The Phenomenal Fracas (GBS2G6) [Round Five: The Ambitus Phenomenon]

The Phenomenal Fracas (GBS2G6) [Round Five: The Ambitus Phenomenon]
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Blackmask's hand instantly went to the mask, in the frenzied fear that it had been lost. Luckily, it had not, and the pirate breathed a sigh of relief while scanning the new surroundings. Apparently, it was a park, based on the fallen trees and the fountain and OH GOD WAS THAT STATUE MADE OF SOLID GOLD. Blackmask practically exploded with anticipation. If something so valuable could be broken down and put in the Core, the sheer permanent power boost...

The Core. Where is it. WHERE IS THE CORE. The pirate screamed in anger, then raised a hand and counted to ten. I still got the boost from earlier, which means at the very least I can do my best to bring the loot aboard... best belay all the screaming if I want to live. Blackmask grabbed two rocks, one fairly sharp, off of the ground, and proceeded to drive the sharp one into the neck of the statue. Within seconds, the makeshift hammer and chisel had laid waste to everything above the statue's midsection; not a moment too soon, as the charge was dying down, and the pirate's muscles slowly shrank down to their previous size. Blackmask emitted a moan as the adrenaline surge died down, and slowly scooped chunks of gold into the jacket's many pockets.

Now then. Nothing left to do but hope for fair winds in recovering the blasted thing. And with that, Ripper Blackmask set off once again in search of the relic that meant so much.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

[Image: XM5sGnt.png][Image: oD2Q6os.png][Image: 6SlFOCz.png][Image: fXUWhDZ.png][Image: C53uhZF.png][Image: BvZArpd.png][Image: lam0slf.png][Image: JmQq9We.png][Image: TGjrdJF.png][Image: zwqYyze.png][Image: OMnWsrl.png]
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Thatix stared in disbelief as Chancellor Finch vanished in a swirl of black and blue energy. This wasn’t making sense. Chancellor Finch was a competent magician, clearly, but her forte had always been weather manipulation and control of electricity, Thatix was having a hard time understanding why she had suddenly segued into manipulation of bandages since as a battle strategy that sounded… well… like something she would come up with; insane. And if bandage control wasn’t stretching believability far enough then teleportation definitely was. Thatix considered the possibility that the inevitable brain damage from Chancellor Finch’s painful crushing of some of her fireflies had kicked in and it was somehow blocking perception of the Chancellor.
“Don’t think you can fool me by pretending you aren’t there!” she exclaimed. “I am Thatix The Mighty! I know all! I see all! I am all…?” She wasn’t sure that that last one actually worked but ugh whatever. Thinking is hard when you are fireflies. Thatix loosed another fireball in what she considered was probably Finch’s direction, causing the bartender to raise a perplexed eyebrow. As Thatix slung fireballs at the textilourge who was no longer there, some small part of her brain, probably contained with a single firefly, insisted that the whole brain damage that caused her to be unable to perceive Chancellor Finch was just about the least likely thing that had ever happened, and by quite a wide margin, or that alternately she should look for other explanations. Thatix unformed, becoming a cloud and beginning to swirl thoughtfully, oblivious to the damage that she had caused in the bar.

The bartender had been rather bemused at the preceding activities. The fighting he could at least understand, the pointless flinging of fireballs at a wall somewhat less so. He considered that now that the cloud of fireflies had stopped being aggressive now was the best time to ask it to settle its tab, and stepping over the charred and broken furniture he approached Thatix’s glowing shape, and told her how much she owed him.

The figure was enough to send Thatix’s mind spiralling down a useless avenue of thought, one that contemplated the disparity in both the value and type of currency used while she had been gone and which ultimately culminated in Thatix deciding that the currency in her new world order would be called a That. Reasonably satisfied with her decision she scrutinised the bartender, attempting to remember what this freak with all the horns wanted.
“Technically you owe me even more than that for breaking up the fight between you and your friend.” The bartender added. “I actually wasn’t going to charge for that as I was labouring under the assumption that if you didn’t have somebody to attack you would stop attacking, but evidently that is a silly assumption to make.” Thatix’s mind wandered briefly during the middle of the bartender’s passive-aggressive demand for financial compensation, but returned in time to catch the implication that he had been behind Eureka’s sudden disappearance. Her mind reeled as she tried to figure out where this bartender fitted into the whole civil war thing that was going on here. It didn’t make sense that the Council would hold a war in a populated area with potential innocent targets; therefore he was clearly a combatant. Suddenly it clicked this was no bartender. This was a very well disguised Mr Slant; Chancellor Finch’s personal secretary and bodyguard, who Thatix had been sure had died back in the war, but then again so had she and here she was. Maybe death wasn’t quite as permanent as most people would have you believe. Whatever, he was here, the how wasn’t really important. Thatix reformed in front of the disguised Mister Slant, a smile invisibly spread across her face.
“Do you remember how I killed you last time Slanty? Oh boy that sure was fun.” She says, mischievously. “How about an encore?” Hot plumes of fire burst forth from Thatix’s vaguely defined limbs, spiralling lazily through the air culminating in burning hot shackles that pulled themselves taut around Mr Slant’s strangely spindly arms. Slant seemed completely unfazed by the flaming manacles, regarding them as cursory annoyances. Thatix, somewhat perturbed by this development pulled the manacles in opposite directions; the killing blow, or at least the grievously wounding blow, although people don’t tend to last very long when their extremities have been pulled from their bodies by burning hot manacles. However when she did it this time, instead of the delightful sound of ripping flesh she was met with the disappointed sound of Slant nervously clearing his throat, as the manacles slid straight off his hands.
“So…” he continued. “About the bill?”
“Oh yes of course!” Thatix exclaimed. “Obviously you’ve come up with a defence for that specific attack, after all it is what I killed you with last time. Someone would have to be a fool not to come up with a counter for the attack that killed them, when given another chance at life. Actually…” Thatix paused, wondering what precisely the attack that had killed her had been, and how to best develop a defence against it.
“Actually I think I’ll probably go and ask ‘that pirate guy’ for payment instead.” Mister Slant said. Thatix’s attention snapped back to Slant who was attempting a tactical retreat, probably heading after Chancellor Finch.
“Wait!” she called after him. “I’ve got your ‘payment’ right here.” She flashed an imperceptible grin at the horned Mr Slant, and tossed a volley of fireballs at him. They sailed through the air, and slammed into Finch’s bodyguard whereupon they fizzled on impact; warped elsewhere. “Oh a wise guy eh?” Thatix said, launching further fireballs at him. When these failed to make an impact she screamed and yelled “Why won’t you die?!” before impatiently showering him with everything she had. Even the hardiest of shields would buckle eventually. Fire arced through the air, launched at the bartender from all sides, and in honesty he was breaking a sweat under this continuous inexplicable assault. The noises coming from Thatix were no longer classifiable as words, more guttural roars borne of animalistic fury. She focused all of her energy into one attack, unleashing it as she screamed bloody murder at the alarmingly powerful Mr Slant.

It managed to connect, and the bar exploded.

[Image: XM5sGnt.png][Image: oD2Q6os.png][Image: 6SlFOCz.png][Image: fXUWhDZ.png][Image: C53uhZF.png][Image: BvZArpd.png][Image: lam0slf.png][Image: JmQq9We.png][Image: TGjrdJF.png][Image: zwqYyze.png][Image: OMnWsrl.png]
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Still clinging to the underside of the aqueduct, Syvex began to grow bored. Nothing interesting was happening nearby. He lazily drifted back along the aqueduct, falling half-asleep as he went.

"...Is it awake?"

"I think so. But can it understand us?"

"Only one way to find out. Open the chamber."

The translucent, purplish-black sludge emptied from the large container, all the creature had ever known for its very brief existence.

"Subject 384. Your creation has been a success. Welcome to Interstice Laboratories. I am Dr. Hikaru. Can you understand us?"

Words. The subject had heard them through the sludge before, but had never thought much of them. It attempted speech.

"Cree...ation?" it slowly enunciated.

"Ah, excellent. Yes, you are an experimental soldier created by us to serve the Stratonian Alliance. Can you leave the chamber?"

"..Lights... bright."

"Yes, of course. You can't do much in this level of brightness, can you? Lower the light level."

The intense shining dulled down to a faint glow. Subject 384 was suddenly able to see quite a ways in all directions, including through nearby objects. This massive sensory input confused it briefly, but it quickly got used to it.

"Why... made?"

"You are the first of hopefully many of your kind, who thrive on the darkness. In the coming months you will learn to use your abilities well... However, as light levels increase, you become more and more helpless."

"Light... bad."

Suddenly, a massive surge of light accompanied by an equally jarring burst of sound. Syvex awoke immediately, startled as a large portion of the aqueduct directly behind him crumbled and fell to the ground far below. Even though he was on the dark side, the massive quantities of light from the explosion of the bar had nearly blinded him. He couldn't see through anything, and he could barely see a few feet away. He carefully climbed back up to the top side, his vision still largely impaired by the towering flames that replaced the building which had moments before been the bar. Straining, he noticed a swarm of fireflies safely escaping the ruin, somehow unscathed by the heat. All this, and she still gets away? I hope Finch survived it... although if she hadn't, we'd surely have been sent to another area by now... I should look for her anyway.

There was no darkness close enough for portals to work. Syvex sighed briefly, then began his descent of one of the tall pillars that supported the structure. More of those monsters were easily visible around the city below, as well as more sand whipping around. Not beneficial considering the Sandman, but maybe this was low enough to avoid his detection. As he prepared to climb back up on the other end of the gap, he noticed a faint set of footprints in the sand, heading off in a seemingly random direction, deeper into the city.

I can only hope this is her and not the cultist or something. Assuming he could even get down from that building... need to stay away from him. He took off, following the footprints through the city. None of the nearby creatures seemed to take notice, thankfully. He didn't want to strain himself more, in case he would be needed elsewhere.

Along the way, he took notice of a small, box-like device, carelessly tossed to the ground. It was lightly dented, but otherwise intact. There was some sort of slot through which... something could be inserted, but the interior held nothing but complex machinery. Probably just a piece of junk, but maybe i should hold onto it anyway... Couldn't hurt. The device was light enough to be lifted one-handedly, and didn't prove to be much of a hassle.

Syvex continued to follow the trail, winding at random throughout the city. Eventually, he reached far enough in that very little sand was around to provide a trail. A trail wouldn't be needed, however. He could quite clearly see in the distance a human female, backing away from yet another gigantic horrible monster. His energy seemed to have faded from the bandages, which she was attacking the thing with, to little effect. This again? I guess I'd better help out. Wouldn't be very good for the alliance if she died. He rushed forward, firing a blast of dark energy and catching the creature off-guard.

"Really, Finch, you should be careful. It's dangerous out here. Now then, beastie... you can still run if you want."

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by granolaman.

The explosion was close, too close. As soon as the blast hit him, Tamerlane went sprawling. The sand slipped from his grasp as he attempted to regain his footing. Nothing was in focus, his ears were ringing and his vision kept blacking out. He reached out to balance himself when suddenly, a hand grabbed his arm and pulled him stumbling into an alley. The mysterious person pushed him to the wall and hushed him. As Tamerlane’s vision returned, he saw Thatix drift off on some unknown venture. In front of him, though, was a frightened-looking young man. When the fireflies were out of sight, the man relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Dude, I’ve never seen someone explode an Equalizer before, who was that?”

“A madwoman, who’s clearly more powerful than I anticipated.” Tamerlane sized up his aide. He was barely older than a boy, and looked like he’d been surviving on the bare essentials. Strapped to his back was an old harpoon gun, but he was otherwise unarmed. The adolescent was looking up at Tamerlane and grinning. “What.”

“Dude, I’m just so stoked I found another human being! The rest of the Brigada’s gonna go crazy over you!”

“The what?”

“Well, I guess we’re not all Brigada, but we just call ourselves that since the real Brigada got, like, totally wiped out.”

“You’re trying my patience, boy.”

“Sorry, dude, the Brigada are our group of survivors. I was on my way back to them when I saw the explosion. Aw man, that totally reminds me. Check out what I found!”

The survivor scampered down the alley and rummaged through a pile. Tamerlane rolled his eyes and started walking back out into the clearing. This kid is just wasting my time. I need to hurry up and kill one of the others already. His train of thought was interrupted when his foot connected with something sharp and metal. At his feet, a magnificent cutlass rested on the cobblestone. The pirate’s sword, he thought, picking up the weapon, he’s weak, unarmed. If I find him now, he’ll be an easy tar-

“Hey, dude! Come over here and check it out!”

Tamerlane twitched. The kid was becoming increasingly irritating. He turned to see the kid standing proudly in the middle of the alley next to a large paper lantern.

“Congratulations, you found the world’s biggest lamp.”

“No dude! This is an observation lantern! You ask it to show you something and it does! This one totally works too! This is what’s gonna turn the tide against those Lock monsters!”

Tamerlane paused, “Are you sure it works?”

“Definitely dude. All ya gotta do stick your head in and ask it!”

He strode back into the alley, and up to the beaming lad. “Give it a try, man. It’s the real deal!” The kid handed Tamerlane the lantern. He glared at the boy suspiciously, but the boy simply gave him a thumbs up. Without further ado, he lowered his head into the lantern.

“Where is the way out of here?”

Colors and shapes swirled around the paper walls. Pieces of an image started fitting together until finally completing. Inside the lantern was an image of the Endorphic Core. He pulled his head back out. The pirate’s trinket? That’s the key to escaping this city? Very well, so be it. He lowered his head back down to the lantern.

“Where is it? Where’s the location of the Endorphic Core?”

Once again an image began to form. The Core again took center stage, but this time Tamerlane could see dark hands holding it. The shadow serpent. Once again you impede my progress. The image slowly zoomed out to show Syvex as well as another contestant, Eureka. She seemed to be yelling at Syvex, but the lantern itself was silent. He pulled his head out of the lantern.

“Dude, how’d you like it? It’s trippy right?” The boy had leaned in much too close while he was occupied.

“Does anyone else know about this lamp?”

“No way dude, it’s totally gonna blow away the others when they see that I found it!”


The boy found himself staring at the cutlass that had just been stabbed through his chest.


Tamerlane pulled the cutlass out of the boy and watched him crumple to the ground. He then turned to the lantern and slashed across its side. This could be a dangerous tool if it fell into the hands of one of the others. He wiped the blade off on his sleeve and tucked it into his belt. He turned to exit the alley, but paused for a moment.

Strange, I could’ve sworn that trash can back there was smiling. Nevermind, he decided as he resumed his exit. The bar was still burning strong, but it looked like the coast was clear. I know what I must do. I find the snake and the cloth witch, I find the Core. I get the Core, and I can find my way out of here. He made his way back towards the aqueduct. Then he felt the sand, and the familiar footprints embedded in them.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

Miq wasn't lost.

Being lost generally requires one to have some frame of reference of where they are supposed to be. Miq, however, was always seeking out new places, in a constant state of "exploring." She wasn't lost because the concept of a specific destination or point of origin had never really occurred to her. However, she did sometimes get a feeling of being somehow misplaced, as though wherever she was somewhere she shouldn't be. The whole of Afterparty was beginning to give her these vibes - for such a seemingly endless city, she hadn't seen a single inhabitant anywhere, and it was starting to bother her.

And then, emerging from yet another alleyway, she did find someone. Three someones, in fact, though two of them were rather more of a something. The nearest was a large muscular creature somewhere between a panther and a brontosaurus, with maybe a bit of spider thrown in for good measure. The other two, a typical human lady and a black snake-thing, were vaguely familiar somehow, but Miq didn't have the greatest memory for faces. Or for species.

Or at all, really.

The pair seemed to be having their own little spat in between fighting the lizard... cat... thing. Miq did the sensible thing and sat very, very still.

