Tournament of Champions 5!!!!! (The Game Has Begun!)

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  • The youth began showing notable improvement almost immediately, with more control over their swings, and less shifting of their weight. "Dang, that's way better. Nice to have a bit of hands-on training," remarked the squire, before looking back at Kumo. "Err, paws-on training, I mean."

    Kumo smiled hearing this. He had never really trained someone like this before. Back in his order, he had always been the one getting trained. It was a nice shift, and he wanted to do well in this role now that he had the honor of being in it.

    He focused on the youth's grip of the blade. For the most part, they weren't doing too badly on this, but they were holding it just a bit high up, which would mess with the sword's maneuverability a tad. As such, he barked at the squire and then directed their attention to his own blade. He pointed with his nose at the quire's grip on the handle, then pawed a bit further down on his own sword, hoping that would get the idea across.

    Hmm?" The squire glanced down at Kumo again. "What now?"

    They tilted their head, watching as Kumo tried to communicate the grip change. It took a bit longer to grasp what he was meaning this time, but before too long the youth's face lit up with a look of realization. "Oh! Like this?" They asked, shifting their grip downwards a bit, trying to mimic the relative distance Kumo had shown.

    Kumo nodded in turn. That was good. They were improving steadily. Most of their errors seemed to just be in small rookie mistakes. It was clear they had the physical abilities and general control to maintain their fighting posture once they had gotten into the right stance. Now it as all a matter of training muscle memory. There wasn't time to ease yourself into the right stance when you were in the thick of battle; it had to be snapped into in an instant.

    He watched the squire practice the basic swing repeatedly, the blade smashing into a training dummy over and over. After about a dozen successful reps, Kumo was satisfied the squire at least has a basics of this down, and began his own work on a dummy nearby. Despite instructing the squire one way, his fighting style was distinctly different, made to adapt the principles of physics that made a fighting style effective to his canine, quadruped body. It namely involved a good amount of jumping, lunging, and skidding into landings afterward, a heavy reliance on posture, leg-strength, and a willingness to commit to the more unorthodox blade slashes.

    The squire looked over at Kumo while practicing the swing, and was inspired by the fluidity and technique the dog demonstrated, an example of what happens with enough time poured and invested into training. Perhaps the youth would achieve such a level, but it'd be a long time, certainly not overnight, or a week, or even after a whole month. But someday.

    The assistance and training from Kumo was much appreciated, moreso with the chance to watch him, and the squire started to wonder out loud. "Why does he vanish as much as he does? You'd think he'd stick around to make sure things are done right. I don't get it." The weapon swings continued to thwack into the dummy as they practiced.

    When the squire began speaking, Kumo's actions slowed and he returned his focus to them. He watched as the youth's swings slowly began to increase in force, frustration seeming to fuel them. He had sensed some resentment in the squire back at dinner when the ghost-knight had made his unexpected appearance, though at the time he had assumed it was merely because the knight had made a fool of the squire in front of everyone. Did it run deeper than that?

    "'It's not fitting of a knight to do this, a knight ought to strive to do that.' Should a knight also make a fool of himself in front of everyone important?" The squire kept swinging the practice weapon, their knuckles whitening as their tightened their grip. "Isn't a knight supposed to give guidance? He just expected me to know what I was doing after being shown once! If Kumo wasn't around, I'd be doing this all wrong!"

    Each time they swung the weapon, the sound of impact got steadily louder. "What's he even doing when he vanishes, what reason could he have for bailing on me when he's supposed to be training me?"

    The squire had almost forgotten they weren't alone with how wrapped up they were in their thoughts, and were threatening to get carried away. Kumo watched this all, getting increasingly more worried as the squire got more violent. He certainly felt bad for the youth, but they were also starting to go beyond forceful and just become reckless, particularly in the arc of their backswing. If they weren't careful, they could decapitate someone unwittingly, even with just a training sword, and if they didn't hurt someone else, they were going to hurt themself.

    Kumo watched the swing, studying it carefully. He’d really only have one chance to safely do what he wanted to do. Then, in one swift motion…

    CLANG!

    the squire felt is blade swing interrupted, blocked. Looking, they saw their blade intercepted by the dog’s rather lengthy sword. Kumo stared sternly at the squire. In one swift motion of his head rotated the squire’s blade and forced them to drop it, disarming them entirely.

    The squire, needless to say, was surprised by Kumo's intervention. When they dropped the blade, they collapsed to their knees in front of the dog, only realizing how hard they'd been gripping and swinging the weapon after seeing their palms were bright red. "I... I can't even keep myself under control." They sighed and looked up at Kumo. "How am I ever gonna be a knight at this rate?"

    Though their role as squire was arguably forced upon them, the youth had accepted it as a purpose to pursue, and now it felt like it was slipping away. Desperate for a feeling of stability in the moment, they wordlessly and gingerly reached forward to try to pet Kumo, wary of the sword he held.

    As soon as the squire reached out to pet him, Kumo placed his sword down. He was relieved the youth had realized how worked up they were getting, and Kumo snuggled into them, making his way into their lap, lying across it. He didn’t want them killing themself or someone else, but he also didn’t want them feeling so dejected. 

    The squire found a small bit of solace in Kumo's softness, and having calmed down a little, sat down proper. "I'm sorry I got like that. I just... I don't get it. I know Syr Cedric means well, but sometimes, he gets on my nerves. He's strict, but doesn't really abide to a schedule. He speaks of manners, but interrupts. He values appearance, but then makes a fool of himself. He's an enigma."
  • edited February 25
    As the squire talked, they continued to pet Kumo, appreciating the dog's reassuring presence. "And sometimes he's really hard to talk to. Because of how seriously he takes himself, he's not the most approachable person. I get worried he doesn't listen, not the way you do."

    And Kumo continued to do just that as the squire carried on: listen. Besides, that’s what most people wanted: someone to listen. It’s what Ozge had wanted, it’s what Ushri had wanted, it’s what Claire had wanted, and to an extent it was even what Oritita wanted. 

    The most Kumo could do was offer comfort to the squire. He didn’t fully understand Syr Cedric’s nature. After all, he had only seen the spirit once. He didn’t know how reasonable or unreasonable the squire was being. The most he could tell was that there was a pain, and he wanted to help ease that pain, as he had done for Ozge, as he had done for Ushri, as he had done for Claire, and even, to an extent, as he had done for Oritira.

    He had done it for them and he would continue to do it. It’s what he had spent his whole life doing, it’s what made him happy: helping those with pain. In a way, it even helped him with his own pains, missing his family, those nagging feelings that he wasn’t good enough to save them and still might not be. It was how he got through life, how he kept pushing, and in turn how he hoped he could help others to push.

    By the end of their monologue the squire had calmed down substantially, and they smiled at Kumo. "Maybe I just haven't given him enough of a chance, yet. Thanks for being supportive, not just in training, but in listening. Having you here has helped me feel better."

    Kumo smiled in turn, though it was a small smile. He got up off the squire's lap, then his smile turned to a bit of a frown. He thought for a moment, walking over to the Squire's bag. He nudged the helmet out of it, then looked to the squire, and back at the helmet. He did this one more time, as if to point to the two, then quietly walked away.
  • After Kumo's departure, the youth resolved to continue their training. But they couldn't let themselves get carried away. While beating into the dummy had been cathartic, it wasn't any way to develop discipline, the most vital trait for wielding a weapon. The squire took a deep breath once more and, using what they'd learned from Kumo's guidance, began to resume their practice, taking care to exercise their temper. They were fortunate there had been intervention before, but there'd be no one around to stop them from getting carried away again. Several hours were filled with the rhythmic sound of wood striking wood until the sun hung high in the sky.
    The squire wiped the sweat off their brow and set down the training weapon, figuring this was a good enough time for a break. "Cedric, I'm gonna-" They cut themselves off, a swift shiver running up their spine. How much of earlier had he heard? "I'm gonna... get some lunch." Worrying the lack of a response from the helmet confirmed their fears, they wandered into the town, looking among the market stalls. They eventually purchased a small assortment of fruit for their meal, and went back to their room to rest while they ate. It was only after they'd finished crunching through an apple that Cedric showed himself.
    His golden luster was muted, and his arms hung at his sides. "Did training find you well?"
    Beads of sweat started to form on the squire's forehead as they looked up at him. It was the moment of truth, and they were filled with a feeling akin to dread. "Training was fine. I got assistance from Kumo."
    "The dog?"
    "Yes. He'd trained with knights before, and was able to help me with my stance and grip."
    "From the sounds of it, he also helped you with your stress." The squire froze, as Cedric continued. "I understand that I'm... not the easiest person to talk to. That I'm not the greatest mentor. That maybe I cut you off too much. That I don't allow you to express yourself." Cedric sighs, a rare sound from the often confident specter. "But it hurts, more than any injury I could ever bear in life, to know you don't feel like you can talk to me. As your mentor, my duty is to care for and protect you, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. I had no idea you had built up so much frustration with me." Before the youth could say a single word in response, Cedric had vanished once more.
    The day dragged on, and the squire spent the rest of the afternoon training their overhead swing, determined more than ever to show their commitment to their practice. Cedric still hadn't shown himself again. The sun set, and as the youth prepared to rest, they looked back at the bag contain the helmet. For the first time since they've arrived in the city, they removed the helmet from the bag and sat on their bed, looking at it. They held it gingerly, as though it could crumble to dust at the slightest disturbance. "Cedri- No, Syr Cedric. I want to be able to talk to you. You saved my life the night I found you, and I have been grateful ever since. You decided to take me as your squire, and gave me a purpose. But the path ahead of me is scary and daunting, and I don't think I can walk it alone. I need you, and I need to be able to trust you."
    They stared at the helmet, which had shown no response to anything the entire day. The squire sighed, accepting that they'd upset Cedric into dormancy, and stared glumly at the helmet. They stared at it for a minute. Then a minute turned into five. Five turned into ten. And so on, until they'd been staring at the lifeless helmet 'til the candles burned low. Breaking out of their stupor, they stood to set the helmet back on the desk. "I'm sorry," the youth whispered as they set it down.

    "I will never abandon you."

