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



  • Stay calm, breathe. In. Out. In. Out. Close your eyes. Listen. Smell the air. Feel the earth. Good. Open your eyes. Get ready.

    Ergun crouches motionlessly in the undergrowth, covered in mud and foliage. Beside him Storrig leans forward, right hand firmly gripping his still sheathed blade. The pair wait patiently.

    Do not move. Do not blink. You are a statue, a stone, a log. You are not there. But you will be.

    A sharp crack of branches pierces the still morning air and a guttural, primal roar scatters birds from their treetop perches to the grey skies unfazed by sunrise. With a panicked neigh, a chestnut mare emerges from the trees, bolting towards the two before leaping over a log and vanishing past them. 

    Time slows. It is coming. The hunter picks the hunting ground, not the prey.

    From deep within the forest, thundering footsteps pound towards the waiting duo. Jagged, toothy maw wide open, torn and broken wings trailing limply at its sides, green-brown scales shining dully, a colossal, enraged drake tears through the woods. Its large, three toed talons crush the underbrush as its wicked talons carve deep gouges into the soil and stone. The long serpentine head snakes back and forth like a cobra preparing to strike as it gnashes its teeth, slowly closing the distance with the frenzied horse. Its dorsal spines bristle and its leathery hide is peppered with dozens of broken arrow shafts, no more than mere toothpicks to a beast of such size and constitution.

    You are the hunter. You are death. You know the beast, but it knows you not. Know your enemy.

    The drake lunges towards the unseen pair, head held low to avoid branches. Its reptilian tongue flicks out, smelling the mare's fear, and it once again opens its jaws to roar its hunger. The sound dies in its throat as a brilliant silver longsword plunges deep into its maw, through the pink roof of its mouth, and emerges triumphantly through the creature's left eye. It shudders, stumbles, and falls.

    Storrig Hazrith withdraws his weapon from his quarry's skull in a swift motion, one hand gripping the beast's upper jaw. He releases it and the head hits the ground with a thud.

    He turns to look at his son, only six years old, pointing at the body. It is a good day. The boy smiles, clutching his own small blade. This is the beginning of everything.


    Ergun sits back at the table, staring coolly across from him. His opponent. His enemy. His prey. The young man sitting across from him appears unremarkable in all regards. He is dressed plainly and does not seem to be of noble birth. He does not display any signs of uncommon strength or speed. He is simply a boy. Ergun is not fooled. Those seeming most mundane are often the most dangerous, because nothing is expected of them and nothing is known of them. Ergun looks around him.

    A young, pale man in simple robes, a sheathed, curved sword on his back. He seems quiet and contemplative, if a little dark. The sword will be his secret. Ergun sighs. People and their swords.

    Across the table is a man not so different in physiology from Ergun, though he is smaller and more reptilian. He wears little and eyes each competitor furtively. He will be swift and slippery, hard to catch. Those ones are always tricky.

    One seat down is a strange man clad in metal and glowing crystals, his face covered. What is there to see about this one? He bears no weapons. A magic user. Those crystals will be trouble.

    Next are a duo. A young red haired woman bearing a long blade similar in design to the monk's and a far larger, burlier woman with a strange cylindrical contraption at her side wrapped in cloth. One observes the competition sharply while the other empties plate after plate. Perhaps she too has something else to feed.

    One place closer is an elven woman in robes. She looks out of place, not eating too much and paying more attention to the serpents that accompany her than the other champions or her surroundings. This one is wild. Finally, some familiarity.

    The next contender is a woman in a curious ensemble. She is clearly from far away. Another sword fighter. Ergun sighs. His swordplay is rusty. It's high time he hit the training grounds.

    Beside him is a priestess clad in white, ornate jewelry and gold decorating her hair. Behind her slouch two walking dead, strangely docile. Ergun shudders. He sometimes sympathizes with the beasts he slays, but cares not for such unholy abominations.

    The priestess' opponent is an enigmatic masked man. He too carries an oriental blade, but he is hard to read. All these damn masks. This one, like the boy across from Ergun, bears a secret. It is only a matter of discovering it before they fight.

    To Ergun's other side is a knight clad in dark plates. A barely perceptible smoke seems to seep from the gaps in the armor. Surely this is no ordinary knight in shining armor. Once again, a secret to be uncovered.

    Ergun turns to the next contender, a white haired woman in simple armor. She carries a long, straight sword and appears fairly ordinary save for the long scar across her face, seeming to divide her into two slightly different people. How strange.

    Stranger yet is the next fighter. With seemingly human intelligence, a dog sits at the table eating. A blade rests at its side and minimal armored plates shield its chest, flanks and back. How did a dog even make the cut? No matter. Intelligent or not, it is a beast like any other. 

    Across from the dog is a young woman in dark, tightly bound robes. While she appears mundane, Ergun would bet the long, silvery spear she carries is both magical and very powerful.

    At the other end of the long table sits another woman, clearly inebriated. She wears the some combination of the garb of a sailor and the cloak of a mage. Her power is no mystery, as she drunkenly pulls more wine from the shocked servant's bottle with her force of mind alone and refills her glass. Finally, someone easy to read.

    The last (but not least) competitor seated at the table is a rough, worn looking man. His clothes are in tatters and he looks haunted. This one has seen some things. Ergun shifts uncomfortably. The wounded, cornered animals always fight the fiercest.


    As the feast ends and the competitors leave one at a time or in small groups, Ergun walks to his room, deep in thought. What a strange bunch of people. He shudders, fumbles for his pouch in the dark, and shakily swallows yet another vial of dark liquid. He coughs loudly, corking the tube and stowing it away, as the writhing in his stomach subsides. Strange relative to most, he supposes. This will be harder than he thought. Good. He will need to do some digging. Do your research. Stalk your quarry. Know your enemy.
  • edited February 20

                        Pleasant Suprise II  

    Nimbu finishes her meal in silent contemplation. It appears that her opponent is not in a chatty mode, what she does know now with the mask off, is what her opponent looks. This silent figure seems a deathly pale, with an elven like complexion and red eyes a fitting canditate to make a servant for good once she zombiefies them.

    She leans back confidently after finishing her meal observing all the other contestants. Unlike the other contestants, she does not directly stare. She uses the glowing eyes of her guards to observe the other contestants. As her eyes wander she passes a glance at the silent the ninja and dragonoid both scanning the room "Is everyone here so I'll mannered?" she whispers silently to herself as she continues to do the same. 

    She spots the biggest of the pair consuming their meal as she observes the most dominant hand she uses while chomping down on her meal; she also spots the dog which is oddly the most civilized creature here; the snake charmer so far hasn't made a move; the knight is not notable to her, but also not someone to ignore, after all a good knight would be nice to have guarding your shoulder every now and then; and finally she spots the drunk across the table flinging wine and making her fool of herself. 

    Satisfied with what she has seen, she excuses herself from the table as her guards follow behind her. She notes a couple of presences of spirits in the room. One near the depressed ninja throwing hostile glares, one near the afformantioned knight and one trapped within a spear of a female contestants on the table. She knows not what they look like, but she can sense them and their intents.

    Making her way back to her quarters, she is met by lots of friendly looks. Many have heard of the fabled healer who can bring the young back to life and cure the old of the aliments of time. While fellow clerics disapprove of her methods of combining necromancy and healing to revive people, she has built a name for herself, as well as a long line of willing servants of the cause, waiting to be her next guards in death.

    As she continues her walk, she is about to be pulled aside by a figure when one of her guards grabs their arm. She turns to see a frail old man as the guard eases it's grip.

    Old man: "Please help me"

    Nimbu: "I am sorry, but death must come to the old, to violate that would be to break my dogma of balance. Me reviving you would make me no better than a necromancer raising the rested spirits of these lands. The best I can do for you right now is cure your leg" she says staring at the now semi-limp leg of the old man.

    Old man: "It's not for me, it's my granddaughter. She has been ill for long eversince she ventured into the forests a six months ago. Doctors haven't been able to do it, and others like you have told me to prepare for a burial... please help" he cries getting on his knees

    Nimbu lifts the man up gently "There is no need for that. Show me granddaughter, both the young and old must leave their life to the fullest." 

    Upon arriving she spends time with the frail child, she attempts to use basic and advanced healing spells but it doesn't work, she then comes to the conclusion that it is an unnatural aliment. She instructs the old man to leave and performs an excorsim. Within minutes she walks back out with the healthy granddaughter to the old man's suprise.

    The old man attempts to give Nimbu money and various goods as a form of payment but she refuses. She only asks that the Oldman offers his body in death to serve the cause of good.

    On the rest of the journey to Nimbu decides to go to the local cemitary, as she reflects on the various things that happened today. Satisfied with the useful knowledge of three spirit bearers and a hydromancer, she notes it down on a piece somewhere in a book before putting it in her satchel. 

    The rest of most of her time is spent resurrecting the fallen spirits in graves to ask for their permission to use their bodies should the need arise. The ones who refuse are granted their rest back. The ones who accept, get their graveyards warded.
  • edited February 19

  • Helping Hand [post announcement, pre-dinner]

    Ozge carefully padded up the steps toward the housing wing. It was only a few hours after acceptance had been announced and she was already exhausted from the sheer amount of interaction this tournament required. She had excused herself as quickly as she could after the formal introductions from the Prince - correctly, she had faded into the shadows as years of training had taught her to do - and whisked away toward the northeast side of the Grand Plaza. There were too many people and there was too much sound. She craved the quiet and the solitude.

