The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart

The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart
#1
The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart
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The Impulsive gazed over the bank of monitors he had set up to observe his personally created season of battles. It had started innocuously enough; he'd heard about these grand battle things that were all the rage in grandmaster circles across the multiverse at the moment, and he'd decided to run one himself. He'd collected the combatants, deposited them in their first arena and then sat back to watch the sparks fly. Only they weren't flying quite fast enough for his liking and he thought 'well i'll set up a second one, it's not unprecedented'. One thing led to another and now he was eight battles deep and itching for a new one.

Though he knew it was a bad idea to commit himself to any battles more than he already had done, he just couldn't seem to help himself. It wasn't long before he was off again gathering contestants for his latest endeavour. The only problem was that he wasn't very good at names so he decided to just call it The Nonstop Bloodshed again. This would be the ninth one, he guessed, not that this was significant to him in any way.


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Each of the contestants found themselves standing paralysed in the darkness. The only thing each one could see was their host; a nondescript man in a shirt and jeans. For all the power that he wielded the most noteworthy thing about his appearance was an ill-advised tattoo of a rose on his neck.

"Greetings everyone." He said. "My name is the Impulsive and I will be your host today. Now you're probably wondering where you are, why you can't move and what I will be being your host for exactly and they're all very good questions. You're here to participate in a battle to the death. You're going to fight your way through seven exotic locales until only one of you remains, and then I believe you are entitled to ask a favour from me before being whisked back home to your humdrum lives." He grinned happily and continued. "So without any further ado let's make some introductions.

A spotlight fell upon a black car (to be specific a 1969 black Chiral Hirola) and for a moment it might have seemed that this car was the first contestant. It was possible to see that within the car there was a woman with a tangled mass of black hair and red eyes. "It's not the car." The Impulsive clarified in case any of the contestants hadn't got good enough eyesight to see the actual contestant. "No the first contestant is the driver of this car, her name is Caitlin Henry and she's a hunter. And when I say hunter I don't mean she hunts animals for sport. She hunts things that most people don't care to think about, things that you hope don't really exist, and she is one of these things herself."


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A spotlight fell on the next contestant. It was a hand. "This is Irabeth Argent." The Impulsive explained. "Or rather this is what is left of her after she messed with magic that was beyond her skill level. She's still alive though. Thanks to a ritual she performed she's sort of indestructible. What that means for the rest of you, the ones who have to kill her, I'll let you work out for yourselves."

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A spotlight fell on the next contestant; a muscular man with long flowing blonde hair and a magnificent beard. He was wearing a suit of armour, carrying a shining golden blade and riding a white horse. "Ignore the man on the horse." The Impulsive said. "He isn't the contestant, he's just sort of along for the ride. Your opponent in this battle is the golden blade that he wields. Her name is Pyrfaen and she is a Legendary Weapon that unfortunately never got a chance to forge a legend for herself. I believe this will be the perfect opportunity."

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The fourth contestant was a large humanoid machine decorated much in the style of a police car. "This is Copper." The Impulsive said. "It is a law enforcement robot. It is designed to be able to investigate crimes, disperse rioting crowds, pursue villains and deliver them securely to the local law enforcement. It's a little over zealous so you might want to be on your best behaviour."

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The fifth spotlight fell to reveal a whole group of people; six muscular athletes in heavy reddish brown armour covered with logos for businesses that the other contestants had never heard of, and one slightly out of shape man in sweatpants and a shirt with a whistle hanging from his neck. "These are the Sareta Scorpions." The Impulsive said. "They are the world's biggest Volleyball team in the year 2121 and let me tell you if you think sports are violent today they've got nothing on the 22nd Century. They're pretty much used to this kind of thing; every game they play they're putting their lives on the line. The only difference between this and their average game day is the objective. Let's just hope that they're up to the task, after all there's no prize for second place."

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The sixth spotlight shone upon an old mahogany wardrobe. "This is Aranina." The Impulsive said. "It might look like an ordinary wardrobe, but in actuality it contains a magical world locked into an eternal winter by an evil queen. But do not be fooled, Aranina is not a passive combatant. It has a mind and it will defend itself from anyone that seeks to cause it harm. Don't expect it to go down easy."

