, and she pulled her clockhand across him once more, relishing in their synchrony. Surely he would understand now, surely he bu--

Porcelain shattered; heart seized; mind screamed.

You stand in your bedroom with your wife, Beth. She is beautiful today, though you are turned away from her, jotting down the last few words in your notebook.
“What are you doing?” she asks, her voice like a beautiful song. You respond clearly; you’re just finishing this chapter, you say, because you are.
“What are you doing?” she asks again, her voice music to your loving ears. You respond happily, delving into your chapter’s details, the story itself, the characters you have grown to love even as you write their anguish.
“What are you doing?” she asks, her cadence like a familiar song’s refrain. You wonder if she is alright, but shake away your concern quickly. Why would you even ask something like that?
She is clearly beautiful, clearly happy, and you move into an explanation of the writing itself, the word choice and cadence you are choosing as you smile, her beautiful cadence echoing in your ears.

You are interrupted by a voice, strong and clear. It’s Beth’s voice. She’s shouting from the shower. “Hey hun, what are you doing in there? Are you trying to talk to me?”

Your breath freezes like ice in your throat. You feel panic creeping into you as adrenaline prickles down your spine, into your chest, onto your tongue.

“Hey hun, what are you doing?” The voice in your bedroom sings again, its cadence matching Beth’s call. You don’t answer. Maybe if you are silent, it will forget you are here. But it calls again soon after.
“Hey hun, what are you doing?” It wants a response. It needs a response. But you know Beth is in the shower. Wake up, wake up. You flick your wrist, you scrunch your eyes until you feel as if they will pop out, but you do not wake.
“What are you doing in there?” The voice is closer. You shut your eyes. You should not look, you don’t want to look, you need to run but you are paralyzed as the sing-song voice moves until it is right in front of you.

You feel something cold touch your cheek. You feel the thing that is not Beth pinch and pull at your skin. You feel it pull at your eyelid. You see eyes. So many blood-red eyes. They are staring. They are all. Staring.

Your body seizes as you awake, dripping in sweat. You clutch your chest, desperately trying to slow the heart that hammers as if to break out entirely.

Beth yells from the other room, and you cannot help the shiver that wracks your body. “Hey hun,” she calls, her melodic cadence causing bile to wash into your throat. “What are you doing still in bed?”

The Parodist choked out a panicked b-bum breath as they felt bile that was not theirs wash into their throat. Their synchrony was gone; their former partner’s fist still clenched from its impact with her shoulder. Why? This was bum-- not something she wanted. Not something she wanted at all. She wanted to be alive, she wanted to be happy, but this-- this feeling that wracked through her was something bumm not happy. The scene was vaguely familiar, though she wasn’t sure why. But she hated it. Why? Why why why why why why why why why

It was the faceless one’s fault; he had made her feel like this. He had… had hit her. She froze the chest that did not need breath and brought her second bummm hand up to her weapon’s handle. She did not want this person. This rhythm. He did not deserve her synchrony. His helmet glared back at her, oppressive, never pulsing, never ceasing. The Parodist felt a prickle down her spine, into her chest, onto her tongue. ”Stop staring at me!” Porcelain ground against itself as the Parodist howled and brought her clockhand bumbum down towards the helmet. It sung along to her rhythm with a satisfying crack. Calm returned to the Parodist as she watched fractures dance across the dome’s surface. Her mind felt normal again; she was not sure what that scene had been, nor what that feeling was. But she did not think to wonder. It did not matter.

The Parodist let her blade tick tock into place above her head as she spoke to the being. She b-bum wanted to see what was inside. She knew what was inside a human head; but they were almost certain this was not a human head. ”What… is-your nature?” She bent her arms, expecting the faceless one to pause and bum respond, when--

Between beats, the faceless one slammed his dome into the Parodist’s head. It lurched backward, porcelain cracking as their head snapped back to stare at the void above them. The Parodist b-b hissed, ready to surge at the bulging man and tear him to shreds. This was not fun anymore. They barely understood the words the man spoke in their mind. He called himself Witness; it did not matter. The Parodist only heard her bumbum music, struggling loudly to overpower the constant hum underneath. She flicked her wrist, preparing to raise her clockhand to finish what she’d started. Let me see-- But she felt a pressure cut her off as the man’s bloated hands squeezed her arms and flung her upwards. She clattered her lips as her feet lifted from the ground and she began to tumble through the air, the fading hum of the Witness an almost pleasant feeling.