"I was doing just fine before you showed up!"

The lady with the scarf didn't actually seem to be doing all that much damage to the catasaurus. There was evidence of a few attempts to bind the thing's legs together trailing in tatters from its ankles. The lady herself had some sort of cloth-whip-thing which didn't look as it should be cutting quite as deep as it did. Or at all, really. It wasn’t nearly long enough for the lady to be in a particularly safe position, either.

"Is that why your hand's bleeding?"

The serpent was causing significantly more injury to the beast with what elemental shadow magic. Or something. Miq wasn't sure you could cut stuff with shadows, but then she wasn’t exactly an expert in the field. To her, magic was magic; it could do whatever it wanted if you did it right. She just assumed the snake-lizard (snizard? ...lake?) was a trained magician or something. It didn’t really matter.

"Sh-shut up! I just tripped and fell on some glass, okay? Not all of us have crazy regeneration powers, y'know."

Despite her obvious disadvantage, Scarfy wasn’t doing that badly. Admittedly, slicing up eyeballs was easier than punching through scale and muscle and bone and whatever, but the thing did have a lot of eyeballs… and in the strangest of places, too. It seemed a tad unnecessary to Miq, but then she got by just fine without any eyes at all.

"Hey, I'm trying to help. I won't just leave someone in need."

She wasn’t entirely sure why Snake was so close to the catthing – most magic tended to be ranged, and throwing around giant shadow knives seemed to fall under the category of magic where one wouldn’t have to stand right next to the thing to hit it. On the other hand, he did have those savage claws, and looked more durable than that twitchy chick he was helping. Come to think of it, what hits he was taking healed up fairly quickly…

"Oh, is that your excuse? You're just a nice, caring shadowy snake-thing?"

"Excuse? Excuse for what?"

"You abandoned me for a goddamn trashcan! Some ally you are."

"I didn't abandon you! You ran off without me!"

"Oh, get a room, you two."

Miq would’ve turned, but it wasn’t exactly necessary for her. The newcomer was a tall woman with cropped hair in combat boots and a long coat, cradling a scary-looking machine in her arms. The other, shabbier lady dove into a side-alley as the vaguely-cylindrical mass of tubes and coils and cables swung around to bear on the catamajigger. Something was launched from the device too fast for Miq to hear, though she got a better view of the vicious, jagged spear as it punched though one of the thing’s several thighs. The cat beast snarled, and whipped around to face its new attacker, hampered somewhat by the thick cable running back to the speargun.

Miq wasn’t entirely sure what happened next. The catamaran convulsed violently, while Snake hissed and recoiled to the alley his ally had fled to earlier. The cat creature collapsed, moaning hoarsely. Longcoat sighed, set down her rifle and closed in on the beast. She tutted as it weakly gazed up at her, slipping some triangular slab of metal from her back that would cause every blacksmith Miq knew to cringe.

Upon reflection, the neck is not a particularly sturdy bodypart.

The lady wiped her blade on the hem of her coat, and struggled to extract the spear awhile as Snake and Scarf emerged from their hideaway.

“No, don’t bother helping, I’m… Hrrng!

The javelin popped out, fading heartbeats forcing along a nice splatter of blood to decorate the killer’s coat. Muttering something about the cost of drycleaning, Longcoat trudged back to the speargun, collecting cable as she went. Snake started to say something, but was irritably hushed by Longcoat as she re-wound the cable into her rifle.

There was a snap as the javelin slotted back into place. Longcoat hoisted the gun over her shoulder and smiled for a moment, before turning to the other two combatants.

"Right. Now then, who the hell're you and what the hell're you doing all the way out here?"
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

"Now, who the hell're you and what the hell're you doing all the way out here?"

Eureka began to give an answer, but Syvex quickly reoriented himself and cut her off. "Ugh... I'm Syvex, she's Finch. She got lost, so I had to trail her and save her from that thing."

Finch glared at him. "I didn't get lost, snake."

"Well, then, what were you doing down here?"

"Why do you care? I needed to get away from the bar."

"You mean the bar that just exploded? Ever heard of using the door?"

"I couldn't use the door, idiot! There wa-"

"Stop! Enough!"

They both froze at the shout of the now-very-irate brigada member. "Don't you two know that it's dangerous down here? This place's crawling with those goddamned Lock monsters! Only way up's through one of these buildings. Follow me."

As she turned to start toward a building, Syvex's grin widened again. "I have a better idea."

"Oh, wonderful. Does this one involve running off to save a dumpster?" retorted Finch.

"You two comin' or not?"

"I don't think that'll be necessary." Syvex began channeling dark energy and forming a large portal on the ground, kicking up nearby sands and small particles of debris. Gravitational anomalies seemed to increase in strength in proportion to the size of the portal. At this point, the brigada member couldn't help but notice. Noticeably shocked, she slowly backed away, hands on her harpoon gun. "What... what ARE you?"

"Relax. It's just a portal. Do you want to go up quickly, or take your little elevator or whatever it is you're headed for? Better hurry if you're coming. Seems a few more of those monsters have heard us. Wouldn't want to get surrounded."

"I... I'll pass."

"Suit yourself." With a grin, Syvex grabbed Eureka and jumped into the portal, which forcefully deposited them to the ground from several feet up. They had landed right next to the same building the brigada member ran for, but much higher. As soon as he let her go, she began to yell at him about recklessness or something. He wasn't really paying attention. Rather, he was focused instead on the sky, which was brightening too quickly for comfort. Sun's coming up. Need to find somewhere darker that isn't monster-infested.

"Are you even listening to me?!"

"I get it. You think I'm reckless, and you hate me all the more for it. I think we have more to worry about than bickering at each other, don't you?"

"Like what, killing everyone else?"

"Actually, I was talking about the sun. The night's almost over."

"Oh no, not the sun! Maybe it'll make you not abandon me at every turn!"

"You two done?"

Finch turned to look, noticing the brigada member who had probably been standing there fore quite a while. Syvex had noticed her, but didn't bother to say anything. "Darkness? Don't know why you would want darkness in a place like this, but I guess if you're determined you can go to the Far Periphery. It's pretty dangerous over there, so I wouldn't recommend it. It's a part of the city leaking into Caliginosity, not that you'd know what that is. Then again..." She turned to look at Syvex. "...Maybe you'd fit in just fine. Just try not to die."

"Excellent. We'll be heading that way then."

Finch turned and gave him a dumbstruck look. "Are you crazy??"

"Yeah. Why do you ask?"

"Didn't you hear her? If we go there we'll both get killed! Not all of us are crazy shadow snake things!"

"And that's exactly why we need to go over there. I've had to save you what, three times now? I can't really be of much use in broad daylight, and then if one of those monsters strikes, we'll definitely both die."

Finch stopped for a moment to think. Sure, he was probably going to betray her at some point. But he had definitely saved her at least once, in that back alley. But would it be safer than staying back? In daytime it'd be harder for her to hide from the others, and there were no doubt more of those monsters around...

"Okay. I'll go. But if things get bad, we are leaving, not staying and fighting. Got it?"

"Sure." Syvex opened a portal on the ground, then another down-facing one about 50 feet directly above it. "Grab on. You wouldn't want to get thrown out of the loop." His smile seemed to get even wider than before, if that was even possible. Reluctantly, Finch took hold of the ridges on his back, anchoring herself with bandages. She didn't like where this was going. Before she could be prepared, Syvex leapt into the portal, dropping them from the top one and back into the bottom again, forming a sort of infinite loop. As they accelerated to terminal velocity, Finch began to panic and yell at Syvex, who simply laughed.

Syvex began to widen the distance between the portals, more than doubling the original gap. Then, as soon as they left the top one, he quickly changed its angle to provide maximum launching distance. As they reached the bottom again, they were launched through the air at high speeds, traveling over a mile within seconds. Their surroundings grew darker at perhaps an alarming rate, but Finch failed to take notice, her eyes clamped shut. She hated Syvex even more now.

"Hold on tight." As they began to approach the ground, Finch's yelling and swearing seemed to increase in volume. The moment before they collided, however, a shadowy opening formed, propelling them back into the air, but straight up. Syvex straightened the two portals, flew up and down through them until their velocity was low enough, then dispelled them entirely, hitting the ground with a loud thump. Finch groggily slid off of his back, disoriented.

"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Syvex was answered by a series of incoherant yelling and swearing. "Hey, don't give yourself an aneurysm. This was a lot faster and safer than walking." She quickly trailed off into seething. Around them, the aqueduct - and the entire city - broke apart into a twisted parody of itself. Not far ahead, the ground was completely replaced by a series of mysterious, giant cables...


Miq silently observed from the shadows, hoping not to be discovered. Snake had righted himself, and the other woman immediately continued yelling at him. He seemed to take it in stride, though, and then the taller woman said something about "Lock monsters" and started off towards a building.

"I have a better idea."

The serpent concentrated, and a purplish-black, shadowy hole appeared on the ground - more of his shadow magic? Dust and sand blew around everywhere, and small pieces of debris began pelting Miq. The woman with the machine backed away and then ran, and Snake grabbed the other. But what Miq didn't see until it was too late was another portal, forming directly below her...

Miq crashed to the ground elsewhere. She seemed to be on some sort of catwalk-alleyway, high above the ground where she had been previously. The aqueduct wasn't far off, so she moved in that direction. Had the serpent seen her? He must've, unless it was some kind of strange coincidence or something. Either way, he didn't make any indication of it. And here they were now. Miq stayed still, observing them from a distance. The other woman came out of a building, and he almost immediately asked her about darkness.

"Don't know why you would want darkness in a place like this, but I guess if you're determined you can go to the Far Periphery. It's pretty dangerous over there, so I wouldn't recommend it. It's a part of the city leaking into Caliginosity, not that you'd know what that is."

They began yelling at each other again, then Snake opened another portal on the ground, and... another in the air? The woman (reluctantly) grabbed onto him with a bunch of bandages, then he jumped in. ...Then began falling from the top one... and falling from the top one again... and again... This went on for a while, the woman practically in hysterics by this point. Then they began falling from higher with each loop, and finally... they rocketed through the air above the aqueducts at ridiculous speeds, flying off into the distance.

This sufficiently piqued Miq's curiosity. She waited until no one was around, then started out along the aqueduct. They flew this direction, surely she would run into them if she kept going. Ahead in the distance, she could make out a vaguely-familiar figure, wearing a hat and coat...


Tamerlane followed the sandy footprints, twisting through the dark lower regions of Afterparty. Unsurprisingly, there was also a large, slithering trail around them, much easier to follow. The serpent had been this way. After a while, he ran into a humongous monster's bloody, still form. Dead. Must've slowed them down, though. They can't be far away. He continued along, stymied by the lack of sand the further he went.

In short order, Tamerlane gave up and went into a nearby seemingly abandoned building. The only thing of note in the dimly-lit room was an elevator, still functioning somehow. He pushed the cracked "up" button, which emitted large amounts of static. Nevertheless, the rickety elevator soon emerged. Guess I need to take it if I want to catch them. He stepped inside, but the control panel of the elevator made very little sense. Taking a chance, he pushed a button with a large "A" on it. Aqueduct? Worth a shot. The elevator creaked as it accelerated upwards at a rapid pace, and decelerated just as quickly. As the door opened, Tamerlane discovered that he had been lucky. He could see the aqueduct out of the windows next to the door of the lobby-like area he stepped out into.

Tamerlane forcefully pushed the doors open, coming out onto the aqueduct. Glancing behind him, he immediately noticed the faint figures of the serpent and the cloth witch, arguing with each other. There was a third person there as well, but he didn't recognize her. Bickering among themselves again? This should be an easy kill.

Without hesitation, Tamerlane drew the pirate's sword. This far into the city, there wasn't nearly enough sand to make a viable weapon. The cutlass would do just fine for the witch, at the very least. He looked down at Syvex's hand again, wondering how he could use it to ensure he actually died. Looking back up, he noticed something odd. Namely, that Finch was clinging onto the serpent desperately as they fell over and over through an endless loop, gaining speed very quickly. Before he could get closer, the top portal turned and the two of them rocketed over Tamerlane's head, into the darkness that lay deep within the city.

Trying to run, serpent? You can't hide from me. You have the way out of here, and you're not getting out of this alive. He started to walk steadily down the twisting aqueduct, not in any particular hurry. Knowing them, they would just end up arguing or fighting another monster. But not long after he had started out, he noticed something moving behind him. Tamerlane turned around. The trash can. You're only alive because the snake got in the way last time. But no, I can't afford to kill anyone else right now. I know where he is right now... where the Core is. Killing someone would send us somewhere different, and then I'd have to seek him out once again. And the sand might not stay forever.

Just before he could turn around and continue on, he noticed something odd. A point of light appeared in the sky, then another, and several more. Especially an odd occurance on the verge of sunrise. Also odd because they seemed to be getting closer... Fairly soon Tamerlane could make out faint metallic figures, unusual lights and contours which briefly puzzled him. No. Can't get distracted by this light show. The longer I wait, the further away my goal gets. ...And if he gets killed before I can take the Core... His eyes widened as the sudden realization struck him. ...then the only way out of here is lost forever.

Tamerlane began to run.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Sadie's metallic corpse loudly crashed at the ground, and the pair both exhaled a breath of relief seeing her limbs twitch no more. Muriegro idly stood around practicing some sort of impatient tic - at least, in Riko's perception - and Riko's team saw no better moment to call him up. A rather nervous-sounding scientist spoke up:
"Hi, uh, Thirty-one. This is Twenty-eight speaking. Got some questions about your disappearance..."
"Formal names, huh? Boss watching?"
"Yes, about those questions..."
"Fire away!"
"Are you in a safe position?"
"Oh god not that list again! I'm in some kind of desert with breathable air, a shelter suitable to hide in and little to no physical wounds." Riko tried to tick off as many of the questions in one go, having heard this list far too many times in his experiments on particle teleportation.
"Any other people where you are?"
"There seem to be seven others here, and we're all competing in a contest to kill each other. I made friends with one of them and kind of blew my chances with another. Oh, and some monster was trying to kill me just now, but I took care of it with some Reflex."
The voice on the other end started whispering, but at the same time started yelling angrily which combined into some kind of silent sociopathic anger Riko could imagine being mumbled from between his teeth. "You tested Reflex?"
"On yourself?!"
"You know it."
"Oh god, you're screwed! I'm screwed, we're all screwed! Did you take notes?"
"Well, not yet. I'll try to jot it down when I find something to write with."
"Oh, good! As long as you promise you will everyone will be just peaches!" The sarcasm in his voice was building up at an alarming rate, and Riko wondered briefly if someone could get ill from snark. "What are your coordinates?"
"Can't you just trace my call? Won't that be a lot more efficient rather than me reciting that bunch of numbers."
"Um, right. I'll get on that. In the meantime, stay where you are, and don't do anything stupid."
"When did I ever do anything stupid?"
The scientist on the other end didn't bother replying.

Riko's head dazed as along with the effects of the concoction the adrenaline from the battle faded aswell. He felt a bit more down to earth again, and came to realise he was still stuck someplace at the bottom of an elevator shaft, or something. He even felt rather thirsty, which he mentally wrote off as a side effect of the swill he recently downed, rather than the deteriorating effects of the manipulative pincushion. What he didn't realise however, was that Muriegro had been glaring at him incessantly during his call. His version of the high priest simply paced about in the room. "Now what?" he said to no one in particular.