    As she rounded the corner, she glanced up to see the dog - Kumo, she recalled - sitting in front of a closed room door. He sat pondering the door with what she could only assume was a puzzled expression. He turned his head toward her as she approached. His eyes sparkled with an intelligent flame. Ozge involuntarily paused, eyes flashing to the key that jangled around his neck, then to the door, then back to the dog.

    She cleared her throat. “Are… Do you need help?”

    Kumo nodded and pawed at the door excitedly. Ozge blinked once, twice. Did the dog just…? No, she shook her head. Her expression softened as she paced toward Kumo. He lowered his head as she reached down to retrieve the key from the braided cord around his neck. She watched him from the corner of her eye as she turned the brass key in the tumbler. A heavy thunk signified her success and the door swung open.

    The room was furnished as she imagined most would be, though the bed had a conspicuously placed crate to act as a step up to the mattress. Short lengths of rope were affixed to the various drawers and the inside of the doorknob to allow for pulling teeth to fill in for lack of opposable thumbs.

    Ozge leaned against the door jamb and watched as the peculiar dog set about unpacking his parcel of belongings. His armored harness was worn but well-cared for, clearly used. His blade similarly looked more practical than ornate, though its quality was apparent. Kumo’s equipment, or rather his entire demeanor implied some type of practiced diligence. He carried himself like… a soldier maybe? It was hard to be sure.

    Ozge reached up and wiped a tear away from her left eye. Why am I crying? she mused before the memory kicked in - Ari was allergic to dogs. She quickly rubbed her face in her sleeve, embarrassed that she had forgotten. There were elements of each of them that seemed to ebb and flow through her perception and it was difficult to hold onto each of their tendencies.

    She started as Kumo nudged her leg and barked inquiringly. She continued furiously swiping at her irritated eye as she attempted to stammer out an explanation. “Sorry, it’s not you. Well, it is you but it’s not your fault. It’s not my fault either or really fault at all. It’s mostly Ari, she was… is allergic to you. But that’s not a problem, it’s mild and she… er, I don’t mind dogs. I think.”

    Kumo tilted his head quizzically. Ozge wrung her hands and avoided eye contact as she hastily continued. “What I mean to say is that we were never allowed pets so it hasn’t come up. Because of the potential attachment and the risk it would pose I think. So being here with you now is bringing up things that I just haven’t considered in… a long time…”

    Her voice trailed off. Silence hung in the air for a brief moment as the dog watched the strange transformation. It was first apparent in her shoulders as they began bobbing in rhythm. The sensation was deep and guttural, blossoming up from her core. The cadence of her laugh favored Lucine’s. It was heavy and throaty, a raspy monotone. It escalated in intensity and volume as tears now streamed from both of her eyes. She steadied herself against the wall as she howled with unbidden humor.

    This was the most she had talked with anyone in years, and it was to a dog.

    Kumo barked softly with a tone somewhere between concern and amusement. Ozge continued to chuckle as she found her composure. “My apologies, master hound. I’m not normally a conversationalist. Thank you for letting me gush for a brief moment.”

    Ozge saw the hair stand up on the scruff of the dog’s neck before she heard the board creak. She took in a sharp breath, all mirth immediately forgotten. She pivoted in place with terrifying speed, her right hand wreathed in a deep blue energy and already tightly wrapped around the hilt of her blade.

    Through the doorway, Roshk the viashino stood frozen mid-stride, a half-eaten turkey leg hanging from his jaw. He looked back at Ozge and Kumo for a tense beat then held up his hands dismissively and continued down the hallway, chewing as he went.

    What a mess, Ozge thought as she slowly exhaled. I’m a blubbering wreck one minute then ready to off a passerby the next. She dismissed her magic and turned back to Kumo. The stately dog seemed largely unfazed, though he regarded her with a measured curiosity. She wiped away the streaks of tears from her cheeks and bowed deeply to Kumo. She opened her mouth to offer an apology for the disturbance but couldn’t find good words. Speechless again, she grunted what she hoped was an appropriate farewell and quickly departed the room.
  • edited February 19

    2~ An Awkward Dinner

    Confused looks came from the guards as two folks arrived slightly late to the feast. Michio and his daughter had had a small delay getting a cat down from a rooftop, and hoped to still be let in after the affair. The doors still welcomed contestants, but there was a bit of a problem; Mia technically didn't sign up for the tournament, and not being a physical being, couldn't be officially registered. To Michio, she was real. Her flock made her so. However, when her spirit was free from the mask, no one else could see her.

    "Halt," one of the men at the door ordered. Michio had gone past, but Mia was stopped.
    "What seems to be the matter?" She returned in a calm, low voice.
    "We don't recognize you. What is your name?"
    "Mia Akisaki, daughter to Michio Akisaki."
    "Family or not, you aren't registered to assist him. We unfortunately cannot allow you to-"

    Suddenly, Mia turned back into her swarm, and flew into the building. Colors danced around the dining hall as some of the birds formed themselves into decorations. A commotion was raised as the guards tried to address the situation, but by time they could figure out what to do the flock was "gone". Michio found his seat and... didn't know what to make of the feast in front of him.

    "Ah... hmm... what is... all this?"

    Unfamiliar sights filled the maskless ninja's view as foreign smells danced in his nostrils. He saw what looked to be a chicken, but why was it much larger than any chicken he'd seen? What is this Mackerel Knee and Cheese and this Sliced Hair? There was no fish in the former, and the later wasn't hair he'd hope. It just looked like a very small chicken to him. Feasts were something Michio had never been to, and it was clear he didn't know how to act or what to do. He didn't know where to even begin with the food, because everything here was far heavier than he was used to. While other contestants loaded their plates, he grabbed some vegetables and the thinnest slices of meat he could find.

    When Michio sat to eat, he was puzzled. People... impaling their food like barbarians with something called a fork. It was bad manners to stab food! Thankfully, he had a set of chopsticks on his person, and everyone seemed to look at him strangely for eating macaroni and cheese with something so... rudimentary.

    "Uuuch... this food is far far far too salty for my tastes." He thought to himself. He then ate a sugared plum, and his body recoiled a bit. "And this is far too sweet. Why is some of this meat almost flavorless? And is that gentleman putting more salt on his ham? I pray to the gods of this plane that his tongue does not shrivel up and die like a slug..."

    Michio finished his food out of respect, but it's clear he would have to acclimate his palette; he ate many plain tasting dishes and had gotten used to flavoring foods naturally. Ideally, salty things were strayed away from, with very naturally sodium rich foods getting sweetened in more traditional ways. He'd eaten mostly fish, rice, dumplings, and noodles his whole life. He was lucky to get his favorite dish every great now and then back home, pork dumplings, because pork was a rare commodity in Hondo. The worst part of the meal had to be the lack of a simple beverage like tea. There was water, wines, meads... but no tea to wash the food down with. And for the drinks, there wasn't even any sake... he just settled for some honeyed mead.

    As the feast went on, he tried to make light conversations with some of the less suspicious among the folk there. He seemed to take a bit of a liking to the simpler folk, especially considering all but one of the mages were... off putting to him, to say the least. Even the dog spooked him a bit!... which only made things that much more dreadful when names were announced. Out of the bad options, he thought, things couldn't be too bad for him. He didn't want to face any of the more likable contestants, but all the same, he didn't want to fight the dishonorable types. Despite having a disadvantage using his sword, he was wishing he could have a just, honorable bout with the spearmaster. But his hopes for a likable battle were dashed when his opponent was none other than the very person he loathed most to see earlier, a figure who carried themselves like a priest, but had done horrible things. When she spoke to him, he gulped, not out of fear of her, but out of fear for saying something disrespectful or dishonorable. He did not want to be honest to her, but he did made sure to carry himself to the best of his ability... he would cautiously return the handshake and speak.

    "Hmph. It is impolite to make threats, Madame Nimbu, especially at a feast. Leave the taunting to the children. As for why I am here, I have come to this tournament to prove myself and help restore peace to this world. I have heard that, unfortunately, Avelaide is harassed by entities from what they call The Abyss. I have promised to cut down any who would wrong the innocent from the moment I donned my mask; I do not believe in killing, but these creatures are beyond any redemption a simple sealing can offer."
  • edited February 19

    The Feast

    Roshk kept to himself as the champions moved through the halls of Rosakel Castle. He paid no attention to Aki as he rambled on about his empire's history. As Roshk entered the feast hall, he snapped into attention. The large table was piled with more food than he'd ever seen, but nearly all of it was unfamiliar to Roshk. He sat down and reluctantly stabbed one of his claws into a piece of meat, then snapped it off his finger with his fangs, earning him quite a few strange looks from the other champions. Everybody stopped eating as Byrre came up to announce the matches.
    "Match number one: Miyan versus Roshk."
    Roshk knew nearly nothing of his opponent. Miyan had a very dark feeling about him, and carried the same sword with him wherever he went, but beyond that, the man was a complete mystery, and he usually kept to himself.
    Roshk looked around the table. All of the champions had been placed directly across from their future opponents.
    Well this is awkward. He thought. Miyan didn't seem like the conversational type, and Roshk wasn't really either, so he decided to remain silent and continue with eating.
    Looking around at all the people and creatures around him, Roshk... wasn't quite sure he'd survive. He tried to reassure himself.
    The spirits will guide me. He told himself.
    Then Roshk realized something. He had left his tribe long ago, and now he was in a faraway land fighting to the death for some foreign goddess. If the spirits still watched over him... would they want to guide him at all?
  • edited February 19

    Arrival at the Castle

    Raeza sighed, munching on a soft pretzel as they scanned the tournament notice. I really have to participate in this farce… Nothing to do but get it over with, I suppose.