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The seventh spotlight shone upon a small crowd of people, though it would be almost completely impossible for your attention to be drawn anywhere but to the person at the head of the crowd. She appeared to be a robotic mermaid in a high tech wheelchair. Her eyes were green throughout, her skin silver grey, her hair seemingly a shoulder length mess of copper wire. It wasn't really possible to tell that this was all make-up and that the woman who sat before them was just an ordinary woman with an extraordinary fashion sense. "It's possible you may already have heard of our next contestant." The Impulsive said. "This is Infanta LaLa, or to use her correct title President LaLa. She's a gifted musician who has fans throughout the multiverse and who recently ran for President of what was formerly known as the United States and won. I'm not going to lie I'm a bit of a fan. This is such an honour." There was a pause. "Oh and of course there is her entourage; she never goes anywhere without them."

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The final spotlight shone on an enormous quadrupedal mechanical throne, seated upon which was an emaciated and unclean old man. "Our next contestant is King Issough... Iss-ough-hok-th... the fourteenth. Apologies for that." The Impulsive cleared his throat. "King Issough..." He gave up. "The King is not the person seated in the throne but the throne itself; an incredibly advanced robotic intelligence originally designed to be governed by the monarch who interfaced with it, it was no trouble for him to subjugate not just the king, but the entirety of his homeworld. Since then he has rebuilt the world to his liking, searched for new worlds and forced people to battle to the death for his amusement to name but a handful of his pursuits. He is not one to be trifled with."

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"Traditionally these battles have eight participants, but I always did love those nine person battles. So I thought I would throw in a little something extra to mix things up a bit." The Impulsive clicked his fingers and all the lights flickered on revealing a ring of zombies standing gathered around the circle of combatants. "This is the Theta Virus, or the product of the Theta Virus anyway." The Impulsive said. "These 'shamblers' as they are commonly known are the corpses of the dead animated by the Theta Virus. If they bite you you get infected and it's just a matter of time before you become a shambler yourself. The only way to kill them is to remove the head or destroy the brain." The Impulsive paused. "I should also warn you that if the virus finds its way into the water supply then it becomes even more potent, so watch what you drink. I don't want this battle to be over before it's even begun."

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"Now I expect you're all wondering what kind of locale your first bout will be taking place in..." The Impulsive trailed off. He looked around the battlers and frowned to himself. "Something's still not right." He said. "Hang on a minute; I've just had an idea." He disappeared and then reappeared with five young women frozen in place. "These are the Sparkklechix." He said. "They're an aspiring girl band. They're always getting into all kind of crazy adventures, but they know if they stick together they can pull through anything." The Impulsive and the chix appeared to turn in place, doing a full rotation so that they were able to get a look at each of the other contestants. "Chix, this is everyone. I'll let you make your own introductions once we're underway but what you need to know is this is a battle to death and these are your opponents. Good luck, I'm rooting for you."

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"That's quite enough introductions." The Impulsive said. "Let's get a move on and get this battle started." The world around them seemed to fade away and they found themselves standing in the hallways of a deserted supermarket. "This is Titan Mart; the world's largest supermarket, but nobody has shopped here for hundreds of years. Something happened that wiped out all human life on this planet, I sure hope it isn't still around. Don't you?"

And, about time, the contestants found themselves scattered around the abandoned supermarket.

Satisfied with another introduction well done The Impulsive sat down and watched the drama begin to unfold. After about an hour or so he hurried off to create another battle. After all why not make it a full ten?
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#2
RE: The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart
The darkness Caitlin found herself in was not quite as oppressive as the one that had preceded the introductions. For a moment she half expected some further theatrics from the being that called itself "The Impulsive" but the crucial difference between then and now was her freedom to move. She clicked the headlights on to reveal she was parked in the middle of an accommodatingly wide supermarket aisle. On either side of her loomed imposingly high shelving filled with an absurd variety of cleaning products. Here and there were small heaps of spilled stock, some of which had clearly been trodden on and burst though all that was left of their contents was a long faded stain. In front of her, illuminated in the Hirola's headlights was an impressively deep wireframe shopping trolley turned upon its side; its contents scattered across the aisle.

