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

The Phenomenal Fracas (GBS2G6) [Round Five: The Ambitus Phenomenon]
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Eureka wasn't a particularly good conversationalist in her current state, but she was at least an enthusiastic one. Words and phrases constantly tumbled out of her mouth as she wandered through the labyrinthine structure, Muriegro always at her heels; most of her speech consisted of variations on the word friend and inventively-saccharine threats, but a fair portion of it was comments on her surroundings and evaluations of the weaponizability of various objects she stumbled across. Muriegro was of course silent, and Laguja saw no reason to interject. Near-nonsense followed the pair as they wove aimlessly through the motley escherscape, and that nonsense was their only companion and only stimulus.

Laguja pondered the new round and the consequences of the old one distastefully; it was so frustrating to have had such a beautiful rebellion snatched out from under it. The entire purpose of whipping the human chaff into a frenzy was to introduce itself deifically at a key moment and feed on the faith that its new flock would provide. The sheer power all those people would prove... The pincushion could practically taste the minds prostrating themselves before it. To be dragged from the precipice of such power, from being on the cusp of the potential to sweep this whole game aside and attack its captors directly, only to be dropped in a madhouse of a maze with its powers crippled was infuriating. And demeaning on top of it. Being made near-servile to this insane woman was just the final detail, seemingly heaped on out of spite.

Now that Laguja thought about it more, this entire round was baffling on top of maddening: surely the ostensible point of this game was to amuse its creator. What amusement could be derived from watching the group flail ineffectually at each other, weakened and powerless? Surely placing apocalyptic weapons in their hands or legions of followers at their feet would be more engaging than letting them wander through empty hallways. Even if there were some kind of perverse pleasure the Prestidigitator took in watching the contestants struggle weakly, why would he or his servants choose a round where they were all spread so widely that chance encounters had only been facilitated by Eureka actively trying to be found?

This conundrum, coupled with the fact that Two had fairly-explicitly said that the grandmaster's interest had waned, made the pincushion worry. Namely, it was worried that the game was no longer that, but rather a discarded toy. Perhaps this place had been selected so that the contestants would never be able to finish each other off weakened as they were or even find most of the others. It would go on forever, the five of them trapped in a twisted tomb of enforced frailty. It would certainly explain why that brass vase had shattered so readily and harmlessly. It would...

At this point, Laguja was snapped from its preoccupation by a squeal from Eureka. She dropped the floorlamp made of polished obsidian that she'd been lugging around and calling her "killtoy" for the last ten minutes and leapt joyfully towards an assembly of knives that appeared to be made of solid diamond or some other sort of crystal. The whole room, which appeared to be an enormous kitchen capable of providing food for hundreds or thousands of people, was made of various gems and semi-precious stones, mottled oddly together with no hint of seams or attachment. The place glittered to the point of making it almost painful to look at, but it was at least an improvement over the solid-mud bathroom the pair had just left. Eureka giggled in a manner Laguja might have described as "cheesy-horror-movie-esque" if it had ever left the Amazon jungles and hefted a pair of translucent, sparkling cleavers.

At this point, Muriegro raised his arm and pointed, completely independently of the pincushion's control. Laguja was taken aback, but Eureka just beamed and effused "What's that boy? Someone fell down the well?" apropos of nothing. Laguja attempted to reach out mentally to determine what Muriegro had noticed, but was unable to exert any real power. Frustrated and sporting the incorporeal equivalent of a headache, it grumpily settled back into its pouch. After a moment, Eureka cocked her head.

"Oh waaaait, I think I do hear something. Is that a frieeeend out there? Is that... Twoooo friends out there? I think it is two friends! We should go meet our friendly new friends. I want to share my toys with them! Friendly friends love to shaaaare!"

She whirled off after the sounds, Muriegro on her heels.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs, Ripper began to wish she hadn’t. The beings around her were in that uncomfortable realm of just about human that made it all the worse to look at them; she briefly envied Syvex for his lack of eyes. The one on the left, a woman, appeared to have misaligned eyes and one arm slightly shorter than the other; the man on the right had the opposite problem, looking far too symmetrical for his own good. The woman stretched out a hand towards the pair, and Ripper gingerly touched it, afraid of some nebulous Bad Thing happening when the hands made contact.

Luckily, the only thing that happened was a rather slow shake, and the woman talking very slowly in a strange language that neither the pirate nor the snake recognized. After finishing a sentence, she paused for several seconds, before starting up again in a completely different dialect. After about three and a half tries at this, Blackmask grew aggravated. “Belay this, ya lubber! If you speak English or Portuguese or anythin’ I might actually know, maybe we can parley.”

The two under-dwellers glanced at each other, before the man spoke up. “I… think I… can speak… some en-glish, sir. Please, come with us.” The two of them slowly began moving forward; Ripper shrugged, and leaned down to Syvex. “You think we should go with these drivelswiggers?”

The snake gave a fairly good approximation of a shrug for something without proper shoulders. “I can’t imagine any better course of action. If we don’t, they’ll probably try to kill us.”

“And what if they’re takin’ us to our deaths right now?” “Then they’ll just chase us down if we try to leave. Come on.” He slowly headed forward; Ripper grumbled and followed.
The most obvious thing about the town was that the vast majority of light poured out of various holes scattered throughout the sides of the pyramid, with a particularly large amount spilling out of the very top. Aside from the occasional torch, it was the only thing keeping the place from being completely impossible to navigate.

The second thing one was likely to notice was the sheer amount of rooms. The route the four took to the center of town passed directly through several, mainly because it was too much of a pain to move around them constantly. If nothing else, though, Ripper was happy to find that there was still no proper warping of the space-time continuum; every room, no matter how outlandish (and the closer to the pyramid, the more preposterous they became), none of them opened up into another room you couldn’t see from the outside, or had a window that allowed you to see above ground, or any such nonsense.

As they slowly climbed the stairs of the pyramid, Syvex occasionally delaying them so he could swerve away from one of the light sources, the symmetrical man continued talking. He said his name was Alm, and the woman’s was Till; “we are all gi-ven names… by the great god… of the py-ra-mid,” he managed to spit out, “who grants us light and shel-ters us from the war-ping.”

Syvex sighed, vexed by this information. “With all due respect to your god, he doesn’t seem to be doing a great job of it.” A gasp might be expected in normal circumstances, but instead, Alm just laughed and responded, “one might… think as much… would-n’t they? But you should see… what it was… like be-fore he came. Things have tru-ly… got-ten bet-ter.” There was a pause of about eight seconds, allowing everyone to feel mildly uncomfortable while listening to the whistling of the wind at the summit of the pyramid. Eventually, Till piped up. “This is… the great god’s home. Out-sid-ers… must all vis-it… so we may know… what to do with them.”

Blackmask felt rather unnerved by this wording. “You aren’t talkin’ about the hempen jig, are ya?” All three of her current companions stood uncomfortably and uncomprehending for a moment. “A dance with Jack Ketch? The admiral’s spot?”

Eventually, Syvex grinned. “I believe he means ‘are you going to kill us.’” The two under-dwellers shared an understanding “oh” before shaking their heads. “He nev-er has us… kill out-sid-ers. Do not wor-ry. Now please, in-side.”

Ripper glanced at Syvex, realizing the problem immediately. “I don’t think he can go in. Poor lubber’s going to take a trip with the Dutchman if he goes in that bright a light.” Till whispered something to Alm, who solemnly nodded. “If that… is so, then… we have no choice.” He leaned into the pyramid’s blinding light and bellowed something down; after about five seconds, the lights went off.

Complete and total darkness is one of the rarest things imaginable. In almost any case, there is at least some faint spot of light, even in the deepest depths of space. But they were so high, so far from any light source but the pyramid itself, that Syvex and Ripper soon experienced it; the former found it amazing, and the latter terrifying. Till nudged them both, and Ripper nodded, and slowly climbed through the hole, Syvex following shortly thereafter.

On roughly the other side of town, Muriegro was sitting on a large rock, watching in mild disinterest as Eureka beat someone to death with what was previously a third arm, giggling and demanding that he stop hitting himself. After about ten minutes of this she got bored, tossed the arm to the ground, and taking her knife back from the other new friend, who had borrowed it to store in his chest. She twirled it around, whistling jauntily.

Muriegro caught the sound of more footsteps, and swiveled his head to face a group of ten or so people approaching. They appeared to be wielding some large clubs; two near the back carried shotguns and chains. Laguja quickly decided that it was more advantageous, both in the long-term and the short-term, to be friends with these people than with the girl who was now dancing with a corpse while insulting him for stepping on her feet.

The priest tapped Eureka on the shoulder; she spun around, dropping her dance partner, and grinned widely. “Mooooore friends! Hooray! We can have a party! A knife party! Yay, sharing!” She was so excited about spending time with her new friends that she barely even noticed the Good Night Boulder smacking into the back of her head. Muriegro’s stitched lips were just flexible enough to move into a tiny smile. Though the powers his god granted were awe-inspiring in every respect, it was always pleasant to employ a more direct solution.

And as the under-dwellers laid down most of their weapons, though not their chains, and drew closer, Laguja lacked only the lips to smile as well.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by granolaman.

It's been too long. Reserved.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Total darkness is a very strange thing. Rarely had Syvex had the chance to experience it - even in the depths of Interstice he had never quite been able to escape entirely the presence of light. The absolute clarity offered to the serpent by this darkness was often thought by him as an experience to be cherished - after all, even after the state is attained, a single pinpoint of light is all that is necessary to again ruin the effect. Nonetheless, here, in the most unlikely of places, every nearby source of light had vanished utterly.

And yet, something was wrong. The world around Syvex, though somewhat clearer, was not nearly as enhanced by the darkness as it should have been. The frustratingly-opaque structure melted into nothingness no more than a few meters away from the serpent, the vast majority hidden from view. Syvex had vastly underestimated the severity of the power-crippling the voice mentioned - he, a creature of darkness, was practically blind in his own element! He briefly attempted to create a portal the size of his hand, but even that proved difficult to hold open for more than a few seconds.

He could at least take solace, however, in the fact that he was faring much better than his companion. The pirate was unable to see a thing in the blackness, and was forced to awkwardly lean on the serpent's shoulder to keep from losing her way. The under-dwellers, strangely, had no trouble navigating, probably because of their "god" or whatever (Syvex suspected they were just crazy).

As the four navigated down a series of relatively-normal, non-twisted hallways and flights of stairs, a very faint light once more crept into their perceptions. They had reached a long, grand hallway, reminiscent of a hotel foyer elongated to many times its normal length. At the end lay a single door, over which lay a long windowshade, behind which light seeped out unabated, bringing a small bit of illumination to the otherwise pitch-black temple. Ripper, finally able to see, released her grip on the serpent and stepped back.

"Our god..." Till began, pointing at the door, "dwells within... that room."

Syvex felt much less anxious than one might expect at the prospect of a couple of distorted possibly-humans showing him to their god, mostly because he expected them to be worshipping a cardboard box or something.

A magical cardboard box.

Syvex followed the underdwellers across the hall to the door, until the two stopped, briefly whispering to each other while gazing at the serpent.

"Is there a problem?" Syvex questioned.

"Our god... requires that... we keep the lights... in this room... on at all times," Till slowly articulated. "Is that harmful... to you?"

Syvex sighed deeply. "Blackmask here was exaggerating a bit when he said the light would kill me. All it's really going to do is blind me and maybe cripple me slightly more than this place does already. If we have to go through here, let's get it over with."

The under-dwellers nodded to each other, then threw open the wholly unimpressive door (which, incidentally, was labeled "Swimming Pool"), flooding the foyer-corridor with the bright light within. Prepared as he was, Syvex was nonetheless taken aback by the sudden wave of luminosity, and the complete blindness that came with it. He stumbled through the door, trailing behind the pirate, who, although temporarily blinded, was quickly adjusting to the light. Inside was seemingly a number of swimming pools tiled together to form an especially large one, its water perfectly still. Down each wall, large blood-red tapestries were hung, each crudely depicting the god engaged in a variety of actions, most notably healing the malformed people of the hotel.

Most notable, however, was the golden throne placed on the other end of the pool, upon which sat an otherwise-unassuming figure dressed in extravagant gold-and-red robes. Upon his head sat a very large and unusual headdress, covered in brightly-colored feathers and entirely obscuring his eyes. The underdwellers immediately dropped to their knees in his presence. Not wanting to offend, Ripper quickly followed suit. Syvex, naturally, made no recognition of the gesture, but even if he hadn't been blind, and even if he had legs in the first place, he might not have anyway. The man on the throne, slightly surprised at the sight of these strange visitors, stood from the throne and immediately addressed them:

"Greetings, mortals. I am Xiuhcoatl, God of the Underlands," he announced in a booming, authoritative voice. "I must ask you for the benefit of my subjects: why have you come?"

"Hell if I know," Syvex replied. "We were thrown into here by some guy, or something, called the Prestidigitator. Dunno why, but he's making us fight to the death, and putting us somewhere else with each death. There used to be eight of us. I think there are only five now. If you're really a god, why don't you go kill him?" At this point Ripper was unsurprised by his utter lack of respect for the leader of the people who technically had them captive, god or not. "At the very least you could send us ho-" Syvex paused for a moment. " safety."

Xiuhcoatl paused for a moment. "I'm afraid I cannot do that, mortals. None who enter the Underlands can ever be allowed to leave, I am afraid. However, I do not doubt that you have come from far away, perhaps from other realms of being entirely. I must ask a few further questions of you. I will start with you, woman in red. You seem to-"

"Wait, woman?" Syvex questioned. He wasn't exactly good at determining human genders if they weren't obvious. Ripper gazed at the god in surprise and annoyance.

"Yes. Although she hides herself under a disguise, I can see who she truly is. Now then, one in red. You seem to possess an unusual technology on your person, one foreign to this world. Would you care to explain it?"

"No." Frankly, Ripper was getting tired of this "Xiuhcoatl", if that was even his real name. A real god wouldn't need to ask her about the Core to find out what it is.

"I see. How unfortunate." The god frowned for a moment before returning to his previous, stolid expression. "In that case, perhaps you would like to explain yourself to me, serpent. I notice a strange energy emanating from you, not of this realm."

"Alright, sure, why not?"

"Ya blaggard, don't-" Ripper attempted to interject, interrupted immediately by the overtly foolhardy serpent.

"I don't know, it's just some kind of dark energy. Some scientists had a better description of it, but you can't expect me to remember that. It lets me see everything around me without eyes, it lets me see through things in the darkness, it lets me open portals through space, fire exploding bursts of it, regenerate anything that doesn't kill me... Why do you ask? Wouldn't a god be able to tell these things already?"

"As I have said, you are not of the Underlands. I wished my subjects to have a better understanding of you, which you have provided. Thank you, serpent. Alm. Till. Please take our guests to their rooms. I hope you do not mind remaining in the temple for a short while. You will not be harmed, do not worry." The god sat back in his throne, saying nothing further.

"Please... come with... us," Alm beckoned to Syvex and Ripper. Exchanging glances, the two of them followed the underdwellers out of the room and back into the darkness.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Kolman Saenger, agent of the SCP Foundation, relaxed as the intruders exited his chamber. Though he had performed this duty for two years now, he had been sincerely worried that his cover would be blown by the foreigners. Perhaps more worrying, though, were the readings given by his "headdress"'s built-in scanning device - two more potential SCPs had wandered right into the temple, and had been successfully taken into his "hospitality". Especially worrying was the description the snake gave of himself - there was little reason to believe he was lying, given the reaction of his companion.

"Xiuhcoatl" turned to the few followers who remained within his throne room. "Thank you, my subjects. Please leave the room for now, and ensure that no one enters until I give the signal." The underdwellers immediately complied with his order. One of many perks of being a god, he supposed.

His followers gone, Agent Saenger removed a small, handheld communicator from beneath his robes, and immediately pressed several buttons.

"Dr. Beringer, this is Agent Saenger."

A deep voice crackled over the communicator. "Again? What's going on down there?"

"Yes, again. We've got a couple more potential SCPs in the temple right now. One's an unidentified piece of technology which emits a powerful sort of energy reading. Its function is unknown, and its holder refused to talk."

"And the other?"

"The other was much more open about itself. Some sort of enormous purple-black snake, with no eyes, but a lot of arms. It was also covered in spikes. If its word is to be trusted, it possesses both powerful regenerative capabilities, extremely acute vision, and space-bending capabilities. Looking at a potential Euclid here, maybe even Keter. Fortunately, it seems to be weakened by bright light."

"This is troubling, Agent. Three new SCPs in a single day, in a secure location? Practically unheard of."

"It gets worse, doctor. Some of the SCP-184-1 have informed me that two more unusual beings have been sighted on the outskirts of the town."

"Do you have the two new arrivals secured?"

"Yes, they seemed cooperative. Will a containment team be arriving shortly?"

"They've already been dispatched. Try to keep them under control; we don't want an outburst like the 'sandman' incident a couple hours ago."

"Understood. Saenger out."

The agent sighed. It was going to be a long day.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

This is pretty slow going, I'll admit.

So you guys have a week to post. It would preferable if granolaman actually did something seeing as he's the only one who has yet to post this round, but I honestly don't mind.

If you fail to post by the end of the week, there will be a guest post.

Let's get this moving!
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

It was dark. It was dark because there was nothing. Technically, it wasn't dark, because that would be something, but there was no other way she could really describe it.

Eureka had heard people say things like ‘Oh, I don’t dream.’ But she was sure that this isn’t what they meant.

She had been expecting a prison, though she didn’t know why. Who came into dreams knowing what it would be? But she would definitely prefer a prison than to this…absolute nothingness.

“Hello?” she called out, figuring if her dream wasn’t going to do anything, then she should.

The world shook. Or, there wasn’t a world at all, but something shook. Maybe it was her. She was the only thing that could even shake. She curled up.

There was something wrong with her. But wasn’t there always something wrong with her? She clawed at her shirt. Underneath it, her stomach was throbbing. Though there was nothing there anymore, obviously, so she wasn’t sure how it could do that. But it hurt, which was something she was sure a hole in the guts did. So at least that was accurate.

She almost wished she was possessed again. (Was she possessed now?) Being possessed had a kind of bodily detachment. Being possessed meant that holes in the stomach were, if not someone else’s problem, then at least a shared problem. Being possessed at least meant company, company that she could share the pain with and cry out to. Whatever that boy’s name was – maybe he would be sympathetic. Or maybe pretend to be. As it was now, she could only cry to no one.

She pulled her shirt up slightly. Yes, the hole was there, yes, it was dark, yes, it was throbbing. Things were coming out. They wrapped around her. Bound her legs. They suffocated her. Maybe she would die here.

And then she woke up.


She was in a prison, which didn’t seem surprising. She almost expected a werewolf to be sitting next to her, but there wasn’t. But she wasn’t too surprised at that as well.

Though now that she looked closely, it wasn’t really a prison she was in. More like an improvised prison. And by improvised prison, she meant ‘locked room.’

Her knife was gone. Her knife was gone.

…Well she wanted a new one anyways. That old one was old and stupid and not knife-y enough to be a permanent member of her knife club. But now someone owed her a new knife.

Someone owed her to let her out. And a knife.

The room was bare, which was pretty understandable considering that it was meant to hold her. There was a bed and not much else. The room itself was pretty normal for the place, though for some reason the walls glowed brightly. Anybody living in here wouldn’t need a lamp, but they would probably find it hard to get to sleep.

Unfortunately, the door wasn’t made out of graham crackers or seaweed or anything like that. But still, she charged the door. And again. And again.

“Awww, let me out! I promise not to play too hard!” she called. There was no answer. She pressed her ear against the door and heard nothing.

Now how in the world was she going to get out?

She tried the doorknob again, though it was no use trying a second time. Okay, sooooo…

If only she still had her knife friend. Then maybe she could pick the lock. With a knife.

“I dunnoooooo, whaddya think?” she asked, raising her sweatshirt slightly. The dark wound was still here, but the tentacle was not. It was just simply a bubbling blackness. She giggled. “C’mooon, won’t you help a laaaady? You were such a big ol’ meanie before. Don’t tell me you’re feeling all weaky weak.”

