The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)

The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

“Coffee. Black.”

The innkeeper looked up from cleaning one particularly filthy glass just long enough to register the presence of this new customer before grunting noncommittally and waving for his wife to get to work on it. The stranger just stared vacantly at his clenched gauntlet. He didn’t seem to notice when the mug was placed in front of him; though he drank, it seemed more a reflex than conscious action.

“Anything else?”

The surfacedweller shook himself and pulled out a pocket watch. He glanced at it, scowled more deeply, and put it away.

“Stew. Bread. Simple, but filling.”


“I heard ‘im!”

The innkeeper grunted and returned to his cleaning. The inn was quiet today, just the usual gamblers in one corner and the mysterious old man who seemed to be sitting dead half the time. Lucky, perhaps; most of the rowdier customers he’d had would start a fight with a landsider without much thought.

The stranger was served and ate slowly, still absent from the present, while the innkeep struggled to remove stains in the counter whose origin he was no longer confident in guessing. Some time passed in this manner before old habits kicked in: “So. What’s yer story?”

“Oh, y’know. Just a merc on a job he never asked for.”

“Ah, but do ya want th’ job?”

“Heh. Get a lot of adventurers here, then?”

“No’ so many as y’might think, bu’ yeh. Always lookin’ to cash in on th’ bounties of wha’ever’s threat’nin’ th’ queendom. Us’ly don’t see ‘em again.” He shrugged, jerking his head towards the old man. “Tha’ one’s always going on about ‘ow they’re no’ the right one, but I think ‘e’s off inna head.”

The merc craned around and shuddered at the sight of the cowled old man. “One of those. No, thank you, I’m not here to be A Hero Of Destiny.”

“Well, then, if y’don’t mind my askin’…?”

“Hunting some dangerous individuals. They… they’ll stand out in a crowd, as do I. Sometimes more so. You seem savvy enough; you’ll recognize them if you see them.” He took another swig of black gold and was disappointed to find it his last. “But I’ve a few errands to run before resuming my work. I don’t suppose you know any quality mechanics?”

“Well, if y’just need yer watch fixed, there’s a good friend o’ mine down on-”

“It’s not… a regular watch. I’ll need someone who’s a bit eccentric. Works with… fiddly bits and bottled lightning. That sort of thing.”

The innkeep frowned, stroking his beard. “Nobody like tha’ ‘round here, I’m afraid. Might try th’ Stormlands, but none o’ them much care for outsiders.”

“I’ll check anyway; it’s not something I’d like to delay if at all possible. Thanks for everything.”

“Abou’ tha’.” A meaty hand clamped down on the stranger’s shoulder as he tried to slide from his seat. “Y’may be new ‘round ‘ere, bu’ tha’ doesn’t exempt ya from needin’ t’ pay.”

“…Ah. Yes. Of course. How much?”

“Pair ‘o kings. Th’ silver ones, y’ daft landsider…”

The merc chuckled nervously, checking his pockets in sequence. “Hang on, I know I’ve got some… Ha!”

He tossed two coins on the counter. “There we go. Thought my cash might’ve been stolen, heh.”

The inkeep released his deathgrip. “Aye, tha’ woulda been a tragedy. Bruno, by th’ way.”

“Jacob. Pleasure.”

“Aye, always good t’see a new face. Don’ ge’ i’ broken too soon, now!”

Jacob shot off a mock salute as he waltzed out the door. “No promises!”

Bruno chuckled to himself and started cleaning out another mug. In the corner, the gamblers started arguing over who’d been pocketing coins from the pot.

…Hm. …Nah, couldn’t have been.
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Pharmacy.

<font color="#ff5c48">The princess tangled at her (imaginary) hair nervously as Twenty-Five paced back and forth in front of his desk - which was just as needlessly baroque as her dress. Eryntse had been arrested a couple of times before (for “harassment” reasons; she still did not quite understand how her actions could be deemed as “harassment”) but they usually ended with a stint in a small cell and a stern warning. However, that was when she was inexperienced and lost in the place she deemed her home. The false woman eventually adapted to the concept of no-touchie (when people are looking at least). However, this “imprisonment” (well, at least she pretty sure it was one) by the gentlemen of the castle was a bit more unnerving to her.

Perhaps it was the rude welcome she received (they are so rude). Perhaps it was the amount of light in the room (she was never a big fan of light). Perhaps it was the stupid amounts of documents she had to fill out. The stack they gave her was her arm’s length and it was especially hard to fill these ridiculous forms with two arms (did she mention she only had two arms). There were many things that made her feel disheartened but she was pretty sure what the biggest upsetting thing after affidavits was: interrogation. The concept of one-on-one was incredibly intimidating and scary, especially with Twenty-Five and his imposing helmet (which probably felt awesome to wear, she thought quietly to herself). She was not going to look forward to it. And it was going to happen.

Twenty-Five frowned down at her completed papers – well at least, she thought he did. Helmets often obscure face registration of moods. “So your name is Earny…this?”

“Oh no no no no,” Eryntse dithered nervously, daintily waving with a hand. “It’s E-rinte-cheh. It’s Western. Although my family originally came from the East-”

“It doesn’t sound Western,” Twenty-Five interrupted (which she found rude, but she was not that undignified to interrupt him and do the same – and she was nervous). “Or Eastern. Or anything from this realm at all. In fact, the local arcana could not register anything about you” He stared at Eryntse “Where are you exactly from.”

A couple of tedious seconds passed. “West,” Eryntse piped up so quietly, that it could be more suitably described as an onomatopoeic meep.“I filled it here” she darted a finger at the appropriate section “remember?”

“Uh huh” Eryntse desperately hoped that was a sound of acceptance but judging from the knight’s gestures, it probably was not. He had stopped pace and was slowly rubbing a palm over his face – also he was sighing. Eryntse knew that Very Huge Sighs never bode well. “That’s a pretty large place to be from. So why are you here.”

“Uh, um,” Eryntse felt the volume of her voice drop along with some of her confidence points. In uneasy instinct, she teased at her fanciful hair, tugged at her illusive dress, trying her best to keep her other arms inside of her. She was getting uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. “To...make friends?”

The faulty princess cringed as Twenty-Five dropped the heavy documents on his extravagant desk, the thud ringing in her over-decorated ears. At this point, her uneasiness evolved into full-blown agitation, eating away at her core like a virulent disease. To Eryntse, that action meant a lot of things. He was upset, impatient, serious, vindictive, and do those things even matter? They were all incredibly bad things and Eryntse was afraid (so afraid) of getting the receiving end of it.

“Who sent you here, ” Twenty-Five said.

“A lady, I g-guess? I couldn’t tell the difference.” She added more nervous curls around her finger . “I was kind of dragged here though.” Eryntse looked downwards, the shameful tilt of her head reminiscent of a dog being heavily scolded by her owner as if she had done a Very Bad Thing.

“What was her name.” It was as if Twenty-Five had all the questions in the world – and all the time too.

“I don’t know,” Eryntse teetered; her chair creaked in empathetic desperation. “I didn’t even ask. Maybe I could find he--”

“Why are you dressed like royalty,” he interrupted.

“It’s pretty and everyone does it? I don’t kn--”

“Are you affiliated with any other coalition or castle.”

“I don’t kno-- ”

“Do you intend or wish any harm to our prisoners.”

“I don’t k--”

Twenty-Five was currently staring at one of the many portraits on the walls - all which exclusively contained knights that could be described as identical if it were not for their differentiable armor. That one portrait all of Twenty-Five’s attention was intent had the fanciest regalia ever - probably the head honcho or the originator of these knights, Eryntse guessed. She was taking in all these details because she was nervous and her nervousness was going to spike when her interrogator turned around and practically shoved his helmet into her face.

“Then why are you here.”

Eryntse was incredibly upset. There were many variables that factor into her conclusive emotion: the largeness of the foreign world, the unkindness of strangers, the lack of progress in her quest, the lack of any things to touch, and so forth. Needless to say, the unpleasantries of Twenty-Five’s mug in her face was the last straw, the provocation that made her degenerate into waterworks. Oh damn, did she cry. The room was completely filled with the sniffling and crying and hacking and other types of gross sobbing from one singular and distraught person.

“I don’t knooooooow,” Eryntse wheedled out. “I don’t even knooooooooooooow.”

Twenty-Five could only stare in shock as the sight of a giant pink…thing suddenly appeared nowhere. He had a hard time believing that enormous segmented oh-god-what draped over the seat and the fashion-disaster princess were the same exact person, but the creature was despondently sobbing, her many, many arms all reaching towards her head in consolidation. Despite the lack of eyes, there were big, fat tears disconcertingly streaming down her face. The knight shifted slightly in confusion and befuddlement. She was definitely not human – or from this world anyway.


“I-I don’t know anything” The fleshy slug coughed in fearful mid-sob.


“Don’t hurt meeeeee,” she bawled fearfully.


Twenty-Five could only shake his head as definitely-not-a-princess continued to drown in her lachrymose. Even though she was a foreign entity (the likes that the knight had never seen before), she meant no harm. On the other hand, she was definitely not going to answer any more questions in this state. How do you deal with a pink creature that just suddenly appeared out of nowhere? In front of you, nevertheless?

The knight pondered what to do. Well, she did illegally broke into place (a security one, no less) and fraudulently claimed she was a Queen at first. Perhaps, she has more information in her head that could prove valuable to the Six For Gold Police Department. Twenty-Five finally decided. She would have to detain in a cell for some period of time. You know, to cool down for a bit.

Twenty-Five made a motion with his hand.

“W-what’s this?” Eryntse stammered as a couple of knights came into the room. Despite the volume of the office, the amount of people in the room made her feel a brand of claustrophobic anxiety, especially since they were shackling her many, many arms.

“Well,madam,” Twenty-Five simply put it, “I am afraid we are going to take you in.”</font>


Far below the insignificant commotions from Twenty-Five’s office, there were dark secrets.

In the most abyssal levels of this castle (otherwise known as a basement), there were many things – moth-eaten tax returns, tattered canvas, forlorn bits of metal, outdated swords, even more outdated magazines, other sorts of riff-raff, and so forth. There was something interesting about the juxtaposition of the miscellaneous objects though. From the edges, the junk were few and scattered. However as the eyes furthered from the walls, the rummage seemed to condense, twist, warp in form in shape to form the tumultuous machine dead center of the room. The contraption was an awe-inspiring piece of work. Animated by arcane magic and other vaguely-defined sciences, the vaguely clockwork-like apparatus ran forever – its humming wires feeding ambient energies upwards to other rooms. This was the Engine that kept the Six For Gold Department lively and intact.

Inside the Engine, there was a balloon.

A rubbery red bag filled tightly with ambiguous gases, it was a simple thing with a simple mind. Its intelligence capacities could be barely called sentient, but it registered enough comprehension to realize it was in a Very Bad Scenario and acted in a way that in high cognitive functions, it would have been called “panic.” As such, it bumped fruitlessly against the glass walls, hoping to purchase some sort of force to shatter out of its penitentiary (which was more suited for goldfish than for balloons) into freedom. However, it was a balloon, not an unstoppable force of nature.

The prisoner could only helpless watch as his bumping was silently amplified and converted into energy for this accursed location. The balloon squeaked in plastic-y fear as it started to bump against the walls again. It was getting incredibly frustrated, so frustrated that it sent a mental ripple of fear from its cage, into the basement, up the castle, out of the castle, and into the air. The invisible cry of psychic help travelled through the horizons to search for the receiving end – one that was eternally linked to the Balloon.

The Balloon needed the Hat.
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Stealth was not really an option. Steven was certainly capable of being stealthy, what with the ability to allow his gloves to scout out the way ahead, but the queens that trailed after him were not. He’d earned enough respect freeing them from the dungeon (a simple matter of conjuring up a lockpick and then applying it to the lock wherein the real difficulty had been managing to come up with a plan of action under such intense scrutiny) that the queens had, at his request, ceased their bickering at full volume instead conducting their bickering in periodic bouts of half-whispers and communal shushes. But even in those moments of silence there were still seven people moving down the miserable stone hallways that made up the grey castle, one or two of whom refused to take their high heels off, no matter how nicely Steven asked.

It was rapidly becoming apparent to Steven that they probably wouldn’t be getting through this castle undetected and as for the grey queen’s minions; well he had next to no idea what they were or whether he’d be able to take them on. The thought crossed his mind that he’d be better off without the queens; he would be quieter, he could move faster and, though he hated himself for thinking it, if they were to be caught it would draw the attention of the minions away. On the one hand near certain failure and on the other a fighting chance of survival. He was pretty annoyed with himself that he couldn’t bring himself to take what was undoubtedly the more sensible option. He’d never taken himself for a hero type, yet here he was, rescuing a whole collection of damsels in distress. And then there was the last round; when he’d figured out his gloves could get him out of there he could have just gone, it would have been the more sensible option to just slip away and hope their hosts had presumed him dead, but instead he’d wanted to rescue everybody. And look where it had got him.

There was some part of Steven that didn’t mind too much that they’d never make it up to the roof, as it would save him from admitting that he had absolutely no idea what to do from that point onwards, but he chided himself for being so childish and just had to hope that if and when they reached that point something would present itself. At some point, in one hallway he couldn’t really tell apart from any other hallway in this place, he noticed that the purple queen had broken from the group and was sticking close to his side.

“Is something wrong?” he whispered, and after a short pause he added “your majesty?” unsure whether she was one of the queens who had kicked up a fuss because he hadn’t shown the proper respect.

“No, I just wanted to say I knew you could do it.” The purple queen whispered back, with a warm smile upon her face. “The door back there I mean, when the others were doubting you, I knew you could do it. Oh, and you can call me Violet.”

“Um, thanks.” Steven replied awkwardly. “I’m Steven, you can, um, call me that.” He paused and then concluded the conversation with a polite but firm: “I appreciate the thought, but I really kind of need to concentrate here?”

“You’re not from here are you?” The purple queen, Violet, continued regardless. “I mean it’s obvious you’re not from one of the Kingdoms, and unlike the rest of that lot,” she gestured dismissively towards the queens trailing behind them, “I have actually met a surface dweller, a terrible crude man he was, not at all like yourself.”

“Yeah, uh, I’m a long way from home.” Steven replied curtly.