    The helmet rattled, and Syr Cedric emerged from it, his arms crossed in their usual position. While he did not glow as brightly as in the past, he no longer appeared sickly either. Tears came to the squire's eyes, overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. Happiness for Cedric's return, but anger as well for his disappearance and reappearance on a whim. "I apologize for my behavior in the past week. It hasn't been fair of me to unload all of my expectations on you in such a short time period. You are still young, with plenty of time ahead of you, and I have been impatient. I have many poor qualities, but rest assured my loyalty is not one. Unless you wish it to be so, I will never leave you. I would put my very existence on the line to protect you, as such is my duty. Now, I have not been open enough with you. You may ask me anything you like."
    "Well," the squire said, wiping the tears from their eyes. There would be time for the more serious discussion later, they were just happy to be back on good terms. "Can you help me more with training later?"
    "Of course! It's what I'm here for after all!" Syr Cedric announced jubilantly. His good spirit had returned, stronger than ever, and he glowed brilliantly, the light streaming out the windows.
    "Wait, no, Cedric, You're gonna wake the neighbors!" exclaimed the squire as Cedric laughed deeply from the bottom of his heart.

  • edited February 26

    Concluding Entry


    After the match Nimbu got up ecstatic. In all her years of training and combat she had never felt as exhilarated as she was right now, not only had she summoned a massive hoard to her own surprise, but she had now attained a new mental fortitude like none other before. In her excitement she got up running towards Michio offering a respectful bow for the match before leaving the arena and heading to the warded donors to raise more guards.

    While she lost the match, there was still work to be done. Losing the tournament was a big step back for her when it came to acquiring information on how to restore Friyena, but she decided that as long as she resided in these planes, it wouldn't hurt to be of use to her new home. As she marched through the city many congratulated her, and cheered for her, some even buying her drinks. Even though she was no longer in the tournament, she had now become something of a local legend.

    Nimbu founded an academy for cleriomancy where she would continue to train her prodigies, as well as multiple temples to serve as warded sanctuaries and places of healing in Avelaide. Nimbu set strict dogmatic rules and enforced positive teaching of necromancy in her school in order to better educate her followers of its dangers. While she was willing to die for Avelaide, for now Nimbu will continue to be a healer for her people.


    (Departing cards)


    As the story continued my plans might have evolved so these are just one of the many possibilities. I had planned for Nimbu to become a weird Lich/cleric hybrid. 


    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/nimbu-ward-master?list=set&set=59778


    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/nimbu-necrotic-healer


    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/nimbu-grand-necrocleric


  • edited February 26
    With a heavy, gloved hand, Ergun brushed away layers of soot and rubble. Under the ruins of his ancestral home, he revealed a massive white stone tile, originally in front of the foyer's main fireplace. The chiseled stone, now blackened with ash, bore the Hazrith house's crest. A stylized winged dragon spiraled it's serpentine body up the blade of a longsword, toothy mouth open wide in defiance, a reminder of the family's draconic heritage. Ergun stood again, wiping his brow. Getting here in the first place had taken three hours. Another half hour was spent searching and clearing the rubble. He grinned. Three and a half hours well spent. 

    Crack! 

    The remaining timbers of the manor shuddered as a heavy sledgehammer blow split the tile asunder. 

    Crack! Crack! Crack! 

    A few more blows reduced it to gravel as it slowly crumbled, then gave in entirely, tumbling down the staircase concealed beneath it. Ergun wiped his brow once more, setting down the hammer. Staring down into the inky blackness, his eyes wandered to the first step. There, chiseled into the stone itself, was written Cognoscere Hostem Tuum. Know your enemy. He lit a torch and began his descent.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Crap!" A tall, somber man leaned over a long oaken table. "Two dead in a week. I knew this would happen!" He straightened himself and began pacing back and forth. A ringed finger tugged nervously at his dark goatee. His shoes rapped the marble floor sharply as he walked, tapping out a steady rhythm contrasting the pounding of the rain outside. 

    "I told him!" He yelled into the air, apparently to himself. "I told him we were going too far." He paused at the doorway. "We don't deal in assassinations! We're out of our depth, and now look!" He gritted his teeth, knuckles whitening on the back of a chair. "I mean, it was decades ago! He-"

    Thud!

    The man froze. The sound echoed down the long, spiral staircase at the end of the hallway, bouncing around the cavernous halls of the chateau like the beating of a war drum. He grabbed a rapier from the table and sprinted out the door.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ergun's footfalls echoed down the tunnel, his torch falteringly illuminating the stone walls. As he descended, carvings began to take shape on the rough hewn walls. Ancient images depicting his bloodline's history. As he went further into the earth, the chronology of his family's story advanced. A colossal, ancient dragon in human form beside a human man. A young child, half man and half winged, horned, fire-breathing beast, the first of the dragonkin of the Hazrith line. A long series of images illustrated the many legendary figures in Ergun's ancestry, famed for their prowess in battle and inhuman power.

    The last image was of Storrig Hazrith, Ergun's father. His huge form, wielding the longsword on Ergun's back, wrestled with a titanic snake, fire roaring from his jaws. He stood on a mountain of skulls of all shapes and sizes, a testament to the creatures of the night felled by his hand. Ergun rested there for a moment, closing his eyes. Then, he turned to face the doors before him.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "What happened? Who's there?!" The man barreled into an upstairs room, blade drawn and eyes wild. From the carpeted floor, two young children stared up at him. A young boy in a loose tunic, no older than five, and an equally young girl in a small lace dress sat on the rug, playing with painted wooden blocks.

    The man panted, winded from the run, looking wildly about the room. "Oric! Liessa! What was that?!"

    "I fell." The little boy placed block on his tower. "It's okay. I didn't hurt. I fell on the rug." He smiled at his father, several teeth not yet grown in. "I was trying to show the man the picture!" He pointed to a painting hanging on the wall, depicting a sinter scene.

    "Man?! What man?!" The man ran to his children and knelt next to them, staring the boy in the eye. "Oric." He enunciated slowly. "Where is the man?"

    "Right here." The father froze as he felt cold metal on the nape of his neck. "Looking for me?" Ergun smiled.

    "Children." The man swallowed. "Go play downstairs."

    "Oh, it's quite alright." Ergun motioned for the children to stay with his off hand. "I'm sure they won't get in the way."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A puff of dust lifted into the air as the doors creaked in protest before giving way and banging open. A gust of stale air blasted Ergun's nostrils, cobwebs swing gently in the breeze. The hold had not been accessed for a very long time. As he stepped in, oil lamps lining the walls flickered to life and the Hazrith hold revealed itself to him. 

    He stood on a balcony overlooking several floors, staggered like a quarry. An enormous expanse of bookshelves dominated two floors while the layers below housed armor, weapons, and every supply imaginable. Nobody ever said monster hunting was cheap.
  • ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Come, now. Let's have a seat." Ergun lifted the blade from the man's neck, careful to keep it leveled at him nonetheless. "There's no reason we can't be... civilized about his."

    "Very well." The man's voice was taught as he rose slowly, hands up. He slowly walked up to two armchairs around a small table in the corner. "I know why you're here. You don't need to hurt anyone."

    "Good." Ergun sat opposite him, blade held firmly across the table. "Then we can get straight to business and you can tell me what I need to know." He turned to look at the concerned children. "Oh, it's okay. Your father and I, we are just having an adult conversation. You play." He turned back. "So?"

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Marveling at the endless wonders of the hold, Ergun strolled about the library. Running his finger along the indexes, he stopped abruptly. Extensive Studies on Ghosts, Spirits and Other Incorporeal Apparitions. He left the heavy tome on a lectern and walked to the next floor.

    He perused the vast armory, passing ancient relics of wars long forgotten and weapons of a craftsmanship now lost to time. Striding past racks of swords, axes and polearms, rows of shields and neat lines of armor stands he came to a wall lined with shelves of vials, bottles and pots. After a moment, he grabbed a dark glass bottle of a think, oily substance. A label on the wax seal read: Ghostbane Blade Oil. He pocketed it.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Look, I was against it. I don't know who ordered it, although the elders had been discussing it for months. They heard about his injury and-" The man was abruptly silenced with a look.

    "Why?" Ergun narrowed his eyes. "Why kill an old man? Why kill a monster hunter? Why kill a hero of the people?" He slammed the butt of his sword onto the tabletop, denting it. "Do you know how many lives this blade has saved? Do you? Who would end that?"

    "You have to understand." The man, sweating, swallowed nervously. "Your father wasn't only that. I agree, he saved a lot of lives, but-" The sword came to rest on the side of his neck.

    "It's poor manners to speak ill of the dead, my friend." Ergun tilted his head. "I know my father did some bad things. Who hasn't? This is no reason to assassinate him!" A wisp of ghostly blue flame burst from his maw.

    "Y-your father was a killer! He killed people too! I'm not justifying my house's actions. I didn't agree with it in the first place!" He raised his voice. "But he killed someone important! And the elders waited until he was weakened to go after him!"

    "Very-" Ergun paused. Marching feet could be faintly heard over the rain. "You sneaky little man." He stood, making his way towards the window. "Really? The whole garrison? I'm flattered." He crouched on the window sill. The man behind him reached for his rapier once more. "Stop!"

    "Don't bother. You're lucky to be alive." Ergun turned up his hood, leaned out the window and vanished into the rain.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    After an hour, Ergun reemerged from the hold. Though much of his armor remained the same, he wore a dark leather breastplate with straps for easy donning and doffing. On its back, the family crest was emblazoned in gold. Over his armor, a thick fur cloak rippled in the wind rushing down the tunnel. His blade glistened with blade oil and his right index finger bore a golden signet ring, symbol of his status. He might as well look good.

    In the small square of open sky above, the sun was setting. Time to head back. He gave the hold one last glace as the lamps snuffed themselves out. In the darkness, he closed the doors reverently, leaving the accumulated knowledge and treasures of his family for another to find. Outside, he collapsed a beam of wood onto the opening and piled rubble on top of it. Ergun closed his eyes one last time, whispering a silent prayer, then turned his back on the ruins of his home and set off, cloak flapping in the wind like a pair of great wings.
  • Chapter Ten - The Fifth Match

    “Nyrine!” the queen called.

    Out of surprise, Jesper, her companion, spun around, shooting two arrows at the royal couple. The king unsheathed his sword quickly and slashed the arrows out of the air.

    “Oh…sorry,” Jesper said.