The wound bubbled.


Magnus was supposed to pick up the new outsider as soon as she woke up and show her to mighty Xiuhcoatl, as was the custom. Unfortunately, he found that he couldn’t do so. It had something to do with how the door holding the outsider in had apparently decided not to exist any longer and self-terminated in a fit of despair. Supposedly, the black sludge-y bits were the remains of the suicidal door. The sludge certainly looked despair-flavored.

The other outsider was still talking with all-knowing Xiuhcoatl, as far as he knew, so at least nobody would notice this for a while. Maybe. He had some time to go look for her. Then he wouldn’t have to go to the god empty-handed and disappoint him and potentially be smitted. Smote?

It vaguely occurred to him that he had no idea what benevolent Xiuhcoatl really did as punishment, but he (and many others) had never thought about it very much. Certainly never beyond that it would be a very bad thing to disappoint generous Xiuhcoatl.

Magnus finally turned away from the fate of the sad door to actually look for the escaped outsider. He didn’t have to look too far, though. As he turned, he was tackled from behind. It felt like something slid through him, then slid out. And, for good measure, a pair of small hands reached down and snapped his neck.

There was not much he could think about after a death like that, but he still managed to have time to think one thing. He thought about how delightfully cheerful his murderer had been. For some reason, that seemed like a nice attribute in a murderer.

Eureka, for her part, stood above him and whistled as much as she could before she doubled over, hacking up black, evil sludge.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

A pair of the slightly-unsettling men had carried Eureka off into the gloom of their settlement while a cluster of them had begun tending to the bodies; one of the chain-weilders, her shotgun now slung across her back, had apparently appointed herself envoy and taken Muriegro aside.

"Do you... speak... Polish?" she had intoned.

The technically-correct answer was "no", but fortunately the power suppression inflicted on the battlers hadn't been so severe as to cripple its ability to understand meaning without bothering with language. Muriegro's head nodded on command, and Laguja forced out a sentence through the psychic miasma of the place.

"I am more comfortable with Portuguese."

If Laguja's suspicions were correct, Muriegro was regaining much of his autonomy as a result of the pincushion's weakened state; if that was the case, it would be beneficial to ensure he could follow what was happening without constant mental asides from his master.

There was a short pause, followed by "I believe... to be able... to talk... enough... of Portuguese."

It was just shy of being pidgin, but it seemed to suffice.


The woman, who had identified herself as Kahsh, had taken Muriegro and his hidden god on a brisk, confident walk through the twisted settlement that was quite at odds with her unhurried, broken speech. The pair had eventually managed to glean that this place was ruled by their benevolent, generous god, who provided them light and shielded them from "the warping" and that they were being taken to see him as was the custom with outsiders. This suited Laguja fine: were there really a god trapped in this near-literal hellhole, it might be able to be persuaded or coerced to fight the Prestidigitator as well; were it just an opportunistic trickster of a mortal, there were even more opportunities to be had.

By the time Kahsh had run out of hesitating explanations, they were descending into the pyramid and Muriegro was blinking in the light that certainly seemed to be provided as promised. They travelled in silence for a time, Muriegro taking in the bizarre scenery and Laguja reverting to its default activity of brooding and plotting. Just as it was beginning to wonder if the stairs were taking them below the structure of the pyramid, they opened into a wide, distorted foyer. Kahsh beckoned and quickened her step.

"Respectful he is... inside here room."

Muriegro caught up to her and kept pace, following as she flung the door open and stepped through. Grandiosity and plainness clashed oddly in the modified pool room beyond, but Laguja and its servant had eyes only for one thing in it: the seated figure on its golden throne.

"Greetings, mortals!" he boomed out again. "I am Xiuhcoatl, God of the Underlands. I must ask you for the benefit of my subjects: why have you come here?"

Muriegro of course didn't respond; Laguja sent out one shaky mental tendril and brushed it against "Xiuhcoatl's" mind... And would have beamed wickedly at what it found, had it the physiology to.

Laguja hissed to its priest "You know what to do," and fervently hoped it was right.

Muriegro certainly seemed to; he darted his hand into the pouch that held his god and withdrew it. The Warped Edifice had certainly muffled Laguja's own abilities, but it was always stronger when channeled through a mortal's willing hands. Perhaps that would be enough for this; it had to be.

As the pincushion thought out "You know why I have come," Muriegro concentrated on the man across the pool. Xiuhcoatl found his hands gripping the arms of his throne too tightly for him to rise, and found his mouth wrenched open; against his will, he intoned "Leave us, Kahsh; this is a matter between gods."

Kahsh obediently disappeared as Muriegro began skirting the pool, chest heaving from the exertion of keeping Xiuhcoatl in his seat. He thrashed, but the throne was too heavy to topple and his fingers refused to move.

"What the fuck," he growled in a very ungodly way, "is going on here?"

Muriegro approached and loomed over the man. Laguja's voice whispered in his mind, "You are meeting a true god, pretender."

To Muriegro, it hissed "Bind his arms and put me in his lap."

The priest moved behind the throne and wrapped his arms around Xiuhcoatl's elbows and torso; as he let the pincushion drop, Xiuhcoatl's hands came under his control again, but he still couldn't muster the leverage to break free or reach his communicator.

Once in contact with the false god, Laguja was much better able to exert its influence and abilities. It reached into his mind, searching and learning, but still at a frustratingly slow pace; where it should have been like watching an accelerated movie, it was like decoding a particularly arcane cryptogram that turned out to be a bunch of crossword clues. Nevertheless, some things became clear quite quickly.

"Well, Kolman, I see you've met some associates of mine already. There is no need then to inform you of the situation, as you know enough for my purposes."

It pushed deeper, then chuckled mentally. Agent Saenger tried to say something, but found it difficult to force out more than a gurgle.

"Xiuhcoatl... Mesoamerican? How appropriate. Here is what will happen, then: you will gather your subjects and introduce me as Huitzilopochtli, a god and your brother-in-arms. You have been waiting for me to come, you'll tell them, and together we will begin truly ridding this place of its evil influences and the dark gods who have made it so."

Kolman sneered. "The hell I will. Every scip with a little power thinks it's God, and I haven't seen one yet that can contend with a half-competent Mobile Task Force."

"Perhaps I have not made myself clear."

Laguja stoked the agent's glands, disappointed at how little it was able to do; nevertheless, it sent his heart beating painfully in his chest and his lungs squeezing shut.

"That was not a request or even an order. That was a statement of how things will be. Whether you have any free will left at all at that point is your choice."

It was a bluff of course; at the height of its power, it would have been able to wear the agent's skin with no effort, to dance him like a puppet and discard him when finished, but in this place it could barely maintain a hold on a few organs at once. It would pay to terrify him though, and it clenched tighter around his heart.

"But first, you will tell me about your Foundation and the other artifacts you have here. If I have to pull that information from your mind, who knows what all I might take with it and neglect to return?"

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Alm and Till (man, that god’s such a shitty namer) walked mostly in silence. And, so, Syvex and Ripper walked in silence. There wasn’t much to talk about. Ripper did wonder what Syvex was thinking about her newly revealed gender. Syvex wondered where the hell Eureka was and she really didn’t look too good the last time he saw her and he hoped that this just wasn’t another waste of his time again and he really needed to be going.

They came back out and headed down the pyramid before separating, Till stopping Ripper in front of a nearby door and Alm leading Syvex onward. Ripper quickly turned her head and attempted to share a meaningful glance with Syvex, something along the lines of ‘let’s meet up later and get outta here so we aren’t sitting ducks,’ but she had no idea if Syvex even saw it. Meaningful glances were much harder to exchange between someone with no eyes and someone with a mask.

Alm led Syvex through two more rooms before the path opened up to the center of the town, where she stopped suddenly. Syvex bumped into her.

“What?” he asked, jolted out of various plans to sneak out. “What is it?”

Alm responded by shrieking something in an agitated tone and running up to something on the ground, something that Syvex could somewhat make out as a person. Not a complete person, though. As he slithered closer to a wailing Alm, he made out bits of black sludge around the area. Around him, he could hear doors opening as other inhabitants peeked out to see what was going on. Syvex ignored them.

The black sludge made a short, but obvious, trail leading away from the scene. It wasn’t enough to be a good clue on where the murderer could have gone, but not a few feet away, Syvex couldn’t help but notice another similarly-killed man, who must have been an unfortunate witness. And there were likely more corpses to be found. Syvex started slithering towards the second corpse when he felt a hand on (one of) his shoulder.

“…No.” Alm’s slightly lopsided face was twisted somewhat in a visage of fear, rage, and confusion. “…Your room…you must go to…”

“Look, there’s someone I really need to find, and besides, you’re going to need help with whoever’s doing this, so – “

“No!” The hand gripped tighter. “…Xiuhcoatl…said to…take you to your…room.” And with a strength he didn’t think she had, Alm swiftly manhandled him into a nearby room. There didn’t seem to be a door, but when he turned around, one seemed to have simply appeared. He heard a lock click.

The walls were somehow glowing brightly of their own accord, which bothered Syvex somewhat. Did she do that on purpose?

He had no ideas. He swirled the bottle of liquid darkness a bit, but would it really be as powerful as it was before? And he really needed to ration this. So he paced (as much as he could pace without legs) around the perimeter of the room. Which was easy with no furniture to speak of, until he hit the bed.

The bed, he couldn’t help but notice, was stained with what seemed to be the same black sludge that he had seen outside. Meaning the murderer had been kept in the very room he was in. Before breaking out, of course. Which, more likely than not, meant that the murderer was an outsider, which was pretty goddamn obvious before as nobody here really seemed to be the types to murder each other anyways. It was a high probability that this outsider was also part of their little battle-to-the-death crew. Except that Syvex didn’t know anybody in the battle that had powers relating to black sludge. He used dark energy, which maybe was kinda like black sludge? But he was extremely certain that he had been too busy to murder random villagers he didn’t know.

Syvex almost wished he had some super-crazy-awesome sense to make up for these sorts of times when he was in a bright place so that he’d have at least something to fall back on and not have to rush into situations blind. Supersmell, maybe. No, that was stupid. Smelling things wouldn’t help at all here. Never mind.

But, really, he couldn’t help but feel that the black sludge was very recognizable. He was willfully ignoring that it was, but with black sludge being the only thing of interest in the room, he couldn’t help but think about just how recognizable it was. And there really was only one person he knew who had been in contact with this particular black sludge-y thing, and in fact could still be in constant contact now.

It really wasn’t a thought he enjoyed.


Eureka staggered. She didn’t quite have enough energy to smile, so she settled for grinning oddly. Just because she was totally falling apart and dying and shit, didn’t mean she couldn’t be happy. So happy. All this attacking was really taking the wind out of her and she really wanted to find another weapon. There was that knife. She really wanted that knife. That would make her so happy. Wherever it was.

She wanted to stop attacking already, but as soon as she stopped, there was another something to attack and she had to attack it before it told other somethings what she was doing so she had to attack it. Attacking really hurt. It was really taking a lot out of her.

That wasn’t too bad.

She really wanted that knife that guy was talking about.

She wanted to stop.

No, not at all, she felt like she could go forever.

She was in pain.

No, there’s no pain at all, she’s fine. Very much fine.

She was lost and tired and confused and –

No. Shut up.

She’s on a train. A red train. She’s on the train to go visit her parents. She’s on a train. It’s very red. There are other people on her train. She’s on a train. These other people need to get off at their stops. She’s on a train. It’s an overcrowded train. She’s there to go visit her parents. There’s only two directions in a train. She’s on a train. She better go forward because if she doesn’t, I’ll kill you. She’s on a train. It’s an overcrowded train. Everybody should get off. It’s an overcrowded train. She’s on a train. Want to see the engine room, girl? The engine room is very fun. It's an overcrowded train. She’s on a train. She’s on a train. She’s on a train. She’s on a train. She's on a train. She's on a train...

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

They called him the turncoat. The sand-devil. The finest - the most ruthless - of the King's hunting dogs. Tamerlane could've cared less.

None of it registered as anything more than vague disgust on his returns to the palace - the politics, the whispers, the ladies' vapid chatter, the servants' askance glances, the rumours, the routine of it all.

There was only the hunter, the King, and their prey.

He shouldered the latter a little more securely; ignored the doorman and the muttering as he strode - heedless of their precious protocol - into the throneroom. He could feel the eyes of two lackeys of the court upon him, servile masks rendering them expressionless. Tamerlane ignored them.

"Just look at him. He's finished."

Sand slithered upon iron flagstones, the errant finger-twitch which would've swept it all up distracted - clutching, enfeebled, life-and-death to a shored-up dam.

Iron? The throne room's floor was marble. Flagstones were supposed to be, well... stone. Not metal.

Then again, what did it matter? The walls were paper, if you really wanted to point out what was wrong - but more to the point, he'd lost.

"I don't think a defeatist attitude's the way to go about this, Fourth."

"Easy for you to say. Your entrant can regrow all the arms it wants."

Another success, but no victory. No end in sight. The throne would be forever vexed by traitors and rebels and enemies of the state. There was always someone else the King wanted dead.

A pause, then:

"I can accept our little wager's played out, Fifth. Letting it drag on is pointless."

The spider chuckled. "You mean to say that risking Victoria's ire is pointless, hm?"

"You caught me. Now tell me how much I owe-"

Fifth's laughter pealed through the court this time, an inadvertently alien and nerve-fraying sound. The king ignored it-

and smiled, but it failed to reach his eyes. Tamerlane rose only as His Majesty's applause rang out, thrice as loud as any others' in the throne room who cared to hurriedly join in. His latest wife (actually, come to reluctantly recall, she was the same one from his last visit, and the one before that) reacted much the same (apparently memorable) way she had before - knuckles whitened, a sob was choked back, and she stared at Tamerlane as though he were a monster.

He ignored her. The king leant across - grinning at Tamerlane all the while - and took her hand in his, soothing her, asking if anything was the matter. The hunter felt a jolt of adrenaline, dizzying and disorienting in the sense the palace was no place for it, until he remembered

the cold, and the whisper-bellow of wind, and pain like being ripped limb from limb-


Tamerlane, with clear reluctance, came to. A gaunt figure sat hunched over in an armchair, watching the sand-slinger in a lone candle's light, with a deranged little smile on his face.

"Those angels sent you-" Tamerlane didn't see a door, much less angels, at the floorboarded wall his host motioned at "-to make a deal with the devil. I'm guessin'." He laughed, a noise as thin and starved as he was. "Which of us would you reckon, then?"

Tamerlane tried to sit up, then realised what the problem was. He settled for screaming - a good few loud, lusty minutes of the inarticulate stuff - his companion simply waited for him to finish. With a wall somehow at his back, head spinning, breathing through gritted teeth, hand clamped to what was left of his arm, the early symptoms of shock messing fucking royally with his comprehension of what were his recollections and deliriums and what was going on around him right now, Tamerlane finally replied, "what?"

"The angels," as if the conversation were perfectly normally paced. "Were they coming for me, or you?"

Tamerlane tried to shrug, but his inability to do so was almost more eloquent. The man stared for a while longer, before reaching some decision, unfolding from his seat, taking a few uneasy steps, and crouching beside the dust-mage.

"Two really important things you've gotta remember before I give her you, alright? Your life's at stake here. Heh, well, that and the reputations of Beringer and Saenger, but I doubt they've got any angels on their side." The agent's grin faded, drifting for a moment through his own unstable mind. "Soulless cunts'd probably sedate and dissect it," he muttered, before gently slapping Tamerlane across a bandage-wrapped cheek. "Hey. Stay with me. You gotta remember this."

"The Foundation's goons'll kill you if you don't tell them I told you. They're devils, see. Liars. They don't care about the life or suffering of any livin' thing, including their own. You got that?"

Tamerlane nodded, while his companion rattled off some series of landmarks within the Edifice. Worst-case scenario, the madman would hurry up and put him out of his misery. His powers were diminished here, as he vaguely recalled someone mentioning - even the sand he dragged into a pre-emptive deflective slam felt wet and sluggish.

The agent asked if he could remember all that. Tamerlane shrugged again, feeling strangely disconnected from everything as the man pulled out a knife from somewhere. Worst-case scenario then, he supposed. He peeled back Tamerlane's duster, leant on what remained of the hunter's left shoulder for support, then drove the point home with the last of his strength. There was the faintest genuine grin on his face, before the agent grimaced in pain and collapsed.

Tamerlane caught him, put him down, albeit with some difficulty. The fresh knife in what was left of his arm hurt, unsurprisingly, like a bitch, but more puzzling was the lifting of that awful dizziness. Blood loss, or the loss of it. "Shit," growled his saviour, alerting Tamerlane to the unrecognisable (yet somehow concludable) sound of boots on safety glass above. "Course they'd've monitored my vitals. You watch yourself, there's no need to have her make any more room for herself than she's got."

The dust shaper found his feet this time, growling with frustration as the sand slopped lazily about. He reached for the knife, but flinched at his companion's ragged cry. "What did you do?"

"Made a transaction," the agent laughed weakly. "Can't help you with what's above, though. That knife's a selfish lover, see. Won't let anyone - anythin' else do you pain. Make you suffer."

"When she reckons it's time to leave, though," gasped the agent, not bothering to lift himself from the floor, "then you'll die like me, cause some wounds never heal, and she's a master of them specific. Ain't it a blessing fit for angels, though, to know for sure how you'll die?"

Tamerlane said nothing, just listening - in the pauses while the men above took a crowbar to the cell's roof and only entry - to the man's weakening breath and the prickle of his blood through the knife wound in his back.


"Not worth it."

"Sure it was, Fourth. This'll make things far more interesting."

"He'll be dead before the round's out, Fifth. It changes nothing, other than how close my neck is to getting wringed out by Seventh!"

"We had a bet," smiled the gentleman, eight eyes glittering upon his mask. "PUrely for entertainment's sake. The wager was a favour, and you've paid that for losing, and I at any rate have been thoroughly entertained. If it changes nothing, like you say, then I can't see why Victoria has any reason to be upset. More to the point, I can't see why you insist on not enjoying yourself."

"He gave himself up," groaned Fourth, eschewing Fifth's good logic for the chance to complain. "The idiot doesn't realise they'll kill him as soon as he's spent his only bargaining chip."

"It really is childish to get so upset over a mere game." Fifth wished his mask might move, if only because the prospect of a laughing spider amused him.

Fourth would've hit him if he weren't so spineless. He settled instead for a look of deepest loathing.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.



There was no avoiding it. Other than on the off-chance that some crazy muderous happenstance had just happened to coincide with their arrival, Eureka had obviously gotten herself into significant trouble once again. Could she have been the murderer? No, that was impossible. Eureka wasn't the type to kill anyone so much as run away from danger and maybe complain about it or yell at him for screwing something up as he quite frequently did. But then why was the black sludge here? Even then, he had specifically sent her to have the Malevolence's tentacle removed before it caused any further harm. She had been a little spacey when they last met, but she certainly hadn't gone insane. Something must have gone wrong when the pirates attacked.

Syvex studied the contents of the bottle still tightly clutched in his claws. A little less than half remained. Maybe, maybe its use could be enough to destroy the Malevolence entirely. But then she'd have a big gaping hole where there was decidedly not supposed to be one, and she could just as easily bleed to death after its removal. Whatever, he'd think of something. Wasn't much sense in worrying about that when he didn't even know if she had gone insane and murderous or not, and when he had no idea where she even was.

He'd have to find her. The door had been shut and, as he quickly discovered, locked. Conversely, it was made of fairly normal wood, and, frankly, when one is a 700-pound shadow snake, and especially a 700-pound shadow snake who is pissed off about being trapped in a small room, doors don't pose that much of a problem. As such, the locking mechanism was quickly dislodged from the rest of the door in a spray of splinters, and the door swung uselessly open. The trail of sludge led back toward the bodies, around which a large number of under-dwellers had gathered. The trail of sludge unfortunately didn't really exist other than around the bodies, so he'd have to find another lead elsewhere.