“Do you have anywhere to stay?” The purple queen (Steven was finding it hard to think of her as Violet) asked. “You could stay at the fuchsia palace. I’m sure you’d get a hero’s welcome…” She didn’t trail off at that point; it was just the point wherein Steven’s attention was suddenly elsewhere.

Floating down the corridor up ahead was one of his gloves. Instantly he was aware of the group of minions up ahead heading their way. He glanced behind him to find the other glove heading their way and knew instantly that their luck had run out. They must have found the empty cell, and it can’t have been that hard to find the queens themselves. The purple queen had trailed off upon noticing Steven’s very visible alarm. The queens had for once gone perfectly silent as well. Steven’s gloves floated to a stop in front of him and he stared at them, trying to work out how to best protect the queens when there were enemies pressing in on both directions.

“I can help.” Violet was at his ear. “If you can magic me up some kind of sabre?” He glanced up at her. “It’s not very ladylike I know, but I always thought I should know how to protect myself.” A moment later she had a sabre in her hand and Steven was leaning against the wall for support. “Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine.” He waved her away, and she darted to the back of the group of queens holding tightly to the handle of the byzantium coloured blade. Steven righted himself and readied his gloves in front of him. He was a little drowsy but he was going to put up a fight. Momentarily the grey queen’s minions rounded the corner and bore down upon the group.


A dim grey dot in the distance was growing slowly larger. Streaming through the near-endless azure sky was a carpet, primarily midnight blue but with a complex pattern of silver and gold woven into it. It was a fine carpet, showing no signs of wear and tear, and little signs of use altogether. Seated side by side at the back of the carpet were Sruix and Talis, the latter of the pair looking irate with the current circumstance; though that is not to imply that Sruix was overly pleased either. Standing at the head of the carpet, guiding it with the slightest motion of his arms was a man clothed in swathes of blue fabrics; a scattered spectrum of blue shades running from aqua to zaffre, from periwinkle to sapphire. These fabrics formed a veritable cloak; not an inch of the mage’s skin was to be seen beneath them.

“Not from round ‘ere are yer?” The carpeteer’s voice was surprisingly rough for his arcane appearance. Talis’ response was an incoherent grumble to which Sruix rolled his eyes.

“An astute observation,” Sruix replied, “but don’t worry, just because we are lacking in coin of the realm doesn’t mean we can’t pay your for your services in some other manner.” This was the crux of the animosity between the two former gentlemen.

The man at the head of the carpet was an enchanter, the owner of a shop that they had happened across in their search of the quiet blue village. The carpets had been amongst a selection of other enchanted wares and Talis had proposed that they simply take one, perhaps two, and be off, whereas Sruix had insisted that they pay their way. Had it not been for the well made point that neither of them had any experience piloting a carpet and that they could potentially climb aboard and plunge immediately to their rather untimely demise, they might still have been arguing that point. Though they had known each other a long time, their conflicting moralities had until recently only led to a faint sense of distaste for one another. The fact is however that secluded in their own pocket dimension with the Executive, they’d never really had cause to act upon their beliefs, or rather they’d never gotten in one another’s way before.

“I would ‘ope so.” The enchanter replied. “Else I’d dump yer ‘ere and now and be done with it.” Sruix assured him that he would use his abilities to create a fine enchanted item for him, as soon as they reached the grey palace, while Talis sat impassively. Though he was sullen and not making any attempts to hide that fact, he was holding himself back. He couldn’t afford to alienate his counterpart over something as trivial as a mode of transport.


The group continued their journey through the labyrinthine passageways of the grey castle, now flanked by a group of knee height candy red imps. The minions gave Steven and his gloves a wide berth, which was understandable. He hadn’t grasped the fact that they were not hostile quickly enough to prevent him from punching one of the minions so hard the poor thing was knocked from its feet and sent flying back down the corridor behind it. One of the queens, he would guess the orange one though it was a bit of a blur he couldn’t be exactly sure, called out for him to stop. The minions didn’t speak, but communicated with a series of noises that were somewhere between a low level hum and a series of chirps, which the queens could apparently comprehend without much trouble.

“Mainly they apologised for keeping us prisoner.” Violet explained. “They’re all afraid of the grey queen, and not without good reason. They’re simple creatures; they just want to make people happy.” The purple queen had hung back with Steven, at first offering him a shoulder to lean on while he still felt somewhat drained from the use of his gloves, though now simply offering him company.

The sense of peril which had been so pervasive earlier now felt kind of silly in retrospect. Steven felt like a jerk and less of a hero than he had ever done previously; feelings that were only exacerbated by the fact that most of the queens seemed to have all but forgotten he ever even existed now that they no longer needed him to lead them to freedom. Steven half-wondered why he had ever been prepared to put his life on the line to protect them.

“Don’t feel too bad.” Violet continued. “I almost stabbed one with my bitchin’ new sword. That would have been much worse right?” There was another awkward silence at her failed attempt to lighten the mood and she tried to change the topic. “So, what brings you to our realm?” This was not exactly the great conversation starter that she had hoped it would be; she was about to give up on Steven and try her hand at holding a conversation with one of the minions (despite the fact that her minionese was kind of rusty) when he responded.

“Bad luck.” Steven replied eventually. “I was taken from my life, expected to fight and kill a bunch of other guys, or, well, die trying.”

Violet might have envisioned him pitted against the worst of the worst; criminals, monsters and villains and expected to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to best them and make the world a better place, however the sour tone of Steven’s voice told her immediately that this was not some heroic endeavour.
“That must be awful, to be taken from your home and made to do such a thing.”

“Well…” Steven started, “I wouldn’t say my home exactly. I haven’t been home in years.” There was a moment of silence between the two. It was not awkward like previous pauses in the conversation had been, but somewhat intimate. There was a real sense of homesickness from Steven, a sense of being uprooted from where you belonged so suddenly and not knowing if you could ever return, a feeling of great loneliness. Violet reached out and grabbed Steven’s hand.

“Can you not just say ‘no, I won’t fight’ and not fight?” she asked.

“I don’t think it works like that.” Steven replied sadly.

Suddenly after trekking through seemingly endless series of dim grey corridors they were emerging onto the roof; the bright sunlight burning at their unaccustomed eyes. The roof stretched off before them, in the distance a couple of towers and crenellated battlements were visible marking the edge of the castle and the subsequent surely fatal plunge. There were a couple of minions hanging around, who immediately flocked to the queens as they emerged from the castle proper, but no apparent means of transportation. Steven really hoped that he wasn’t going to be expected to conjure up some form of transportation for them. As the minions led them to the far end of the roof he contemplated such a course of action and was forced to conclude that even the most optimistic option would almost certainly leave him so drained of energy he would be practically catatonic and he didn’t like to think of the queens’ attempting to drive such a thing.

“So, what now?” Steven asked when the group had come to a stop.

“Look.” Violet directed Steven’s attention to the horizon where several distant red dots were getting larger. As they drew closer, they became more distinct. At first Steven thought they were a group of birds, a couple of small ones clustered around a larger one, but as they drew even closer it was clear to see that they were dragons; flame red and oddly angular with small grey eyes. The realisation made him involuntarily draw back, but Violet squeezed his hand and he realised they were chirping the same language as the minions; there was in fact more than just a passing similarity between them. Within a minute or so the largest dragon swooped down and landed upon the roof in front of them. It was large enough for the entire group sans minions to climb upon its back and fly them out of there, and it was apparent that this was the intention.

The queens began to climb aboard the dragon to the same background muttering and moaning that had accompanied more or less every stage of the journey so far. The white queen was especially vocal about how she resented having to ride around upon the backs of animals, but she climbed aboard anyway, not having any real alternative. Steven scanned the skies, noting a tiny square of midnight blue out ahead of them, and behind them a rapidly approaching black shape. Steven stared at it, shading his eyes from the glaring light of the sun with his free hand. It was a slender shape, carried on wings that did not look large enough to bear such a creature with sharp spines trailing behind it and deadly sharp claws.

“Um, guys, there’s another dragon coming.” Steven said, “It doesn’t look as friendly as this one.” Heads turned, and there was sudden sense of panic. The bickering grew louder, the queens that had already climbed aboard the dragon dug their heels into its sides in an effort to get it to fly away immediately, while the other queens pushed and shoved at one another to try to be the next to climb on.

“Oh.” Violet sounded defeated already. “The grey queen.”
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Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

"This is far less interesting than I had expected," Lionel mumbled to himself. "I barely have to lift a finger."

He couldn't help but compare it to the slaughter at Oxbow. That had been exhilirating; the security bots posed an actual threat if he didn't catch them first; there were numerous cowards to root out of their hiding places; and the Yaggs had taken some actual effort to down. Of course, the Yaggs were hardly the most tactically competent of foes, but compared to the better majority of the knights, they might as well have been Sun Tzu. He'd been mildly surprised when two knights had charged down separate hallways and collided with each other; then it happened seventeen more times and it had simply stopped being funny.

The worst part was that his son was trying to reassert control, holding him back. All the progress he'd made in the last round was slipping away. He couldn't even kill any of the knights to relieve the boredom, though he was careful not to reveal that; if the boy knew his resistance was having an effect, it would only encourage him further.

Lionel sighed as he heard a nineteenth pair collide behind him, then turned to look and halfheartedly shot a medium-strength bolt to incapacitate them. For the nineteenth time.

He turned around to resume his path, and found that six knights had gathered in the hallway in front of him, swords drawn.

"Finally," he grumbled. "I hope you're at least marginally competent."

He raised an arm and fired at Twenty-Eight, flinging him back to the ground. Then he grabbed Thirty-Seven's sword with his bandage, and swung it towards Forty, who stepped back to avoid it.

Unfortunately, he stepped back into Sixty-Two, who was far less deft, and managed to not only fall to the ground, but trip Forty-Three and Fifty in the process.

Forty, luckily, had managed to avoid getting caught up in Sixty-Two's flailing. He sliced through the bandage, knocking the other sword to the floor. Unfortunately, he then made the mistake of grabbing the bandage, allowing Lionel to easily conduct a calculated shock that carried through his armor and knocked him unconscious.

Forty-Three and Fifty scrambled to their feet as Forty collapsed, with Sixty-Two still flailing around. In the meantime, Thirty-Seven rushed to grab his sword from the floor. Unfortunately, the pause he took to lift it was just long enough for Lionel to fire another bolt.

As Thirty-Seven collapsed, Forty-Three and Fifty used the opportunity to charge at their attacker. But Fifty was soon tangled up by the bandage, and then shocked through it.

Forty-Three was undeterred. He flung his sword at Lionel, hoping the attack on Fifty would divert too much attention. It didn't; Lionel sidestepped the blade, which fell to the floor behind him, and then fired a bolt at Forty-Three.

He smirked. That had been interesting, even without the opportunity to kill. If only more of the knights could make such an effort, halfhearted as it was.

He continued walking down the hall, and sighed as two more knights collided in front of him. Apparently that was too much to hope for.

And then everything went dark as Forty's helmet struck him in the back of the head.

"Er, sorry," Sixty-Two said to Forty's unconscious form, still stuck on top of his legs. "Maybe pushing would work better than pulling?"


"Sixty-Two caught him?" Twenty-Five asked incredulously.
"I don't know how it happened either," Fifteen grumbled. "Regardless, I understand that this man was left in the Queen's room and not the dungeon on your orders. So I believe you owe us an explanation."
Twenty-Five sighed. First the worm-thing, and now this.
"Look, one of the more moronic ones brought him in, I don't even know his number off the top of my head. Said he'd been 'bouncing on clouds' without a license. He was unconscious, I assumed he was simply an unfortunate victim of idiocy."
"You're lucky we didn't actually lose anyone in that attack," Fifteen snarled. "Otherwise, we'd have a good forty-seven victims of idiocy - yours, specifically."
"Yes, I understand that."
"Good. Then you also understand why I'm assigning you to guard his cell." Fifteen glared at the junior knight. "If he tries anything again after he wakes up, it's going to be your problem first and foremost. Understood?"
Twenty-Five saluted.
"Understood, sir."
"Now get over there!"
Twenty-Five rushed off to the dungeon.
"I'm never allowing another visitor into the castle again," he muttered to himself.

Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Pharmacy.

<font color="#FF5C48">Hate was too strong of a word (and how could she hate things), but Eryntse felt a great sort of immense repulsiveness at the state of her prison. The mattress was half-out - and half-gone too; what graffiti on the desk (if this standing pile of splinters could be considered a desk) was caked with blood and other sorts of unmentionables; plus, the rusty bucket on the corner was filled to the brim with...eugh.

Eryntse turned to Fourteen with something akin to desperation on her face, "Do I really have to stay here?"

"Yes," the knight replied as he pushed Eryntse into the cell.

"But I might die," Eryntse cringed as she almost stepped onto an oily rag - no doubt positively exploding with germs. Seriously, why did they let this place get this gross?

"No you won't," Fourteen began to fumble with the complicated mechanism known as the prison lock.

"But I might get lonely," Eryntse wheedled as she nervously weaved her many arms between the bars of her capture. "And die of lonely too."

"Well--," Fourteen sighed.


Fourteen was suddenly interrupted by yet another knight. The intruder would have been practically indistinguishable from others, but he had his differences. He was amazingly chipper - what with singing a vague sort of cheery tune and skipping along his heels. Eryntse glanced at Fourteen's face. It was the face of someone who did not want to meet this person.

"Oh hello," Fourteen greeted with a look more appropriate for uncomfortable family reunions than greeting co-workers. "Twenty-Five."

"Oh heeeeeey, Fourteen!" Twenty-Five snapped his fingers and pointed at Fourteen. "Long time no classy person!"

"Yeah," the other knight shuffled in place. "I wish."

"HA, same as always are you?" Twenty-Five laughed as Fourteen remained silent. "Well don't worry I got a little surprise JUST" There was a needless amount of emphasis on that word. "For you. But first, HOLD ON FOR ONE SECOND."

Without waiting for even a response (Eryntse found that incredibly rude but would rather not say), the visiting knight scurried off to the corner from whence he came.

"Oh great," Fourteen groaned. Eryntse was not looking forward to this either.


Eryntse flinched as a body was practically tossed into the adjacent cell with a great amount of force. That was rather rude on Twenty-Five's part but she would rather not say. She would probably not had said anyway; all her attention was on the newcomer after the dust had settled. He was some man that would be considered normally dressed if it were not for his ridiculous amount of bandages on his arms. He was very much unconscious but he was kind of...twitchy? Where did that twitching come from? Was he shocked to this state or something?