The time spent doing frankly nothing wasn't at all sensible to Muriegro, as he had the uncanny ability to not let anything bother him. He noticed the scientist who seemed to be quite laid back with anything at all mumble something to himself, something about the time, and about waiting. The wait seemed a lot shorter than what it was in reality, and while the battle outside in Afterparty raged on, to the outer reaches of the Periphery, Riko and Muriegro idled in a forsaken pit. Until, of course, a little rift appeared in the wall. Well, a rift isn't exactly correct. It was more like a crack, but instead of giving way to the darkness one could suspect in the bottom of somewhere, they were faced with a blinding light melting slowly through the wall. The scientist instinctively jumped to the side, recognising the technology immediately. Muriegro followed suit, in a more silent fashion. A red-hot beam of compressed energy seared through the bloodstained walls, the heavy air beween the two and part of the floor, and after being shut down on repeated shouting orders from a supervisor, left a gaping hole leading to the surface of Afterparty once more.

Thatix heavily buzzed around after the bar's explosion, and it took the sorceress quite some time to get all of her body back under control. Every single firefly seemed again rejuvenated, and a part of Thatix' bond with herself was tethered apart by this new force of life. After she recollected her body and mind she flew across the empty desert, weary of any gullible chancellors daring to sneak up behind her. Always look behind you but only with one eye, she commanded herself. She was taken by surprise by the sudden flashing lights descending from the sky and wasn't really sure if they were friendly firefly sorceresses like herself which was kind of a dumb idea given the rare circumstances of her existence, or if they were more chancellors or jurors or senators or whosever red tape you had to cross to off someone. But still, she figured to keep her friends close and enemies closer though those statements weren't exactly clear on the matter of friends looking like enemies looking like friends, because when she arrived she wasn't greeted by a friendly swarm of insects she first thought buzzed through the sky (which in retrospect was a pretty dumb thought bearing in mind the roaring engines) but by the landing of an immense stellar ship, bearing with it several more daringly dressed copies of that one chancellor... the name escaped her. They all immediate took up some kind of menial task no doubt meant for plotting a trap against her. They didn't seem out to get her though, and franky, that distrubed her.

Scientist #27 has always been a bit of a bug geek, and when he got designed to the rescue mission of Thirty-one to whom he held a close vendetta for calling his collection obsessive and crazy, he wouldn't exactly describe himself as overjoyed. However, briefly after landing, he was faced with a swarm of beautiful fireflies, bright unlike any he'd seen before, and buzzing around in perfect unison, even somewhat in the shape of a human. He quickly reached into one of his pockets, pulled out a jar and carefully approached this wonder of nature. When they were caught off guard, he quickly grabbed some of them, only to be met with slight burns. In the irritation, he dunked the insect into his pot, slamming the lid shut. With a satisfied "There.", he turned around, and headed back to the ship.

Thatix only then noticed that overwhelming power she'd felt ever since the explosion of the inn, and turned around to face someone who looked like he just said 'There'. "Hey! You!" The scientist turned around to face her again and boldly pretended not to notice anyone. They both stared quizzically at one another for a while, and when the man turned back towards his friends she lost a little more of her patience. "The nerve," she mumbled. "Just what do you think you're doing to my firefly?" The scientist turned around again in the middle of the sorceress' lecture and only then realised it was indeed the insects talking to him. He then again stared at her for a while, before running away screaming.

A small group of physicists took up the trouble of locating and freeing Riko, who was still trapped between several layers of dirt and crimson steel. The charging of the digging beam always took quite a while, enough for someone to run of and, say, have a conversation with a bug wizard, but once the behemoth was fully charged, the fleeting dust and coarse ground of the Afterparty desert hardly stood a chance. Quickly, the beam was already boring its way to the trapped scientist and partner. "We've reached them!" "Turn of the laser then!" "How do you... Um..." "Come on! We'll hit the core otherwise!"

The unfortunate pair noticed, after the charring laser evaporated, the dark, damp tunnel leading to the surface. A vague voice shouted some directions to head towards somewhere, as if that wasn't clear with a tunnel back and forth to a monster's den and the relatively safe surface. The tunnel was very long though, and lended to some discussion between the two.
"So, what's your story?"

Story. Laguja up to now didn't consider the fact of creating a false background for its servant.
"Well, it's kind of long..."

"So's the road up. Go ahead."
"You see, I've laways wanted to be a doctor. you know, help people out. Ever since I was in preschool I'd play hospital with my pals there. When I finally finished my studies in both Latin and science, dad wanted me to become a lawyer like him. But I didn't, so after I finished law school, I took a bachelor in medical care. I was good, but there were always better people around, so I was always second pick for actual hospitals and stuff. So after pulling some strings, I found my way into homeopathy. And here I am now!" The priest's image again sprouted a nervous smile.
"Well, that's actually very similar to my story. It's actually kind of... of..."
The word 'odd', and along with it the mere thought anything about Muriegro's story rubbed him the wrong way, vanished from his mind.
"...amazing! The world sure is small, huh?"

Back on the surface of sandy Afterparty - or to be just that bit more precise, some feet above it - Thatix buzzed about between all these colouful copies of chancellor Riko with a fex fireflies less because that wuss just ran off and wondered why he would even need that many versions of himself except maybe in a silent ballot vote or something and considering that it would be a good idea to clone yourself to run for the senate although there would of course always be a quarrel over who exactly was the senator now. Anways the clones all seemed to come from that one tunnel since one of them just came out of that tunnel so that must be the origin and after she passed by many chancellors Riko she suddenly fluttered in place a bit. "Wait, that last one was the last one." She was surprised by the stupidity of her last statement, and quickly headed back up.

Riko was relieved to finally meet everyone on his squad again, and after some friendly (and in rare cases not-so-friendly) reunions, he finally cut to the chase. "So when are we getting out of here?" "As soon as we reconnect the engine." "You dislodged the... Oh right, that digging beam! Who thought of that?" "Quentin." Riko walked up to Twenty-seven, who bashfully and begruntledly turned the other way. "I was ordered to do this", he harshly replied before Riko getting the chance to thank him. "Come on, Melvin! Show some you for once! You're an okay kid!" Melvin's loose raincoat sweeped up the dust around him a bit as he turned around and offered the enormous jerk a curt handshake. The jerk smiled.

"Chancellor, we meet again. Surprised to see me?" Every scientist around turned to face the talking swarm of bugs, each with an equally stupefied look on their faces. "Don't play your copying trick on me again! It didn't work on me before, and it won't work now! Know that Thatix The... The... That Thatix cannot be defeated!" The loss of a few fireflies seemed to impede her thinking quite a bit, but she shrugged it off and started her fiery assault.O

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

"Seriously, that was the stupidest thing I have ever seen and had the misfortune to be a part of," Eureka bitterly repeated for probably the twentieth time. Syvex had learned to tune this out by now. "Seriously. I'm surprised you haven't killed yourself before now."

Eureka paused and looked around, which Syvex appreciated. It was very tiring to ignore someone like Eureka.

"Where are we even going anyways?"

"I don't particularly know."

The dark-haired woman rubbed her eyes and looked back at Syvex. The dark rings under her eyes seemed to grow darker. "We're just wandering around aimlessly on a cable that hangs over a probably bottomless pit."

"Well, I was interested in that tall building over there," the shadowy beast said, gesturing with one of his arms to a tower in the distance. "It's a quite prominent building. Rather visible."

Eureka squinted at the building. It was indeed visible. And tall. "That's it. Really." Syvex shrugged, a far more interesting act than it sounded due to his six arms. "We came all the way to this ooooooooh so scary dangerous place and you're not even going to bother to make some plan of action. We are basically playing tourist. Snapping pictures of the only building that exists in this stupid place."

"We did just get here."

"Well we did fall all this way! Didn't you get a delightful view of this stupid place?! Didn't you at least scope it out?! Like, I dunno, see the other side?"

"Didn't you?"


The words rang out, probably allowing everybody to hear them for miles, but right now, Eureka didn't care. The most important thing was to complain loudly about her partner's stupidity.

"...That woman back there didn't try to kill us."

Syvex realized that this was the wrong thing to say when Eureka stopped walking, raised her head to the sky, and screamed, "AAUUUUUUUGH."

"Why? Why am I doing this? Why am I letting you lead me to my eventual, gruesome death?" the cloth mage cried.

"Because you love me?"

Eureka looked back down at the sharp grin and glared. "You don't even know how much I ha--"

It was at that moment that Eureka was wallopped over the head by what seemed to be a thick pillar of sand.

As she stumbled to the side and held a hand to her bleeding head, Syvex wheeled around to see Tamerlane, who simply said, "Get a room."

"Someone already made that joke," Eureka hissed back. "And it wasn't funny the first time."

As she started applying a bandage to her head (dammit why was she always the one getting cut up), Tamerlane focused on Syvex and held out his arm. "The Core, please."

Syvex tauntingly patted the humming machinery. "Oh, this old thing? You really want it?"

Tamerlane scowled. "Hand it over."

"You know, I don't feel inclined to," he replied.

"I do not see this ending well," Eureka muttered darkly.

"I'm giving you an option," the sand mage said tersely. "You can either hand it over willingly or I will take it by force from your cold--" The sharp blast of dark energy was the only retort he needed.

Ducking under, Tamerlane stepped forward and sent a long blade of sand through one of Syvex's arms. As he expected, it regenerated quickly. Syvex chuckled in a quite infurianting manner.

"Don't you see? I'm in my element here, sandman. And the desert's not all that close, is it?"

The bounty hunter hopped to the side as a portal opened up where he had been, getting a little too close to the edge of the cable they were standing on. Another sand attack made a gash in Syvex's shoulder, which quickly knitted itself up. He raised his arm again.

And felt something grab onto it. Ah, finally.

With a hidden smirk, Tamerlane pulled on the scarf before Eureka could, moving her forward slightly and sending her sprawling on the ground instead of him. In this moment of vulnerability, he swooped down quickly, pulling the unhappy cloth mage up and into an armlock.

Tamerlane pointedly set the cutlass against Eureka's cheek. He gained satisfaction watching Syvex's smile die away.

"Now then--" His satisfaction suddenly died away when he felt his bandaged arm being compresed by his own bandages. With a low grunt, he smacked Eureka's head with the hilt of the cutlass and the bandages loosened as she fell limp.

"As I was saying," he growled through gritted teeth. "Give me the Core."

Syvex hesitantly reached back, looking at the unconscious woman, at the ground, at the cutlass...and then grinned. Tamerlane felt himself getting worried, but tried not to let it show.

"You won't kill her," the dark beast announced smugly.

"Not unless you give me the Core."

Syvex laughed his damnable laugh. "We leave when one of us dies. And that also applies to Finch." Tamerlane said nothing. Saying something might give something away, though maybe it was useless. Syvex seemed to have it all figured out already.

"You kill her, we shuffle off to the next round. And when we do, we may be teleported to the opposite ends of the battlefield and you would have to go through the trouble of tracking me down again...except, without Finch's prattling to distract me, I'll be able to sense you before you can even see me. Get the picture?"

"I can track you down."

Syvex thought for a while. "And we'll both know where we are relative to each other. Oh, but guess what! I can make portals and you can't.

"And even if you did somehow manage to catch up, by then, perhaps I would have destroyed this little thing out of spite...what do you think?"

Tamerlane managed to unclench his jaw to say, "And you'll be down your one and only ally."

"I think you underestimated something, Sandman," Syvex purred, now exuding smugness like a smog. "It' s something called 'desire.' Indeed, these hostage situations would work if I desire that Finch not die, but you know something? I can make more allies. In fact, I can ally with that sharp-toothed trashcan behind you."

Tamerlane tensed, but did not turn around. The cutlass did press into Eureka's cheek, though.

"No? Oh well, it was worth a shot. The point I'm making is that my desire to save Finch is not exactly as strong as your desire to get your grubby hands on this Core thing. Is it worth it to give you what you want in order to save her? I think not." He paused. "What do you want this for, anyways...?"

Tamerlane did not grace Syvex with an answer.

"Nothing? Oh well. I may find out later, I suppose."

"You're bluffing," Tamerlane tried.

"Maybe so. But by the end of the day, if you kill her, this thing will end up getting smashed. If I am bluffing, the only difference will be that I will suffer heartbreak at the loss of my dear Finch. But I think the satisfaction of ruining whatever plan you've got will offset that."

It pained him to admit it, but this line of action was pretty damn useless. Tamerlane scowled and let Eureka drop to the floor, where she groaned.

"You don't have to go away empty-handed, however. I will willingly give up this machine thing if you do something in return."

"And?" Tamerlane asked impatiently.

"Kill Thatix."

The two watched each other uneasily. And then, abruptly, Tamerlane turned and left.

Syvex waited until he was out of sight before moving towards the groaning Eureka. He wasn't sure if Tamerlane really was going to go ahead and kill Thatix or just going to bide and wait for another chance to steal away this Core, but at least the whole mess was over now.

He helped her up and she muttered something that he was sure was some sort of jab or complaint about something or another. "Mhmm," he said distractedly, looking around. There were probably monsters prowling nearby and they probably were very fond of injured prey. He needed to get inside quickly.

With a bit of fancy portalwork, the two were in front of the prominent tower. Eureka seemed to be awake now. He could clearly hear her mumble, " and your stupid portals..." before raising her head blearily.

"Mhmm," Syvex repeated and pushed open the door slowly, carefully dragging Eureka in. He carried her over to the wall and sat her down there and only then did he turn to address the horned figure. It was very feminine in appearance. He decided to call it a 'she' for now unless corrected. She had ominous glowing hands. The left was glowing blue and the right was glowing red. She was wearing a pretty revealing dress. How scandalous.

What are you doing here.

Syvex grinned helplessly. "If you want the whole story, it's a bit long. Actually, I suppose it's not too long, really, it's just that we've been collected together by this--"

Leave. Now.

"Well, as you could probably see, my friend is a little injured here..."


"You're not very polite, you know that?"


"I think I know the perfect present for you. Ever heard of a thesaurus?"


"Why?" Syvex grinned. This whole thing was probably very unwise to do but he had to admit he was having a little fun. "Are you hiding something in here?"


If he could, he would have cocked an eyebrow. "So you do have something hidden here?"

Apparently the woman was not fond of having to repeat herself so often. This time, she let her actions speak.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Without even thinking, Syvex dodged a deep red blast, radiating with light. As it passed by, it left a glare in his vision, similar to that caused by staring at bright lights. Syvex could feel his dark energies weakening from the very presence of such a discharge. Getting hit by something like that would not be beneficial to his health, to say the least.

"Oh, that's how it's gonna be? If only you were more articulate, all of this could have been avoided." Syvex held up a few of his hands and launched several pulses of darkness, each of which careened in random directions as the "woman" held up her red hand. He then attempted to portal her elsewhere, with about the same results.

"Okay, fine. Sure. We were just leaving anyway." Syvex turned his back to her and slithered toward the door. Suddenly, he was overcome by a searing pain eminating from his backside, and felt several ridges exploding into tiny fragments as his skin was burnt through, before the blast dissipated within his body. His vision was instantly replaced by rough outlines in a field of burning white, effectively blinding him before he fell to the ground.

- - - - - - - - - -

"Subject 384. Your progress with portal use is admirable. Now, make your way to that door."

As Dr. Hikaru's voice ceased, 384 looked around the room. The door was straight ahead, but it was blocked off by the powerful lighting in the hallway. After a bit of pondering, it opened a rift in the wall, the other end opening into the air vent above. From there, it could easily cross over the lights to the other side of the hall, then used another portal to drop in front of the door.

"Is that... it?" The subject spoke with more ease than two weeks prior, but was still quite short of anything beyond simple phrases.

"Yes, excellent. That will be sufficient for today, 384. Please proceed through the door, after which you will be escorted back to the laboratory. Remember, your field testing starts in two weeks."

"Dr. Hikaru?"


"Why am I... hurt by light?"

"...Well, truth be told, we didn't actually create you in full. We simply gave you a mind... The ability to learn. I hope it wasn't a mistake. Regardless, there's nothing we can do about the light problem. You'll just have to deal with it."