    “We just escaped a group of abyssal guards,” Nyrine added, “We were on edge.”

    “What do you want?” Jesper asked.

    The queen walked closer to Nyrine and Jesper. “The same thing as you.”

    The queen stood next to Nyrine, looking up at the grand monument in front of her. It was made mostly of finely carved stone, except for a rose embedded in the knight’s chest, formed with pure, corrupted black steel.

    “It’s beautiful isn’t it,” the queen mused. Nyrine nodded as she continued, “You saw something, Nyrine. We want to understand it just as much as you do. What did you see?”

    Nyrine gulped. A trance-like state overcame her as she used her magic to project the images in her mind to the room around her.

    “I- I saw ruins. Death. Destruction. I saw a town razed to the ground by mere shadows. I saw darkness extending on and on beyond the horizon. I saw so much sorrow…

    Nyrine’s words expanded into horrifying scenes

    There was a boy with brown hair dressed in silver armor as he wept in front of ashen ruins. There was a girl with a backpack visiting a small grave as shadows swirled around her. A large shadow monster shackled in a deep pit then appeared followed by a chained spirit maybe 500 feet away from a girl who lied in chains. A golden light started to burn through the image before everything was interrupted.

    A shadowy being appeared in front of them. It was at least three times the height of Nyrine and stood right in front of her.

    “Nyrine! No!” Jesper yelled.

    —-----------------

    “Aki,” Byrre said, “It’s time we talk.”

    “I’m done talking to you. Don’t we have a match to get to? Why did you make it so late at night anyways?”

    “I thought it would be interesting to see the werewolf transform.”

    “That’s brutal. That’s evil.”

    “We’re in a tournament where people fight each other.”

    “For a spot in Friyena’s honorable knights.”

    “She’s the god of war.”

    “Friyena’s also the god of love!” Aki yelled.

    Byrre sighed. “Aki, look, I wanted to talk you you about your parents.”

    Aki looked surprised. “My-...what?”

    “They went on a secret mission to scout out the source of abyssal tension across the plane.”

    “And they didn’t tell me??”

    “Well, they wanted to keep you safe!” Byrre quickly returned.

    “I don’t get it. I know the most about the abyss out of all of us. And they let me sit here as a pawn in their plans?”

    “We thought you’d do something dangerous. You know, trying to…” Byrre trailed off.

    “Trying to what?”

    “Look, Aki,” Byrre said, “I’m sorry.”

    Aki looked away. “I feel like I should be mad at all of you right now, but I just can’t bring myself to it.”

    “D-d’you want to go to the match?” Byrre asked nervously.

    “Sure,” Aki continued, “But don’t think this conversation is done yet. I have some ideas. And I think I might need to continue training too.”

    Byrre smiled. “You missed a hell of a match yesterday.”

    Aki smiled back, “I know. I was watching it in the stands. Let's get set up in the lake stadium.”

    When they got there, most of the spectators were already seated. Rehela was there too. The full moon was obscured by the low-hanging gray rain clouds. The stadium itself was floating and in the center were reinforced wooden bridges that connected the entire thing together. Aki hurried over to his magical microphone in the stadium and started rambling on as usual about the lake and the treasures that lie deep beneath it in a cave.

    “Without further ado,” he said, “Let’s welcome Ergun, an exotic dragon werewolf and Syr Ced- oh…maybe not Syr Cedric. Today we have his squire with us for an…um…exciting fight!”

    Aki mouthed “don’t die” to the squire before saying, “Let the fifth match of the tournament begin!” 

  • The sheer disrespect from the announcer 🤣
    "Just a squire"
  • (Sorry for interrupting the match.)


    ______________________________________________________________________________


    As Audhild was packing what few belongings she’d brought, she heard a knock on her door. Looking up, she saw Oritira standing quietly in the doorway. The duelist didn’t know how long she’d been there, but now she had a chance to get something.

    “Good afternoon,” Audhild said. “I’m…sorry for what happened in our match. I didn’t expect that to happen.”

    Oritira nodded slowly. “I’ve heard things to that effect from other champions. It appears that your ring is connected to the Abyss.”

    There was no way to conceal the shock on Audhild’s face. She sat down on the bed, head in hands. “That damned lich…” She looked back at the druid. “I had no idea. I’m a duelist, after all, not a magic user like you or other champions.”

    The druid nodded. “Of course you didn’t know. I doubt anyone knew before it happened.” She walked a little into the room. “I don’t hold the ring’s effects against you. It’s unnatural, and I think you should get rid of it, but the ring was what corrupted you and caused the chaos during the match.”

    “Thanks.” Audhild glanced at the ring. It was still on the table by her bed. “And don’t worry about the ring. I want it gone as much as you do.”

    There was a pause before Oritira asked, “Could I ask you something? It’s about why I’m here.” When Audhild nodded, the elf continued, “I came here to ask for a place where nature can exist unimpeded. I’ve spoken to some of our fellows, and they’ve agreed to help me. How about you? Would you help?”

    The duelist looked at the elf, a little surprised. “I guess,” she said slowly, “but why me? What could I do?”

    "Mainly just spreading awareness. You're a wanderer, no? You could just drop information here and there. Tell other sides that we're watching tons of species go extinct in real time."

    Audhild nodded. “I can do that.” She stood up and held out her hand. “Thank you for the match.”

    Oritira paused for a second before shaking Audhild’s hand. “Of course.”


    ______________________________________________________________________________


    Many thanks to @DrakeGladis for letting me use Oritira! Again, best of luck.

  • The Fifth Match (End)

    VS

    With one arm holding a helmet, the squire ran across the twisted pathway of wooden bridges towards Ergun.

    Ergun got in a fighting stance, unsheathing his longsword, but the squire never made it there. He slipped on the wet wood and fell into the water with a splash. Aki winced a little bit as Ergun advanced slowly.

    There was a brilliant golden light shining in the water, then Syr Cedric soared out, carrying the squire and helmet next to him.

    “So much for our surprise attack plan,” the squire said, “Sorry.”

    “Don’t be,” the knight said, “We must be in our best spirits to win!”

    Ergun started to speed up as he came closer. The network of wooden bridges quivered with every step he took.

    “Shoot. That thing is massive. Maybe we might not be able to win…”

    “I thought you just said to-”

    “Nope! Panic is our best option.”

    “But-”

    “Follow my lead!”

    “Oh-”

    “RUN!”

    They ran across the maze of bridges. Their smaller sizes made it easier for them to run quickly on the bridges while maintaining their balance. Ergun tried to shoot them down with his crossbow, to no avail. All of the arrows ricocheted off of the knight’s golden shield.

    “Stay here,” Syr Cedric said, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

    “But you’re attached to the helmet.”

    “Right. I forgot.”

    “Do you have any idea of how you’ll defeat it?”

    “No, but I’ve battled worse.”

    “And died,” the squire pointed out.

    “That’s not the point.”

    Ergun took a massive leap, landing right in front of the spirit and squire. The bridge shook violently, causing the squire to nearly fall into the water again. Cedric unsheathed his shining blade and swiftly attacked Ergun with it. The dragon-werewolf blocked it with ease with his own longsword.

    The spirit lunged again, this time with more precision, nicking the back of the werewolf’s hand. The golden blade of light left a scar on the back of Ergun’s hand. Cedric advanced again, then put forward an off line attack. Ergun blocked the blade again with his own. The dragon-man snarled, though it had no effect on the spirit. The squire however, jumped back a little bit.

    Cedric launched a barrage of attacks at Ergun, who was struggling to keep up with him. It was only then, that Syr Cedric realized that the lizard’s claws and blade were glistening with a peculiar oil. The knight slammed his shield into Ergun’s body, causing the werewolf to stumble backwards. Then, he tried to slash at Ergun again. Ergun, struggling, blocked the blade. Cedric pushed while Ergun resisted.

    “It’s time…” Ergun said in his deep voice.

    The clouds had disappeared from the moon in the sky. Ergun nodded, allowing himself to transform. He became even larger than before. 

    “I forgot,” Syr Cedric shouted, “He’s a werewolf…”


    Ergun roared again, this time causing Syr Cedric to stumble backwards.

    “Go!” Syr Cedric said, “Leave the helmet here. You could die.”

    “But-”

    “I failed to save another who possessed my helmet.” The knight barely blocked Ergun’s savage strikes once more. “I won’t let it happen again.”

    “What if-”

    “GO!”

    Ergun, in his savage state, tried to punch Syr Cedric. It went through his body and knocked the squire to the ground, causing the squire to drop the helmet. It rolled across the bridge, causing the spirit knight to be dragged with it. Now, the squire was cornered.

    The werewolf made a violent jab towards the squire, who threw himself to the ground. Ergun kicked the squire, bruising his face. Then, he slammed his fist downward, breaking many of the squire’s ribs.

    Cedric watched on helplessly as the squire continued to get beat up, hanging onto life by a thread. Then, an idea struck him. The knight slammed the butt of his sword into the ground causing the bridge to vibrate again. The helmet started to roll towards Ergun again. Ergun was about to finish off the squire when the knight threw his shield, blocking Ergun’s claws.

    “Run!”

    The squire leapt to another bridge and created as much distance as possible. Then Ergun turned on Syr Cedric. He lashed out again, scratching Syr Cedric’s arm. To the spirit’s surprise, he winced in pain. The claw cut through his armor like butter and left a gash in his arm. Golden blood seeped from his wound and dripped into the water.

    “He has Ghostbane Blade Oil,” Syr Cedric said, “This will much more painful than I thought.”

    The squire saw the golden blood falling from the spirits arm. It formed marvelous patterns in the water, keeping the youngster fixated on them.

    “I need to get back in there,” the squire said, “Cedric will not die. Not for me. Not now.”

    The squire unsheathed his longsword and approached the werewolf from behind.

    The knight’s sword was knocked out of his hands.

    The squire dug his feet into the ground, grounding his stance on the uneven wooden boards.

    Ergun raised his blade, glistening with the ghostbane oil and ethereal blood. The squire mimicked the werewolf, raising his blade over his head.

    I can do it. Just like Kumo taught.

    They both started to move their blades at the same time. The squire’s came in contact first as Syr Cedric vanished into the helmet. The blade cracked Ergun’s skull, causing Ergun to miss the helmet, only chipping it slightly.