“Well,” Fourteen turned to Eryntse. “At least your companionship problem is solved,”

Eryntse was confused.</font>


Blitz was rudely awakened by an unpleasantly throbbing headache. It was as if someone threw a helmet at his face and then threw him into the room. He would have highly doubted that would have happened but given the unpredictability of his father (oh his father) - anything could had happened. Now that he was in some sort of cage, the hypothetical scenario may have some potential legitimacy--
<font color="#FF5C48">
"Hey," said a quiet voice.

Blitz was getting charged, metaphorically and literally as his left arm began spitting sparks. The superhuman was always on the edge - what with his familial-slash-possession issues and his lunatic bloodthirsty father. The twitchiness did not help at all. As such, he always expected enemies, but he did not expected a pink...thing.

"Hi, I'm Eryntse," the snout between the bars introduced herself. “I like your scarf, by the way.”

"What," Blitz was more taken back by the sudden openness than the sight of such a worm.

"Oh ha ha ha, yeah," Eryntse laughed nervously as though she was in her own little world. "This is kinda my fault isn't it and WE ARE GOING TO DIE ARE WE?"

Blitz would have replied but he had difficulty doing so - mostly because he was completely wrapped with arms. He had never been shaken violently by a giant worm before - but turns out the firsthand experience was absolutely unpleasant.

"Oh my goodness did I just do that I am so sorry!" Eryntse's hands left Blitz and flailed all over the place. Nothing was safe from the seizure that was the creature's appendages - cage bars, walls, Blitz's face. The little episode ended with all the noodly arms wrapped tightly around herself. It was a strange and ridiculous sight. "I just get so nervous sometimes."

"Okay, er -- lady," Blitz had no idea how he should react but he was sure that slightly holding up his hands was a good first step in calming down pink monster neighbors. "Calm down."

"I am already calm!" Eryntse was totally calm, except she was totally not. "I am!" She still was not.

Blitz could only watch in slack-jawed confusion as the pink slug reenacted panic at the disco inside her cell. She was screaming, flailing, squirming, screeching and doing all the activities more suited for a hysterical neurotic than for a perfumed creature with way too many arms. It would be rather amusing but he was getting rather concerned for the next-door prisoner. He had to do something.

"Calm down," Blitz demanded. "Get a hold of yourself."

It took a few minutes for Eryntse to register the fact that there were hands (one bandaged, of course) on the first pair of her shoulders. The epiphany was sudden as a punch to her face but instead of a bloody snout, she had nothing to say. It was quite surprising, quite surprising to her indeed.

"Oh," Eryntse could only say. "Okay."

"Good," Blitz sighed as he took his arms off of the creature's shoulders. "Now you had calmed down, I have some questions to ask of you." The superhuman doubted Eryntse would have any valuable information in terms of prison. On the other hand, he was just as confused of his state in prison like this pinkish wad of flesh. "So, what have you been detained for?"

"For pretending to be someone else, I think?" Eryntse made nervous knots into her fingers. "They say it is a crime, which I don't understand why..." Her words started to trail off.

"Okay," Blitz was confused even more. How could she pretend herself as a someone? She was not even humanoid to begin with! He was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt - for now. After all, there are much more important matters to talk about. "Did they ever told you how long we are going to stand here?"

"No, they never told me my time. Or your time either. We might be in jail forever," Eryntse's eyeless face began to break into tears as though the last sentence was an awful truth she just realized. "I don't want to be in jail foreveeeeeerrrrrrrr."

"Don't do that," Blitz groaned as Eryntse prepared to dive into lachrymose. "In fact." A pause. "I might have a plan."


"Yes I do." In fact, Blitz did not. He honestly had no idea. For Pete's Sake, he just woke up in a small and dirty cell. How could she be so naive as to trust a man who basically spent most of his prison experience being unconscious in a floating medieval castle? He highly doubted that he could make a decent plan on the spot unless--

"HEY GUYS, WOULD YOU SHUT UP," a voice shouted - a voice belonging to one of those ubiquitous knights.

"In fact," Blitz smiled to the intrigued Eryntse. "Here is what you need to do..."</font>
Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Fourteen sighed. Twenty-Five was normally far more reserved than this; he must have downed a whole damned bottle of cloudwhiskey before coming here. It was disappointing to see such a promising knight partake in such unprofessional conduct. And because of it, Fourteen now had to watch not only the prisoners, but also his drunken colleague. Fourteen was just cynical enough to believe Twenty-Five had gotten himself drunk intentionally, in hopes of making someone else's day worse than his own.
And it didn't help Fourteen's mood that his prisoner had suddenly decided to start asking him dozens of inane questions.
"What's your favorite color?" Eryntyse asked. "Do you have a dog? Where do babies come from? Will you sing me a song?"
Fourteen simply stood there, refusing to answer her. Unfortunately, this did nothing to dissuade the worm-creature.
"When's Christmas? How do they make that armor? Do you like pudding? Are those metal boots comfortable?"

Blitz smirked. Eryntyse's half of the plan was working nicely. Now it was his turn. He walked up to the bars, getting as close as he could to Twenty-Five's helmet. Then he started humming softly.
It wasn't long before the drunken knight joined in, and shortly after that, he decided the tune needed some lyrics.
"Ninety-nine bottles of cloudwhiskey on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of cloudwhiskey..."

Three verses later, Fourteen decided he couldn't take it any more. One of these annoyances would have to go, and it would be faster to deal with the one who wasn't on the other side of a needlessly complex lock.
He walked over to Blitz's cell and punched Twenty-Five in the head, knocking him to the floor.
"If you're still conscious," he said, "then I've got a few words you should hear about proper conduct. First of all--"
He didn't have a chance to finish before a blast of lightning flung the cell door off its hinges, knocking him into the opposite wall.
"--don't drink on the job," he concluded, before passing out.

Blitz walked over to Fourteen's unconscious form and grabbed his keys. Then he took a look at the lock on Eryntyse's door and decided the keys would be too slow.
"Stand back," he said.
Eryntyse moved to the far end of her cell, and Blitz blasted the lock. It fell apart, and he motioned for her to follow.
"Thaaaank you!" Eryntyse gushed, rushing towards him. She coiled around him lightly; Blitz was worried at first, but it soon became clear that the worm-creature just wanted to give him a hug.
"You're welcome," he said, laughing nervously. "Now, can you let me go? We need to get out of here before the knights find us."
Somewhat reluctantly, Eryntyse released him.
"Okay. So where are we going?"
And then Blitz realized he hadn't thought that far ahead.


"I've had enough!" Three growled, slamming his armored fist against the table. "We cannot simply sit by and do nothing while the Moonlight Queen terrorizes the cloudscape!"
"Oh, you're absolutely right, Three," Fifteen grumbled. "Let's send a half-dozen of our best men after her... Oh, no, wait, we tried that. And every last one of them died."
"I'm not denying we could stand a change in tactics," Three conceded. "But we need to act. We have to stop her, for the sake of the people!"
"You talk as if we didn't just nearly lose forty-seven men to one intruder," Twelve interjected. "As best as I can tell, it was pure luck we were able to subdue him."
"Then we should be training these fools better!" Three shouted. "I've read the reports. More than three-quarters of our injuries were from our own men charging right into each other. Surely we can teach them to do better than that."
"I don't think you realize just how thickheaded some of our men are, Three," Fifteen replied. "Now listen, I don't like the Moonlight Queen situation any better than you do. But be realistic. We've tried and failed to take her on, we've recruited dozens of new men and they're mostly hopeless, I really don't see what other option there is."
"Well, dammit, we should be trying to find one!" Three said, pounding the table again. "If we don't stop her, who will?"
At that very moment, the door swung open, revealing two escaped prisoners with no idea which door they were looking for.
Blitz waved awkwardly.
"Um. Hi?"
The knights descended on him immediately.

Two minutes later, Blitz was unconscious yet again, and Eryntyse had fled. The worm-creature, however, was not the three knights' prime concern.
"This is the intruder who incapacitated forty-seven men?" Three asked skeptically. "He didn't put up much of a fight."
"This is him, all right," Fifteen said. "Same man we found near Sixty-Two. I'll take him back down to the dungeon, and have a stern talk with Twenty-Five..."
"Fine. But once you do that, I want you right back here to discuss the Moonlight Queen."
"I don't see what there is to discuss, Three. I've got nothing to say I haven't already, and for that matter, neither do you."
"Er... Actually, may I make a suggestion?" Twelve asked suddenly.
"What is it?" Three and Fifteen both asked.
"Well... I just realized two things. First, we can't afford to risk any of our own men to fight the Moonlight Queen. Second, our prisoner here, who managed to knock out forty-seven knights on his own, is not one of our men."
The other two knights stared at him, then turned their eyes to the unconscious prisoner.
Then Three burst into laughter.
"You're a clever one, Twelve. I like you." He patted the junior knight on the shoulder, then lifted up Blitz. "I'll get him some spare armor and a mount. Twelve and Fifteen, you two go and track down that worm."
"I still have to give Twenty-Five a lecture," Fifteen grumbled, shuffling off with Twelve.
Three ignored him. He simply smiled under his helmet and headed for the armory.
"Let's see if we can't make a hero out of you today, boy."

Re: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

When you sign up to be a time traveling mercenary-assassin, you usually don’t think about the downsides. Partly, that’s because you’re probably young and excitable and not yet worldly enough to know to think about them (that’s how they get you, after all), but partly it’s that when you do think of them, violent death and becoming stranded in an uncivilized era tend to blot out the others.

One of the most rarely noticed is the loss of wonder one has for the workings of the universe. When bombarded with a constant stream of bizarre circumstances most would relegate to fantasy or heavy drug use, and then told, generally, to steal, destroy, or kill everything in sight, one’s worldview tends to skew a little.

"Ahhh, yesss, you..."

Thus, while he rode a boat chained to a cloud and driven by fifty men on wing-oars, away from a city carved from a cloud and surrounded by a golden sphere of magical plasma that was both a shield against invaders and apparently the sun? Jacob just gazed over the railing wondering why they couldn’t go any faster.

"Many things in ssstore for you, yes."

Strictly speaking, he could boost the engines, but without an external source of energy, he’d burn through his reserves a lot faster than he’d like. It’d be easier to just tunnel to his destination once they were closer. ...As though he had a destination in mind. Or a plan. Although, if he could figure out-

"Good things, some. Mostly not."

Jacob realized with a start that he was being talked at. He turned to look-

"But you... yesss, you shall overcome all trials set bef-"

"Oh for the love of- no."

It was the old seer or whatever from the tavern. Naturally.

"But you-"

"Are busy."


"No time for this."

"-a great-"

"I swear to god, say destiny ahead of you next and I'll kick you overboard."

The old man grumbled and dropped into a sit beside the swordsman. "Jussst trying to do my job. Hard enough finding sssomeone ssstrong enough-"

"And for the love of Christ will you drop that fake lisp."

"...strong enough to kill the Moonlight Queen. Let alone willing. Let alone prophesized."

Jacob tapped a foot irritably, but the conversation was a welcome distraction. "Well I'm definitely not willing, and your prophecies couldn’t possibly have me in them. Wrong universe for that."

"Unknown, unnamed not-quite-knight, farther than far from home? Short of limb, long of years, out of place wherever they go? That’sss- aheh, that’s not you?"

The conversation ceased being a welcome distraction. Jacob glared sullenly off into the distance, grumbling something about his limbs being of at least average length, thank you.

"That’sss not what I meant and you know it."

"Quiet. You're being purposefully vague. Could be talking about anyone."

The pair fell into silence again. Jacob listened to the muffled drone of the engines, trying to let his mind drift back to the bat-

The, um... Huh. Fucker works quickly. Okay, change of plans.

"...Is the Midnight Queen’s castle the big, spooky grey one, by any chance? Over on that stormcloud?"

"Tch! You're being vague! Could be- ow!" The old seer rubbed his head, grumbling. "Alright, alright..."

He squinted towards the indicated bastion. Looked bigger than he remembered. Closer, too, and there was something... odd, but... "Yes, that’s the one. What of it?"

"You humor me, I might humor you. I’m not a huge fan of fate, but if it’ll happen, it’ll happen, right?"

"That’s not exssactly how-"

"Just shut up and tell me the fastest way to get there."


Eryntse had been captured again.

She’d not been particularly difficult to track down – she might’ve managed a passable knightly disguise, if she hadn’t kept standing too close to people and telling them not to throw her back in prison. They had decided, thankfully, to not do that, and were instead sending her on a special mission with her jailfriend! Yaaaaay!

"What we’re going to do," Three patiently explained, "is load you into that metal case," he pointed, "and load that into the cannon," he pointed, "and launch you over to that castle," he pointed, "at which you and your psychopath buddy are going to track down the Moonlight Queen and kill her."

Wasn’t it exciting! Yes! It was! She was totally not terrified by the prospect of having to oh god oh god no this was worse than jail could she just pretty please go back to-


There was a hiss and a clank and a BOOM and she jumped and lost her nerve and lost her disguise and lost her balance and completely failed to see the dull grey bullet housing Blitz arc gracefully through the air and plow less-gracefully through stone and mortar and the edge of a stained glass window. The knights began cheering and she stood and joined in and only after it’d died away did she think to ask what were they were cheering about? Eryntse had the distinct impression she’d been doing something important, but had forgotten what it was in all the excitement that she didn’t know the purpose for. What was she doing, again?

"Arright boys, load ‘er up."

Oh. Right. Crap.

Six knights hoisted her writhing, uncooperative mass, and unceremoniously dumped her in the metal shell which she was becoming increasingly convinced would be her coffin. Any attempts to escape were met with attempts to pack her back in – they hadn’t even managed to make her coffin big enough! She was going to have some very strong words with the undertaker when she got out.

"D’she ever shu’up?"


"Bloody ‘ell."

There was a shove and a clang and a snap and a muffled dear God it’s heavy and wait crap she was sealed in oh god oh god oh god she was going to suffocate and die and aaaaaaaaaa I’m too young to dieeeee and I never got to feel his scaaaaarf nooooo

"I’she still goin’?"


"Bloody ‘ell."




Aaaaa gosh, screaming was tiring and if she was going to die (she was going to dieeeee aaaaa) then she may as well put her energy into looking nice for her funeral.


