The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Six: Eddelin City]

The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Six: Eddelin City]
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Call it a few seconds earlier:

The ocean seemed a rather poignant image: infinite and gray, muddled hues in darkness. Meanwhile, in the interior once referred to as Jen, colors bled like markers in the rain.

It was the classic love story. Wyrm meets girl, wyvern kills girl, wyrm gets thrown by rock at girl’s corpse, wyrm meets girl’s brain and within the space of a montage they’re an old married couple. Not a traditional marriage—frankly, Fanthalion would have preferred a male host, finding the masculine brain pattern to be a bit more sublime in the Kant sense—but nonetheless, snug as two peas in a psionic pod that happened to wield magical powers and royal lineage.

So it went for about half a minute, when Fanthalion experienced something much, much more significant. A
fellow wyrm—holy shit, the odds!—in the throes of death, carrying with him a data package nearly as old as the trinary stars of the carrier planet, decides to pass on his birthright to the only suitable host in the room. And, presto, just like that, Fanthalion was a prophet. Being the most important Wyrm in all of existence, with stratospheric religious truths and divine genetic strands swirling around in her conscious parts, frightened the young wyrm to no end. It also completely ruined the insinuation process.

Sikarius, from what Fanthalion could glean from the data package (and the old fogey’s consciousness was in there, somewhere, she could feel it) was several generations removed from the carrier planet, a pioneer from a bygone age. He likely knew next to nothing about the art of psychoparasitic insinuation, instead resorting to threats and, God forbid, reason to exert his will over the poor Maxwell boy. With this backwards attitude (and Fanthalion admitted, perhaps with a limited pool of options given his situation at the time, although that version of events doesn’t allow her the smugness of youth) Sik decided to interrupt the process at its most crucial phase. Imagine you’re at the most important moment of your life, about to be told what your job will be until your corpse finally hits enough half-lives to disintegrate, and suddenly both you and your boss are struck with the equivalent of eighty thousand hallucinogenic college courses filtered through the (possibly still active) consciousnesses of a chronically-enraged wyrm and his angst-ridden eronemos primate. That’s what Jen may or may not have experienced, the uncertainty stemming from the fact that the rulebook might as well still be a fucking tree for all the good it’s doing amidst this Biblical shit.

By the time Fanthalion got the voices to stop (which of course means that the girl is hearing voices within voices, now that’s a thought) the pair was being attacked by a shark and the whole deal was already in danger of dying a disappointing death in a tepid solution of salt, blood and unfulfilled destiny in water. Luckily the wyrm was very, very good at this. She rewound the system a bit, found an obsolete version of the Jen code that would likely serve, pumped the half-reformed body full of psychic stimulants, got her on her feet manually and turned on the swi
tched locales faster than Jen could say “Who died?” The stench of dragon’s breath and dust suddenly give way to the scent of shark’s breath and seawater. It occurred to Jen that it was probably odd that she’d never actually fought a shark before, but there’s a first time for everything. Crap, she asked herself, who died and why do I feel like someone lit my metabolism on fire?

Jen felt some psychic push as though some entity somewhere was considering answering her internal question and only narrowly refrained. She had no time to worry about this because of the fucking shark and also Kracht being an asshole fuck aaaargh

Something blue flashed ghostly in front of Jen’s eyes that looked like an equation in pen and ink all overlaid on Kracht’s smug prick face and then his hand covered it up by shoving itself into her breathing tubes. This was a Problem and Jen was in no mood for Problems so she tried punching Kracht with her left and that didn’t work so she tried her right arm but that was the one Kracht was holding so she tried to scream. Something bad was happening to her depth perception, fuck fuck fuck

Some of those other bastards started doing stuff and there was a conversation that all sounded the same to Jen like nag nag nag nag nag and then her mouth was free so she spewed out some very hurtful words, not even thinking just trying to drown out the sound like all her frustration at God-knows-what and all the energy running up her insides just decided to fly out like eight birds in a one-bird cage and there wasn’t any time to be poetic about it

Then she fell silent not because she was out of words but because her throat went dry and still and she felt all crumbly inside. There was some sort of tension like Jen was the only one who could feel anything shaking so she tried again to move her arm but it just made her felt sick and weird like something probing at her.

Eventually giving into the feeling like her brain was going backwards through time Jen squeezed out the word “hello” as though trying to establish any communication at all with anyone, get into a fight she could win or lose, anything.

Something answered. Take a breath and look inside it said.

Jen did so unthinkingly and the first thing she realized about herself was that she still only had one eye and one arm. It was the perfect moment to scream. As the scream broke out of her, shattering her painfully lucid psychic high, something rather more physical broke out of her, shattering a couple bones in her shoulder and that made her scream all the more. Now fully healthy, the wyrm shined in the light of dusk over the ocean and pulsed with sickening otherness over Jen’s shoulder like it had no intention of ever looking like it belonged there. Kracht let go of Jen’s arm and Jen thought it was the feeling of her dying as she fell willingly to the floor of the raft but instead it was just a rare moment of surprise as Kracht instinctively recoiled from the shark’s second charge. In just enough time for everyone to see what was happening, a sizable chunk of the raft was gone under the sea in the beast’s mouth, and Jen with it.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

There really should've been a short, stunned silence as Jen tumbled into the shark's gaping maw, but with Arkal the only one on the raft inconvenienced by a nervous system, things kind of continued as anarchically usual. A wave lapped over the rocking raft, hitting the Ovoid with an anomalous shattering noise before it vanished from sight.

Xadrez figured if odds were on Jen getting digested, he didn't have time to be getting sentimental about it. A dagger's slash was all that was needed to weaken the support under Kracht's rocky feet. A nasty crack was heard beneath the green feet, but Kracht didn't react.

Or, at least, he didn't react fast enough to account for an obsidian disc slamming into his stomach. Kracht's feet scrabbled on unstable planks, before seizing Xadrez' chessboard and dragging him into the water.

The tactician hadn't actually tried using his knife in an aquatic environ before, and though the blade still carved effortlessly through, the hilt was still privy to drag. Even settling the dagger into Kracht's head as the mineral hung on wasn't all that satisfying, being unable to either make a quick strike or have the damn thing stay in place once it was wedged in there. The green stone made a resonant humming noise as he did something so he could speak underwater, the knife slipping down his face. Considering the rather absurd scuffle, Kracht's voice was calm, perhaps even having lost a bit of the condescension.

"The Observer made a terrible mistake in bringing us here."

If deviation like this results in my not being dead come the end of this then yes that does not bode well for the Observer's prospects

Kracht shook his head as the two descended into the deep, Xadrez irately pulling out his knife as the movement jarred it.

"Please, Xadrez. Hear me out."

A shoal of fish darted by, their collective behemoth shadow startled Xadrez; he snapped around angrily at what Kracht said next.

"I mean, give me a bit of credit, would you? You always overanalyse my every move and word, but that's because you know I'm smart. Now, Xadrez, does it occur to you that if I'd had enough of besting you every time, I would've waltzed on out of this loop already?"

Xadrez, ghostly skin turning luminous as the pair continued to sink into deeper, darker water, irritably impaled himself with the dagger. He gestured for Kracht to cease your desperate convolutions and make your point clear

Kracht studied the chessmaster's impassive features, before deciding something critical wasn't there.

"Carve me into green dust if you will, Xadrez, but it won't help you destroy the Observer. Nothing will, and you should stop trying before you do some real damage."


"I mean it. If I could bind you to an agreement that you wouldn't go after the Observer, I'd gladly shatter or explode or do something pretty so the Observer would move things along for you. But I can't and you won't," the mineral finished flatly, kicking off the obsidian disc with his feet, "so I'm stuck here watching- you!"

Although the admittedly solid kick wasn't enough to flip the unstreamlined chessboard over, it certainly upset Xadrez' smooth descent, which was now a lot slower than the more conveniently shaped Kracht who was sinking, oddly enough, like a stone. The tactician hissed, ineffectually trying to rock his tether to angle it through the water after his quarry.
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Navigating through water was proving impossible for Xadrez. He struggled, futilely, as he watched Kracht sink deeper into the murky water, finally losing sight of him after a few minutes. Xadrez sulked for a bit, staring after the anomalous mineral. Kracht had seemed... different, near the end. Desperate. Sincere. It worried the tactician to no small degree.

But he could not pursue Kracht, or at least he couldn't descend as quickly. His spectral arms were useless in this environment, so all he could do right now was sink and wa-

A strange light blossomed in the distance, in front of Xadrez. It was yet too far away to make out a source, but he could tell it was getting closer. Or, at least, brighter.

As it appeared to approach, Xadrez could discern a slight... sway to its motion. The light was originating from a single point, and was following him on his slow descent.

Xadrez, ever ready, evinced his knife; he knew too well the dangers of lights in the dark.

The light approached. Small glints of... something could be seen around it, as the light reflected off of mystery materials. Xadrez observed carefully; the glints resolved themselves into an eye, then two, then teeth, then a huge, gaping maw seeking to swallow him whole. He moved quickly, slicing the knife through the water. Its peculiar effects on matter sent a screech through the depths, startling the creature enough for Xadrez to plant the knife solidly in its side as it missed him.

It was at this point that he noticed its rider.


Kracht sunk. His efforts to get through to Xadrez were proving as useless as always; he'd just about given up on the spectral entity by now. But...

While Kracht did not know this round, he did know the Ovoid. On the rare occasion when the Ovoid lasted until round six, previously, he had discovered its natural inclination to seek out water. It would always immerse its appendages in huge bodies of water, often abducting large amounts of it into 4-space as well. So as he sank, he knew he would encounter the Ovoid. And, hopefully, this time he might finally get through to it.

Something sparkled beneath him; unearthly colors rose through the depths, somehow tangible in their serene dance. A vast network of amorphous tendrils were churning their way through the ocean's deep, but they were no longer the plain oily tan they had been. Their surfaces glowed. Miniature aurora played through their twisting waltz, neon lines pulsed along their surface in a dizzyingly inconsistent display. And in the midst of it all, Kracht descended, and spoke, using the same method as he'd used with Xadrez.

"I know you got my message from the last round. I was hoping for more of a reaction, though. Your message from the clone was... depressingly vague."

The tendrils continued to swirl, and Kracht, such as he could, frowned. He'd become fairly confident with the predicting the Ovoid's behavior by now, as much as anyone could be, at least. Still... he thought back to the previous round, and the pain and fear that had filled clone's face when they talked. Of everything, perhaps that small detail worried Kracht the most. The Ovoid had never before shown signs of hostility; at least, not directly. Now, though...

"You said 'Something has changed'. Tell me what it is! I have communicated with you enough through various iterations to have a more complete grasp on the way you see things! If you were unable to use the clone to translate, tell me directly!"

Light played across his body as he continued to sink through the network of tendrils, but he could discern no visible reaction. He decided to try a different track.

"You and Xadrez do... something. I've never been clear on what, but whatever it is, it is catastrophic. To everything! Please! I know you can understand me by now; I know you can understand all of us! You must listen! You must not continue... whatever it is you've been doing!"

Still, no reaction. Kracht steeled himself for this next bit; if anything, this would make an impact.

"You once told me you were trying to reach Omega. All of your actions in past iterations have been because you were trying to reach this goal, and the catastrophe you and Xadrez bring about is because of your efforts! This is not the way! You must find another way to reach Ome-"

The world was suddenly oily tan, with glimpses of something Other breaking through all around him. Kracht could not sense distance, or direction, or sound...

Then, pummeled through his being, a single, strong intention, summed up with one word:



And suddenly Kracht was on a boat. A big boat. Full of very confused-looking pirates. Kracht had bare seconds to work through the finality of the Ovoid's rejection - it had never displayed such... certainty, in anything - before the pirates broke the spell with a chorus of "ARRR!" and "AVAST" and other such predictable drivel.

Kracht wished he had lungs. A sigh would be so appropriate right now.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Kath dove off the edge of her apartment balcony, shaking away her legs as she flew through the damp air. She hit the water fully in tail, reveling in the summer salt against her scalp. It was a good day to leave this place and never return.

The three bodies—fiancée, fiancée’s boss, fiancée’s boss’s secretary (it made a lot of sense under the circumstances)—were even now spilling their disgusting sticky blood through Kath’s sleeptank into the building’s recycling system. Within an hour the police would get alerted, and by then she’d be away somewhere in the ocean. Maybe she’d become a pirate.

The streets were nearly empty this early in the morning. She watched the edifices pass her by and saw the way they all fit together, how simple the geometry was despite how complex it had seemed from the inside. When you have nowhere to go to, you can’t get lost.

Then she was past the borders, skimming past the last grottos on the outskirts of Hydresther. As soon as the smell of smog and pepper began to fade, Kath smelled blood.

She tried very hard not to follow the smell of blood.

The grotto was vacant and sparsely furnished; probably it had been occupied by a squatter but abandoned over a year ago. The blood was flowing out the mouth and eyes of a large and angry-looking shark; the only wounds it manifested were some bruises where it had once been harnessed. Kath pushed the poor creature out over the surface of the grotto onto land, reverting to feet so she could scramble up to the hard stone and examine it with the benefit of atmospheric gravity. The shark seemed to deflate once out of the water, like a disgusting twice-used condom thrown over whatever was bloating its stomach. For the first time since the murders, Kath felt depressed.

She unlaced her sword, one of her only two possessions in the world, from her belt, the other one of her only two possessions in the world, and threw the belt over her shoulder carelessly. The sword was the one that mattered, a beautiful and functional family heirloom, and it also had all her credit coral in the hilt. She dug it into the belly of the shark.

Something resisted. Before Kath had time to worry, a blood-red lamprey-looking creature burst out of the shark’s stomach and slapped the sword out of her hand indignantly. The sword fell into a battered and drained sleeptank on the other side of the grotto.

Following right behind the lamprey was the maid it was attached to, a distressed-looking female about Kath’s age who, given the hair on her head and her ridiculous outfit, appeared to be of the pirate race. She wore those scratchy-looking trousers with a sleeve for each leg, and above it a top that cloaked so much of her torso it threatened to spill over onto her arms. Everything was dyed in a splotchy red and green. The hair, in contrast, was a muddled brown, broken only by a stripe of green and a stripe of red each running down the left side. Everything about her looked unhydrodynamic; Kath found it all a bit unseemly.

The maid stood up unsteadily and vomited a mix of water and what could have been either her own blood or the shark’s. She looked about for a moment uncertainly, then her gaze settled on Kath. “Where’s Maxwell?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” said Kath. “Settle down for a bit, you’re not well. You’re all lungs, aren’t you?”