Subject 384 proceeded through the door, and was promptly trapped in a glowing red field which slowly drained his power and-

- - - - - - - - - -
Syvex woke from unconsciousness. A couple feet away stood the woman-light-thing, her red hand raised. His vision had partially returned to him; although he could no longer see through anything, most of the blinding light had drained away, replaced with a faint red glow. After a short period of grogginess, Syvex realized he was floating in the air, suspended by her. Furthermore, the burning hadn't gone away. Although he had been unconscious for at least a minute or two, he wasn't healing at all.

I told you to leave.

"I was just about to... You could've asked nicely instead."

I told you to leave.

"And then when I decided to leave, you attacked me. In the most cowardly way possible, too."

I told you to leave. You attacked.

"Mere retaliation. You attacked me first."

You attacked. Now, you pay the price.

The red field began to glow brighter, slowly blinding Syvex once more. He could feel the darkness being drained away from his body, his power slowly becoming nullified. It was like exposure to direct sunlight - no, worse than that. She was killing him, and quickly, an uncaring gaze eminating from her multitude of eyes. Something about her seemed... familiar... The barkeep. Maybe they're related.

"Okay! ...s-stop! I... get it, I should've left!"

Apology won't save you, serpent. Your fate is sealed.

In an instant, several bandages whipped out from behind and ensnared her arm. Caught off-guard, she dropped Syvex to the ground, drained of darkness and unable to heal his injuries. Finch had managed to stumble to her feet while the barkeep-looking woman was distracted.

"What are you doing?!"

"What does it look like? Saving your life!"

"Don't worry about me. Run!"

"Look. I may hate you, but I'm not going to leave while this bitch kills you!"

As if on cue, she forcefully tore her hand out of the bandages, then swung the bluish one at Finch, who barely managed to avoid it. Syvex struggled off the ground and grabbed her in two arms, then tried to open a portal back outside. But... absolutely nothing happened.

"What are you doing? Get us out of here!" Eureka impatiently yelled.

"I can't! My portals aren't working!"


Dodging further attacks from the woman-thing, Syvex made a dash for the door, almost knocking down a conspicuous trash can on the way. The mimic? As could almost be expected by this point, a red field enveloped the doors, sealing them shut. Some sort of marking also appeared, the same rune that she had on her hand.

You're not escaping. Either of you.

"Finch. We have to fight her. At the very least, I'll try to keep her distracted. You just find another way out."

"And leave you behind? I'm not stooping as low as you."

"Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Just try not to die, okay? I'll be right behind yo-"

Their hurried conversation was interrupted by a loud thump from above, followed by several more. Without warning, part of the ceiling gave way, and Ripper Blackmask dropped down from above.

"The core! Y'bloody lizard, you stand in my way once again! Give me the core, and maybe you'll get out of this with your life!"

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

The pirate nimbly detached the jetpack, pointing its thrusters directly at Syvex. The lizard, somewhat unexpectedly, winced rather than grinning. "Pity. I was hoping I wouldn't have to deal with you again. Ah, well. Go ahead, end me."

Blackmask responded with a concealed cocked eyebrow and a particularly rude gesture. "What kind of pathetic lubber are you that y'r giving up the ghost already? There ain't no challenge in offing a pathetic little newt like you!" The pirate kicked him, causing him to frown slightly. "Get up, y'bloody barometer-tilter!" Syvex simply continued to stay put, vexing Blackmask to no end, resulting in a fierce pistol-whipping. "What's so difficult about this, you fool? Y'got the Dutchies just 'cause of a wee injury?" At this, the pirate stopped attacking and sighed. "I'd spit atcha if I didn't have to take this thing off to do so", tapping the mask, "but even my saliva y'don't deserve. Lettin' you live's far more punishment then handin' you over to hell." The pirate leaned against a wall. "Now stop bein' such a bloody idiot and leave while you can, 'fore I change my mind. You can leave the Core where you stand."

Syvex frowned. He wasn't going to take this abuse. "Right, then. You want a fight, you'll get one." He lashed out at Blackmask's ankle, biting it. The pirate chuckled and responded with a kick at his leg and a blast from the jetpack inches away from him. If his biology supported sweating, he would have, but as it stood he simply kept doing his best to gnaw on the pirate's leg, until-- after receiving a powerful uppercut and a direct blast from the backpack-- he gave up the ghost again and collapsed.

Blackmask paused. The pitiful thing didn't deserve death one way or another. It'd be much more satisfying to kill an opponent in a more battle-ready state, and besides, a pirate couldn't exactly live up to a "robin hood" reputation if they killed someone who was practically defenseless, could they? So, after kneeling down and picking up the Core from his hand, Blackmask fed a spare bauble into it, then tossed the Core back just quickly enough for the energy to transfer to the lizard instead. The pirate snapped off a salute and leaned against the wall, waiting for him to recover.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by granolaman.

The horned woman observed the new arrivals with disdain. One of them had all the appearances and mannerisms of a thief. The other was a liar, an imposter, wearing her false body. None of them were welcome in this place; they must all be dealt with. There was a more pressing matter at hand, though the thief was attempting to restore the insolent snake’s vitality. He had not yet fully experienced his punishment, she would have to intervene. She raised her hands and prepared to blast both Ripper and Syvex. As the energy gathered in her hand, she felt a soft scarf hastily coil around her legs. The scarf tightened and threw her to the ground as the bolt of energy fired harmlessly into the ceiling.

“Look lady, he already apologized, what more do you want?” Finch yelled at her, scarf ready for another attack.

His insolence must be punished, and so too, must yours.

“Punish me? Stronger people than you have tried and failed! Bring it!” Finch unleashed a flurry of bandages as the horned woman flew into the air, glowing with energy. Hurry up and win, you stupid reptile. Finch thought as she dodged another blast of energy, I don’t know if I can take her on my own.


Ripper watched as Syvex began to crackle with dark energy; the Core was doing its job, but the serpent didn’t stir. “C’mon ye beastie, how weak are ye? That much core shoulda been more than enough to get ye back on yer feet, er, tail!” He walked over to the prone snake, pulling out a small piece of the gold statue. Syvex continued to crackle as the pirate picked up the Core, put the gold into it and tossed it back down to him. “There, I’ve been mighty generous, now get up and fight like a man-snake-thin--“

Syvex let out a feral scream as the Core’s power flowed into him. He shot up in a twist of agony, teeth gritted in pain. The dark crackling across his body amplified until full-out arcs of dark energy were jumping from him. Ripper took a step back in surprise, this never happened when he used the Core. A jolt of darkness leapt from Syvex and hit him square in the chest. The charge sent him flying through the wall.

The cold darkness of the Periphery leaked into the room. In the distance, A muted bulb of yellow on the horizon marked the end of the night, but none of its light seemed to pierce through to the Periphery. Ripper picked himself out of the rubble and debris, coughing in the dust. “Now that’s more like it! *cough* Now fer a proper battle! *cough*” Inside, he could make out the dark shape of Syvex, the last of his wounds flickering shut. “Prepare to meet your maker! *cough* This’ll be a fight to tell me hearties back *cough* home! Where in *cough* blazes is all this *cough* dust coming from?”

The dust had stopped settling and seemed to be hanging in the air by some unnatural means. If anything, it had gotten thicker since he’d noticed. Slowly, the dust began to swirl without the slightest gust of wind. The swirl fluidly gathered together and made its way out the breach in the wall. Tamerlane appeared at the hole, a mass of sand and dust whirling behind him.

“Ah-ha! The sandman! Back for more? Only the bold or foolish challenge the great Blackmask a second time!”

Tamerlane ignored the pirate entirely, “Serpent, I’ve come with a counter-offer. Give me the Core, or I’ll make you wish for death.”

A reptilian hiss was his only response.

“I’m almost glad you chose that option.”

“Sorry mateys, but that Core’s not up fer bargaining. I’ll be taking it back now.”

A crash from the other battle grabbed Ripper’s attention. He glanced towards the noise, but his moment of distraction was met by a powerful wallop from the sand cloud. The pirate was knocked to side, and Tamerlane took the opportunity to race across the rubble towards the waiting Syvex. Forming his signature sand blade, the desert hunter closed the gap to his target and lunged.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Blackmask recovered quickly from the surprise attack and barked out a "'ey!" before running after Tamerlane. Dammit, this was what he got for being merciful.

He tried tackling the sandman from behind, but Tamerlane threw him off. This gave enough time for Syvex to headbutt him from the front and the two humans toppled over, a confused tangle. The pirate pushed the other man off just in time for the shadow snake to thrash at him with his thick tail. Ripper rolled backwards and onto his feet so that the blow bounced harmlessly off the floor. He looked up to see where Syvex had gone only to find that he had slithered quickly away towards the wall and was now climbing upwards easily with the Core in hand. He started towards him, getting his jetpack ready, but was hit on the head by Tamerlane once again and fell to the floor. The merenary didn't seem to have much of a way of walking up walls, but as he ran to the wall, the sand around him coalesced into a platform that he hopped off of, dispersed and coalesced again into another platform for him to land and jump off of. And in this way, he created a sort of 'one stair stairway' that constantly led up to wherever Syvex tried to go.

Blackmask would have gone after them as soon as he got up, but then the fight between Eureka and the crazy horned woman thing caught up with him.

As he dodged a glowing hand, the cloth mage said, "Finally. Is someone actually going to help me with this crazy thing?! There's a limit to what these bandages can do!"

"Apologies, mate, gotta run an' grab me Core. Why don'cha jus' strangle 'er or somethin'?" The jetpack activated and he was flying after the battling Syvex and Tamerlane, completely unaware of Eureka shouting behind him, "SHE HAS NO MOUTH, YOU AAASSSSSSS!"

Tamerlane was balanced precarioiusly on an unstable platform of sand, trying to slice at Syvex as he slithered around and shot back weak blasts of dark energy desperately. The blade was short, as the mercenary was not quite confident that he couldn't take much sand away from the makeshift platform without sinking right through, but he could still manage to get some slashes in.

In fact, he had gotten in a sizeable gash on Syvex's flank when Blackmask rammed into him from behind.

"Righ' 'en," Ripper roared, but was interrupted by Tamerlane suddenly stabbing the back of his jetpack with a cutlass.

"Christ, mother o' God!" the pirate cried out as the flight path wavered erratically and the two started downwards to a swift date with the floor. "The 'ell 're ya doin'! Gerroff!"

The pirate struggled, but it was hard trying to shake an unwelcome hitchhiker while maintaining some semblance of control over the jetpack. Which was why it was a relief when a bandage wrapped itself around the mercenary's foot and tugged. For a moment, the two drifted directly to the floor, but then Tamerlane lost his grip and fell to earth, letting Blackmask go with a more-or-less intact jetpack. Sure, it had a sword stuck in it and it was sort of sparking wildly, but it seemed to be still flying fine. He pushed off a wall and sped back towards Syvex, who had been trying to get even higher.

Tamerlane, meanwhile, had managed to fall right on the horned woman, followed quickly by a large pile of sand. Eureka took the chance to escape the fight and ran right up to the wall as well. She hesitated for a moment, having really not much of an idea how to climb walls, but clenched her fists in determination. It was probably better up there than back with glowy-hand girl.

The bandages around her hands unwrapped slightly and she toughened the ends to a razor sharpness. After another moment, the bandage around her head was torn in two, wrapped around her shoes, and also sharpened. Then the bandages punshed the wall and she started pulling herself upwards. She had a long way to go, but soon she got the hang of climbing and was reaching her destination quickly.

Down at the ground, Tamerlane stared up at the fight in the air with some frustration before blocking another swipe from a clawed hand. He retaliated with a sand blade, but it was blocked by her other hand.

He couln't waste time down here with this insane broad.

Throwing caution into the air with aggravation, the mercenary thrust almost all the sand at the woman in a thick sand wall that pushed her across the room and onto the floor. He quickly recalled his sand and started the long trip back up again, but the woman apparently could fly and was doing so right now, easily catching up with him. Hearing her come, he turned and swiped at her again as he jumped upwards, but it didn't deter her. He continued up in this manner, creating platforms as he fended off attacks from the horned woman, but with all this multitasking, it was inevitable he would make a mistake. He missed the next platform.

He felt the panic that came when one misses a step, but didn't waste much time. Forming a sand blade, he stuck it into the wall and slid down. The horned woman was there already, readying an attack while he was vulnerable, but he formed the missed platform into a sand wave that whamed itself into her side and sent her careening away. He kicked off the wall and landed on the large wave and carried himself to the chaotic three-way fight starting above.

Sytex hissed at the light from the jetpack. As Blackmask prepared a kick to the head, a scarf wrapped itself around his leg and pulled him down. He kicked it off as Eureka finally finished the climb.

"Shoulda stayed down, girlie," the pirate snarled, but still went for the Core; he was just so close, the prize was right there...

His arm was knocked aside by the scarf again. As he turned, Eureka held out an arm and shot the sharpened bandage towards him. It tore his collar.

It was at this moment that Tamerlane came from below. Jumping off the last sand platform, he grabbed onto Eureka's leg to pull himself up (and therefore drag her down), then grabbed her head and forcibly pushed her away from the wall so that she would fall. As Blackmask stared, stunned, he jumped off the wall and headbutted him in the chest.

Eureka fell. She fell and fell. Unlike Tamerlane, she panicked for much longer before finally coming to her senses and throwing her hand bandages at the wall desperately. She swung right into the wall, her arms feeling as though they would be pulled out of their sockets. She kicked her shoe bandages into the wall and she slowed down. She might have even gotten to the ground safely if she had not met the horned lady coming up.

She felt a hand around her shoulder before she was spun around and pushed up against the wall. The horned woman had the glowing red hand at her chest and was holding up her blue hand, ready to claw her face off no doubt.

Eureka blinked and squinted. Everything seemed to be getting bright for some reason. She could vaguely make out a blue glow speeding towards her. She winced in anticipation.

And opened them again.

A scarf was wrapped around the arm and holding it away from her face. The cloth mage was just as about as surprised as the horned woman was. But she shook it off and raised her hands to grab a hold of the arm as well. She could feel the crazy horned lady pushing against her, straining to reach her face, but she pushed back as much as she could. Her arms were shaking.

And then suddenly the claws at her chest were digging into her and she screamed.

Her grip loosened.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Not good. Not good! Not good! Syvex inched backwards up the wall, being pushed closer and closer to the unusually high ceiling. At the rate Tamerlane was advancing, he would be trapped within seconds. And then there was the pirate too... All for this thing. Was it even worth it? The thing only worked with treasure, after all. It seemed unlikely that there would be much of that in other "arenas" that had no doubt been worked out for their untimely demise. And there was a rather convenient escape passage in the wall now. Maybe they could just-

Syvex's frantic thought process was interrupted by a blade of sand slicing its way deep into his abdomen. He hissed again and attempted to clamber away, clutching desperately at the wound. His regeneration abilities had never ceased before; never had he felt pain before as he did now. Rather futilely, Syvex tried to retaliate with a swipe of his claws, but was swiftly interrupted by a slap of cold metal at the side of his head.

"Y'damned lizard," spat Ripper Blackmask, brandishing his pistol. His other hand was clasped over the tear in his collar, which had also managed to cut a small gash into his shoulder. Blood slowly trickled out. "Hand over th'core, and maybe ye'll live a wee bit longer."

"Give me the core, serpent. You have nowhere to run."

Syvex was cornered. The pirate one one side, Tamerlane on the other. Not enough room to turn around and slither down the wall, and jumping would be suicide. And to top it all off, Finch was gone... Wait, where was Finch? Syvex's wounding from the light had taken a toll on his vision, decreasing its omnidirectional properties greatly. Upon turning his focus downward, however, he was horrified by what he saw.