"...Think she fainted."

"Bloody finally. I’s getting sick of ‘er yammerin’."

The cannon was loaded and swung ponderously back towards the Grey keep. Steam hissed, gears ground, a guard shouted as he slammed through the doors with a sword through his should


"Dammit, don’t tell me I missed my ride!"

Three was already drawing his sword as he turned to the interloper: a man half-clad in half-plate, retrieving his own blade even as he... barked out... orders...?

"You two! Escort this one to the infirmary; he’s not in fit condition to be moving on his own. You, send for reinforcements. You should help him if more guards aren’t near, or help these three restrain me if he can manage."

He waltzed over to the cannon's base, looking around expectantly. "C’mon, I don’t have all day. This isn’t even my hundredth time barging into a room full of guards, you all do –"

Three stepped up and swung. The intruder barely bothered to look over as he parried the strike with his right forearm. He sighed, caught the blade under his elbow and twisted over Three, bashing a knight with the hilt of his sword in mid-air. He landed in a crouch, hoisting Three over his back and slamming him into the ground.

"– the same goddamned thing." The man stood, turning to slug another knight mid-ambush.

Someone had gone and taken the knight with the shoulder wound away. Someone had gone for reinforcements. Funny how that worked, thought Three, lunging and missing as the mystery man leapt atop the cannon.

Three clambered up after him, wobbling unsteadily on the fat iron barrel. The intruder smiled – he was enjoying this! – and took a bow. "Jacob Helix, at your service."

Three grit his teeth. "You’re a madman." The Helix man shrugged, lunging. Their blades clashed, and again. Three had to admit, Helix was a challenge. His parries turned their swordplay into a game of cat-and-mouse, daring the old knight to find an opening around his whirling blade. Even the blows that should have hit all seemed to pierce but air.

Nevertheless, he didn’t seem to be pressing the offensive, and the knight drove Helix steadily back towards the lip of the barrel. The latter set a foot onto nothing and nearly lost his balance – but the mistake was made, and Three managed to slip the tip of his blade under the intruder’s chin.

"Right. There’s three ways you’re getting out of this: quietly, on a cot, or in a coffin."

Helix laughed.

He... laughed? This intruder had the gall to laugh after maiming some of Six For Gold's best knights?! ...Not a remarkable accomplishment, all things considered, but still!

"I admire your persistence! Captain of the guard, I take it? Listen, I’d love to see this through, but I just don’t have the time."

Helix swept out a leg and knocked Three from his perch. The old knight landed on his arm, felt the bone snap. He rolled onto his back and just lay there, aching.

The intruder sneered down at him. "I choose option four: getting away with it."

"You..." Three shifted, and pain shot down his side. He coughed, tasted blood. A moment passed as he found his voice. "You won’t get away... There’s... nowhere for you to run. Men...!"

Helix laughed again. "A fine speech from an honorable man! But I’m afraid you’re not the first to make it, and I’ve a friend who’s painstakingly developed what I agree is an excellent counterargument."

Six guards burst onto the battlement, four nocking arrows as they moved to surround the intruder.

"Now, how did it go, again...?"

A valve towards the base of the cannon spun of its own accord.

"Ah, right."

A lever clicked into place.

"Fuck you,"

Jacob stepped off of the cannon.

"And all of your shit."

There was a hiss and a clank and a BOOM

And he was gone.
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Steven couldn’t tear his eyes away from the imposing shape of the grey queen, still distant but drawing closer with every moment that passed. His throat felt suddenly dry, his body was tense. It seemed as though the world had fallen silent and all he could hear was the furious pounding of his own heart. It was a fight or flight moment, except neither seemed like a viable option. The thought of him attempting to fight a dragon (or near enough) was patently absurd, but what were his other options? Even if everyone could get onto the red dragon before she arrived there was no chance of losing the grey queen in the clear blue skies; it would only delay the confrontation that bit longer. And on foot all he could do was retreat into the castle and hope he wouldn’t be pursued. In terms of survivability it was the best option he had, but it meant abandoning those who he’d been trying to protect to the very thing he’d been trying to protect them from.

He glanced back at the queens, whose bickering and fighting to get their place on the back of the dragon had only gotten worse with the approach of the grey queen, and cursed under his breath. The logical course of action was obvious, but he just could not bring himself to take it, as stupid as he knew that was.

Steven went to say:
“Get them out of here, I’ll hold off the grey queen for as long as I can.” and was surprised to find that Violet beat him to it.

“No, I’ll do that, you get the queens somewhere safe.” Steven argued. “I wouldn’t even know where to take them.”

“Just get Jonquil to point you in the direction of her castle. You should be able to hold out against the grey queen there; her numbered knights are really quite effective when she’s around.” Violet replied dismissively. When he didn’t respond she turned and looked him in the eye. “Steven, get out of here. This isn’t your fight.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Steven replied firmly. There was no time to argue; the grey queen was swooping down onto the rooftop adjacent from where the other queens still clamoured to board the dragon.

“Okay fine, come on.” Violet replied as she darted to put herself between the grey queen and the others. She gripped the Byzantium coloured blade tightly in her hands, a look of grim determination across her face. Steven came to a stop beside her and endeavoured to show that same kind of ‘I shall not be moved’ determination, but it was undercut by the creeping realization of what he was doing.

The grey queen loomed over them both, half again as tall as they were. Her talons were razor sharp, carving into the stone of the roof beneath her. Everything about her was sharp; from the numerous spines running down her back, to the skewer-like blackened spikes that were her teeth and the slit like silver eyes that glared at the purple queen and the would-be hero. But Steven was no hero. It just wasn’t in him. He was just some kid putting on a show; trying to look like he knew what he was doing in front of a group of beautiful women. He’d never felt quite so out of his depth. Nervously, uselessly, he tightened his fists and his gloves did the same as they hung in front of him, as though getting ready for a bout of fisticuffs.

“Charcoal, stop there!” Violet proclaimed confidently. “I will not allow you to take us again.”

The grey queen paid her no heed. She looked past them, her attention resting on the other queens and the candy red dragon they were almost settled upon. She drew back and she roared. It was short; a warning, more menacing than it was angry and more loud than it was anything else. The dragon shifted, turned to face the grey queen and the unceasing bickering seemed to pick up anew. Though it was larger than she was, it seemed less intimidating; a warmer colour and free of spikes and spines and talons and teeth.

A short moment passed and the queen roared again; this one was longer and with it she took a step towards them. Steven took a hesitant step backwards, though Violet stood firm. The red dragon panicked. He roared and kicked and bucked and flung those queens that had managed to scrabble atop him off. As he took flight only the green queen was left clinging desperately onto him. After the grey queen’s roar concluded there was a rare moment of silence between the queens as they picked themselves up and recovered their senses. Of course it didn’t last long before they started blaming one another for taking so long and insisting that they had the best seats, and look at the mess that their dress was in now, this dust was never going to come out.

Before Steven could really react the grey queen was transforming. Her spines and wings seemed to just melt away, her body reshaping itself as though she was as insubstantial as smoke. She became more slender, sleeker; though no less imposing. Though she took the shape of a person she didn’t really look like a person. Her dress, her skin and her hair were all the same shade of inky black; only her eyes of piercing silver, the only features on her almost featureless face, were not. Her dress, thin and figure-hugging and elegant seemed to hang in the air where it trailed after her.

“What the hell is this?” The grey queen demanded; though there was no trace of anger in her honeyed voice. She sounded bitter and hateful and more than a little irritated, but there was no rage there; such would imply that this was a problem that could not be solved at a moment’s notice. “Why is some surface-dweller peasant trying to steal my women?”

“Steven has stolen no-one; he rescued us!” Violet countered angrily. “We’re not your women; we’re not anybody’s women.”

“But you are mine; my pretty little birds, you’ve gotten out of your cage but will you come home or will you try to fly away?” She paused. “It’s such a long way down.”

From somewhere he didn’t know he had, something resembling courage bubbled to Steven’s surface. “Give it up Grey Queen; they won’t be bowed by you any more!”

“Oh look it talks.” She scoffed. “Though nobody told it that I am the Midnight Queen now; grey is such an inelegant colour. Midnight sounds so much grander wouldn’t you agree?”

“It doesn’t matter what you call yourself-”

“Shut up Violet.” The midnight queen interrupted. “I grow tired of this confrontation. Peasant, you say that they won’t be ‘bowed by me any more’? Why don’t we ask them?” She turned her attention to the queens, who were for once silent. “What do you think dears? Do you want to join poor misguided Violet and her earthborn peasant in one pathetic last stand? Or would you rather go back to your room and see another day?”

There was an expectant silence that the queens seemed reluctant to break; mayhap they had been hoping that they could stay out of this fight by simply not picking sides until it was over. Then the confident voice of the white queen cut through the indecision: “You know I rather think I kind of like this old grey castle. Perhaps it would be nice to spend another night here after all.” This was followed by a general murmur of agreement from the other queens and a slight chuckle from the midnight queen herself.

“Pearl!” Violet exclaimed, looking around at the white queen, who responded by folding her arms and turning away. “You’re all going to just let her do what she wishes with you?”

“I thought that you might feel this way.” The midnight queen said with half a smirk. “I’m sure a brace of my minions would be only too happy to see you back to your room while I deal with these troublemakers.”

The minions had until this point just been sort of staying out of everyone’s way, maybe due to a general distaste for conflict or perhaps because they didn’t really want to draw attention to the fact that they might have been helping the queens escape, but they snapped to something resembling attention as the midnight queen barked out a short string of commands in angry minionese. The surrendered queens made their way past Violet, Steven and the Midnight Queen, awkwardly trying not to look any of the three in the eye as they did so and were ‘lead’ by the minions down the stairway and back into the castle proper.

“Well while it has been fun watching you squirm Violet, I think that it is time you put that blade down and went back to your cell.” The levity was gone from her voice now, all that remained was irritation.

“No.” Violet replied simply.

“You do realize you can’t win?” The midnight queen asked. “Nobody is coming to help you, you know. Your kingdom isn’t up in arms, preparing to wage futile war against me. They bowed the knee, they offered me tribute. When you die you will die alone; a pathetic meaningless death. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be mine?”

“Yes.” Violet’s expression was not one of hurt or hatred, but rather one of grim determination. With a deep breath she tightened her grip upon her blade.

“Fine.” The midnight queen sighed. “Let’s get this over with then.”

Immediately she started to transform again; the same process as before except in reverse. Steven’s stomach sank as he realized that this was finally it; that there is no way that this confrontation could be delayed any further. Violet however had no such problem; without a moment’s hesitation she ran towards the transforming grey queen and plunged the blade into her gut, pushing on it until it was hilt-deep and the blade protruded from the other side of her thin body. The grey queen halfway between forms reacted with something that was somewhere between a scream and a roar, and instinctively lashed out with a slash towards Violet. She dodged back, but not far enough or quick enough.

The midnight queen’s claws sliced through her dress and her skin as though it were nothing, leaving three parallel wounds on her shoulder. She yelped and stumbled further backwards while pale lavender blood leaked from the wounds, soaking her now tattered dress. Violet stared down at her shoulder and winced as she tentatively clenched her fist. She decided she was fine, or fine enough to keep fighting if only, she glanced up, her sword wasn’t lodged in the stomach of a dragon. The midnight queen loomed over her, roaring furiously now. She drew back to attack again, and was punched in the face by a disembodied fist. Steven’s other glove darted all the way around the queen to sneak past her guard and punch her in the hilt of the lodged blade. Her roar of pain was ear-splitting.

The ground trembled beneath them; the sound of glass shattering and stone crumbling drowned out by the deafening roar. For a moment Steven thought that it was the queen roaring so loud that it was tearing the castle apart. He stumbled backwards and tried to steady himself, but there was nothing to steady himself on and so he fell onto his arse. Violet had attempted to use the grey queen’s momentary distraction by Steven’s gloves to swoop in and pull out the sword, she managed to pull the sword free but fell when the ground shook. The sword was knocked from her hand and skidded to rest near the parapet behind her. The midnight queen slashed down, but Violet rolled quickly to the side and clambered up, wincing as she put pressure on her injured arm.

One of Steven’s gloves got a good punch in on the grey queen’s gut wound, staining the glove with gooey silver blood. The grey queen stifled a roar and slashed at the glove; it dodged nimbly aside with nary a scratch. The other glove swooped in and went for her wound and it was at this point that she seemed to realize that attacking the gloves directly was about as effective as trying to swat at flies.

Steven hadn’t even managed to climb to his feet after being knocked down. Even aside from that had been completely superfluous to the entire battle; his gloves were more or less acting of their own accord. He was just standing, well sitting around like a spare part, part shocked at their success thus far and part hopeful that he might just get through this after all. The grey queen turned and leapt at him, moving through the air like a ribbon being pulled after a stick. In but a moment she was standing over him. In a panic Steven kicked out at her spindly legs, but they proved surprisingly sturdy and he couldn’t even knock her off-balance. The midnight queen reached down and closed her fist around Steven’s head, pausing only a moment before slamming it hard against the stone floor.

Violet stabbed her blade into the midnight queen’s flank; though this time she lacked the strength to embed it so thoroughly. The midnight queen responded with a snarl and a swipe of her tail knocking Violet to the ground; her blade skittered from her hands once more. Steven’s head was swimming, his ears ringing. He flailed uselessly, failing to make contact with anything and knowing somewhere in the haze of his mind that even if he had it wouldn’t have made any difference. His gloves weaved through the air as though drunk. They attempted another swing at the grey queen, but didn’t even come close. The midnight queen’s fist was still curled tight around Steven’s head; she raised it, ready to slam it down and smash it rather decisively against the stone floor, when a nervous chorus of chittering minions interrupted her.

They were rather keen to inform her that the castle seemed to be under attack and if it wouldn’t be too much trouble they’d appreciate it if she would so something about the pods crashing through the castle walls, and as if on cue the castle shook once again as another pod smashed its way in. The midnight queen hesitated for a moment, glancing off into the distance where a glinting golden castle was just barely visible. Reluctantly she let Steven go, and with a roar that seemed to indicate that she wasn’t done with them yet, she took flight to deal with the attack.