    They made their way to the castle, taking side streets to avoid the majority of the crowds, almost the last to arrive. Trudging into the throne room, they quickly found an unoccupied corner and kept quiet, briefly glancing at the other combatants. Quite the assortment assembled; as expected of such a famous event.

    The prince only briefly held Raeza's gaze; while the words that came from his mouth might be important (and would be paid due attention), they had little respect to spare for what appeared to be a noble brat unprepared for this role. Raeza made sure to thank the prince's advisor when keys and maps were handed out; it never hurt to be courteous, especially to the ones that did the real work in places like this.

    As the participants began to disperse, one of them suddenly offered healing services to everyone gathered. A healer with undead beside them? What could this possibly be if not a trap? Any healing they provide, if any, is likely laced with slow poisons or curses; best to keep my distance.

    Raeza double-checked the map they'd been provided as they left the palace. There should be plenty of time to tour the stadiums tomorrow. For now, let's check the lodgings. Seeing that a number of the others had decided on a similar course of action, Raeza passed their room by, confirming its location while making sure to not give it away; best to not give that information away when surrounded by potential foes. Raeza noted the rooms of a few others, including an… armed hound? Must be someone's companion, Raeza thought, passing by without a second glance.

    Seeking something to do, Raeza idly strolled about the edges of the training grounds, reading an esoteric thesis on electromagnetism they'd picked up a few days before. So magnetism can be used in this way? In that case, perhaps I can… That might be more effective than Photon Rays, especially for extended disabling… What's more, both light and magnetism can induce this kind of effect, how intriguing…

    Raeza continued such contemplations until the sun abandoned the sky. Detouring to the nearby market, Raeza picked up a few things at a street vendor before retiring to their room. Making sure to lock the door behind them, Raeza began to consolidate the day's ideas in a small journal. Satisfied with the beginnings of a new hypothesis, Raeza pulled out a small, translucent blue crystal and activated the enchantment etched into it. The crystal floated into the air in the center of the room before turning invisible; it would serve as a piercing alarm and stunning glare if any unwanted visitors broke in during the night. With that, Raeza laid down to rest.
  • The Feast
    Raeza kept to the rear of the group, ignoring the prince's attempt at a history lesson, having made sure to learn such information weeks before arrival.

    After some time, the group passed into a large dining hall. Did it have to be a feast? Raeza groaned internally. I expected as much though; I wonder how long this will take…

    Taking their seat, the lower segment of Raeza's mask slid open with a soft magnetic click, exposing copper brown skin of similar color to their armor. Raeza politely returned any pleasantries sent their way, but made no special effort to maintain any particular thread of conversation. The majority of the food being served wasn't to Raeza's taste (altogether too much meat), but that wasn't an issue thanks to the voracious woman seated across the table. How does she manage to keep eating like that, Raeza wondered, feeling a bit ill at the sight.

    To distract themself, Raeza discreetly looked over the others, their mask partially concealing their movements. A lean reptilian sat beside them, wearing a surprising lack of clothing. They must live somewhere fairly hot. Seems to be the roguish type. Across from them sat a quiet-looking young man, but the odd energy coming from the sword on their back gave Raeza pause. What is… no, best not to let my gaze linger in case someone is abnormally perceptive.

    Beside them and across from Raeza was a loud duo, both in dress and voice. They seem to be well-acquainted with each other, likely partners.

    On Raeza's other side was a solemn-looking warrior sitting across from an elven lady with a number of serpentine companions. It might be a pain to keep track of those serpents, but the other one shouldn't be much of a problem.

    The next pair of seats had the woman that had offered healing before, across from someone wearing a foxlike mask. Assuming that offer was real, that one will be a problem. It depends on the properties of those undead though. As for the other one… they seem more perplexed than anything else. Perhaps this kind of event is overstimulating for them as well. There's some strange waves coming from them though… 

    Beyond that pair sat an average-looking swordsman and a larger draconic figure. More strange energy waves. Why do all the normal-looking ones have weird traits? Well, I suppose that much should be expected in a place like this. For a long moment Raeza thought the larger one had caught on to them, a harsh gaze directed their way for a few tense moments. It shifted to the loud duo across the table in due time though, and Raeza let out a small sigh unconsciously. Of course they weren't glaring at me. They must be checking over the competition in a similar fashion.

    The next pair were fairly plain; one in dark plate armor, and the other in much lighter gear. More melee types? Well, this is a combat festival after all; it shouldn't be too surprising.

    After the knight was…the hound from earlier? It doesn't seem like the companion of anyone nearby; it's a contestant in and of itself? How does that work? I should make sure to watch that match if I'm not paired against it.

    Across from the hound was a particularly well-dressed young woman. She almost seems out of place amongst this gathering, so they must be hiding a number of trump cards, especially that spear.

    The final pair of participants consisted of a haggard-looking man and an embarrassingly inebriated mage. Neither of them seem fit for the tournament in their current states. How did they manage to get in? That looks to be hydromancy though; it could be difficult if I get matched with her.

    Even with all this though, it's not as if I really know what to be looking for in an opponent like the knights back at the academy. Perhaps some surveillance is in order?

    Just as Raeza produced a clear crystal prism from their robes to prepare an enchantment, the peal of a small bell rang out through the hall. The advisor from before had come to announce the matches earlier than planned. The listings threw Raeza's mind into brief indignant turmoil.

    Not only am I in the second match, but it's against a pair?! That's allowed?
    Raeza looked closer at the loud duo across the table. If I remember correctly, one of them carries a blade, but what is that the other one carries? I'd think it would get cluttered having two melee fighters, so it's likely a ranged weapon. With that shape… a launcher of some sort? Looks unwieldy; probably not magical. The biggest question is how strong their teamwork is…or perhaps not; they should have strong teamwork if they're here. There should be a number of ways to disrupt it, including this electromagnetism technique I'm working on, so the real question is whether or not I'll need to use wave cloaking. Shifting gravity should be enough, but it's best to have a number of contingencies. I vaguely remember hearing their names floating around the academy before… perhaps they're famous to some degree?

    An odd feeling seemed to ripple through the gathering, and it took a few moments to realize that, not only was Raeza seated across from their opponents, but each pair seated across from each other was one of the announced matches. That's in rather bad taste, but I suppose it saves us all some time.

    Raeza was one of the first to excuse themselves once it became apparent that nothing more of import would be forthcoming from the prince's advisor, taking some fruit tarts and retiring to their room to work on some enchantments before the night wore on too long.

  • Cedric's squire glanced around awkwardly at the rest of the contestants at the table. They were more than fine with hearing Aki's excited lecture on history earlier, but now this was stressful. Everyone was here, including the winner-to-be, whoever they were. Some of the other competitors were more comfortable and laid back than others here, but the youth was not one of them. Though they'd eaten ravenously earlier, now they'd hardly touched their food after the announcement of the matchups. They warily eye Cedric's opponent who sitting across from them, mere feet away. Well, if there was ever a time for information gathering, it was now.
    "So," the youth cleared their throat. "How do y- Ack!" They promptly cut themselves off with a startled shout as their bag began to glow and Cedric emerged like a boisterous genie, his arms crossed with confidence. "Wh-Wha, what-why?" stuttered the horrified squire.
    "It is in terribly poor taste for a knight to be invited to an event such as this and not show themselves," declared Cedric. "As such, I am grateful you chose to attend without my prodding, means you've got the potential manners required to be a knight."
    "But what about keeping hidden until the first round, element of surprise, all that?"
    "It is in poor taste for a knight to keep themselves hidden like some common thug planning an ambush along the road. Speaking of taste..." The golden spirit reached down and plucked a slice of bread, lifting it up.
    "But that entire operation was your idea! Also, Cedric, you can't-"
    "Your manners in attendance may be excellent, but when it comes to titles, you leave much to be desired. Worry not, I'm sure you'll grow accustomed to them." Then, with all the pomp and circumstance of a goblin with two forks at a pie eating contest, Cedric delicately shoved the slice of bread through his face, which unceremoniously fell limply onto his squire's salad, who was now holding their head in their hands from embarrassment.
    "...You can't eat, you have no mouth."
    "So it seems. I'd gotten so swept up in the fervor of competition and camaraderie that I'd forgotten my own limitations. Truly unfortunate that I'd lose my composure in such a way." With that, the ghostly knight vanished as he always did, in a spiral of light back to his helmet. The youth couldn't bring themselves to make eye contact with anyone, and simply stared at the slice of bread, now moistened by salad dressing.
  • Welp looks like I got my first impression of the youth and Cedric horribly wrong.
  • I have cards ready for Michio and Mia's time spent in lodging. Now that I'm all caught up, I'm good with fitting in encounters with other characters into my next segment.