"Here! Take it!" Syvex shouted desperately, blindly tossing the small device across the room and taking a dive from the wall. Without breaking her concentration, Hebris gazed up at the quickly approaching serpent.

So you come to face your death. So be it.

The bandages that held the hand back began to fray, rips and tears pockmarking the surface. In an instant, the bandages snapped and Hebris's hand flew forward... directly into Syvex, who had collided with Finch moments before. Tendrils of blue-green energy seeped in all directions, and time seemed to stand still. Almost paradoxically, Syvex felt calmed even as the energy seeped through him, easily the most painful experience of his life. A moment of peace, before everything slipped away into total darkness.

- - - - - - - - - -

Eureka crashed to the ground haphazardly, cushioned only by a few layers of cloth she managed to brace herself with on the way down. She barely had time to get to her feet before the massive form of Syvex hit the ground with a resonating crack. She watched for a few dazed moments as he lay unmoving on the ground.

"Hey! Get up!" No response. He wasn't breathing either. Did he even breathe before? She shook him. "Syvex! Damn it, we're going to die! ...Syvex?"

Such is the fate of all who come against balance. We do not have time for these obstructions.

Hebris descended from above Syvex's inert body, looking no worse than when the battle had begun. In her eyes was reflected not malice, but... apathy? One way or another, she held no remorse for those she killed, and she most certainly wasn't about to back down.

"I- You- He isn't- You didn't-" Finch stammered for a bit, then gave up any hope of being articulate and spouted a series of screams and profanities. Hebris looked on vacantly for a moment longer, then help forward her hand and launched another searing burst of light in Eureka's direction. She barely managed to duck out of the way, then ran around the room in an erratic manner, desperately trying to stay alive.

She paused at the hole that had been smashed in the wall, but beneath it was nothing but the infinite abyss of Caliginosity. Even the huge cable that led to the building's entrance was gone, no doubt snapped in half by Tamerlane right before he had entered. Still panting heavily from the battle before, she uttered another curse under her breath before running back in the opposite direction.

- - - - - - - - - -

The pirate gazed in momentarily disbelief as the core was flung across the room. He quickly snapped out of it when Tamerlane immediately took off in its direction, forming the sand platforms much more quickly than earlier. Blackmask wasted no time in catching up, attempting to ram into him and knock him into the fray below, but he was deftly sidestepped and knocked out of control by a sudden burst of sand. The pirate swiftly regained control and focused on the core, which had landed next to the still-sealed door of the room.

Given the nature of the device, Ripper's jetpack allowed him to easily surpass Tamerlane and acquire the Core. An instant before he could switch the pack back on and make him escape, he was hit hard by the cloth mage, who was still running in desperation from the Equalizer. He maintained his grip on the device, but nevertheless toppled over into a trash can, sending it rolling away.

"Watch where you're goin', lass!" The pirate got back to his feet, only to be greeted by a katana to his throat.

"The Core, pirate."

- - - - - - - - - -

Miq had been quietly watching the battle from next to the door, hoping to remain inconspicuous and not get involved. The snake, the pirate, sand guy, and the cloth lady were fighting over some sort of rather uninteresting metal device while also being attacked by the tall horned woman. It wasn't too long before Snake knocked the cloth mage out of the way and got hit by some sort of burst of light, then dropped to the ground. Was he dead? Miq couldn't tell from the other end of the room.

She wasn't really noticed at all until Pirate landed next to her and then knocked her away. The mimic rolled in an out-of-control manner until hitting the tall "woman"'s feet. Her concentration was broken for a moment as cloth lady ran away, until she waved one of her hands and sent Miq careening away in the other direction. The trash can rolled until it collided with one of the many pillars which adorned the room, then Miq came to her senses and righted herself. By this point she was understandably pissed, having done little for this battle but get tossed around. The next person to cross her would be in for a nasty surprise.

Surely enough, the pirate came dashing away from the sandman within moments. Only when he reached the pillar did he take note of the trashcan's numerous sharp teeth. Miq wasted no time in performing a sort of jump-tackle, knocking the pirate to the ground and sending the metal box thing flying right into the waiting hands of the sand guy.

- - - - - - - - - -

Syvex's body lay collapsed in a broken heap against the wall opposite the door. The dark energy which had once flown radiantly from between his scales was reduced to a trickle; a mere afterimage of his life force. His lungs and hearts had all but ceased their functioning, with no regeneration process to rejuvinate them. But then, the faint purple energy began to take on a bluish tint. Syvex twitched slightly. The glow slowly but steadily increased in caliber, somehow bright and yet the essense of pure darkness at the same time. Between scales, a heavier essence of this new darkness began to take form; glowing caliginous lines tracing their way along his body.

The faint field quickly reached its full intensity, radiating outwards wildly. The snake slowly rose from the ground, as his battle wounds sealed themselves once again. The only sign left that showed he had been in conflict was the small number of shattered ridges on his back, unable to regenerate after collision with the pure essence of light. Hebris had ceased the chase with Eureka to stare in utter disbelief.


Syvex had resumed his previous confident - perhaps overconfident - stance, as the influence of Caliginosity continued to spread through him. He lifted from the ground entirely, floating in the air in a similar manner as the Equalizer had used not long before. The long-absent smile slowly stretched across his face again. He slowly floated toward Hebris, growing accustomed to his newfound mobility.

"Did you just attack me with darkness? Did you seriously empower me instead of killing me? You have made a grave error, my friend."

That attack was not intended for-


I can still destroy you, ser-


I can still kill the girl you care so mu-


You still wish for dea-


You cannot stop m-



Hebris displayed a strange mixture of frustration, agitation, and, perhaps for just a moment, fear. In spite of this, she still launched her usual burst of light in his direction. However, it was simply refracted around the field, colliding harmlessly with the back wall.

"Is that it? Is that the best you can do? Honestly, I'm disappointed! Come on, actually try this time!" Syvex made a "come here" gesture with one of his hands. Several more light projectiles were sent his way; the wound caused by the one that managed to hit sealed nigh-instantaneously.

"Ooh, you got me that time! Good job! I almost felt that one!" Syvex threw back his head and laughed. "My turn!"

He held forward his hand and sent out a massive surge of dark energy, surprising even himself. Even when she tried to block with the hand which radiated the same energy, it still took a heavy toll on her.

...Very well. Your friend will die instead.

Hebris turned to Eureka, who had simply been staring in disbelief during the exchange. Tamerlane and Blackmask had long since fled. The Equalizer slowly approached her, red hand raised. She turned to run once more, but instead found herself surrounded by a dim blue sphere.

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that again. I shouldn't have to constantly save her life from horrible monsters. You're no different. But this fight has gone on long enough. Let's bring it to a close, shall we?"

Blue energy crackled violently from the serpent's body. He held out his hands, and created a swirling, fluctuating rift in front of each. A strong wind kicked through the chamber as six corresponding portals appeared around the top of the room, pointed directly at Hebris. Dust and debris blew around more strongly than ever, and the nearby trashcan toppled over again. The glowing field around Syvex surged through his arms and built up in his hands, the veins of Caliginosity ever strengthening and pulsating.

"Party's over."

In a blinding flash, beams of Caliginosity were launched through and amplified by each portal, converging on Hebris with startling accuracy. A red field was projected around her, but it was weakening. She couldn't hold the siege back for more than a scant few seconds before the field collapsed and the beams collided with each other. The surge of energy at the convergence point burst outward in a gigantic explosion, filling most of the room and crumbling the numerous pillars which stood within. The sealed doors burst open, breaking free of their hinges and falling into the infinite abyss below.

The light faded away; the dust settled. The room had been charred black by the explosion. Strangely, the trash can had been shielded from the burst as well; it had also been righted somehow. Syvex dropped to the ground, his energy field having returned to its normal shade of deep purple, perhaps with a faint tinge of blue. A few of the glowing veins remained, but they had taken on a purple hue as well. Hebris kneeled where she had once stood, weakened severely but not quite dead.

Why do you... not finish me?

"I don't need to kill you. Maybe I just don't like killing sentient life. Besides, you remind me of someone I knew once." Syvex was clearly exhausted from the exertion. He had once again lost his portal use and x-ray-like vision, but at the very least the serpent retained some of his regeneration capabilities.

I... I have failed. No...

"I'll say it again. Maybe you'll listen to me for once. LEAVE."

Hebris slunk away into the darkness, her power drained; no longer a threat to anyone. Syvex was approached by the cloth mage.

"How did you... I thought you were... Damn it, Syvex." All things considered, she hadn't been hurt too badly in the fight, and the one major wound she received was bandaged fairly handily. "How are we supposed to get out of here? The cable's gone."

"Why bother? We'll get out of here as soon as someone else dies. Safer to just wait here..." Syvex trailed off, then collapsed to the ground, exhausted. A moment's peace for the first time since the "contest" started.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

As far as the horizon stretched, the pipes stretched too. Great hanging lines, crisscrossing streaks between the darkened heights of the Far Periphery, they held both your attention and your indifference in the same glance. For though one may see the pipes, and clearly, they will not look beyond the visual tangle and sway of them.
It is in this confusion that five figures hide from sight. They perch side by side, apparently indifferent to the dizzying drop they taunt with their precarious positions. One says a few words, and a burst of laughter follows only to be snatched away by the great swathes of wind that shoot past them.
But go a little closer, close enough as to be one of these beings dressed so smartly in black, and you would hear as they heard. Their conversation goes a little like this:
“Ha, that was a close one. The psychobitch nearly got her claws on the Sandman,” a broad man wearing white mask of a ram crows. “Getting nervous, Fourth?”
An anxious looking man, shunted to the end of the line, twitches at the sound of his title. “N-no. He’s a bounty hunter, he probably deals with crazies like these all the time. He’ll be fine.” He shoots a venomous glance down the line through the holes in his ant mask. “Your trash can is hardly doing any better, Second.”
Second simply throws his head back and roars with laughter, his sharpened teeth only adding to the macabre sense of theatre. “She’s the smart one, dimwit! Not poking her nose in where it can get bloodied, you see. No, she’ll just let them weaken and thin themselves out. Who’ll be laughing when she calmly slides in and takes the victory with all the ease in the world? I shall, dear Ant. Then I’ll finally have the affluence to get your worthless slimy presence kicked out of this otherwise pleasant company,” Second said, his eyes shining and his magnificent teeth bared.
“Bold words, dear Ram.”
The words produced a spectacular effect upon Second. In the blink of an eye the mirth drained from his face, leaving behind an expression of purest dread frozen around a grimace where the grin had once been. He vaguely grasped for words, but the sudden stiffness of his features,, paired with his shock, constricted him slightly. Three of the other suited figures on the pipe disregarded the unfortunate man completely, and turned to smile at the stunning woman lounging in the space previously accommodated by a fifth suit.
“That’s Seventh to you, Ram.”
Clearly uninterested in the politics, a fox-masked man leaned forward from the middle of the row. “What of Sixth? And where did Fifth go, Victoria?”
She smiled at him archly. “Sixth has a comfortable vantage point of the preceding with the scientist and the one I betted on. He seemed more than happy to let me visit. And Spider wanted to get a closer look at the combatants, First. Allegedly it’s getting interesting for his part of the wager, and we’re missing out on the action up here in the wind. But my charge is being nothing but frightfully boring. It seems savages do not bloom well in the constraints of polite society.”
First snorted. “As if we didn’t know that already.” Despite the outburst, his features quickly settled into a more glum expression. “Mind you, my girl isn’t being particularly sharp either. Just a lot of faffing around, it seems to me, but at least she has an interesting method. Could get interesting quickly.”
Silence fell as the figures became more absorbed in whatever it was they could see through their mysterious means. Soft sighs and short laughs punctuated the quiet with each small victory and defeat of the fighters, but eventually even those stopped coming.
Suddenly the last man on the pipe who had yet to speak shook himself from his stupor. His mask was simple and held the pleasing design of a content ox. His silver hair shone softly in whatever light permeated this dark place.
“So much cloth,” he muttered, then became distracted by something in another direction entirely. An elderly chortle escaped his portly figure. “Why, would you look at that. It seems the scientist is trying to escape. As nothing more than an astral projection, poor lad!”
Smiles and laughter rippled along the perched line.
“So he is, dear Third!”
“What a fool!”
“So they still haven’t realized? They are even more talentless than I took them to be,” Victoria declared dryly.
Third smiled ruefully and shook his head.
“It is rather splendidly done, my dear.”
“Oh, undoubtedly! The Master’s skills are unsurpassed! Unlimited, even!”
Third gave Victoria a level stare.
“Then why bother with this fiddly trickery? Why not bring them here physically?”
She faltered. Third smiled back rather patiently, but she simply turned her head and fell silent.
He cleared his throat and turned his attention back to the other three.
“No. They will notice soon. Not immediately, but at the very least the god bound to the savage will begun to suspect. And not before this hubbub has died down.” He gestured in the direction of the fight. “But it is no large loss. The Prestidigitator will simply smile, pat them on the head, and transport them fully next time, draining of strength be damned. Although…”
“Astral projection is divided from full teleportation merely by the ability to direct willpower,” the nervous Fourth finished. “I- I’ll be the first to admit that those branches of mysticism were never my strong point, but even a novice knows such a thing. It could be a risk-“
Third waved a hand. “Calm yourself, my dear man. Even if they were to suddenly become masters of such magic, the Prestidigitator is quick. When you have seen all the wonders of an entire civilization in the blink of an eye, the real pace of life becomes something of a drag. They won’t be able to escape before he terminates the process.”
An uncomfortable quiet fell.
Until Second piped up at least.
“Hey! What’s the problem? Even if they get out, it’s just one more loser of the wager!”
Gales of laughter escaped from the Gentlemen of the Prestidigitator and was quickly stolen by the wind, caused more by the release of tension than any real humour that could be found. They were still laughing as they faded to shadows, and yet still as they vanished while the explosion below burst into being.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by granolaman.

Tamerlane slid down the outside of the building, Core in hand. If the lantern was correct, this device would enable him to get back to his world, but how? That was the question. The only time he’d seen it in action was when the pirate used it against him at the bar. What had it done then? He leapt off the building onto a passing cable as he contemplated his next move.

His musing was interrupted by the ring of gunshots followed by a distant stream of profanities. The shots whizzed by as he looked up and saw Ripper bearing down on him. Of course, how foolish of me to think I would get a moment of quiet solitude. The pirate was yelling something at him, but between the distance and the accent, he couldn’t make out anything but the occasional “yar.” Whatever he was yelling, it didn’t matter, he was through dealing with this lunatic.

Ripper was closing in at breakneck speed, which meant he had no chance to react when Tamerlane jumped out of the way. He hit the cable face first with a thump and the sand quickly bound him in place. “Your reckless stupidity astounds me, pirate.” He slowly walked towards the struggling Blackmask. “You’re all but disarmed without your precious toy, and still you think it’s a good idea to attack me head-on.” The pirate responded with another string of curses, but the hunter simply tuned them out. “Now, a source of questionable reliability told me this device is capable of taking me out of this irritating tournament. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me how it works?” He had arrived at his head, bent down, and started tapping the Core against the mask. Ripper growled and angrily tried to headbutt Tamerlane to no avail. All he got was a mouthful of sand.

“No? That’s a shame, I guess I’ll have to figure it out myself. I’m no scholar, but I bet I can get this thing to work. And hey, you know what they say. If at first you don’t succeed, try charging directly at your problem without thinking things through.” Tamerlane inspected the box carefully. Apart from the slot, the box seemed positively bland. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say you put an object through this hole on the top to activate it. But what do you put in? Dirt? Food? Coupons? Help me out here.” He turned to face Ripper.

The mask stared back at him silently.