    The werewolf howled in pain. It turned on the squire with angry eyes and blood flowing down its entire body before collapsing, unmistakably dead.

  • The Fifth Match - WINNER!!!!



    This was easily the hardest match to decide out of all of them and could've very well gone either way. Both characters were so creative. You both had flawless card designs- Ergun had a slightly more creative design while Cedric's ability and signature cards worked so well when analyzing Syr Cedric's story. As far as story goes, both of you did everything right. You interacted with the world, developed characters, and even fleshed out fun backstories. I tried using a random number generator from 1-100 and both numbers landed up to be 6, so even the gods of randomness agreed that this was such an even match. Eventually, I realized how much I valued the emotions that Syr Cedric Traidor's story invoked, such as the laughter with the bread bit and the vulnerability from both Cedric and his squire in the most recent part. Both of you should be incredibly proud of what you created because this could have very well been a final match.

    @Lujikul Congrats! Cedric and his squire have advanced to the 2nd round! You may create a new card for your champion with CMC5 or a new signature card.

    @theirintheattic Unfortunately, one champion must lose, and in this case, it was Ergun. You did a fabulous job with Ergun and had what I think is the most creative character in the tournament. Feel free to post any concluding cards and stories you have to wrap up Ergun's story. Well done.

    Aki arose, clearly shaken as Rehela went down to heal Ergun. "The sixth match between Ozge and Navor will be in the meadows, tomorrow."

    --------

    @DomriKade and @Aggroman15

    Your match will be held around the same time as this one, so try to have any remaining story done by then! Good luck.

  • edited March 3
    (1 of 2)

    "KRKK" The sound of a tin can being opened and carbonation escaping rings out across the snowy mountaintop, turning the heads of the many monkeys that have gathered to watch these odd visitors.

    "KRKK"

    "Oh c'mon Meka don't do that."

    "Why not? The little guy just wants a sippy" Meka said, holding a freshly opened can of beer towards a small monkey who had been brave enough to step forward.

    After a rather stressful first match the two had traveled far up into the mountains surrounding the city to visit one of the local hot springs, Ushri had been told it would be a relaxing experience but with Meka...when is anything ever relaxing?

    "I shouldn't have to explain to you why monkeys can't have beer."

    "Dude, we literally evolved from monkeys and I'm drinking beer. He can handle it." Meka turned towards the monkey who was now grasping the beer. "Cantcha little guy?"

    "Ook!" The monkey said, taking the can and running back to show the others its newfound treasure.

    Ushri just sighed. They'd barely survived their first battle and it was only going to get harder from here. They were up against people with powers and magic beyond mortal reckoning and what did they have? A sword, a gunlance, and some leftover granola. It'd worked once but...how long was their luck going to hold out?

    "CHUG CHUG CHUG!" Ushri was pulled from her thoughts by the loud chanting as Meka had joined a group of the monkeys in surrounding the one with the beer, who was now slamming the can back like an absolute legend.

    Ushri shook her head and exited the hot spring.

    "I'm going out, I'll see you back at the room. Don't do anything stupid." She paused "Anything else stupid."

    "When do I ever do stupid things?" Meka asked, completely serious.

    "OOK!" The monkey shouted, crunching the can against its forehead.

    "I...don't feel like I should have to answer that question." Ushri said, taking her leave and starting the hike back down to the city proper.


  • (2 of 2)

    For the first time Ushri was alone in the city. She'd become more familiar with Avelaide, having found some regular haunts and spent some nights out here with Kumo and Oritira but still it was odd being in the city. So much of her life was spent either on the road or at the temple, being around this many people was an adventure all its own.

    Those first few days she'd stumbled through the streets, fearing every corner and alleyway. Everyone was an enemy and every block held only potential danger.

    Now she strutted through the crowded markets like she'd lived here her whole life. Speaking familiarly with the vendors who'd gotten to know her (and who were kind enough to not alert the authorities). She would spend hours just letting the city take her wherever it wanted to, and through doing so she had come to truly love Avelaide.

    Ushri had come here as a stranger entering a strange land but now, for the first time she could remember, she felt as if she was in the right place. She had friends who cared for her, three full meals a day, a real bed to sleep in, and she still had Meka.

    This day, walking through the streets, Ushri breathed in the city air and knew she had found her home.


  • edited February 26

    Story Segment 4 - Shadows


    5 years after Uncertainty's flashback


    Navor had always enjoyed Castle Persill’s library wing. He had spent countless hours perusing its extensive bookshelves, fascinated by the sheer amount of knowledge that the Order had accumulated. Today, he lounged about in one of the library’s armchairs, engrossed in his latest selection of readings.

    “Hey! Navor!”

    As Navor heard the voice ring throughout the cavernous library, his sense of calm was broken. He sighed, and looked up to see a man clad in full armor, with a sword at his side and an eager expression on his mustachioed face. “Navor! You promised you’d spar with me! Are you coming or what?”

    “Yes, Jacks, I’m coming. Just give me a minute to finish the page I’m on.” Navor turned back to his book, quickly completing the page and setting the book aside. Stretching as he stood up, he re-donned his armor, which he had taken off for comfort while reading, and grabbed his sword. Jacks seemed to be getting impatient, so Navor speedwalked towards the front of the room. 

    “C’mon, man, stop making me wait so long!” Jacks said jokingly. “We’ve got things to do, places to be!”

    “Alright, alright, I’m ready.” Navor said, rolling his eyes. Navor had known Jacks for going on 15 years now, ever since they were both trainees. Over that time, he had become one of Navor's few good friends within the Order. 

    After a few minutes of traversing Castle Persill's labyrinthine halls, the duo finally arrived outside at the practice field. They stepped out into the crisp spring air, and each took their places at opposite ends of the field. It was getting later in the day, and the sun was low in the sky.

    "Looks like it's only us out here today," Jacks said, giving a cocky smile. "Guess that means I won't have to hold back."

    Navor drew his blade, getting into a fighting stance. "Good. No use training if one of us isn't trying."

    And then, without another word exchanged, Navor and Jacks began sprinting towards each other. Navor's manifestation shot out of him in a cloud of dark smoke, ready to strike at Jacks. But before its blade found its mark, a bright flash of light came from Jacks. When the flash subsided, Jacks' manifestation was standing in front of him, blocking Navor's strike. Whereas Navor's manifestation was a smoky figure, Jacks' was an shining, semitransparent spectral form, almost seeming to be made of hard light.

    Navor swiveled, and barely deflected a strike from the real Jacks, who had used the flash as cover. This caused Jacks to stumble backwards, surprised by Navor's quick reaction. Navor recalled his soul just as Jacks' manifestation was taking a swing, causing it to stumble as well, before manifesting it again in an instant towards Jacks. Navor's manifestation got in a solid hit on Jacks, who quickly readied his blade to deflect another strike.

    "Should have known you'd predict the blinding trick! Thought I'd try to catch you off guard, but you're just as observant as always!" Jacks shouted, spitting out a bit of blood. 

    "Hope you know that flattery won't get you anywhere." Navor replied, beginning to advance towards Jacks while his soul continued its assault.

    Jacks chuckled. "You sure about that, buddy?"

    Just as Navor realized Jacks' ploy, he felt Jacks' soul grab him from behind, putting its sword up to his neck. Navor's manifestation faltered as Navor lost concentration for a moment, and Jacks took this as his signal to rush forward at the struggling Navor. 

    Jacks prepared to dodge out of the way of Navor's seemingly still-distracted manifestation when it disappeared from his sight. "I'm ready for your tricks, Navor. The old recall-remanifest ploy won't work this time."

    Just as Jacks raised his sword to strike the winning blow, a force rammed into Jacks' manifestation, causing it to lose its grip on Navor. Rising from the shadows cast by the two combatants from the setting sun was Navor's manifestation, which placed a foot on Jacks' soul, preventing it from getting up. Navor took the opportunity from Jacks' wild finishing blow to score a strike that would have been lethal had they actually been trying to kill each other. Jacks fell to the ground, and recalled his manifestation.

    Navor put out a hand to help Jacks up. Despite having lost, Jacks wore a massive grin. "How the hell did you do that? That was so cool!"

    "You're not the only one who figured out some new tricks since our last bout. As we were fighting, I positioned myself so your assault would come from the same direction as the sunlight, so your shadow would be in front of you and mine behind me. It takes a lot out of me, and I can't do it for very long, but I've figured out how to allow my soul to slip through shadows. That's how it was able to get behind me to your manifestation without you noticing, I waited for our shadows to overlap so my manifestation could move unseen from your shadow to mine."

    "Woah! Did you come up with that yourself?"

    Navor looked away, slightly embarrassed. "The strategy, yes. The ability, no. Saw one of the other knights doing it, and asked them to teach me. You must have come up with yours yourself, I've never seen anything like it from any of the other knights."

    Jacks perked up, an expression of pride replacing the mixture of pain and admiration that had previously been found on his face. "Of course! 100% a Jacks original. Not that there's anything wrong with learning techniques from others, I just find making my own more fun!"

    "Maybe I'll have to try that sometime. I'm sure that anyone who doesn't know you as well as I do will absolutely be caught off guard by your more personalized moves."

    Suddenly, a new voice rang out through the clearing. "Yes, it's always wonderful to see innovation among our young knights." Both Navor and Jacks jumped in surprise, and swiftly turned around to see Master Kosi stepping out of the trees surrounding the clearing.

    She gave them a warm smile, and said, "I was watching your sparring match. You both did very well, regardless of who came out on top." She turned towards Jacks, and said, "Jacks, could you leave us? I need to have a private word with Navor."

    "Of course!" Jacks said, bowing to Kosi before rushing off back towards the castle. Kosi shook her head, and chuckled. "That boy is certainly something, isn't he? One of our finest young warriors, yet still headstrong and optimistic. I'm not quite sure how he handles all that energy."
  • edited February 26
    "Um, sorry to interrupt your observations, Master Kosi, but what was it you wished to speak with me about?"

    "Oh! I'm sorry, I started rambling. I wanted to ask you if you think you're ready to move up in the Order. A position as a missionary just opened up, and I think you're the perfect choice for the spot!"

    Navor tried, and failed, to hide his shock. "M-Me? This is such an honor! I... I don't know how to respond."