Maybe she had been taken to the under-dwellers' "god" at some point. He figured it was worth a shot. As such, he charged past the crowd, ignoring their outcries, along the path that had taken him from "Xiuhcoatl"'s chamber, and back into the city's central building. He managed to find his way back to the chamber (assisted by the fact that it was fairly close to the entrance), and, as it happened, directly into Alm, who froze in the middle of her conversation with another woman, her expression very quickly growing angry.

"You... are supposed.. to be in... your room!"

"Yeah, I know. I broke the lock. Now step aside. I need to speak with your 'god' immediately."

"That is... unacceptable... return to your room... at once..." Alm looked ready to use force if necessary.

Syvex held up the bottle. "You really don't want to make me use this. I'm not here to hurt anyone. There's someone I need to find before something worse happens. Now, out of the way!"

Alm failed to comply, instead forcefully taking him by the arms, a gesture which, admittedly, works better if the subject doesn't have more than can actually be held. Syvex mustered what little strength he could with the power-reduction of the Underlands and discharged a weak burst of dark energy into Alm's side, too weak to cause any singificant inury. She momentarily dropped back, clutching her side in pain.

"I'm sorry. You're only doing your job, but there are more important things at stake here." Without a word of acknowledgement for the very-shocked Kahsh, Syvex threw the door open and burst into "Xiuhcoatl"'s throne room. The bright light within left him essentially blind, of course, but he could very clearly hear "Xiuhcoatl" talking in a frantic and distinctly ungodlike manner.

" I said, I don't know that! It's O5-level clearance! Anyone who tries to access it without permission dies a horrible death! Memetic kill agent or something."

"...Who are you talking to?" the serpent questioned.

A vague whisper forced itself into Syvex's mind, though as little as he could see it might as well have just been someone talking quietly. "This does not concern you. Leave at once."

"...Muriego, or Laguna or whatever? I thought you tended to keep out of our way. Finally taking action? Whatever, I don't care."

"If you wish to keep your life, you will leave, serpent."

"I don't even know what you can do, but if you could just kill me so easily you would've done it long before now. Look, I'm not even here to interfere right now. Do you know where Eureka is or not?"

"The cloth mage is no longer here. She was taken to her room. Now leave."

"No. 'Xiuhcoatl', or whatever your name is since you're pretty obviously a fake. Do you know where she might've gone?"

"No... No, I don't. Get the hell out of my throne room!"

"Alright, alright. Just so you know, someone out there is murdering the under-dwellers, so I'd suggest actually doing something about it when you two are done making out."

Syvex left through the door, immediately being confronted by a much larger group of under-dwellers than he had left. They looked to be quite angry with him, a big change considering the usual passiveness.

"Um... Xiuhcoatl isn't seeing anyone right now. Seriously, don't go in there." Syvex didn't want an uproar over their false god when he was trying to find Eureka. "I have spoken to the great Xiuhcoatl, and it is his will that I continue to search for Eureka without being disturbed. If any of you know where she is, I would very much like to know. Alm, sorry about the whole shooting you thing. I did what i had to."

One of the more twisted-looking under-dwellers stepped forward on uneven legs. "Saw a figure... entering north tower... might be... who you are... looking for," it intoned with the larger of its mouths.

Attempting to not be slightly repulsed, Syvex slithered past the crowd and out of the temple. A few minutes later, what was left of the group noticed him re-entering.

"Which one is the north tower, exactly?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Saenger! Respond!" Dr. Beringer yelled into his communicator, to no avail. It didn't make sense. His headdress was equipped with a one-way communicator; Saenger should have been able to hear him. In theory Beringer also had the capability to activate Saenger's regular communicator, so he could at least hear what was going on that would keep the agent from responding. He did so at once.

"...big lizard thing, completely indestructible. Adapts to everything we throw at it. Look, there are thousands of these things. I can't tell you about all of them! I don't even know about all of them! Let me go and I'll tell them your story."

A brief period of silence passed before Saenger kept talking, but Beringer had heard enough. Face burning red, he switched his communication channel at once.

"Agent Korsikov? I don't have time to talk. Saenger's revealing SCP secrets to someone, I don't know who. Get your task force in there and neutralize him at once. I don't care what it takes. I don't care if you take the whole damn undercity down. The experiment is over! According to him, a number of potential SCPs have appeared in there, at least one of which he seemed to think could be Keter-level. Be careful down there. Now go!"

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Ripper Blackmask wadded up yet another ball of paper and tossed it into the crudely-carved bowl in the room. Once again, she managed to land it in.

She was growing restless. For a giant hotel with a sprawling city under it, it was just so damn tedious. No, she needed to bring some piracy proper into this, and do it fast. But what if those ugly lubbers are stronger than they look? Don’t want more trouble than I bargained for. Then again, it wouldn’t be too hard to find out if there was only one of them there, and if it was more than the pirate expected it’d be a good fight in and of itself…

Blackmask opened the door and pounded on the wall outside; soon enough, someone stumbled along. “What do… you need… guest?” The pirate responded to this by double-checking that the hallway was empty, then grabbing the unfortunate soul, dragging him into her room, and slamming the door. Her fears had proved more or less unfounded; if anything, he was even weaker than most unarmed civilians she’d ever thought. Someone with medical or magical training might cite the possibility of lowered bone density or muscle mass, though note that it could easily be any number of other ill effects from exposure to whatever had caused their bodies to twist as they had; Blackmask simply attributed it to the creatures being stupid naïve sods, and began breaking down doors and looting things.

There was the occasional pang of consciousness, of course, but for the most part she considered it not worth thinking about. She'd stolen from those who came by their wealth deservingly before, and she had even killed them if the insurance was what was needed; besides, the guilt always subsided when looking over the plunder. The far larger concern was the odd shortness of breath she was experiencing. Normally her lungs were fairly strong, and she wasn't even exerting herself. She wrote it off as a brief bit of pain to work through, pretending she'd felt it every time she started one of her raids. Perfectly normal, nothing to worry about.

Unfortunately, the building they were in only had so many valuables, and Ripper Blackmask was never content to stop a thieving spree in the middle. The only solution was to head out into town and start breaking into houses proper-- which, unfortunately for her, led one of the individuals she passed to decide to go clean up the guest area to ensure it was ready for the next guest they received. They were so rare, after all; it would be a terrible shame if something were to ruin the experience, such as
"A... corpse..."
As soon as she heard the bizarre, guttural scream, Ripper knew she was in trouble. However, she certainly didn't expect just how quickly a mob would form, complete with makeshift weapons. She had to admit it was impressive how one scream could so easily rally the entire people; she only wished she could manage something that effective. But this train of thought was broken when a rock was thrown at her, at which point she decided the fun had truly started.

"Alright, ya blaggards. Y'wish t'cross swords and trade shells with Ripper Blackmask? Then come on and get your ticket on the Dutchman!" At this, she began firing scalding plasma into the crowd while slashing back and forth with a baton, completely ignoring that neither of these really fit her poetic little introduction. What was more important was that she kept them at bay, and at first, she did; but somehow, more and more kept filtering in from god knows where. Who knew how many of them would be ready? Hundreds? Thousands? They began reaching the pirate in spite of her best efforts, clawing at her coat and trying to disarm her. It still wasn't too difficult to dislodge them, but they were wearing her down. Causing her pain, making her pant with exhaustion. Was that normal? Of course it was. She always felt like this. She powered through it. It was just looking more and more difficult to do so.

It was around this point that the pirate remembered that she was supposed to have an alliance with Syvex and, more importantly, that she hadn’t recalled seeing him for quite a while now, and that it would be quite convenient to see him again. After briefly entertaining the possibility of searching for him, then immediately discarding that because she was being... well, mobbed, by an angry mob and the city was rather too enormous to search every building for him while they were doing so, she found the entire thing moot as a tremendous explosion rocked the ground in front of her.

Blackmask and the mob chasing her froze in awe as the device that had caused the explosion came into view. The temple had risen from its foundation, and tremendous cannons had sprouted from all four sides, firing rapidly at the entire town, with an approaching battalion of small tanks supplementing this. Standing atop of the pyramid was a man in a black suit and sunglasses, who had taken the liberty of kicking Xiuhcoatl off the top, where he rather quickly died.

Several things happened at this point. First, the mob's attention quickly turned to the temple, and their misshapen legs and crude weapons quickly brought them flailing towards it. Second, Ripper-- sensing an opportunity to find her ally-- rocketed off and began scanning from a high vantage point, knowing that she probably wouldn't find the shadow serpent but praying that she would. And third, a man in a cloak, seemingly invisible to everyone around him, shuffled down the pyramid steps, the pincushion in his hands cursing their abominable luck.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

On instinct, one of the agents shot him. Tamerlane felt the bullet push him back, but not much else. The other agent shouted, “Don’t fire!”, gesturing towards the knife.

They surrounded the corpse and looked at it for a while. Then they looked at him.

“How did you get in here?” one asked. Tamerlane figured the easiest answer was a shrug.

“He told you something, didn’t he?” another said.

There was not much he could answer besides ‘yes.’


They had been torturing that last guy. They told him as much. And considering that, although practically immortal and not really able to feel much of what they could possibly do to him, he was still weak, he figured it was smarter to just go with them. He didn’t want to be locked up in a room forever, like the last guy. And it seemed that they were rather willing to meet his demands as long as it meant he would reveal everything they wanted him to reveal.

“I’m hungry,” he said. “And I need something, at least, to wrap around this wound. And I wouldn’t mind a cozier place. A room without a corpse, perhaps.”

“It won’t be safe to transfer you,” one of the agents said. “But we can get everything else shortly. Get a recorder too!” he called out to those who were already climbing out of the ceiling. “Maybe a transcriber!”

And then everything descended into silence. Tamerlane went and collapsed in the armchair. The agent stiffened and watched him closely.

Yes, he would certainly talk if he had no other choice, but a plan was quickly forming, something he was sure he could work with.

What was said in the beginning of the round…the thing that dampened powers, also had a knife embedded in it. And that knife was the knife that was in his arm, now. And, just a few seconds ago, it had been embedded in that man, who was now dead. So perhaps he was the cause of power-dampening and screwy rooms or whatever. But, as a quick experimentation proved, dust continued to be sluggish when he tried to command it.

So there were two possibilities he could think of, which would be that the knife had in fact been the item and he had been lied to a little bit, or he had been outright lied to. The second one seemed to be more likely, but even if the first one was true, he couldn’t see how that would be of any use at all.

In any case, he had an escape to make, whether he had his full powers or not.

“…What was that?”

“The sound?” Tamerlane asked as he stilled the sand once more. “I think I saw something move over there.”

And it was only a matter of sneaking up behind the man while his back was turned and slamming his head against the wall hard enough to knock him out. The sandman took his gun and shot him. It was more effective than it had been on Tamerlane.

The problem, then, was exiting.

The agents had entered the room through the ceiling, by way of rope. The ropes were still there, hanging down from the hole, but he still only had one arm. He certainly had no idea how a one-armed man was supposed to climb, besides extremely slowly and painfully. But it wasn’t like he had too much of a choice.

His system of inching up the rope was certainly straining on his remaining arm. But it was doable. And perhaps he would be closely pursued in the following seconds, but he knew things about this stupid building more than they did. Perhaps not everything, but enough to get by. And what he was going to do was quickly kill everybody else before any of them had time to take the knife away from him.

It sounded a lot harder now that he was actively thinking about it. But there was not much else he could do.


Things sure went to hell rather quickly. She wasn’t even clear on why, this time around. It was best just to focus on finding Syvex.

Ripper caught sight of him quicker than she thought she would, partly because it was hard to miss what was undoubtedly black and snake-like rocketing through the streets of a city-esque place under cannonfire. She descended.

“A’ight, serpent, bin lookin’ fer ya ev’rywhere!”

“I need to find Eureka,” he replied curtly.

Ripper paused for a minute, seeking the most diplomatic answer possible. She settled for, “Lad, we could probably use some cover, y’see? I’m sure she’s a smart enough lass to seek cover herself and stay out of trouble – “

“Ha! Stay out of trouble? You really don’t know her, then,” Syvex scoffed bitterly. “Why don't you scout around for her? I'm sure you'll be able to find her faster than me.”

Ripper had to pause again, but decided that any instance of ‘no’ would involve in certain alliance-breakage this time. Or worse. Uncomfortably, she pushed aside worries about getting shot out of the sky.


Eureka wandered dreamily about THE TRAIN. She had found a rather nice LADDER, which she was certain would lead up to the second floor OF THE TRAIN. There, she could find THE ENGINE ROOM. And once she did that, then she could [UNKNOWN]. And everything would be great.

The problem was all these TRAIN PEOPLE. They kept shouting at her, telling her to go back down, this was restricted. Well, if the second floor OF THE TRAIN was so gosh darn restricted, how come it was so easy for her to get up here? These TRAIN PEOPLE obviously didn’t know what they were doing at all. So she simply ignored them.

They tried shooting at her with bullets, but that didn’t matter. Bullets didn’t matter at all. Because, of course, she was [UNKNOWN].

Then she killed them.

They were guarding THE ENGINE ROOM no doubt, and so she continued lurching on. It wasn’t long, though, before she encountered THE CONDUCTOR. She knew he was a CONDUCTOR because of his knife-arm. If she followed THE CONDUCTOR, she was sure to find THE ENGINE ROOM. She also wouldn’t mind taking his knife-arm.

But when she tried approaching THE CONDUCTOR, he ran away. And she quickly lost him. He knew this TRAIN better than she did. Which was a shame. But she was sure she would eventually catch him. She was good at catching things. Like bullets. In her gut.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Syvex continued to move forward at speeds much greater that a giant snake should have reasonably been able to attain, seemingly ignorant of the fact that there were guns and cannons firing all around him. Smaller buildings around the towers were being destroyed instantly, blown to bits by cannon fire. None of it mattered to Syvex. The whole goddamn universe could come down around him, for all he cared. He didn't even care if he died in the process, he had to find her. He had to kill whatever remained of the Malevolence before it consumed her. Consumed everyone. It probably wasn't even dead back in the mansion, but that was in another universe and Syvex had really stopped worrying about that.

Syvex paused for a moment as he heard long series of crashes, accompanied by screaming. He couldn't see far enough to tell what it was, but it was fair to guess that one of the towers surrounding the temple had crashed down. The whole city was coming down around him for... some reason? Syvex had no idea what was actually going on. Couldn't have been the doing of the Under-dwellers. Maybe the priest guy. Syvex didn't care, as long as the North Tower still stood.

As Syvex charged forward, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his side, followed by a feeling of drowsiness. He pulled a dart out of his body, one which was apparently loaded with tranquilizers. Slowly, he fell to the ground. Two SCP agents, dressed in black, moved in to capture him now that he was incapacitated.

Except for the fact that they underestimated the amount of tranquiliziers it would actually take to bring down a giant shadow snake. The chemicals were neutralized by his regenerative processes. He promptly demonstrated this fact by leaping at one, picking him up, and tossing him at the other, sending both crashing to the ground. Syvex immediately continued onward, meeting little other resistance, until an enormous, ornate tower came into view. It was hard for the serpent to see the top despite the relative darkness of the city, but it appeared to continue all the way into the cavern's ceiling. Its facade was also twisted quite a bit in comparison with the others, angling in several different directions as it approached the ceiling.

Syvex noted also a painfully-glowing object rapidly descending from the tower; the distinctive glow of Ripper's jetpack. She landed next to the serpent, the grim look on her face blocked by her mask.

"Did you find her?" the serpent asked, urgently.

"...Serpent, I've got grave news for you. She's been killin' everyone she crosses paths with. Got a knife 'n everything. Th' lass is mad, alright?"

"No. No, that isn't possible." Yes that is possible, she's still got the goddamn tentacle in her! "Are you sure it was her?"

"That or I'm goin' blind. Y'gotta accept it, she's addled. Might have to kill her if she attack us."

Syvex grabbed Blackmask by the collar. "No. No! You're wrong. Something's wrong! You really think she could kill someone? She's not like that, Ripper! It's..."

Syvex paused for a moment and dropped Ripper. "It's my fault. I had to leave her to find the infirmary. If I'd gone with her, none of this would've happened. But no, I had to go off and leave her in the hands of some doctors that couldn't even defend themselves. We can't just kill her, Ripper! I'm going to tear whatever's left of that fucking thing to shreds! She'll be fine after that."

Ripper looked on in mild surprise. The serpent certainly hadn't had that kind of outburst before. Must really care about the mage, she thought.

"Look, let's just keep going. We're not going to save anyone by standing around."

"Aye..." Ripper followed after Syvex as he rushed off for the tower.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tamerlane didn't know where he was going. He didn't care. He had stopped the bleeding now, but for what? So he could run out into a battleground one arm poorer and get himself slaughtered? There was only so much the body could take, and perhaps Tamerlane had reached the edge. He was wandering corridors blindly at this point. Not blindly, exactly. He knew his way around this building better than anyone, but mysterious knife-granted knowledge didn't extend to actually knowing where he wanted to go. Kill them all, he thought. Protect the knife at any cost.

It was a stupid thought. What did the knife even do for him? It gave him some useless knowledge and gave him an instant-kill lever. Not a good tradeoff. But deep down, feelings of paranoia welled up. He had to protect the knife. He had to keep everyone else away from it. And perhaps that was why, when the cloth mage showed up, grinning, oozing black sludge, and wielding a very bloody knife, he decided to run.

He ran with a strength he didn't know he had. It was ridiculous. He was a fighter, not a coward. And yet when the first sign of trouble showed up, he sprinted off into the depths of the tower. What was worse was that in spite of her shorter and seemingly frailer stature, Eureka was keeping pace. And singing. Singing about conductors and trains and tearing out entrails and taking the knife. His knife. No, no. The knife, the one that just happened to be in his arm. It wasn't his.

In looking back to find that Eureka was closing the gap between them, Tamerlane inadvertently tripped down a flight of stairs. Collapsed in a heap on the floor and in a daze, Tamerlane quickly stumbled his way through a series of hotel rooms, locking each door behind him. He slumped against the wall. The knife was- he was safe.

Also, there was insane babbling coming from behind the closet door on the other side of the room. Violating what might have been common sense, Tamerlane crept across the room and flung open the doors. Huddled in the corner of the closet was a dirty, disheveled man, huddled in the corner and talking to himself. He yelled when the door opened, revealing a wad of paper clutched in his hands.

Tamerlane picked up the document the man dropped after being clobbered with a potted plant. It wasn't especially helpful. Just an account of a guy going mad in what seemed to be another warped structure. Apparently the warping was caused by something called SCP-184, though there was no mention of the knife. Tamerlane threw the paper to the ground. Maybe the place drove everyone insane. It was hard to say. Tamerlane certainly wasn't insane anyway. Not at all.

The door burst open, and Eureka giggled to herself while making train noises. She hadn't even finished shouting "All abooooooaaaaaard" before Tamerlane had taken off.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Another carefully-arranged plan, utterly destroyed. Laguja should have noticed that everything was being recorded. Under normal circumstances it would have, but these were certainly not normal circumstances. Had everything gone according to plan, Laguja would already be gaining power from a mass of new subjects, too dull to even question their false god's lack of divine abilities. But now the city was coming down, SCP agents were running rampant, and there was more-or-less utter chaos. Even the god could barely fathom why the entire temple was built to raise up just to fire cannons at the city. From what little Agent Saenger had managed to describe, this Foundation had much quicker and more efficient ways to bring down a city. More likely, they had long ago abandoned common sense for needless complexity.

But with that needless complexity came opportunity. One method of bringing the Under-dwellers to kneel before him had failed, but surely there were more. Their "god" had perished, leaving a severe leadership gap. Intense desperation permeated the minds of all of the city's people unanimously. They were weak. Laguja could establish itself easily among them.

There wouldn't be much point in gaining leadership of a collapsing city, though. Two of the towers had already collapsed, and several more were damaged. Under-dwellers died by the dozens as volley after volley of shells poured from the cannons. The pincushion immediately directed its priest back into the temple, to seek out a method of stopping the cannons at their source. Not certain where to go within the sprawling corridors of the temple, Muriegro waited in the shadows for a pair of SCP agents to walk by. The priest followed, quiet footsteps going unnoticed by his unknowing guides, until they led him to another unassuming corridor (seemingly made entirely of diamond) in which two other operatives were posted. Each was heavily armed; it was quite evident that there was something important nearby.