Post #: 16
2/3/2023 1:00:05   

The Captain’s blade shuddered against the monster’s weight as it pushed forward. She smirked, victory curling across her face even as her arm shook and strained to maintain enough space for the muzzle of her gun. Nothing more than a beast after all. Crimson stained the sword’s edge, dripping down and leaking through her ephemeral fist to pool in the guard below. The revenant’s other hand clenched tighter around the pistol’s grip, smug triumph in the set of her shoulders and spine. One finger curled about the trigger, taking in the slack with a soft click - then the chimera’s maddened expression froze, shifting in a single moment to stark clarity.

Scaled hands slammed into her chest. The Captain reeled back, staggered by the thing’s strength and shaking her head violently to stop the ringing in her ears of its roar. Her shot cracked through the air, but the bullet careened into the void, and she cast the spent weapon away in its wake. No time - ! The wraith slid one foot back and braced, swinging her cutlass before her. Flesh fingers curled through ghostly ones; she snarled as the thick curves of the guard bit into the phantom limb and dug into the false flesh. Rivulets of energy bled off in a faint mist at the constant cycle of damage and repair, and teeth ground against each other in her living skill to resist flinching against the mounting torment. She thrust forward, ready to receive the monster’s next assault - but no attack came.

Instead, the thing spoke, in a tone somehow more solid, more steady than before. There’s a person inside this monster…? The Captain opened her mouth to demand an answer, and instead swallowed her words as the beast pulled free the spike of crystal driven above its eye. The cascading colors across its form coalesced and shrank; crystal fractals converged from nowhere to form a blade in its hands, and the woman stared dumbfounded as the creature changed before her eyes. What kind of devil is responsible for you?

She wove away in retreat as the chimera lunged for her once more, blade first, and ducked sideways to dodge the second slash. The movement gave her time to adjust the cutlass to a proper grip in her flesh-and-blood hand, and she knocked his next strike hard to the side. Before she could press her advantage, snake-like arms whipped the fractured blade in reverse - and the shards along its length parted to pass around her own sword.

The Captain threw her weight backwards, splintered crystals missing her neck to plunge into her shoulder. But instead of a smooth slash, deep, jagged punctures tore through the flesh on either side of her bandolier. The woman snarled in pain as thick rivulets of inky ichor bubbled up through the gashes in her coat. No sword cut like that, how..? Her attention snapped back to the creature as it howled, madness leaking back into its voice. Eyes widened, but before she could get her cutlass up, it lunged, fragmented blade discarded in favor of scaled claws. Putrid breath curled against her neck, its voice a deep growl in her ear. It seized her roughly and bodily threw her away from it. Wind ripped away her scarf and her braids whipped against her cheek as the Captain flailed, disoriented.

Pure, stark light filled her vision. Realization dawned and dread pooled in her stomach. The battlefield had only one source for the heat licking across her skin. The damn beast threw me at the sun - !

The Captain swore violently and squeezed her eyes shut against the blinding blaze. Surging heat alone served as her anchor as the revenant twisted mid-flight. Metal burned beneath her fingers, but she tightened her grip. She would no sooner surrender her sword than she would break her oath. Focus! Find the undertow. Heat in the air mirrored the frigid cold of the waters, and the Captain trailed her fingers towards the cooler currents. The ocean of the void tugged at her, though warmth grew unbearable beneath her feet. Her limbs stretched out, one boot ghosting along the surface of the star until she found solid purchase and shoved. Flames engulfed her leg, ripping a scream free from her throat; the phantom sensations of burns and frostbite fused into the threads of her soul. Then fire sputtered out as her momentum hurled her away from the sun, the last embers eating away at the leather to reveal a violent maelstrom of sparking white; the ghostly limb burning her further to rebuild itself from within.

Blood filled the Captain’s mouth as she bit her tongue to silence the scream, thickening the ever-present taste of copper in her throat. She forced her eyes open, lingering spots filling her sight. Where’s that thrice-damned monst - pale white flashed in the periphery of her vision, streaked in bright crimson. Ivory hair lashed against the captain’s face as another figure rammed into her side, knocking her breathless. Chilled and cracked stone snagged at loose threads of her coat and dragged against the flesh of her cheek as they clashed together, tumbling downwards. Feathers caught at the wraith’s palm, drawing her attention to a multitude of scarlet eyes set deep in porcelain skin - then the pair slammed into steel with a deafening crash, leaving the Captain’s mind reeling. What are you?

“Are you a demon?”