In her wake everything was silent and still for a minute or so. Violet slowly got to her feet, suddenly feeling a hell of a lot worse now that the adrenaline of the fight itself had worn off. She gathered the sword from where it had fallen and then hurried to Steven’s side. He was barely conscious, limp and plastered with sweat. His head wasn’t bleeding but he was badly bruised. She called for aid from the lingering minions, and while they ran off to fetch a roll of bandages, an icepack and a whole packet of sticking plasters she talked to Steven. She told him to stay awake and reassured him that it was going to be alright though in truth she was less than certain. When the minions got back she applied the icepack to Steven’s head and tentatively bandaged up her shoulder, and eventually with those things done she helped Steven to his feet. He was still a little groggy but more lucid than he had been even if he did need a shoulder to lean on.

“So what now?” He asked.

“You’re asking me? I never thought we’d live this long.” Violet paused. “I guess we go back inside and try and see if we can find another way off of this place?” She tried to sound hopeful, though she couldn’t conceive of any reason why the grey queen would have another means of transport just lying around the place. But despite the forced optimism she hesitated from making her way inside the castle proper and stared out at the endless blue skies, at a small patch of blue that wasn’t quite the right blue and which seemed to be getting closer. A magic carpet… Their ticket out of here! “Hey!” she waved vigorously with her free arm. “Over here!”

As it drew closer it was possible to see that it was being ridden by three hunched figures; the pilot (a blue carpeteer) and two passengers. In an offhanded way Violet noticed that they were, like Steven, not colour co-ordinated, but it was a detail that didn’t seem important when their rescue was here. She didn’t really think about until the carpet landed and Steven’s grip on her shoulder tightened.

“Steven! Excellent, just the man I was looking for.” Talis said cheerfully as he stepped off the carpet. “S, I would appreciate it if you could settle our account with this fine gentleman while I arrange us some further transportation.”

“Steven, are these… friends… of yours?” Violet asked hesitantly. She felt she already knew that the answer to this question was no, but it would have been remiss not to ask.

“These are the two who started this battle.” In principle Steven supposed he should despise both of the gentlemen; they were after all responsible for this whole wretched affair. However he always seemed to be dealing with one situation or another and he’d never really stopped and thought about their role in all of this. So in practice what he felt from the sudden presence of Sruix and Talis was a feeling of wariness. Okay that woman had said that they’d had their powers practically stripped from them but even a fraction of the powers that they’d had had to be pretty dangerous didn’t it?

“Now now, there’s no call for violence here.” Talis spoke in calm, soothing tones that suggested he was here in a peaceful capacity and held his palms up as if to demonstrate this. It was at this point that Steven noticed that Violet had drawn her sword from her makeshift scabbard. Sruix and the carpeteer had descended from the magic carpet, but had paused in whatever business they were doing.

“Violet, this isn’t your fight.” Steven said. “You should just get out of here.” In response she just cracked a smile.

“You really haven’t a clue Steven Taylor. I’m not going anywhere.” She paused. “Besides without me you can barely even stand.” Steven had to concede she had a point there.

“Hold on, there’s clearly a certain amount of misunderstanding here.” Sruix said. “We don’t mean any harm.”

“We are in fact here because we want to help.” Talis cut in. He paused a moment; Steven didn’t look entirely convinced. “Or, well, because we can help one another.”

“Why would I want to help you? This entire thing is your fault.” Steven snapped back.

“It is undeniable that we are to blame, but… you were paying attention during the transition, right? We’re rather unfortunately not in charge any more. Now we are in more or less the same situation as you; one could argue that we are worse off as we don’t have the opportunity to win our freedom. We aren’t contestants; we’re just casualties waiting to happen.” Talis insisted. “Not that I’m trying to cheapen your own plight. These are the just the facts as they stand. We’re both in pretty bad situations here, and since I happen to know for a fact that we can help one another out of those situations, why would we not?”

There was a long pause. Steven had to admit that the former gentleman had a point and that refusing what could be a significant help simply because of who that help was coming from was kind of short-sighted and not in his own best interests. But whatever concessions he might make he could not and would not forget that Talis was still the architect of this unpleasant situation. Reluctantly he said: “Fine, I’ll hear you out at the very least.”

“I’d really appreciate it if we could talk without the implied threat of physical violence.” Talis eyed Violet’s Byzantium coloured blade.

“And I think you should stop wasting our time.” Violet replied. “You know where we are right? You want to still be around when the grey queen comes back?” She paused, mentally reminding herself that this was Steven’s fight and sheathed the blade. “Whatever; just don’t push your luck.” With the weapon out of sight Sruix and the carpeteer went back to their discussion on how exactly they were paying their fare.

“Noted.” Talis replied. “Let’s cut to it then. All three of us want out of this battle and you have the means to get us out; your gloves. As you figured during the last round they have the capability to open up a path between one universe and another, a portal of sorts.”

“So why do I need you?” Steven asked. “What do you bring to this bargain?”

“Did it not strike you as odd functionality for a glove that pretty much exclusively creates and destroys?” Talis asked. “You are not opening a pathway that already exists, you are creating that pathway. Think of it like you’re trapped on one island and for whatever reason you need to be on another island. Your gloves cannot teleport you there, but they could create a bridge. It’s the same principle only on a much larger and more slightly metaphysical scale.”

“That’s… interesting,” Steven ventured, “but I still don’t see what I need you for.”

“Imagine how much energy it would take to create that bridge from one island to another. It would leave you exhausted.” Talis said. “Done on a universal scale you could drain yourself of every last ounce of energy you possess and still come up short; not to mention that coming up short in universal terms would mean that what you’d have would be a gateway to the Timeless Interstice which trust me when I tell you is not a thing you want to have. Now granted S and I have lost the bulk of our power but I’d wager that between us we have enough to open a gateway out of here.”

Steven extricated himself from Violet’s shoulder, though an arm trailed behind for balance. He wasn’t perfectly stable but he was better than he had been. He still kind of felt like throwing up but he suspected that that was more down to the situation than anything else. “I’m not giving you my gloves.”

“Nor should you.” Talis quickly replied. “While S and I have the power, we don’t have the experience at using the gloves to trust ourselves to be capable of such a complex feat of creation. We can channel our power into the gloves whilst you retain control. How does that sound?”

“I don’t know.” Steven replied. “I need time to think.”

“Unfortunately you don’t really have it.” Sruix cut in, having finally dealt with payment for the carpeteer. The carpeteer in question was in fact still hanging around, somehow smoking a cigarette and most likely hoping that one of the four might need a ride out of this bad neck of the woods. “I really don’t think the Executrix is going to just sit around and let us escape from her battle. If we’re getting out of here we need to do it quick before she can intervene.”

“But, what about Jacob and the others…”

“Your loyalty is admirable, but you know Jacob. He can take care of himself.” Talis replied. “And the others, well one of them is an unsociable plant monster, another is a woman you never even met and Blitz, and well… he’s not really a pleasant person. You should have seen how many people he killed in that last round.”

Steven was kind of blindsided. Was this really how it was? Were there really so few people left?

“Is it really worth trying to save the others when such an attempt will inevitably doom yourself?” Talis asked, and instantly Steven realized that he already knew the answer.

“Yes.” He said. “It’s always better to try to be a hero and fail than to be a coward and succeed.” Steven was adamant. His resolve was clear.

Talis scowled.
“Damned idealists.” He muttered. “You do realise that you’re as good as condemning us to death?”

“Maybe you deserve it?” Steven suggested. “After what you have done I don’t know how you can have the nerve to stand there and tell me about how bad you have it and expect me to give a f–” Steven had more to say, but he didn’t have the opportunity to say it. Before he knew what was happening he was falling and unconscious. Violet stood over him, a wistful look on her face.

“I thought you two were supposed to be friends?” Talis asked. “I mean I don’t blame you, he was getting rather holier-than-thou.” Violet turned and glared at Talis, quickly reducing him to silence.

“Steven’s a good man. I won’t let him throw away his chance at freedom over a principle.” Violet said. “He deserves better than to be made to participate in your fight to the death.” Talis gestured as if to renounce any ownership of the fight to the death, but Violet continued regardless. “Get out of here, before this Executioner or whatever tries to put a stop to it.” She strode towards the carpeteer, who quickly stubbed out his cigarette and looked to stand to attention. “And don’t you dare harm him.”

“You have my word.” Sruix promised. Violet sighed, but she had things she needed to do for herself.

“Where’re yer off ta?” The carpeteer asked.

“Fuchsia Palace.” Violet said. “And if you get me there before everyone starts dying there’ll be a bonus.” They climbed aboard the carpet, the carpeteer moving with more haste than he had for Sruix and Talis, and promptly they were gone.

“So, what now?” Sruix asked. Talis stopped where he was, turned to look at his companion and raised an eyebrow as if to say ‘really?’

“Take a glove and start feeding your energy in.” He instructed when it was clear Sruix wasn’t kidding. Talis had already picked up one of the gloves from where it had dropped when Steven had been knocked out, and he quickly tossed the other one to his colleague.

“So you were telling the truth then?” Sruix asked.

“Would I lie to you?” Talis asked affecting a mock hurt voice as though it pained him so to have his integrity called into question.

“Of course.” Sruix replied. “I suppose you still can’t tell me how it is that we’re going to avoid the all-seeing eye of the Executrix when we get out of here?” No response. “No I thought not. I’m done.” He threw the glove back to Talis who caught it easily. “How about how we’re going to use the gloves when the only person they respond to is not only unconscious but also unwilling to cooperate with us even if he was awake? That’d be a trick.”

Talis didn’t respond. Slowly he let go of the gloves and they continued to float there. A smile spread across his face.

“How did you manage that?” Sruix asked incredulously.

“I ‘rewired’ the enchantment.” Talis responded distantly. “Unbound the gloves from Steven, bound them to me instead.”

“Oh, huh, nice thinking.” Sruix paused. “Should we, uh, get going then? Don’t want to tempt fate you know?” He could tell from Talis’ hesitation that something was wrong, but he asked anyway, hoping against hope that he was wrong.

“I’m sorry Sruix, but I’ve not been entirely honest with you.” Talis began. “We’re not escaping because as you said, there’s nowhere we could escape to where she wouldn’t eventually be able to find us. Honestly if not betraying you had been an option I would have taken it, but things are as they are I can only be concerned with my own survival.”

“And this helps you how?” Sruix folded his arms irritably. “You now have magical gloves but do you really think that that is going to make a difference in the long run?”

“You weren’t much involved with the selection process were you Sruix? Take a look at him.” Talis nudged Steven’s unconscious body with his foot. Sruix sighed. “Indulge me.” Talis insisted. Sruix did so. “What does he have that makes him a contender for selection for a battle to the death? He’s not strong, he’s not fast, he’s brave apparently but I didn’t know that. What is the one thing that inspired me to select this loser?”

“His gloves?” Sruix suggested.

“Yes.” Talis grinned and flexed the fingers of the gloves. “A pair of extremely powerful magical items; crafted by someone powerful enough to be a Grandmaster himself. They have a sort of rudimentary intelligence you know. They can operate on their own if the need arises; they can think and learn and remember and I think they don’t like me very much but that’s not the point. There have certainly been less intelligent contestants and they have been successful enough.”

“Wait, are you saying…?” Sruix trailed off.

“Correct.” Talis replied. “The gloves are the contestant, or well the core of the contestant. It’s a composite thing, it’s a bit technical. The point is that whoever owns the gloves is at least half a contestant and under the rules you can’t actively kill a contestant. So all I need to do is win the battle and the Executrix can’t touch me.”

“All you need to do?”

“Yes I’m well aware it’s something of a tall order, but at least it’s a chance. It’s more than what she gave me.” Talis focused on the air in front of him, clenched his fists, all four of them, and after a moment a slender black rapier appeared in the air before him. He snatched it up, took a couple of swipes and grinned. “Thanks for your energy old friend. I’ve got to go now; got myself a battle to win, you know. I hope you don’t die too horribly.”
[Image: XM5sGnt.png][Image: oD2Q6os.png][Image: 6SlFOCz.png][Image: fXUWhDZ.png][Image: C53uhZF.png][Image: BvZArpd.png][Image: lam0slf.png][Image: JmQq9We.png][Image: TGjrdJF.png][Image: zwqYyze.png][Image: OMnWsrl.png]
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Blitz had a headache.

He soon realized that he was wearing a suit of armor - with a helmet that made it very difficult to see - and stuck in a very small, cramped space. His first thought was that this was some sort of execution chamber, but that didn't explain the armor.

With great effort, he managed to turn himself over and lift his visor for a better look at his surroundings. As far as he could tell, was in some sort of metal box, but a closer glance revealed a number of tiny holes in the walls; given that he wasn't particularly short of breath, he supposed those were for air.

Which left him to wonder once more just what he was doing in here. Apparently the knights weren't trying to kill him, but what were they trying to do?

Blitz turned himself over again. Maybe the knights had at least been considerate enough to leave him a note. Some awkward searching soon turned one up; he tried his best to hold it in front of his face, despite the tight quarters.

"Dear Prisoner,

You have been granted a chance to earn your freedom. Vanquish the wicked Moonlight Queen, and we will drop all charges against you. We have provided you with arms, armor, and transportation to her castle. The transport should break open shortly after impact; however, in the unlikely event that mechanism fails, there is an emergency release latch at the back end, where your feet are. Pull it to get out.

Yours sincerely, Twelve."

Well, that explained a few things. Mostly, where he was and how to get out. He wasn't too sure about the rest of it.

Unfortunately, Blitz couldn't even see the "emergency release latch" from his current position. And he doubted he could pull it with his feet. He groaned, and very awkwardly tried to get his head and arms to the other side of the box.

It didn't work too well; he had tried pulling his legs to his chest, but that only left him stuck, and still facing the wrong direction. All he could do was feebly wiggle his arms.

If he could at least see the latch, he might be able to use his banadges to manipulate it. As it was, he couldn't think of any option other than flailing the bandages around towards the back of the box and hoping he found the thing, or the even less-likely-to-succeed tactic of blasting a metal box with electricity while covered in metal armor.

Why couldn't they have just put the emergency release at the front?

Two minutes of blindly maneuvering a bandage later, Blitz heard a welcome "click" and breathed a sigh of relief. The box fell into pieces, and Blitz fell to the floor with a loud crash.

He groaned, and picked himself up. Then he lifted the stupid visor up again so he could get a better look at his surroundings.

Said surroundings consisted of a dank cell, and an enormous purple serpent that filled most of it.