    Kosi furrowed her brow, and seemed to inspect Navor closely. "I thought all you ever wanted was to become a missionary, and purge the great evils of the world. But now you seem uncertain. What's changed?"

    Navor shifted nervously, before replying, "Well... um... it's just that I'm not sure I'm the best choice. Sure, I'm a good fighter, but I've never been the best at the nuances of soul manipulation. I get that's less important out in the field, but I'd like some more time to get those aspects down better."

    Kosi frowned. "Well, then, who do you suggest gets promoted in your stead? We can't just leave the slot open while you prepare."

    Navor didn't need to think very long before responding, "How about Jacks? He's always been just as eager to get out into the world as I've been, if not more so. He's also a bit more balanced in his mastery of the skills taught by the order."

    "Hmm... Jacks could be a good choice, yes." Kosi murmured, deep in contemplation. "He's got plenty of energy to lend to the cause, and is a capable fighter." She turned back to Navor, and said, "I'll take that into consideration, but before I do, I would ask you to reconsider. You're throwing away a great opportunity here."

    Navor smiled slightly, imagining Jacks' reaction when he heard the news. "Trust me, Master Kosi," Navor said confidently, "Jacks is absolutely the man for the job."

    ——————

    Present Day

    (After the first 2 matches, before the 3rd)

    “There you go! Enjoy your meal!” The waitress placed a plate of piping hot meat pies and a glass of bloodberry wine in front of Navor, who thanked her before turning to his food. It had been a hectic day, with the first two matches being the only thing anyone had been talking about. Navor needed a place to contemplate the day’s events, so he located an Innistradi restaurant that seemed sparsely populated enough to give him room to think. The gothic architecture reminded him of a few places he had seen on his travels, although the food was mostly new to him. Navor had quickly grown fascinated by the city’s wide variety of multiplanar restaurants, and had decided to visit a new one each day.

    His stomach full, Navor’s thoughts soon turned to the two battles he had witnessed that day. The first, between Miyan and Roshk, had been quite the start to the day. Navor had barely processed the outcome when the second match, between Raeza and Ushri and Meka, had begun. Navor hadn't really had a stake in any of the fights, so he had been able to go in completely unbiased.

    That first match was interesting to watch. Both contestants seemed like formidable opponents, although perhaps a bit bloodthirsty for my tastes. I'm not against the occasional death match, but they almost seemed like they were hunting each other. It was a bit unsettling, honestly. That blade that Miyan wields is certainly an interesting object, though. A fine blade at the least, but there's no telling what kind of power is stored in that thing. Maybe we'll see; I'll have to pay special attention to his next battle.

    The second match was far more fun to watch from the stands. Honestly, I'm a little surprised that Ushri actually made good on her midnight declaration. They even managed to win without knocking Raeza out. Quite an interesting pair indeed, they'll be worth keeping an eye on. Their ability to achieve victory despite their lack of any apparent magical skills or items is commendable.

    Navor finished his food, and left the restaurant. Walking through the streets, he couldn't hear anyone talking about anything other than the next match.

    Oritira the druid versus Audhild the duelist, huh? I hear people saying this'll be a match to remember. I have to say, I'm inclined to agree. I'm actually rather excited to see how this one turns out.
  • 6~ Shadows and Color — Part 1 

    Three years ago...

    "Mia, Haru, it's happening. We did what we could to stay in peace, but war has come to take us, starting with me. I love you, both of you, and I swear to be back. Stay safe, and if you have to, run. This place isn't safe anymore, and I won't blame either of you for leaving while you have a chance."

    Those words echoed in Mia's head as she tried to sleep that night. She couldn't rest knowing that her father could be in danger, so she just laid in bed, curling her arms around a stuffed fox imported from the city. Mia knew her father couldn't escape battle forever; the Akisaki family was a line of noble warriors, with Michio being the first in the bloodline to not be a proper samurai. However, she hoped that Michio's loss would have given him mercy; it still hurt.

    Michio's mother, Sakura, was the first female warrior of the family that wasn't born an Akisaki. She was trained as a bushi due to a shortage of soldiers in Michio's former hometown of Askur. However, things soon backfired; in Hondo, women generally weren't trained to be bushi. Only noble women, trained as samurai, were allowed to fight, but Sakura strove to break the mold in her training. She had never been deployed, however, and her husband Dan had become old enough to settle down, so they decided to visit the city of Yondi. This would prove to be fatal, unfortunately, as word had not reached Yondi of the unorthodox training. She was mistaken for an intruder and promptly killed without question.

    Dan was outraged for the death of his beloved, he and his son Michio having watched her be killed right before their eyes. Michio told Mia and Haru he didn't know what to do, but it was this that made him hate war. The prejudice, the unnecessary violence, the grudges and incessant need to avenge literally everyone. What he witnessed was a tried and true example of a saying that he'd read once in a book when he was four, before the book was banned in Hondo and burned; "an eye for an eye makes the world go blind".

    When Michio had told Mia about what had happened, she was able to see why her parents strove so much to avoid war. Even outside of battle it had led to widespread violence across the world as a whole. It amplified issues that could be solved without it, increasing cultural divides and hatred. Why did they still fight when there was nothing to be gained? Grudges weren't worth it. Unlike every child that was proud to have a strong, fighting father that would stand for their ancestors, Mia was glad to have a mature father; Michio was willing to accept that enough was enough.

    Now the peaceful life they'd built was slipping away. Running from battles they thought they couldn't win only got them so far, and they couldn't run anymore. As hours passed, Mia and Haru heard a yell from outside, in the distance. Mia was startled awake just as she'd cried herself to sleep, and Haru rushed to investigate the noise. Closing in on the town were warriors in foreign garb, apparently Egressian soldiers staging a counterattack. Buildings in the distance were already on fire, and townsfolk were already running for their lives.

    "Mia, get in the closet!" Haru called out to her daughter, quite hysterical.
    "What's going on?" Mia asked, rising from bed.
    "There's soldiers in the distance. They've come to kill our people."
    "What's hiding going to do? There's nowhere here they won't find us, mom."
    "We don't have time to run."
    "But we can't hide..." Mia looked around. The sword Michio had been issued was hanging on the wall; he took the family blade, Red Star, to battle instead, as it was much higher quality. That blade, however, would do.
    "Mia, what do you think you're doing?"
    "We're going to have to protect ourselves."
    "This is ridiculous. Please, just hide in the closet. You haven't been trained to-"

    Without warning, the door was kicked in by a viking figure, wielding a greatsword. His face was obscured by a thick, silver, curly beard soaked in blood, dense eyebrows to match, and a horned helmet. His armor was heavier than anything Mia and Haru had seen, and layered under wolf pelt. He was followed by two similar looking men, and not even noticing the sword as Mia hid under a table, he lunged at Haru with a bare hand.

    "You... do you know about soldiers advancing on our village? Where did they go?"
    "I... I don't know anything-"
    "Nonsense."
    "I really don't!"
    The warrior would spit on the ground before tossing her aside. "Watch her. I thought I heard her talking to someone..." He'd aim his sword at Haru, growling. "Where are the others?"
    "I don't know what you're talking abou-"
    The warrior slashed his sword into the wall, cleaving a large hole right into it as Haru screamed. "Don't lie to me! Tell me where they are or I'll-"

    The leader suddenly grunted as a sword was plunged into an exposed gap in the back of his armor, and he held his chest as he fell. Behind the figure was Mia, holding the sword with a determined look on her face... which was hidden behind the view of her favorite mask. She hoped that the mask, being quite durable, would shield her face, but little did she know it would be much more important... and for a different reason than she expected.

    "Mia!" Haru yelled out. "What are you doing?"
    "I'm saving you, mom!" Mia responded.
    "You're insane!"
    "I'm not. Now get out of here!"
    "I'm not leaving you!" Haru declared as the soldiers charged Mia.
    "Just go! You can keep the family going if I die, right? But if you die-"
    "I love you, Mia... I'll be back for you!"

    It was now the soldiers and Mia as Haru escaped out the door, fleeing with nothing but the clothes on her back.

    "You have some gall, girl," one of the men snarled. "But you'll die the same as the rest. Now drop the sword so we can make this easy on you. A quick death rather than a painfully slow one..."
    "I'm not dying here... my father will be back for me. You two, on the otherhand, have no one to live for. You're cold and heartless."
    "And she has a mouth too. Cute. But there's two of Egress's finest versus a helpless girl. You got lucky, but your luck's-"

    Suddenly, a jar of paper cranes spilled from a shelf, where the leader had swung his sword. The guards turned, and suddenly there were more soldiers, ready to face them. Mia seemed startled; did they just form out of... paper? What good was paper going to-

    And with that doubt the form of the cranes dissipated. The soldiers were suddenly on edge, and one of them rushed to drag their leader out of the house.

    "Get out of there, Katikan! Something's not right!"
    "She'll die the same as the rest."

    The remaining soldier swung at Mia, and while she was able to block it, she staggered back, falling against and knocking over the table. She tried to scurry away, but her knee was stomped on, breaking it. She only had one way to go, which was to crawl towards her room now, but she couldn't move.

    "It was nice meeting you, sweetie. But now you're going to die a slow and terrible death."
    "Just get out of here! I don't want to kill any more of you!"

    Suddenly, the eyes of the mask shone a bright red as the cranes formed into a wave. It caught the soldier, but not before he stabbed Mia in the gut and twisted his sword. He was pulled away, forced to leave as Mia found her way to her room, grabbing a cloth to close her wound... she knew now to stand and fight rather than run, but her life was leaving before her eyes. She hoped her newfound powers would come with healing, but the most she could do is buy enough time to wait for Michio's return...
  • edited February 26

    6~ Shadows and Color — Part 2

    After the battle against Nimbu...

    Since Michio and Mia had reunited, the Masterworks had been the most important part of their time together. They spared Mia the time she needed to give her dying message to Michio, and just now they may have very well spared Michio's life. However, just then it seemed as if Nimbu was aiming for it. Michio was a good sport, offering a handshake and a chat, but Mia was a bit in shock; that's the first time anyone else had been able to control the power of the flock and the mask. The prospect was jarring; not only was it a point of weakness, but its power was starting to not mean as much. The masterworks they had clearly wouldn't be enough on their own. And worst of all, if Nimbu was able to find out so quickly that the mask was a weak point, that meant it would be far more exploitable in the days to come. While Mia didn't say much, she listened to the conversation between Kumo and her father. If The Abyss could latch onto her weakness, then the mask wasn't a safe vessel anymore.