“Feels like it,” said the maid, still coughing intermittently. “I’m sorry, I got confused. I… I think my friend is dead and I think I might be dead too. I’m hungry. My brain is hungry, I think hungry but I don’t feel hungry, all I feel is sick.” She settled down against the wall, clearly struggling with the urge to sob.

Kath looked around for a bit at all the blood. “You’re not dead. But I can’t help you, I need to get away from the city.”

“No, I mean it. I might be dead. Everything’s working but only because she… she wants it to.” The lamprey seemed to pat the maid on her head, making her squirm.

“As for food,” said Kath, “There might be supplies enough in here for you to make something edible out of the shark.”

The maid looked over at the shark. “No,” she said. “You said city. What city?”

“Hydresther is less than a half league that way,” answered Kath, pointing. “I doubt you’ll be able to make the swim, what with your respiratory concerns, but it’s possible you’ll find help yet. Frankly you’re lucky I wasn’t in a mood to kill you.” Considering the matter settled, Kath turned around and went to fetch her sword.

This was an obvious mistake, but in fairness, she was in a hurry. The maid dealt her a blow in the back of the neck, knocking Kath on her stomach. She then grabbed one of Kath’s legs and attempted to wrench one of her feet into a brutally incorrect position; Kath screamed and instinctively went tail, which seemed to startle the maid into releasing. Kath flapped about gracelessly, groping for her sword, and was honestly unsurprised when the maid sprung over her defenses and planted a foot (also clothed in a torn strip of grey-and-white cloth) into the small of her back. Kath fell prone, reverting to legs.

The maid picked up the sword and held it at Kath’s neck. “I’m lucky,” she whispered in Kath’s ear. “I! Am lucky! That you decided to play nice! Is that what you said?”

Kath felt it prudent not to reply. This earned her a kick to the diaphragm, but was still probably better than the alternative.

“I’ll tell you about luck,” intoned the maid. “You’re lucky, certainly not because I’m nice, definitely not because I’m not literally hungering for your flesh right now, but because you have a way to take me to that city. Say you have a way to take me to that city.”

“I’m not going back there,” gasped Kath. “I’d let you kill me first.”

The maid slid Kath’s sword a little closer to her neck, creating a single spark as she dragged it across the rock. “Of course you would. I… I understand what it’s like being a runaway. You’d die first. I understand that. Would you half-die first? Would you three-quarters die first? I bet your lower half being malleable as it is, there’s nothing down there you couldn’t afford to see sent through a strainer. Or, you know… eaten.” She shuddered as the lamprey bounced up and down on her shoulder in a disturbingly emotive fashion. "Basically the point I’m making is that I am perfectly willing to break my no-torture rule, because I am pissed and cold and hungry and I need to be surrounded by people to drown out the voices in my head.”

Kath groaned. Clearly she and the maid would not complement each other well. “Okay, very well, I probably wouldn’t have died first anyway. I have a way to take you to the city.”

“There’s a girl. There’s a girl, right? I’m a bit confused with the whole Michael Phelps thing your body is doing.”

“My name is Kath, thank you very much. I’m a maid, sorry I don’t have your obnoxious mammaries to serve as markers.”

“Obnoxious? You really think so? You’re sweet. I’m Jen. Get the fuck up before I cut you open.”

Kath rose unsteadily to her feet, trying to hide her fear. Jen looked at her like a slab of rotten meat. “Can’t you put some clothes on?”

“I don’t do clothes. If you’re going to spend any time in Hydresther, you’re going to have to get used to looking at us.”

“Well, we aren’t there yet,” said Jen. “Take my shirt, I don’t want to swim in it anyway.” She lifted off her top, beneath which she wore a painful-looking harness cupping her mammaries in the same splotchy red and green. She looked at the “shirt” and a disgusted awe came into her face.

“This shirt was purple,” she said. “This was my purple shirt.” Her eyes glazed over for a bit, as though she was deep in contemplation. Kath considered trying to take the sword from her, but instead just grabbed the shirt and threw it over herself. It managed to be baggy and graceless yet tight and suffocating at the same time. She sulked.


Jen snapped out of whatever she was doing. “Alright, what’s your way to get me into the city?”

“The mermaid’s breath is a hundred times as potent as normal surface air. If I fill your lungs with it, you can hold it in for hours. Touch your mouth to mine.”

Jen gagged. “Ugh, fetish-y. Suddenly I want my shirt back.”

“You could stay here.” Kath knew she was pushing her luck by being flippant, but the girl seemed to have calmed down a bit now. Getting eaten by a shark is pretty traumatic, she supposed.

“Shit. No alternatives?”

“None. First, hold your breath full of your normal air and empty it out all at once. The emptier your lungs are to begin with, the longer my breath will last.”

Trustingly, Jen did so. When she looked like she was about to pop some brain cells from the lack of air, she let out a breath. Before she could inhale, Kath grabbed her face, gave her a quick peck on the lips, and threw the two of them into the water.

“Idiot,” Kath sounded. “’Mermaid breath.’ Take a biology class.” Jen didn’t hear, both because she didn’t understand the sub-language and because she was already nearly unconscious from oxygen loss.

A couple punches to the lungs and Jen fell limp. The lamprey kept fighting, though, wrapping itself tightly about Kath’s arm. A rather ridiculous struggle ensued, made more difficult by the blood that begin spilling out of Jen’s mouth right into Kath’s eyes.

When the blood cleared, Kath saw that it wasn’t quite coming from out of Jen’s mouth; it was coming from her neck. Suddenly the maid had gills. Then, just as suddenly, her eyes were open again.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

This is a reserve. Expect it to be a while, I need to double-check where Arkal is.
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Arkal found himself alone on the raft. Jen had been swallowed by the shark, Xadrez had knocked Kracht into the water and been dragged down with him, and the Ovoid... well, it was the Ovoid. It had simply drifted off somewhere, for purposes nobody else would ever understand.

Looking around, he knew he couldn't swim; his anvil would rust, not to mention weighing him down. So instead he went to work.

Arkal had noticed that the raft was made of a particularly durable type of wood. The supports keeping it together at the edges seemed to be a rope made from a lightweight metal. And the raft was in good enough shape, despite the shark's attack, that Arkal could grab some stray bits for materials.

The smith immediately set to work. He dropped the anvil and forge, so they wouldn't weigh him down as he gathered what he needed. He noticed a length of log of about the right size, and grabbed it. There was a bit of the metallic rope tied around the end, already severed by Xadrez' work; Arkal quickly unraveled it. He smiled; it was just the right length.

He then produced a small axe from his belt, and chopped the log in half. It took some time, despite the strength of the axe; but that only spoke to the wood's effectiveness.

The next step involved a more specialized tool. Arkal put away the axe and took out a small hand-drill. He carefully poked a hole into the end of each log, twisting the drill in until he was satisfied.

Finally, Arkal returned the drill to his toolbelt, and went over to his forge. He held one end of the metallic rope inside, heating it up. Once it was hot enough, he place that end into the hole in one of the logs, then quickly doused it in the surrounding water to cool it and hold it in place. He repeated the process with the other log, and held up the new weapon proudly.

"Not bad work, if I do say so myself!" he said to no one in particular. "A bit specific in its use, but it's easy enough to carry. Not like that door-shield I had to drop when I put on the jetpack."

He slung the oversized nunchuck over his shoulder, and retreived his anvil and forge. He then looked on the surrounding horizon, and saw a ship headed his way.

"Ah, I must have been at work longer than I thought," he said. "Well, at least I can get moving now." Arkal held up the scrubot mace and pointed it towards the sky, then let loose a blast of flame. "That ought to get their attention."

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.


The ship weighed anchor, and dropped a rope ladder.

"That won't hold him," a familiar voice said. "It won't even carry the anvil. Use the gangplank."

There was an obedient murmuring, and the ramp was lowered to the raft. Arkal noted it was made of the same durable wood. He idly wondered where it grew as he made his way to the ship. He was pretty sure of who would be waiting for him, and was soon proven right, as he was escorted to a green man made of minerals wearing a rather silly-looking hat with a skull and crossbones.

"Hello, Arkal," Kracht said. "I've got something to talk to you about. You're the last one who might listen to reason."


Some time earlier...

Kracht found his new situation more annoying than problematic. After all, it wasn't as if the pirates had anything that could harm the mineral that made up his body.

He knocked a half-dozen buccaneers out as they came charging at him, then started walking toward the captain.

"Really, this is tiresome," he said calmly. "There's nothing you can do to me, so you may as well surrender now. I could use this ship, and it will be easier to manage with a crew. And I have no particular quarrel with you."

"Ye want this ship?" the captain snarled. "Then ye'll have ta fight me fer it... ungh!" He fell to the ground with one punch before he could even finish his thought.

"Well, that's settled then," Kracht said, picking up the captain's hat and placing it on his head for effect. "Now, I'd like whoever's in the crow's nest to go and look for a large raft with a muscular old man on it. Or would you prefer to attempt a mutiny?"

There was an awkward pause as the pirates looked at each other nervously. Kracht kicked the unconscious captain in the stomach, and the crew swiftly responded.

A few minutes later, the raft had been spotted; it seemed Kracht hadn't been dropped that far off. Arkal sent a blast of flame into the air as they approached; Kracht ordered his new crew to stop and let the smith on.


"So you've gotten yourself a crew now," Arkal commented, keeping his mace out in case of trouble.

"Oh, you needn't worry about them. I doubt they could take you even if you were unarmed. No, I just want them to operate the ship. I can't be everywhere at once, after all. But let's get down to business. Follow me." Kracht headed inside the ship; this conversation would require some privacy.

"Business? What do you want with me?" Arkal reluctantly followed, staying alert. "You've caused me nothing but trouble. The only interest I have in you is getting my hands on some of that fantastic mineral you're made out of."

"Believe me, what I am about to tell you is extremely important. Do you know why I have won this battle every time?"

"I'm not here to listen to your gloating," the smith grunted. "If that's all you've got, maybe I'll take my chances with the shark."

"Listen to me, Arkal." Kracht's tone was somehow different; he almost sounded desperate. "I have won this battle in every previous iteration because I needed to."

Arkal raised an eyebrow, but allowed the animate statue to continue.

"The first iteration - I'm not sure what happened, precisely. I've never dared to allow it to happen again so I can investigate. But it involves Xadrez and the Ovoid. And the consequences were dire. I barely managed to make it back to have a chance at stopping it, but after that I prevented it in every iteration. Except this one. Now that blasted Observer has put everything at risk once again."

Arkal groaned. "What are you even talking about? This sounds an awful lot like a trick."

"Listen to me, Arkal. Xadrez won't listen. The Ovoid won't listen. I'm fairly sure Jen won't listen and that Bio Wyrm won't hold any gratitude to me for saving it. You are the only one I can tell this to who might actually help me."

"Fine. You've got one chance to tell me why I should help you."

"Yes, yes... one moment." Kracht opened the door to the captain's quarters and showed Arkal through before closing it. "Now I can tell you without my men listening in."

"Why does that matter?"

"Because I'm not sure how opposed they would be to the destruction or enslavement of all non-human races in the entire multiverse."

Arkal stared at him in surprise.

"Yes, that is what this is about."

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

Xadrez was off to a good start as he sliced off half of the sharp, pointed cap of the marlin's helm. He grabbed the thin spine in his other hand as the swift foe darted out of his range. The tactician was severely out-maneuvered, his spectral form lending him just enough speed to avoid the metal spikes that flanked the giant fish's sides. Wheeling sluggishly round to try and keep track of his attacker's movements, Xadrez saw his opportunity as the marlin plowed at him, responding to its pass with a jab to the eye.

There hadn't been enough time to switch to the preferable metal spike. Still, pacifistic restraints on what the demon dagger could cut notwithstanding, a poke in the eye was still a poke in the eye. The giant fish thrashed off, hastily dropping its elegance in its throes of pain. Its rider; who Xadrez had noted with begrudging approval had switched elegantly from one side of his mount to the other as their attacks demanded it; patted it on the head with a misshapen claw, before ordering the marlin to charge again.

Xadrez raised his knife and spike, noting the change in the fish's trajectory - slightly down from dead on. He tensed, spotting the rider's raised claw and the marlin's stripe of face armour right beneath it.

One deceptively quiet click later, and the region between Xadrez' wrist and shoulder was instantly replaced with a roiling, burning pain. The marlin darted below, the mercop smartly retrieving the sinking dagger. The tactician wasn't in the mood to open dialogue with a "what do you think" when the marlin-rider asked in a jocular fashion "is this your knife?", so he settled for narrowing his eyes and gingerly twitching the fingers on his knife hand. They were still responsive, despite the little glowing threads that should've, by rights, connected the spirits digits to the rest of it not quite making up a proper elbow.

The marlin couldn't seem to hover in one place, or at least sink at the same speed as Xadrez. Instead the rider tried to hold a conversation with his quarry, not quite realising how irritated the tactician was getting.

"Yooou're not a pirate, are ya?"

Xadrez found the way he was so tightly clutching the metal spike in his other hand a little undignified, and discarded it. He let himself count to ten before trying to focus less on the way he could sense the knife his knife cruising in circles around him.


more of an unexpected guest

Archie, as far as members of law enforcement went, was a pretty open-minded sort. Although ghosts on rocks which talked through knives sounded a bit like typical pirate trouble, he kind of prided himself on not being judgemental about things like this. Not to mention this particular ghost seemed pretty polite.

"You are aware this is a ree-stricted passover zone?"

I was not

may I inquire as to why

"Haha. Either you're a damn smart pirate, or a damn lost traveler. Down beelow us is the 'folk settlement, Hydresther. Those pirate types used to cast nets and mines and all sorts on us, leastways until we sent them a piece of our mind."

Xadrez nodded as the two of them sank deeper. Hearing out the cop's story didn't seem like that sure a way to get his dagger back, but it was the most feasible given the circumstances.

"Since then, most we'll get are a few grog barrels on the outskirts. Still, it's up to 'folk like me to remain ever vigilant ag'inst the pirate scourge!"

Archie raised his cannon-arm in a mock salute, and laughed. Xadrez conceded a quiet chuckle, then added rather brusquely,

may I please have my knife back

"Now, hang on. I've been timing your falling, and we've got a goood five minutes 'til we'll spot the Upper Tiers. So, Mr Traveler, how's about you tell me a bit about yourself, hm?"