More specifically, an enormous hungry-looking purple serpent, which had just been woken up by the noise of an armored youth falling onto a stone floor.

Blitz wished he had just stayed in the box.


If Jacob Helix had known about Blitz's current situation, he would have said "See, this is why you stay on the outside of the bullet."

Of course, he'd then be forced to admit his plan was less practical if you didn't have a good way to get off the bullet before impact. Such as, for instance, magically halting your own momentum while letting the bullet zoom forward, then magically levitating yourself towards the hole. But if you could do that, it was a lot easier to look through the hole and see what sort of trouble you might be dealing with before actually having to deal with it.

The bullet had landed in a very lavish bedroom. Most of the furnishings were either grey or pitch-black, and something about the place was just unnerving.

In the middle of the floor, amongst the bullet's fragments, a woman was sobbing. She looked average and generally unremarkable, and yet Jacob was sure he'd seen her somewhere before.

Oh, right. There was a new contestant. He'd almost forgotten... probably because he couldn't remember being told anything about her. Which meant he had no clue what she might be capable of.

That said, if she was crying, the worst case scenario was that she was a horrible monster trying to play on his sympathies before devouring him. He could probably handle that.

Jacob pulled himself through the hole and cleared his throat. Then, when she didn't even look up, he decided to just start talking.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Why does everyone hate me?" the woman sobbed. "Why am I even here?"

Oh, great. Now he had to actually say comforting things.

"Um, I don't hate you," he said. "I mean, I don't know you yet, I don't even know your name, but, uh..."

This time, she looked up.

Then she screamed, and ran out of the room.

"No!" she shrieked. "Don't lock me up again! Haven't you horrible knights done enough?"

Jacob sighed. Of course. She'd been inside that bullet, and the knights had no doubt put her in there. And here he showed up, wearing chest armor and carrying a sword. He wasn't wearing the same kind of armor as those knights, of course, but she was probably too frightened to notice the details.

Well, he didn't especially like the thought of leaving a contestant he knew nothing about to run around a probably-dangerous castle on her own. Depending on how powerful she actually was, she might either kill someone else or get herself killed, and Jacob didn't want to be caught off-guard by a sudden round transition he didn't cause himself.

Not that he was planning to cause one. He just wanted to have an escape plan in an emergency.

He quickly checked the corridor in case there were trolls or dragons or something out on patrol, then ran after the woman.

Well, assuming he'd decided to run the right way, anyhow.


Those damned knights!

Why did they still oppose her? The other kingdoms had the sense to stay away, if only out of concern for their queens' safety; but Six For Gold was infuriatingly persistent.

And now she would have to spend an entire afternoon fighting them. An afternoon she could have spent draining out more of the queens' magic. Or yelling at her minions. Or perhaps burning a village on the surface, that was always good for a laugh.

Soon enough, she saw the castle. It was flying away, leaving traces of cloud in its wake.

The Moonlight Queen grinned wickedly. She knew she could fly faster.


"You bloody idiots!" Eight shouted. "Am I the only one here who can actually think ahead?"

"To be fair, it wasn't my idea to load them in bullets," Twelve protested. "I thought we'd just send the one fellow off on a horse."

"It doesn't matter how we sent him there! Think about it, you fools - when was the last time anyone other than us tried to launch an attack on the Moonlight Queen's castle?"

The room was silent.

"And none of you thought to even tell me. I could have had the engines moving a good half-hour sooner! That's a half-hour we could have spent moving the castle, could put some good distance between us and her." Eight paced around the room furiously. "And since you just fired wherever you pleased, the prisoner might not even be near enough to distract her! She could be flying here as we speak!"

"All right, Eight, you've made your damn point," Three muttered. "What's done is done, and yes, I bear responsibility and I'm man enough to admit it. But right now the question is what we do if--"

"When," Eight interjected.

"--all right, fine, when the Moonlight Queen attacks. We're shorthanded right now; between the first attacker, the jailbreak, and the second attacker, we've got barely ten men left to chase her off. So we're going to need a damn good plan." He turned to Twelve. "It was your bright idea to send the boy off to fight her, I don't suppose you've got any other clever tricks in that head of years?"

Twelve glanced around nervously. Just as he was finally acknowledging the need to speak, there was a loud roar from the parapets.

"I suppose you're going to want that plan very soon, then?" Twelve asked sheepishly.
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
"I have no idea where I am!"

The generic-looking woman screamed at nothing in particular, but honestly, she didn't expect an answer - unless hallways could talk. That would be certainly probable considering how the laws of nature worked in Magpie Skies and if she looked more closely, there was a fairly large sign with the words "SALUTATIONS WELCOME TO THE MOONLIGHT KINGDOM (grovelling stations on your right, peasants)" scrawled in the most pretentiously curly typeface. Unfortunately, Eryntse was more of a proactive sort of entity when she was in midst of histrionics. After all, she was freaking out, not freaking in, which was why she was still screaming. And crying.

"Miss--," a baritone voice called from behind. The tone was rather familar to the point of scary. In Eryntse's case, scary translated to really scary, empirically proving that hysteria has a tendency to distort observations.

"Don't touch me!" Eryntse sobbed. "Or I--" Before she could threaten to call the nonexistent police or bring up her imaginary mace, she collided with one of needlessly obstructive desks that populated the hallway. A vase shattered on the floor, spilling glittery dust everywhere. For a few seconds of clarity, the false woman had the strongest suspicion that the dust - was in fact – moondust . Then, she wailed. Again.

"Miss," the stranger puffed, slightly out of breath. Not exactly the breastplate-gauntlet combo weighing down, but rather to keep up with Eryntse twelve-legged speed with his two. "You are pretty fast."

As the man had an unexpected speed, his arrival was a surprise. As his arrival was a surprise, Eryntse too was surprised. As Eryntse was surprised, she was frightened. As she was frightened, she started to bawl. Then, she bawled even more. Her emotions were chiefly despondent but she idly hoped that the noise was enough to drive him off, or at least enough tears to drown him.

Quixotic? Perhaps. Impossible? Definitely, but at least these delusions were just enough to reign in her neuroses.

The crowded hallways with their silvery crescents and other physical homages to the celestial satellites became even more crowded with the hiccups, coughs, and other beautifully disgusting noises of the lachrymose. The man looked at everywhere but Eryntse. His expression was that of feigned concern in deference of manners but mostly because he was slightly embarrassed on her behalf as her emotional displays were especially ludicrous. It took three minutes to calm her down and an extra two for her utterances to simmer to whimpering. As the mostly-silence reigned, the man looked down.

“You are okay,” he paused. “Right.”

“I'm lost,” she sighed and let a little shudder as though she was cold. To be honest, Eryntse felt a little colder than usual. It was not a pleasant feeling.

“Of course, we all are,” he crossed his legs and leaned on his broadsword, experimenting with the angle between blade and rug. He was looking rather contemplative – or at least he was giving an air of contemplation. It was hard to tell through all those tears. “New place, new laws of physics. New everything. It's easy to get lost.”

“No, but I'm lost.”

“Mm-hm. Aren't we all.”

“I was lost.”

The man turned around on a beat. “Oh?”

Eryntse's lips were sealed and time passed to the point that the man spoke up before the two could choke to death on the increasingly awkward silence. “Go on.”

“Now, I'm lost again.”

A couple of seconds pass. It took him a while to figure out what she was trying to imply and the knowledge was certainly not interesting. However, the realization was rather interesting, sort of like a mild trivia or a fact you bring up in order to impress your drinking buddies. “The place you were stolen from – that was not your original place was it?”

Eryntse's eyes widened. She heard the statement and discerned every single letter that formed the sentence. She understood it completely but she didn't want to. Because he was saying the gosh-darn truth. The truth! And her resolved crumbled, the remains like the moon dust on the floor.

“Is it?”

She stood up and said nothing.


She turned around, her lips framed with her teeth (too pointy), her fingers twisted into knots (literal ones) her sadness encompassed with those watery eyes. Or were those her eyes? The man would be frightened except she was in a state that elicited pity. He almost expected her to give him an answer...

...except she went for the nearest open entrance. A rather ornately foreign panel emerged from the emptiness; a click ensure the panel was a door and the door was properly secured. Again, silence descended in the hallway – but somehow it was more depressing than stifling. It would be better described as sad.

He was too hardened to feel sadness anymore, but he was definitely concerned. Well, a little - he was not a man of scruples and especially a man of unintended consequences.

Miss—,” he rapped the door.

“Leave me aaaalooooone!” a muffled voice cried. He swore he could hear the pitter-patter of rain echoing in the oddly large room.

“Look, I'm sorry I made a wrong impression towards you,” he shuffled a bit. “But I think it would be a rather decent idea to stay close together. Or like, a five foot distance between the both of us.”

“Is it because I am a lady,” she continued to do what she had done best, which was crying – except it took on a certain veneer of accusation.

“Heavens, no. We are in this together.”


“We are lost in this together.”

More sobbing.

“We are in danger together.”


Then a piercing shriek.

“Fucking fantastic,” he grumbled as the shrill noise sustained beyond a soprano and transcended into grating irritation. He supposed he had jinxed himself with that statement but honestly – how could he believe in misfortune when he himself could tweak probability with the aptitude of a skilled watchmaker? Is there luck in the concept of controlling luck? Interesting question, he had to admit but he had no time to muse on that; he was currently in the process of hacking a door to pieces.


Meanwhile, Sen-but-not-quite stared into a nearby farmpond. A charcoal-grey hat on his head tastefully contemplated the rest of his radioactive-green complexion. He was flexing and relaxing his ear crests as though completely bored. His beady eyes focused on the reflection with an intelligent intensity uncharacteristic of his behavior. He growled.

”Great, I'm a lizard-bird...thing,” he traced the enamel of his razor-sharp teeth with an experimental swipe of his slightly glowing tongue. “With sharp teeth. I'm a lizard-bird...” he glanced at himself, noticing heavy seed-pods floating serenely yet disconcertingly in green jelly. He realized his body was green jelly. Then, he realized he always had been green jelly. The physiological realization mildly surprised him, but not as much the realization he had somehow gained the ability to think abstractly.

“I'm a lizard-bird-PLANT thing,” he thought it would be more clever to use TREE than PLANT, but the sudden appearance of hindsight slightly unnerved him to silence. Mewling goats and clanging cow-bells peppered in the distance. Suddenly, the silence was broken.

“Holy shit, I'm weird.”

No seriously, holy shit. He was. Everything about himself was weird – his ostrich-like anatomy. The weird something-like-slits on his neck. His elongated phalanges which somehow support his weight despite how their delicate they looked. Hell, he had no idea whether the only two limbs he had were his forelegs or his hindlegs. What was he missing? His arms or his legs? He was a little bit frustrated, and a little bit confused, but mostly, he felt a little lost.

To be fair, Sen was not much of a thinker to begin with. Or himself, lately.

What am I going to do, Sen nervously paced back and forth, marveling at how grotesquely fluid his gait was. Of course, he knew what he was supposed to be doing (planting the seeds, which he already did) and what he had done in the past – but planning for the future was something that fortune (as in the hat, hint hint) had not graced him. Or was that actually him? Was everything what it appeared to him? He was nervous, very nervous – and he desperately sought to fill the emptiness that was the things yet to come.


Oh, balloon?

Think balloon.

Well, certainly out of the blue – and totally unexpected but its not like he had anything else to do.


No harm in doing so, right?


Okay then.


Somewhere in the clouds, a particular balloon found itself energetically charged in a way it never felt in centuries (though that time estimate might be a exaggeration, it had a tendency to exaggerate, you see) and proceeded to escape – smashing though the goldfish bowl was its prison, junk, mortars, bricks, surprised knights, even more junk, pornography magazines, swords, useful swords, useless swords and more, obliterating everything in its path until it felt the cool air of freedom on its rubbery skin. It was pleased, its escape was unimpeded. Plus, it knew what to do.

Meanwhile, Six For Gold Police Department had lost their only power source. It would take approximately thirty minutes to fix this fuck-up before the entire place had a rather unpleasant meeting with the ground.
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
"Wow," said Sen, allowing himself another internal "wow" at this whole vocalising business. "I can't believe that worked."

He looked up, already expecting a red dot amongst the clouds, and flexed a claw. A flash of red striking out from the horizon's stormclouds caused momentary excitement, but it was just a red dragon. The Grey Queen's domain, then? It was too early in the afternoon for Jonquil's castle to catch the light and reveal its location, so Sen had no idea when his companion would float its way home.

Sen's first impressions of himself would've been of a latently magical beast, some fanciful pet or royal symbol of the Verdilands. The hat had barely settled in when the cellar doors of disappointment slammed open in the high wind, revealing a damp insipid tomb where it had expected a fount of magical potential.

Sen frowned, because the counterargument was the fact he'd just thought a balloon through a not-insignificant chunk of masonry. He'd been expecting to have to go break the balloon out with his own two hands. Feet. Whatever these were supposed to be. He sighed, because he made no bloody sense.

Something blocked out the sun, which registered on his skin like a blanket he wasn't aware of being peeled away. Weird.

He turned, and looked up. Oh. "Wow." He clambered back to the top of the hill, and surveyed his handiwork.

The beanstalk wasn't so much one stalk as a braided agglom, and wasn't so much a collection of stalks as it was a steadily-broadening pillar. Buttressing stems snaked across the meadow like grey-green scar tissue; a festering wound on the land's skin. Sen noted, rather than especially reacted to, a pinball-ricochet of plant-dopamines through something that definitely wasn't his brain. Did he even have a central nervous system?

He could remember plants like this; he was capable of memory, which was surprising in of itself. The actual process of recollection, however, was dissatisfying - footage on amateur equipment, by some amateur consciousness who (until recnetly) lacked the capacity to pore back over its recordings, and by extension lacked the foresight to make them very organised. Or intelligible. Sen could see the beanstalk and it was just the most brilliant thing and he should've been so so proud of himself even though his work wasn't over yet, but there was nothing on hand or mind to explain what his work was.

Another, anarchic
part of Sen just appreciated a good diaster-in-the-making when it saw one. Nebulous obligations be damned, he knew this shitwrecker was his to wreck shit with, and he could think of a lot of eligible shit.