    Once Michio finished speaking with Nimbu, Mia pinged him from inside the mask.

    "What is it, dear?" He asked sincerely as he relaxed on his bed. His clothes were in tatters, but at least he had a place to rest after the match.
    "...I'm a bit scared," Mia confessed.
    Michio was confused. "Why? The match is over. We won."
    "Barely. That's the first time someone's ever seized control of our power."
    "We were still in control."
    "Again, barely. I had to use everything in my power to hold her back, and even then she managed to conjure one of the largest miracles the flock has ever produced. That pushed me so hard I ran out of power."
    "Kumo said we did need to hone our minds and spirits further."
    "Exactly... and mine wavered in that battle. If we were against someone more powerful they could have taken control and killed you. Or worse, shattered the mask."
    "I suppose you do have a point. I'd been thinking... we do need to transfer your soul to something more resilient, but we need to find someone capable of doing that."
    "I can actually transfer my own spirit, I'm sure. But I'll need all my power, and I don't think we have the spare time to spend not doing anything but meditating. Even training takes away from my power."
    "...I'm thinking. Maybe..." A stroke of genius hit Michio hard enough to make him speak aloud. "Ah! The flock!"
    "Shshsh,,, what about it?"
    "Keep the flock attached to the mask at all times so you don't lose power."
    "But our power won't be as great if we're apart."
    "Right... hmm... we need to find a way to make that not the case. Either way, we need to make another Mastercraft from the sounds of it."
    "Yes... how do you think we'll manage to keep our souls united while apart?"
    Michio would smile. "I think you're thinking too literal. We have the power to make dreams come to life, and you're stuck on the specifics."
    "Normally it's you who worries too much about details."
    "Touché. But I'm more confident now. We don't need to be together literally, but figuratively? We're always together as long as we stand by each other's side." He'd close his eyes and touch the mask on his head. "Right?"
    "You're right."

    Strings of blue light would seem to tether themselves from Michio's mind into the mask as he focused in meditation. He felt something... unlock inside him, as though a block had been cleared in his mind, then deep in his body. He may have been the same person, but as his eyes opened, he felt different... better. And closer to Mia than he'd ever been before. But alas, he also felt weak, equally drained as Mia. He'd just have to make sure his mind didn't slip while he was vulnerable.

    "Now, let's get back home to rest, dear. We need to be ready; we're going to be making some new masks for me and something for you."
    "For me?"
    "I think it's time I teach you how to properly defend yourself. Once we connect your mask with your flock, you shouldn't have to worry about disappearing again..."
  • Preparation [Match 1]

    Ozge affirmed the location of the metal spikes both in the pouch at her right hip and tucked into the edge of her light gauntlet. Satisfied, she tightened a strap on her climbing harness. Mobility would be tantamount even though the match was to take place in the meadows. With fewer places to hide, ingenuity and agility would be critical to overcome an aware foe.

    She took in measured breaths, exhaling long streams of wind through pursed lips as she stretched. Navor was a knight - or former knight, he said - and she had bested knights before. Knights were tenacious, skilled certainly, but ordered. Knights fought from the posture of structure and systems, drawing passion from their values. The most successful strategies against them involved getting them out of their groove and forcing them to improvise.

    Ozge pulled her sword from its thin scabbard. She caught a brief glimpse of her reflection in the worn surface as she inspected the blade. Her long white hair was tied back in a tight bun and her split brow was furrowed with stress. Whispered suggestions from among the competitors of avoiding killing flashed through her mind. She shook her head as she re-sheathed the weapon. Death is a tool and like all tools it has its place.

    Her orders left room for interpretation though - winning the tournament didn’t necessitate killing per se. She narrowed her eyes. Even so, progressing in this event was her best hope at breaking Teg Midon’s hold on her and getting revenge for Ari’s death, for Lucine’s death… for her death. If getting vengeance required more killing…

    She allowed the thought to trail off as she tested the nearby leylines. A bright blue flash signified her disruptive magics taking shape and distorting her image. Watching shadows swirl around her form, she lamented that the match would be in bright sunlight. She dismissed the spell and unceremoniously plopped into a wooden chair. She leaned forward and rested her forehead on her palms, sighing deeply.

    Her career from before demanded that she know about people. You had to know the pace of your target’s gait, their favorite food, the sound of their voice, how frequently they blinked. Her mind was full of dossiers and details, endless minutia about daily routines and relationships of past marks. However, interacting with the other champions at this tournament was different. Mercifully, refreshingly different. Even the briefest conversations with other contestants were more enlightening and natural than any she’d had in years. They were less objects to be broken and more… actual people. People that could potentially help her.

    Except for Navor, right now. Ozge stood and shook tension out of her arms, bouncing lightly on her toes. This match against the mysterious knight would require all of Ari’s precision and all of Lucine’s ferocity. Respect could come afterward - for now she had to be ruthless. Ozge’s mismatched eyes flashed darkly as she stepped out toward the arena. Ruthlessness was one thing she embodied rather well.
  • 6~ Shadows and Color — Part 3

    The next day...

    "...a staff? Really dad?"

    Mia was going with Michio through plans he had to make new Masterworks. A new set of masks rather than just one, plans to reinforce the kitsune mask, and... a quarterstaff for Mia. She didn't seem too excited by the prospect of swinging around what she saw as a glorified piece of wood, rather than using a precision made implement of battle.

    "Dear, weapons of war like my sword take years to master, and your fighting style isn't suited for a sword, let along a katana. From what fighting we've done, you seem a lot more at home defending me and yourself than actually attacking. A staff is perfect; it provides plenty of room to block blows, the leverage to properly deflect attacks, and it's great for nonlethal strikes."
    "But I can use a sword. I've killed someone with one before."
    "You what?"
    "I thought you knew."
    "Really? Then you're definitely not getting one!"
    "Meanie."
    "Don't need my daughter out for blood."
    "Really? You were thinking about killing Nimbu."
    "I'm better now; she's still misguided, but she's a nice person."
    "And I'm better now too. I don't want to kill people, but I need to be ready if I need to."
    "You underestimate what someone can do with a quarterstaff."
    "It's a stick."
    "It's a defensive weapon that can kill with a well timed strike to the head. You don't mess around with it."
    "I still think a sword will be better."
    "Then I bet you can't beat me in a sparing match if I use just a simple stick and you use a real sword. Let me tell you; a quarterstaff is miles better than the stick, but I'll still win. If I beat you, you have to use the staff I plan on making you. If I lose, I'll spare no expense getting you the best katana I can get."
    "I'll accept."

    For the first time since their arrival, Mia and Michio went out to the training area. The ninja was unmasked, giving his daughter his sword as he went maskless to fetch a strong stick that couldn't be broken by the swings. Mia wore the mask, having access to all of her powers, while he... had a stick. It seemed obviously one-sided, but even without formal training, Michio held it competently, with a smug look on his face.

    "You can give up now if you want to, dear." Michio offered, chuckling.
    "No way. I won't be holding back."
    "Good."

    The first instinct for Mia was to break the stick with imagination magic, but it held up, and her shock gave Michio enough time to appear right behind her and sweep her off her feet with a kick. Then, she was suddenly slammed into the ground by the impact of the stick against her abdomen. Both of them heard a pop, and Michio winced.

    "I give up! I give up!" Mia pleaded. "Damn... I think you broke a rib..."
    "You don't have ribs, silly," Michio joked, chuckling as he offered her a hand. "You're made of paper."
    Mia took his hand and weakly got up, still shocked, and she reformed the "broken rib" using a couple spare birds from the flock. "That still really hurt."
    "See, if that were a quarterstaff? That strike would have been potentially lethal. The added weight from the iron heads give a heavy striking end."
    "I see what you mean. I'll take the staff, please."

    The two returned to their room, nudging each other along the way, and set to work on the Masterworks. In a few days time, between talking with the others and attending matches, they would have everything ready. Now, with both of them wielding as much power as they could, they were ready to bring their imaginations to the table to make their art into Masterworks. The question was what powers to give the items; unlike a proper enchantment that could be inlaid into a weapon or piece of armor, this permanently changed the properties of the art, and until they were significantly more powerful there was no changing what they did.

    First, Michio's new masks. They were somewhat akin to theater masks from back home, so it only seemed natural that they would be used for acting? Michio had a brilliant idea; using Mia's idea of replication, make two of the masks able to replicate things, and the third would be worn by the ninja. He could summon two clones to aid him and creatures to fight by his side, or even protect Mia with copies of her or supplement her flock?

    Upgraded Card



    Second was simple. A modification to aid the durability of Mia's kitsune mask, for she would now be wearing it in place of Michio. That way, so long as she keeps the flock merged into a form that could wear the mask, she wouldn't lose her power.

    Third and finally was the staff. This was going to be fun; Mia simply willed it to be indestructible, and malleable in a way that could supplement disguises by mimicking other weapons... of course, Michio wouldn't let her make it a sword at will, but if they planned on attacking with, say, several clones of him, she would need the sword for authenticity. In the coming days he would give her a crash course on the basics of combat with her new weapon, and help her use her flock for more practical combat purposes, especially in hopes that they wouldn't have to go all out next time...

    Bonus: "Upgrade" for Mia

  • Chapter Eleven - The Sixth Match

    A claw of shadows lashed out at Nyrine. Jesper pushed Nyrine out of the way, allowing the shadow hand to crash down upon him. When the shadows dispersed, he was gone. All that was left was a single arrow. Nyrine picked it up with tears in her eyes. “Jesper…”

    “Run!” the king yelled.

    Nyrine added, “Go left!”

    All of them ran to the left side of the room. The shadow hand slammed into the ground to the right of where they were standing. More shadows flowed out through the steel rose and joined into the monster. From its monstrous form, it became a horrifying blob of shadows that barreled towards them like a swarm of bees.

    “Follow me!” Nyrine said, “Using my powers, I should be able to foresee where its next likely attacks are coming from.”