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Kath looked a sore sight, flopping into the Hydresther bubble and crumpling to a barren rooftop in a dry heap. Jen nimbly followed, the wall of the bubble dehydrating the blood that clung to her clothes and knuckles and leaving an itchy red residue that fell to the floor in an assortment of flakes and grains. She grunted uncomfortably as the gills she had grown found themselves defunct, and her lungs took up the slack once again. This produced only about a teaspoon of complaint from her circulatory system, which she didn't cough up so much as begrudgingly spat out.

Clearly Jen's body was adapting to its new malleable physiology. Her waterproof third eyelid dissipated with a final blink and the arcs of her heels nonchalantly shrugged into a shape that behooved walking more than swimming. Through all of this the lamprey on her back twitched excitedly. Kath had figured out, or at least was comfortable in guessing that that thing was hacking into the girl's DNA. She resisted the urge to shudder. The girl was clever and strong-willed--not quite so much as Kath, but what can you expect from a leglocked teenager--and someone so all-around formidable shouldn't be so easily dominated by an invertebrate.

With a strong feeling of doubt in her mind, Kath said, "Here we are. Hydresther. Are you done with me now?"

Jen eyed Kath up and down, perhaps admiring or perhaps regretting the scars she'd inflicted only minutes ago. Kath put two fingers to the gash on her face, knowing that she couldn't go to a hospital. "Nope. I need your support navigating the culture here, so I think I'll keep you along with me until you're Stockholm Syndrome'd into becoming my sidekick of your own volition."

Kath decided to stick around long enough to kill this bitch. "No chance I get my sword back?"

Jen smirked. "Maybe when I find a better one."

Kath took the risk of honest, praying the truth would function well enough as a bluff. "You don't really want to be around me in Hydresther. The authorities will be on the look for me. It's why I was on my way into the open before I had the bad luck of apparently becoming your accomplice. I'll be caught within minutes, especially so clad." She indicated Jen's garish shirt, which the girl had insisted she wear.

Jen rolled her eyes and held her hand out. "Fine, give it here, I guess I have to get used to all your fish-nudity now that I'm at the city." As she put her shirt back on, she asked, "So what's your rap sheet?"

"Three premeditated murders this morning. I'm the obvious suspect: motive, opportunity, poor breeding and a history of sociopathic behavior dating back to infancy." Jen didn't respond: she was looking over the edge to the underside of the bubble. The lower surface was frothing with life: from way up here all the activity of Hydresther was lost in a morass of foam, the colors of the billboards lost in a thousand dewy rainbows refracting off of waterfalls. The cacophony of light brought a murderous lump into Kath's throat. Jen's hand was shaking.


"No great riddance if you fall," Kath told Jen. "You'll live. You piratefolk have no notion of depth, but down here there's no sky to look at and never reach. No directional constraints save the bubbles we wrap around our brains, understand?"

Jen turned around and snarled. "Don't patronize until you've climbed a mountain, Kath, you're bothering me. I can handle your city and I can handle your cops."

"Can you now? Please, Jen, if pirate legal systems were competent any, you wouldn't be all about the piracy. Hydresther copbred are the baddest of the born and the roughest of the raised. It's not only cowards what give them wide berth."

"You're patronizing again," reminded Jen sternly. "I am... of two minds about our next move."

"Don't think too long. Loath though I am to rejoin the masses, it's dry up here."

"Well, one mind wants to find a problem and solve or exacerbate it, or else meet up with one of her companions and go scheme to kill a rock or something, God I don't even care anymore. The other wants to find someone that nobody will miss and eat him." She squinted her eyes as though experiencing a torrential migraine, and began to perspire. "I'm new at this."


Shut up Kath, I might--"

There was a splash from above and not far away. A stone disc about three meters wide emerged into the air and flipped through the bubble like a crude game of chance. A copbred on a marlin followed promptly. Something was screaming unnaturally.

Jen growled. "Well that solves that question. I mean answers... Never mind. Kath you first." She grabbed Kath by the throat and tossed her over the edge.

Kath fell, a bit too imbalanced to go fins and make a proper dive before Jen followed, the lamprey retracting back into her to streamline the body they now shared. This could only go poorly…

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

"Let me get this straight. Xadrez and the Ovoid did something, you're not sure what it was, and this is somehow bad news for everybody who isn't human. I don't see the connection." Arkal looked at Kracht skeptically.

"Of course you don't. It's rather convoluted, and even I don't know the entire story. But I'll try to start from the beginning.

"First of all, as the Observer has mentioned, there are more battles of this sort going on than just ours. I am unsure of precisely how, but there was a participant in one of them, a man by the name of Vandrel Reinhardt, who found a way to speak to combatants in other battles. I advise you to remember his name; it will be important later.

"In any case, this Reinhardt contacted Xadrez. Or, more accurately, he contacted the Ovoid and it passed the transmission on... somehow."

Arkal blinked, and opened his mouth as if to speak, but Kracht simply continued.

"No, I don't understand the precise mechanics, and they're beside the point. What matters is that Reinhardt said he was seeking to contact other combatants and find a way to escape the battles, and to strike back at the beings who forced us to fight each other for their amusement. Xadrez agreed, and sought help from the surviving combatants.

"We agreed - myself, Xadrez, the Ovoid, you, Jen, and Keleth. Unfortunately, Jen was killed by a mutated polar bear before we could determine precisely how to proceed, and the next round separated us at the start, likely because the Observer was aware of our objective and sought to interfere.

"Nonetheless, we managed to regroup, and Xadrez had even devised a plan. We were about to activate it... but then the Ovoid mysteriously stopped moving, and we were transported again.

"Worse yet, the Ovoid was critical to the plan, for reasons related to its ability to contact Reinhardt. I believe Xadrez was seeking to establish a communication node and convert it into a transportation node, but he was reluctant to reveal the specifics; he suspected the Observer might be listening in and actively sabotaging us.

"He did, however, have a backup plan. And I was the only one who could safely carry it out.

"It was a desperate plan. The first step: Break reality."

"How do you even..." Arkal began, looking befuddled.

"Are you aware of how Keleth's shapeshifting worked?" Kracht replied.

"No, not really..."

"In essence, he altered reality so that his body was different. Every shift had minor impacts on the world around him, which he barely noticed. When he made a major transformation, which he only did in desperation, the effects were much greater; this happened during the second round, which is how Xadrez came to realize this side effect existed.

"In any case, with some very precise shapeshifting by Keleth, we were able to create a dimensional rift. A location where reality was incredibly unstable, and where the boundaries between dimensions were less concrete. Then came step two: Send someone into it."


"Yes. It would be incredibly dangerous for almost any being... but the material from which I was constructed could withstand it. I entered the rift, with a device you constructed according to Xadrez' specifications, and once I was completely removed from the world you were in... I activated it."

"And then what?"

"I have no idea. I was trapped in the void, unable to see the faintest trace of the world I left. It wouldn't surprise me if the Observer considered my absence to be reason enough to send the rest of you to the next round of the battle, though I couldn't say that with certainty.

"But, I eventually escaped, after countless years. I couldn't even begin to tell you the precise number. What matters is what I saw when I finally emerged."

"This is the important part, I suppose?" Arkal asked, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "The part where this is terrible news for non-humans?"

"It is. I found myself in a world of advanced technology that revered its supreme ruler, known only as the Hand of Silver. There were only a few nonhuman races, only kept around for their useful abilities, and completely enslaved by the dominant human population. A little prying revealed that other nonhumans had been wiped out entirely. At first, I thought it was simply the world I had emerged in, and my primary concern was escape; that, and bringing as many slaves as I could with me. I was not heartless.

"And I succeeded. I realized that a device held in one of the Hand of Silver's facilities could be used to construct a dimensional gateway. Joining up with a small rebellion, I managed to acquire it, and then construct the device. The rebels and the slaves they freed were willing to take their chances with any world other than theirs, hoping they might find allies to help them one day return and overcome their ruler.

"The Hand of Silver's Forces attacked our base just as we completed it. Desperately fighting them off, we went through the gateway, and emerged in another world.

"But once we arrived, we were immediately surrounded by soldiers in identical uniforms to the ones we had just fought! And they, too, told us that the Hand of Silver had declared us his enemies! The allies I had fought so hard alongside were gunned down in minutes. I survived because their weapons could not generate enough heat to disable me before I escaped."

"But that's crazy! You were in another dimension entirely! You mean this Hand of Silver had an empire that spanned universes?"

"Worse than that. By the time I emerged from the rift, it spanned every universe. I made countless escape attempts, and every time I emerged in a new universe, the Hand of Silver's men were already searching for me. Fortunately, I had anticipated the risk after the first escape attempt went so poorly, and did not try to leave until I had devised a way to do so without detection. Nonetheless, it was jarring to see the same tragedy so many times."

Arkal looked at the stone man with pity. He had seen so much, and it sounded so horrifying... granted, the smith was human himself, but he didn't see why that made him so special. But he still had a question.

"And what makes you so sure that whatever Xadrez did had anything to do with this mess?"

"An excellent question. I had no idea the events were connected at all, until my travels finally took me to an especially decadent world. It soon became apparent that this was, in effect, the Hand of Silver's palace. His home universe. It was from here that he ruled all. More importantly, it was here that he had dedicated a memorial to his closest ally. A man who, though long-dead, had been crucial to his ascension. A man who he saw as a kindred spirit, even if he had also been viewed as a pawn.

"I stood before the Vandrel Reinhardt memorial, and knew that somehow, I... we... had caused everything I had seen."


The Ovoid stirred slightly, imperceptibly.

An outside observer would have seen nothing unusual about it. The very idea that it was suddenly aware of a message it had to deliver would have seemed absurd.


"So you figured out some way to go back in time, got entered in the battle again, and stopped Xadrez and the Ovoid from doing whatever it was that made the Hand of Silver the supreme ruler of every universe." Arkal looked thoughtful. "Okay, fine, I think I get it. So my question is - why did you go through time again?"

"That part isn't voluntary. You see, Xadrez has always survived to the final round, still determined to somehow achieve his plan to assault the Observer. Every time. And so I have to stop him. That is not such a great concern." Kracht paused, and appeared as though he was trying to sigh. "But, then the Observer enters me in a follow-up battle, against seven winners of seven other battles, and somehow I am always thrust back through time yet again, entered in this battle, and forced to repeat everything to prevent that terrifying future."

Arkal looked at the animate statue with a newfound sense of understanding. But he still had a question.

"So why do you feel the need to talk to me about this now? Have you ever done that before?"

"The second iteration. Several other times. But it has generally only served to produce more difficult situations."

"So why now?" Arkal asked, raising an eyebrow. "If getting me on your side causes that many problems..."

"Everything is too different this time, Arkal. What I said on the raft? That was a bluff. It's always been the same third round before this. But that isn't the only difference." He stared the blacksmith right in the eye. "Your forge. You've never reclaimed that before. Not once. The Ovoid has never been this hostile to me. And Jen? Her royal color is green."

Arkal scratched his head. "Uh, I don't really get what that means..."

"I'm green. I don't think you need the full explanation to understand why this concerns me."

Arkal shrugged. "Sort of. But still, I don't quite get why you're telling this to me now."

"I'm desperate. I need to start making changes to counter the changes that have already happened. That's why I took the Bio Wyrm. That's why I'm putting my trust in you. I'll also try Jen, but I can make no guarantees. But more than that..."

Kracht hesitated before finally speaking again.

"Arkal. I am honestly afraid that this time... this time, I will actually die."

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

The clone leaned back on his dragon mount. They had been flying aimlessly for several minutes now; the raft had been left far behind. He could feel the thin layer of Ovoid which clung to him like a jumpsuit twitch every now and then, but for the most part, it seemed to be leaving him, and his dragon, alone. He sighed. Maybe it had forgotten about him. He'd like that. He was already haunted by the things he'd seen and heard during his... abduction. He was almost certain his comrades were dead; why he'd been left alive was something he preferred not to think about.

He shifted uncomfortably in his Ovoid-produced saddle. Something was moving inside, sort of like...

He groaned. "Oh no, not again. I don't want t-AUGH!" He brought his hands up to his head, teeth clenched in pain. "Fine! I'll deliver your stinking message!" The clone and his dragon shifted course, and flew with more purpose towards an empty patch of sea.


The Ovoid drifted aimlessly over the open sea, giving no sign of its earlier anomalous activity. Then, quite without warning, it sped off, towards the same patch of sea it had sent the clone and the dragon towards...


The clone was honestly considering suicide at this point.

The dragon had, without warning, dove straight towards the water. Before he knew it, they were flying down through the ocean - the clone somehow still able to breathe - towards a slightly muddled patch of light.

The clone corrected himself - their apparent speed, and the bright spot's slowly increasing size, put it at slightly bigger than just a "patch" of light. In fact...

They were quite close now, and light resolved itself into a gigantic glowing sphere. Before the clone could make out what was inside, the dragon burst through into... air?! The clone shook himself. Yes, they were quite definitely flying above an enormous half-sunken city; the upper half, liberally populated by beautifully flowing skyscrapers, was kept water-free by some kind of air bubble. The lower half appeared submerged, and it was this air/water barrier which the dragon seemed intent on leading him towards; specifically a point just on the edge of the bubble...


Xadrez was fairly certain Archie hadn't warned him about the sudden water-to-air transition on purpose. One minute, he was calmly explaining his predicament to the marlcop (whose slowly growing fighting-back-a-laugh expression now made sense to Xadrez), the next he was falling through air, from a disturbingly large height. The uneven transition made his disc flip uncontrollably, and he could just make out what appeared to be a denizen of this city be tossed off an approaching rooftop, followed by what could only be Jen; that feminine figure and swaying bio-wyrm protruding from the figure's shoulder were rather unmistakable.

Then they were gone, and Xadrez crashed awkwardly onto the rooftop. A jovial laugh boomed from above him.

Righting himself, and now hovering comfortably a few feet above the rooftop, he looked up to see Archie finishing up a chuckle. "Hooo boy, I was waitin' fer that." The marlcop floated downwards from the edge of the bubble, mechanical wings fluttering invisibly from the sides of his ride, guiding them through the air. He held up the knife. "Also, could ya make this thing shut up? It's kind of annoying."

Through the knife, Xadrez sent a testy your deception served no purpose as I had thought I had sufficiently proven my disassociation from these pirates you speak of

That said, Xadrez begrudgingly complied with Archie's request, and the knife stopped screaming.