  • Seems like most of us have written stuff for the dinner scene! Great writing all around! Keep writing stuff until your match for your character to make them stand out. In the meanwhile, let’s see what else is happening in our story!

    Chapter Four - Abyssal Sighting

    It was nighttime. Normally, the night skies were lit up by a net of brilliant stars, but now, all one could see were the ominous gray clouds that gobbled up any light that tried to push through to the ground. The king and queen were walking across an endless spring meadow, wearing uncharacteristically plain robes with large hoods that cast even more shadow on their faces. The queen held a dim candle in front of them as they continued to walk.

    “Whatever Nyrine saw has some people on edge. She’s been covering her tracks everywhere she goes,” the king said.

    “Why? Who would want to find her?” the queen asked.

    “I don’t know.”

    Without warning, cracks in the mud started to open up in the ground. Violet purple energy erupted from the dangerous fissures. The queen halted and held her arm out in front of the king cautiously as the spectacle of light unfolded in front of them.

    “What is this?” the king whispered frantically.

    More cracks slithered through the grass below their feet. Wherever the cracks went, the plants around it shriveled up and died.

    “The abyss,” the queen responded sharply. The queen lowered her hand to her waist and nodded to the king.

    The purple light trapped them in a cage of light where multiple beams connected to form an abyssal scourge. A horrific abomination nearly ten feet tall towered over the couple.

    “Now!” the man shouted. Both figures pulled out a silver sword quickly. The monster lashed out at them with its clawed hand. The king swung his blade upwards, causing the monster’s black arm to turn to ash and dissolve into the wind.

    The queen struck the beams at focal points with impressive speed. Once the silver blade contacted the beams, they flickered and disappeared. The monster lashed out once more, this time with its long, spiked tail, but the king tapped a button on his ring, where it expanded into a silver shield. The king was knocked forcefully into the ground, but remained unharmed.

    “Ha!” The queen shouted as she jumped over the king, who was defending himself with his shield. She grabbed a shiny silver dagger out of her belt and threw it as fast as she could. 

    The blade pierced the monster’s chest. Dazzling silver rays of light burst through the monster’s skin and it let out an awful roar before the monster collapsed inwards on itself. Moments later, the leftover purple aura faded.

    “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, fine.” The king brushed off some of the residue mud still stuck on his robes. “Let’s go find some place to rest. We will continue searching for Nyrine tomorrow. We must find her prophecy. The fate of our kingdom relies on us completing this puzzle. And Nyrine is our last puzzle piece.”

    A twig snapped from behind the royals.

    “What was that?”

    “I don’t know. Are we being watched?”

    “Shhh,” the queen hissed, “Listen.”

    Silence. After a few more tense moments, the king and queen continued forward on their path.

    A cloaked figure in the distance with hands glowing ever so slightly purple dissolved into the shadows of the night. “We must find Nyrine.”

  • edited February 20

    The snakes were a surprise. While the zombies seemed a little off, Audhild hadn’t expected any champion to bring snakes along as companions. Maybe a trained- The duelist caught herself before she finished the sentence. Kumo (she believed that was his name) was a champion in his own right, and she should respect him as such. Besides, there was more to the dog than met the eye. 

    There’s more to all the contestants than meets the eye, a voice whispered in Audhild’s ear. It sounded almost exactly like Kalthor’s. Including yourself. The duelist chose to not react to the voice, instead looking around at the other contestants.

    She’d never seen lizard-people, so the two sitting at the table intrigued her. Both of them looked like capable fighters, although one obviously preferred strength and the other subtlety. Even if she didn’t fight them, it would be interesting to watch them. Noticing one looking around the room, she nodded politely to him when he looked at her.

    The two women sitting next to Audhild seemed close. One of them, the taller one, was carrying a long, sticklike object wrapped in cloth that Audhild had never seen. Across from the pair, the man with crystals in his armor, Raeza, was unique. He almost reminded Audhild of Kalthor, if only in demeanor. Audhild was more interested in the sword of the monk next to him, though. It was well-kept, and seemed to be of a good make. Whatever the monk’s intentions, Audhild has to admit she was a little jealous of that sword.

    The ninja next to Audhild was quiet. She was interested by his mask, since very few people in Attya wore masks as an everyday custom. Perhaps there was a deeper meaning in it. As he noticed her looking at his mask, he smiled and talked with Audhild for a little bit about it. 

    Nimbu, the priestess across from him, didn’t strike Audhild as odd, despite the two zombies by her. Maybe talking to Kalthor helped me with that, the duelist thought. Sitting next to the ninja, the squire seemed a little nervous and out-of-place. They were carrying an interesting helmet, but otherwise was a little plain. Still, they might have something up their sleeve. The woman with the thin sword interested Audhild more, since she seemed like she’d be a good-

    Audhild was distracted by the hydromancer Claire pulling wine from inside a bottle carried by an aide.  She chuckled as Claire managed to get the wine inside her own cup, despite her own apparent inebriation. She seemed nice enough, if a little untempered. Still, Audhild was worried about her skill set. Audhild was a duelist, not a rival magic-user. Magic was not her strong suit.


    Later that night, after the feast, Audhild looked around her assigned room. It was her home, at least for a little bit, until her duel against Oritira decided her fate.

    The duelist felt a surge of homesickness. Sitting on her bed, she drew a picture of her family into her mind’s eye. She smiled wistfully at the thought. This tournament would bring honor to their family name, and hopefully propel her into the next stage of her life.

    Audhild pulled Kalthor into her mind. He seemed almost knowing about the tournament. Ridiculous, yes, but also curious.

    But that was a question for another day. Slowly, Audhild prepared for her first night in tournament housing.

  • The moon feebly illuminated the night sky through a think and persistent blanket of clouds as Ergun strode down the now nearly empty city streets. The hood of a dark cloak shrouded his face and a golden medallion dangled on a chain tightly gripped in his hand.

    From the ash and rubble, a singular golden glint pierces the gloom. Ergun pulls the pendant from the dust. The chain has been cut, most likely in the scuffle. The medallion bears the fearsome visage of a snarling lion. He holds it up to the light, letting the pendant swing through the air. He stares the lion in the eye. This will be the greatest hunt of his life.

    The same snarling lion was emblazoned on the brass knocker on the door before him now. He tested it. Locked. Not that it mattered. A short climb brought him to the nearest balcony, where a glass door opened on a long, torchlit hallway. In moment, the guard dutifully standing watch beside it was unceremoniously flung off the edge of the balcony before landing on the cobblestones thirty feet below with a dull thud. In another moment, Ergun padded softly down the hallway, a shadow among the dimly lit suits of armor and elegant tapestries. He passed locked door after locked door until he came upon what he was looking for. Slightly ajar, firelight spilling from the opening, a hardwood door opened on a richly decorated study. He slowly pried it open.

    "So then, I was like... Hey! The hell? Who in th'hell 're you?!" A clearly very drunk young man in a fine jacket sat sprawled in a massive armchair, two young women on the armrests beside him.

    Ergun said nothing, but tosses the man the medallion. He dropped the bottle of liquor in his hand and fumbled the pendant for a moment before letting it fall in his lap and picking it up.

    "Heyyy uh where... uh where d'you get this?" He hiccupped in a semi drunken stupor. "You take it? Cuz I'll kill you, man. I'll... I'll frickin... I'm gonna kill you!" The man's mumbling grew to a roar as he attempted to right himself, stumbling slowly to his feet and patting himself down for a moment before his hands found purchase on a dagger at his belt. He waved it at Ergun in a lazy, wobbling figure eight. Seeing their confusion, he turned to the two girls. "Get out a... shoot... Out! Guards!" He hollered, the alcohol on his breath thick and heavy.

    As his companions looked at Ergun, his wide frame blocking the doorway, many sets of footsteps pounded down the hallway beyond. He stepped aside. The women ran.

    "And I mean, who.. like who are you anyways? I, uh, I like to know who I kill when I uh... y'know..." The man shakily poked his blade at Ergun.

    Removing his hood with a flourish, Ergun tossed his cloak to the side. He closed the door.

    "Hey, guys!" The drunken noble shouted to nobody in particular. "Issa lizard man! I told you there was lizard men! Aw damn. I already payed those god damn... Hey man!" He turned to Ergun again. "I'm gonna... cut off... your balls. Yeah, I'll take your balls off."

    "This is ridiculous." Ergun strode up to the man, ignoring the dagger in his limp hand, and pinned him to the wall by his throat. He snatched the medallion from the drunkard's grasp. "Why was this in the ruins of Hazrith manor?"

    "Look, man. I, uh... I dunno. I didn't kill the lizard dude. I mean... like I knew and stuff, but... Nah. Wasn't me. Also, screw you!" He attempted to feebly stab Ergun with his small knife. The offending hand was summarily crushed against the wall by Ergun's knee. The dagger clattered to the ground. At that moment, the door flew open as a dozen armed men and women ran into the room.