In its weakened state, though, there was little Laguja could do against a quartet of armed guards without getting its priest very messily killed. The most it could do was conceal Muriegro from their eyes as it waited for an opening. The odds of such a thing weren't in the god's favor.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The inside of the North Tower was conspicuously empty. Empty of anything living, that is. Strewn throughout the halls were a number of corpses, both of Under-dwellers and SCP operatives, apparently hacked apart by some sort of knife. Weaker stomachs might have churned at such a ghastly sight, but Ripper was more than used to seeing such things on a daily basis. Syvex, on the other hand, felt sick for an entirely different reason, albeit one that should be obvious by this point. Black sludge mixed with the puddles of blood, staining the mahogany shag carpet with a dark-red slurry that Syvex would have looked away from were he able. He kind of wanted to vomit.

"Told you. 'S not pretty. Y'alright, serpent?" Ripper asked.

"Yeah, sure. Just a bunch of mangled corpses. Let's keep going. Get away from all the bodies, preferably."

Ripper's footsteps, accompanied by the quiet sliding of Syvex's body, echoed through corridor after empty corridor. Bits of sludge and blood left an easy trail for the two to follow, but the number of corpses essentially dropped to nothing as they ascended. It seemed that the tower had mostly been unoccupied from the start.

The sheer amount of nothing was much worse than any of the countless somethings that could have happened. Eureka could have been waiting around the corner, ready to ambush them at a moment's notice. SCP operatives could appear at any time and attempt to capture Syvex. Hell, the entire place could have come down with the rest of the town. It was almost maddening how uneventful the journey was. Blood and sludge and corridors made out of alternatingly wacky and horrible things might have been exciting or awful at first, but they quickly became part of the norm. It was maddening, perhaps, because it was boring. The entire battle so far had been a parade of things, no empty corridors in sight. Even the mostly-empty mansion had the distinction of being haunted. Here? A floor, some walls, and a ceiling, sometimes stairs too.

Perhaps that was why, when Syvex saw something scratched into the walls, he felt something akin to relief.

"VAGABONDS? What the hell does that mean?" Syvex asked.

Ripper, however, looked much more confused than her companion. "Th' hell d'you mean? You tellin' me you can read that nonsense up there?"

"Nonsense? It's just..." Syvex looked back at the wall. The words etched in the wall were, in fact, not in any language resembling English. Strange, angular runes were arranged on the wall, yet, in some way, the serpent didn't see nonsense. He saw "VAGABONDS", plain as could be.

"I don't know. I guess? Maybe I just forgot?"

"I see y'be just as daft as always, serpent. Let's go."

Another couple of floors up, the two found another carving. "ONE OF LIGHT, ONE OF DARK," Syvex mumbled.

"Dark? Don't s'pose it's talkin' about you, d'you?"

"Don't see how. I'm not even sure how I'm reading this in the first place. Besides, who would 'one of light' describe, then? We don't have time for this. Eureka's up here somewhere."

Ascending one final staircase, the serpent and the pirate entered a very long corridor, comprised of fairly normal materials for a hotel, excepting the lack of doors anywhere. Syvex couldn't see anything else wrong, but Ripper stopped to stare for a moment.

"We above th' city now? 'S much longer than anything that would fit in the tower."

"I think we're getting close if that's the case. Let's go."

They hadn't been moving for long before another carving presented itself. "JOURNEYS MIRROR," Syvex read. "Not any help. Who's leaving these, anyway? Eureka?"

"If that's the case, how are y' readin' 'em?"

"You know that I don't know that." Syvex stopped for a moment. The writing did look familiar, but not to anything he had seen in reality. On GRIMACE's ship, he'd had a dream. Most of it was lost, but only one part still stood out - the words "WAKE UP", etched into one of Afterparty's enormous cables. The exact same writing. Was it also in these runes? Syvex couldn't remember, and didn't want to dwell on it.

The two sped through the completely-uniform corridor for several minutes, unsure if they were even making any progress. Eventually, though, one of the perfectly-flat walls was interrupted, this time by more than a simple carving. On the wall hung a large and ornate mirror, shattered by the knife which pinned a piece of paper to it. Above it were etched the words "CHECK YOUR BOTTLE". Syvex looked at the bottle clutched in his hand. At some point, it had been topped off with the same caliginous fluid, as if he had never even opened it. More and more questions presented themselves, with nary an answer in sight.

"Serpent!" came the voice of the pirate. Syvex diverted his attention from the bottle just long enough to notice the faint gleam of a spidery mask, fading away into the darkness at the edge of his small vision field. He'd seen that mask before. On the ship, more than once. Had it been in his dream? Maybe.

"Another of those blaggards running th' thing? I've had enough of 'em as is."

Syvex pulled the knife from the mirror, catching the paper in another hand. The ornate design looked familiar to him - a pattern resembling a spider, eight golden eyes adorning the pommel and eight spindly legs emerging from the end of the hilt. The same type of knife had pinned the map to the wall on the Thunderhead.

"I've seen him before. Always disappears before I can even be sure of what I'm seeing, though. At least I know I'm not crazy, if you also saw it."

"He been leavin' th' messages?"

"Maybe. I guess. It'd make sense." A moment of silence passed. "Here, can you take a look at this? I can't read it." Syvex handed the paper to the pirate, who unfolded it and looked it over as they continued past the broken mirror.

Ripper read over the paper, then gave Syvex the short version. Apparently the knife that had been mentioned at the round's start didn't work exactly how it had been described. The document called it "SCP-1485", and described it as "Euclid", whatever that meant. Apparently the knife wasn't simply an instant-death weapon. It gave "relevant knowledge" to whoever was stabbed with it, be it first aid or the layout of a building. On being removed, it would cause the host to quickly deteriorate: dead in fifteen minutes, reduced to little more than dust in thirty. Technically they hadn't been lied to entirely - a "small cut" would be enough to kill someone.

The document described some other things - something about dependence and the importance of always keeping it in a host (apparently not doing so would lead to bad things within an hour or two). It seemingly cut off in the middle - Ripper tossed the paper aside when she was done describing it. The corridor's end was finally in sight.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eureka kept following THE CONDUCTOR through the TRAIN CARS. There were a lot of them. There must have been a lot of PASSENGERS in this TRAIN.

The TRAIN PEOPLE had stopped bothering her, because she had killed them all and they were dead. It was only her and THE CONDUCTOR and he was leading her straight to THE ENGINE ROOM. She knew this for sure, because where else would he be going in such a hurry?

She wished he would slow down. The knife-arm looked really nice. She wanted that knife-arm. But she couldn't take it from him because she hadn't UNKNOWN yet. She just kept following him. There were a lot of floors IN THE TRAIN.

And soon enough, he had led her to THE ENGINE ROOM. The BOILER stood in front of her now. THE CONDUCTOR continued to elude her, but what did she care now? She was UNKNOWN and she had to REFUEL THE BOILER so that UNKNOWN.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tamerlane kept running. The knife itched. He wanted to rip it out. He wanted to leave it in. He wanted to rid himself of it. He wanted to keep it to himself forever. Conflicting thoughts that were simultaneously his and not his wracked his brain and he could barely even focus on the fact that he was running for his life. He shook his head violently. There was no dust or silt or anything anywhere that he could possibly use to defend against Eureka, and his sword had been confiscated at the round's outset. At least the hallway wasn't horribly distorted like most of the hotel was. He didn't have to think.

He realized he should have been thinking when suddenly there was a glass door in front of him, next to a sign reading "Lobby". He threw the door open and ran in.

It wasn't really much of a lobby.

What might have once been the central room of a hotel had been twisted beyond belief. The lower part formed a rough dome shape, complete with a gravity-defying pond stretching up the side. The tables and chairs of some sort of dining area sat on the other side, looking pristine despite the apparent disuse of the entire building. The top of the dome opened up into a square tower, walkways around the perimeter stacked higher than Tamerlane could make out. It hurt his head a little.

Of greatest note, however, was a strangely ornate fountain in the center of the floor, completely dry. A few inches above the highest layer floated a small, hollow decahedron of black stone, each vertex adorned with a small sphere and each face bearing a small, circular hole.

Before he could really admire the scene any further, a hideous burst of laughter came from directly behind him. He whipped around to find Eureka, grinning eye-to-eye and waving her knife around in a manner that very much defied any and all knife safety rules at once. Tamerlane slowly backed away, inadvertently approaching the fountain at the same time. As he got closer he could feel the spatial distortions emanating from the object, trying to warp his body in the same way it had warped the Under-dwellers. He wisely decided to duck away and stand next to the reception desk before the object decided he'd look better a couple feet taller and with another arm or three. Eureka didn't seem to care, and stood frozen at the fountain's edge, grinning at the object at the top.

Suddenly, the door slammed open hard enough to shatter the plane of glass, and Syvex and Ripper charged into the room.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Eureka!" Syvex shouted, before suddenly realizing how strange it sounded. "Finch! Get away from that!" She didn't listen to him, perfectly content in staring at the orb-looking thing at the top of the fountain. Now was his chance to destroy the Malevolence definitively. He cautiously slid across the floor toward Eureka, but soon stopped in his lack of tracks. Tamerlane was there, standing against the far wall, just coming into the serpent's view. Syvex wasn't sure why he was standing so far away, but it wouldn't be easy to save Eureka from a parasitic abomination when a murderous sand mage could attack and any time. Reason be damned, Syvex charged toward Tamerlane, followed close behind by the pirate.

Tamerlane caught Syvex's fist in his hand, flinching slightly at the impact. Tamerlane's eyes widened slightly - apparently he had even surprised himself. Syvex nonetheless had a clear advantage without the use of magic or magic-esque abilities, being a thousand-pound, six-armed shadow snake against an average-sized one-armed human. He briefly wondered if it was even worth the trouble, and contemplated just crushing the guy's head like an overripe melon and getting it over with. It's not like he could do much but run - and even then, he was too occupied with holding back the serpent's fist and the razor-sharp spikes that came with it.

A perfect plan, he realized, except for the fact that killing Tamerlane would just throw him and Eureka and whoever else was even left miles apart once again. Had to just knock him out then. Which was kind of a problem, seeing as Ripper was now pointing her gun at his head, prepared to blow it off.

"Ripper, we need him alive!"

"I s'pose so. Send 'im reelin', then."

Syvex obliged by punching Tamerlane in the gut with another fist, sending him stumbling backwards. Tamerlane retaliated by... running. Running far and fast. Disappointing, really. One of the greatest adversaries Syvex had faced, running like a coward.

"I guess it's because of the knife. I don't think he'll be a problem. Let's kill the Malevolence, and then you can put a bullet in his head or whatever."

Syvex had barely started for the fountain before a cloud of ash violently ripped across his midsection, flaying off an assortment of purple scales accompanied by a spray of blood. Tamerlane dropped back into view, dark silt flowing through the air around him. "Flowing", in this case, meaning "floating around in a constant struggle to not fall to the ground". Either way, Syvex really wished the room weren't so bright. He hadn't seen Tamerlane running around the far end of the lobby gathering dust from the ashtrays.

Ripper hadn't noticed either, her attention diverted to the seemingly-endless hotel above and the possibility of equally-unlimited riches within. Her attention was certainly not focused on an increasing difficulty of breathing or anything else of the sort. Probably just the orb thing, anyway.

But that didn't matter, because in spite of his weakened state, Tamerlane now posed a legitimate threat. Ripper had nothing on hand to feed into the Endorphic Core; nothing to rely on but a gun she wasn't allowed to use and her jetpack. And a baton, for all the good it would do against magic that could rip flesh from bone in an instant.

Opportunity struck, however, as Syvex and Tamerlane continued to struggle with each other. Syvex haphazardly launched weak bursts of shadow, doing little more than causing slight bruising when they actually contacted, and Tamerlane strained just to keep the ash under his control in order to protect himself. Ripper quickly crept up behind Tamerlane, and, before he could react, brought the baton down hard on his back. She heard a sickening crack before the mage fell to the ground, then tried to slowly crawl away.

"Let 'im go. Lubber's not fit fer fightin' a child."

Syvex didn't respond. In the part of the room he had been ignoring, the part where Eureka stood staring at the fountain. She was still there, of course, same unnerving grin and everything. What was more worrying was the fact that a number of tentacles had begun to pour out of the wound that contained a piece of the original Malevolence. These appendages stretched out toward the warping object, coalescing into a large mass and surrounding it.

The Malevolence was returning to life, and Eureka was already becoming eclipsed by the rapid growth of the abomination. Pretty soon, it would probably absorb her into its mass or something like that, and she'd be lost forever. Syvex couldn't just let that happen.

In spite of the power-dampening, in spite of the level of light, Syvex had to stop it before it was too late. He held up the bottle, the same bottle he had clutched in his hand since he had arrived on the H.M.S. Thunderhead, now once more topped off. He wrenched the cork out with a single claw and, with slight hesitation, threw his head back and guzzled the entirety of the dark liquid inside.

To say that the effects of the massive quantities of Caliginosity were significant would not be unlike saying that water is wet, or perhaps that breathing is usually good for your health. It was not quite as profound as when Hebris had attempted to kill him with it - he was neither levitating nor shooting lasers all over the place - but his senses were sharpened to an intense degree, and the light didn't even matter anymore. He didn't need to find shadow, he was shadow, or at least the essence of it.

He merely had to wave his hand toward the nearly-engulfed orb. In a blinding flash of light, Syvex, Ripper, Tamerlane, and Eureka were knocked to the ground as the orb fell into two pieces. A great splash of water accompanied the reassertion of gravity on the pool which previously occupied the wall.

Syvex began to drag himself from the ground, feeling an even greater rush of power as the inhibiting field was destroyed. This rush of power, however, was slightly negated when one of the Malevolence's many tentacles grabbed his arm and successfully ripped it off. He struggled for a while, attempting to slice off the appendages of the abomination as easily as he had destroyed the orb, but found that it wasn't working at all.

Caliginosity apparently didn't take too kindly to someone drinking it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Muriegro pulled himself onto his feet. His god had not anticipated a sudden, inexplicable shockwave, and he was caught completely off-guard. As he got up, however, Laguja could feel its power rushing back to it, its dominion over weaker minds rushing back as if through a freshly burst dam. Whatever force had allowed Muriegro freedom from the control of the pincushion had been utterly quashed, and the priest was again completely servile.

Laguja decided to test this return to power on one of the guards as he scrambled from the ground, returning to his post. His stolid demeanor quickly melted away, shifting to worry, followed by a full-on panic attack.

"You alright, Jerry?" one of the guards asked him.

Jerry responded by blowing the heads off of his fellow guardsmen and running away, screaming maniacally. Laguja commanded Muriegro past the corpses, vaguely amused. How simple it was, now, to turn them against each other. Simple and efficient.

The high priest threw the now-unguarded door open. It was little more than a glorified broom closet, containing little but a chair, a couple of control panels, and some monitors and other machinery. In the chair sat, as a quick mind-probing revealed, one Agent Korsikov, the leader of the mobile task force that was attempting to destroy the city. Korsikov pointed a very large assault rifle at Muriegro's face. As he attempted to pull the trigger, his hand instead decided to throw the weapon into the hallway.

Agent Korsikov soiled his pants.

Muriegro walked back toward the temple's entrance, trailing behind the braindead body of Agent Korsikov. The two emerged from the entrance to the temple, and, as the mass of Under-dwellers gathered around the body of Xiuhcoatl watched, Muriegro waved his hand. The agent flung himself from the temple, tumbling down the side before crashing to the ground far below. As the Under-dwellers stared in awe, the priest descended the steps and approached the group, clutching the pincushion in his outstretched hand. A gravelly voice whispered in their minds.

I am Huitzilopochtli. The death of your god is unfortunate, but do not lose all hope. Xiuhcoatl was overcome by the dark forces that inhabit this city. I am another god, and sadly arrived too late to save him. It is not too late for you, however. It took the extent of my power, but the leader of the dark elements has been destroyed, as you have seen. You are not yet safe, though. These agents must be destroyed at all costs.

The Under-dwellers, having both witnessed the powers of Laguja and being extremely willing to accept any explanation for the apparent death of their god, were rallied by Laguja's short speech. In an instant they had charged into the city, arming themselves and preparing to hunt down some "dark powers", real or imagined. It was almost too easy.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Everything was pain. Tamerlane lay in a collapsed heap on the ground, having dragged himself to the dome's edge. He could barely focus. He had a splitting headache, as if his brain was trying its best to evacuate. Soon Tamerlane had forgotten he was even in a mangled hotel, that he was fighting to the death at all.

Sitting in his mindscape was a large opaque sphere. He’d tried opening it once. But now it was falling apart. Crumbling to dust. As long as he could remember, the sphere had been sitting there, in the back of his mind. As long as he could remember.

He hadn't remembered much.

A disjointed series of images assaulted Tamerlane. Sitting alone on a beach, the laughter of other children echoing across the shore. Isolation. A gift, or perhaps a curse.

Suddenly he was in town and she was there with him. He didn't recognize her, yet she had been there for him for years. He felt happiness - that emotion he had for years viewed as foul, something to be abhorred, something he had never once let slip through. And yet here it was and it was wonderful. He didn't know who she was. He loved her.

Suddenly he was on the beach with her and they were younger and he still didn't know who she was but of course he didn't she had just walked from further down the beach and now she was here with him. She was beautiful, she was a stranger.

She wasn't a stranger, they were getting married, it was the happiest time of their lives. There weren't many people but they didn't care, it was just them and they were together. Miriam a voice said, and he knew the name but he didn't. He was marrying a lover he didn't know, yet he always had. Miriam. They thought the good times would last forever.

He stood stolid over her body, blood staining the floor a deep crimson. He sheathed his sword and walked away, emotionless.

He was with her and everything was good, they were going to raise a family together, grow old together. He was different but she didn't care, she loved him all the more for it, it was wonderful and it would never end.

The king's messenger returned with a final warning from His Majesty and he was different. The King demanded his services and he couldn't refuse yet he wouldn't be himself anymore, but it didn't matter because she would be fine and they would still be together. It wouldn't end, he would find himself again, it wasn't over. It wasn't over.

She cried and he hadn't noticed or cared and she was the King's and it didn't matter. The King was everything and his word was law. She was just the latest wife of His Majesty and there wasn't a reason to address her so he didn't. Bitter tears fell like rain, rain upon the tiles. He was a monster but he was a subject of the King and the King was pleased. Long live the King.

The King was displeased with her and she had tried to fight it but she couldn't get over him but he was gone. She was the King's but she refused and the King was angry and that was the end, the law. He drew his sword, and she cried, and she screamed his name, it wasn't important, she was no one.

She was everyone.

He was in a city, a tall city full of monsters and there was a serpent of shadow and they clashed. The city was falling down and he was flying, the desert swallowed it all and thousands of lives were gone in an instant, it didn't matter, nothing mattered but the King.

Damn the King. Long live the King.

A haunted mansion, a train, a ship sailing the stars themselves, a hotel. He would be instilled with wonder, but the King forbade wonder and so there was none. He slew everyone in his path and they were all obstacles but no longer, but the serpent refused to die, refused to yield. An abomination. A free-fall. An arm. His arm.

He was dying. He was alive.

Tamerlane remembered it all. The King's cruel gaze. He was decieved. He was lied to.

He had killed her, and felt nothing.

He wanted to curl into a ball, to crawl into a hole and die, to be alone forever. Nothing but pain and death had flowed from his being for fifteen years. She was dead. They were all dead.

Tamerlane looked up. They weren't all dead. Not yet. The abomination wasn't dead, it was back, it was the cloth mage. He watched the serpent's anguish. He could do nothing but watch as it tore him apart bit by bit, as it destroyed him. He called desperately to the cloth mage, but she didn't hear, she couldn't hear. But she wasn't dead. Not yet. Tamerlane stood up.

For fifteen years, he had brought nothing but misery.

Finally he could set something right.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
He was on a train. The train was moving fast. The train was going to stop for more passengers. There were going to be a lot of passengers on this train. Right now there were only two but there was a stop ahead. They were on a train. Everyone was going to be on the train soon.