Archie waved a dismissive hand "Yeah yeah I believe you. Sort of. I mean ok it's a pretty ridiculous story, and I'm still gonna have ter report you ter the Chief fer trespassin'. So if you'll just float yerself after me-"


Xadrez and the marlcop had bare seconds to look up towards the source of the voice before a tan-tinged, scaley meteor hurled itself through the roof. Several crashing sounds could be heard through the hold before the dragon and the clone burst through a wall, further down the building. Unfurling its enormous wings, the dragon glided out over the city, and with a few powerful pumps, changed course to come back towards the roof.

"'Nother of yer pals?"

in a way

The clone shouted as he drew closer.

"Well he's a rather insistent feller, ain't he?"

I have not had much contact with him and I suspect he is merely a tool for another contestant

his presence here can only mean that this contestant wishes to deliver a message which is in itself surprising since the contestant has so far avoided direct communication with any of us

Xadrez pointedly left out his encounter with the Ovoid in the previous round, as it would be... too complicated to explain. If what he'd deduced from that brief contact were true, however...

The dragon made an ungainly landing on the edge of the building, and the clone looked between the marlcop and the tactician. "Uhhh... sorry to... interrupt?"

"It's fine, young sir. I've got nothin' against you two talkin'. 'Sides, the rest of the police force're already on their way!" Archi pointed, and a smattering of small dots could be seen rising up from the water in the distance.

"Oh, uh, ok well." The clone collected himself, and looked at Xadrez. "The Entity was very clear that I deliver this message to you specifically. I'm going to have to uh... paraphrase the first parts because they don't make a lot of sense and-"

Xadrez waved an impatient arm.

"Right, ok. So, apparently there's some stuff going on in the, uh, 'non-Euclidean atemporal interstice', and I think whatever happened between you and the Entity earlier was part of that. There's also some stuff about how time doesn't flow properly in... that place... so what you got was a little jumbled. Anyway the Entity managed to work out the order of some things into a way we can make sense of it, though I got the sense it considered the effort unnecessary but whatever. Someone else, in another 'anomalous artificial closed-loop phenomenon' with 'multiple emergently self-aware fragments' managed to send a message through the... thing. It wanted me to deliver the message to you, verbatim."

The clone took a moment to make sure it had everything memorized, and clutched his scythe a bit tighter, obviously nervous.

"Ok, here it is:

'If you are hearing this, then you, too, are a victim of the whims of an enigmatic master, whom has forced you into a battle to the death with many other strange beings. You are likely far from your home, far from your friends, far from your family.

'My name is Vandrel Reinhardt, and I am in a battle similar to yours. I seek allies, to overthrow these unworthy grandmasters. I assume that, if you can receive this message, then you have some way of reaching into the multiverse. Seek me out. Together, we can fight for our freedom.'"

The clone fell silent. Archie raised an eyebrow. Xadrez remained motionless.

After a moment, he looked towards Archie, sending a telepathic request through the knife. Archie shook his head. "Sorry Mr. Traveler, but this'ere weapon is officially confiscated. You'll have to find another way."

Xadrez did something that looked suspiciously like a sulk, before giving a start of surprise as a tiny, tan ovoid materialized on his board. He tentatively grasped the object, obviously wary of a repeat of his earlier encounter. Thankfully, upon contact, nothing happened.

why me, he asked.

The clone answered. "The Entity said something about how your incredible... tactical abilities? Yeah, that. Apparently it believes you to be best suited to lead an attack on the... whatever thing... that's organized this battle."

the observer

I agree that I am the best suited and provided the entity gives me its full cooperation I do believe there is a chance that we will succeed

however we must first extricate ourselves from our current predicament

"Oh, yeah, um, I think that's about to be taken care of."

Archie narrowed his eyes at the statement. "Now, I'm not so sure I like the sound of th-"

Oily tan erupted in a huge disc-shape above the city, and the burning, smoking city of Cyk'nl burst through into the air above Hydresther. Parts of its levitation machinery were still working, slowing its decent slightly, causing it to angle downwards, narrow edge cutting through the air, straight towards the soaring buildings of the magnificent underwater city.

Minutes previously, in another universe...

The two crippled sky-cities revolved slowly around each other, locked in a fatal dance as they fell to the surface. The lizardkin of Cyk'nl had abandoned their city, seeking refuge in Sk'va, as rumor spread of a secret Sk'van engine which would save them from destruction.

In the center of Cyk'nl, an eerie landscape had replaced the previously decadent buildings. Metal had been twisted into a non-Euclidean nightmarescape, and any observer walking through the alien construction would be unable to determine its purpose.

Then, without obvious reason, the entire construction began to glow. Corners became fuzzy, their location indeterminate, and a light of unidentifiable color spread outwards from every surface.

As the refugees of the falling cities gathered in Sk'va, a tremor nearly shook the city apart. Startled insects and lizardkin looked out of windows and over buildings, to see that Cyk'nl had vanished.


Archie's mouth wouldn't close itself. What the hell just happened kept running through his mind. So distracted was he that he nearly missed Xadrez attempting to be stealthy, and use the chaos to drift away from the marlcop. Archie decided to follow the spectral entity, and observe. Whatever was happening, it had gone way beyond a simple case of trespassing, and he intended to do whatever he could to protect his city.

Meanwhile, Xadrez absent-mindedly toyed with the miniature Ovoid on his board. Before the shockwave of displaced air had hit the building, the clone had said one final thing before flying off.
"The Entity is your relay. It will deliver your reply to Reinhardt, when you're ready."
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Kath was a fucking mermaid. Under normal circumstances, even after having been thrown so rudely off the rooftop, she could have easily gotten her bearings in the water and escaped into the crowd before Jen could follow. Unfortunately, her bad karma seemed to be holding up.

First there was the dragon. For a moment she thought she was going to land right on its back next to the oddly-dressed little man, but instead she only got a tail to the face, which knocked her into a wall. She grasped onto a window and attempted to hang there for a bit before she raised her head up and saw a badass-looking copbred staring her down from the other side of the window.

So she let herself fall until she hit the water at right about the same time as Jen. Almost immediately, the leggy bitch grabbed her wrist and pulled her above the surface. The disc seemed to have landed on an adjacent rooftop; Jen did not look pleased. "What's the fastest way up?" she asked Kath.

Kath groaned and pulled her along, the mostly-dead weight of the girl slowing her swim to an awkward crawl. The entrance to the edifice was swanky but vague about the place's purpose; a hotel maybe? She pulled Jen along into the shallows and went legs.

"Are all your buildings air on the inside?" asked Jen.

Kath shrugged. "Most on the west side, yes. In the east they're a drop more traditional."

This answer didn't seem to satisfy Jen. "How does the bubble work? Are you science types or magic types?"

"I don't know of either of those."

"Ah, one of those. How unhelpful." Jen wrung the water out of her scalp-hair. "To the roof. Fast."

Kath begrudgingly showed Jen the elevator, wondering what kind of awful strokes of luck awaited her on the roof. Probably a dragon, for one thing. And copbred.

Kath sang for the top floor and the elevator had hardly halfway risen when there was a burst of force that stopped it in its place and knocked Jen on her ass. Kath steadied herself. Outside, she heard screaming.

Jen sprang back up quickly and kicked out the window of the elevator. "Hope those legs work," she told Kath, raising her sword. "We're climbing. You first."

Kath growled and kicked Jen lightly in the shin. "They work." She limbered up a bit and began to scramble up the exterior of the building. Jen followed.

It took a few seconds for Kath to examine her surroundings. Above her was something large and dark blocking out the above-light; below, the air displacement was causing the bubble to wobble, sending twenty-foot-high waves slamming against the walls below. It was looking rather apocalyptic. Kath was pleased.

Atop the roof everything was cleared out except for some faintly glowing orange dragon tracks. Jen examined them closely for a few seconds, then angrily drew her sword and struck the rock. "Fucking dragon," she growled, then turned to Kath. "A fucking dragon, of all the... Shit."

There was a moment of silence.


A marlcop was following the floating disc across the trail of fairly level rooftops that led eastward. Jen motioned for Kath to follow and took pursuit. Kath weighed the odds of her dying, took note of the slightly wrong-looking mass that was slowly descending upon Hydresther, and ran after her, very quietly.

Jen (it was definitely Jen's fault) apparently underestimated the copbred's enhanced senses, and the man whipped around on his mount and silently leveled his handgun at them. Kath stopped and addressed Jen. "Watch it. From this range in the air his handgun won't do much damage but if he gets much closer he can rip us to droplets."

Jen contemplated this, seemed to decide she didn't care, and slowly began to advance. The copbred produced a dagger in his utility hand and called his steed over to the center of the roof, keeping one eye on each of the maids. He spoke:

"I've no business with either of ye. I called fer backup but I reckon they'd have been sidetracked checking out that situation." He took a quick glance behind him to watch the disc disappearing away into the distance (and Kath could now clearly see the spectral figure on top of it) and in the instant his back was turned Jen leapt about eight feet closer. The marlin whooped in alarm, and the cop absentmindedly fired in Jen's directing, knocking her flat.

"Aaah fuck!" shouted Jen, probably feeling the sudden noise more than the impact. Kath saw her chance and ran for the edge of the rooftop, only to find herself hit as well. The sonic blast out of the handgun knocked the wind out of her.

The marlcop floated over to Kath and hoisted her upward, waving his handgun in her face. "Oh, don't think I didn't notice you. You're a wanted maid. Armageddon 'r no, I'm not letting a murderer out onto the canals, eh?"

Jen, having recovered much faster than she should have, put Kath's sword to the marlcop's throat. "Eeeeeasy there, girl," said the cop. "You cut my throat and yer friend finds her head broken down inter plankton. Then my mount spooks. She used ter be a wild one, mind you, I'm the only one as managed to tame 'er." The marlin gave an inquisitive whoop. "Oh, no need ter worry, gal," murmured the copbred.

Jen smiled. "You're assuming that I give a shit whether that one--" indicating Kath-- "lives or dies."

"You scofflaw types are all the same. Loyal ter one another 'cause no one else'll give ye the time o' day. I'll call yer bluffs any day o' the week, little maid."

The tense standoff with a police officer was a new situation for Kath, who had spent the majority of her life evading the law in more... evasive ways. Accordingly she was a bit relieved when some manner of giant bipedal lizard fell out of the sky onto the copbred's head, knocking him off his mount. The marlin, as promised, spooked and ran, leaving the cop sprawled dazed on the ground. Jen brought the sword down onto his throat. His last handgun shot blast into the distance harmlessly.

Jen was shaking. "It's okay," said Kath, tentatively attempting to be reassuring. She held out her hand, hoping Jen would thoughtlessly give her the sword.

"Oh, not that. I've uh.... I've killed cops before. It's just... could you leave, please?"

Kath was a bit too confused to be relieved. "You want me to--"

"Just... go." Jen looked away as though trying to hide her face. Kath backed away, slowly.

Before she dove into the water, she looked back over at Jen one more time. The maid was bent over the copbred's body, and the lamprey was doing something to its torso...

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

Jen hadn't been particularly aware of the intensifying shrieking until it neatly stopped, keeping her eyes scrunched shut and trying to block out the horrifyingly not-abhorrent sounds of the Bio-Wyrm feeding. Lifting her head past the sorry remains of the marlcop, she glared up at Xadrez. The tactician was hovering more placidly than the situation really warranted, though the knife (once dunked in the ectoplasm to silence the screams) was tracing lazy geometrica over the surface of the obsidian, dancing round pieces that weren't there.

His damnably semi-human features making it hard to discern whether the tactician was number-crunching Cyk'nl's reappearance or her predicament, Jen just went with the latter.

"Fuck off, Xadrez. You got your fucking knife back, just leave me alone."
Fanthalion raised her hideous maw from Archie's chest region and hissed encouragement, if only to try and get rid the residual aftertaste of self-loathing Jen was tainting her meal with.

Something in Jen's pocket thrummed. With another look of loathing, she extracted the jade figurine.

Cyk'nl is bearing down on us, your highness

odds are not particularly favourable that there will be sufficient vertical clearance as it passes overhead

I suggest moving, and finishing your comestibles else

"Fuck. Off."

as you wish, your highness

When you are feeling inclined to assist with our escape plan, please contact me

Xadrez bowed a little in a way Jen could only interpret as deeply condescending, before drifting off after the Ovoid. The tactician mostly disregarded the looming shadow of Cyk'nl, as best as his constantly evaluating processing ticking mind could, instead focussing on the unpleasantly inconsistent link he shared with his chess pieces. The one wedged in the Ovoid was all over the place, mostly just quietly permuting everything the Ovoid got its tendrils in interrupted with violent, unpredictable bursts of aural and edges-of-your-visual loud that only Xadrez could hear.

If he were capable of conscious dislike for anything other than those who deliberately ruined his plans, the spirit would've directed such feelings toward this nauseatingly alien entity. Under different circumstances, Xadrez might've been frustrated with the implacable, unpredictable Ovoid, but one fact was keeping the spirit calm.

Time. The Bio-Wyrm snarling forth from Jen was, for Xadrez at any rate, an oddly calming sight. Five contestants left. Assuming a debacle like the first round was avoided, that meant at most three more rounds - three more deaths - before he could no longer pretend to tolerate the Observer's ridiculous rules to this deplorable game. In fact, it appealed to Xadrez' way of studying the world around him that Kracht seemed to be taking the insidious overlord's side, one grandmaster pitting his unpredictable, rogue entity against Another's.

The tactician let his scheming mind wander off on the logistics of a straight-out brawl between Ovoid and Kracht, before running out of sufficient data and getting back to Fanthalion. Yes, once Kracht was taken care of, Xadrez had all the time he needed to concentrate on destroying the Observer, but the fact remained that the tactician could only avoid the Grandmaster's interference while he was not the sole belligerent. Therefore, anything that increased the odds of the other contestants surviving was fine by Xadrez' book. Yes, Jen was tenacious, smart, and downright formidable as far as adolescent female humans went, but she was still an adolescent female human, and even a billion-in-one chance of something fatal befalling her was still a billion-in-one chance. No romantic ascribings to the power of plot or anything like that, merely that a billion in one chance was, mathematically speaking, still infinitely better than no chance at all.

Which meant the weakest link was... Arkal. The marlcop hadn't mentioned anyone investigating the surface, so the smith was probably still on the raft. Best eliminate Kracht, preferably with the Ovoid's assistance, before the human stubbornly refused to detach from his forge and drowned when a cop on a sailfish tried cleaving his head off.