    Nyrine ran through a tunnel nearby, the two others following her. The shadows were chasing them in hot pursuit. From time to time, Nyrine would shout things like “Left!” or “Right!” when they came to a fork and “Duck!” at random times when shadows rocketed over their heads right after.

    “The shadows are catching up. We can’t outrun them!” the king shouted.

    “Just follow my lead, trust me,” Nyrine shouted back.

    “This is for your greater good,” the king said. He spun around, ignoring Nyrine’s advice. He pulled out his silver sword and sliced the oncoming shadows artfully. Right when it seemed like the king was gaining control of the fight, there was a surge of shadows, filling the entirety of the tunnel in front of the king. In a tidal wave of darkness, the queen watched in horror as the darkness surrounded her husband.

    “We’ve got to be able to do something!” she shouted.

    Nyrine shook her head. “I’m sorry, your highness.”

    The shadows raised the king into the air, pinning him against the ceiling as he screamed. He was now separated from his silver sword

    Nyrine tugged on the queen’s robes. “We have to go.”

    —--------------------

    The afternoon sun shone bright over the meadow stadium. It was pretty warm outside, and a light breeze swept occasionally through the field making for enjoyable weather.

    Navor stood on one side of the field in a very concentrated state. Ozge, standing on the other side, examined her blade carefully. They would need to employ all the tactics the had. This would be a battle of trickery to the end.

    “Below these meadows,” Aki said, “Is one of the few places in the plane that you can find natural silver and corrupted steel. Below these meadows, lie a maze of passageways and corridors leading to some of the greatest weapons for and against the abyss. It all depends which path in the maze you choose. Now, let’s get our sixth match underway between Ozge and Navor!”

    Aki sat down. “I thought that was pretty mysterious. That was good right?”

    Byrre shook his head annoyedly as the fight began to unfold.

    -----

    @DomriKade @Aggroman15 I will accept any other stories you have for the next 30 minutes or so. Good luck to the both of you!

  • edited February 27

    Story Segment 5 - Advancement


    “Do you swear to uphold the tenets of the Order of Manifestation, and advance our cause wherever your missions may take you?”

    The room was silent, for just a moment. The entirety of the Order was gathered in the main hall, watching attentively as Master Kosi waited for an answer. In front of her stood Jacks, his armor and sword immaculately polished, and his mustache cleanly trimmed.

    “I do.” Jacks said, obviously trying his hardest to make sure his excitement didn’t shine through in such a serious moment. Navor, seated in the front row, felt a twinge of jealousy as Jacks replied. He couldn’t help recalling that the position could have been his. But Navor knew that Jacks would be a far better field operative, and so he only felt slightly disappointed when everybody was gathered for Jacks’ advancement ceremony.

    Master Kosi continued. “I ask you to recite the tenets, and affirm your commitment to the Order.”

    Jacks nodded. “The outside world is filled with evils, which by the virtue of our own souls we are called to purge. We are bestowed with powers that others are not, and must use them to save those who cannot save themselves. Never back down from even the greatest enemy, for the courage within our souls shall grant us victory.”

    Kosi gave a slight smile. “Kneel, Jacks Ildain, and receive the Grandmaster’s blessing.”

    Jacks knelt down before Kosi, who drew her blade, and placed it on both of his shoulders in turn. “I heartily congratulate you, Jacks. Welcome to the Missionary Force.”

    A massive cheer rang out through the enormous room. Navor couldn’t help but grin. Him and Jacks had been training for this their whole lives, and the fact that even just one of them had finally made it filled him with joy. The crowd parted, as Kosi and Jacks walked to the door at the end of of the room, and exited. The knights took this as their signal to disperse, and began flooding out the doors, back to their day’s work.

    Navor, though, had a different plan. Long had he wanted to see what went on after the ceremony, and so he soon found himself following Kosi and Jacks at a distance. Navor knew that this was most likely a bad idea, but perhaps some of Jacks’ recklessness had rubbed off on him, because he continued after the pair. 

    After a few minutes of tailing them, Navor saw Kosi and Jacks step into a room. The door itself didn’t make the room look like anything special, but Navor supposed that was the point. Whatever went on in there was not meant to be seen by others. As Navor walked sneakily up to the door, he brought out his manifestation, and slipped it into the shadows of the dimly lit corridor. From there, it traveled underneath the doorway, into a dark entryway that went on for a few feet before opening up into a wider room. In the center of that room, he could see Jacks, with his manifestation out, in front of Master Kosi. A moment later, Kosi turned to Navor’s manifestation, as though she could sense its presence.

    “Ah, Navor. You always were too inquisitive for your own good.” She said, before Navor’s soul was forcefully recalled to him.

    ——————

    Present Day

    Navor was seated in the stands around the Meadow Field, watching the third match. All was going well, the match had been quite interesting thus far. Navor was, strangely, excited to see the outcome. 

    It's been a while since I've felt like this at a fight... perhaps... wait, what the hell is going on out there?

    Out on the field, Audhild's ring had began to glow a deep purple, and the grass around her had begun to wither. Navor's shock quickly turned to confusion.

    I of all people should know some have abilities they wish to keep secret, but to bring something like this into a tournament of this prestige? No, there are other forces at work here.


    Surprisingly, the match continued. Navor heard gasps of shock from those sitting around him, whispers about "the Abyss". Navor had only vaguely heard of the Abyss before, but he knew it was bad news.

    Then, Audhild's skin turned an ashen grey, and cracks began to run across her body.

    Navor froze. Memories flooded back to him, memories he had worked hard to forget. Memories of what he had seen in that room, many years ago. 

    Before he had been ejected from the room, Navor had seen Master Kosi's manifestation. It was a deep, inky black, with swirls of a malevolent purple intermixed within. But more unsettling than that was what Navor had witnessed it doing. Kosi's manifestation had been seemingly absorbing Jacks' manifestation. All of his brilliant shining light, snuffed out. And while it happened, Master Kosi's skin was a cracked, ashen grey.

    Afterwards, Jacks had been a shell of his former self. It was as if his soul had been hijacked, and Jacks didn't even exist anymore. Navor hadn't had a name for what did this to his friend then, but he did now. Master Kosi was a servant of the Abyss.

    Navor didn't know why his master had made a deal with such a malevolent force, but after he saw his friend effectively killed, he knew he could not be a part of the Order any more. That night, he fled Castle Persill, and began a life on the road.
    ------------

    Two days, later, shortly before Navor's match

    The past few days had been a blur for Navor. He had been training relentlessly, wanting to be in top form for his fight. He knew he would have to be on high alert to defeat an opponent like Ogze, even in an area as open as the Meadow Field. He could tell that she was a cunning opponent, experienced in the art of death, but Navor knew he would have the advantage of surprise. He had purposefully kept his manifestation secret from the other competitors for this exact reason.

    He had heard that the tournament was for the purpose of bringing back some god, to stop the advance of the Abyss. Navor had never cared much for religion, but if the return of Friyena was what it took to combat the Abyss, then Navor would fight tooth and nail to ensure it. 

    For the sake of Jacks, and for every other innocent soul who met their end against the Abyss, Navor was going to win.
  • edited February 27

    The Sixth Match (End)

     VS

    “To ensure victory, we must first call forth the shadows. Trickery will be our greatest weapon.”

    “Go ahead Lucine, then we strike.”

    Ozge waved her hand. Shadows started to appear in the stadium like black smoke drifting into the sky. The contestants, judges, and even the audience were trapped in a sphere of darkness.

    Some people were nervous already. Was this the abyss at work again in the meadows? Or was this just another one of the contestants’ abilities? Navor shook his head, thinking about Jack before he drew his blade in the darkness.

    “Ari, your turn!”

    “Of course.”

    Ozge dashed through the shadows. Even if she was in daylight, Ozge moved so fast that no one would be able to keep track of her peculiar movements. Right as she approached Navor, the stitched assassin let out a precise strike. It landed right in the cracks of Navor’s armor, causing him to scream.

    “Argh!” Navor yelled, “What was that? Where are you?” What was once Navor’s left arm was now a stump bleeding profusely. Ozge circled back, approaching the injured Navor from the other side. Navor closed his eyes and listened to Ozge’s delicate footsteps. She was quiet like a practiced assassin should be, but even the slightest disturbances were detectable to Navor with a clear mind. 

    She lashed out again with the thin blade, now glistening with Navor’s red blood. The knight, hearing the graceful whistling of Ozge’s blade in the air, brought up his own to block it. There was a loud clang of clashing steel, surprising Ozge.

    “He detected our attack, somehow.”

    “Impressive…”

    Silently, Navor jumped backwards, creating a shadowy image of himself in his previous place.

    “I can’t see him…” Ozge said in a cracked voice.

    A shadowy sword approached Ozge from behind. She quickly spun around to block the blade as it blended in with the darkness.

    There were groans from the audience as they were still covered in the endless shadows. What was there to spectate when they could see absolutely nothing?

    Ozge pressed forward with heightened senses and extreme precision. She had killed near invisible foes before. This was no problem. Lucine and Ari’s voices communicated with perfect teamwork in her head as they disarmed the knight.

    Then, a strong breeze swept through the meadows. Ozge’s shadows were swept out of the area, revealing the imperfect, shadow figure of Navor.

    “This isn’t Navor.”

    “Then where is he?”

    Ozge abandoned the shadow duplicate before spotting Navor standing behind a tree, eyes closed in concentration. Though Ozge didn’t realize it, the shadow figure had faded from where it was. She approached it carefully as the audience, finally engaged again, watched in suspense.

    Both of them were now on opposite sides of the tree. The large tree obscured the sun's rays, casting a large shadow over them. Navor himself held his remaining arm to his chest, clearly focused on something. It was peculiar, knowing that Navor’s sword was lying at least ten feet away.

    One of them raised a sword. 

    With perfect aim they cut downwards. 

    Their sword cut cleanly through the other’s chest.

    There was no scream. Just a thud as one of them collapsed on the ground.

    A cheer erupted from the audience. The match was done.

  • edited February 27
    The Sixth Match - WINNER



    This was another very tough match to decide. I believe that card design, especially when pertaining to story was relatively even. If I had to choose the winner of card design, I'd give a slight edge to DomriKade. Both stories were so well written. While I believe DomriKade's writing was the most interesting to read, Navor, as a character had more reason to move on. There was more at stake for Navor pertaining to the tournament itself and more room for him to grow, which is why he won.