“Has anyone ever told you that your poker face is brilliant? Wait, I remember now! You put a box of jewels into this thing and it pumped you up. I don’t see how this helps me escape, but maybe it’ll come to me when I use this. Hmm, it seems I don’t have any precious stones on me right now, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some from you and pay you back later?”

Tamerlane eyed the cutlass sticking upright from the back of Ripper. “Say, how about that? I was holding onto that for you for a while, it’s quite the beautiful sword. That’s platinum right? And is that pearl in the hilt?” He put a foot on the pirate’s back and tugged the sword free. “I guess if you live through this, you can look me up and I’ll pay you back. Until then, I.O.U one sword. Here goes nothing.” He brought the cutlass up to the Endorphic Core and plunged it into the slot.

A surge of energy blasted itself through Tamerlane’s being. So much power! He felt a rush to his head followed by sudden serene clarity. His senses were sharpened to a level he didn’t believe possible, and his mind felt like it could tackle any problem with ease. That’s when he felt the sand. Gods, I can feel the sand go on forever! He felt the presence of every grain for miles in all directions. The desert was an open book to him, all of its secret were his.

All this power distracted Tamerlane enough to loosen his control on Ripper’s restraints. In an instant he was up and grasping for the Core. The empowered shaper merely glanced at the aggressing pirate and the sand reformed into a wave and knocked him skyward. I barely needed to think about my attack and it’s there! There are combined pantheons that have less power than I now possess!

Inspiration struck him. Of course, how could it be so obvious? I can leave when the battle is over, and the battle is over when all of the other contestants are dead. The Endorphic Core was the key! With it, I can destroy all of the competition in one fell swoop.

Tamerlane focused his mind on the sands around and below the city. With all the power of his mind, he forced them to move. At first there was nothing, the dust remained still. Then slowly, he felt the sands begin to shift and shape.


Longcoat stood outside of the still smoldering bar. Something had happened here. Something big. Where's Lachesis? Why isn't he here? Her eyes glanced through the rubble, searching for any clues to the Equalizer's whereabouts, but she feared the worst. A clatter from a nearby alley caught her attention and drew her away from her search. She drew her harpoon gun and cautiously investigated.

Lying in a pool of blood, a pale young man, struggled to sit himself up, but the large stabwound in his side was making it difficult for him to even move. The fact that he was even still conscious surprised her. Longcoat hurried to his aide, and immediately started dressing his wounds.

"Come on, kid. This looks pretty serious, but you might have a chance if we get you back to base."

"Captain... the lantern..." the boy tried to gesture to the destroyed lantern back in the alley.

"Forget about it, we're moving out." She finished bandaging him and hoisted him over her shoulders. Together they exited the alley and started back towards their base.

“Captain... what time is it?”

“Early morning, what’s the problem?”

"The sun’s setting...”

Longcoat stopped and followed the boy's gaze. He was right, the sun was sinking below the horizon. How can this be? This isn’t possible. As the sun disappeared behind the land, it became clear. It wasn’t the sun moving, it was the desert itself. Longcoat watched in stunned silence as the wall of sand reached higher into the sky.



Deep in the Periphery, Tamerlane stood on a platform of sand and lifted himself into the sky. In his hand, the Endorphic Core rumbled and whirred, still processing the magnificent sacrifice it’d been given. All around the city, walls of sand were beginning to dwarf the buildings. As sand from below the city was tapped, the ground shook and gave way to massive sinkholes anxious to swallow up the mighty skyscrapers.

No one will survive the carnage, contestant or otherwise. Finally I’ll be able to return to my mission and my King.

For the King is not a man to be kept waiting.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Thatix cackled in place a bit, going on in her head about how powerful she exactly was, and how easy she would be able to defeat all of these copies of chancellor Riko at once, especially in her new form. She did quickly stop that train of though once the first ice ray narrowly passed her by, and looked at the crowd of Riko's. Scientist #22 held up his newest weapon, his Cryobeam project, in all its glory. Riko quickly motioned to cease fire. "She's a contestant. If you kill her, I vanish, and you need to trace me again. Only paralise her." The scientists nodded almost in unison, and grabbed for a different firearm each. The beams all focused on hitting Thatix, but her nimble fireflies were able to dodge most of the hits. "Hah! Futile efforts from a fallen senate! I will eradicate you!" Her monologue distracted her, and the frontlines managed to score a few hits, numbing the individual fireflies. They buzzed a bit, but soon dropped to the sandy floor. Thatix felt her power decrease, and her intelligence too, though she didn't notice that quite yet. "No! You aren't winning, I win! I kill you now!" Her sentences became increasingly simple in the duration of the battle, and her movement too became less reflexive. Soon, at least half of the fireflied laid on the sandy dunes, practically deceased. Only primal screams of anger could escape Thatix.

A simple savage biped creature hunted on the plains of Afterparty, searching for unsuspecting prey, and wary for suspecting predator. A flashing of lights quickly wiped out its night-focused vision, but its instinct learned it light equalled prey. It carried on, against all knowledge, and once it caught the scent of humans, followed its nose. Arriving at a morsel of flesh, it snapped away at nothing in particular, hoping to hit some body part or the other. "Hey! Enemy in the rear!" "That's not a contestant, go all out." Twenty-one, the cardinal of Riko's division, and to whom Riko was second-in-command, issued team orders to the others, causing the groups to split up. In pain and fear the beast channeled its energy. The ancient runics on its bracelets and collar faintly lit up, as an immense darkness swallowed one of the scientists. An otherworldy cyan blow hit him in the shoulder, and he quickly collapsed to the ground. "Man down!" The panic caused most, if not all of the scientist to divert their crosshair to the black beast. Riko and a colleague took the body of the heavily-mauled Twenty-three, and brought him inside the ship, ready to administer first aid.
In the confusion of the casualty, no one seemed to notice Thatix regrouping her insects, othar than Muriegro. Even so, he didn't bother to alarm anyone. The fireflies recovered, and started swirling in circles. Slow at first, since the headache from the paralysis had to wear off, but faster and faster, expelling firey energy as they did. The rotation went on to create a burning spiral of bugs, careering towards the chancellors. Some of them noticed, and turned to face the swarm once more. Caught between two fires, the two dangers had an easy time crossing off all scientists. Nyroti, satisfied with its meal, retreated with two of the corpses. Thatix was glad to see chancellor Riko meet his demise, and to be dragged away by a feral beast on top of that truly made her day.

The two-and-a-half scientists in the ship barely could notice the carnage outside. The floaters they did catch were mostly unimportant rays passing by, and the nearly dead body of Twenty-three required most of their attention. "Heart rate dropping. Get the paddles." Riko nodded. Several charges later there was still no pulse to be found. Riko tried again at 500 volt, but Twenty-seven motioned to stop. "We lost him. Go report to the others." Riko headed outside, but was met only with various dead bodies, no Muriegro, and a menacingly chirping Thatix. "How about that," she motioned to her new victory, "Chancellor? Your illusions no not trick a sorceress!" Riko caved in, and slunk to the ground. Tears emerged on his eyes, capturing his vision in a shrouding blur. He laid on the ground a few motions, changing pose every five seconds to somehow get even closer to the bloodstained ground, in cramped up carriage like in an otherworldy ritual, spelling out ethereal characters while clamping onto the sand. He recollected himself, or tried to. Only his head was able to face Thatix again, and mutter: "You... You're dead! Go away!" "Empty threats, Chancellor!" She kept talking and laughing as if he hadn't heard her before, and frankly it drove the scientist mad. "You're not even listening. I am going to kill you, you flying bitch!" A stutter in his words ratted on his insecurity, and caused him to rethink the strategy. He closed the ship's hatch, and returned to Twenty-seven. "We're leaving." "Um, Riko?" He noticed his constant use of the official names. "Yes, Lenore?" "We're stuck here. It takes three people to break the bubble on this dimension." In a fit of powerless rage, Riko turned the other way. He headed down the corridor, slamming his fists into the metallic, cold surfaces and hallways, as if he was a four-dimensional being having trouble to navigate the corridor. Once and again, a scream escaped his throat with the same characters and words or lack thereof Thatix used before. Collapsing in a random room, he suddenly received a call on his codec. "Thirty-one, did our team reach you yet?" As Riko reached for his transmitter to answer however, he was cut short by, oddly enough, himself. "Not yet, but there's no hurry. I'm in a relatively safe position right now." After a few more bits of conversation, Riko dared interrupt: "But... I'm Thirty-one." A mumbling could be heard on the other end, as Riko heard himself mention he wasn't talking on the codec at all, sir. He was put on, on both ends. "Hello? Thirty-one here. You needed to speak to me?" "I... But if you're..." Riko, or whoever he himself was, hung up. If that was me, who am I?

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Blackmask groaned and clutched at the mask, which had come off upon impact. Sandman has core. Going to destroy everything. Reattaching the mask and slowly rising, the pirate tried to slow down the whirlwind of thoughts. Can't beat sandman. Too strong. Need help. A hand went to the jetpack, which rattled a bit before taking off. No lizard. No cloth mage. Thatix gone. Don't know the rest. A small groan. Have to do it myself. No choice. Innocents. Can't let them get hurt.
Randall Preston walked through the factory, hands clasped behind his back. Everything was going well: the workers were all dutifully plowing away... except one. "Elizabeth, we discussed your lack of work ethic." The girl he was talking to frantically attempted to get the machinery going again, still sleep-deprived despite her "generous" five hours. It was too late. Randall brought out the cane.

Adrian, who was working across the aisle, frowned as the girl winced in pain at the five smacks. She halfheartedly got back to work, and the boss, satisfied, returned to his office. The child looked down at the watch that had cost pay accumulated over months. Shift over. The plan was ready. Leaving the machinery, Adrian grasped at a knife, concealed within a disheveled jacket, and knocked on Randall's door. He deserved this.

Ripper, having regained some amount of lucidity, decided that the only real course of action was to shout. "Get out of the way, you bleedin' fools! You all got the black spot on you! You got to get out, or get to high ground, or barricade yourselves in! Do something!" Stupid civilians. More trouble than they're worth. I hope that bartender's alright. They tend to be good people as shopkeepers go. No more time to contemplate. A swirling sandstorm loomed ahead, Tamerlane at the center of it. He smiled as Ripper approached.

"Ah, my good man. Somehow I expected you to come." He fingered the Core. "Quite a powerful little gadget, I must say. Thank you kindly for, hmm, giving it to me."

Ripper grunted. "Cut it, y'blaggard. You're gonna hurt innocent people."

The mercenary responded briefly with confusion, then with laughter. "A pirate, warning me about hurting innocents? Surely you realize the depths of your own hypocrisy, Blackmask. How many innocents have you killed in your career? Hundreds? Thousands?" He lazily tossed some sand over his shoulder, which Blackmask just managed to dodge. "I see your pack is damaged. My apologies, but I'm going to have to kill you eventually anyway. Besides, you know how much of a handicap it is to fight fair."

"Bah. Talkin's for when nothin's on the line." Ripper landed and whipped out the pistol, firing three shots at the mercenary, all of which rebounded off a shield of sand. A subsequent melee assault, an attempt at a knee to the groin followed by an uppercut, was met by an elbow to the gut and a massive pile of sand, burying the pirate neck-deep; with a mere flick of the mercenary's wrist, it turned to a prison of powerful crystal. Tamerlane shook his head. "Really, now. You fancy yourself such a powerful opponent, and yet the instant you have to share your toys, you're reduced to nothing. Pitiful." He formed a massive blade out of sand and aimed it at Ripper. "Right, then. I should save your head for later, but if I remove your limbs, that'll do quite nicely..."

Ripper squirmed in the prison of a prism, praying to god that something, anything would happen that could stop the blade's inexorable approach. Come on... I've done my best here... it can't end like this, right? Right?

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

Miq was pleased. So much excitement! But now everyone was leaving. She probably ought to get going, too. There didn’t seem to be much going on here, and she’d been knocked around some earlier which was never fun. Sticking around seemed like a poor plan. On the other hand, those that had knocked her about seemed to have scampered off as well, and she didn’t really know where to go from here.

Come to think of it, she didn’t really know where “here” was.

One of the benefits of having sonic sight and the ability to reproduce neigh on any frequency of noise was something akin to X-ray vision. By projecting a certain wavelength of sound, depending on the material, the sound would travel through that substance as though it were (mostly) nonexistent. While it was marginally disconcerting for the wall to appear to disappear, Miq had done this several times before and wasn’t terribly concerned. Nor was she bothered when she couldn’t hear the ground, as she’d been on airships before and hadn't been able to then, either. She just supposed the tower was tall. Really, very tall.

No, Miq was worried by something else entirely. Several somethings, in fact.


Finch sat down on a toppled pillar, flexing her spine. She wasn’t hurt that badly, but she was pretty sore. She was tired and cranky and really didn’t want to deal with anything right now. Fortunately, everyone seemed to have run off to do their own thing and maybe get themselves killed or something. She wasn’t really sure anymore.

Syvex alone had stayed behind, probably out of some thick-headed desire to protect her. Or maybe because he was exhausted. Either way, he was curled up by the shattered doorframe, apparently sleeping. She knew he was keeping guard, though really, what would there be to guard against? They were up at the top of a tower in the middle of nowhere. Still, it was the thought that counted… even if the thought was merely paranoid delusion.

“Hey, Sy?”


“I, uh… Thanks for saving my ass, I guess.”

“Least I could do, eh? ‘S what friends are for.”

“W-we’re not friends! We’re barely even allies, what with you running off and nearly dying all the time.”


“Well we could be friends, if you were less…”

“Less what?”

“…No, sorry, never mind.”

Hey. Heeey.”

“No, I’m curious now. Explain it to me. Please.”

The serpent lifted his head.
“I think Miq is trying to tell you something.”

“Don’t dodge the-“


“Uh.” Finch wondered how exactly she’d managed to miss the waste receptacle up to now. It was aluminum against black and white, not terribly small, and actually a bit loud hopping up and down like that. She might've given more thought to it's a walking, talking trash can, but she was tired and cranky and honestly had stopped caring somewhere several thousand feet per second above the ground. “Hey.”

“Hey, hey. You were there, right? With the thing?”

“Um. What thing?”

Miq frowned. Somehow.
“That thing. The, um, um, cat thing! Like a cat but a lizard but not. Kinda big?”

“I think she means the giant six-legged monster we fought a while ago. The one that lady electrocuted. 'S when Miq started following us.”

The wastebin interrupted before Finch could comment. “Yeah, yeah! Big scary monster. That thing. Yeah…”

Miq nodded to herself and trailed off. Finch found that the pattern held even for a trash can: people were much easier to like before they started talking to you. “What about it?”

“Oh yeah! Uh, uh… Well, uh…”

“C’mon, spit it out already.”

“Um… Y’know bats?”

The snake’s head suddenly snapped to attention, staring straight out the door to the sky. Finch did not like where this was going at all. “You mean, like, the flying rat things?”

“Yeah! Flying rats. But more like lizards than rats.”

Eureka locked eyes with Syvex. Or as close as she could manage with a creature without eyes. He nodded sadly.

Miq’s jagged smile matched that of the shadow serpent.
“But more like spiders than lizards!”
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

The creature that attacked a slew of Riko's colleagues alongside Thatix of course wasn't alone in its kind. At night in Afterparty, countless of these creatures, made either out of light or darkness, roamed the sandy field in search for prey. And Miq, Syvex and Eureka were as good a prey as any. And although the breaking of dawn was due very soon, still there were many of these animals about.
The team had only recently recovered from the battle with Hebris, and only recently discovered Miq could talk, and already a murder of batlike creatures awaited them outside. A high-pitched shriek of the pack leader was the cue for the group to circle in on the humans. The menaces attacked, shining their sharp teeth. Miq fought fire with fire and decided to flash some teeth aswell. One of the beasts peeked inside Miq, and this was the exact point Miq always strikes. The beast was too big for Miq to store though, and she ended up chipping into the creature's neck with her sharp teeth.