Ignoring the hyperspace twitch somewhere to the three-dimensional left of him, Xadrez extended out his consciousness to locate the right piece. It seemed to still be on the surface, but displaced. The spirit resolved to find out how that happened, and sooner rather than later.


The Ovoid has contacted me with a message from another trapped in a similar battle to our own. I will make initial contact henceforth, ascertaining the scope of this connection

I believe it would be easiest for you to rejoin us with the Ovoid's assistance

I will attempt to request its intervention, but meanwhile try to find your own way to Hydresther

The authorities should be distracted but I cannot recommend your engaging them if this is not the case

Avoid Kracht, he will act in desperation to restore a timeline favourable to his victory

And for Scout's mercy, Arkal, do not get yourself killed

Xadrez uncrossed his inner eye, mentally returning to Hydresther to the sight of the beige dragon landing in the plaza ahead of him. Composing himself a little, the tactician meandered through the fourth dimension until he found his errant chess piece.

Connect me to this Vandrel Reinhardt, Ovoid.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

"Let me guess," Kracht said, as Arkal put the chess piece back. "He established contact with Reinhardt. And told you not to trust me."

"Yep," said the blacksmith.

"Well, then. Do you trust me?"

Arkal paced around the room, looking at the mineral man, saying nothing. Finally, he spoke.

"I don't know much about reading people, Kracht," he began. "But I know a lot about materials. I know what would make a good sword, what's good in an axe, a shield, armor... you get the picture."

"Yes, I am well aware of this," Kracht said, bored. "What are you getting at?"

"I also know when a material's... well, let's call it 'good luck' or 'bad luck'. I don't think I can explain it better than that to someone else. If something's bad luck, I don't touch it. Even if I could use it to make the strongest weapon in the world."

Arkal stared directly at Kracht.

"You're all material, plus you're alive, sorta. I've been getting mixed signals from you ever since this game started. But this whole conversation, you've been looking like good luck." He held up Xadrez' chess piece. "And as soon as I got that last message... this thing's started lookin' like serious bad luck."

He grinned.

"Maybe I'm just a crazy old man. Maybe that chesshead's been rubbing me the wrong way lately. But whatever it is, my instincts are tellin' me to side with you. I'm gonna trust you, Kracht. Now, what the heck are we going to do?"

There was a sudden knock on the door. "Cap'n! Cap'n!" shouted a voice on the other side. "We need ya out here, there's somethin' ya gotta see!"

Kracht yelled back to the messenger. "If it's that important, you can tell me what it is so I know this isn't some sort of silly ruse to cause a mutiny. Which won't work."

"That's just it, Cap'n! We don't know what it is!"

"Wonderful." Kracht turned to the smith. "Well, I suppose we should see what it is, hmm? I wouldn't want us to die because we hit an iceberg and none of these men had ever seen snow before." He walked to the door, Arkal following.

Up on deck, it became clear what the problem was, and why no one was able to identify it. They hadn't seen the Ovoid, and so couldn't recognize the odd surface of the strange landmass up ahead. But to Artkal and Kracht, the color and texture were very familiar.

"What's that blasted thing doing now?" Arkal asked, severely confused.

"I have no idea. This is the strangest thing I've seen the Ovoid do since that iteration where it nearly dropped Cyk'nl on us. Except I'm... reasonably certain that one was some sort of accident. This is rather clearly intentional."

Arkal blinked. "Wait, what was that other thing?"

"Ah, well. Somehow the Ovoid was able to pull the entire city of Cyk'nl through the dimensions, still in midair. We avoided a direct hit, but it released the beast sealed within the depths of the city..."

"The WHAT?"

"Oh, you missed the legend this time? Well, it hardly matters, I doubt we'll be seeing it. Mind you, the way this iteration has been going, if it somehow were released I'd expect it to be something completely different from the last one."

"Cap'n!" shouted one of the pirates. "Somethin' be approachin'! Should we fire on it?"

Kracht looked around, and spotted a dragon flying towards them with a worried-looking man in tan riding on its back.

"Hold fire. If this was an attack, we wouldn't have even seen it coming."

The dragon flew up to the side of the ship. The nervous clone spoke up.

"On behalf of the Entity," he said, sweat dripping from his brow, "we would like to offer you our services as a guide. Please, follow us."

It flew in front of the ship. Arkal and Kracht looked at each other, befuddled.

"I don't suppose you have any idea what to do," the smith said.

"Not with foreknowledge, no." Kracht sighed. "But for the moment, I suppose we follow the dragon."

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Wyrmlog: Wyrm desig. Fanthalion → Server “Jennifer Tull” Unk. legacy file, desig. “Sikarius” (see file: Sk’Va)


34% (Loading neuron base)
45% (Applying DNA irregularities [human])
67% (Correcting for magical noise)
79% (Translating psi-language [Eng])
91% (Poetic license)
98% (Semantics)
100% Wyrmlog complete!

12:00:00:1/1/1969/1/1:00:00:12 clock err (see server!file: “Grand Battle”)
(See file: Server corruption by “Kath” entity)

FANTHALION (henceforth “F”): This type of behavior won’t let you keep ignoring me, you know.

JEN TULL (server; henceforth “J”): Shut up.
F: There! A response! Was that so hard?
J: Shut up. You’re a schizoid reaction I’m having to the death of Maxwell which is a thing that happened at some point when I was unconscious.
F: You can continue to pretend to believe that as long as it suits you, Jen honey.
J: Damn straight I can. Fucking schizoid Jungian fucking flesh-eating—okay you’re a Maxwell worm.
F: Well, that was easy. The term is “Bio Wyrm.” I’m Fanthalion, nice to meet you.
J: Oh, that’s nice.
F: What is?
J: Being conveniently named after my old biffle from way back before everything. The hell kind of psych tactic is that supposed to mean? Next you’re gonna be wearing my mom’s perfume, I’ll be like “Damn, that smell reminds me of my childhood! Obviously this means I should let this worm on my fucking back hijack my brain so it can devour flesh.
<font color="red">F: Jen.

J: You are… you are doing nothing more than sullying the memory of the best friend I ever had. I am kind of important, “Fanthalion,” read my mind, you know I won’t fall for that bullshit.
F: Jen.
J: Listen, all I need is to get to Mermaid City, find Kracht or whoever ends up down there, embark on some adventures until someone else I’m friends with dies and we get shunted off to some other bullshit and--
F: Jen, you never had a friend named Fanthalion.
J: The fuck now?
F: It was always me. I made Fanthalion happen to your memory.
J: …That’s—no.
F: That was the first step to the process that was supposed to give me complete control over your brain, before we got… interrupted by more important matters. I think we’re stuck like this. But the Fanthalion in your memories, and me? The very same. Remember that.
J: Fantha--
F: This isn’t how they taught your companion’s host, way back when, but this is how the process starts. There was a hole in you, Jen. This gaping maw in your heart, always hungering to just have one human relationship that wasn’t characterized by hopeless desire or worshipful servility. So I gave you a friend. I became your friend. From that point it only would have been a matter of time.
J: Fantha, you could—you could never have zombie’d me completely, you know. I’m stronger than that and I’ve taken certain magical precautions against--
F: Yes, yes, Jen, we’re all very impressed by your magical powers. Listen, you have my goals and I have mine. They might not be mutually exclusive. We can become friends. We already are friends.
J: Listen, I’m not cutting your wormy-ass head off right now because I think I’d die, but you’d better not push your luck.
F: You want to be my friend just as you want to feed. We can help each other, but it starts with you. Make a compromise.
J: I’m just trying to find a way into the city.
F: So am I! Plenty of warm bodies there.
J: Shut up and stop making me want to eat this mermaid. It’s getting us nowhere.

Clock err quickfix: h-wl1 +.684 (local noon to be calibrated at lower depths)
(See file: “Hydresther” gene-report prelim)

F: I admire the way you never know what you’re looking for. Myself, I’ve always been certain.

J: You know when you talk to me like that, it becomes really fucking hard for me to pick apart all the things you did to my memory and find out how to get rid of you.
F: If you’d gotten rid of me, you’d have drowned. That’s a painful way to die.
J: You gave me gills. I don’t like having gills, Fantha. Why couldn’t Sikarius do that to Maxwell?
F: This is uncharted territory for me too, Jen. Before he died, your friend Sikarius dropped me a data package that with his primitive upbringing he couldn’t possibly have understood. Imagine a portable hard drive plugged into an abacus. He must have been roaming the stars for millennia, brain full of indecipherable chaos, knowing that he was hearing higher truths but unable to comprehend them for himself. Can you blame him for being an insufferable, rage-filled specimen?
J: So what, now you’re running Windows 7 and get to look through all Sikarius’s porn?
F: I can’t quite divine the full nature of things yet, Jen. Maybe with the help of your magic… Listen, I’m not just being the selfish parasite here. This is important to the future of my species. I should either bring this back to the carrier planet or… I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
J: This is a really beautiful city. Makes Cyk’Nl look like Iowa by comparison.
F: I… yes, I suppose it is. I never pick up on these things on first glance.
J: First lesson of being a successful human is to treat the world like an art museum. Now it’s your turn. What makes a Bio Wyrm?
F: ...I’m not sure I should reveal my hand at this point in our relationship, Jen.
J: What, aren’t we friends?
F: Don’t mock me. Bio Wyrms are… the librarians of the universe. Our function, as a species, is to launch of from the carrier planet, move from host to host, collecting their DNA, then return the information to the stockpile. It’s more glamorous than your Earth sensibilities can comprehend. Every single Bio Wyrm that ever lived has seen things that none other has. Each of us has spent centuries, some much longer, exploring the mysteries of evolution. Sikarius, or whoever passed on the packet to him, stumbled across something big. Maybe even the key to everything.
J: There’s nothing glamorous about turning innocent people into your zombies.
F: Those are, as I said, millennia-old tactics. Our preferred servers are fresh corpses. We attach, insinuate, send the host’s brain patterns through a sort of purgatory, take complete control within minutes and send the server’s soul onto whatever oblivion they believe in.
J: And I got stuck in the purgatory phase.
F: I was trying to work through your issues. Think of it as a combination of therapy and sex.
J: I’d rather not.
F: You never were quite as fun as you wanted people to believe, Jen.
J: Shut up, Fantha. Focus. What do you mean by “key to everything?”
F: The Bio Wyrm’s map of God—our Qabala, I guess is the closest equivalent—is the double helix. Two perfect saccharine strands stretching on through infinity, forever embracing, never touching, and yet forever linked by the chemical language of genetics. It’s language that keeps us together, Jen. Remember that.
J: Quaint little religion.
F: Isn’t it? The revelation of the Bio Wyrm is that a certain song can be sung in the genetic sequence that will unlock the perfect being, at once Wyrm and server, who is the living incarnation of the Helix upon the Universe.
J: And the Bio Wyrm Messiah is in your brain somewhere?
F: Ever since Sikarius… I can hear music.
J: I’m not letting you eat anyone no matter how pious and epic your motives are.
F: It’s not a matter of “letting.” I’m hungry, so you’re hungry. You know it’s possible that it disgusts me just as much as it does you.
J: Possibly. But it doesn’t, does it?
F: No.

Clock err quickfix: h-wl1 +.738
(See server reports)

J: I can’t believe I fucking died!
F: Oh, did you just contact me of your own volition?
J: Well who else am I gonna talk to? The mermaid? Somehow I doubt she’d be sympathetic.
F: Once again I am your only friend on this Earth. Are we surprised?
J: Fantha—shut up. We have known each other for no more than an hour. I know this.
F: Anyway, can we cut to the point? I know you, Jen. You’re trying to work your way around to the subject of alleviating the hunger.
J: Am not! I’ve pushed that to the back of my head.
F: I’m in the back of your head, Jen. You can pull a lot of strings from back here.
J: I’m not allowed to be upset about having been killed by a fucking dragon without you questioning my motives! You were a way better friend in all those false memories you implanted, you know.
F: Come on, dearest, it wasn’t your fault. The beige thing brought that dragon in there. You were backstabbed.
J: Fucking Ovoid. Listen, being killed by a dragon signals that a warrior is no longer worthy to carry on her service. It’s not about “surprise” or even how good a fighter I am. It’s about something higher deeming me not worth it.
F: The Ovoid is something higher, Jen. Do you think it has DNA?
J: Ugh. Okay, the hunger is back in the front of my brain. I’m like a fourteen year old boy who’s seen my friend Kara.
F: If you kill the Ovoid, I’m going to try and feed on it. Even if I die. Can you imagine?
J: So, what, you eat its DNA?
F: It gets stored, yes. I’m carrying so much data, now—I mean, I gave you gills, that is completely unprecedented—but there are still elements missing. Maybe I should eat the dragon, too.
J: My opponents are not on the fucking menu! Do you think it was cause of Maxwell? Did I give up on him? Is that why the dragon was able to kill me?
F: I don’t give a damn. What matters is now. Have we even discussed the fact that I’m offering you the power of evolution itself? We can make ourselves a very, very happy ending if you’ll let me, Jen.
J: We haven’t discussed it cause I don’t fucking care, Fantha. I just want to keep waiting for my comrades to die one by one until we figure out a way to take the Observer the fuck down.
F: Ooh. Do you think the Observer has DNA?
J: Can’t you just, you know, take a sample?
F: Eating is more intimate.
J: Fresh corpses.
F: And the hunger goes away. For a time.
J: We’ll see.
F: We’ll see what?
J: We’ll see if we see any fresh corpses.
F: Attagirl.

Which brings us most of the way to the present.

Apocalypse bore down upon Jen, but she was used to it by that point. Kath was long gone, off on her own adventures (though narrative good sense dictates that she will return), and Xadrez had been driven off, leaving Jen with no friends but an eviscerated dead cop and fucking Fanthalion.

Somehow, amidst frantically trying to ignore the smell of fish, and trying much harder to ignore how satisfied she was feeling, Jen found the clarity to think about the Grand Battle. She was in a city and it was about to be destroyed, this was nothing new. She and Arkal were now alone amidst the cosmic entities, although she supposed that Arkal was now the only humanoid among them. She had the sinking feeling he would die this round.

Xadrez was in Hydresther, and the Ovoid was wherever he wanted to be. That left Kracht… here? It seemed likely that whatever Xadrez was up to would be mostly involved in exploiting Kracht’s lack of foreknowledge about the round, so that would put Kracht in the city. As for Arkal, shit, Arkal might still be on the raft. Then again, wouldn’t the Observer have taken measures to balance out this situation?

Jen admitted to herself that she had no idea what was going on and that she should follow Xadrez. Are we done here, she asked the red part of her.