    "Step back!" A grizzled, gray haired man pointed his longsword at Ergun from across the room. "You have three seconds! One..."

    He never got to two. In one fluid motion, Ergun slammed the youth into the floor, retrieved the fallen dagger, and slung it over his shoulder. The point found its home in the guard's mouth. He gurgled, coughed, and hit the floor.

    "Shit! Kill him!" A large woman fired a heavy crossbow. The bolt punched through Ergun's left shoulder, pinning him to the carpet. In the commotion, the drunken young man rolled out from under him and crawled to safety behind the cluster of guards. "Yeah, just..." He retched on the floor. "Just kill 'im."

    Another bolt smashed through the wooden floorboards. Grunting, Ergun pulled himself upright, the iron shaft of the heavy bolt grinding through his shoulder.

    A middle aged man with a wicked looking halberd began to approach him. "Sir, you are... What the... Holy-"

    Snarling, Ergun's body began to twitch and crack. His simple clothes he wore in lieu of his usual leather armor tore easily as his back began to expand. His aquamarine scales flushed to a darker grey, standing on end like spines. His arms popped from their sockets, muscles rapidly growing and bending his body into the horrific likeness of an enormous bipedal wolf. He turned his head slightly to look at the guard behind him, his distended jaws locked in a terrifying grimace. "Walk away." He growled through jagged, yellowed teeth, his voice deep and guttural. "Last chance. Leave the drunken fool."

    The man behind him took a shaky step backwards, looking frantically to his companions for help. The woman loaded and aimed her crossbow again.

    With a sickening squelch, unnatural muscle growth forced the bolt from Ergun's body. His hands and fingers lengthened, joints popping in protest, as his claws surged forward, tripling in size, slashing long gashes in the rug. His pupils dilated until his eyes were a singular shade of yellow. "Fine then."

    Ergun had not taken any elixir in the past few hours, and the beast within him had grown restless. Its primal hunger merged with his, driving him forward in search of blood. His vision faded to a greyscale, the body heat of the room's terrified occupants glowing a fierce red. His ears twitched. He heard the panicked thumping of heartbeats, the accelerated rushing of air as their breathing sped up, the faint rattling of metal on wood as their weapons shook in their hands. He sniffed the air. He smelled sweat and steel.

    In a blur, he smashed through the vanguard. His knifelike teeth tore one man's jugular from his neck as one set of claws rent another's body in two. Swards, axes and spears clattered off his hardened scales and another hastily fired bolt only made it an inch into his back, halted by the sheer thickness of his skin. Now with the smell of blood in the air, he felt his consciousness pull away as the man took a backseat and the beast took control. He barreled through the group, running on two legs, then all four, bounding over them and jumping off the wall. His long arms lashed out, crushing bodies and carving metal like wood. He lunged this way and that in a frightening blur, scattering corpses and shredding flesh with his teeth and claws. Blood flowed abundantly, down his throat and through his claws. He drank of it, he gorged himself on it, he reveled in it. As the last guard fell, he turned to the young man. He was huddled in a corner, crying, stinking of booze and the fresh smell of urine. Classy. 

    "You're a dead man!" He screamed, blubbering and wiping his nose. "Dead, you hear? Dead. You kill me, my family comes after you! You'll be dead before you know it!"

    "Yes." Ergun rasped shakily, his form slowly reverting. He stood on two legs again, his unnaturally large arms and torso sinking to an ordinary size. His jaw snapped into place and his finger joints crackled as they rapidly shortened. "But not before you." He took he dagger from the dead man's mouth and brought it down in a furious arc on the one before him.
  • @theirintheattic beautiful work and epic literary skills, but you never mess with a noble from my experience playing roleplaying games 🤣
  • edited February 21
    "When you told me you had a plan, I never would have thought you meant this"
    Nyrine lowered her arms dejectedly as her blue eyes slowly roamed the columns and rows of books that filled the ancient library from wall to wall.
    Jesper chuckled as he closed the hidden passage they had used to enter the room.
    "Where did you want me to get information on how to approach the Goddess?"
    "I don't know... I thought maybe you could have sneaked into the palace or something."
    "To the palace! Come on, Reddy. Don't you know the security there? It's easier to steal the gem from a balrog's throat than to access the palace archives"
    "Sounds like you already have"
    Jesper returned with a huge book about cults and religions and placed it on the table, a wickedly wistful smile on his face. Nyrine began flipping through the pages, searching for anything that mentioned Friyena.
    "I still don't understand why we had to enter the place quietly and not through the front door like the rest of the people" he asked while looking curiously at the diagram of an old but strangely familiar  spell to summon a horde of gremlins.
    Jesper left on the table a volume of the history of Liskadonia and some genealogy scrolls of the empire.
    "I'm not sure, but after leaving the palace, I saw some guards watching us. Perhaps they are afraid that you might do something to interfere with the tournament. After all your aggressiveness  is world renowned...
    The pounding blow Nyrine threw at him caught him square in the forehead.
    "What do you mean my aggressiveness?!" 
    "Nothing, nothing" said Jesper caressing himself "everyone knows that you are a sweet and delicate girl!"
    "Dumboo" Nyrine pouted and went back to reading the book. If they could find another method of approaching Friyena, all was probably not lost.

  • The moon's pale curtain lay across the room as Meka's snores echoed through the chamber. Ushri couldn't sleep. It was only the first day and already it was all so much.

    At dinner that evening they'd met the other competitors, a motley bunch dragged in from all across the world. Each one with a full life behind them and such great potential ahead. They'd drank and made merry together. Shared their lives with each other. How could she be so cruel as to harm any one of them?

    A hydromancer out for justice, A mysterious monk who was more questions than answers, A ninja fighting for the dreams of his daughter, A monster who rejects the cruelty thrust upon him, and so many more. 

    Hell there was even a dog!

    Each one of them had come to the tournament not at the end of their stories, but deep into the middle of them. How could she take the responsibility of cutting any of them short when she herself didn't have anything waiting for her on the other side.

    All these people were fighting for things so much bigger than themselves while she was only here as penance for a mistake she was entirely responsible for. The right thing to do would be to concede, to lay down her sword and turn herself in. Hell if Meka just acted like she turned on her then she'd likely get pardoned. 

    She stood from her bed and walked to the window, looking down at the courtyard below. The city streets teemed with life. The lights of taverns and nightmarkets shone through the dark giving the metropolis almost a second daytime. Laughter and music, snippets of conversation reached all the way up to Ushri as she looked down on the myriad of simpler lives playing out below. She imagined what it would be like if she had never started down this path.

    She'd still be at that temple in the hills, tending to artifacts from wars so far in the past not even history seemed to remember them. Just some nameless orphan, living off the gardens with no knowledge of the world beyond what she heard from the occasional nomad or read in one of her books.

    Then she thought of Meka. That stupid thief who had decided to steal priceless and irreplaceable relics just because they "Looked cool" Ushri had caught her in the act, literally still holding the sword and lance as she tried to tiptoe out the door. 

    The right thing would've been to stop her. To tackle her or call for help, it was her job to protect these relics after all. Anything would've been better than becoming an accomplice.

    She looked back at Meka sleeping in bed, her biggest mistake and greatest friend. The person who showed her the world. 

    The right thing to do would be to run away. Take the sword and lance all the way back to the temple, turn themselves in, and let everyone else get on with their lives.

    Taking the relics.

    Killing the princess.

    Loving Meka.

    Ushri had never really been good at doing the right thing.

    She leapt up onto the window frame, grabbing her sword and kicking her legs out over the edge, laughing a bit as she did.  

    "Y'know what...not this time." she said to herself.

    With a quick jump and grab she pulled herself up to the top of the building and stood there, looking out over the whole of the city.

    "Hey Avelaide!" she shouted "Listen up!"

    She raised her fist into the sky.

    "I don't know if anyone's ever won one of these things without killing anyone, but just you watch!"

    She laughed and plunged her sword into the roof.

    "No one dies this time! NO ONE!"
  • The trek to the capital was onerous.  Hard stone bounced against Oritira's feet as she strode forward.  While convenient for carts, the stone hurt her a little.  No soft grass or dirt, no coarse roots.  She would have gone around if she could, but that wasn't possible either.  Or, for a while it was, but then nature was crushed, parceled up into packages, and became farmland where it was trespassing to walk through.  If she was to be the champion of Friyena, starting out by trespassing would be rather poor taste.  Still, she found the going sore, and eventually consented to letting a merchant take her in to the city.

    In the city, before the announcement of who was in the tournament officially was made, she was looking to help out when she came across a discarded crate.  It had the markings of a circus on it, and in the crate were two snakes.  It wasn't hard to persuade them to come with her, her warmth and welcomeness obvious to them in a world that avoided them like the plague.  They were discreet, one wrapping itself around her waist and the other her neck and arm.  Most people would have recoiled at their touch, but the smooth, soft scales were more comforting to Oritira than anything else.  It was proof that at least some animals could survive the civilized world without becoming tamed, or relying on what humans changed the world to be.