The Captain paused, palm resting upon the ladder to the upper deck, and glanced over her shoulder at the spoils of her latest pursuit. Not her first ship plundered, nor her first sailor killed - but the first shade she’d claimed for herself and bound to the Nightmare rather than tossing to the devil’s boneyard below. She couldn’t quite explain, even to herself, why. He was… steadier, than the other’s she had slain the past few decades. Smarter, too - only the weather turning in her favor at the last moment had brought his ship to heel. His solemn, thoughtful manner reminded her of… “Would you still serve me if I was?”

The pulsing, sickly green of his fear faded, leaving the ghost the color of fog. Wary, still, as he remained kneeling before her upon her deck - but not frightened. “Aye, Captain.”

The woman regarded him for several long moments, silence stretching between them, then replied, “I am no demon, sailor.” She turned and stepped to the rail, resting her hands along it as she gazed out towards the storm clouds slowly swirling upon the horizon.

“But what makes you think they’re so different?”

AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 17
2/4/2023 18:00:07   


As the Director pushed against the warrior’s frame, her rival ignored the light and turned her momentum against her. Asurah watched as the woman skid off of her blade and spun around Asurah's right. The Director tried to match her, leaning into her interia to stay ahead. But the warrior continued, steps balanced on the edge of the abyss. She slipped past Asurah’s blind spot–

–and was right behind her.

Too fast– I need more!

The Director pulled her body in as her heart quickened. She could feel the pulse resonating within her, shaking her body into place as warmth filled Asurah’s veins. She willed her body to move.

As Asurah spun, her left hand moved down to the handle, and she whipped the blade around in a horizontal slash. The Director felt it before she saw it– the resistance. Her strike had found some purchase, tip tracing against the warrior’s skin. But Asurah saw as drops of blood fell from above; the Abnormality had taken to the sky, and she was almost upon her.

Trapped in her momentum, Asurah could not bring Midnight up to block. Instinct took over. With no other options, Asurah raised her right arm and–

Beep. Beep.

The sound of a heart monitor broke through the haze as Asurah came to. She tried to open her eyes, but they felt so heavy. Her limbs wouldn’t move either. All Asurah was left with was cold numbness and a vague sense of her being.

Sleep paralysis. Asurah had dealt with it several times before. She focused on her fingers, her toes, the very ends of her body. Slowly, Asurah could feel the warmth flow through her as she regained control. First her left arm. Then her left leg, and then the other leg. But try as she might, Asurah couldn’t move her right arm.

Eventually enough of herself had returned that Asurah could open her eyes, and a familiar voice awaited her.

“... Asurah?!”

As her sight focused, Asurah saw her mother standing over her. Her face was red, and her hair was a mess. She choked out the words as the tears flowed.

“Asurah, you’re alive!”

“... M- Mom?”

The words came to her slowly. The young girl tried to sit up, but she regretted it almost immediately. Pain pulsed through Asurah’s newly awakened body. Every fiber of her being was hot and sore, even her right arm. As Asurah seized, her eyes wandered down. Most of her body was covered in bandages. Most. She looked over to her right arm–

Asurah didn’t have a right arm anymore.

“You’re lucky to be alive.”

A second voice. Asurah slowly turned to look at its source. An elderly man in medical clothes. A doctor, she realized.

“You’ve been out for almost a week,” he continued.

Asurah's gaze wandered around the room. The restraints in her neck limited her, but it was obvious she was in a hospital. Soon her eyes fell back onto where her limb used to be.

“... My arm?”

“Yes...” The doctor’s voice trailed off as he tried to find the right words. “You are lucky to have such a good mother. Once your body has recovered, we can give you a prosthetic. Top of the line. Though in the meantime, I’m afraid you’ll have to hold off on Kendo–”

The doctor continued speaking, but the words turned to noise. Asurah tried to take it all in, but even in her best state she would have struggled. Now, it seems impossible.

One question came to her lips as she interrupted the doctor.

“... What happened to me?”

“I believe I can answer that.”

A third voice joined in. Another man. Middle aged, younger than the doctor. Navy blue jacket with yellow stripes– it was unmistakable.

“An Association officer?...”

The man nodded as he pulled up a chair and sat in front of Asurah. “I am Section 1 Director Wildman.”

As he introduced himself, the officer spoke with a sense of solemnness. “An explosive was planted on the train you were on. Details are still sparse... But he wasn’t kidding.” He nodded towards the doctor. “It’s a miracle you are alive. You were one of those closest to the blast.”

Asurah’s mind buckled under the weight of it all, her thoughts racing for anything to comfort her. She reached out to the one person she could always rely on–

“... Where’s Amerya?”