Patience, Jen. The gastrogenetic arts are meant to be enjoyed, not rushed through. Imagine that what you’re doing isn’t a social taboo, but an exercise in high culture, as it is for me.

Two things, replied Jen. One, you totally just made up the word “gastrogenetic” to fuck with me.

You got me.

Secondly, if we’re pretending that this display is an exercise in high culture, why don’t I just strip naked and swim around singing showtunes and convince myself I’m a fucking patron of the arts?

You’d enjoy it.

Yeah that does sound kinda fun, okay, bad example, but—

We’re done.

Jen stood, feeling herself for the first time since she died, and that worried her more than anything. Xadrez was disappearing into the distance. “Yo, wait up!” she yelled, sprinting over the rooftops. Zombie or not, it was time to make her presence known; Jen did not want to acquire a reputation as somebody to be fucked with.</font>

* * * * *

Elsewhere, a recent traveling companion was experiencing a similar moral quandary.

Namely, Kath had committed another murder on the way the fuck out of the Jen situation. This one underwater, which meant the blood swirled around like a billowy article of clothing. Kath hated clothing, but was willing to make an exception in this case.

It was difficult leaving the corpse behind; she loved how still it was. She was convinced that if she decided to spend the rest of her life with this corpse, it would only be the second-worst marriage she ever entered. Still, as with the first marriage, she managed to cut herself away. She fled. Just as earlier in the day, except with the shadow of the falling city over everything, she worked her way up the thoroughfare to the borders of Hydresther.

This time, she stopped.

Merfolk of all shapes and sizes were rushing out of the city or being pushed out by the waves that seethed above. They pushed her on all sides, trying to force her out, but Kath balked. The open ocean outside Hydresther was so… open. How hadn’t she seen it before? It was like diving into the aqueous humor of the Creator. The openness admitted all the fleeing merfolk, but in its judgment seemed to deny Kath the fortitude to proceed.

The mob made the mistake of not heeding Kath’s hesitation. A tail slapped her in the face; using an instinct she never knew she had, she went legs and kicked out at the offender’s face.

Under the water, she couldn’t hear the crack of the merman’s neck. The only sounds she heard emanated from the city.

Kath turned around and headed back to where Jen was. At this point, asking why was out of the question; the city beckoned her like the smell of blood.

* * * * *

is anybody there
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Kracht and Arkal stood on the bow of the ship, watching the dragon and its rider drift serenely through the air before them, guiding them towards the strange, shifting Island before them. It soon became clear why guidance was needed; as they approached the Island, the dragon veered to the right, and the ship dutifully followed. A mass of tan erupted from the water in the ship's previous path. It danced upwards, its surface undulating as it twisted, before sinking back into the water at a slight angle.

The water surrounding the Island was being constantly churned in a similar fashion. Oily tan spires and walls and other unidentifiable shapes rose and fell, grew and shrank, turning the approach to the Island into an ever-changing maze of rapids and crags.

The crew sat in silence as the ship navigated through the alien waters. The helmsman kept an eye on the dragon, following its path as closely as he was able, now that he was aware of the danger. After a while Kracht turned to Arkal, and spoke.

"I believe it is in our best interests to try to learn more about the Ovoid. It plays a key role in whatever happens at the end of this battle, and the change in its behavior throughout this iteration... it is troubling."

He turned away, and Arkal followed his gaze.

"You think that man might be able to tell us more?"

"He's been in the 4-space, and is in direct communication with "the Entity", as he calls it. Usually they get along just fine but now... he seems to be in pain. Enslaved, almost, with little to no free will.

"I think I might know a way to free him."

"And once we free him, he'll be willing to tell us anything he knows which might help us prevent the Ovoid from helping this 'Vandrel Reinhardt'."


They were nearing the Island's shore, now. The dragon had set down on a relatively static portion of land; relatively, because, like the rest of the Island, it appeared to be moving without any obvious motion, but still presented a flat space where a person could stand comfortably.

The boat was drifting towards the shore, the pirates scuttling about its deck to prepare to drop anchor and lower rowboats into the water, when a portion of the Island suddenly rushed outwards towards the boat, locking it in place, and oily tan hills rose up on either side right up to the decking. The crew, including Arkal and Kracht, took the hint, and simply walked off.

The crew gathered around the waiting clone, each eyeing up the dragon looming behind him. The clone merely waited, slightly hunched from obvious exhaustion, leaning on his scythe (which had, miraculously, never left his side). The crew maintained a respectful distance from the clone, forming a quarter-circle around him, their backs to the shore, and the ship. The quarter-circle parted to allow Kracht and Arkal through, but where Arkal stopped at its edge, Kracht marched straight through, making a beeline for the clone.

The clone was slow to come out of whatever reverie he'd fallen into, and his red-rimmed eyes widened as he saw Kracht purposefully stride towards him.

"Uh, wha-"

"Hold still," and suddenly Kracht's arm had reached out and a green-tinged stone hand was on the clone's head.

"Please... what are you doing?" the clone whimpered.

"I am freeing you." Seeing the clone's expression, he continued. "This was not supposed to happen. Your relationship with the Ovoid has been nothing but harmonious, previously. Something is different this time, and I cannot bear to see you suffer. I've gotten to know you quite well, Alexei Buchevski."

The clone... no, Alexei, had been only sort-of following Kracht. Once his name was mentioned, though, the change in his expression was drastic. The red around his eyes was no longer caused by simple exhaustion, as moisture began to gather.

Kracht smiled, slightly. "I know you, Alexei. We have shared so much together. You have changed slightly every iteration; your past has not always been the same, and your varying experiences have given you slightly different views of the world, but at your core, you've always been the same person. You've always been a kind, caring person. You've been full of love, for everyone, and are one of the few members of the Communist Party who didn't join as a slap in the face to Friend Computer, but because you actually took time to learn a little bit about it. You learned about its concept of sharing, though not much beyond that. You learned that Lennon was a man who preached love and understanding (and you were disappointed to learn, from me, that he had nothing to do with Communism). You were never in it for the politics. You've just wanted peace."

Alexei was outright crying now, and the pirates behind Arkal watched in fascination.

"Alexei, I've been with you through so much, and seeing you hurt like this... it has pained me. So now I am going to do something about it."

Kracht closed his eyes, and something within him shifted. His arm glinted strangely as its surface altered imperceptibly. He opened his mouth, and the crowd behind him clenched their teeth as they... sensed a strange vibration. It was not heard, and it was not felt, yet every inch of their body was telling them that something was happening.

Alexei gasped, and then, "No, wait-" the "vibration" grew stronger, "-actually I don't think-" it was now almost audible, and ripples began to appear in the oily tan around the clone and Kracht, "-this is a good ideeeeaA PLEASE STOP-" the clone's body began to spasm, "-IT DOESN'T LIKE THIS, IT HURTS, PLEASE-" the "vibration" escalated, as if there were several distinct variations of it, all rising towards one crescendo, "-KRACHT, STOP THI-" and suddenly a tone sang out, and the vibration was gone. The clone had fallen silent, but was strangely still. Kracht removed his hand from the clone's head, somewhat warily.

Alexei moved suddenly. He looked straight at Kracht, but his eyes were now uniformly tan. He opened his mouth, and sounds came out.


Kracht would have looked puzzled, had his face been malleable enough to form real emotion. He made his confusion known. "... Alexei? What just happened? I thought..."


Kracht took a step backwards. "I don't understand. I didn't make a request. You, the Ovoid, taught me something which I could use to control it, in a limited sense, if something went wrong. I thought I was banishing its presence from... from Alexei..."


"Required? Required for what?"


"Fragment... you mean me?"


"I don't understand. The Amalgam? Is that you? No, that's not right... if... if you needed a delay before your initial formation... then you can't have been formed yet... this doesn't make any sense."



"No, WAIT!"

The tan flowed out from the clone's eyes, flowed off his body, revealing his original red jumpsuit underneath, and the clone slumped over. His grip on the scythe loosened, and he fell, like a sack of potatoes, onto the hard ground.

His eyes were still open, but unmoving. Empty.

Alexei was dead.

Kracht slumped to his knees as he looked at the body. The... "Amalgam's" last words hung over him.

"I... I killed him."

Behind him, Arkal snorted. "That's ridiculous."

"It's not. This 'Amalgam', which must be what the Ovoid calls itself, said so itself. Whatever I did, it... forced the Amalgam into Alexei's body. He was dead as soon as it started talking. I killed him."

Arkal moved towards the kneeling mineral man, but before he could reach him, the landscape shifted suddenly, and he found himself alone.

He turned, but distance and perspective appeared to have taken a vacation. As he took one tentative step forwards, he found that the wall which he had previously believed to be several feet away was not actually a wall at all, but a chasm, and his foot was hovering over emptiness.

Deciding to ignore the fact that nothing made any sense anymore, Arkal unslung his anvil, and set about crafting, to pass the time. The undulating landscape could not be navigated by his purely human senses, and he doubted any of the pirates would have more luck. But Kracht... he smiled to himself. That mineral was truly lucky. If anyone could get them out of here, it'd be him.

So it was a complete surprise for Arkal when a young, entirely naked woman melted out of (what must have been) a wall nearby. He didn't recognize her from the crew, but... she seemed to know him. She smiled as she approached.

"Arkal of the Silver Hammer. It is good to see you in the flesh."

His confusion seemed to amuse her. She giggled. "Ah yes, I suppose this is all new to you. I am one of your descendants."

"My... what?"

"You have a child back in you home universe, right?"

"Two, actually. Two boys."

"Well, I'm sorry to say that you don't survive this battle. But they continue living healthy lives in your absence, and they both have families, and those families have families, and so on and so forth until I came along!"

Arkal still looked confused.

"Arkal... we are all here. The rest of your descendants, and so many others. This Island, it's... I guess you could call it an expression of nostalgia. We're taking some time to remember who we were."

"What... we?"

The girl smiled at him again. "It would take too long to explain, and I'm not so nostalgic that I enjoy becoming a Fragment for very long. Not to mention all this flesh," She made a face, and looked down at her body, apparently disgusted. "All this meat, just hanging off my bones, sloshing around inside yet more meat. It is quite revolting."

She looked back at Arkal, almost pityingly. "It is a shame you can't join me. But you are not in the Amalgam. You never will be."

The girl's features melted together, and her mass was absorbed into the Island's ground, leaving the old blacksmith staring at the space where she had been, a hurricane of emotions ripping through him.


Connect me to this Vandrel Reinhardt, Ovoid.

A slight vibration, and a tone, which gave a sense of a tunnel being opened by the sound, and Xadrez knew the link was open.

I am Xadrez, and I am also in a universe-spanning battle to the death. Vandrel Reinhardt, if you can help us fight back against the Grandmasters, I will do all I can to assist you.

Another vibration, and Xadrez sensed, more than felt, that the link had closed.

The tactician disentangled himself from the fourth-dimensional, miniature representation of the Ovoid, and brought himself back to Hydresther, just as a crash resounded throughout the bubble.

In the distance, Cyk'nl was plowing through the upper towers of Hydresther, raining debris down upon the sunken city. Cyk'nl barely slowed, and continued its downwardly-angled flight into the main towers of Hydresther.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Arkal was confused, to say the least. He went back to work; there was no way he could figure out why a naked woman claiming to be one of his descendants would suddenly appear out of the wall, and smithing would hopefully keep his mind too occupied to attempt to explain it.

But it wasn't enough to keep his mind off of his family. He'd often left them for years at a time - not because he didn't like them, but because he was, at heart, a wanderer.

But it was still nice to have a home to return to.

He reflected on his youth, and his first meeting with his wife. Saera hadn't been known for her looks - or rather, she had, in the sense that the young men in her village called her "ratface" behind her back.

But Arkal had never been one to care much for aesthetics. A sword that looked nice but couldn't win a fight was no use as a sword, and the smith tended to apply the same mindset to people.

And Saera was a good scavenger. She had an eye for materials that was so keen, she'd find things even Arkal had overlooked. He found himself returning to the village often to buy whatever she'd dug up. But even when she'd found nothing, he felt it was worth the trip.

Then came the day that she showed him a glowing red stone. He took one look at it and was amazed - it was, even to his relatively inexperienced eyes, simply radiating with luck.

She smiled, and told him she wouldn't take money for it.

It was an engagement ring. Except it would be more useful than a silly piece of jewelry.

He accepted without hesitation. And not because of the stone, as amazing as it was. No, that was just a sign of how well she understood him.

She knew when she asked that he wouldn't stay long. It was just the way he was.

She didn't care. And they both knew she could take care of herself.

Arkal had soon realized that the stone gave off heat, and it seemed as though it would never run out. It was perfect for his forge.

Arkal paused in his work, looked at the forge, and smiled. Saera was always with him, he supposed, even now.

It had been three years since she passed away. Arkal had rushed home from a continent away after hearing she had fallen ill, arriving a mere half-hour before the end.

It was a half-hour with her that he would treasure forever.

His relationship with his sons, on the other hand, had always been somewhat distant. Neither boy truly resented his absence, but they couldn't understand his ways. Strangely, though, they were like him in a significant way: they forged their own paths through life.

Koule, the elder, had chosen to become a scholar of ancient languages. Arkal was impressed with his intelligence, though there was a part of him that wished he'd applied that to the study of metals and minerals instead; it would have given them something to discuss, and would have been useful for the smith's work.

Eselt, the younger son, had become an actor. Arkal had been to a few of his performances, but he apologetically told the boy that he didn't really understand what they were all about. Mostly it was that the characters seemed to have a tendency to avoid doing something perfectly sensible that would have prevented the whole problem. Eselt had tried to explain that the flaws in the characters were the whole point, but his father just didn't see how that was entertaining.

But he loved both sons regardless of their differences, and wished them well in their respective fields. They, too, wished him success as a blacksmith.

Still, it had grown even more awkward since Saera's death. The boys didn't doubt his love for her, or hers for him, and they were glad that he had made it to see her one last time.

They just weren't sure what to say to him afterwards. And he wasn't sure what to say to them.

The three had all gone back to their respective disciplines afterwards. Arkal hadn't seen either of them since.

And now he might not see them again. The thought was only now hitting him.

He stared at the sword he was making, and inspiration struck.

Carefully, he took out a small pick and began carving words into the blade. The chances of the words making it to his sons were remote, but he saw nothing else he could do.

To my wonderful sons, Koule and Eselt:

I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to see you since Saera's passing. By the time I wrote this, it was too late; but I had three years before that, so I've got no excuses.