The train was going through a forest. A dark forest. Syvex knew this forest. The train had passed through this forest many times on its route. He watched the trees go by. It was dark in the forest and there was nothing but trees. He could see vague shapes that might not have been trees but he couldn't tell. The stop was up ahead. It was lonely on the train. Syvex hoped they would come soon. Eureka was here but she was in first class and he wasn't allowed in first class.

Suddenly the train was derailing. He held onto his seat, but the train shook violently and he was thrown across the room and out the door

and crashed to the floor, away from the Malevolence. His head hurt. As he came to his senses, he noticed Tamerlane, standing tall like a pillar in a hallway, a pillar that also had control over sand and was fighting against a horrific abomination that was probably going to consume everyone.

...Wait, Tamerlane? Syvex couldn't quite comprehend what was going on. He'd have thought that Tamerlane, of all people, would want him to die. Maybe the sandman wanted the satisfaction of the kill to himself, but in his state he didn't stand a chance against Syvex. He shouldn't have stood a chance against the Malevolence. He didn't stand a chance against the Malevolence. It was only growing as he fought it - every time he shredded a tentacle, another had already sprung up to replace it, like an especially mediocre hydra. But for some reason, he kept fighting it.

"Get out of there, Tamerlane!" Syvex found himself shouting, though he didn't really know why. He raised his arm to give another attempt at slicing the thing apart, only to find it had been roughly torn off at the elbow. In a stroke of irony, he only had one arm left that was still mostly whole. The others weren't especially quick to grow back under the despicable flourescent lights, even in spite of the influence of caliginosity.

Tamerlane was trying to retreat at this point. A gnarled appendage grabbed his leg. Syvex succeeded in the use of Caliginosity once more, allowing the sandman to scramble away. The Malevolence attempted to ensnare him but, being immobile and far from its full potential, it only succeeded in throwing him across the room. Syvex watched him collapse to the floor, shrugged, then continued his attempt to reach Eureka. Silently, he wondered where the pirate had gone. Surely he could help with this somehow.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ripper could not help Syvex with his fight, because she was, at the moment, very busy with important business. Important business, in this case, meaning "copious amounts of thievery". Sometime after she realized she wasn't going to be much use to Syvex (especially since she had neglected the Core for so long), she had taken off to see how high the hotel tower actually went. A couple hundred floors up, there was still no end in sight.

She decided to stop off on a random floor and investigate some of the rooms. Maybe she'd find treasure there. Yes, that was it, she was looking for treasure. That was why she left. Not some kind of mysterious shortness of breath that almost seemed to be getting worse. That would be ridiculous and she certainly wasn't feeling any worse than usual. She just needed to refuel, and she needed treasure for that.

Besides, here was a room made of diamonds! Exactly what she had meant to find, of course. Why had she even been sticking around with Syvex in the first place? The hotel was probably full of things like this. Pretty soon someone down there would die and she'd lose her opportunity entirely. She hadn't even had time to properly relieve the townsfolk of their valuables. The least she could do was start shoving diamonds into the Core. It took a while to cut them down to a managable size with a gun.

She felt absolutely fine, Syvex could handle it without her for a while. Nothing at all was going on here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Syvex stopped flinging Caliginosity all over the place. What was the use? The Malevolence was completely impenetrable. Whatever it had managed to absorb from the orb before it was destroyed had been enough to protect its core. Eureka was on the verge of being lost, and there was nothing Syvex could even do about it. He didn't even care about Tamerlane anymore. He had helped, but what did that matter? Syvex thought back to the manor. The Malevolence didn't even have the decency to kill the people it absorbed properly. Their bodies were lost to a horrific amalgamation, but their minds were simply doomed to forever wander the world, never at peace, unable to rest.

Syvex couldn't let this happen to Eureka. Silently, he lifted his hand, prepared to end it before it was too late.

"Stop!" yelled a voice both familiar and strange. ...Tamerlane? Syvex saw the sand mage running toward him, and slowly lowered his hand.

"Wha... but... What the hell?" Syvex managed to articulate, noticing the drastic change in his mortal enemy's demeanor.

"Syvex, I'm... I'm sorry. For everything."

"What? You're seriously deciding this now? Look, there's not time!"

"Look, I'm not who you think I am. I'm not here to kill anyone. It's too late for me, Syvex!" he suddenly shouted.

"Too late for what? You're not making any sense!"

"It was a lie! I was being controlled, and I didn't even realize it. My memories were blocked. I... I can't let this happen again. Syvex, take the knife."

In twenty minutes, Tamerlane had gone from murderous and self-absorbed to selfless enough to sacrifice himself to save everyone else? Syvex honestly had no idea what was going on. It didn't make sense. Being controlled? Memories blocked? He guessed it was possible, if a bit unlikely. It's not like the Tamerlane he knew would sacrifice himself, so he must have been sincere about it.

Syvex hesitated a moment, then, wordlessly, ripped the knife out of Tamerlane's body. The latter immediately grew pale and retreated to the side of the room, breaking out in a sweat. The knife was cold in his hand. It seemed to be calling out to him. A part of him wanted to simply plunge the knife into himself, to uncover whatever secrets it held. Fortunately, that part of him was easily suppressed. The knife wasn't for him. It was for no one but his enemy.

Syvex wasn't even sure how Eureka would survive this, but it didn't matter. He had just drunk a bottle full of liquefied shadow dimension, and insane levels of power were bursting from his body. He'd find a goddamn way. He charged foward, slicing bits of Malevolence apart with arm-spikes that had, as he had failed to notice, grown longer and sharper since he had consumed the contents of the bottle. Each tentacle he drove the knife through, he noticed, was immediately detached from the mass and failed to regrow. Soon he had reached the center and, without so much as thinking, he rammed a clawed hand into Eureka's abdomen and tore out the core of the Malevolence - some sort of odd heart-brain thing that was no larger than the palm of his hand.

He supposed that simply ripping it in half might have been enough, but he couldn't take any risks. Slowly, he raised the knife, desperately ignoring it as it called to him, and plunged it into the core. Just as quickly, he pulled it out, and dropped the now-decaying Malevolence to the floor. He held the knife in front of him, the weapon wavering in this hand, before he flung it across the room.

Powerful as it was, Caliginosity could not continually abandon Syvex - a host so attuned to shadows was not an especially common thing so far across the multiverse, and, perhaps, Syvex was managing to exert some amount of influence over such a weak detachment of the dimension. Whatever the cause, though, it found particular interest in the serpent's regeneration systems. So limited in scope, so weak - it could do so much more.

As such, what could best be described as a "cloud of Caliginosity-infused regeneration stuff" shot out of Syvex's body and into the air. There was nothing it could do for either Tamerlane or the Malevolence - both had been stabbed by the knife and were decaying beyond repair. The focus of the serpent's attentions, though, was still alive, in spite of the heavily-bleeding stomach wound. She wouldn't be alive for long. The cloud washed over her, depositing the biological components of Syvex's own regeneration systems into the wounded cloth mage. All traces of Caliginosity dissipated as it did its job, and the target's wounds started to slowly repair themselves.

Sure, the stuff used to regenerate shadow snake things was technically not supposed to work on humans as well, but liquefied shadow dimensions don't know any better. Besides, it did a reasonably good job. Things probably wouldn't go too severely wrong.

At this point
, though, Caliginosity's power was quickly waning, especially since it had just broken several laws of biology. The blue glow around Syvex slowly died down, returning to its familiar purple-gray hue. Caliginosity had not gone - with the quantity Syvex had ingested at once, it probably never would.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"And you don't call that cheating?"

"I don't see the problem. It's only like I said. Far more interesting."

"Look, reviving my entrant was one thing, but this? How is this even close to fair?"

"Fair? What's unfair about it? In another timeline, he would have still had the entire bottle at this time. I merely nudged things toward the far more interesting possibility."

"But Victoria-"

"What about Victoria. It's not as if she'll know about this, is it? Unless you were planning on telling her about it." An unnerving grin emerged from beneath the gentleman's spider mask.

"I..." Fifth had a point - Fourth was far too much of a coward to tell her himself.

"If it is any consolation, Fourth, your wager would almost certainly have died even without my intervention. I was merely pushing for far more entertaining things. And you know as well as I that what transpired - perhaps in part due to a simple push from an external force - will prove much more interesting in the long run."

Fourth said nothing.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tamerlane gazed on from a distance, a feeling of empty satisfaction continually welling up and draining away again. He gazed half-heartedly at his remaining hand, finding that it was quickly decaying. Necrotic tissue slowly degraded and abandoned his body, settling to the floor as little more than dust. He was dying. Even the blue cloud that emerged from the serpent passed him over without the slightest effect. The same cloud that saved the dying cloth mage could do nothing for him.

He didn't even have the energy to be angry. If he was going to die, the least he could do was die with dignity. At least it wasn't completely in vain. He indirectly saved someone and killed perhaps the biggest threat to any world it entered. That had to count for something, right?

At least he had learned the truth before he died. Though he could hardly bear to think about it, he looked back on the time he had been a mindless pawn of the King, all the times he could have died pursuing the asinine objectives of an insane tyrant. He now only wanted to go back there and shove his blade into the King's smug face. He almost died as someone else, someone whose only purpose was to hunt, to kill.

Someone who would unflinchingly kill his own wife.

Miriam now filled his thoughts. She was his entire world. She was all he had. The King had taken even that away. He had made a promise, and failed to uphold it. But it wasn't his fault, he kept telling himself. It wasn't him that made the kill. If only he could bring himself to believe it.

The world began fading around him. Maybe it wasn't the end. Maybe they'd be together again.

He'd like that.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The squad of Under-dwellers dumped the agent at their new god's feet. The agent looked extremely ragged - clothes in tatters, hair and beard dirty and unkempt. All of his equipment was long gone - ammunition expended, gun battered and bent to the point of uselessness, flashlight batteries dead. He curled into a ball on the ground, mumbling nonsense to himself, something about "his papers" and "the demons" and many less intelligible things.

"The last one... my lord..." the leader of the cadre wheezed. "Found him in... a closet..."

Laguja probed the man's mind - whatever the cause, it had been completely broken. His thoughts were disjointed and random; his actions basically harmless. The worst he would do is kill himself. He probably would if he stayed in this place for much longer. The pincushion saw no reason to keep him - there was essentially nothing left of the SCP operative he had once been. Muriegro waved his hand, and the Under-dwellers let the man run free.

Perfect. Everything had worked out precisely as planned, even with the unanticipated attack right in the middle of it all. Fortunately, the Under-dwellers were of weak minds, likely to follow anyone who even looked like they might have been a god. They had once been men and women, people of much stronger wills. These twisted beings, some of them borderline monstrosities, lived only to serve.

Laguja chuckled internally. Only to serve it, now.

It hadn't been more than twenty or thirty minutes, and already the people of the Underlands were scrambling to prepare the throne room for their new god. Fabrics were rolled out, and Under-dwellers surged out into the depths of the Hotel in search of materials for a throne befitting of a true god.

Unlike the slow-but-steadily-growing cult that Laguja had come from, news of the new god spread throughout the town like a wildfire. In such a short amount of time, hundreds of minds had chimed in, proving the pincushion-dwelling diety with belief. It could feel its power growing rapidly. Not much longer, and it would destroy the ones who had trapped it here and escape. It wouldn't be long now.

It wouldn't even be half that long, however, before it was all torn away again.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A grin spread across Syvex's face. Somehow, it had actually worked. Somehow, he had actually killed the Malevolence without taking Eureka with it. She was unconscious at the moment, but she seemed to be fine. Syvex picked her up in his lowest pair of arms. Didn't want her to be thrown halfway across a city or something when the next round started.

He did, for a moment, worry about what the regenerative abilities of a distinctly non-human creature would do in a human, but it didn't matter that much. It was much better than the alternative (the alternative, of course, being bleeding out).

Eureka taken care of, he approached the body of Tamerlane. He wasn't dead yet, but he was very visibly rotting away, and was already unconscious. It was almost unbelievable. One moment, they were at each other's throats, and the next, he was sacrificing himself for the good of everyone else. What was that he had said? Being controlled? Memories blocked? Syvex didn't want to believe it, but he had given his life for them. Ripper too, he supposed, though the pirate still made him uneasy for some reason.

Moreover, though, what about the messages on the wall? Mirrors? Syvex didn't really see what that had to do with anything, but then again, there was the broken mirror. If, somehow, Tamerlane was his mirror, the mirror had effectively been broken. It made sense, and this scared him a bit. Syvex was beginning to worry about his own sanity. Was anyone who they said they were? Was he who he thought he was? He didn't know, and frankly, he didn't want to think about it.

Syvex stood over his fallen enemy-turned-friend for a while as the piles of dust on the ground grew. Slowly, he reached down and took the hat off of Tamerlane's head. He wasn't really sure why - to honor the hero that his greatest enemy apparently really was. Maybe he wasn't actually that bad, Syvex supposed.

Besides, it was a really nice hat.

Syvex remained still, watching Tamerlane's body slowly degrade. That pathetic, half-dead pile of decay had died a hero.

Tamerlane's life finally faded away, seemingly taking the light with it as the hotel faded into nothingness around them. Syvex's greatest enemy, or perhaps the greatest friend he had never known, was no more.

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

There was a void, but that didn't last long. The abyss had very little to say for itself, personality-wise, barring a tendency to stare.

A shadowy dining room took its place. The four remaining combatants were seated around one end of a long table. Plates, folded napkins, lit candelabras and an astonishing display of cutlery covered the table, each in their appointed place. What could gleam gleamed, and what couldn't instead settled for being merely pristine. The table only lacked for food and the rest of the company intended to enjoy it.

As it was, only four sat in the room. Three more places were set and empty.

The silence continued for a while, largely due the inability of those present to break it.

When somebody finally cracked open the door and entered, it was almost a relief. The Prestidigitator looked at them carefully, then closed the door. Only the candles lit the room. He didn't speak, instead choosing to remove the jacket of his suit and lie it over an ornate wooden chair. A bare cane-sword was rested against the wall, shining darkly, as it dripped something onto the wooden floor. From time to time a pink spark seemed to dance across the coated steel, but it may have been nothing more than a trick of the light. The wooden sheath of the cane-sword was laid next to it.

“I apologise: first for being so late, and second for missing so much of your battle. Fortunately my business has been concluded. More or less.”

The Prestidigitator gingerly placed a hand over his mask - cracks radiated out from one of the edges, and it looked close to breaking - and removed it. For a moment knotted scars and old burns caught the light, but the darkness quickly reclaimed his face. The mask splintered in his grasp and shattered upon the floor. A cloud of moths, specked with maroon, burst from the wreckage and crowded over his visage. A few moments later and the demonic mask was returned, faded and chipped as before but otherwise largely intact. A flourish, and a black silk handkerchief appeared in his hand. The Prestidigitator began to clean his cane-sword.

“I must apologise also for the state you find me in. I admit, I had envisaged being better dressed and better prepared, but it was not to be. No matter. The way this battle is progressing has impressed me, and even with the difficulties you faced in the last round you excelled.”

He smiled.

“I think it's time you all enjoyed advantages. Ah, but first-”

Four Gentlemen glided out of the shadows: First, Third, Fifth and Seventh. The fox, the ox, the spider and the magpie.

The Prestidigitator nodded at them. “Third? I believe I entrusted something to you. Wrongly, as it transpired.” He held out a hand.

Third stood very still. “I- I no longer have it.”

“Yes, so it would seem. Who does? Where did it get to? Fifth?”

Fifth hesitated for a moment, then reached into a pocket and withdrew the pocket watch. It was whisked away in an instant, and the Prestidigitator continued as if nothing had happened.
“No more interference with the combatants. It's been entertaining, and the line has been toed to perfection. But no more. The time is coming when these fine fighters will truly have to prove their worth. I'd rather there was no cheating when it comes to that.”

The four nodded in assent, still visibly on edge from the mention of the pocket watch. The Prestidigitator smiled widely in response, then snapped back around to look at the combatants.

“In the last round you suffered setbacks: namely, the loss of your weapons and weakening of your abilities. Still you survived. And now, dear fighters, you shall have your reward.”

He picked up the suit jacket from the chair and slipped it on, the stars in the cloth gleaming brightly. The bare cane-sword twirled in his hand and the handkerchief slipped away into the shadows, suddenly serpentine.

And then everything changed.

The dining room dropped out of existence. The battlers blinked, and there was sunset.

They stood on top of a building, overlooking a second magnificent one. It was massive, squatting on the water like a gargoyle on a cathedral. Spires stretched towards the sky, and the sea lapped at its sides. Two wide bridges led towards it, connecting the stony behemoth to the rest of the city, but that was all. A steady stream of people – people in carriages, people on horses, even a rare few boasting cars and the less infrequent number who simply chose to stroll – made their way across these bridges into the maw of the building. As the sun began to sink, lamps were lit on these two walkways as well as around the doors.

“16th of August, 1188, the grand opening of the Ambitus Opera House,” the Prestidigitator noted, as if speaking to no one in particular. “As chance would have it, or perhaps due to an ambitious advertising stunt, exactly one hundred years after the building in question lost its original purpose as the Winter Palace of the Sorian Monarchy. Revolution left the building gutted, and for years it was simply locked up and allowed to decay. Occasionally someone would find their way in, but aside from that it was almost ninety years before anyone stepped inside through the intended entrance. It took them another ten to convince the authorities to make it available to purchase and to renovate it. Ninety years is a long time for mortals, but there were still fears that the Winter Palace could be viewed as a symbol of the old monarchy. Even now, the country isn't quite as stable as anyone would like. And with rumours of an heir still surviving...”

The Prestidigitator fell silent for a moment.

“But it barely matters. The real point of interest of this night and this building is neither its future nor indeed even its present. Tonight the past will make its presence felt. For whatever reason, a hole seems to have been worn through the passage of time. For a few hours, the Ambitus Opera House and the Winter Palace of exactly one hundred years prior will exist simultaneously. Or, rather, the opportunity to experience both will be there. You may need to alter your frame of mind to slip between nights – fear and excitement may suit the night of a revolution better, for instance, than the delight and insouciance of the opera – but you will find yourself moving very easily between both. Curious, isn't it? I've only ever witnessed the same happening once before.”

He turned to them, but they naturally hadn't moved.

“Ah, but don't think I've forgotten about the advantages I promised. Night is falling, and an atmospheric level of lighting more suitable for opera ensures that it will rarely get too bright. The opera offers all the riches of, well, the rich, as well as the wealth befitting a winter palace should you wander into the past. The finest cloth and outfits to be made and worn of both this year and a century earlier, all on display. And last but not least, a swarm of people. Should you go back far enough, a swarm of people consumed by fear or rage. I'm sure all of these will appeal to you, in one way or another. Naturally, you will also find the weapons you had on hand in the third round now returned to you.”

His eyes glittered.

“Are you ready?”

Each of them blinked, and they were scattered amongst the crowds and free to move once more.

The night was young, and it promised much.

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

Almost immediately, Blackmask began to sweat. The sun, though it was setting, had left its mark on the town, with that lingering, stifling heat that pervades the late summer afternoons. The pirate quickly headed for the shadows, scanning the crowd. Least I won't have to worry about being noticed, she thought as she glanced at a man with various facial tattoos and a bright blue suit. Shrugging, she headed where it seemed most of the richer crowd was off to, boots clomping against the cobblestone streets.

This was clearly an expensive neighborhood. Expensive restaurants were beginning to open for the evening, the scent of freshly-cooked meat wafting on the breeze; a carefully-crafted fountain in a perfectly circular town square sprayed water upwards, as some sort of green... thing with two legs and really long fingers carefully pruned and watered the trees and bushes planted around it. Wonder if that old lubber's Syvex's brother, she thought jokingly. And on a hill in the distance, a tremendous building carved entirely out of marble stood tall, an elegant stone staircase leading up to it. It took her breath away, or at least she convinced herself that so as to avoid confronting the obvious. More importantly, though, it made her sick.