Her mother was quiet this whole time, watching her daughter with relief. But at the mention of Amerya, she began to sob into her hands.

The Associate sighed as if he knew this question was coming. “I’m sorry... She was found upside down hanging over one of the broken windows. There was nothing we could do.”

A foul sound filled the air as metal clashed against metal. Asurah watched as the warrior staggered back, knocked off balance by something–

As Asurah looked at her arm, she found her answer. The blade had cut through her uniform’s sleeve, an impressive feat in itself. But it did not go much further. Bits of faux skin were torn from her arm exposing the metal core underneath. The strike had barely scratched it.

Six years ago. It had been six years since the incident. At first, the prosthetic seemed unwieldy and unnatural. It was a reminder of what Asurah had lost. But now, she had made the robotic limb her own. It was just a part of her. Asurah often forgot it was even there. And now it protected her.

The Director looked over to the swordswoman. She was standing on the edge now. Asurah could not help but notice the red stain on the warrior’s blade and hand, a victim of her own making.

“You … are … very … strong."

The warrior twirled her blades as she called out to the Director, eager to continue. Asurah couldn’t hide it; she was too. Midnight reignited, its flames far hotter and bolder than before. Its warmth was nothing compared to the fire in Asurah’s chest. As the living drum kept beating, it beckoned to the surrounding world, its vibrations now matching the drum. A reverberation. They resonated together, growing stronger and stronger–

The Director readied her blade. At this rate, she would not have long before the drum would break.

The warrior leapt forward, ready to engage, but Asurah held her ground. The flames died once more as she lashed out at the air–

“No. I am human. Weak.

The air crackled with energy as light bled from Midnight. As Asurah swung, the blade wept, leaving a thin diagonal line behind it. Like a Sunset, the orange glow persisted for a moment, but it could not remain forever. It raced forward, burning the air as it moved straight towards the swordswoman. She dashed off to the side, the vessel spinning on her head as the heat ran past her. But Asurah was already moving. Another arc, this one horizontal, was on its way as the Director leapt towards her target.

“But my family guides my hand–”

Once more the warrior adjusted. As the line of heat barreled towards her, she leapt into the air and over it. At the height of the jump, the vessel had left her head, floating a few inches above before landing back into place. It was unsecured.

As the warrior landed, she lunged towards Asurah. But just as she did, Asurah tucked Midnight into her chest and pulled her feet up, descending into a slide as the blades whirled over her.

The Director had little time and little room. As she dove, Asurah tilted her blade. The tiniest movement, the smallest ripple. But it would be enough. When her feet touched ground, one final arc was traced in the air, and it was right underneath the warrior, primed to knock her and the vessel in the air.

“–and together, we can overcome anything!”
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 18
2/4/2023 22:52:29   

As Thorn’s fist rocketed towards the honey-flavored chest of the mannequin, a porcelain hand darted out and brushed his arm-

Tangled muscles and knotted nerves
Writhing, coiling
Winding tighter and tighter
Decay and rot
Swirling ash and sunken bone
Bursting with blood and bile
Seeping into his veins

A resounding crack split through the onslaught of sensations reverberating through his skin. Thorn faltered backwards, glimpsing trails of emerald lighting lingering in the air from the mannequin’s shoulder. Whatever violent magic she wielded, a mere touch had sufficed to throw off his aim and send his mind reeling. Thorn steadied himself as her pale feet scented with vanilla windmilled through the air and landed with wisps of burning crimson. She stood tall, heavy blade within her grasp. Thorn looked down to his side where the blade had been moments ago, now feeling the dull ache of searing splinters coupled with capsaicin lancing through it. He brought a hand to the tear in his S.O.L.A.R. suit, radiation buzzing verdant from the wound. Through his fingers trickled droplets of…

…crystal dust?

The operator raised his gaze back to the interloper. ...what did…you do… He could taste the sour scowl etched on her face, see the beads of molten gold sputter from her lips. “Stop staring at me!” Thorn curled his hand into a fist, caustic savor biting into his palm. She was the interloper, she was the one who pulled his attention away… away from the luminant star with its bitter beams and sweetest rays. Even now Thorn fought the urge to gaze into its endless beauty. He forced himself to focus on this wretched doll that reeked of mud. She swung with her heavy blade, azure mist flowing in its wake. He raised an arm to deflect the blow when a distant howl saturated with geometric shapes of every shade of red flooded his vision. They twisted and danced in a dissonance of dahlia, masking the impending blow. His arm wavered as his gaze shot from shape to undulating shape in search of the impending blade in vain. Dark steel cut through the red and crashed against his helm with a flutter of sparkling diamonds. He staggered back as spider web fissures spread themselves across the glass in a frosty embrace. …fast…and flighty… Thorn fell to a knee and turned back to the mannequin. She glared at him with a myriad of smoke-scented eyes.