Most attention grabbing though were the stains; dark red pools of long since dried blood. There were streaks as though someone had been dragged away, and she spotted a bloody handprint on the shelving where someone had tried to resist.

Caitlin felt uneasy. She felt like she was suddenly smack dab in the middle of a hunt with no idea what it was that she was hunting. She had a full arsenal in the trunk but she highly doubted that whatever was out there was going to stand still long enough for her to methodically try every weapon she had one by one. She heard something crash in the distance and really wished she had some backup. Not wanting to attract any attention before she was ready to deal with it, Caitlin flicked off the Hirola's headlights. Of course whatever it was that was out there was just the thin edge of this wedge of weird. She thought back to the introductions; a disembodied hand, a magical wardrobe, a... mermaid (?) and a pair of robots? She'd hunted her fair share of weird before but this was on another level entirely, which was to say nothing of their host. She shook her head, Karen was never going to believe this.

Hoping against hope Caitlin fished her phone from her pocket and clicked it on. Just as she'd expected; no signal. According to their host this place had been empty for hundreds of years, so did that mean she was in the future again? Actually now that she thought about it didn't he say that something had wiped out all human life on this planet. Was this really another planet? It didn't seem all that unlikely considering everything else.

"Oh wait, shit." Caitlin muttered to herself. If she was on another planet, did that mean that this was more likely the work of aliens than werewolves or vampires or anything she knew how to deal with. "Fuck." she spat. Okay, she reasoned, don't think about the aliens. This isn't about the aliens. The real threat here is that guy, 'The Impulsive'. He's the one who brought you here, all you need to do is work out his weakness and make him send you back. Well, that and you should probably see if you can find some way to counteract his whole immobility thing. The aliens, well they're definitely problematic but it's not insurmountable. Most things die if you shoot them in the head so give that a try and if it doesn't work we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. It seemed as good a plan of action as any; she just really hoped that the aliens had heads in the first place.

Caitlin's thoughts were interrupted by another crash, this one close by. Quickly she flicked the headlights back on to reveal a small crowd of zombies stumbling towards her and one zombie trying to disentangle itself from the toppled shopping cart. "Damn it." she cursed. What with everything else she'd almost completely forgotten about the zombies; the one threat she was actually equipped to handle. She looked out at the advancing undead and attempted to gauge whether she had enough time to run out, open the trunk and load the shotgun before they would be on top of her. Her question was quickly answered when a movement out of the corner of her eye drew her attention to the rear view mirror and another group of zombies approaching from behind.

"Oh well," Caitlin said, "another time maybe." She clicked her seatbelt on and hit the accelerator.
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#3
RE: The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart
Junior Clerk Free-Range Eggs clutched tight the holy thermos flask and hurried to the sacred Soft Furnishings Department. He was running late, but it wasn't his fault. Some of the younger children had tried to follow him to see the sleepers and so he'd had to delay his daily pilgrimage until they were all safely returned home. By the time he arrived at the Shrine of Rest he was out of breath and sweating quite heavily. He was met by the irate glare of his superior; Store Manager Recliner.

"Do you have any idea how close you cut it?" She demanded.

"I'm sorry-" Eggs went to explain the situation but was cut off.

"There's no time for excuses." Recliner snapped. She snatched the holy thermos from his hands, nimbly unscrewed the cap and poured the contents (the unpleasant pulped remains of a selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, and chocolates) into the ceremonial bowl. As she was doing this the clock began to chime. Recliner shot Eggs a look that clearly indicated that all was not forgiven or forgotten but that for the next five minutes they had a job to do and he should damn well do it if he didn't want to be in any more trouble than he already was. She had quite an expressive face, Recliner. With a hesitant nod, Junior Clerk Eggs lifted the tray that held the bowl and the ceremonial implements and followed Recliner to the sleepers.

The Titan-Mart Soft Furnishings Department had once had the widest range of seating solutions this side of Earth. They still did technically, but now every seat was occupied. In every seat there was a corpse; each one in identical condition. They had no flesh, no muscle, no organs; all that remained was the skeleton. Each skeleton had been dressed; some in t-shirts with unfunny slogans on them, others in brightly coloured and totally mismatched outfits, yet more in coats and scarves, gloves and hats. There was no prevailing theme and seemingly no rhyme nor reason at all.