    When her name was called, she still had the snakes with her, talking to them quietly.  The palace was ornate and gaudy, intimidating in much the way a dark forest at night would be intimidating to a peasant.  All the things she knew were useless here.  Instead of what was poisonous and what was edible, it was which silly little tool to use.  Instead of what water is drinkable and which isn't, it was what the dishes were called and proper etiquette.  Still, she strode in with bare feet, dusty clothes, and head held high.

    The other contestants were quite a varied lot, she observed, leaning against a wall in the antechamber as they came in or were there.  Quite a lot of traditionalist fighters, honorable or less so, priests and wizards.  A small smile flickered across her face as she saw the one called Kumo.  A canine champion of Friyerna?  That might do as much for his wild fellows as she could.  Either way, he'd bear keeping in mind.  It seemed quite likely to her he'd have a serious language barrier, and helping him with that would be a good way to take her spare time.  However, she'd save introductions for later, he seemed intent on doing something for now, his tail stilled and head alert.

    The rest of the day was spent exploring the area she'd be living in.  A room had been provided for her, but everything felt wrong.  The bed was too soft, the floor had been carpeted, and there just wasn't a good place to relax.  While she might head there each evening, she resolved she'd slip out and rest near the lake, somewhere more comfortable for her.  
  • edited February 21
    That evening, she and the rest of the competitors filed in for the banquet.  She was politely dreading the occasion.  She would probably be forced to practically socialize with people, and while she could do that, they'd clearly realize how out of touch she was with the news and goings on in the greater world.  It wasn't that that stuff wasn't important... it just kinda wasn't her area of expertise and wasn't going to be her intent to meddle in.  Across from her sat one of the warriors.  Audhild, she had said.  Seemed one of the more honorable types.  A fairly polite one too, not making any direct comment about the snakes, although she clearly noticed them.

    The food was just like everything else in the palace, gorgeous and gaudy.  Overspiced, decorated to the extremes, a picture of wanton excess.  Oritira winced at just how much effort was put into making even a loaf of bread seem like the pinnacle of cooking.  There was no need for that.  It was intricately decorated, with signals and patterns, and yet it was just bread.  As emphasized when it was sliced into by a ghostly hand, taking it to eat only for it to fall onto the salad of the boy contestant.

    Ah yes, she thought to herself, the flaw of sentience.  We take more than we need, and even in death we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we try to take more.

    She tried to try a little of everything to be polite, but there was just way too much.  Before she had gotten half, she was stuffed, and that's when the announcement was made.

    A bell was rung, and it was a showy affair.  The prince read out the names of who was fighting who, and a pattern immediately emerged.  It was whomever you were sat across from.  With this information, Oritira immediately rethought about the lady across from her, Audhild.

    It seemed to her that Audhild had no real goal in being here, perhaps besides the prestige.  She was polite, and if Oritira was correct in assuming she was honorable, then hopefully she could take a loss well enough if it was a good fight.  Oritira knew she needed a win, Audhild only wanted one.  It wouldn't do to count her out, but if it was a matter of willpower in the end, Oritira knew she would have it in the end.

    Shortly after the announcement, the banquet was adjourned.  However, before she could head out, a big finger tapped her on the shoulder.  She turned, and saw Ergun.  A... something.   Humanoid, with scales.  A scent of wilderness.  However, someone quite clearly opposed to it.  He was decorated with leather and metal, weilding large weapons and also smelled of grease and traps.

  • edited February 22

    Story Segment 2 - Training Grounds

    (Directly after Uncertainty)

    Once he had given his meal a few minutes to settle, Navor stood up from the table. His hunger remedied, he began to make his way back through the marketplace to the training grounds. Upon making it back to the contestant housing, Navor realized he had seen surprisingly little of the other contestants. While he had not been keeping a particularly keen lookout while he was in town, Ushri and Meka had been essentially the only recognizable faces Navor had spotted. Not that he was complaining. While observing the other contestants may be a good way to learn more about them should he be paired against them, interacting with someone in a city commercial district hardly gives much insight into their fighting style. 

    Walking past the housing to the training area, Navor quickly noticed that he was not alone. A few of the other contestants were also practicing their respective combat techniques. A large lake filled a section of the training grounds, where the hydromancer woman was weaving the water around her in intricate maneuvers. 

    She seems to have quite the mastery over that water magic stuff. She'll be a formidable opponent if I get paired against her. Optimally, the arena wouldn't have much water for her to use, but I'd be shocked if she hasn't taken precautions for that situation. Nothing I don't believe I can handle, but still, I'll have to be ready for it.

    One of the stranger contestants was also out in the training fields, bounding about. The dog was of great interest to Navor. In learning the details of how the soul works in order to better bring out one's own, the knights of the Order of Manifestation also learn how to catch a glimpse inside the souls of others. And, although Navor had never been the best at reading the finer details of a soul, the spirit of this jovial hound was not that of any ordinary dog.

    At first glance, the dog doesn't look like much. But looks can be deceiving, people (and animals) are rarely what they seem on the surface. This animal is here for a reason, they wouldn't have chosen him if he wasn't a formidable fighter in his own right. His playful movements, even now, seem to have a shadow of martial training behind them. I can tell he's not just playing around out here.

    The final contestant in the area was difficult to get a read on. Seemingly a simple duelist, she nevertheless seemed to exhibit phenomenal skill with her blade. Past that, Navor couldn't tell much about her from where he was now, except that even from this far away, he could tell that her sword was in pristine, almost brand-new condition.

    It would take hours upon hours of sharpening and polishing to even keep a blade you use just every other Saturday looking that good. I can't imagine the time she's spent keeping that weapon pristine. Other than that, though, she looks like a simple swordswoman, but I'm living proof that "simple swordsmen" are not always so simple.

    Moving to an unoccupied spot on the grounds, Navor took out his sword, and began to train. During his entire practice session, he was careful to never bring out his soul. It's slightly underhanded, hiding my abilities like this, but if I really want to win this, the element of surprise in the first round could be critical, Navor thought. My opponent going in expecting to fight one man but actually needing to fight two could easily give me the upper hand.

    After a little while, Navor noticed that it was beginning to grow dark, and began to make his way back to the contestant housing. Before he left, he glanced over to the area near the trees that the twinsouled contestant had been training, and realized that he had not seen her in some time. Oddly, despite the fact that he had been facing in her direction for most of his time on the grounds, he wasn't exactly sure when she had left. Oh, well. Just another thing to add to the list of mysteries surrounding this motley group.

    The next day, Navor was informed that all contestants were obligated to go to the castle for a tour and a subsequent dinner banquet. While he didn't necessarily look forward to the forced interaction a feast would bring, he didn't have much of a choice but to go. Who knows, Navor thought, Maybe this won't be a complete waste of time.

    (I would write up Navor's perspective of the dinner tonight, but it's currently 2 in the morning, and I need to get some sleep. Expect the next segment sometime tomorrow!)

    Edit: This segment has been changed to replace Navor's observations on Ogze with his slightly shorter observations on Audhild, as I have been informed that Ogze would not have been using the training grounds.
  • "Excuse me ma'am."
    His voice was coarse, husky, and harsh.  An unpleasant, unnatural rasp.
    "Do you... talk to those snakes?"

    This wasn't exactly the sort of conversation she was looking to have right then.  However, it'd be rude to ignore him, so she was roped into it.
    "The easiest way to explain it is just yes.  I talk to them, and they understand it."

    "Can you talk to other animals too?"

    "Yes.  Some are harder to converse with than others, but with mammals and reptiles it's fairly easy. Insects are by far the hardest for a number of reasons, followed by fish."

    "How about monsters?"

    "You'll have to be more specific.  "Monsters" is a term that I find applied for any number of things from regular wolves to man-made golems.  A lot of the things included I disagree with."

    "Things like dire wolves.  Giant spiders.  Drakes.  Basilisks."

    "Yes, I can communicate with them.  It's sometimes difficult, but you just need to know how to do it."

    "Do those creatures think?" 
    Ergun's voice was becoming more urgent, more pressing, and more precise.
    "When I kill them while protecting the borders out there, do they have souls?  Do they go to an afterlife?"

    At this Oritira snapped.  Politeness only went so far. She straightened herself, bulking up a little like you would when talking to a bear.
    "You're not "protecting the borders".  You're expanding them and assisting in the destruction of the homes of hundreds if not thousands of animals.  The islands don't have much left in the way of space for all the unique species we hold that are being driven to extinction by the constant expansion of civilization."

    Ergun reared back, stung and shocked by those words.  The accusations came out of left field as he saw it.
    "What?  No!  I protect people!  Those monsters!  They kill people.  They devastate villages.  The survivors have to tend to wounded.  Bury dead family members.  Deal with the aftermath of destruction.  The wilds you accuse me of aiding in the destruction of are dangerous and evil!"

    Oritira backed away a bit, stroking one of the snakes that was disturbed by the shouting.
    "They wouldn't be that way if they weren't being invaded.  You encroach on a drake's territory, disturbing the natural order of things by driving away prey. You expect an animal to not get aggressive when you do that?  As for evil!  Evil isn't the right word for them, that word belongs to sentients.  Humans can be evil.  Elves can be evil.  But evil is something that is civilized by it's very essence!  Let nature be."