He did not like her eyes.

He did not like her.

The mannequin raised that strange blade above his head.

Amethyst, sticky and thick, curled from her lips. “What…is your nature?

“What is its nature?”

The man with black hair speckled with gray tasted like oak. Peaty, amber eyes bore down on him through the lemony glass.

A smaller voice out of sight spoke next. His words wiggled in emerald striations beyond the barrier. “Docile, thus far. Not that we’ve had sufficient time to determine otherwise considering the concerns-”

Jagged shards of onyx ripped through the green. “Can it understand us?”

“Well, yes,” came the reply, emerald shifting to diluted coral. “It responds best to simple inquiries, though. While it demonstrates knowledge of Operator Maegnir’s proficiencies it has a preferred interest in the cosmos, primarily stars, yet -”

“That will be enough.”

“But sir! We have the barest inkling of its-”

“I said that will be enough.”

Silence filled the void of the coral voice. The man’s face loomed closer through the glass. The wrinkles carved into his face tasted of wood flavored with caramel. “You there, Thorn.” He tilted his head, eyes caught on the bright sapphires spiraling from the man’s tongue. “Yes, your name is Thorn.” Thorn watched the swirling gems until they drifted out of life. “I am Star Leader Qanius, and I have but one question for you.” Thorn looked into the man’s eyes, drinking in his earthen tones.

“Do you wish to witness the stars?”


Thorn lurched forwards. Glass helm shattered in a kaleidoscopic cacophony of torn and tattered colors against the mannequin’s hungry face. Fresh air flooded the now open helm, tasting of lilac and lavender and a hundred other floral aromas. Such new sensations that had been denied from him, sealed away in a suit of metal and crystal. Sensations that would be stolen if this interloper claimed his life. He lunged, large hands clamping the mannequin’s upper arms in a vice-like grip. Why could they not simply leave him be?

...i…am…a witness…

His grip threatened to crush her arms, to shatter her into naught but splinters.

...and I…no longer…

Thorn heaved the mannequin over his head, gaze turned to the ever-bright star.

...wish…to witness…YOU…

With all of his might he hurled the interloper towards the radiant sun, a sacrifice to be devoured by its cosmic flares.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 19
2/5/2023 21:36:02   
How We Roll Winner

He scrambles away, clutching a wound that will not close. He has no strength left to stand nor hold a sword, but plenty to try to stave off death. Just a few more moments.

She is in no hurry.

His eyes flick.

She whirls, bringing her blade up. The throwing knife clangs off, sending her hiltless handle cutting into her hand. The second one leaps out, blades whirling.

Swiftly, she steps to the side–

But the downed one strikes!

She has no time to dodge that and avoid the second one, so she simply takes the blow. The sword buries itself into her side.


The second one is on her.

“Got you!”

“No. I am human. Weak.

The swordswoman’s black blade glowed again, but this time the Vessel Bearer doubted it was merely for show like in their previous bout.

Her doubt was confirmed an instant later.

The swordswoman slashed vertically, and the glow of the blade slipped off of it almost as though she were flicking off water. This vertical glowing slash seemed to warp the air as it surged toward her.

Without breaking stride, the Vessel Bearer stepped to the side and back into her path, so the glowing slash missed her by a hair. This was not a hyperbole; the hairs on her arms and head fairly stood up, crackling with heat and lightning.

“But my family guides my hand–”

The next slash came horizontal; she flexed her legs and leapt over it in a split leap. The force of the jump caused the vessel to leave her head temporarily.

[i[As flesh withers, hold the Ruin.

(She gave a sharp intake of breath.)

She landed again, her vessel following suit; now they were face-to-face.

There was no time to think. She pounced, her swords lashing out in a cross-slash–

–and managed to miss the swordswoman cleanly.

At the same instant, the swordswoman had dropped into a slide. In moments, their positions had reversed again. Still in midair, the Vessel Bearer whirled–

The attack came faster than was possible, as physically, the movement was no attack at all. Yet with just a tilt of that black blade, a third slash traced the air. Right under her.

“--and together, we can overcome anything!”

She pulled her feet up an instant before it intersected. Too late.


The ripple under her feet exploded, sending her flying.