The legends of the Titans (the species to which both Eggs and Recliner belonged), held that long before their race gained sentience this world had been ruled by the sleepers. Their time was a time of miracles, for they were the architects of the world's greatest wonders, most of which stand even to this day. The Titans believe that the Titan-Mart is the most wondrous creation of the sleepers and the proof that they were benevolent. For when the Titans were cold the Titan-Mart had gave them shelter from the harsh elements, when they were hungry the Titan-Mart had given them sustenance, when they were ignorant the Titan-Mart had given them knowledge and when they were lost the Titan-Mart had given them purpose.

Though it cannot be said with any certainty when, why or what happened to the sleepers. Some heretics have made claim that the sleepers are all dead, but the most devout Titans believe that the life cycle of the sleepers is not unlike their own and they have simply entered an extended metamorphosis. This belief was reinforced over the years as they observed as the sleepers shed their fleshy outer shells and revealed the cocoons within. Junior Clerk Free-Range Eggs and Store Manager Leather Recliner were just the latest in a long line of Titans who committed their lives to the tended of the sleepers. The legends have it that one day the sleepers metamorphosis will be complete, they will awaken as gods and when they do they will reward their loyal servants.

Eggs and Recliner moved in reverent silence through the macabre scene; their actions a well practiced routine. Eggs' task was simply to hold the tray. It was a job that could have been performed equally well by a table but he had no problems with it. He simply stood and watched Recliner, knowing that one day he would be the Store Manager and it would be his duty, and hoping that he wouldn't make too much of a mess of it. Recliner applied the nutrient paste to the sleeping cocoons as she had done for years. She liked to think she had made something of an art of it.

Recliner was scooping some more nutrient gel when Eggs let out a shriek. As quick as she could she clamped her free hand over his mouth. For centuries the Titans had maintained a strict code of silence in front of the sleepers and she wasn't going to stand for some little twerp like Eggs to break it. She gave him a look that pretty much told him that he was never going to see the Soft Furnishings Department again after this night's work was through, but he wasn't even looking at her. She turned around and almost shrieked herself. It was true, it was all true.

Standing amongst the sleepers there was a group of them, replete with skin and hair and everything. They looked almost exactly like the drawings done by the most ancient Titans. And seated at their head was a female with a shiny silver outer shell, copper hair and a strange tail in place of legs; clearly a transcendent; a goddess. Recliner fell to her knees, and then after a second she grabbed Eggs' arm and pulled him down to his knees. "Don't you dare ruin this." she hissed between her teeth. She didn't feel too bad for being the first Titan to break the silence; the no-longer-sleepers were all talking to and over one another.

"Good morning most holy ones. We are deeply honoured to be the Titans to bear witness to the completion of your metamorphosis. We have tended to your bodies for many years in anticipation of this very day." Recliner tried to put some weight behind her voice to match this most momentous occasion, but it ended up coming out just as weak and nervous as she felt and was consequently lost in the unexpected hubbub. She didn't think the awakened sleepers had even noticed them yet.

"Good morning most holy ones." She tried again, but hit the same problem.

"Hey listen up!" Eggs bellowed. "The Store Manager has something to say." Recliner shot him a look that clearly said she was going to murder him at the first opportunity she got, but it had had the desired effect. The sleepers were all looking in their direction now, their conversations having trailed off they stood in an uneasy silence.

"G-Good morning most holy ones." Recliner said. "W-we've been waiting for you for a very long time. It's such an honour to have you here today."


The Infanta was momentarily taken aback. "You know who I am?" she asked.

"Of course I know who you are." Recliner said. "You are a transcendent. You are a goddess. You are what we've been waiting and hoping for for longer than any of us can remember."

The Infanta had been called a goddess before but not in the literal sense and never with such awestruck reverence. She really liked the way it sounded. It never occurred to her that there might have been some kind of misunderstanding, if never corrected it probably never would. "Take me to meet your people." she said.