Sen stepped over a buttress root as he approached the beanstalk, looking for a way up friendly for the armless and dangerous. The plant sprouted an obliging stem, politely horizontal and swiftly joined by a similar one, each further up and across the trunk by one easy step. He perched, adjusted his balance, and laid a hand on the World Tree. Fresh stems peeled off the main trunk, tending flat for long enough to accommodate a radioactive bird-lizard-pear before shooting for the sun again, transforming the pillar into some kind of poplar-esque canedelebra.

Sen would've clapped with delight. If, you know.


The carpet began to veer, but the vaguely human-shaped pile of blue fabric piloting it didn't seem especially alarmed.

"Gotta detour, yer Majesty," pre-empted the carpeteer. "'nusual cloudform ahead-"

"We don't have time," said Violet.

"They're mountain clouds," mumbled the robes, though he knew better than to argue with a queen's orders. "Th' wind's unpredictable where tha lands meet."

"Fuchsia Palace is above the Ridgelands, and we have carpeteers every day-"

"We're nowhere near th' Palace yet, yer Majesty." With a mostly-muffled quickening to his voice indicative of proper alarm, he added: "We're nowhere near any mountains."

What Violet had mistaken for a somewhat disoriented horizon suddenly parsed as a drab, flat cloud. It looked every definition of abnormal. Unwelcome, though that was more a gut instinct of anything invading the skies out of nowhere. Her thoughts flicked back to Steven, wondering if this was one of the fighters he was up against. "How much time lost if we fly around it?"

The pilot tutted.
"Least an hour, yer Majesty. Longer if it's bigger'n I reckon, and I can't tell yer how big it is."

"Fly over," commanded the queen, hoping the cloud wasn't inhabited. Half the point to living on clouds was the fact you were above crude landsiders and their ilk; flying over a settlement in turn was asking for a generations-spanning turf war.

"Flyin' over," grumbled the pilot. Violet readied her sword.


"Oh good, you're awake."

Effectively buggered for better ideas, Sruix was forced to sit on his thumbs and wait for Steven to regain consciousness. Steven groaned, and just pretended for a bit that there wasn't an ex-Gentleman hovering around him. It wasn't difficult, because something else immediately registered as being off.

The gloves. Steven sat up, and - before him or Sruix were aware of what he was doing - he'd punched the Gentleman in the jaw. Barefisted. It hurt in more ways than one, but Sruix certainly hadn't been expecting it because Steven wanted blood, he was fucked, what the hell hope did he expect to have to survive this without them, what the hell else could he do right now except take his frustrations out on what had to be the most pathetic omnipotent entity in the history of the Multiverse-

"If you're, um, quite finished," came a voice from over his shoulder. Steven knew better than to look, but did anyway. Sruix was putting away a spectacle case, and adjusting his pose as if to assert he definitely was standing here, and not prone and being wailed on by some interstellar vagrant.

Steven glanced back down, then back up. "God fucking-"

"I'm not here," Sruix hurriedly added, "to mock you or taunt you or anything. If it makes you feel better, I'm here because Talis betrayed me. Us, I suppose." It didn't, and Steven didn't appreciate being lumped with his captors. He stood up and at least tried to look like a plausible threat while he did it. "Now, I could understand your surmising you had nothing to left to lose and you'd make a sterling effort trying to kill me now-" Steven just growled "-but on the other hand, I'm your best hope for help if you want to see the gloves again. Not," Sruix said, almost testily, from a separate direction as Steven tried to punch the Gentleman again, "a threat."

"Are you crazy? How the hell could I trust you?"


"No," Steven said. He'd been staring at his hands, but his glare ripped through the Gentleman. "I can't trust you. If I think I'm desperate, you must be a hundred times worse right now. As soon as either of us is in a position to get the gloves back, you'll claim them for yourself. Did your friend head back into the castle?"

"No, but I really do think the turncoating is more his style than mine-"

"The grey queen?"

"She's over on that gold castle, off on the horizon, but-"

Steven wasn't listening, jogging away under the shade of the curtain wall.


As soon as the lay of the cloud resolved itself, Violet regretted risking anything to do with it. This thing was unnatural, a flat expanse of cloud locked in the sky like some gross extension of the Surface. Eerie not-quite trees snaked from the cloudform, some lazy approximation of a plant with too many too-large leaves on too-slender stems. Violet had never seen the Green Queen's gardens, had only ever seen trees in paintings.

She'd seen enough to know this apparition that had appeared in their skies was wrong. The plants swaddled the cloud rather than the other way around, roots enmeshing the white so densely they sprouted out the bottom and the sides of the cloud. Violet could've sworn the roots turned, tracked her progress as the carpet flew by, but figured best not mention it to the carpeteer. She'd already told him to skirt it rather than fly over; whatever this was, it was a threat she couldn't handle alone, which made passage to Fuchsia Palace all the more urgent.

Violet stared into the forest without really staring at it, alert to movement within the motionless plants without giving her pilot cause for concern.


The queen stood, hand leaping to her sword and ignoring the Blue's protests. Something stepped into view on delicate legs, blinked, grinned, waved, fell over, and scrambled back to its feet and adjusted its hat.

"Sup," barked the witch. Her smile was a mile of needles, crammed and clicking and laughing in a too-small space.
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)

The Moonlight Queen was more than a little disappointed as Six For Gold began plummeting moments after she landed. She'd come here to destroy the castle, not watch the incompetent knights do it for her.

She didn't even see any knights. Usually there were at least two dozen foolhardy enough to rush her on landing, but there were none today. Had they actually caught on to the futility of their charges, or had she simply finished off all the slow learners?

The latter explanation struck her as more likely.

That left her with a more basic question to answer. Should she stay and tear apart this castle as an example, or simply leave it to crash on the worthless ground below?

She snorted derisively. She'd come all this way, of course she wasn't going to just leave. At the same time, it wasn't worth waiting for the final moments. She'd just spend ten minutes or so on wanton destruction until she felt better, then fly off and claim credit for the smoking crater below.

After all, who would live to question her story?


Blitz had never worn armor before, let alone armor this heavy. If he had been unarmored, he might have gotten to his feet before the serpent's jaws closed around his upper body.

Of course, there was another side to that hypothetical - if he were unarmored, he wouldn't have survived the serpent's jaws closing around his upper body. As it was, he could just feel the serpent's large upper fangs denting the armor on his right side enough to make him uncomfortable.

Blitz wasn't sure how long the armor would hold up, and had no intention of finding out. The knights had thought to give him a sword, and he swung it desperately in hopes of slicing off the serpent's head.

But the monster's scales were too tough, and Blitz found himself with only a broken sword in hand.

He doubted the bandage would do any better, at least on its own. If he augmented it with his electrical abilities, that might have some effect, if he struck the right place... but he was covered in metal. It was dangerous.

An uncomfortable poke in his right side argued that it was even more dangerous to wait for a better idea to come along while this serpent had him in its monstrous jaws. He started waving the bandage around, let out a small charge, and struck the serpent in the eyes.

It howled in pain, opening its mouth wide. Blitz fell to the ground, groaning. His entire left arm was numb; he didn't dare think about what might have happened with a stronger discharge.

He wouldn't have had time to think about it, regardless. The serpent was thrashing blindly around the cell, and he still wasn't used to moving in armor. He was knocked away by its flailing tail almost immediately.

Thankfully, the serpent's erratic movements kept it away from him while he picked himself up. He looked at the shattered sword in his right hand helplessly, and wished he had any idea how to escape.


Jacob was halfway through breaking down the door when he started to question why, exactly, he was breaking down the door. He hadn't been pulled away yet, so the woman probably wasn't dead, and he couldn't hear her shrieking, so she probably wasn't in imminent danger of dying. Maybe she'd just tripped on something and hit her head, in which case it would probably be safer to just leave her in there.

On the other hand, he was already about halfway through breaking down the door, so it wasn't going to keep anything dangerous out.

Plus, if there was an actual threat inside, it would be better to at least know what it was. Probably.

Not long afterwards, the door gave way. Jacob stepped in the room, and found himself surprised the mysterious woman hadn't screamed sooner.

The room was large, filled with a number of tables and shelves. More than a few of the shelves were filled with skulls from animals Jacob didn't recognize, others had flasks filled with unknown potions of various colors, still others were lined with books that seemed designed to look as imposing as possible.

The tables were just as crowded. There was a skeleton or two on them, a few strange machines, some cauldrons, and the same sorts of things that filled the bookshelves.

He'd seen this sort of thing before. Wizards, whether real ones or self-styled, liked to work in such laboratories. He couldn't really say what any of the various concoctions did, he just knew it was a bad idea to touch any of them.

There was no sign of the woman. But there was an open trapdoor.

He glanced down it. He could see the bottom, which just looked like a stone floor... probably led to the dungeons. There was no sign of the woman down there, most likely she had been taken away by whoever was in charge of said dungeons.

That was good enough for Jacob - hopefully whoever she was, she wouldn't be able to cause too much trouble inside a cell. His business here was done.

He turned around just in time to see Talis smirking in the doorway before a pair of familiar-looking gloves pushed him down the hole.


Jacob's guess was wrong - Eryntse hadn't been taken to a cell.

Instead, the lone minion assigned to this dungeon had been happy to see someone and was eagerly guiding her through the halls.

It actually put Eryntse at ease. Most of the time, she couldn't really tell what the excitable-but-untalkative minion was pointing at - he just seemed to be staring at the think stone walls. But he was friendly, and didn't seem to want to do anything except show her around.

After some time, the tour stopped in a small chamber. There was a large machine sitting against one wall, and the minion rushed in front of the device, beaming with pride. Eryntse at least understood what the minion was trying to show her this time, so she walked over to the machine and took a closer look.

There were several brightly colored lights, which looked like buttons. Brimming with curiosity, Eryntse tapped the shiny purple one, so enamored with it that she didn't even notice the minion frantically waving its stubby little arms.

She did, however, notice the purple light going out, hear the loud grinding of gears, and a fearsome roar. The minion leapt into her arms, as frightened as she was, and then Eryntse ran as fast as she could.

Not far away, Blitz noticed a wall disappear behind him. He didn't bother stopping to question it - he just ran. Thankfully, the serpent was still flailing wildly, at least for the moment - it didn't even see him rush out.

It did, however, hear the metallic clang of his footsteps against the stone floor.

Eryntse heard the noise, too. Then she saw the knight running towards her, and screamed.

They'd come this way. They were still after her. She turned around, more terrified than ever, desperately hoping she wouldn't run into another knight.

When Blitz saw her panic, he wondered if the serpent was behind him. He decided he'd rather not take the time to check - it would take too long to get a good look with this stupid visor getting in the way, and if he just kept running, he'd be fine whether he was being chased or not.

Some distance away, Jacob groaned and picked himself up. He'd had barely enough time to wonder whether Talis was working with Steven, or had just taken his gloves somehow, when he heard that familiar scream.

It wasn't long after that he saw the familiar woman who he associated with the scream. She was carrying a not-so-familiar little red imp of some sort, and she was terrified.

"There's a knight!" she shrieked. "They want to capture me again! Help! Help!"

Jacob suppressed a sigh as he caught sight the knight rushing after her. This poor sap was probably just a prisoner who didn't know anything about his fellow knights capturing the woman in the first place. But she didn't realize it, and probably the only way to calm her down was to take the unfortunate knight out of the picture somehow.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of him," Jacob said, drawing his sword. "You two just sit tight, okay?"
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
On the horizon there was, if you were prepared to look for it, a tiny blotch of ruby red. You'd almost think it was simply a trick of the light, and it couldn't possibly be the Red Castle; it had been a long time since the Midnight Queen had wiped that out of the sky. Up close you'd see it was a manor, small only in comparison to the enormous castles with which it shared the sky. It was huge, several stories high and sprawling. It was decorated with dozens of ornate columns and elaborate statuary all depicting a grinning man. A massive dark red D marked the highest point of the manor.

A limousine, long, sleek and midnight black, cut through the air and came to rest on the red stone deck just outside the elaborate entranceway. As the engine died, a scarlet glow from the wheel wells dissipated and suddenly the vehicle seemed tangibly heavier. The doors opened and a pair of blank faced thugs in sharp black suits emerged, followed hesitantly by a golden knight. Behind him was a woman with a shock of chestnut hair and black tinted glasses. She was wearing a red and white jacket, shorts and high heeled boots.

"Would yah get a move on already?" She slammed the door behind him. "Ah'm sure all tha boss wan's is a nice chat, clear the air type ah thing. Then yah're a free man... thing... whatevah yah are... again."

"Of course." The knight replied, barely louder than a whisper. "Nothing to be concerned about." Though his quavering voice belied his true feelings.

Razz just rolled her eyes and jabbed the knight onwards as the doors before them swung open. The inside of the manor was every bit as extravagantly decorated as the outside, it was all red and white with flourishes of gold. The walls were covered with portraits of the owner, all of them flattering. The group moved through the corridors until they reached a large open room dominated by a throne ten times more ostentatious than those of the coloured queens. Around the edges of the room there was a selection of limousines, most of them black, a couple of them red and white, one of them a deep blue, all of them gleaming spotless. The outer walls, beyond the limousines, were made up of cages filled with all manner of flying creatures, from dragons of every colour to golden feathered griffins, grey skinned wyverns and more. The creatures howled and rattled at their cages as the group stepped into the throne room.

For a moment it seemed as though the room was empty, until a stern cry of "Ladies..." drew your attention to the long pair of legs sticking out from beneath one of the limousines whilst simultaneously silencing the Duke's menagerie. Moments later he had extricated himself from the limousine engine and was striding towards the group. He was tall and very thin, his hair strawberry blonde, his eyes hidden behind red-tinted sunglasses. He wore a red and white jacket and a golden sign saying 'DUKE' on a chain around his neck. He wiped the oil from his hands on a monogrammed cloth and tossed it casually to Razz.

"This is a privilege." The Duke leaned in close to the nervous knight and smiled widely. The knight promptly stumbled backwards into another pair of blank-faced goons. "It's rare to see one of you tin knights so far from the nest." The knight remained silent; he stared down at his own breaches desperate not meet the Duke's gaze. "I'm sorry," The Duke continued, "where are my manners? They call me the Duke of Desire."

"I'm numbe-"

"Yes," the Duke interrupted. "You're one of Jonquil's numbered knights. I know. I was simply concerned you might not be aware of who I am considering you were found flying through MY territory on the back of one of MY beautiful ladies."