    Ergun sighed.
    "Whatever.  If it helps, I'm not planning on going back there.  So will you answer my question?"

    "Fine.  Do they think?  It's complicated.  Things that we think about they don't have to.  But they do have preferences.  Some will avoid certain areas.  They have wants as well as needs. As for souls, I don't know.  I'm not a cleric.  Ask one of them if you want to know."
    And with that Oritira turned and left.  She was still seething, but slowly would calm down.  Ergun may have been wrongminded, but it was an issue that most people here had.
  • Thank you for the interaction @theirintheattic.  I'm more than willing to make any adjustments you want so.
  • Chapter Five - Rising Tensions

    Byrre was pacing around his quarters. The curtains were closed, obscuring the golden sun’s rays. He had a small lantern lit on the bedside table, providing just enough light to make sure Byrre didn’t crash into anything. 

    “Sir,” a guard said, “There was news of an outbreak of abyssal monsters in the northeast. We’ve also traced the king and queen’s whereabouts to the sites of one of the attacks.”

    Byrre continued to pace as he talked. “Are they okay?”

    “They disappeared, leaving no traces of anything behind,” the guard responded.

    The advisor didn’t respond. Instead, he sped up his pacing until he was almost jogging around the bedroom.


    “Get out!” Byrre yelled. He realized his tone and corrected himself. “I’m sorry. I just- we don’t know much about this situation. Would you please fetch Aki for me? I have someone I must call to the tournament.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    The guard scurried out of the room and sped up the stairs towards Aki’s luxurious room. His room took up an entire floor of the castle, close to the very top. Aki was at his table with shards of a crystal chalice broken by Claire. He was trying to piece it together with glue, to no avail.

    “My parents are gonna be so mad,” the prince scolded himself, “This was their most expensive set of chalices.”


    Aki jumped a little. “Yes?”

    “Byrre would like to speak with you.”

    “Tell him I’m perfectly capable of running the tournament myself.”

    The guard just waited there.

    “Fine, fine! I’ll go down and see him. But fix this for me, won’t you?”

    Aki shoved a tangled mess of strings of glue and crystal shards into the guards hands and stormed down the marble staircase. Aki entered the room to Byrre whispering something to another guard.

    “Yes sir. I will deliver it.”

    Then the guard walked out of the room.

    “What was that?” Aki probed, “What are you delivering?”

    “A message,” Byrre said, “We’re getting another host for the tournament.”

    “Why? I’m a perfectly capable host!”

    “It has nothing to do with that. Times are getting dangerous. She is one of the most capable healers and warriors this plane has seen.”

    “Byrre, what are you not telling me?”

    Byrre looked away. He opened the scarlet curtains, allowing sunlight to pour into the dim room.

    “We must prepare for the first match. Which stadium have you chosen to use?”

    Aki was clearly frustrated. “Fine. Let’s choose the city stadium. The buildings will be interesting for the ninja to employ his tactics.”

    “Then it’s decided.”

    A few hours later Aki found himself in the city plaza.


    Miyan was lurking in an alley between two of the buildings at the outer rim of the plaza. Upon hearing the news, he quietly unsheathed Naku Tsuki. “I know you won’t fail me,” Miyan whispered, “Tomorrow at dawn we will draw the first blood.”

    Roshk, on the other hand, was buying fruits from a vendor in the center of the plaza. He glanced at Prince Aki, who was standing fifty feet away from him, then his hand immediately went to his belt where his scimitar and throwing knives rested.

    “Miyan won’t be difficult to defeat, I know. But it must be done.”

    A woman approached Aki after he finished. “Well done, Aki. Are we ready to go back to the castle?”

    “Who are you?” Aki asked annoyedly.

    “It seems Byrre hasn’t told you about me.” The woman’s eyes lit up with a majestic golden light. “I am Rehela. Rehela Fayneri. Master healer and war veteran from the Vosanovan war.”

    “That was over a hundred years ago,” Aki noted.

    “Let’s just say my kind doesn’t age nearly as fast as you,” Rehela laughed, “Enough with the chatter. Let’s go see Byrre, shall we? We have plenty of preparations needed before we begin with our first match.”

    @Usaername and @WarriorCatInAhat :

    Your match will begin tomorrow morning, so for any other story you want to be considered, please post it today! Good luck to the both of you. 

    I am planning to try and get the second match done tomorrow as well.

  • After the first match is decided, bracket predictions will close, so here's the tournament bracket again for any one else who wants to make a prediction. I can't actually view anyone's prediction, except the winner's at the end, so this won't count against you if I disagree with a pick :)
  • (From Helping Hand.)

    Of all the people Kumo had expected to receive aid from, Ozge was not one of them. The strange lady had seemed to stand away from the other champions back in the meeting hall. However, while hesitant, she noticed him and after a moment came over. Kumo was happy for the help. Usually the knights in his order helped him with this sort of thing, but here he was on his own and thus would need to find help from other sources, even one as unlikely as the lady with two faces.

    After being let in, Kumo was pleasantly surprised to see the room setup. It was definitely a room made for a human, but it seemed special care had been taken to ensure he could access all the relevant pieces of furniture, from a crate set up to a step onto the bed, to ropes attached to the drawers. He made quick work of getting set up. He honestly didn't have that many belongings really. At this point, he was down to the last of his rations, which he just set on one of the nightstands, and his prized sword stayed with him at all times, which only left one item in the pack, a small plushie of a pegasus.

    The small toy was well-worn, but Kumo treated it with great care, bringing it up to the bed and gently setting it atop. He stared at it a moment. It was his most cherished object, and one that he never traveled without. He had been given it when he was just a puppy, back before his home village was attacked. The human family that had raised his family had a little girl who was particularly fond of the toy. However, she had also grown particularly fond of Kumo, and gifted him the little winged horse as a gift for his first birthday. Ever since, it had been one of Kumo's only reminders of his home. He nearly teared up thinking about it, even though it had been many years since he was forced out.

    However, he was snapped out of this thought by Ozge speaking up again. Honestly, he had forgotten she had still been watching him, and honestly he was surprised she had stuck around, but here she was, talking to him. Kumo turned and listened. Given he couldn't exactly speak back, the most he could do to give the impression of a conversation was to listen to the two-faced woman talk.

    People had always seemed to like to talk to him. He supposed they thought whatever secrets or feelings they wanted to get off their chest were safer with him than with another person, likely because he couldn't really speak to others. He was, of course, happy to listen. His first human family had talked to him all the time. Listening to humans was one of the key ways he was able to help them. Even if he was rarely able to directly act on what they had told him, he had learned that oftentimes they didn't need literal help, they just needed someone to listen. That was exactly what he did for Ozge.

    The woman didn't speak to him much, but what she did say confounded him even more. He obviously couldn't ask questions to clarify, and even his he had been able to he wasn't sure that was best at the moment. She kept referring to this "Ari" person, and Kumo wasn't entirely sure what Ari had to do with Ozge, or why Ari's allergies would be causing Ozge's eyes to water. The other curiosity to Kumo was the whole "risk of attachment" bit. Was that not the point of owning a pet? He couldn't help but feel like there was much to Ozge's story that he had not yet learned, though he couldn't focus on that for long as she erupted in sound.

    She wasn't just crying, but billowing out in laughter. He sounded out an "Are you okay?" to the lady that registered to her as just a simple bark, to which she merely responded that she didn't tend to talk to others much and that she was grateful he allowed her to gush. Kumo was about to offer her further comfort by offering his head for her to bet, but they were both interrupted by Roshk exploring the living quarters, and Ozge's subsequent impulsive reaction to pull out her sword. 

    It wasn't long after that the lady awkwardly left, leaving Kumo alone again. He frowned thinking about that last little flurry of events. He had noticed it back when Ozge first entered the throne room where they met the prince. She had a consistent paranoia, like she was afraid she could be ambushed or offed at any moment. He knew that sort of paranoia had to be rooted somewhere, and if he was given the chance he wanted to assist her with it. After all, he hated to see anybody suffering in such a manner. As such, he resolved he might try to visit Ozge again if given the chance, or get Ozge to visit him. Either way, he was going to do whatever he could to assist her with her worries.
  • (From Chapter Three - The Tournament Begins)

    It was a few hours after he had gotten settled into his living quarters that Kumo got the word that he was invited to the palace for a feast. Of course, being a dog, and being that dogs tended to love food, Kumo was ecstatic. Plus, he hardly ever got to try much of a variety of human food. Heck, this was really the first time he personally had been invited to something. Usually he was little more than a companion to his order of knights, passed off as a pet. Frankly, he really was just a pet to them. He had never actually been knighted, nor did he really think he was able to be. He just conducted himself in the manner a knight would and hoped that would take him far. It seemed it had taken him far up to this point, at least. It was why he was being invited to a dinner in honor of the greatest competition in the world.

    After cleaning himself up a little and prancing his way off to the palace, he arrived to dinner right on time. First, he was led throughout the palace on a tour, which was itself a huge honor. Admittedly, the prince's ramblings were a bit dense, but he tried his best to remain respectful. After this, came to feast, with Kumo's eyes widening at the sight of the table. Even better, Kumo was surprised to find himself offered a seat at the table. Like, an actual, literal human chair. Again, this was a first. At every dinner he had ever attended, he had sat at the side of the table, being offered scraps by those in his order, or on very rare occasions getting a plate made up for him that he ate on the floor. Now, he was being asked to sit at the table just like any other contestant. It was enough to get his tail wagging furiously as he was helped up onto the chair, sitting politely and intently despite his rear end betraying him.