But she had no hope to cling to.

She flipped her swords around so she held them in reverse grip. At the same time, she twisted and spun in a pirouette.

How eerie it was, to be flying free.

One foot came down and touched cloth.

The vessel was still in midair, and was no longer right above her head. Nothing to catch it if it fell.

(For the briefest of moments, she considered letting it fall. Just to see what would happen.)

Not yet. She thrust out her left sword, threading the handle of the hanging vessel. A sharp retract and the vessel slid smoothly back onto her head.

And so they stood stock still, with her standing in a crane-style one-legged stance, balanced on the swordswoman’s shoulder.

Blindfolded eyes met stone grey irises.

She could not strike without being struck in return, and vice versa.


But her swords were not her only tools.

(The pressure was strong.)

[i[As bone crumbles, hold the Ruin.

“Perhaps … that … is what makes you strong.”

While I have no hope to cling to.

(So perhaps, I relieve myself of hopelessness.)

The Ruin contained in the vessel was kept in place by her will and nothing else. Therefore, by her will and nothing else, it could be released.

No one could see it, but everyone in proximity would undoubtedly feel it.

No sight to distract from.

All her life, she had turned her will to keeping the Ruin contained. She had learned however, that sometimes she had to let some of it out.

This was one of those times.

So with her will, she forced her will down, and the invisible lid opened.

And a wave of Ruin poured from the vessel, directly down at the swordswoman beneath her.

“What the–” the Locust assassin yelled.

“Do you?” she whispered.

AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 20
2/6/2023 4:13:56   

First he looked to the right. No, I still don’t feel like those two are Friends… Then he looked to the left. Yes… those two. That seems more like it.

He looked down at the Blade. Of course the Boring One had drawn it, so obsessed with life as it was. His eyes flickered off to the right, where he saw the Not A Friend kick off the blazing orb. Maybe they are Friends… and maybe they are Not Friends. So let them prove themselves before I give them Salvation.

He bent down and picked the Blade up, considering it a few brief moments. Regression? Progression? Egression? So many choices… but the Not A Friend had tainted his thoughts. He didn’t want to Save any of them, even if they were Friends… He smiled. You can have control for now, Boring One…

Well that was different. The creature had never ceded control to him of its own volition before. It somewhat disturbed him that that was even a thing it was capable of doing. He had a few moments to breathe and consider his options. He could Regress the wounds he had… but that was more dangerous than helpful with enemies still all around. He considered the two women the monster had been eyeing up. Both wielded swords. Well, I think that makes matters easier… Egression.

He could have just stayed where he was and left all these enemies alone, but when he considered doing so, his instincts started screaming at him. He found himself very sure that if he simply stood on the sidelines things would go far worse for him than anything the enemies could do to him. So he stalked towards the two women, watching their battle unfold.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 21
2/6/2023 20:45:58   

A new rhythm reached the Parodist’s ear as buum air rushed across her pallid form. It faded in as the Witness’s constant drone faded out: two beats followed by a breath, a bounce. It was strong, and it grew more intense in the Parodist’s ears, until with a series of melodic clinks the Parodist slammed into the source and clattered to the floor.

The Parodist turned their head towards the human they’d collided with. Her shape was similar to the Parodist’s, and they once again felt pleased with their body. The Parodist’s focus was bbbum drawn to the human’s hair; a clump of elaborate braids that lay sprawled across the silver floor. They rolled over, their skin clinking with each movement, and reached towards the woman. They took an empty breath as they let her rhythm overtake them. They liked this one, they decided, with its little hiccup.

bubum The Parodist’s crimson heart flashed through their cracks as they closed long, scarlet fingers around their partner’s scalp. Its texture felt satisfying as they squished it between their fingers, all clumped and twisted in ways that made it almost bouncy. Perhaps the Parodist could find a way to do such things with their hair.

bubum An opaque, smoke-like hand whipped around and clasped the Parodist’s wrist. They tugged uncomfortably against its grasp; it was as if their partner gripped hard and not at all at the same time, her fingers flowing through the Parodist’s skin like congealed blood. And the hand did not pulse. The Parodist did not like it. Their partner’s eyes searched their face, and the Parodist found themselves staring back at her. At two eyes totally opposite, a white burning bright as the sun; a sunken black dark as Chaos’s deepest parts.