Let me say this right out: I love you both, and I'm very proud of you. I know we haven't been the closest family, but I'm glad to call you my sons regardless.

I've been forced into a battle to the death against seven others. If you're reading these words, it means I didn't survive it. But I don't want you seeking revenge on my killer or anything like that - assuming that's even possible. I just want you to know that I loved you both.

Koule, I bet you've already cracked the secret of those Sanjegorian scrolls you were telling me about. But if you haven't, keep at it. You're a brilliant lad, and I'm amazed someone with a thick skull like mine could have sired you. Hopefully it'll be something more important than some noble's grocery list.

Eselt, after recent experiences, I think I finally understand The Warlock And The Mockingbird. It's a shame I won't get to see your take on the King of Kombria again in light of this new knowledge; he actually reminds me of one of my opponents.

To both of you - what matters to me most is that you continue to pursue the work that you love. Looking back, I may have a few regrets about my life, especially in my relationship with you boys, but I don't regret being a smith. I hope you can look back on your own lives with satisfaction when you get to my age.

-Your loving father, Arkal

The print was small, but it was readable. It wasn't the first time Arkal had engraved a message in one of his works, though usually it was simply what his client wanted the weapon to be named. Still, he'd had enough practice.

He put the sword in a scabbard - he always had several handy, as swords were fairly easy to make - and picked up his anvil and forge.

Arkal of the Silver Anvil was ready to face his fate, whatever it might be.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

I'll try working this out again.

...As in, I will not be working anything out at all.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

Cyk’nl loomed smokily overhead, like a hangover. Ahead of Jen, the tan expanse framing Xadrez rippled, cracked in a few places, and in blotches was replaced by a patch of Cyk’nl wall on which she recognised the tactician’s carvings she’d interrupted.

The spirit nodded with satisfaction, pulled out his dagger, and set to work. Jen’s slow approach was chided by a hiss from Fanthalion, but she kept walking until the Bio Wyrm’s protests were quelled. The air tanned as Jen got closer, watching the intensely effortless way Xadrez mapped the Observer’s destruction through the air.

The knife seemed to arc not only across Cyk’nl stone that blossomed beneath it, but with the Ovoid’s subtle guidance, through four-space as well.

Until Jen got a little too close, and the dagger’s impossible edge smacked her in the arm. Xadrez’ grip on it had been loose, and it glanced off the girl and skittered down the deserted Hydresther plaza. The ghost was absolutely still as he watched Jen appraise the perfect slit in the shoulder of her jacket, letting her deal with that before the jade figurine rumbled.

I appreciate your deigning to ask this time your highness before borrowing my knife for your own ends

but you do understand it is still rather inconvenient when I am in the middle of

When I

When I am preoccupied

The last of the tan, still prickling at the edges of Jen’s vision, melted away with an irritable little twitch of Xadrez’ head. Glancing about him, the tactician seemed to notice for the first time the cage of walls the Ovoid had sprouted around him. Jen went and fetched his dagger, passing it under a chunk of brickwork that was, in some defiance of gravity, suspended by one brick to a mucky, Ovoid-induced meld with a basalt slab.

Xadrez glanced around his calculations, possibly uncertain, then cut through a few of them and drifted his way out. He studied the mess of rock, more than a little perturbed, blinked, jammed the knife into the palm of his hand and offered it to Jen.

"I don’t need it. Thanks, though. I guess.”

An irked protest was forthcoming, but interrupted by an all-too-familiar ripple through the landscape as Cyk’nl snagged on the first couple of towers. The darting silhouettes of copbred and their mounts could be seen against the backdrop of the floating city’s failing engines. Xadrez studied the city, trying to ascertain where it would settle, before drifting off in that direction. Jen bit her lip, before tossing her chess piece at the retreating tactician. It didn’t bounce off his back, instead kind of jamming in there until Xadrez stuck his hand through his chest. His unconcerned air fully replaced by irritation now, the spirit yanked the jade figurine right out and spun round slowly to glare at Jen.

“Xadrez, those are two cities. Being demolished. I want you to do something about it.”

The spirit appraised Jen for a long moment, before drifting off. He surmised the Ovoid dragged Cyk’nl to Hydresther because there was something important for Xadrez to find, perhaps to destroy Kracht or exploit the Observer. Either way, he planned to find it.

An uncomfortably familiar click echoed behind him. Jen sported a furious expression, which would’ve merely been annoying to Xadrez were she not also sporting a cocked claw like the marlcop’s.

Xadrez wearily approached Jen, pulling out his knife and prodding her in the forehead with it. She retaliated with a pincer to the gut, and Fanthalion snaked her way out from between Jen’s shoulder blades and snarled a warning in the tactician’s face. Ignoring the Bio-Worm, Xadrez afforded the loaded claw only one glance before starting his spiel.

if you continue to interrupt my plans to destroy the Observer the destruction of two cities will be nothing

I realised this when the option was presented to launch Sk’Va into space

If I had refrained from killing Kracht then I would at this point state Maxwell would be with us were his singular life of any particular merit in the grander scheme of things

were if I to adopt your kind’s mannerisms of what you uncharitably refer to when you dislike instances of it as hypocrisy and put aside the fact I thought we just agreed upon that the cities and civilisations of a multiverse are greater than two cities which are greater in turn than the life of a dead boy and his worm

humouring you and doing even that

consider your highness the fact confirmed to me now that this is not the only battle

Cykn’l and Hydresther are not the only civilisations suffering under the Grandmasters’ tyranny

note there I rail against the plural, not the singular

Consider this duumvirate consider the chaos it is sowing across all worlds and tell me

its destruction

is not worthwhile

Xadrez finally acknowledged Fanthalion by swatting at her with the knife. In retrospect, he’d earned the consequent swirling hole in his midriff. He counted to twenty, shouldered his dagger, and tossed Jen her chess piece back. She caught it in her normal hand, thumb running over the copper-cable Worm coiled around the statuette.

That was improper of me, your highness

my apologies

but I thought with your own nation to protect from being Grandmasters’ playthings you would understand my ambitions

For how can you be so assured a city from another multiverse is not falling upon the capital of the Place as we speak

“If that was going down, Moses would’ve told me.”

Is this Moses your most faithful servant and friend

Jen nodded. She didn’t like where Xadrez was going with this.

How do you know his failure to alert you of eight or however many other warriors destroying your palace is not because he is preoccupied fighting for his life beneath the ravaged screaming skies of Chartevael

“Because then I wouldn’t be stuck in this bullshit and I’d be off and rescuing him. I know you like mathing things out or whatever, Xeddy, but things work differently for me. Different set of rules.”


no billion in one chances like yourself like to think that

roguish little odds thinking perversely self-significant that they are too insignificant for the rules to apply

You will dance across my board like the rest of them

loath as I am to say it Kracht’s until-now perpetual victories are proof of that

Three clicks punctuated the air. Xadrez clutched the side of his face; had he the facial features, he would’ve been smirking.

There, your highness spat Xadrez.

now I believe you finally understand how I feel

My friend

Prior to recent developments there were reasonable odds for another explanation

but the confirmation that there are other battles that time relative within a universe has no bearing upon time in this wider space this multiverse that this situation is not anomalous through this space

it leaves me certain my friend, my liege, was kidnapped also

and the one responsible for that tore apart my world my liege’s world far beyond what they could have predicted

Heaven the ether bled and I was swept back to a place I had long-abandoned in favour of my liege’s side

these Grandmasters ripped out the tandem heart that which gave my world order and beauty in rules I could with patience discern

and now that I know without doubt it was indeed their doing their appetite for an improbable blend of blood mixed upon earth far from where it should’ve if ever warranting the torture of an entire world

I cannot forgive them

The initial vicious satisfaction in Xadrez’ words faded, to something flat and empathic and sullenly, implacably anchored in a sea of chance. The sheer solitude of it was enough to make Jen shiver.

Her arm lowered, chitin unknitting itself and fingers reforming beneath. Xadrez just floated there, the dagger dangling in one hand while the other covered the gaping hole in his face. She wasn’t sure what to say other than an awkward and downright useless apology, so Xadrez ventured one instead.

I regret my outburst, Jennifer

and the underhanded tactics I employed, emotional appeal being something I hardly see fit to use

I hope there is understanding, even if it warrants neither forgiveness or assistance in my task

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Xadrez silently, awkwardly cut the slab of ivory wall away from the infrastructure of Cyk’Nl. With a gesture he allowed the Ovoid to absorb the stone into four-space; Jen felt Fantha in the back of her mind struggling to take a mental picture of the graceful mathematical language with which Xadrez had recorded his… plan? Observations? Formulas? Neither girl nor worm pretended to understand the spirit’s machinations, but both were content, for now, to allow the situation to play out, if not necessarily assist.

Still, Xadrez’s sense of scale aside, Jen kept half a mind on thinking of a way to save the city. As everything went tan, like an eye closing around her and Xadrez, Jen felt more than a little resentful of her four-dimensional benefactor. Arkal and Kracht, say what you will about their individual neuroses, were at least people, and even Xadrez was beginning to show his softer side, even if it was actually just a harder side. The Ovoid, however, was clearly either operating under a random number generator or else had all the psychological maturity of a three-year-old playing with Legos. There was no real reason, at this time, to forgive the entity for killing her with a dragon and blowing up cities for kicks.

The alternative, of course, was to assume that the Ovoid had some sort of plan, or at least was experimenting in trying to set one up. That was just worryi—

There was a sound and a color that seemed both dismissive and disapproving, and then blue. Jen was riding a dragon in an unspecified direction that she suspected pointed to the tune of Away. A single tan ovoid bobbed nonchalantly next to her. Jen wouldn’t have thought something so geometric could express that much irony, but she had never been much of an artist.

“What am I supposed to say?” growled Jen at the Ovoid; she doubted it would understand the full message, but evidently it was capable of discerning tone. “Whoops, sorry for thinking hostile thoughts, Mr. Entity, sir, will you let me back inside your folds-within-folds if I promise to be nice?” She hesitated briefly, then came to the only decision she could have. “Fuck you, Ovoid.”

Her sword came down in the dragon’s neck, not quite killing it. Its throat released a jet of steam that lightly scalded Jen’s face, which on top of the dragon’s anguished barrel roll did a fairly good job of throwing her off. The ocean surface loomed closer


And was replaced by a bed of ivory that was, somehow, softer. There was a reptilian yelp, and Jen saw a Cyk’Nlian hurriedly light a torch to examine her.

“Were you sent by the Inscriber?” it hissed. Jen realized with some alarm that she couldn’t hear any screaming or rumbling or any of the things she might hear if she were anywhere near the exterior of Cyk’Nl. This deep, everything was tranquil, insofar as this aged, squinty-eyed lizard was all up in her business.

Jen ignored some things Fanthalion was trying to tell her and addressed the Cyk’Nlian. “This Inscriber of yours… He wouldn’t happen to be a tan fellow, hailing from a place where the stars can be unrolled and hung up on the wall, heralded by a dragon?” she asked.

The lizard nodded excitedly, his flicking tongue cracked and festering slightly from dehydration. “Then have I come to my reward at last? I, the one true priest, the one who stayed?”

Jen gave some serious thought to some things Fanthalion was trying to tell her. “No,” she said. “Your ‘Inscriber’ is nothing but a big ol’ four-dimensional dick. And because you were too stupid to get out of here when it all fell down, you’re going to be the first mosquito smushed against the windshield when the fan hits the… other fan.”

The lizard grabbed her arm: green though he was, for the most part, Jen couldn’t bring herself to feel one iota of sympathy for the wretch. She drew her sword (Kath’s sword, she reminded herself—she was just borrowing it; no worse luck than carrying around a stolen sword) and pressed it up against the creature’s neck. She could almost hear the ticking sound as the priest tried to rationalize these new events with his theology.

Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick ding! “I am being tested,” concluded the lizard; he tried to smile, but the motion of his jaw muscles caused his throat to straighten a little too much against the sword. “Do I need to slay you, then, to gain His approval? If your blood is the cost of entry into the Fourth Land, gladly shall I—“

Jen immediately regretted killing the priest. For one thing, not killing priests is sort of a no-brainer; for another, the creature was only about as threatening than a squirrel during mating season. There was no real reason for it.

Jen had changed.

Fanthalion quite rightly reasoned that she needed comfort food. As she bent over the priest’s body, as though in prayer, something
Tan happened, and the body disappeared. In its place was a very disoriented and angry looking Kath.

With both Jen and Kath being equally possessed of the element of surprise, it came down to whose foot (Kath’s, as it turns out) was closer to whose face (Jen’s). The kick was forceful, well-placed, and accompanied by a suitably emphatic cry of “What the fuck!?”; Jen was a bit proud of her mermaid companion. Kath got her sword back, which Jen hoped would be enough to turn around her bad karma, perhaps combined with a sonic bullet to the face.

For all the pain Jen went through allowing Fantha to shape her arm into a jet-powered pincer and back, she always decided that the results were completely worth it. Deprived of some of its power in the open air, the jet blast only did enough to knock Kath across the room. The lizard’s torch went out.

Kath and Jen stood in the silence for a moment. Kath was, perhaps, hoping for her eyes to adjust; Jen was trying not to cry out as Fantha forcefully reshaped her retinae. There was a flash of red as Jen’s new eyes squirted tears and blood, and then everything came into focus in bright reds, blues, and a third color that most definitely wasn’t green. Kath was nowhere to be seen.

Jen turned around. Kath, still blind, seemed to be allowing something invisible to lead her by the hand down a corridor of bone. The mermaid’s sword glowed violet in Fanthavision; Jen followed, stricken with an unease she couldn’t rationalize.

After what could potentially have been ten minutes, Jen, Kath, Fanthalion and the invisible thing came upon a door in a color that definitely wasn’t green. Kath allowed the invisible thing to guide her hand and feel the handle. A gruff, invisible voice echoed, giving Jen a rough idea of the scale of the chamber (very large).

”Goes without saying that in my capacity as a guide I can only lead you to the door. Your blubbery little girl-muscles should be sufficient to open it.”

It was a voice that Jen had heard only twice before, both times before a large and imposing door. Of course, in those situations, she was the one being led, and there wasn’t an ominous sound of reptilian breathing on the other side of the door.


J: Fantha!

F: What? Whose voice is that?
J: My eyes! Return them to normal!
F: Whatever you say, dear.


Pain and redness for a bit;

Back in the visual spectrum, the chamber was no longer dark. It was illuminated by the very visible radiant silhouette of the Green Man, who stood three feet tall next to Kath like a hole in the world.