[Image: NBIX1_zpsf34a361f.png]
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#4
RE: The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart
If she had had the capacity for speech Irabeth might have spent a few minutes cursing profusely, or perhaps more likely just screaming. She was just a hand. The rest of her body had been destroyed, completely obliterated by magics that she really shouldn't have been messing around with. The fact that she had also been snatched away from her world, her life, to fight to the death was at this point a secondary consideration; it had barely even registered against the panic of waking up missing ninety-five percent of her body.

It was difficult to focus on anything other than the incomprehensible loss she had suffered, but the cold of wherever she was was beginning to sting her skin. She tried to open her eyes but remembered that she had no eyes. She could see nothing, she could hear nothing. She lacked the sensory organs necessary to perform those tasks so it wasn't entirely surprising. But on the other hand (so to speak) she could still think and she had no brain, she was still alive without a heart or lungs or any of those other things you need to be alive. There seemed very little point dwelling on the how or the why of it all when the what can I do about it was so much more pressing.

The floor beneath her palm was metal, cold to the touch and just a little damp. Under normal circumstances Irabeth would close her eyes, take a deep breath and calm her mind before attempting kinomancy, as she was obviously no longer capable of the first two of those actions she simply tried to calm herself as best she could and focused her attention into her fingertips until the touch of the cold metal beneath her was the only thing in the world, and then, with a gentle push, she slipped through. She felt her consciousness spread through the floor, into the walls and the machinery humming away behind them, and eventually to the ceiling high above her. She could feel the entirety of the room she was in, and quickly realized she was not in a room but a massive freezer, or actually it was probably a normal sized freezer and she was just that much smaller now.

With a thought Irabeth pushed the freezer door open. Turning the freezer off was trickier, she mentally poked and prodded at the complex machinery until she felt something give and the whole system slowly grind to a halt, though ideally she would be out of here before she was able to feel the benefit of such an action. There was little else she could do with the freezer; it was too bulky with too few moving parts to be coaxed into movement. Out of a sense of might as well she rattled the shelves above her and felt a number of items shift bounce and roll out of her, or um out of the freezer I mean.

Having exhausted her options as an industrial freezer Irabeth retreated to her own body. Awkwardly she used her fingers to shuffle herself around to face the open freezer door and then clumsily, bumping into (comparatively) large plastic containers as she went, she dragged herself forwards until she tumbled out of the freezer. The floor here was smooth linoleum, not especially warm but thankfully not cold either. An attempt at kinomancy was particularly unfruitful, possessing a single sheet of linoleum giving her little idea of the size or contents of the room she was in, and had no movable parts to work with.

Working off a hunch Irabeth spent the next few minutes grappling with a cold plastic tub that she guessed had fallen from the freezer before. It was one of those tubs which is pretty tricky to open anyway, even more so when you don't have another hand to grip the base of the tub, and next to no leverage. Eventually though she managed it somehow, giving her access to the half-melted ice cream contained within. She was distracted for a moment by the thought that she might not ever get to taste ice cream again, that she might not ever get to taste anything again. The thought of all the things she could no longer do as just a hand. It was a long list, and not particularly helpful.

Getting back to work she dabbed one of her fingers into the ice cream and began scrawling a shape on the floor. It was sort of the shape of an eye with a couple of flourishes here and there; it was a scrying sigil; or that was the intention. She really hoped she was remembering it correctly. It took a good few minutes and she had to start again a couple of times when she was certain she'd made a mistake but couldn't see to know exactly where it was, but finally she got it right and for the first time since she had accidentally destroyed the bulk of her body she could see. And even though she could only see straight upwards from the sigil itself it was something.

She was in the freezer aisle of a supermarket but she'd already guessed that much. She could see her hand, her self, stained with chocolate ice cream. She couldn't stop staring at her wrist, healed over, connected to nothing. Somehow such a sight caused that empty feeling in the pit of her stomach even without a stomach to feel it in. There were a few more tubs of ice cream (most of them in plain white packaging, probably the store's own brand) scattered around and out of the corner of her sight she could see a wire shopping trolley. Above her was a sign that read '56: Frozen Desserts', and above that harsh bright lights.