The pair’s rhythm took its breath; and within her partner’s eyes, the Parodist saw… nothing. She… she would disappear. She was not good enough. She was not alive enough. And so Chaos would be rid of her, and she would cease to be. She had tried so hard to be with humans, to prove she was alive. It would be for nothing.

bubum The rhythm started again, and strong arms tore the Parodist from her stare. She yanked her head to the side as her partner lifted her in the air. Had her demise been true, or was it just an illusion trapped in her partner’s eyes? But there was no need to wonder; it should not matter; it should not consumer her thoughts this way.

bubumThe Parodist flailed as their body clattered into the steel ground. Skin splintered; heart hurled against its cage; eyes rolled backwards as her mind erupted.

You remember your surroundings even though your eyesight is long lost. The room around you is small and square, with walls white enough they used to blind you.
You know the teal examination table takes up a good half of the room, at least, but you sit on the chair beside it, hoping desperately the doctor will not deem she’ll need to use it.
Your temples throb at the very idea of standing up; of trying to boost yourself up onto that thing.
You used to read while waiting, but now you sit in the silence, desperately trying to distract yourself from the pain that seems to eat away at your body. You are always in so much pain.

You hear the door open; you didn’t think you heard steps at all, but soon the nurse calls out “hello!” in a cheerful voice.
You respond, your voice betraying a grunt as you try to cope with the pain that shoots through your jaw as you open your mouth.
You hear them shuffling around; it’s a strange timbre, and you cannot help but think of the squelch of you feet as you ran through mud as a child.
The nurse must be washing their hands. “What… you?” You sigh. You genuinely can’t tell what they said; their voice grates too painfully through your ears, and you had no attention left for the words themselves.
They must have been asking what your symptoms are. You begin to explain how difficult it is to do things now, how you can barely even walk without your cane. You are always in so much pain.
You don’t say that part; the doctor already knows that. You’re sure she’s probably sick of you by now. But it’s true; you are in so much pain.

“I see,” the nurse says passively. Do they? Do they really?
You’re probably louder than you should be as you snap back at them, but this is serious and they just don’t understand it, they’ve never understood how much pain you have to deal with.
“I see,” they say again, and you hear them kneel down in front of you, their knees scraping across the ground eerily similar to the ripping of paper.
You are confused; you ask what they are doing, unease beginning to rise in your chest.
“You are happy?” They ask, and you can feel a prickle dance across your skin. They are right next to you, their discordant voice right near your ear, but you do not feel their breath.
Happy? Of course you’re not happy. You are in
pain. You feel a hand touch your shoulder, and you ask them again what they’re doing, leaning as far back in your chair as you can.
You feel a second hand touch your chest, and the prickling down your back turns into bolts. Something is very wrong.
You ask them to stop; but then you feel a third hand begin to close around your neck.

You stand up quicker than you have in ages, and hear a tumble as your momentum throws the nurse backwards.
Each step sends a bolt of pain shooting up your leg, adding to the pulse in your head, but you ignore it and keep running, running, running until you push open the door and rush outside.
You take a breath, the cold, harsh air grating on your throat. Your heart is beating so quickly, too quickly, and the rush of terror that gripped you fades as you collapse.

bubum The Parodist watched as her partner stood, each limb moving strong and firm, with purpose. The Parodist wanted to move like that; yet right now she could not move even if she wanted to. It felt as if her body was covered by an impossibly heavy weight, each beat of her paired rhythm pushing it harder and heavier against her. The weapon her partner held, glinting in the sun, could surely cut her rhythm off entirely. Was that a bad thing? The Parodist would do anything to make it stop right now, anything as long as this feeling would--

bubum No! The Parodist grasped their clockhand and swung it firmly in front of them. The weight melted from them as their partner’s silver clanged happily into their elaborate brass. They were here to live, to respond to Chaos’s beautiful, halting, eternal rhythm. These strange visions did not matter. These strange feelings should not matter.

The breath.. the lull in their rhythm. The Parodist reached upwards in the silence, leaned into their partner’s pause. ”You are beautiful,” she whispered into the stillness. For she found it to be true. She did not love her partner’s eyes, but she loved this rhythm, with its beats and breaths. Humans often use beautiful to describe things they love, didn’t they?

bubum The Parodist curved blood-red fingers around her partner’s --bu--

The Parodist let go of her clockhand and wrenched her partner into her life’s beat as silver and brass b-b-b-bum clattered to the ground. Did the human hear them like they could hear her? Am I b-beautiful, too, partner?
Post #: 22
2/7/2023 0:30:25   