Jen came to a sneaking realization that everything was as bad as it seemed. She saw red for a bit, then became blue, and found herself unable to do anything but watch.

Kath opened the door, just a crack.

There was a putrid smell like some strange new bodily fluids that could not have existed in anything that gave a shit about homeostasis. The smell itself seemed to watch Jen, to hold her in judgment. Kath seemed not to smell it. She opened the door the rest of the way and walked through.

As soon as Kath fell out of sight, Cyk’Nl shattered, like shattering was the only thing it had ever meant to do in all its centuries of history. Jen saw herself as just another piece, and found herself understanding Xadrez’s perspective.


”Quit it, you!” The Green Man snapped his fingers; everything went still, and the tan receded. The Green Man turned his silhouette to face Jen. ”I never forget a face. Long live the queen, eh?”

”Hi,” said Jen, awkwardly. “What, um—“

”Tell you the truth, this is kind of awkward,” said the Green Man. ”I mean, I been busy. Turnaround’s been pretty high these days, as we seem to be past all common sense what might make us want to settled down and reign for a hundred years. No, not these kids, you new breed can’t sit down long enough for the crown to give you a tan line before you’re off getting’ yourself killed in battle, or in your case,” (the Green Man laughed here) ”Gettin’ dismembered by a dragon. Understand we don’t have time to double-check for resurrections in each instance, ‘specially if the job gets done outside o’ the Place and its territories.”

Jen heard herself, distantly, saying that no, she didn’t understand, why don’t you just say it.

”The chick with the legs is a bit old to serve as the new chosen, but she’s got that spark, don’t she? She’s gotten her sword wet already, so that’ll save us some time. Represents a whole new paradigm shift, if you ask me. Not that anyone does, ask, that is; I’m just here to lead folks to the door.”

Jen tried to run; it all seemed so easy in her head. She’d run. She’d overtake Kath, kill her if she had to, eat her if she wanted to, take her sword (rightfully, having been the one to kill her), fight and kill the thing inside of Cyk’Nl that smelled like the burn ward at a hospital for whales, travel deeper and deeper into the labyrinth as she’d been doing since she was eleven years old and finally come out among the Green and be home and not be dead and not be a zombie and still be the queen.

Instead, here’s what happened:

”Speaking of doors, how’s about I show you the way out of here before you get yourself impaled, eh? For old times’ sake.”

The way out of here, as it turned out, was Tan.

Xadrez noted Jen’s return with little surprise; he noted the look of hellbent fury on her face with even less surprised; he realized with a fair bit of surprise that she was very, very serious this time around when he attempted to say,

Welcome back, your Majesty

But didn’t get a word into the dispatch before being interrupted by a pretty definitive-sounding



And your shit.

The beige parted for Jen as though it was afraid of her. She walked out of four-space onto a rooftop on Hydresther. Bits of Cyk’Nl were falling from the sky in earnest, seeming to revel in impaling or squashing the straggling evacuees with the sort of architectural deliberacy you only see in theocracies, but none of them hit Jen. Perhaps they were frightened too.

Re: The Grand Battle SEASON 2! [Signups!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

“Wait...” Alexei's face was almost amusingly confused. “Lennon isn't a communist?”

“Nope. Sorry about that. John Lennon was a singer. You're looking for Lenin.”

“Oh...” Alexei looked away, and frowned slightly, like a child who had just been told Santa wasn't real.

“So Hey Jude has nothing to do with the Holocaust?”

“I'm afraid not!”

If his face would have allowed it, Kracht would be smiling right now, despite being suspended by only a few more cables over the sharp peaks of Armeties. Doom was facing them, and every moments the boards of the cabin beneath them cracked, Alexei was dead sure this was the moment they'd snap.

Snap out of it.

And each time, Kracht would again have to make him feel at ease.

“Relax already! I told you a million times already. Jen gets eaten and mauled first, we just remain suspended here for about...”

Kracht looked up to one of the various glaciers in the area, and saw a very heated battle take place. A tan yeti stood near the edge, clawing at practically every remaining contestant. All but one. Fanthalion.

He couldn’t help but feel he had no idea what a Fanthalion was. He wrote it off as a slight difference in a session long ago.

The fight was as predictable as ever. The yeti was on the verge of falling, where he would suddenly lose his tan, for it would creep back to Alexei and he and Kracht could have a chat. Those chats have proven very worthwhile in discovering the Ovoid's many secrets. He'd guess he was about halfway in unraveling it, but then again the Ovoid never lost its ability to surprise. The yeti would grow much more fearsome, nearing death, and shredded into the group. Xadrez would duck or block the strike, Arkal would be clashing arms with it, and Jen, poor Jen, would be so unroyally taken out, the color of her lineage spilling and getting lost on the cold snow. Come to think of it,
he was drowning.

You're drowning

I can't drown

Come to think of it, he never asked Alexei how he felt about being outside of Alpha Complex.

“So how do you like the outside?”

“Met a member of the Sierra Club once... Strange people. Now I know why.”

A ferocious roar filled the air.


“She's gonna die out there! Xadrez, can't you do anything?”

i can

Xadrez silently, inaudibly floated over to Jennifer, and in another desperate attempt to throw the green rock off, pushed the young girl, who was, to his idea, the most feeble battler currently present. A quick jab of the chessboard caused the queen to lose balance, tripping over her scarlet scarf.

“What the fuck are you pulling, freak?! Do you think you can just get behind me and backstab me with that loser knife of yours, huh? Well, it ain't happening today so you better– ”


Jen's carcass was penetrated by the clawed fist the Yeti bore into her abdomen, a royal ragged doll now being puppeteered by a feral beast, swinging her bleeding corpse around with little delicacy let alone precision, as if her lifeless body was an enraged being jumping about upon realising the futility of her situation.

And with such an abominable show, Jen stopped.

She stopped ordering.
She stopped caring.
She stopped living.

Just like she always did.

“What a poor story.”

Kracht jolted awake from his naive nostalgia. He noticed he was suspended by a small amount of tendrils, crawling from the island, and suspending him only slightly underwater. Behind him stood a man, someone with an incredibly rough face, and a left arm consisting only of metal and wires. He spoke in a slightly coarse voice, but had enough eloquence and poetry in his speech to make up for that.

“I'm honestly amazed at you. What a pa-the-tic excuse for a fighter!”

"What are you getting at?"

"You always seem to win this battle, but in the end, there's only one outcome for you! You're a loser! You're the all-time loser, in every timeline across all dimensions!"

Kracht was considerably attacked by such insults, since he had a vague idea exactly what he was trying to say. He did try to remain calm.

“I... I don't think I know you. Are you a rider of Boort?”

“Boort? That little town of sand worms out in the boondocks? Please, don't spit on me when I introduce myself.”

“You never introduced yourself.”

The far too smug man shook his head in pity, almost.

“Yes, my work hasn't spread as much as I'd like in the closed circles of grand battles. I was once a part of those, too. Let me give you a hint, hm?”

He paused, as if to check wether Kracht really didn't remember him.

“The name Matthew Vanhart could ring a bell?”

At those words, which were haunting his very existence from the first point on, Kracht felt every mineral of his existence spring up with a need to deck this consort in the face.

“You are Matthew Vanhart?”

“No. That is not my actual name.”

Kracht needed to hear no more, as he incorrectly identified this man in his head as Vandrel Reinhardt. This was the man who ruled over the dark future he had to endure time and time again.

The island floor shifted and swayed beneath him, but with reckless disregard to the Ovoid and everything it consisted of, he charged forward, anger seeping into his every corner. The image of whom he mistook for Vandrel jumped aside, and the rocking floor swept Kracht off balance, netting him the embarrassing position at the man's feet.

“While I appreaciate your intent to bow before me, and while I am slightly amused by your plebian failure to do so, I of all people shouldn't need to remind you that I am still me – “ And these next words he spoke with such poetic disdain you could only guess he was either faking or lying about them, “ – And my medieval racism knows no end. You are far from human, Kracht! Your attempts to stop me, or even to dare reason with me, they are futile!”

“No... No! You're futile! And one iteration, I am going to find exactly what to do to prove that to you! Your reign ends, Reinhardt! It ends when you die, and you are reduced to a mere memorial near the gloomy town center, and it will be nullified when – When, not if – when I find the right combination of effects to undo your kingdom! And I have time, Reinhardt, you know that as well as I!”

“And yet you don't realise time is growing short. It's over, Kracht. You're over! You're not invincible. You never were."

If you were, how could you lose?

A sudden breeze sprang up, and Vandrel disintegrated into blotches of oil, each returning to the shifting island on a different surface, but returning altogether.

It took a while for the chartreuse man of steel to fully take in what had happened.

And then, he collapsed onto the floor.

His green hands tore into the semifluid substance of the Amalgam, leaving small marks where they had grabbed at, and off the same spot he pushed himself back up.

In a flurry of pure, uncontrollable anger over his immortal life and his endless punishment, Kracht flung his arms around wildly, slamming into the Amalgam at several times. Bits of oily tan were severed, and crawled slowly back to their original spots, occasionally merging with and phasing through the slopes of the island. Kracht felt confused, and lost, and he had done nothing to deserve this. He hung his head low in despair.

“Is this how you repay your helpers, Ovoid? Is this mindless torture, giving me images of the future?”

Kracht looked up, trying to meet the Ovoid's face for a dramatic effect. He obviously failed.

“You know, don't you? You know how I can change it! Tell me how to change it, you beige freak! Tell me!”

Because of all its knowledge and interest in different dimensions, the Ovoid was, if one could ever open it up to the world, a databank of knowledge, so to say. But by this question, and probably only this, it was stupefied.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

Re: The Grand Battle S2G1! [Round Three:!]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.


Xadrez frowned, trailing after Jen with a look of gloweringly sad confusion. Then everything kind of flickered green, green which tickled of Jen’s green but somehow wasn’t, and Hydresther slowed down with a painfully insistent sense of being needed somewhere else.

This felt familiar. And unpleasant. He couldn’t feel his board, couldn’t sense his pieces, and his peripheral vision was telling the tactician his knife was a beam of shoulder-impaling light, which he reached for-

“Restrain him.”

Bottle green lashed its way up Xadrez’ arms, only allowing him to drop them harmlessly to his sides. An experimental clawing of his hands prompted the green to entwine round his fingers.

Summoners. With vastly more sophisticated arcannula to anything Xadrez had been subjected to. The room he was in was doing a decent job at being seemingly dimensionless, but it didn’t fool the spirit. He glared levelly at the speaker, a venerable old fir-treant. Dressed in finest needly regalia, he just observed the tactician for a tense minute or so, awaiting some kind of prompt.

Xadrez said nothing.
“General Xadrez-“

you are mistaken

Her royal highness divested me of that title some time ago

The treant, who had taken at least some offense at the tactician’s interruption, uttered a rattly kind of sigh.
“Yes, we got that. Do you recall her exact wording?”

if you are at liberty to go picking through casual conversations between her majesty and myself why do you not drag her across time and space to play twe-

“Do not. Be flippant with us. General.” The fir motioned to someone in the shadows, and the green lines lost their scorch as they receded from Xadrez’ chest. The tactician made a noise like someone sighing through gritted teeth, and unclenched his fists.

this is not the place-

“No. An avenue. A grey area. What were her exact words?”

I allegedly showed poor risk assessment skills and an inability to make rational decisions in a life-or-death situation

under that pretext I was quote dishonourably discharged from my position as general of the armed forces of the place unquote

Now may I leave

“Did this dismissal anger you? Stir resentment toward her majesty?”

Do you really think i have any motivation to see her highness dead

the current only source of my anger is this outlandish detainment by her majesty’s court of zealotssssgggghg

There was a certain amount of agitation – recklessness - in Xadrez. Tethers replaced with shackles. No more unbreakable, but far less implacable. Concrete. Clear. Something to sink your teeth or a knife into without it coming out muddied with repercussions. It really wasn’t working out for him.

This time, the neon refused to shift off his chest, a single, fleur-de-lys tip snaking up and burning a tiny hole right between Xadrez’ eyes.

You know she died

you know she dismissed me

how hard is it for you to discern who killed her

and is it that much of a stretch to ascertain my lack of awareness of said appointment and extrapolate how little motivation I have to enact any form of revenge

Then again

in case you her majestys servants were not aware her royal highness is doing most well for one declared dead

So perhaps I would be giving you too much credit if you had determined I have no quarrel with her highness

The fir tree had been about to demand Xadrez elaborate, but was interrupted by the tactician’s currently insatiable need to insult his captors. Sneering his hardest behind all the needles, he signalled for the restraints to jab the spirit once sharply between the eyes before he barked,
“Explain yourself.”

Xadrez ignored him. I can only assume her majestys death is the source of your misguided consternation assuming her forced abdication at such a time

i mean it even convinced the observer

all of us present there the boy and his wyrm severed by debris but before that her highness was devoured by a dragon the ovoids dragon

maxwells death was what kracht wanted but the network it means things have changed kracht had no idea

The ovoid could destroy kracht in an instant if it wished so why does it


it still required the anomaly requires the anomaly for something



kracht did not intend to bind her majesty and the second wyrm

her royal highness spoke to the anomaly prior alone her weaponry is ineffectual if it were what kracht required in this round then and there it would have taken mere moments

And now we the battlers march for hydresther and

and yes

yes you have dragged me and burnt me across dimensions you could not perceive but in hydresther I remain indelible save the baying of her majesty’s hounds in my ears and arkal arkal is under the ovoids protection and scouts mercy this ambience is raucous

You know what

ive convinced me

ill help you reclaim her highness throne

shes far more use to us all this way

and rest assured if you are the best contender for the place's throne recoronating jennifer is by far the best hope for your kingdom

Xadrez flicked his fingers irritably as the green receded, still trapped in the cloying, still, magic-saturated air in the summoning circle. The treant's expression was unreadable, but needless to say he found the situation about as aristocratically tasteful as hiring an assassin to protect him from other assassins. While Xadrez pretended to restore circulation to his bloodless limbs, he instead tried to tune into the faint, but still-recognisable spectral map of his chess pieces. Everything seemed to be underwater, overlaid with the aural tones of an extremely obnoxious sloppily set up pocket dimension.

Xadrez resolved to set up some quantifiable goal he could be dismissed to complete for these idiots before things got worse. He also fancied expounding upon Jen the innumerable flaws of her contingency team. He'd start with that infernal fir, and at least make a day out of that.