Irabeth didn't know how much time had passed but she figured it had probably been quite a while. She felt exhausted and she had barely accomplished anything. Being a disembodied hand was kind of terrible she concluded. But she was alive and so was still hope. She knew a good deal of magic, there had to be something she could do to fix this shitty situation. It most likely wouldn't be easy, and probably would end up requiring her to mess with magics even more forbidden than that which had got her into this situation, but she didn't figure she had much left to lose any more. Her situation couldn't get that much worse, right?
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#5
RE: The Nonstop Bloodshed IX - Round 1: Titan Mart
The very cheek of it. Pyrfaen muttered to herself for like the twentieth time, and then putting on a mocking haughty tone of voice she repeated: Ignore the man on the horse: The words of the man who had brought them here.

"Leave it Fanny." Sur Gregor the Indefatigible (though he would insist you just call him Greg, or at the very least you drop the completely fictitious 'the Indefatigible') half-heartedly replied. "S'not worth getting all bent out of shape over."

But it's so disrespectful. Pyrfaen insisted. You're going to be a Great Hero. You can't have people talking to you like that, it's just not done.

"I'm still not sold on this whole hero thing." Greg replied. "I'd settle for being able to get back home with all my bits and pieces still attached."

Don’t worry about it, the sword sang soothingly, it’s perfectly normal to have some reservations when faced with the call to adventure. With time, and ample encouragement of course, I’m sure you’ll blossom into the Hero you were always destined to be.

"Yeah, well, we'll see." Greg had, in the couple of short days he had owned Pyrfaen, learned it was useless to argue with her, and anyway he was more focused on trying to make sense of the strange place they had been brought to. The Impulsive had called it a super market but he could see no stalls or merchants looking to peddle their wares. At first he hadn’t been able to see anything in fact, and it was only through his capability for movement that he realized he must have left the dark place where they had been held.

Using Pyrfaen’s gentle glow to illuminate his surroundings, he initially came to the conclusion that he was in some kind of dungeon. All the signs were there; long thin corridors, darkness and strange devices mounted upon the walls that looked like traps just waiting to be sprung. All that it was missing were the monsters that one typically guarded such a setup, well, that and the smell; dungeons were seldom this clean.

You should just march back there and say to that ruffian; ‘Listen here, I’m going to be a Great Hero one day and you had better take me seriously’. Greg couldn’t help but chuckle at her imitation of a bold heroic voice, which elicited an irritated harrumph in response and then she fell into a sulky silence.

Greg pulled on Amanda’s reigns and she trotted around the corner into the next corridor. He had to abandon his already shaky dungeon theory the moment he came to an intersection and saw the hundreds of corridors all lined up to the left and right of him. Dungeons were almost never so open plan. Such a vantage also revealed that what he had taken at first glance for solid walls were actually thin flimsy structures.

Holding her like a torch (she gave an undignified tut at this treatment), he brought Pyrfaen close to the wall of this new hallway. It was like an enormous shelf of books, except the books were too thin and made of plastic. Maybe this was an enormous storeroom, Greg wondered, or perhaps even a treasure vault. With his free hand he grabbed one of the plastic rectangles and pulled it from the shelf for closer inspection.

What in the seven hells is that monstrosity? Pyrfaen screeched. On the front of the not-a-book was a picture of a bright orange lizard in a garish Hawaiian shirt.

“I do not know, but I hope never to meet one.” Greg jammed the rectangle back amongst its brothers, and with a flick of the reigns Amanda cantered down the end of this corridor and into the next. Pyrfaen hummed quietly to herself as they passed more objects they didn’t understand, and Greg grew anxious. There was a faint noise, something toppling somewhere behind them.

Did-

“I just don’t understand it.” Greg interrupted. “If this Impulsive chap wanted to see us fight each other why part us? Why dump us into this house of mystery?”

That would hardly be a True Heroic Saga. Pyrfaen chided, That sounds more the tale of an exterminator, or at best an honourless sellsword! That last word dripped with disgust. Hardly worthy of a Great Hero like Sur Gregor the Indefatigable!

Greg rolled his eyes. “What is it about our task that makes you believe it is heroic?” He snapped. “Murdering people just because someone told us to sounds decidedly unheroic to me.”

Being informed of villains by a figure of power and authority is a reasonable starting point for a Heroic Quest. Pyrfaen explained. I don’t doubt they must have done something to deserve it… Though she sounded like she did doubt it, at least a little.