Solid bone cracked against steel, the sound reverberating through the Captain’s skull as blackness engulfed her vision. Clattering echoed dimly beyond her; the wraith lifted herself slightly to place it - only to collapse back upon the floor with a pained gasp. Her soul burned, incessant pain spiking against her limb with every wave of energy - the echo of a pulse no longer fed by her heartbeat. It’s not real. A silent mantra, mouthed to empty air. It’s phantom burns. It’s not real. The pain would fade, but not if she lost her life failing to fight through it. She dragged in a harsh breath, air rasping through her lunges, and raised herself up on her elbow. Fresh blood surged from her shoulder, and she swore as she caught herself from face planting again even as her vision swam and refocused. Ignore it! It doesn’t matter. Get up -

Nails brushed against her scalp as something grabbed a handful of her braids. The Captain lurched, eyes going wide, and launched herself upwards in a wild panic. Get space, get free, now! Her ghostly arm snapped forwards in a wild flail to block an incoming weapon - and instead strong, ephemeral fingers struck and closed tight upon an ivory wrist. The porcelain undulated, living energy encased in armor. It squirmed beneath her grip, caught somewhere between solid ceramic and incorporeal flesh. A life, incompletely bound to a hideously animate form - illuminated by stuttering, pulsing crimson light that leaked from its core. What - how - ? Her gaze raked across the puppet’s face, searching in mounting alarm for its eyes. Faint glimpses of scarlet in all the wrong places peaked back out at her from beneath its bangs. Its mouth opened, garbled sounds bubbling from its throat as the erratic, pulsing crimson of its false heart wavered and strengthened to catch the mismatched beat of the Captain’s own.

No! The wraith twisted, heaving the puppet up with the force of her entire weight and hurling the demon away. My life is mine! Her back slammed against the steel, motion turned into a roll as fingers closed tight on the hilt of her cutlass. She forced herself up on all fours, eyes snapping to the demon now flailing in a tangle of mismatched limbs. The Captain lunged, muscles screaming, and stabbed out at the monstrous thing’s throat. She would take its head from its miserable facsimile of a body before letting it have what was left of her life.

The puppet contorted its limbs inwards; its hands dragged the massive, strangely-shaped club from the ground beside it and brandished it between them. Metal clanged against metal, and the Captain ground her teeth as the gouges in her shoulder tore wider from the impact. White-hot needles surged across her sole. She hissed in pain as her ghostly leg gave out beneath her, phantom burns throbbing as her full weight collapsed against the twisted metal of the locked weapons. With luck, the puppet’s false skin would shatter beneath her own flesh.

Glass scraped against glass, and a soft, feminine voice spoke out of the grating echoes.

“You are beautiful.”

Delicate glass fingers pressed against the Captain’s flesh, her wrist throbbing beneath the touch. The demon’s false heart broke from her rhythm and tugged the blood in her veins with it. Wrist and limb spasmed violently from the contact, and she cried out as her fingers opened without command. Blade and club clattered to the deck, and the demon reeled her closer, closer, closer to its embrace.

With a wordless howl, the Captain thrashed in frenzy, managing to fling herself away from the demon. Ceramics squealed against the steel as the thing skidded back at her wild shoves. Fear, anger, hate seared into the revenant’s snarling reply, eyes blazing.

“I am a Nightmare!”

“...you were my nightmares.”

The taste of blood stung the back of her throat as the girl’s words whispered across the waves, the ocean burnished silver beneath the shining moon.

Three ships twisted about in a storm, their rigging and timbers tangled into a single mass and sinking slowly. Flames licked their way over the decks, extinguishing the last screams one by one. Strength flooded into her limbs with each voice silenced.

were my nightmare.”

Three ships. Three ships had drowned her dreams in death. Three ships, now sunk by her hand, and yet… she could still only taste blood at the back of her throat. Crimson oozed out across the surrounding waters. Her eyes trailed upwards and her ship - her ship! - obeyed, that same crimson painting itself slowly across the sails.

The Captain took a deep breath, then turned her back on the carnage and strode to the wheel, lines and sails snapping into place as she passed them by. “No longer.”

“There shall be no other
Nightmare upon these tides but me.”

The Captain of the Nightmare stood tall, towering and terrible above the puppet; her sword lay loose at the demon’s feet. Fury and desperation - they melded together and steeled her spine, fired death into her glare. I am a nightmare. The revenant fixed her gaze on the thing’s false heart; her ghostly hand found and drew the pearly pistol at the back of her belt. She swayed on her injured leg, but kept her grip steady - barrel unwavering and hammer cocked. At this distance, she barely needed to aim. And you will learn to fear me.

A sharp and terrible crack rang out into the void.
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 23
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