    For his part, Kumo tried his absolute best to behave himself and conduct himself as any of his fellow knights would. He couldn't use utensils, but did his best to not make a mess of the food on his plate or the drink in his chalice. He avoided having any alcohol, namely because it wasn't safe for him to drink, sticking to water and trying a little bit of a few nonalcoholic beverages: orange juice, a couple types of soda, and a bubbled water flavored with fruits. While he was excited to try these new and strange beverages, he couldn't say he preferred any to just pure water.

    Though while Kumo wasn't having alcohol, it was clear the hydromancer a ways down the table from him was. She downed glass after glass of wine, all while devouring a wide variety of the foods on the table. Kumo did his best not to stare at the girl. She ate with such a fervor and excitement, like she was seeing all these foods for the first time. While there were certainly some more unusual foods at the table, nothing here seemed especially exotic to Kumo, at least in the same way they seemed to be for her.

    And while Claire was eagerly gorging herself on the unfamiliar dishes, there was another at the table that seemed far less comfortable with the unusual variety of food. The man with the fox mask—with mask now at his side rather than on his face—seemed to be eating in a manner that forced the food down. To Kumo, this indicated similarly that this food was foreign to the man, but it was strange how differently the two reacted to unfamiliar foods.

    It wasn't long after this that a bell was rung, with the announcement that the first round of matches had been arranged. Kumo was arranged to fight Spear-Bearer, who was directly across the table from him. In fact, it seemed most contestants had been seated directly across from their competitors, presumably so they could get to know one another. That being said, Kumo couldn't talk and Spear-Bearer had been very quiet the entire dinner. He wasn't really sure what to do in this scenario, so he decided to just focus on other parts of the room.

    Shortly after the ninja had finished his food, the necromancer he was facing came to speak to him. Observing the two of them talk, Kumo was further put-off by Nimbu and her demeanor. Most of the other competitors seemed to act with an honor and dignity to them—even those that Kumo had first thought dishonorable—that Nimbu did not seem to have. An honorable fighter did not threaten to break her competitor's bones. It seemed Michio agreed, and Kumo got a hint of catharsis seeing him admonish the lady for her remarks. [Don't take this personally. This is Kumo's perspective in-character, not remotely similar to my thoughts out-of-character.] However, he frowned at the mention of the Abyss, more specifically the fact that Michio had never encountered it. While he agreed with Michio's sentiments, he feared that the ninja—as well as other competitors that hadn't encountered horrors from the abyss—would meet a swift end without proper training to fight the sorts of abominations that came creeping out of there.

    Kumo didn't have much time to think on this, however, as the hydromancer had gotten rowdy. This was far from the first time Kumo had seen someone drunk, and he felt both bad for the girl, and was a bit annoyed by her behavior, for the same reason that Nimbu struck a nerve with him. Getting drunk at an event such as this—especially during a formal banquet occasion such as this, a banquet in the royal palace nontheless!—was uncouth. That being said, though, he was impressed the woman was competently able to move wine into her glass from a bottle when she otherwise seemed so inebriated. 

    And yet somehow, he managed to be distracted from even that, as there was a commotion at the seat of the squire. Kumo nearly jumped out of his seat in shock when a glowing knight emerged from the young squire's bag. It radiated a warmth to it that was extremely similar to the one he had sensed when he first saw the squire. It caught Kumo so far off guard that he swiftly attempted to bow to the man, as was customary for knights to greet one another, and nearly fell out of his chair in doing so. He had never seen a knight like this before, but he was incredibly interested in him and his squire, especially why the latter of the two seemed so embarrassed by the former's sudden appearance, though he soon got his answer.

    The spirit seemed to treat his squire as something of a student, with a well-meaning confidence that Kumo got the indication was coming off a bit on the condescending side unintentionally. Furthermore, he watched as the knight made a fool of himself attempting to eat a slice of bread in the most grandiose way he had ever seen—and failing miserably. The knight swiftly vanished afterward, and a few around the table laughed at the scene, Kumo included. However, he saw the squire stare at their plate in mortification for a few moments, then leave, and he began to regret joining in on the reaction. Tilting this head some, Kumo decided now was a good time to politely excuse himself as well, following the squire out.

    He then walked rather quickly up to meet them, circling around them a few times and sniffing and pawing at their bag. Kumo knew whatever had summoned the spirit-knight was in there and he was curious to learn more. Plus, he wanted to make sure the squire was okay after being put through such an ordeal.
  • Chapter Two: The Meal

    Miyan sat down at the table across from the large lizard that was to be his opponent, and as the two of them briefly locked eyes, it was mutually made clear that conversation was to be avoided. Neither of them seemed to mind, and Miyan finished his food in silence, before excusing himself and leaving without a glance back. He wasn't very hungry anyways.
  • Chapter Three: Ripples

    Miyan was sharpening Naku Tsuki when he heard it, cutting through the low rasp of whetstone on steel and stirring his thoughts the way one stirs honey into tea.

    "No one dies this time! NO ONE!"

    Miyan recognized it as the red haired woman with the appetite. Ushri, it was. Yes. He breathed out a slow sigh and shook his head slowly. No one dies this time... Such a bold assertion, full of hope and promise, but ultimately unfeasible. It, like most dreams of man, would be slain atop the mountain, and its blood would spill down, pooling where those doomed to make the same mistakes would find it, and they would drink from the pools, and only be made more thirsty, and the cycle would repeat, until the rivulets had torn the summit asunder and there were no more left to fail.

    To think that none could die... I almost envy it, and yet, here I am. I've accepted my fate, as others should accept theirs. Life cannot exist without death, and without battle there can be no victory. Every road leads to kingdom of sleep, be they long, short, straight or serpentine. Everyone is brought into the world and everyone must be taken out of it.

    Miyan looked down at the blade in his lap, and briefly set down the whetstone, tracing his finger along the wavy line that bisected the blade. Hamon, he had been told it was called. 'Ripples' it apparently meant, though not in any language he had ever encountered, nor in any book he had read. 

    A fitting thing for an instrument of death, for what is life but not a ripple? The merest human soul, dropped into still water. It creates waves in all directions, ever outward expanding until they slowly fade away, and the pond is still once more. What would that be like, to slowly fade away? To be stripped of body, mind, soul, and memory? Would that be preferred? Or is it better for the waves to strike the breaker, shattering into droplets that vanish with the wind? I will never know...

    Miyan snapped back to attention as his careless caressing of the blade caused him to slice his thumb. He winced and quickly withdrew his hand, and a scattering of blood droplets fell from his gash, and as the burst upon the flat of the blade, they rippled in the inky darkness that lay within, and the echo of the waves seemed to yearn for him.

  • edited February 22


    Roshk sat in his room. It was nothing super fancy, but it was definitely better than the crude tents and cheap inns he spent time in at home. He pulled from his neck a simple necklace, from which hung six sharp fangs, and held it between his claws. 
    "I see you haven't completely let go of your past, wajimos."
    Roshk turned around and saw a ghostly figure. He reached for his scimitar, slicing it through the creature.
    "Kothar, zethrisja!he hissed.
    The spirit caught his blade with its... claws? Suddenly, Roshk recognized a familiar face. This was no evil ghost.
    Standing in his room was a ghostly, translucent viashino. An elderly viashino wearing a cloak, and leaning on a gnarled wooden staff.
    "Never lost that temper of yours, did you?" The spirit said.
    "But... how?" Roshk puzzled.
    If Roshk's memory was correct, this was the spirit of Sauriv, the elderly shaman that led Roshk's tribe, and about the only parental figure Roshk had throughout his life. And that spirit was now here.
    "Why are you here? This is miles away from the desert, on a completely different continent!" Roshk asked.
    "I was still alive when you left the tribe, but once I died, it was easy enough to find where you are. It's quite simple for spirits to find those who they were connected to in life." Sauriv's ghost responded.
    "But still, I don't understand. Why are you here?"
    The spirit leaned in closer and lowered his voice. "This tournament is complete suicide. Only one of you can win, and whoever does will likely be permanently scarred. I'm trying to give you a chance at surviving." Sauriv tossed Roshk's blade back to him. "Who is your opponent, again?"
    "Miyan. The ominous one with the weird sword."
    "Well then. If you're going to survive, you'll have to train," Sauriv's spirit said, reaching for his staff. "And there's no time like the present."
    The spirit struck Roshk with his staff, and Roshk just barely managed to parry it with his scimitar.
    "Your arm is weak. You've become too used to ambush attacks. You need to learn how to duel."
    Roshk lunged forward, slashing with his scimitar, but Sauriv's spirit parried it again. They continued like this for some time, the sound of metal against wood echoing through the otherwise quiet night.

    viashino-to-common translations
    wajimos: hatchling
    Kothar, zethrisja: Demon, begone

    (yes, this subplot thingy was fairly rushed and didn't have much buildup, but I think it works)
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