Finch's tactic was a bit more dignified, she tried to blind them with a scarf around their eyes. It seemed to work, but one of the beasts thought quickly and yanked at the cloth with its fangs, pulling Eureka in the air.
A ball of shadow hit the creature, distracting it from Syvex' teammate, but not nearly enough to count as a hit. The bat looked up, screeched at its companions, and with that more of the same animals swarmed around Syvex.
Bandages quickly grasped at a few of the group, and Finch did her best to fling them away from Syvex. The beasts tumbled along the ground and into the gaping maw of Miq, who inconsuspiciously moved to a different spot after her earlier meal bled dry.

After seeing some of the pack so easily killed, the remaining few bashfully sped off. Syvex gathered himself from the floor, dusted off all of his arms, and walked past Finch.
"What, not even a thanks? I saved your butt back there!"
"I did so countless times. Aren't we a team?"
Finch clamped her fist together in irritation, but exhaled and followed Syvex. Miq hopped along.
"So what do we do now?"
For the second time in the entire battle there was again some kind of peace in the room, and the peace was irritatingly clear. As if peace would have to remind irony it was there and could be ruined at any moment now.

Tamerlane watched from a cliff. It was a very steep cliff, but more importantly so it was made of rock and would take a while before it too was consumed by the roaring shifting sand below. Spiraling vortices in the ground dragged down collosal buildings, down into what appeared to be completely nothing. Occasionally a building would stop mid-descent and awkwardly be suspended halfway in the ground. But by now, most of the town was destroyed. And with that disgusting pride he took in destroying things he looked at the city in despair. Most of the life was also being pummeled with towers and roads alike, but he did notice one little worm edging towards him. It was a soldier's notice. Noticing without caring enough to register it.

hhhhhhhhhhhhhhh liar killer you destroy destroy you will liar liar die kill killer kill hhhhhhhhhhhh

Still not caring enough.

hhhhhhh you will die die kill kill us killer destroyer lie to me liar liar kill killer die

He wondered how Ripper was doing.


Out of absolutely nowhere a worm made entirely of light bore through the cliff he was standing on. Bits of rock fell down into the maelstrom, but what irked him more is that the worm sliced off a tip of Ripper's cell, who was now free again. Great, he thought. More of his pirate nonsense.

"You rot! Ye'll pay to be locking up a Blackmask like it's nothing! Come on, lubber, get over here before I shoot your eyes out!"
"You'll do no such thing. I have the Core, if you kill me it's lost in this place forever."
Ripper groaned.
"Ye'r applying for a heavy beating, grotty punk! I'll snag that core first, then I'll pummel you half-dead!"

"Who am I to neglect such a comedy? Hit me with your best shot!"
At these words Blackmask pulled out a double barrel and shot at his ankle. In a quick reflex the sand around Tamerlane flew up, serving as a shield for the metal slug. The antagonism in the situation slightly outwheighed the poetic imagery of sand fluttering down, obstructing the pirate's view.
"Hah. A feeble attempt. I have the core right now," he paused to hold the Core upright, knowing Ripper wouldn't dare act, "And with this in my hand you can't beat me."

"You don't know half the truth." As if he had faked it all this time, the air of gravity washed away Blackmask's accent. "The power fades. If it didn't, I wouldn't be damned to a life of thievery! And if my experience is correct, your power fades about... now!"

Ripper pointed at Tamerlane and the device in his hand to make his impeccable timing more dramatic, but for some reason, things changed this time around. Or, to be frank, things changed because they didn't change. Tamerlane showed no signs of weakness, nothing Ripper felt after using the Core.

"Foolish, you are. Do you know why your power fades? It's because you are a miserly pirate. Greed is your blessing and curse. You would never be happy with the treasure you hoarded, and your lust for more always sapped your power."
The pirate looked at the tips of his shoes hoping he'd find a retort written neatly on them. Tamerlane couldn't help but start laughing, and even the sand in his clothes seemed to mock the forsaken pirate.

Syvex, Eureka and Miq each had no idea of what exactly they should be doing by now. After every battle had been fought in the enormous tower, the jarring silence of the building almost being at peace filled, or to be more precise, left the air blank. And with that very thought, a cyan flash filled the tall tower, equally bright from top to bottom.

"I see my... sister has been ever so careless."

The voice that took a while to trace because it seemed to originate from everywhere at once apparently came from a horned demon in a suit, similar to their previous foe. He introduced himself as Capiris.

"I see no need to fight you right now. After all, you are a fleeting part of our world. And in a certain sense, as am I. This world will stop existing once any of you die. You'd do well to make that disappearance worth the effort. The core will provide your escape of this wretched battle, so you'd do well to keep this item intact. Call me a disgruntled fabrication of the man who sent you here, but as it stands I only want one of you to ultimately break this battle, and overthrow the abomination of a God that sent you here."

Capiris flashed his right hand trowards the group who didn't know what to say, and so didn't speak at all. Cracks began to form in the walls, dark liquid began oozing through into the building and tackled at whatever it could notice, even the walls. The building began to crumble down from the infinite top floor and the bottommost basement at once. And Capiris, he squinted. To be fair, it barely counted as a squint. He closed his eyes. With the same intensity the light with which he warped into the building shone, he also warped out the contestants.

Go, go and kill The Prestidigitator and those that call themselves his followers.

Back in the spaceship, Riko and Riko talked away. The actual scientist seemed to have learnt the specifics of the situation, and tried to explain.
"So yes, I guess you could argue that biologically, and maybe even ethically, you're me."
"Then, if I'm a copy, I disappear when someone dies?"
"Yes. But if you die, that would mean I would die aswell. The Presti... whatever, he created that place you're in for astral projections to fight in."
"So, regardless of how it turns out, I would still die?"
A pause. The worst possible moment to put a pause.
"Yes. That's pretty much the case. But it doesn't make you useless! If you fight right now, and can, you know... eliminate someone, that would mean I get to live. And then you died in saving someone. Someone you know is an okay guy."
A laugh. He could really use some comical timing skills.
"If you save someone in dying, it's a life worth living for. So please, kill someone you know isn't worth saving."

La Aguja Del Dolor just found out someone or something has been tampering with its puppet. And it knew far too well, since by some otherworldy magic its connection with the real puppet had been blocked off, lulling the pincushion's spirit into the false idea it was conversing with the real deal. It talked to Muriegro. An insane screeching, the laments of a thousand dead souls, but they were still words to the priest.
Muriegro noticed, then tried to think about a sentence in an attempt to reply.
My savior, what do you desire?
Taking away the agony, it would translate to death.
Very well. I shall give you death.

The high-priest reached for the pincushion he held in his other hand, and simply grasped at it with both hands. Its needles scratched and prickled his already torn skin, and with that contact and such pain a connection was made. An incredible fury welled up inside the amazon, and his animalistic instinct was only barely suppressed. He wanted to see bloodshed here and now, and wanted to kill. Vengeance, lust, anger, hatred, they all swilled around in a giant cyclone of rage. But he had to continue. Every feeling inside of him to simply lunge forward and attack whoever he'd meet seeped out of his mind, leaving the savage completely drained. The energy of raw malice spread into the ground, and affected the entire area. Both Riko and Thatix sprang up with an intense desire to obliterate one another.

Riko stood up and tucked away his communicator. He walked down the lousy narrow corridors to get to the labs, and grabbed at the arsenal of weapons lying around there. He completely forgot about getting some paper to write down the earlier test results from the battle against Sadie. He just wanted to see Thatix dead.
"Lenore? I'm going out there. Close the door when I'm out, because the odds are you'll be warped to somewhere else soon. I wouldn't want to take any risks."
Lenore nodded and reached for somewhere. It didn't matter, it would be over soon.

Tamerlane turned around back to the city in turmoil, both him and Ripper knowing he shouldn't be suspecting any cheap blows. He held the core before him as it were a scepter, and ordered all the sand in Afterparty to engulf and destroy all in its path. And the message spread. Soon, a gaping hole of dirt loomed below the pair on the cliff.

"Do you see this? This is true power."
He didn't face Ripper again.
"Why did you waste this Core for so many years on such fleeting things? Money! Winning is true happiness. And I am winning. I am a warrior! I want destruction, I want battle, and I want more!"

"Heh," Blackmask grinned "You just got greedy there."
Tamerlane felt himself get greedy. His power faded away. He turned to Blackmask again.
"Now hand over the core nice and easy, ye soddy lump!"
Tamerlane's smile disappeared.

Eureka had no clue what was going on when some dude with horns walked in and just teleported them out and oh god she could feel sand in her socks. Syvex and Miq also got flashed out of the Far Periphery, and were now standing somewhere near a cliff, looking over the nearly infinite desert of Afterparty. The cloth mage looked left and right and hey is that the sand guy from before?

Syvex arrived in the desert of Afterparty. While the rest of his team dizzily idled as a lingering of the sudden transportation, Syvex quickly crawled forward. He saw the city of Afterparty, a city that was mostly at good terms with creatures of shadow like himself. And it was being eaten alive. There was no mincing words. And it reminded him of his purpose. If all went according to plan at Interstice he would have been the one wrecking this city. He wouldn't have let that happen, and he wouldn't now either. He had to stop Tamerlane.

"I don't believe you're in a position to bargain," Tamerlane scoffed. "I think this still is a core I hold in my hands, and I could easily drop it right now."
"You wouldn't."
Again, Blackmask's accent melted away. "You've been chasing this thing around ever since you had even a glimpse of it. If it's that valuable for you to risk your life over it, you wouldn't sacrifice it now."
The pirate shrugged. "But hey, I'm not stopping you. If you want to drop it in there," Ripper grinned, "Then be me guest, sandlubber!"

Maybe it was the overall exhaustion from the battles they'd all been fighting. Maybe because it was rather late in Afterparty already, and their teleportation to a different reality gave them a bit of jetlag. Maybe it was just a little fit at the time, just a quick slip. Whatever it was, neither of the two could notice that in the blink of an eye Syvex sprinted into the fray.
"Stop right there."

"Ah, more empty threats. Is this a friend of yours, pirate?"
Ripper had given up all conversational strategies regarding Tamerlane's wit and reverted to mere grunts and moans.
"You're not going to destroy this city anymore."
Tamerlane looked at the serpent hissing before him, and with a lingering of the core's power topped another spire, eyes constantly locked with Syvex.
"And what if I do?"

If Tamerlane hadn't been so greedy, he maybe would have noticed Syvex' subtle inching towards his right. But he couldn't stop him. Syvex swiftly slid behind the sand warrior and swiped him off his feet.

Riko stepped into the sandy arena. The main gate of the ship closed behind him as his request. He stepped forward to the buzzing swarm of fireflies, guns held and holstered in as many pockets his tacky uniform would allow. The moonlit prairie upon which Thatix glimmered was poorly lit at the moment, but soon that would change. Riko trod forward, cautious not to make too much noise with each of his footsteps. As his boss always got told and never listened to, introducing yourself to your victim is always a bad idea. Just go for the cheap shot as long as no one's looking.

The insects happily chirped along to the great content of showing off their power. An animalistic instinct in Thatix had awakened, and she felt at her best after the onslaught on the chancellors Riko. She wasn't all too sure how he even did the clone thing but what did it even matter, she felt good! Now all she needed was seven more of the chancellors and wait seven?

It appeared that out the corner of one of the many eyes of one of her many fireflies the sorceress spotted yet another copy of chancellor Riko. How strange, she could've sworn she got them all.
"Well well well!"

There was no point in playing silent anymore.
"Thatix, it's over for you." Riko's determination outed itself in a mean look.

"Ha. Hahahahaha! Why do you even think that? Not even a million copies of you could take me out!"
"Copies? What are you even... those were my friends!"
That last line required Thatix to overthink things she took for granted and that was a bit hard so she ignored it completely.
"But it's time for revenge! Take this!"

At that point Riko grabbed for his weaponry. At nearly the same time he stunned, shocked, froze, burned - although that didn't really help his case, poisoned, and did whatever else he could with his current arsenal to the fireflies that composed Thatix. Most of the bugs hit the sandy dunes.

Tamerlane fell in an instant. Or at least, to any outsider it would have seemed like an instant. Tamerlane however had enough time for setting a lot of his final thoughts straight. HE always was one who wanted to go in a laze of glory with some cool final words so he had to quickly come up with those. He failed and shouted expletives up at the serpent. Is this the end, he thought. Dying in a bunch of sand. Sand. Hold on, what was he even doing?

He quickly tried to channel as much energy he could into one single fling. The earth opened up beneath him as tendrils of sand clawed up at the ledge Tamerlane stood on half a second ago. His fall lengthened as what would definitely become his grave tried to grasp at his killer.

Tamerlane was dead.

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Or not quite yet.

In the regions a bit away from the cliff Tamerlane fell off, Riko had more or less won the battle with Thatix. The fireflies laid on the sand, paralysed from the scientist's assault. A wave of sand washed over her, but she was too far gone to realise sand usually didn't do that. The wave dragged her a bit down. Then another wave came and did the same thing. Thatix was soon buried under the sand.

But then, Thatix the great snapped awake. The battle-ready influence Laguja gave the buzzing sorceress caused her primal fury to unleash itself. An incredible scream built up from beneath the sand which was starting to ripple and crack because of the heat and fire and burning flames Thatix was building up a bit below ground. A vortex of flames erupted from the sand, scorchingly hot to even stand next to.

Thatix' fragmented mind forgot one thing. The effects of extreme heat on sand.

Her plan had worked. Once again she had a perfectly clear view of the single remaining copy of chancellor Riko, after burning away the sand around her. She quickly flew towards him, but was stopped by some kind of otherworldy barrier. The chancellor was right there, but she wasn't allowed to even get near him.
"Let me through!"
Thatix tried to slam her various bugs into the barrier, but it didn't show as much of a scratch when faced with the fireflies. It was getting harder and harder for her to control herself, and she decided to rest a bit. The fireflies that touched the ground instantly stopped moving, and she felt herself get less smart. She was tired. She had pain in the head. She... She was...

In her dying moments Thatix suddenly realised she was flying against a glass screen all this time.

Thatix was dead too, mere moments before Tamerlane.

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

The Prestidigitator broke his gaze from the shattered mirror on his wall. The Composer had left, but the deals that had slipped so freely into the open could just as well have burned the very air. He glanced at a viper’s nest that had sprung up from his extraordinary wine, but they merely writhed and slithered. Mindless animals. He watched them for a moment longer, but it offered no insight. He sighed, drawing a match from under one lapel , hissing before it burst aflame. The Prestidigitator briefly savoured the flicker before calmly dropping it among the creatures.


He didn’t reply, choosing instead to absentmindedly slip a pocket watch free of it’s hiding place in his suit’s jacket. It hung before him, glinting and winking and promising of many things that it’s engraved golden surface hid. He smiled at the intake of breath from behind him.

“Victoria,” he stated, turning to face her. She attempted to smother her expression under a blank face and a pale mask, but her eyes betrayed her as they burned and stared at that glinting gold.

“The round-“

He turned back to the mirror.

“Is finished. It is unfortunate to be out of the wager so early into this experiment, but at least I can lavish my attention on other… projects.” He passed a hand over the eyes of his mask, sighing. “The contestants are frozen at the point of death, correct?”

“Of course.” She sounded a little hurt, and ceased her staring to sweep herself towards the flickering hearth of the fireplace. “Although it should be noted that the astral projection was picked up on towards the later part of the round. Stronger measures are required-“

The Prestidigitator waved an impatient hand.

“We discussed all this in great length. Bring me Third. For all his insolence he still has more initiative than you could ever display.”