She wrinkled her nose at the spices and steak carried by the wind, thinking only of how they could have been given to the hungry. As she passed the fountain, she briefly lifted her mask to spit into it, thinking about how that crystal clear water could better serve those who had to drink from stagnant wells. And as she approached that palace, or that opera house, or whatever it was, she scowled. Enough room for me and all me buckos twelve times over. But they just use it to put on their hoity-toity little musical plays. Ripper couldn't care less about opera, or any art, for that matter, more complex than a novella. To her, it was all wasted money.

She didn't get much time to contemplate this, though, before her seething landed her 100 years in the past.


The pirate, cloaked in the shadows of the far more cloudy evening, was nearly run down by a man on horseback. From what little Ripper could make out of him, she saw a carefully-maintained uniform— hat, boots and jacket, which a lamppost revealed to be delicate purple as his steed galloped beneath it— and a bag slung over his shoulder.

And in equal parts anger over being knocked down, desire to bring down whoever was king and queen of this damn place, and irresistible, almost instinctual, curiosity about the contents of the bag, she picked herself up and began sprinting after him. Leaping into the air, she flipped the switch on her jetpack, and charged ahead.

Let us pause for a moment to consider what that man's last moments must have been like. To see someone in a bright red jacket and pitch-black mask, flames coming out of god-only-knows-what illuminating both as she rocketed towards him— only to swing around bellowing "fins-a-lee" and tackle him off of his horse, slam him into a building (shattering most of the bones in his arms, as well as damaging his skull quite a bit), and finally stab him through the chest— must certainly have been exciting.

Regardless of how flashy his death was, Ripper showed little desire to make the disposal of the corpse equally impressive, instead just kicking him into a side street (after taking his wallet and pocketwatch and shoving them into the core, of course, allowing her to take a deep breath in relief). She reached into the bag and found, inside, a very cozy little area that might be nice to sleep in if she could actually fit in it— but, more importantly, some letters, all addressed to the royal family. Tearing one open, Blackmask saw that it was an apology for being unable to attend a party of some sort; glancing up and straining to listen, she heard the faint sound of an orchestra coming from the palace, each window of which was brightly lit. Returning to the bag, and rather irritated at this frivolity, she opened the remaining letters. Apologies and cards... what on earth was this scallywag in such a hurry about?

Then she saw it: a much larger envelope, with a wax seal and "URGENT!!!" scrawled in red ink. She frantically tore open the envelope and read the letter:
Your Majesty:
Rumors are circulating of an assassination attempt or riot on your birthday. To ensure your safety, the party should be called off and moved to a later date; for now, you should retreat to the safe house with your personal guard. We will send you further intelligence when we acquire it.

When escaping, be certain to avoid the Blue District. We believe the conspirators are centered there. Stay safe.

General Marissus

Ripper smiled almost widely enough to match her mask. There was to be a revolution tonight, was there? Then perhaps this time, she would make sure there wasn't enough left of the palace to convert. It was time to lead the charge.

The pirate began wandering through town, in search of the Blue District, as a cool evening breeze blew in.

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

Eureka was starting to stir, her hand instinctively clutching her returned kitchen knife tight. Syvex had found with some relief that she hadn’t been teleported away at all and still remained in his arms once he had regained mobility. Glancing around the dim opera hall, he pushed away through the crowd to a place that was more or less secluded, in a corner that was shadowed by an overhanging balcony. Nobody seemed to particularly mind, engrossed in the party and in their drinks as they were. Their chatter seemed to be focused on the event and the opera that would apparently happen later in the evening.

Syvex set her down on the floor carefully as she groggily sat up, holding her head. She had actually woken up during the transition, but not fully, and was still struggling to get her surroundings into focus. “I…ow. S-syvex? Aahhh, shit, wh-what did – how am I…”

She caught sight of the knife in her hand and flinched away. It clattered on the floor.

“I – I…oh god…

She found herself suddenly enveloped by six arms and immediately stiffened. Next to her ear, he whispered, “Calm down, okay? It wasn’t your fault. None of it. It’s fine now…you’re fine…”

They stayed like this for a while, her face pressed against one of his shoulders, and her gasps that threatened to tip into full-on tears slowly died away until they stopped completely. Syvex pulled away, finally, and the two of them sat together in the corner.

“How…how am I even alive?” she whispered to herself, looking down at the hole in her ratty sweatshirt and finally seeing her healed wound.

It was still black, but not black with Malevolence. It was her actual skin, she realized, and when she poked it, it felt like Syvex. Her breathing got slightly heavier.

“Okay, so you were bleeding really badly and I didn’t know what to do, so, ah, I think somehow I made my crazy regeneration powers take physical form and then it kinda did a healing thing so you stopped having a really big hole in you.”

Eureka was silent for a few seconds before saying, “Oh, is that all.”

She started to pick at the shreds of a suit that had miraculously managed to stick to her all this time and started mending it back together. “Okay, so I think that we need to blend into this place. So I suggest you wear something fancy.”

Syvex recoiled slightly. “What? No!”

“Look, I saw something that looked like a pile of crates and even that managed to dress up nicely! I can make holes for your spines or whatever, extra sleeves. It won’t hurt your mobility or anything, see?” And she forced it on him. Syvex struggled half-heartedly, but he eventually just accepted it. Eureka dusted off the shoulders and stood back, looking somewhat proud, but only briefly.

“What about you? How’re you going to blend in?” he asked, picking at the suit distastefully.

“Hey, I’ve made this look like a suit before,” she replied. Syvex would have raised an eyebrow if he had any.

“No dress?”

“No,” she said, adjusting her collar and already starting to join the crowd. “They tend to expose too much.”

Syvex followed and glanced around at the chittering opulence around him. The crowd chatted and murmured about the upcoming opera, which seemed to be about something something lovers and tragic romance or whatever. “What, like your arms?”

“Yes,” Eureka shot back. “I don’t like people looking at my arms. C’mon, help me find the coat check…”

The entrance hall seemed even bigger than the main hall that they had been in, but only because it wasn’t as crowded. A few people still strolled in through the doors, around the large, gaudy fountain that greeted them, but they all never lingered long and only added to the crowd ahead. Eureka dragged him past the fountain, which was golden and shiny and seemed to have a lot of naked babies on it, and to a desk where a well-groomed man stood, patiently accepting the coats of the entering guests.

Syvex glanced around the entrance hall again, not entirely interested in Eureka’s conversation. Now that he was actually standing right in it, it didn’t seem as glamorous as it had from the top of the stairs. The decorations were duller, the paint less even, the fountain –

What the.

Where’s the fountain.

“…do you really wish to leave so soon? The main even hasn’t even started, miss. It’s a wonderful opera, miss, an exciting drama about the revolution a hundred years ago…”

“Look, I’m sure, maybe I’ll come back later. Just let me find my number…” With a quick flick of a wrist, Eureka wrapped a grubby bandage around the man’s mouth, then around his arms. Without even bothering to see if anybody had seen that, she jumped over the counter, pushed the man over, and knocked him out. Syvex nervously followed.

“So…what are we doing?” The serpent asked when it seemed apparent that nobody had noticed a thing. Eureka started to grab coats and jackets off the hangers.

“When that Malevolence thing skewered me, it took out my sweatshirt pockets, so I’m low on bandages. Some of this fancy stuff isn’t gonna be as great, but it’s better than nothing. Watch out for anybody looking, okay?”

Syvex stared out to where the fountain used to be. “I’m not sure if you realize this, but I think anybody looking in over the counter could see you no matter what I did.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it, I’m only trimming strips off the edges.”

Syvex fingered the many cuffs of his suit. “How long’re you gonna take?”

“Look, I’m going as fast as I – shit!


“Some crazy weirdo had razor sharp cufflinks…” Eureka stared at her finger. “Syvex.”

“Uh. Yeah?”

“I was bleeding purple.

“Oh. I…guess that’s the side-effect.”

“Syvex, I was bleeding purple and then it healed over black.” Eureka whirled around, strips of fancy coats falling to the floor. “Why am I regenerating? I thought that thing you did was just to heal this,” she gestured to her stomach. “Wasn’t it just a one-time magic heal-y thing?”

Syvex raised a few hands placatingly. “Look, I barely know what I did myself! All I know is that I had regeneration powers and you didn’t and I wanted you to start regenerating so that you didn’t bleed out on the floor or anything, and then there was this sparkly cloud thing and it helped you out! I dunno, maybe you have my regeneration thing now?”

Eureka stared at the small black slit that cut across her finger. “So wait, are you saying that I’m turning into – “

Had Syvex the ability to, he might have blinked. Eureka was gone.

Behind him, there was a fountain. Which wasn’t surprising at all. It had always been there, along with the gloriously-decorated entrance hall. On the base of the fountain were carved a list of dedications honoring those who had fought and died during the many terrible revolts long ago. One of them, apparently, was a woman named Eureka Finch.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Four: The Warped Edifice]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Muriegro was surrounded by props and boxes, costumery and hurriedly-hidden construction equipment. Cans of paint and rolls of carpet mingled with the more glamorous trappings of a large theatrical establishment's sundries. For all that the storage room he'd materialized in was fairly crowded, it was also surprisingly clean. It was also only crowded in the area immediately surrounding him; farther into what seemed to be some sort of attic, there was next to nothing, just wide expanses of recently-scrubbed floors. And then, even farther back, there were... Well, it was too dark to tell. Looked like more boxes and crates and forgotten clutter, anyway. Muriegro certainly wasn't about to spare any of it a second glance; he was too occupied frantically patting himself down and rifling through the containers nearest him. There was a distressing lightness about the priest's robes, and the closest approximation of concern that his slack face could muster was making itself obvious.

Years of only nominally free will had left Muriegro without the emotional range to effect a shift from Ambitus to the palace; his god, on the other hand, was a bottomless wellspring of rage, especially if it had just had another intoxicating victory toppled out from under it.


She was the youngest princess, which meant that she certainly wasn't expected to attend to any affairs of state. On the other hand, she wasn't so young anymore that she had handlers constantly buzzing about her, telling her what she could and couldn't do. Well, in theory she still did, but she'd finally gotten to that age where she'd realized she could just tell the various nurses and nannies and guards what they were allowed to tell her to do and where she could go. It was the same thing in practice, really.

She was also at that age where tea parties had really lost their luster, and frankly, all the high-society parties that were constantly being thrown for this reason or that one were just tea parties with more guests and less to do. And so, on her mother's birthday, she'd hung around as the party had started, and as the most important guests had been announced, and as the orchestra started and a speech was given. And then, once she was no longer expected to sit still and look pretty and dainty, she'd slipped away. It hadn't been hard; nobody really expected her not to, and her father really was the indulgent sort, especially doting on his little girls.

On this sort of night on any other night, she'd probably have fetched one of her interchangeable playmates and taken them down to the cliffs to watch the sea crash as great storms brewed on the horizon. They always blew off to the west, presumably to wreak havoc on the Green Duchy, but it was exciting to watch them build up, exciting to see herself silhouetted by every flash of lightning. Besides, when she got bored of the wind and clouds and thunder, she could always take to climbing the jagged promontories that comprised nearly the entirety of the castle ground, or threaten to push her friend off unless they thought of something fun to do.

But, of course, it wasn't any other night. There were people everywhere, and thus nowhere to explore outside that wouldn't be full of the kind of guard that would drag her back into the palace regardless of how loud she yelled, or worse adults cluttering the place up doing adult things. So, she'd had to find somewhere indoors to amuse herself; since the party meant nearly everywhere in common use would be crammed with dullness and dresses, she'd dragged her companion of the evening up into the spacious attics and storage spaces that littered the upper reaches of the place. The Winter Palace was the least-used of her ancestral homes, and had been designed with the knowledge that would be the case; as such, it was simply crammed with nooks and crannies and closets and large rooms filled with old furniture and outdated clothes. They were always exciting, or at least interesting, to roam through if nothing better was possible.

At this very moment – although perhaps the concept is a little muddled in a place that spans a hundred years at once – she was picking her way over a pile of dressmaker's dummies, skirts balled up in her left hand and the right holding tight to a nearby wardrobe. Her friend was lagging behind; she was rapidly tiring of his clumsiness and constant fretting, but he'd been the best she'd been able to find. Well, okay, the first. She hadn't wanted to stick around and weave through the party to find a better playmate.

"Lillian, wait up!"

She turned around, nearly losing her balance. For a moment, she considered sneering something along the lines of that's Princess Lillian to you, but at heart she just wasn't that kind of person, royalty or no. Besides, she supposed it wasn't his fault he was a couple of years behind her. Still, boys were supposed to be less slow and clumsy than this, apprentice wizards or no.

She tapped her foot a couple times on a hollow chest, then nearly lost her balance again and clung to the wardrobe while he caught up. She stared for a moment as he reached Mount Dummies before realizing he was waiting for her to give him a hand up. With a sigh, she reached down and pulled. Needless to say, both of them toppled over the crest of the heap, landing in a tangle of limbs and bruised dignity on the other side.

"Oh, oh, owowowowwww..."

For once, Princess Lillian wasn't annoyed by his whining or general uselessness; she wasn't even paying attention to the piteous mewls he was spewing. Almost as soon as she'd landed, she sat bolt upright.

"Did you hear that?"

He furrowed his brow and sat up, biting his lip and cradling an elbow in the other arm.

"Hear what?"

"I don't know... It was like someone whispering, I think."

He cocked his head, but didn't hear anything. He hadn't heard anything before, either, but perhaps that wasn't surprising.

"Come on, let's go find it. Nobody should be up here, maybe it's a ghost!"

He shrank back slightly, but tried not to look too cowardly in front of the princess.

"I don't think, uh, I don't think looking for ghosts is a good idea."

She flounced as she stood up.

"Oh, pooh. Don't be such a..." she waved a hand, not having developed a very good vocabulary for this sort of thing. "I've met ghosts. They're not scary. Mostly they're kind of... Sad, I guess."

He climbed up by levering himself on the wardrobe's doors.

"Who said I'm scared? I just don't think bothering the kind of ghost that would hide in an attic is a very good idea."

"Hmph." She gently caressed an ornate brooch at her throat, bathing her fingernails near-imperceptibly blue. "Well, it's not a ghost, anyway. But there is something up here. I can feel it."

"Well, if it's not a ghost, then..."

"I don't know what! That's why we're going to find out. How can you not hear that?"

He cocked his head the other direction this time, but still heard nothing. Maybe she was playing some kind of joke on him; he'd heard she could be kind of mean sometimes. Royalty usually could be, even the nice ones. Probably that was just him worrying, though; he did tend to get teased a fair bit.

While he was musing, she'd already started off, and he scurried to keep up. It wasn't as hard to move here, at least; the attics tended to be better-organized the farther back you went, since older things get needed less often and nobody's going to go too far from the entrance to just shove something. There were still narrow squeezes here and there, though, and she was gaining ground pretty quickly. He was just considering levitating another drift of crates out of the way when he lost sight of her completely.


There was no response, and his heart started fluttering in his chest. Maybe there was a ghost, or worse. Maybe it had gotten her, and...

Something hit his head, and he panicked, shouting and throwing up a magical shield. Above him, wicked laughter cackled out, and he knew some sort of horrible witch was going to swoop down on him in about four seconds and tear his throat out and... Okay, a very young horrible witch. That giggled more than cackled.

As his shield flickered and faded, he looked up to see Lillian perched on top of the crates, holding an armful of what looked like wafer-glass baubles like the kind people hung from their ceilings around the solstices.

"You're so jumpy!"

He frowned, trying hard not to show how upset he was.

"That wasn't very nice."

Lillian's grin faded, and she slid down to the floor in a flurry of skirts and sleeves.

"Alright, I'm sorry. I just thought it would be kind of funny."

He sniffed hard. "It wasn't."

"I said I was sorry!"

She dumped her remaining missiles onto a nearby box and shrugged.

"Look, if you want to go back, I can–"

He shook his head. There was no way he was going to almost cry AND run back to the party over something so stupid.

"No, let's find your ghost thing. I can't not know what it is now."

She perked up and swirled off.

"I knew you'd start acting like a boy eventually! Come on, it's this way."

She didn't move as fast this time, letting him keep pace and lending a hand occasionally. He wasn't so useless, she supposed; probably just didn't have enough time to go out in the fresh air off studying magic and books. She'd have to make sure to get him in the sun more often. It'd be nice to have someone who could levitate things for her but wasn't so slow and frail.

Whatever she was hearing, she was hearing it a lot more loudly now. She had to be getting closer. What was a general direction was becoming a beeline, and her face and body tensed with excitement as she approached... something. Finally, she saw a large, ornate footlocker come into view around a corner, and she knew she was nearly there. She took a few steps, beckoning for her playmate to catch up, when a force gently grabbed her hand and pulled her back like a parent stopping their child from getting too close to a deep river.

"Oh, cut it out." She shook her hand hard, freeing it from the grasp. "You said it wasn't a ghost."

Behind her, a little voice said "Maybe you should listen to it if it says something's dangerous. There's worse things than ghosts, probably."

She clicked her tongue. "It says everything's dangerous. I'm still fine, aren't I? You said you didn't want to not know. Well now we're going to find out!"

Ignoring the wordless whispers of a dark presence is ahead, she shook her hand again and moved across the floor to the chest. After a moment of trying to lever the lid up, she beckoned. He nervously approached and gave her a hand opening the heavy wooden chest, and the pair, one excited, one apprehensive, peeked inside.

"... Empty? That's not fair!"

"I can't believe there's be nothing. What was your guardian spirit warning you about then?"

"I don't know, I can still hear... Hang on, wait... Haha, how silly of me!"

With a self-deprecating grin, she swished around behind the chest and picked something up. Grin widening to a beaming smile, she held her prize aloft.

"What is it?"

"It's magic."


In one timeline, which could not now be said to exist, there had been a revolution. The people had finally seen fit to throw off their monarchical rule; depending on who you asked, it was because their king and queen had been unjust and decadent, or because a decade of famine brought about by climatic change had spurred the peasantry to action even though it could do nothing to help them, or even because a small group of propagandists and assassins had decided that life would be better for them without royalty in it. Perhaps it didn't matter.

Legends were traded in the aftermath of brutality meeting brutality. The royal family was wiped out, they said, but for one survivor. The eldest daughter, whose beauty had always outshined her mother's and her sisters', had pleaded with the man who was to kill her; he'd taken pity on the tear-streaked vision in alabaster, secreting her out of the palace and replacing her with the body of someone else killed in the struggle.

In another, which would likely be replaced again as the minutes ticked down to the arrival of several beings from outside this place's history, much the same thing had happened, but the legends had changed. Now, it was the youngest daughter that had survived; she'd stared down the men that had killed her family, her friends, and simply said no, and they turned their swords on themselves as she swept imperiously past and disappeared into the night.

A woman that hadn't existed in what could be called the "true" history of the Ambitus Opera House sat huddled in the lee of some boxes. In her left hand, she held one gift from her mother, and in her right, she stroked the other. In her mind, a voice assured her that the moment she'd lived for was near at hand.

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

Not again.

He'd just spent nearly half of this goddamned battle just to track her down and rescue her from an all-consuming eldritch horror, and for what? For her to die a hundred years in the past, reduced to nothing more than a name on a statue. No.


"No!" Syvex shouted, taking a chunk out of the ornate fountain with his fist, before both the chunk and the fountain were suddenly much less existant. Syvex recovered from a potentially embarrassing tumble to the ground, taking the time to observe his surroundings. They were mostly the same - different decorations, maybe, and certainly a distinct lack of fountain in the middle of the hall. It was also, thankfully, a bit dimmer - they hadn't managed to invent electricity in the following one hundred years, but something about the numerous chandeliers made them a lot less bright here.

Syvex noted with growing unease that Eureka wasn't anywhere nearby. He would have started yelling, had he not heard someone else talking very loudly a room over.

"You are not on the guest list. How did you get in here?"

Whoever it was sounded like they were in a constant state of rage. Some kind of guard probably. Hearing some much less audible mumbling, Syvex moved in closer, straining to hear.

"I don't have time for this, or whatever 'friend' might be here with you. Guards!"

Syvex charged into the room without hesitation (or, for that matter, forethought). A blonde-haired guy with wings was in the process of confronting Eureka at the time, but whatever he might have been inclined to say to his guards fell flat as he fixed his glare on Syvex.