“They were encouraged to kill us as much as we were encouraged to kill them.” Greg retorted. “How does that fit into your fairytale interpretation of our situation?”

I-it’s probably a test, Pyrfaen sang uncertainly, a means by which a True Hero might prove themselves so that they might go on to fight an even greater threat. I’m sure The Impulsive will intervene before any of us really gets hurt.

“You really are deluded.” Greg laughed. Pyrfaen bristled hot and bright in his hands. “Ouch!” he yelped and dropped her to the floor. “There’s no need for that.” With a sigh and a wordless grumble Greg climbed down from Amanda and picked up the Legendary Sword from a small drift of plastic not-books she’d landed in. As he turned to climb back atop Amanda Pyrfaen’s light illuminated something behind him. He slowly raised the sword before him to reveal… something.

A… a… a… Pyrfaen hesitated. A Manticore! she eventually decided.

The thing was about the size of a large dog. It was black, with six legs and it seemed to be made out of sinew and bone. Where most things had a face it had only tentacles dripping thick off-black venom.

“I don’t think that’s a manticore.” Greg said, perhaps a little too loudly. Immediately its tentacles splayed open revealing a razor maw beneath and it screeched; a noise that made nails on a chalkboard sound like your favourite song. Amanda neighed loudly and took off down the aisle in a panic.

“You know this is all your fault, right sword?” Pyrfaen tutted irritably and began to sing a soft yet invigorating aria; at once Greg could feel her power flowing through him. His lip twitched upwards in a sly half-grin; finally, he thought. He’d been beginning to wonder if she was to be of any use at all. He gripped her with both hands and raised her towards the definitely-not-a-manticore. “Come at me beast!”

The thing seemed to take a hesitant step back at his yell, then replied with a screech even louder and more unpleasant than its previous.

“Hah!” Greg bellowed. “Methinks this hound is all bark and no bite.”

It reared up on its hind legs and spat a gob of that thick off-black venom at him. Greg quickly stepped backwards in an attempt to dodge, but his foot found no purchase amongst the scattered heap of plastic boxes. He fell backwards, landing with a handful of cracks informing him he’d damaged a number of the mysterious treasures of the super market, but no damage to him except to his pride. Pyrfaen struggled to maintain her composure as she toppled from Greg’s hands onto the floor next to him; she managed to maintain her beautiful song with only the slightest stumble, though she did for a couple of verses insist upon referring to Sur Gregor as the Maladroit.

The creature surged forwards with surprising dexterity, hissing and spitting goop as it climbed atop the fallen knight. Greg grabbed it by the neck before it could get too close to his face and take a bite out of him. Its tentacles twitched and thrashed wildly mere centimetres from his face, and he had to squirm away from the gobs of venom that dripped from its slathering maw. Further down he could feel claws scratching at his armour. The creature’s neck was thin; almost thin enough to wrap his entire hand around, but no matter how hard he choked it it didn’t seem to be affected. A neck as thin as this… with one good slice he’d be clean through and that would be the end of that.

Hesitantly he withdrew one hand from the creature’s neck, it thrashed harder but he was strong enough to keep it at bay, and reached off to his side to where Pyrfaen was singing enthusiastic but largely unhelpful messages of support. As he fumbled he could feel his battered armour giving way to the creature’s claws. Pyrfaen started singing directions and within a moment he had found her. He gripped her as firmly as he could with one hand and brought her around against the creature’s neck, withdrawing his other hand just in time. It was a clumsy movement, but it packed enough power to knock the beast into the wall next to him, and gave him a moment to clamber to his feet.

Pausing only for a second to get his balance, Greg grabbed Pyrfaen with both hands and swung down. She slammed hard against the metal shelving just a moment too late; the creature skittered along the side of the shelving unit with the same speed and ease as if it were moving along the floor. In its wake it left great gouges in the metal shelves, and more scattered plastic boxes.

It took Greg a second to prise Pyrfaen loose from the shelving, and when he did he looked up to see a thick gob of venom coming right at him. Unwilling to attempt to dodge in such precarious footing, Greg swung Pyrfaen at the hurtling goop. Her song came to an abrupt end in one shrill shriek of disgust. As it wasn’t a solid mass he didn’t manage to knock the venom away, but he did through sheer luck manage to block the part that would have hit him in the face. Some splattered onto one of his pauldrons where it began to sizzle alarmingly.