The room fell into a hushed silence. Victoria’s eyes bore into the suited back of the Prestidigitator, her dark eyes shining. He himself said nothing, pretending to be absorbed by the flickering images of his mirror. In the background, the last of the vipers died their fiery death. She carefully peeled off one of her opera gloves, sparing one last glance for her leader. With a swift turn of the head she cast the glove the ground and was swallowed by the shadows.

Unseen to anyone, the Prestidigitator’s hands were shaking.

From the gloom an elderly man in a ox mask emerged. He seemed hesitant. Third’s gaze fell upon the now shuddering form of the Prestidigitator, who ran a hand through this hair and swallowed. He held the pocket watch out towards Ox with one quivering hand, speaking with a muted voice that did little to betray his obvious distress.

“Take the pocket watch. Commit the loser’s soul. Don’t tell Victoria. Not a word. She can’t know. She can’t know about any of the things I have discussed with you.”

Third took it wordlessly, and he too was engulfed by the shadows moments later.

The Prestidigitator stared, unseeing, into the mirror a few moments later. When he finally stirred he glanced wildly around the once again empty room, and strode towards the brandy. Quaking hands poured himself a drink. It was downed in seconds. His gaze wandered.

He reached for the cane. And then the room was empty.

Afterparty peeled itself away in twisting and curling ribbons, sleekly scratched away from view to reveal a darkness that seemed to press against the eyes and skin of all who witnessed it. The combatants were frozen in place in the crushing dark and raging silence, saved only by their faint rasps of breath.

In the distance, some began to notice faint glimmers in the void. They slid forward, sharpening into blazing pinpricks of light as they approached ever closer. At some point a blur of white appeared above these dashes of luminosity, sharpening into a blazing white mask. The darkness lurking in the eyeholes of the red-engraved mask glittered. A low chuckle, and a bobbing glint on a narrow blade as the display moved ever closer.

Someone snapped their fingers. And there was light. Harsh, sterile light slamming a spotlight on was unmistakably the Prestidigitator. Despite all the illumination, the light shot down from above only served to darken his features even more. He shifted the bare cane sword rested over his shoulder (the other half of the contraption held loosely in a gloved hand), coughed politely, and spoke.

“Well played, combatants. You surprised me. I wasn’t aware anyone in such a situation would have found it possible to build up so great an animosity in such a meager measure of time.” His smirk was just visible from under the gratuitous shadows falling over his face. “Although much of it managed to achieve remarkably little, you did surpass yourselves in managing to kill one of your number. Almost two. A few seconds quicker and, well. You can imagine, I suppose. Sadly, this is not the end of the road. Your aggressive floundering will not go unspent just yet.”

The arm grasping the cane sword dropped languidly, eliciting a sharp scratch as the tip brushed whatever they were standing on. The darkness crumbled at the noise, as if the frail reality could stand no more of the relentless pressure such sounds exerted.

And in place of the darkness, there was light. Golden, buttery sunlight that cleaved through the monochrome world they had briefly inhabited. This new place was predominately pale marble, lit up brilliantly by the cloudless summer afternoon. Some would recognize its styling and architecture to be that of a manor house. It’s doubtful they could have placed an era, but the extravagance was plain to see in every inch of the décor, from the astronomical Biblical paintings that graced numerous ceilings to the golden metalwork that curled around every candle and every mirror. It screamed of money, and old money at that.

But for all the perfection of the building, the lack of dust or dereliction, not a single sound could be heard. A glance outside would reveal no birds or other wildlife, but you could have kidded yourself that you just couldn’t hear them. You would also have ignored the open window that did nothing to allay the eerie quiet.

The Prestidigitator’s voice boomed from within the contestants very skulls, as if it was afraid to breach the silence that seemed to have accumulated like dust. It reached them all, regardless of their frozen forms being scattered throughout the immense interior of the house.

“Welcome to your second location. The rules are as much the same as in the first, I’m afraid. One person dies, you leave this place. And if you’re wondering, or wish to enquire as to the location of the pirate’s toy, I gave it to a friend who lives here. She’s a charming little girl. It was a terrible shame… she went swimming in the lake and never came back. Never even broke the surface again, not after that day, and never would she breath air again.”

His voice trailed off, but whether this was due to a reverie or an end to the talking was an answer left to the imagination. Either way, no more sound was left echoing around the contestants minds, and they were left to the golden silence again.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Syvex stumbled to the ground as the searingly bright light washed around him. He let out a small cry of pain at the suddenness of the radiance, which temporarily blinded him. The serpent uselessly fumbled about until he began to faintly sense something other than utter luminosity. He held up one of his arms, only scarcely seeing its outline when it was virtually touching his head. Slowly, it came more into focus, a black smudge on the periphery of his vision. After waiting another minute or two, Syvex could vaguely make out his surroundings. Virtually everything was pure white, with a few smatterings of black and gray forming the outline of nearby objects.

"Finch? You around?"

No response.

Closest to Syvex was some sort of large, light-colored box, which upon further investigation was revealed to be soft. A bed, perhaps? Syvex dismissed it as unimportant. Next to the bed was a set of drawers. Apparently made out of wood, as a vast difference to the ones at Interstice. However, he did remember seeing this sort of thing. Syvex momentarily flashed back to a scene of screaming and destruction, wood splintering around the civilians as the serpent inched closer, holding above his head a wooden nightstand. His smile widened as he turned to them, before he threw it at them gleefully. No, not gleefully, he threw it reluctantly! And he couldn't have been smiling, he didn't enjoykilling! It couldn't have happened like that; his memory had to be wro-

Syvex snapped out of it. He had only followed orders on that day. He hadn't known any better; he didn't know what was "right" and "wrong". There was nothing he could do to change it now, anyway. Syvex let out a sigh, then continued his investigation. The nightstand held nothing interesting: A large book of some sort, some spectacles, a few useless rocks that could possibly be construed as valuable...

Syvex shut the drawer and moved on. His vision had adjusted enough to see several feet away, allowing him to see the window through which the intense light was shining. He approached, then swiftly shut the curtains, reducing the severe brightness to a dull glow. The room was cast into darkness, allowing Syvex to see clearly once more. To his chagrin, he could still not see past the walls, and he overall still felt weaker than normal.

He immediately thought to try his portals, but the result disappointed him. Firstly, the interior of the rest of the mansion was, for the most part, too bright for him to ascertain the position of any darkness. The only other source he could find was in the room above him, and even then it was just a very minute amount. Nonetheless, he focused and held his hand forward, straining to tear a hole in space. At first, the portal (if one could even call it that) was less than an inch wide, too small to be of any use. After great effort, he had expanded it just enough to fit his hand through. He did so while maneuvering the portal in the other room around the darkness, mostly just to see if he could more than to blindly search for something of interest.

What Syvex hadn't expected, however, was that his hand would run into a fragile vase, toppling it with a crash. Before he could pull his hand back through the portal, however, the light from which the vase shielded his hand closed the rift instantly. Unusually, Syvex felt a sharp pain as the appendage was cleanly sliced off. When Tamerlane had done essentially the same in the city, he had barely felt anything at all. Had his pain supression been nulled by the encounter with the Balancer? Nonetheless, the feeling disappeared as soon as the hand began to grow back.

...The city. Syvex hadn't been able to save it from the sand mage. Sure, it may have been a fabrication, but who was to say it was any less real than the cities on Earth? Innocent people had died, and that was enough for him. Syvex couldn't let Tamerlane live any longer. He was a danger to everyone, and would kill them all if he wasn't killed first.

The serpent, seeing no other options, threw open the door, which lead into a hallway. Light flooded into the room once more, but in less staggering amounts than the window had let in. Syvex proceeded slowly, allowing himself time to adjust to the level of light. Upon reaching the full brightness of the sun, he could see several feet in every direction. Good enough. ...Where did Finch get off to? Syvex called out again, to no avail. Quite possibly the only person in the battle he could trust had disappeared. Speaking of which... Where was everyone? Syvex wandered onward, meandering through the hallways with no semblance of pattern.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Channeling the amount of sheer magical power it took to influence the minds and emotions of the other contestants the way Muriegro had been was quite straining, but the mere presence of Laguja bolstered his endurance and abilities; however, having the spell forcibly dispelled by the end of the round and subsequent cessation of astral projection and dimensional transport, coupled with the inherent risk and power of the spell itself, was enough to cause severe backfire on the priest. Once the Prestidigitator was again silent and the contestants were again free to move and breathe, Muriegro swayed for a moment before falling to the ground. The pincushion bounced away from its servant, whose eyes had rolled up into his head and whose nose began slowly dripping twin streams of blood; after a few moments of shivering, the man gave one last pronounced shudder and vomited, yellow bile and vivid red blood leaking out of his stitched lips and mixing on the lavish cream carpet. Muriegro fell still and fully lost consciousness.

The trauma of backfire had had its effect on the pincushion too, smothering its senses and stifling its ability to use and create magic, but the inorganic and divine nature of Laguja made it brief and painless. It was fully functional again in seconds, and the livid rage from these continued ignominies at the hands of this self-titled grandmaster was congealing into a fuming bead of carefully-moderated choler. These outbursts were unbecoming and unhelpful, it was beginning to reason; the only way to get back to where it belonged was with rational planning, careful strikes, and the utter obliteration of the pretender that sought to place himself above the only true god there was. A careful tendril of thought swept over the mind of the priest, but it was clear he would not be rising soon. Rather than teleport about on its own, weakened without a host and able to accomplish little, the little fragment of divinity calmed itself and opened its mind.

Once again strands of thought and magic spread across an arena chosen for this contest; Laguja was keen to have more details about the locale and its potential minions than it had in the last round. If its goal was the eradication of the smug pretender that had it trapped in this pointless competition, it would need as much information and power as it could muster. Most of the other contestants were likely to stick around for some time, regardless of what else happened, so the pincushion reasoned that information about the new setting was more urgent than delving into the minds of others. Besides all that, any real mind-reading would be more strenuous and yield less real information without a host to channel through. Laguja's magic spread through the house, taking note of the layout and casually browsing through its history; the minds and bodies of the other contestants were all easy enough to find; there was one missing, which was to be expected, and it became quickly clear that it was the fragmented one of Thatix. It was no real loss as far as the pincushion was concerned; the firefly sorceress would have been near impossible to influence, and the strain of directly controlling such a confusing and broken mind would doubtless have been more trouble than it was worth.

More interesting than the meandering presence of the other sapients that the Prestidigitator had brought here or the almost-labyrinthine architecture of the sprawling manor was an almost-presence that seemed to permeate the entire building. It wasn't quite alive, and it wasn't quite sentient, but there was some sort of awareness here. It permeated every wall and ceiling, every piece of furniture and every appliance, and even every ornament and potted plant. Without Muriegro to direct the spell through, Laguja couldn't get much of a read on whatever it was; it made a mental note to investigate further when circumstances permitted and continued mapping the manor from attic to basement.

Once it had absorbed the layout thoroughly, memorizing every hallway and broom closet and projecting where it expected the others to go in the near future, it withdrew back to the plush bedroom it had landed in to inspect its servant. The priest was still sprawled on the floor; Laguja was glad to see he was at least in a position in which he was unlikely to choke on his vomit, but frustrated that the fragile mortal shell had reacted so badly to the magical backlash. With nothing to do but wait, the pincushion once again expanded its awareness, this time intent on exploring the grounds.

As soon as the first tendril of awareness extended past the boundaries of the house proper, Laguja felt a powerful psychic suction; it was drawn inexorably through a large and inexplicably-pristine garden, over a small bridge across a clear brook, and towards an idyllic lake surrounded by waving reeds and covered in blooming lotuses. After a moment panning across the still water, the mind of the godlet was tugged under the surface; it slowly drifted towards the bottom of the surprisingly-deep pond, passing idly-swimming fish and delving deeper into duckweed and darkness. Eventually, Laguja's awareness reached the bottom of the lake, a rocky little alcove replete with weeds fishbones. In the center, bare of obstructions almost as though carefully placed there, there was a small human skeleton, clutching a bizarre object the pincushion vaguely recognized as belonging to one of the other contestants.

As the gentle motion of the lake's water made the nearby plants sway and sent the few remaining scraps of flesh and hair lingering on the skull waving languidly, Laguja put two and two together. This was the witch, and that thing was the Core. It tried to pull away, but was held fast. A voice sounded; rather, the idea of a voice made itself known to the pincushion's consciousness. If it had been physical, it would have been high-pitched, young, and both scared and excited at the same time.

"It's been so long since anyone's been able to hear me! Not since... Not since before the accident even. I'm Lily! What's your name?"

Laguja rumbled a noncommittal response, simply referring to itself as Needle and volunteering nothing more. A mental tittering filled its world, a rather jarring contrast with the image of the skeleton it was coming from, especially as a pleco emerged from an eye socket and began sucking on the dome of the skull. "That's a funny name! My nanna used to be called Battleaxe though, so I guess there's funnier."

The little voice was apparently content to continue rambling about inconsequentialities, but every time "Needle" tried to pull away, it found it was still locked in place. After one such attempt, the witch responded with a petulant "Come on, I never get to talk to anybody. It's even been years since anyone tried to come find me. I was so sure they would last time, but then that nasty storm happened... I hate it down here! It's so lonely!"

Laguja gave a mental sigh, but stopped trying to escape; it was clear that it would not be able to in its current condition, so the only hope of getting back to its vessel and vassal required humoring this childish ghost. After a few more meandering sentences, the girl gave a small gasp. "Oh, wait! I've got an idea. I think it'll be a lot of fun and good for both of us. I just need you to come to the lake physically, okay?"

The frustrated scrap of weakened divinity gave reluctant agreement, having no real intention of following up on it. "You proooomise?"

"Of course."

There was a sensation of distorted space, and Laguja found itself back in its body, as much as the cloth housing could be called such. Muriegro was just rousing himself, a dirty sleeve wiping the vile humors from his lips. He crawled across the floor to pick up his only remaining connection to his god and unsteadily raised himself to his feet. Dizzy, the priest moved to collapse in a beige-and-gold armchair nearby; he set Laguja in his lap, clutched in both hands, and let his head loll backwards, resting on the cushioned chair. Pincushion and amazon had intended to spend some minutes like this, each recovering and the former planning, but Muriegro suddenly bolted upright. Laguja, for its part, found its thoughts suffused with "I promised", and was extremely hard-pressed to think of anything except how to get to the lake quickest.

It was half-aware that this was not the result of its own machinations, but decided that for the moment there was little to be gained by any other course of action; the witch clearly had considerable power in her own realm, dead or not, and it wasn't as though the pincushion had decided on any other course of action yet. Best to go along with whatever her idea was; she might prove a valuable ally and at the very least might release the compulsion it had unwittingly allowed to be placed on it. It mulled over how best to make it onto the back acres of the grounds; there was an exit just a few rooms away, but that would likely end in an unwanted encounter with the foolish pirate. They were on the first floor, though...

Moments later, Muriegro, with the pincushion safely stowed in its pouch, was crashing through the large, sunny window and rolling across the manicured lawn. The latch on the window had refused to budge, so simply barreling through it had proven to be the fastest and easiest option. As he picked himself up and dusted the splinters of glass off his robe, however, the priest noticed that the glass that littered the ground was vibrating gently. After a few moments, a humming noise permeated the air, and after a few more, the shards leapt towards the window and reassembled themselves. The sight of the glittering glass shooting through the air was impressive, and the act itself odd, but Laguja deemed it largely inconsequential and moved on.

The tattered grey shape of Muriegro drifted through the perfect gardens, looking faded and thoroughly out of place. The odd silence began to weigh heavily on the pair, especially as they passed a row of still and quiet beehives. There was little to occupy one's attention save for dire thoughts about what was to come; even the brook made less noise than it should have as the priest walked over the small bridge, and as the lake came into view, Laguja was filled with uncharacteristic apprehension.