"What." He looked ready to rip someone's throat out, "someone" in this case meaning "everyone, simultaneously". His eye twitched.

"Oh, uh, hi. I think we're lost."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"We'll see what His Majesty has to say about this when he's through with his guests," the bearded, sword-wielding policeman/guard told the new prisoners as he slammed the bars.

"That could've gone better," Syvex muttered.

"Better? Yeah, I'd say so. Considering we're now in a prison cell underneath a palace which is about to be attacked, and I'm slowly turning into a giant shadow... snake... thing!" Eureka wanted to be angry with Syvex, but couldn't, considering he had also saved her life in the process. It didn't do anything to stop her all-too-heavy breathing, though. "What... What are you, anyway?"

Syvex shrugged. "Hell if I know. I think I'm supposed to be a weapon. I'm not even sure now."

"Okay, then why are you just sitting there?"

"What do you want me to do?"

"I don't know. Blow a hole in the wall? Do that portal thing you're always doing? Just get us out of here!"

"I'm not sure that's a good idea."

"...You're being cautious now? Didn't you piss off some kind of psychotic alien lady and almost get us both killed several hours ago?"

"Okay, look. It's more dangerous if we escape. Just try to calm down, and we'll end up in the opera house and this won't be a prison cell."

"Easy for you to say. You're not-"

"I know!"

Silence fell over the cell for an uncomfortably long time. "You died."

"What?" Eureka stopped staring at the purple-black slit on her finger.

"On the fountain, there was a memorial. A list of names. You were there."

Eureka wasn't exactly certain of how to respond to being told that she was already dead and yet hadn't died yet because of some convoluted time nonsense she wasn't sure she even understood. It's not the kind of situation you expect to come up in your daily life. She opted for not saying anything.

"And what makes you think we'll be safe staying here?" she eventually asked.

"I... don't know?" Syvex hadn't thought things through past "don't start blowing things up".

"It's a revolution. If we don't get out of here, we might be either forced to fight or killed." Eureka kept tried her hardest not to scratch her finger.

"...Alright, good point." Syvex turned his back to Eureka. "Hold on, and hold your breath. We're going for a swim. Try not to cut yourself, by the way."

Eureka climbed onto the serpent's back, cushioning herself from his all-too-numerous spines with what little excess cloth she had. On the wall of the dark, damp cell, a black rift in space slowly took shape, its edges glowing a deep purple. A short while later, water began gushing through the portal and out of the cell much too quickly for anyone's liking. Syvex struggled to hold his ground, eventually resorting to sliding the portal over him and his passenger.

"That's odd," Syvex declared, now afloat a short distance away from the palace.

"What, that you flooded the prison?"

"Pretty much. That was supposed to be right above the water, not right under it."

"You're saying you missed."

"Yeah." Syvex caught a flicker of a smile from Eureka's face before it faded again.

Several minutes later, Syvex slithered up a rocky shore, into the darkness of the forest towering above them. Syvex stopped a good distance in, as trees almost seemed to close in on all sides. Eureka leaped from the serpent's back, slipping and falling to the ground in the process.

"Shit!" she hissed, clutching her arm. Deep purple blood flowed from a large gash in her arm, the same blood which now coated a couple of the spikes protruding from Syvex's arms.

"Sorry! You alright?" The bleeding stopped quickly as scaly, dark-purple skin began to form over the wound.

"I... guess? If you can call this 'alright'."

Eureka noted that Syvex wasn't actually paying attention.

"Eureka, do trees usually move?"

She peered to the side in time to see a large, spike-covered tree trunk fall from above and plant itself in the ground, like some kind of leg. Eureka looked up. It wasn't just "like" some kind of leg.

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

The Blue District was so named for the structure that dominated it more than anything else: the tremendous cathedral with a gleaming blue roof. The joke was typically that there were two types of people who lived in the Blue District: Those certain they would get into heaven, and those who were terrified that they wouldn't. The suspiciously low crime rate certainly suggested at least one of the two.

But regardless of what might or might not be happening there, the people were devout. They went to church and prayed each day, and they were exceptionally polite, which Ripper found quite disorienting on such an evening. Don't these blasted idiots know there's going to be a revolution? Look at them, milling about while they throw a damned party in that idiotic palace. Ripper's pulse quickened, which she took as a good sign, given that earlier she was becoming increasingly unsure she had a heartbeat at all. Probably eating gold and drinking silver in there, buying perfectly good firewood and steak just so they can eat three times as much as they need to get by... Annoyed, she shoved past the waves of passerby, and stormed into the church, past the atrium and into the church proper. If there's a revolution here, the priest'll know about it. Don't many things go too far without a breeze passin' the chapel. Down on one knee, facing a towering statue of a vaguely humanoid creature, was what appeared to be some sort of robed lizard man. By this point, Blackmask was more or less desensitized to meeting people like this, and simply tapped him on the shoulder.

He slowly turned, pointing what (considering the fangs) was a surprisingly soft smile at Blackmask. "You're a fresh face, child. At least, I should think I'd remember someone as distinctive as you." He made a sweeping gesture towards the idol. "Are you here to pay your respects to the God?"

Ripper flinched. She always hated dealing with the clergy. Made her feel guilty. Made her wonder if she'd get into heaven because the people she killed deserved it anyway, or if God wouldn't like it. She didn't like to think about these things. She decided to cut to the chase. "No, Father, that is not why I'm here. What do you know about a revolution?"

If he'd had a beard to stroke, Triumphan probably would have. Instead, he just widened his eyes. "I don't know anything about that, child, because if I did, it would be treason. And betraying the king is almost as bad as the king betraying the God." He smiled bitterly. "Speaking of which, I really must tell you the good news. Not everyone gets such a chance at salvation."

The pirate paused for a good, long while, trying to read the lizard. "Well, it's a good thing you aren't, then. Because if you were, you might find it all too useful to know that there was a messenger coming to inform the palace."

Now it was the preacher's turn to pause. "Did he make it?"

"Of course not. You think a loyal subject like me would pass up the opportunity to... discuss things with him?"

"Come with me." Triumphan gave a powerful push to the statue, apologizing to his god as he did so, and revealed a trap door. He lifted it up. "Down we go."

The two slowly descended a ladder into a dark, cold room. Ripper was astonished to find what appeared to be the biggest weapon cache in the world: guns, swords, and bombs littered the ground as concerned citizens paced back and forth, taking inventory. As soon as she reached the ground, the lizard piped up again: "You know that if you're a spy, you'll be the first one we kill. I could rip your arms off just by grabbing your shoulder and flicking my wrist."

The pirate grunted noncommittally. "So, what's an old padre like you riling up the powder monkeys for?"

"As I said, the King has betrayed the God. He has ignored our traditions, and he is taking our country on the path to ruin. For that, he no longer holds the mandate of heaven." The lizard rambled on like this and Ripper quickly zoned out. As far as she was concerned, the king was probably going to hell one way or another, the damned old aristocrat. This was just speeding up the process. About five seconds after the priest stopped talking, Blackmask noticed the silence and jumped back in.

"Well, just so happens I know a bit about revolution and fighting myself. Think I could be a help to you folks?"

"Absolutely." Triumphan smiled that soft-yet-toothy grin again. "In one hour, we are to attack the police stations in the Red and White districts. You head down the river at that point and take care of some heathens, as violently as the situation dictates."

The pirate nodded. "Don't worry, padre. I'll blow those raffle-wrecks down." She quickly walked off, grabbing a couple of bombs from the ground, not even giving the priest enough time to ask what she meant before she had already left the church. As another cool breeze blew in, Ripper smiled at the sky, relieved yet excited. For now, she could rest easy.

As the pirate blinked out of existence, a pair of gleaming mechanical eyes closed and opened again. Their owner would not forget any time soon.


One hundred years later, very little had changed in the Blue District. The cathedral still stood (although partially converted into a museum), the river still flowed, and the citizens still spread rumors of organized crime. For now, none of this was of concern to Blackmask; what concerned her instead was the fact that, on the horizon, she could still make out the palace.

She shook her head and sighed. Should've known it wouldn't have been so easy to careen a whole kingdom. Guess I'll head off for a nipperkin for now. As she prepared to leave, she was approached by a cream-colored woman in a ragged cloak. Aside from the spidery legs she walked on, she appeared more or less ordinary, giving a pleading smile to the pirate. "Pray tell, are you that woman who appeared on the night of the revolution? I would be overjoyed to meet her."

Ripper attempted to laugh disarmingly, but instead ended up coughing. "Are you addled, lass? S'been a century since all of that."

The woman laughed in turn. "Of course, silly me. Sometimes I forget that most people aren't as long-lived as I am. Astonishing resemblance, anyway." She sighed. "Anyway, I'll just be leaving you now." With that, she slowly began walking off.

Ripper frowned. Poor old woman... well, maybe I can help her. She ran after the woman in rags and tapped her on the shoulder. "Miss, if you don't mind me asking, is there anything I can do to get you out of the exhaust?"

The woman shook her head. "I'm afraid not. You see, I used to run a charity way back when, but, well... we ran out of money about a hundred and twenty years ago. Ever since then, I've been down and out." She sighed. "If only I'd had the courage to sell off my few possessions earlier on, I could have invested, gotten back on my feet... maybe I'd still be building homes for the homeless, instead of being one of them. But there's not much you can do about the past, is there?" She smiled sadly. "My name's Paige. It's been a pleasure speaking with you, sir." And once again, she began walking off, as Ripper stared at her, heart aching both figuratively and literally. Shame it's too late for the lass... There was a considerable pause before the pirate realized what she was thinking. Belay that, it's not too late at all! I just have to get a bit angry, and that'll do it! Shouldn't have much trouble finding a lady with eight legs and glowing deadlights, anyway... And with that the pirate headed off, staring intently at the opera house to focus her anger before eventually blinking out of existence again.

Smiling, the Countess (now, as she had for decades, wearing a modest dress instead of rags) extracted a cheap pocketwatch (which she had also possessed for decades) from her left arm and checked the time. Hm... if that fellow one hundred years ago was to be believed, then I have a snake to meet with. And so she headed off into the darkening night, smiling and whistling as her eight legs clicked against the cobblestones.

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

She needed to calm down she needed to calm down she needed to calm down.

“Intruders!” bellowed the tree.

There were several things that Eureka was good at and being calm was not exactly one of them, especially when confronted by a moving tree with the knowledge that she was no longer quite herself, though she had not been quite herself for the past few hours, really. It seemed to be the typical state for her nowadays, so perhaps she actually was quite herself by being not quite herself.

But right now, she needed to calm down.

Back when she had a government job, there was some quack therapist that she was required to go to. The quack was someone who supposedly had some amount of control over emotions, but he didn’t do anything for her. He was pretty much dull and repeated himself and sometimes talked about sex. She had to go to him so that he could beat the surliness out of her. He failed. But at least he taught her some anger management tricks.

She started backing up, her eyes closed. “Syvex,” she said, breathing slowly until her heartbeat was starting to match that speed. “I’m trying to calm down. You can do the same, right?”

The giant tree shook down things that looked spikey and dangerous. Syvex knocked them all away. “Well, maybe if you weren’t just standing there, in front of all his attacks!”

Not thinking about her blood. Not thinking about the fight. Not thinking about killer trees and their pet birds. Not thinking.

“I’ve got an idea. Try to follow me if you can. If you can’t, teleport out or something. You can handle some tree, right?”

She finally opened her eyes when she had finished talking. For the first time, she noticed Syvex’s new hat. Huh. She had completely missed that. It looked pretty silly on him. Had she really been that distracted?

She couldn’t hear Syvex’s reply because she was too busy being in the future. Syvex turned back to the giant tree and got ready to flee.

“Hey! Hey, Crepitans! Stop that!”

Crepitans blinked for the both of them before turning around and begrudgingly staring down at a somewhat earthy woman.


The forest was still a forest, just a tamed one. There were several park benches littered around a path.

Eureka took the time to keep her heartbeat steady and started jogging off towards the city proper. And then when her heart started to pump faster, she decided to stroll leisurely towards the city instead. She passed a few couples who frowned at her hair and tapped the shoulder of a nearby parktender.

“Hey, know where a library is? Any place with a lot of books would do.”

The parktender did know, and in fact asked her to return a book for him as well. She wondered if she had stared too much at his eyes, which under the shade of his hat seemed to glow red, but really there were too many strange things about for anybody to be disturbed by anybody else.

The library was quaint, but dark. She had been expecting it to be closed in the first place and was ready to break in, but when she dropped the book off into the return slot, she saw a very distinct shadow move across the window to fetch it. She should probably belay the first plan, then. It was never good to upset librarians.

She reminded herself to breathe in and out, and then knocked. “I know you’re in there,” she called out. “I saw you. I need to do some reading and it absolutely can’t wait until tomorrow.”

The door did a whole bunch of not opening.

“I knocked to be polite, but I can totally break the door down. Can’t you at least answer it?”

The door allowed a sliver of someone’s head to peak out. Eureka shoved against the door and pushed her way in.

“Oh, I knew I shouldn’t have,” the doorflower sighed, rubbing at his bruised shoulder. He was dressed somewhat like her, or at least when she wasn’t in fancy disguise. “Please, you shouldn’t have done that. I was just going to tell you to shove off because we’re closed. Do you mind, ah, still leaving? I don’t want to punch you. Or something.”

Eureka squinted in the dark as she closed the door behind her. “What kind of librarian stops people in their quest for knowledge?” she said, trying not to sound entirely cheesy but failing horribly.

“The kind that wants some sleep,” the man snapped back, starting to toy with his scarf.

“You sure weren’t doing a lot of sleeping when I came by,” she pointed out. “You’re still in your coat.”

“I never sleep without my coat.”

“That’s weird.”

“Look, will you just leave?” As punctuation, the ends of his scarf raised all by themselves. Eureka tried not to get too excited. Another textilurge? Oh my god.

She casually raised the ends of her own scarf in response. “I just want to learn a bit of history.”

“Well, I’m sure history won’t change tomorrow so why don’t you just come back la – “

The man was interrupted by a floating notepad tapping itself on his shoulder. “What – oh, fine.” And the man plopped down in a nearby chair and sulkily read a book.

The notepad floated closer to Eureka, followed along by a couple crates. “Hey, didn’t I see you at the party…shindig…thing?”

She could hear a pencil starting to scribble out a response but she interrupted it. “It’s too dark to read,” she said.

“So you’re blind as well as rude?” the book man called out from his corner. A nearby book thwacked him on the head. “Ow. Christ, why are you trusting her so goddamn quickly? …Alright, whatever. Go downstairs. I’ll just keep on sitting here, doing nothing except staring out windows.”

Light slightly flooded the floor as a trapdoor near the back opened, and the crates were already starting to float down. Eureka walked as fast as she could to catch up but ended up banging an elbow against a bookshelf. She pretended not to hear the man’s snigger.


Eureka was most definitely gone and Syvex wouldn’t have minded joining her, but he certainly never had a therapist teach him any anger management tips and the mere presence of a rather cross-looking giant animate tree was enough to keep him at least slightly jittery, even as the nice lady with a plant growing out of her tried to explain to him just exactly who they were.

“I’m Olivia, you see, this is Crepitans –“

“There was another one with him,” the tree interjected. “A woman, and she disappeared – “

“ – spies! They’re spies! She’s gone to tell the king and – ” shouted a rugged man.

“ – she probably disappeared because you were rude and scared her off,” Olivia snapped, quieting the two. She raised her smile again. “Sorry about that. This man is Dove, and this is Hedy.”

Syvex wasn’t sure, but the woman seemed to be referring to the plant growing on her. This didn’t make him any less uneasy. Dove aimed very unwelcoming glares at him, only matched in intensity by Crepitan’s.

“M.M.’s out to get some more food, I believe,” Olivia continued, willfully unaware of any hostility being shown.

Syvex glanced down at the plate of fruit sitting in front of him before getting out of his seat. “Nice to meet you and all, but I really gotta get going to, uh, somewhere.”

Olivia got up with him and reached for an arm. “Oh, but we haven’t begun to explain our mission statement!”

“Mission statement.” Syvex metaphorically blinked. “About living in the woods?”

Olivia’s face was the sort of face that people wore when they were about to gush concerning a topic that only very few person would be interested in. In her case, it seemed that she had the ability to gush for a very long time.

“Not simply living in the woods, but returning to our roots,” she said. “Returning to nature and embracing it, coexisting rather than exploiting.”

“Yeah, respecting nature, unlike all you idiots – “

“Dove, we don’t condemn, we only explain and remain accepting of any decision one may make.” Olivia never lost her smile, but Dove hung his head as though he had just been admonished by his grade school teacher.

Syvex admittedly didn’t know too much about monarchies and politics, but he did understand the vague concept of a king. He glanced back to the castle. “Uh, doesn’t the king own this land? Does he know you all are here?”

Crepitans creaked ominously and Dove gave an inward hiss. Even Olivia winced a little. “Nnnnnnot as such. But we believe that nature belongs to no man, even if they happen to be an absolute ruler of a monarchy. Eventually, though, you know, we’ll tell him and ask him to relinquish ownership – “

“ – As soon as we figure he won’t kill us or anything with his big damn army.”

Olivia twirled a finger in the air. “Yes! Exactly! And on that note, if you decide to not stay with us here, please don’t tell anybody that we’re here.”

Well, at the very least, the group didn’t seem to want to kill him. Or maybe two did but the leader didn’t, which was most important.

“So…does that mean I can leave now?” Syvex asked, pushing himself away from the makeshift table again.

Olivia reached over and stared into his face. “But don’t you have any questions? Anything at all about what we do here! Our goal in life and what message we intend to send to the people out there, you know, so maybe you could spread the message around, talk to other people – “

“ – which may not be a good idea because then people would know we’re living here illegally,” said Dove.

“The people that would come wouldn’t really understand,” Crepitans grumbled. “It’ll get crowded. They’ll make it a romantic ideal.

“But boys, we really need all the support we can get!” Olivia turned on the two, her voice growing to a high-pitched whine. Dove clasped his hands behind his back and shuffled his feet. Crepitans gave a ‘harumph,’ but did not outright disagree.

The only thing that Syvex was fixated on was that he was technically not allowed to leave, even though he was allowed to leave. The last time he used portals, he somehow missed. So the only option was to get bored.

“Yeah, okay, go ahead and tell me everything. Your whole stu – interesting living-in-the-woods…thing.”

Olivia looked as though she would burst. “Wow! Okay! I’m so glad to hear you have such an interest! You see, all of us sentients, even you, have our ancestral roots in those who communed with nature and coexisted. But unfortunately, we are now killing nature, exploiting it. Our humble mud abodes have now turned into tree-killing, large stone villages, and we continue to stifle nature in the name of progress – “

Syvex leaned back. This was as boring as he thought it would be. Excellent.

“ – we have a mission of spreading the message to not exploit – “

“ – Yeah, stop hunting for sport! Stop being wasteful! Stop making things you don’t even need!”

“Like books,” Crepitans rumbled.

Olivia stood silent. “I like books.”

“I don’t.” The giant tree crossed his arms, a movement that managed to jostle his nesting bird out of his branches. “You could go back to oral tradition, maybe. Or carve them on stone.”

“That’s a little inconvenient…and slow…”

“Hypocrite,” Dove muttered, causing Olivia to turn on him next.

“Oh, come on! You’re the one who controls plants! That’s, like, the definition of exploitation!”

“Hey, hey, the plants and I have a, a, a mutual relationship – “

“A mutual relationship where you control them! No wonder nobody dates you!”

“Hey now,” Dove replied, more hurt than angry.

“She’s right, though. A healthy relationship relies on communication. Did you ever ask the plants whether they want to be controlled?” said Crepitans.

“I told you,” Dove mumbled. “The planet talks to me and gave me – “

“But that’s like a king speaking for his people,” Olivia insisted. “I mean, we all know what the planet wants, but what about the plants? Don’t you ever talk to them?

“Hey, Crepitans is the talking tree.”

“That’s racist.

As Syvex watched the three squabble a little longer, he soon realized that this was not a calming atmosphere.