    @Aggroman15 Congrats on your win! You may now upgrade your champion to 5CMC or create a new signature card.

    @DomriKade When I said I enjoyed your writing, I meant it. We all know you have a magical touch with cards, but Ozge proved that you can craft realities with words. Your stories were truly breathtaking, so I really hope to see you in the next ToC. Well done, again. I would be thrilled if you posted any conclusion story and/or cards!


    Navor's shadow double was standing over Ozge's lifeless body. Rehela came down to regrow Navor's arm and revive Ozge. She examined the stitches for a second before healing Ozge to full stregnth again. What the stitcher had done was truly a miracle.

    "So I guess we are stuck together. Even in death."
    "I guess so."

    "The seventh match between Kumo and Spear-Bearer will take place in the cliffs stadium."
    --------
    @Arceus8523 and @AboveAndAbout your match will take place in THE MORNING tomorrow (around 9:30 am PST)

    @feralitator and @TheDukeOfPork - if I have time, your match may occur tomorrow night, so try and get your stories wrapped up too.

    Good luck to all of you!
  • Aftermath

    We’ve done this before.

    Ozge squinted against the bright sunlight. She felt the rough grass of the arena turf brush against her cheek. She attempted to draw a deep breath but gasped as a tearing pain lanced across her chest.

    Rehela quickly extended her hands to apply a healing spell to the reopened wound. “Take it slowly, you’ve just… been through a lot.”

    Ozge scoffed quietly as she worked to steady her breathing. Returning to life was a tragically familiar experience. This time was decidedly more gentle though, she thought sadly. Clearly she had misjudged her opponent. Navor’s shadow projection had gotten the best of her and she had failed her mission.

    Now she would have to return to Teg Midon, tail between her legs, and take whatever penalty was due. As long as she was under his thrall there was no hope for escape. She closed her eyes and turned her senses inward to the ever-present darkness that clung to her physical, twin heart…

    Her brow furrowed. Where there was normally a poisonous aura surrounding her core, there was instead… nothing. Whatever magical force that had bound her for three years and supposedly sustained her life was no longer present. Now it was just… her.

    Her eyes fluttered open as the weight of the discovery settled in. If Teg Midon’s hold on her life was illusory - or dispelled by her death, she mused - then she could return with confidence and settle one score. The first of two. There was certainly a long path ahead and many details to uncover, but for the first time in a long time Ozge felt a renewed sense of purpose, and something else far less familiar: freedom.

    “Navor,” she groaned from the ground. The knight turned, surprised that she was already conscious. She beckoned him closer with a weak wave. He cautiously stepped over and knelt down beside her.

    She lifted a finger to indicate his arm. “Sorry,” she muttered.

    He shook his head dismissively as he rubbed his freshly restored appendage. “No need to apologize. That’s all part of the process.”

    She winced as the healer continued her work. She paused for a moment, searching for words. “When this is all over, please find me. You… clearly understand souls and I…” She hesitated, looking back across the meadow arena. “I would appreciate your counsel.”

    Navor laughed softly. “I don’t imagine you’ll be particularly easy to locate.”

    Ozge turned to him and smiled, perhaps for the first time since her rebirth. “I can’t imagine that will stop you.”


    [Congrats to @Aggroman15 - best of luck in the remainder of the event!]

  • Final Preparations

    Claire sat awake in her bed, unable to fall asleep. Her match was the next day, and she was unsure if she was ready for it. Apart from the one sentence she drunkenly said to Hareel during the feast, she hadn’t interacted with her opponent at all, and the fact that she didn’t know what her opponent was capable of scared her. Thoughts were racing through her mind, “What if they are stronger than me? What if I freeze up and can’t do anything? What if I lose, and they kill me?”

    As the thoughts got more and more grim, she waved away the thoughts and decided to go out to train one last time before her match.

    All the other competitors that remained were all asleep, so she made sure to be as quiet as possible while leaving her room. Slowly stepping down the hallway, she had made only the slightest amount of noise. She got to the front door, slowly opened it, stepped outside, and on instinct, lightly threw the door closed. She took a step or two away from the building before-

    *Bang!*

    Claire froze up. She must have closed the door with more force than she realized. Swiftly, she walked over to the nearby lake to begin practicing. She felt fairly confident in her ability to make small streams of water flow through the air, but she wanted to make sure she was able to control a larger volume of water all at once. Raising both arms at once, the water from the lake started to rise, turning into a giant wave that started floating in the air.

    Claire continued to practice for an hour before returning to bed. In the morning, as the excitement of the matches began to grow, rumors spread around that the water mage competing in the tournament had made the entire lake near the competitor’s housing float in the air, and nearby townsfolk became eager to know if they were true.


  •                                   Chapter 6-Battle Nerves

    TOMORROW WAS THE BIG DAY. The day when all Hareel had built could fall down. He could be taken away by the Burden.
              "What do you think, gremlin?" Hareel sighed as the creature scampered under the bed. Hareel had been sitting at the desk for hours, writing notes, scrunching up paper. He knew eventually he would have to ask Burden, and that wouldn't end well. 

    He was much too tired to train any more, so he needed a strategy. This battle was deadly. 

            "Okay, Burden, come out." "Ha! I knew you would say that." This time it came out as a raven and looked at Hareels notes so far:

    • Suprise attack
    • Fire
    • Winning.
    "What is this? Surprise attack? Winning? No, no, no, you have to play with your opponents mind! What do you know about this Claire?"

               "Nothing," Hareel admitted, "Anyways, the mind is your thing. I'm more of a battler." "Well," Burden said, "If this is all you can do, then you will be facing death's door. The ravens will fly over your quaters." Then it disappeared.
              "That's all you're going to say? Some help you are." And so the thoughts kept on coming, his mind travelling through an endless road.
          On and on it went.

    (Lore card)
    (Link to mtgcs version imbedded)

                
  • When I posted my updated character stuff I was in such a rush that I forgot to add new abilities!

    Michio

    • The Masks of Misdirection: These allow Michio to create up to two clones of a creature he's familiar with, or he can turn the masks into reproductions of objects he's familiar with. Unless he clones himself or Mia, they seem authentic from a distance, but at point blank they can be identified as fakes due to slight variations in small details.

    Mia

    • The Mask of the False Kitsune: Improvements have provided greatly increased durability, and allow Michio and Mia to both use their full power without him wearing the mask. This means Mia can wear the mask upon her form in the flock, allowing her to stay projected under all but the worst circumstances.
    • The Staff of the False Kitsune (Card coming soon): Mia's weapon. Deceptively light with powerful striking ends. Only magic designed to undo wards can break it, and it can mimic (but not perfectly replicate) other weapons. The more magical the weapon, the less authentic the duplicate.
  • Wow lots of good writing recently! Let's get started with our final matches!

    Chapter Twelve - The Seventh Match

    The queen and Nyrine kept running. After ten minutes, they had exited the cave, ran up the foggy path and lost the shadows.

    “Come, Nyrine,” the queen said out of breath, “We have a lot to discuss at the castle.”

    Nyrine nodded gravely.

    “This is a lot worse than I thought.”

    —----------------------

    Kumo was ready for his big day. He slipped on his battered, yet cared for armor, then grabbed his sword in his mouth. Somehow, even with the sword, he managed to jump up and open the door with his paw.

    As Kumo walked to the stadium, some people gave him weird looks. Others came up to pet him. Most of them did the latter. Outside the cliffs stadium, Kumo greeted all of his friends: Oritira, Michio, Ushri, and the squire. Kumo put down his sword for a moment to give a happy bark.

    “I know, I know,” Oritira smiled, “You’ll do amazing! I’m sure of it.”

    With that, Kumo picked his sword back up and headed into the stadium. Kumo was a little late, so Aki was already done with his speech, to Kumo’s disappointment. He actually enjoyed Aki’s ramblings from time to time.

    “Let the seventh match between Kumo and Spear-Bearer begin!”

  • @Arceus8523 and @AboveAndAbout

    At this point, I will not accept any more stories from either of you since your match has begun!!!
  • edited February 27

    Seventh Match (End)

    VS

    Kumo playfully charged at Spear-Bearer. If he could disarm her, she’d give up, right?

    Spear-bearer, however, had other plans. She summoned three spirits, sending them to surround Kumo. Kumo was well practiced in such combat though. Kumo spun in a circle, like a normal dog chasing its tail, knocking all the spirit-guards off their feet.

    He leapt over the spirits and charged at Spear-Bearer. The woman blocked with her sacred spear. Then she jabbed at Kumo, causing the dog to fall back and yelp. The whole audience screamed in unison for the dog.

    Then, Spear-Bearer raised her hands. Kumo’s blood, from her spear tip, started to expand and swirl around her in magnificent patterns. Then, it lashed out, grabbing Kumo’s paws, snout, and tail. It dragged the dog towards her on the cliffs slowly, but surely.

    The audience’s boos were loud and clear. Kumo tried to struggle against the blood bonds, but nothing worked.

    The ribbons of blood raised Kumo into the air and slammed him onto the ground. Once. Twice. Oritira couldn’t watch.

    Meka, from the stands, told Ushri, “I’m gonna go help the puppy. This is brutal.”

    “You can’t do that!”

    “Ugh…fine…I don’t like seeing Kumo beaten like that.”

    “Me too.”

    Spear-Bearer raised Kumo into the air higher than ever. This would be one of Kumo’s last moments if she threw him to the ground again. Suddenly, a beam of light from the clouds struck Kumo’s body. The blood ribbons rescinded quickly and Kumo dived at Spear-Bearer, surrounded by a powerful golden light.

    “Hurt one of the blessed, and you will bear the wrath of Friyena.”

    Spear-Bearer summoned spirit after spirit as she held her spear up at the dog. All of them kept getting destroyed. As kumo hit the spear, it cracked into tiny wooden splinters. Kumo landed on top of spear-bearer, pinning her to the ground. He gave a happy victory howl. The audience roared in approval.

    “He said thank you,” Oritira said, “Maybe Friyena isn’t gone after all…right?”

    Aki cheered as the dog won. The golden light had already healed, Kumo, so there was no need for any healing either. This was his perfect match. Byrre sat, looking at where the light came from, perplexed, yet content at the same time.

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