Then the monster was running for him again. Greg braced himself. One clean hit to the neck was all he needed. It screeched as it leapt for him, he swung Pyrfaen in a perfect arc and she slammed into the creature’s neck with a sickening thud. Momentum propelled the thing forwards to crash into Greg, and he stumbled backwards but somehow managed to stay upright.

He looked down at the creature; Pyrfaen hadn’t managed to slice all the way through like he’d expected and now the creature was just sort of hanging motionless from the blade. Oh well, a victory was a victory he supposed but he was still disappointed in the efficacy of this so called Legendary Sword.

Pyrfaen cleared her throat, or given that she didn’t have a throat she made an approximation of the appropriate noise. If you’re not too busy daydreaming would you mind removing me from this manticorpse. Greg reached out to dislodge the creature, but flinched back as it snapped back to life. It flailed, twitched and hissed impotently while he held it at arm’s length. Pyrfaen screamed melodically, which only seemed to spur the thing on.

It was an effort just to hold Pyrfaen up with the heavy creature thrashing on the other end of her. With as much effort as he could he drew the sword back and swung her as hard as he could against the metal shelving, forcing the blade through what was remaining of the creature’s neck. Pyrfaen clanged against the metal shelving, which wobbled only slightly under the impact, and the creature’s body and what could be called a head only in the most charitable circumstances fell to the ground. Alarmingly its body climbed back onto its six sharp legs without too much trouble while thick olive blood seeped from its open neck.

“Oh give me a break!” Greg yelled in disbelief. The beheaded monstrosity shrank back at his voice, turned a full 180 degrees and fled, only banging into the shelving once or twice in its haste to get away. “Hah!” He bellowed more enthusiastically. “And let that be a lesson to you!”

Hoo rah.Pyrfaen sang rather unenthusiastically. Greg looked down at her to see she was dripping with olive blood and in places still splattered with the off-black venom.

“Fanny, I’m afraid if you don’t like getting dirty you picked the wrong profession.” He replied distractedly. “Listen I thought you were supposed to be a Sword of Legend?”

I am a Sword of Legend Pyrfaen bristled.

“Well how come it took you two good swings to cut through that creature’s neck?” Greg asked. “My other sword-” hmph “-would have cut through that in one.”

Well yes there are other swords in the world sharper or stronger than me I suppose. Pyrfaen retorted irritably. But Whoreblade’s never going to sing for you; she’ll never document your exploits in a saga worthy of the Old Heroes themselves. She can’t energize and invigorate you during battle, or distract your enemies or pretty much do anything but cut the things you swing her at.

“Hmm.” Greg looked down at her contemplatively.

And you know, adventuring can be a very lonely business. Isn’t it better to have a blade that you can share a laugh and a joke with at the end of a long battle; one that will always have your back and stick up for you through thick and thin? Surely that kind of blade is worth much more than a worthless inanimate floozy.

“Can I sharpen you?” Greg asked.

Certainly not! Pyrfaen snapped. How would you like to be dragged back and forth against a stone until your body had been worn away into a more desirable shape?

“I guess I see where you’re coming from.” Greg said eventually. “But I don’t really need a blunt chatterbox sword…”

Oh, not good enough for you am I? Pyrfaen sneered. Better than a genuine Sword of Legend are you, well don’t let me hold you back Sur Hero. Just leave me here amongst this junk. Clearly this is where a genuine Sword of Legend belongs.

“No, hey, look… I’m sorry.” Greg backtracked hastily. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sure you’ll make an excellent travelling companion.”

No. Don’t do me any favours O True Hero.Pyrfaen was hot in his hands once again and he was forced to let her go. I know where I am not wanted thank you very much. I’ll just wait here for a True Hero to come and pick me up.

For a minute Greg stared down at the stubborn sword, not for a moment did her brightness dim in the least. Eventually he sighed, muttered under his breath and then turned and headed down the aisle that Amanda fled down.

He’ll be back. Pyrfaen crooned softly. He won’t be gone five minutes before he realizes what a good thing he had. Just you wait and see.
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