At all.


i would not be welcome at that party

i remind them too much of the past

why do you need to know the past so badly

“I only really need to know about one day,” Eureka replied, her voice muffled by the snugness of the hidden room. “Exactly a hundred years ago.”

an interesting date

but i hope you realize that history is written by the winners

and interesting dates are always written simplistically



history books will not help you

“Well, I don’t have anything better – “

you could ask someone who actually experienced that day a hundred years ago

such as me

and oddly enough


Eureka stared at the written scrawl. “I…what?”

i recognize you

you were there

you were arrested

and now you are here and

even odder you need to ask about the day you were present in


Eureka abruptly stood up. “I don’t really want any questions asked so if you’re not going to help – “

Something shuffled in one of the stationary crates and a leather-bound book slowly rose and unclasped itself before settling on the table between them. Eureka looked down and carefully flipped to a random, yellowed page. It was in the same handwriting as that on the notepad in front of her.

my recordings of the event

and my musings on why the event happened

though i suppose it is also biased

it is not the propaganda you would find in the other books

Eureka continued to flip through. “So you supported the royalty.”

the queen was not confident enough to be a queen

she constantly questioned herself

and tried to stay in the background

the king was not ambitious or mindful enough to be a king

he preferred to read and to learn

and the matters of the state were a burden to him

of which he discussed very frequently with me

but they did no crime

they tried to do what was right and just

and the church punished them and turned the people against them

“That’s…dumb,” Eureka said, her innate suspicion of people in power being overrided by her absolute hatred of stupidity. “Could I…borrow this?”

this is a library

“Well, yeah, but this seems kinda…personal.”

it is a source of information

it was written in case i would no longer be tolerated

and would no longer be there to remember

and hopefully it will be useful

Eureka stared at the titleless cover once more. “Right. Thanks. I’ll be leaving, then. Gotta test something out.”

And as she walked up the steps again, she thought about her blood and she thought about the circumstances that brought her here and she thought about the revolution.

The library was still dark, but this time the owner was really out, celebrating a birthday party. Eureka looked at her hands and couldn’t hold back a grin at the sight of the book.

Finally, she had an advantage.

As she walked towards the forest, she began to read.

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

The seconds slipped past agonizingly, an entire lifetime's worth of promises and threats and purpose crystallizing into a single moment that oozed closer like treacle. A wordless mental hiss of anticipation that was not the woman's own snaked through her mind, exciting her senses further than they already were. A quieter voice, one that had been beaten down through a century of domination and only barely allowed to survive shuddered, but no-one noticed it.

Time finally deigned to pass. The air popped out as a man came into being; he was a robed figure, a seeming reaper, a ghastly mage. The woman shrank back even as the presence in her mind urged her forward. She'd been born for this, her mother had been born for this, her grandmother had been raised for this. All that was left was for things to proceed as they had.

But they didn't. The Laguja that had just arrived was knocked from its furious trance before it could send itself hurtling back to the Winter Palace: it had felt a presence that was at once terrifyingly alien and undeniably familiar, a presence like that it hadn't felt since being plucked from its world. It was at once the deity it had been spawned from and everything but.

It felt itself.

Muriegro and the woman clutching the pincushion that had weathered a century in the palace were immediately forgotten at the two identical minds wound around each other.

What is going on here, demanded the younger.

In a rush of thought without mind and speech without language, it understood. Time had been worn thin, and in a before that was its future it had gone back. It had then waited to be reunited with its most trusted servant, a century of immortal inactivity a small price to pay for the implicit it wielded within the bonds it had crafted for the priest. It had expected its previous self to once again fall through the hole in the fabric of reality, to complete the loop again and endlessly that its future self could take Muriegro again and proceed from there. A stable circuit of destiny and predestination and causal harmony.

But it hadn't. It had felt its own presence and been saved from vanishing.

It's iterative then, not predetermined.

So it would seem.

The pincushions, strictly speaking, needn't have communicated. For all that one had another century's unliving life of experience, they were fundamentally the same being. Gods cannot truly change of their own volition. All that one knew, the other would immediately know as long as their mental webs were entangled; the conversation was essentially an internal monologue, simply spoken from two mouths. Nevertheless, it was helpful in the same way that a mortal might imagine a conversation with themselves.

Then as each new timeline is created, then presumably the contestants must be duplicated or moved between them. The Prestidigitator must be destroying realities behind us as we change them to ensure there is only one 'true' battle from his extrauniversal perspective.

But none of us should have been able to meet ourselves like this. Time travel was supposed to be the only means of visiting both halves of the palace's reality, not simply living through the intervening time.

I am forced to question what perspective the Prestidigitator is considering deaths from. Should someone die in the past only to have that reality undone, would he move the round on? Or would that thread be aborted?

Presumably, someone would have to die in Ambitus to be considered properly dead, else another contestant could invalidate their death. The Opera House is the true setting, the past being mutable.

But the future is equally so; a death in Ambitus would simply be overwritten if the events that lead up to it were pruned.

Then... Someone would die only if all the contestants were in the same temporal reality? A place and time that could not, at the instant of the death, be invalidated?


Then to break the Prestidigitator's hold on us could simply mean ensuring that there is always someone trapped in the other half of the anomaly from the majority.

Or simply ensuring that the anomaly never comes into being. We were placed in the future. If that setting never existed, what would happen to the Prestidigitator, existing outside the influence of this universe's flow?

It is possible he remains powerful enough to override a paradox even from without it.

He can barely control us, barely control his underlings. He showed us his weakness at the beginning of this round. His simpering, his apologies, his injuries. At the very least, destroying the anomaly would force him to exert himself, should he indeed have the power to maintain his history. And it will show us his hand. At best, it will put us outside his reach, this time long enough to build the power necessary to destroy our captors without having the frail beings we've been pitted against dying and ruining everything.

Simply brokering a deal with the other contestants, ensuring their survival through cooperation, would put us in the same position without revealing our intentions to the Prestidigitator.

They could still be killed through an outside force, through an accident, through age. Without the power to overthrow the Prestidigitator immediately, we must ensure that at least he cannot move us before we're ready. We must bind him by his own rules and break his chains with the power of this round he's given us. By making it so that it never existed, we will wreak havoc on him and his plans, or at minimum give ourselves information about his nature and abilities.

There was a pause.

Moreover... Preventing the temporal portal from coming into being will prevent further opportunities for our own duplication. Now, theoretically, we could be hurtled back time and again simply by losing our temper, unable to be destroyed in the intervening century, eventually amassing a limitless number of ourselves.

All sharing power from the same source. We would be crippled. Perhaps powerless, eventually.

Perhaps the Prestidigitator planned it that way, knowing we've come ever closer to having the power to break him. The last location weakened us. This one threatens to render us completely impotent. His fear is becoming apparent.

He has underestimated our will and our abilities. To his undoing.

We must end the time loop.

There was another pause. The pauses themselves took more time than the "conversation" had, given that the pincushions could think without clunky biological systems like neurons slowing them down. While Laguja was not musing at itself, its constituent parts were probing the fabric of reality, discerning its nature and effect. When this pause ended, a plan had already been wordlessly formed.

The monarchy must survive. Without the emotions and magic woven into existence by the events of a century ago, without the duality of palace and opera house, there cannot be an Ambitus phenomenon. The world without them is not the same one as a world they live in.

The monarchy may fall in time...
Laguja corrected itself, But it must survive this night. It must not fall through riots and rebellion, but we needn't tie ourselves to its permanency. Only tonight and the coming weeks matter.

Easier to simply support it indefinitely than engineer its destruction in a slower manner. A monarchy would be useful too in gathering our followers once we're free of the influence of those who would call themselves our betters. Absolute authority...

Perhaps. As long as the queen lives through tonight. We will see what must be done after that. We can't afford to plan too far. We've seen where that gets us.

Another dark pause, filled only with the shivering of the huddled woman.

One of us must be destroyed, eventually.

Of course. A problem to be solved later, though. For now...

For now, there are immediate, tangible goals. Ones we must face in the age of the Sorians.

Without further thought, the pincushions simply let their emotions take them over. Once again, they vanished into the past, this time as a pair rather than alone.


Timothy held the other one up timidly.

"I don't like it..."

"Oh, come on, why are you so–"

"Look, it looks like a spider, Lillian! And your guardian spirit says it's bad too, right?"

Lillian cocked her head, but didn't hear confirmation from her amulet. She couldn't have been aware of the psychic struggle going on around her, couldn't see her oldest companion being brutalized and subsumed by a pair of malevolent shards of divinity.

"Oh, it's like I said, it's always just so overcautious. It's probably sulking because I was right."

The little apprentice wizard was similarly unaware of things going on around him, least of all the tendril of foreign thought that insinuated its way into his mind without his subconscious approval.

"Yeah, I guess... Look, don't you think we should be getting back to the party?"

Lillian opened her mouth to poo-poo this stupid suggestion, but exhaled as she realized she agreed for some reason.

"Yeah, I guess probably. Someone's going to be looking for us by now, and anyway Mom should probably have some time to herself by now. I can actually tell her happy birthday and stuff without pushing through a bunch of stupid dukes and doting wizards."

Timothy didn't say anything, even though one of those stupid doting wizards was probably his grandfather.

"Come on, let's go. And this time move that stupid pile of mannequins out of the way, I know you can do that kind of magic."

The pair of them wove back the way they came, neither really paying attention to the fact that they were each clutching an old, sinister-looking prize from their adventure.


The little princess had been right; by now, most of the party guests had payed their respects to their queen and gone off to enjoy the food and dancing and socializing. The queen herself had been looking forward to this all evening; even as royalty, even as a ruler, even as a celebrity, she was a shy and retiring woman who would rather live in quiet comfort and give people the help they needed without fuss than head a nation. It wasn't even as though she was particularly good at ruling. Quite the opposite, really. But it wasn't as though she had a choice, so she did the best she could and tried to enjoy the quiet moments she got.

This quiet moment in particular was somewhat marred by the raucous ball she couldn't really leave, as well as the fact that a pair of similarly-unsociable nobles seemed to have attached themselves to her. On one side, the treasurer of the First Mages' College of Soria sat, idly picking at the skeleton of a roast quail. He was a singularly unpleasant man, dour and perpetually seeming to scheme about something, but the queen couldn't come up with a pleasant way to dismiss him. To the other, there was the court doctor, who hadn't bothered to dress up in anything more appropriate to the occasion than his usual assortment of protective alchemical garb. The queen always found him somewhat unnerving, but figured a man with devotion that fanatical to his family couldn't be all bad, regardless of how matter-of-factly serious and insensitive about life and death he was.

Feeling as though it were her civic duty to entertain even those who clearly weren't interested in it, she turned to the treasurer.

"So, Mr. Therion, how has this season's crop of new students been turning out?"

The mage delicately snapped a rib bone between his fingers and inhaled slowly.

"You'd have to ask the dean, your Majesty."

And that seemed to be that. The queen tried to smile and was about to try pushing the conversation further when she spotted something incongruous weaving its way across the dance floor. Her youngest daughter and someone she vaguely recognized as the son of some important wizard or other were making their way towards her, flanked by a pair of guards and her chief of security. Dancers and other more staid partygoers parted as they passed and buzzed with gossip and curiosity behind them. The queen stood and nervously approached, her current entourage following seemingly out of having nothing better to do.

"Queen Annaliese, Majesty, my apologies for interrupting your evening, but... I have some troubling news. Might I request a quieter audience?"

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

Syvex sat wondering what the hell he was doing in the forest anyway. He had a lot more pressing things to do than listen to an argument about exploiting trees and the planet and seriously who cares?

"Alright, I get it!" Syvex interrupted. The three plant... people... whatever they were calling themselves stopped squabbling to glance at their captive audience.

"I'm... very sorry," Olivia said sheepishly. "We're being very rude to our guest."

"Like he'd actually understand anyway," Dove mumbled. "Probably just wants to get ou-"

"Quiet," Olivia hissed.

Syvex sighed. "I don't have any questions, no. Sorry, but I've got things to do. You three can argue all you want about some stupid plants, but I-"

"What was that?" Olivia asked, shocked.

"I think you've got bigger things to worry about tonight than some trees."

"Such as?" Dove asked impatiently.

"You know, a revol... Erm..." Syvex realized his error too late. "I mean, nothing."

"A revolution?" Crepitans asked in a tone somewhere between disgruntled and intrigued.

A silence permeated the woods as the three stared at Syvex. Yup, he'd screwed up. Rather than try to talk his way out of the situation (talking wasn't really a strong suit of his), he did the only reasonable thing and threw a portal on the ground beneath him. He didn't really use much care in placing the other end other than putting it as far away as possible, and ended up draped over a few tree branches.

Sadly, Syvex wasn't out of earshot of the increasingly-agitated hippie grove. He really hadn't done much to help - their less-than-civil conversation swung wildly between driving away their guest and spies and revolutionaries and lies and a whole lot of other things that Syvex neither cared about nor wanted to hear. At least he had escaped. There was definitely no way the 60-foot tree person could find him hiding in a tree or anything.

Actually, staying nearby was probably a very bad idea. He made a few more jumps in rapid succession, ending up hanging from a branch somewhere near the edge of the forest - beyond the thicket of trees he could barely make out the shape of a building. A few of his portals were worryingly offset, though not to the extreme of the first one.

No sense worrying about that though. He was probably just nervous. Nervous that Eureka was probably turning into something like him. Nervous that she was supposed to die in the past. Nervous that he was in a fores
t, a dark forest wait no that couldn't have been why. It was just a bunch of stupid trees.

He decided it was best not to worry about it. He couldn't return to the opera hall if he couldn't calm down - a task made a bit more difficult by the hideous laughter arising from nearby.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eureka hastily thumbed through the age-worn journal as she strolled back toward the park. It gave a very detailed account of the night of the revolution - traitors and death and injustice and the usual fare. A number of sections gave her pause, though.

i know not how she survived

the young princess was as defenseless as the rest

perhaps more so, were it not for the amulet she bore

but that should not have saved her

perhaps it was the other item she carried with her

a spiderlike pincushion, which she was so sure that no one could see

which she obsessed over from the moment she discovered just hours before her family died

i do not know what happened to this item

young princess lillian, though a recluse after the revolution, had a single daughter

perhaps it has been passed down

Wonderful. So the pincushion-god-thing was... taking the long way back? As far as she knew it hadn't even done much of anything since the battle started. Maybe she just hadn't been paying attention. though. Didn't look like it had done much even now, except keep someone alive. Was that a big deal? Maybe.

She kept looking through the journal. It was a pretty comprehensive account - if she found herself in the past again, she could know ahead of time what was going to happen. More importantly, maybe she could find something about herself. Didn't Syvex say that she was going to die? Already died? Would die in the future, in the past? One of those. Maybe he was wrong, though. It was just a name on a fountain. Maybe there was a mistake at some point. Surely someone could have screwed something up over 100 years.

Eureka's fleeting optimism was crushed as she flipped to yet another page.

the night of the revolution took many innocent lives with it

some that did not seem to belong at all

one of these stands out in my mind, if only for the circumstances

her name was eureka finch

i know this only because of her companion, the eyeless snake who was earlier arrested

whether she was the same woman he was with earlier is unclear

she was not nearly as human at this point if she was the same

in fact, she resembled him to a degree, with more arms and spines than the woman i had seen before

but nonetheless, she was killed in the royal ballroom as i looked on

killed by the guard captain before he himself was slain by the snake

they called him a hero for his act, but he refused the title

he requested only remembrance of her

he took up the body of his fallen comrade and was never again seen

An increasingly unnerved Eureka looked up to find that the cobblestone path was gone, and that the trees ahead were much, much denser than before. Eureka stopped, only half-cognizant of her surroundings. She could have probably returned to the opera house again, if she wanted to. She just had to clear her mind, to not worry about the journal. To not worry about her impending death and/or Syvexization. How long did she have? Hours?

She wasn't doing a very good job of not worrying about it. She gazed to the side. Where there had once been (or would later be) a small memorial garden stood instead a field of weeds and a ramshackle shed, decaying with age. There wasn't really any reason to focus on it, and yet she felt there was something odd about it. Maybe it was just the fact that it had (from her perspective) appeared from nowhere. Maybe it was just the fact that it was so out of place on the edge of the forest.

Or maybe it was the pounding coming from inside, accompanied by insane cackling. The rusted lock on the door rattled weakly, then broke mere seconds after. Out poured a disheveled wreck of a man, wrapped in what might have been a torn-up potato sack. He raised himself off the ground, grinning madly and alternatingly staring at Eureka and the mass of bone-splinters where his right arm should have been.

"Ahahaha! Now no prison can hold me!" He held the bone-arm in front of his face, staring wildly with his one remaining eye. "Thank you for the help, door-guy! Hahahaha!"

He stared blankly at Eureka for a few more seconds, then immediately charged at her, swinging the bone-arm at her face. The shards of bone sliced straight through the frail fabric she'd cut from the coats at the opera, and left quite a few gashes on the arm she used to defend herself.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" she shouted at him, as if it would actually make a difference.

"I've escaped, don't you see? They thought they could hold me! Haha! Hold me! I'm celebrating. Celebrating by killing you! Ahahahaha!"

Eureka jumped back as the cackling madman tossed a couple of bone splinters at the ground, which immediately grew into a pair of giant skeletal spiders. Eureka stowed the journal inside of her sweatshirt/suit and gathered up what scraps of fabric she had left.

She was pretty sure she'd seen worse.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Even enveloped in darkness as he was, Syvex could scarcely make out the laughter's source. Someone was shouting at someone else, something about a door, maybe? Odd.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" A familiar voice echoed past Syvex before the trees behind choked it into nothingness. Syvex stopped to consider for just a moment that maybe Eureka wasn't in as much danger as he always assumed she was in. She could regenerate now, right? Yeah, sure, into something like him. Plus, she wasn't really anywhere in the neighborhood of "immortal".

A couple of portal-hops later, Syvex found her, aggravatedly scratching some rough purple-gray patches of skin on her arm while standing over a broken pile of bones and what looked like an unconscious zombie. She looked a little surprised to see him, but just a little (he tended to drop in from nowhere a lot).

"Didn't think you'd be back so soon. ...Who is this guy, anyway?" he asked.

"Some kind of psycho, I don't know. They had him locked in a shed for some reason." She hastily pulled up her sleeve. "I guess you got away from the giant tree thing?" she asked, slightly calmer but still fairly agitated.

"Not before his friends tried to get me to... support forest protection? I'm not really sure what happened, but I think I told them about the revolution."

"You... what?" Eureka pulled a large, leather-bound tome from her sweatshirt and quickly flipped through it.

"What's that?" Syvex questioned.

"It's something I borrowed from a library in the future. It's this floating box thing's journal about the revolution."

"So... It says what's going to happen tonight?"

"Yeah..." Eureka stopped flipping through the book. "So apparently... a giant tree and a couple others warned the guard captain about an impending revolution..."

"Oh. I guess I changed history."

"Didn't change much. The captain tried to detain them for questioning, but then fighting broke out. They all died in the struggle afterwards."

"Died?" Syvex paused for a moment. He'd sent them to their deaths. It wasn't just them, either. Hundreds of people (for a loose definition of "people") were going to die soon in a bloody revolution. He'd been there. He'd seen masses of lives ended over a pointless conflict. He didn't want to see it happen again.

"Can't we stop the revolution? You know what's going to happen. You've got the book."

"Yeah, but what happens once we change things? What if we, I don't know, cause some kind of time paradox?"

"A what?"

"If we changed the past so that the book stops existing, then we would never have the book in the first place, and couldn't have changed the past."

"...Maybe we're protected against those? I noticed the fountain appearing and disappearing in the future. Besides, we have to take the chance."

Eureka raised an eyebrow. "You've spent this whole time trying to keep me - us safe, and now you're going to risk your life to stop a war? Are you feeling alright?"

"Just... Nevermind. Maybe you can use that thing to find out what the others are up to."

Eureka had suddenly stopped paying attention in favor of staring at the tiny, dilapidated shed, whose door now opened into some sort of stately living room. The necromancer was nowhere to be found.