The knight looked up nervously, was momentarily surprised to see the Duke lounging on the nearest limousine, and said: "I'm sorry I didn't realize she was yours I just needed to get out of there."

"Oooh, you didn't realize she was mine." The Duke repeated in a mocking tone. "I guess you just thought that my beloved Goldie belonged to you? I guess you thought you were the one who had raised her from when she was just an egg. Is that what happened?"

"No, that's not what I meant at all." The knight backpedalled desperately.

"Then what did you mean?" The Duke demanded, suddenly up in the knight's face once again.

"I, um," The knight stuttered as his eyes darted in every direction, as though looking for some way out of this situation. "I had to, I didn't have any choice."

"Well, I guess I don't have any choice but to make an example of you. I just can't have people running around disrespecting me, disrespecting my property. It'd just look bad." The Duke replied more calmly as he bounded up the steps to his throne.

"No, please." The knight begged. "Wait a minute, let's not be hasty here."

The Duke paid him little heed. "I suppose I could sell you to the Midnight Queen. I believe she's very keen to get her hands on a living knight." He swung his legs over the arm of the throne and leaned back, looking far too casual for such a situation. "Or maybe I'll just melt you down myself. I can just picture it now; a beautiful golden limo, maybe with a little helmet hood ornament." He stared into the distance and swept an arm as though he could direct you to share in his wondrous vision. "You'd be the pride of my fleet."

"You," the knight replied slowly, "you do know I'm a person wearing a suit of armour not an actual animate suit of armour?"

"Really?" The Duke replied. "Well that is disappointing." He paused for just a moment. "Though on the positive side I can hand you over to Midnight and still build my golden limousine. It's a win/win."

"No, look, please don't hand me over to her. I'll do anything."

"That might be a tempting offer if I had any actual use for you." The Duke replied dismissively.

"What did yah mean when yah said yah had tah get outta there?" Razz interrupted.

"Oh, yes, right." A modicum of hope returned to the knight's voice. "There's something big going on, if you spare me I'll tell you all about it."

"Pass." The Duke replied disinterestedly. "Dependant on who you ask, there's always 'something big' going on."

"No really." Insisted the knight. "This is really, hugely big. Six For Gold is going down."

This piqued the Duke's interest. He sat up straight in his throne and leaned forward. "Go on."

"It's for definite this time." The knight elaborated. "There's too few of us left. There's nothing we can do to stop it. It's why I had to get out of there."

"If you're lying to save your cold metal shell I'm going to hand you over to Midnight free of charge." The Duke said slowly, "But, if you are telling the truth..." He trailed off, a grin slowly spreading across his face, imagining what he might be able to build out of an entire castle's worth of salvage. "Then we're gonna have some fun."
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RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
"Stop the carpet"," commanded Violet. "What are- who are you?"

The lizard tilted its head, the space between its eyes and its hat rippling a bit like it was trying to raise an absent eyebrow.
"Oh, right. Hang on."

Sen spent an awkward moment trying to fold its legs up into some kind of sitting position. The Carmine Witch patted him on the nose, smirking at Violet and offering the tiniest, sardonic curtsey. Sen blinked, squawked an indignant squawk, and gnashed his teeth at the offending hand.

A Red? But Charcoal had razed the queendom decades-

"Woah hey hey heyhey! Ease off, Limey!"

With a lurch and a chatter, the beast had found its feet and almost impaled the witch on a cactus spine as long as Violet's sword. The Red raised a stern finger, declared "No!" loud enough to give the creature pause, and bopped it on the nose again before it could muster up a protest.

"So, yeah," explained Sen around a mouthful of unaccustomed teeth, shrugging to the best of her morphology. "It's been a while, Vi."

"Wait. Ruby?"

"Scarlet," corrected Sen, teeth bared. "'ent nothing left for me to bother queening over any more, and by the pasty looks of you queens aren't what they used to be anyway."

Violet glared. Sen chittered. "You've got nothing meaningful to do, seeing's old Midnight will come scoop you up again eventually, so would it kill you to hang around and tell me what's going on?"

The request got her to thinking, glancing over at the carpeteer (who couldn't stop staring at what basically amounted to a being lost in the mists of time long enough to get his cigarette properly lit). Steven, and the battle, and the other contestants that man had mentioned. This thing the ex-queen had co-opted was that "plant monster", wasn't it?

"Fly across," she said to the pilot, then to Scarlet: "You - that... thing. It made this whole cloudform?"

"Hell yeah! It started out as this beanstalky kind of thing - oh, right, you skytypes don't have beans, it's like a tall straight tree, anyway - once it reached the Skies a cloud got caught up in it and it just got its roots in there! And look!"

With a stomp of Sen's feet, a swarm of roots snaked out from the side of the cloud, slithering under the approaching carpet into a sparsely-haired landing strip. Ruby- sorry, Scarlet - slumped back down into a sitting-ish position, the monster's weight resting on its elbows. It beamed at Violet over tented fingers. "I don't reckon even Esme knew how to work plants like this."

Violet wasn't really listening. If this was the once-queen, and this was the monster in the fight with Steven, and she/they/it/the two had the power to make something like this... ending the Grey Queen's tyranny might actually be possible. With the monster under Scarlet's control, the other battlers could probably be convinced not to fight. They could gather, with all the time they needed, and Steven and the others could find a way home.

"You're scheeeeeming," said the monster down its nose, distinctly free of reproach. Violet bristled.

"Am not."

"You're figuring out how I could help you kill old Midnight. Which I won't. Down there isn't sticks and mud like you lot like to tell yourselves, and it's more home to me than... all this fluff." Scarlet sighed, noticed the queen was still standing, and uprooted something in the shape of a seat. If it weren't for a curl to the creature's mouth suggesting scorn, it might have almost looked sad.

"I'd take you if I could, Vi. You'd probably enjoy it down there. But, y'know. Midnight'd come looking, and imagine the mess if she found somewhere that could put up a real fight. Naw, I'm just here to pick up a friend. Maybe poke my nose around before anyone catches on it's me, remind myself why I was ok with leaving."

Violet poked the seat with her sword, trying not to think about how she couldn't really describe Ruby's departure as 'leaving'. "If you didn't want any attention drawn to the Surface, why make this thing?"

"Hah! Try asking this guy. Can't make heads or tail of what his deal is. I'll eat my hat if anyone up here, much less a Green, tried breaking the mold this bad."

"Actually," and then she paused, because Scarlet was struggling the creature upright and almost falling over again in her attempts to wave.

"Merlot! Go low and catch me!" The witch crouched, tail lashing, then galloped clean off the cloud's edge. Violet shouted "No!", her immediate thought that the monster would be killed on impact and Steven and the others would be whisked away, but when she scrambled to the edge she heard only laughter.

Dangling there in the air was Sen, suspended by a red balloon with its string around his tail. The rest of him dangled, and Scarlet laughed a good witchy cackle as she clung on his claws. Sen squawked, looked down at the ground (and Scarlet), up at the balloon, squawked again with a note of resignation, before letting his head succumb to gravity. Scarlet, still laughing, patted him on the nose and motioned for the balloon to rise.

Safely back on nubis firma, Sen got his claws in, lay down, and complained to himself for a bit. The balloon, at an 'a-hem' from Scarlet, took on a form more conducive to being hugged. She was short, thin-lipped, and dressed in that traditional Red noble-garb that straddled the line between 'vagrant' and 'post-apocalyptic chic'. Merlot seemed more interested in Sen than the lady around her neck, but unbeknownst to Violet the two were in a rapid mental exchange. She eventually nodded, peeling off the witch and smoothing down her skirt.

"We should head down if we don't want to run into Midnight. Saw her heading for Six for Gold as I was making my way out, but I dunno if she saw me."

"Right, she'll find this cloudform sooner or later. Eurgh." Scarlet pecked Merlot on the cheek a final time, then extricated herself and awkwardly remembered the Purple Queen. "Uh, well, it's been real nice catching up, Vi."

"You're leaving me here," Violet said in disbelief.

"You've got a carpet, and it's not that far to your jurisdictings. Things'll work out." Scarlet avoided the queen's gaze.

"'Ey Scarlet, what's your plan with this thing?" Merlot scritched Sen behind his crests.

"Let's keep it! I've almost gotten the hang of walking with it-"

"No." Violet had had enough. "If you're just going to live life hiding from Midnight, you can take me too."

"Vi, come on-"

"Stop. You have no idea what we're involved in. That-" she jabbed in Sen's direction with her sword "-isn't from here. It's not from this world, even. It's in a fight with a bunch of other people, and one of them risked their life to rescue me and the other queens. You got your friend back thanks to this thing."

"Well, if you care about this new friend of yours so bad, where is she?"

"I was heading to Fuchsia Palace for help, and ran into you. Also, his name is Steven. He's got a magic artifact that could send him home, but it needs more power so I entrusted it to- to some of the people in his fight." Violet couldn't help but notice the glint in Scarlet's eye at 'magic artifact', but more pressing was the sinking feeling that she'd been wrong to trust that duo. She spun around, slashing at branches (Sen honked in protest into his faceful of cloud), waving to the carpeteer. "I don't have time for this. Ride your stupid lizard if you want, but don't come crying to me if it vanishes suddenly and takes you with it."

As she crossed the root-bridge back to the carpet, the carpeteer's expression made her turn around. The monster was a few paces behind her, wearing a bright red witch hat and balloon.

"Yer royal magic's been siphoned off to Midnight since forever, there's nobody in your queendom can help. You found help here, so turn this rug around." Sen grinned, displaying needles. "That carpet'll hold us, right?"
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Jacob stared at the knight, sword loosely but firmly at the ready, feet planted just so for optimal balance and the readiness to dash in any direction, except maybe down. The knight stared at Jacob, trying and failing to maintain the facade of having any idea what he was doing. The air between them didn't crackle with lightning at all, because the knight wasn't a complete idiot, and figured the only reason he wasn't already dead was because Jacob had no clue who he was.

They shifted tensely. The knight spoke.

“We don't need to fight each other.”

Jacob lowered his sword. “Yeah, okay.”

The knight was taken aback. “What, seriously?”

“Eh. It's not like I'm being paid for this gig. And, to be honest?” Jacob slumped against a wall and pulled out his watch. “I need to calm down a little anyway. Christ, I remember the days when I wasn't this high-strung. I used to be sneaky!” He nervously ticked the clock open and shut, open and shut in sync with the seconds. “Hide in the shadows, plan the perfect moment to dash through security. Cloak-and dagger stuff, y'know? Now it's all dagger. Stab, stab, stab. It's not...” He sighed, snapped the watch shut and thrust it back in a pocket. “In any case, I wouldn't want to waste my energy on someone so clearly insubstantial. Y'got a name, kid?”

“Y-- wh-- b-- Lionel? No, look.”

“But, but,” Eryntse looked worried. “But he's gonna kidnap meeeee!”

“Are you gonna kidnap her?”

“I-- th-- no, I, I'm not gonna... Look--”

“See? No problem. Let's go.”

YES THERE IS A PROBLEM.” Lionel punched the wall. “Ow. Look, I was doing a thing, and you ruined it with your introspection. I was gonna be dramatic! You love dramatic, right? See, that we don't have to fight each other? That was set-up.”

“He's really bad at this being dramatic thing,” Eryntse failed to whisper. Jacob nodded solemnly.

“The punch-line,” seethed the knight, “was that we, and by we I mean you, need to fight--”

Something between a roar and a screech some five feet behind Lionel unstoppered the drain on his anger, flipped it over, and delivered his free refill of fear.



They marched together in silence, Sruix trailing a respectful slightly-more-than-arm's-length behind. The ex-gentleman had tried to reason why traveling together wasn't a terrible idea: he knew his way around he round, haha, so better to be less lost than usual (that hit a nerve, but Steven missed his swing) even if it's with someone you can't trust, and you really couldn't trust anyone else in the battle, honestly, and anyway running into each other again sooner or later was more or less cosmicontractually bound to happen, right? It's in the rules. But Steven wasn't listening, so he'd trailed off.

“You said he didn't go back in the castle.”

Sruix coughed, treading lightly down the stairs. “He didn't, so far as I saw. And he didn't come back past me.” You didn't find him? wasn't a question that needed asking. “He'll probably be looking for one of the others. Probably to kill them.”

“As if you give a shit.”

A verbal shrug. “It's half my fault you lot are here at all, sure, but two mass murderers and a walking apocalypse? In other circumstances, you wouldn't sympathize either.”


“But I don't know if the next round will be ours or hers. Best to make the most of the here-and-now while it's here and now, don't you think?”


The little red cushion let out a squeak. “Don't mind him, Pendleton,” murmured the gentleman. “He's just less accustomed to existential crises, that's all.”

Steven whipped around.
“The fuck--”

“...Is that thing?”

Sruix hugged the imp closer. “It's mine. You can't have it.”

The wanderer seethed, but gave up.
“Whatever. If it could kill me you would've let it already.”

They came to a door, and went through. A sullen, dusty corridor with sullen, dusty tapestries stretched out ahead.

“You know,” Sruix hazarded, “if, for whatever reason, you wanted to listen to me for a moment, I have-- it's honestly just a hunch, I'll admit, but I think I might know where Talis is headed. He's not omniscient, you know, so he only has vague guesses as to where the others will be, but, you know, I know what he knows, so... if you'd let me lead, we might... head him off, at the proverbial pass? If you'd like?”


“I mean, you're already headed that way, whether by accident or not. I could save you minutes, at least, which might keep you from being late to a murder, right? Come on, work with me a little, here. I won't call us partners, or allies, or god-forbid friends. Just let me help. It really is in your interest, whether or not you want to believe me.”



“What did you mean by it's in the rules?


“Y'know all those myths and legends about how a single underdressed, underequipped man can--”

“Or lady!”

“Or lady, yes, can singlehandedly take on and defeat a several-foot, armor-scaled, acid-spewing wingéd dragon?”

“It doesn't have wings, though.”

“Moot point.”

“Then what's yours?”

“My point,” puffed Jacob, “is that those are myths and legends! They have no basis in actual--”

Something between a screech and a roar emerged from farther away than the last one had. “See? It agrees.”

“You can't speak Dragon.”

“You can't eith... Actually, can you?”

“Uhhhhhh moot point?”

Lionel dragged Eryntse along behind him. She was faster than he and Helix, but she kept stopping at all the sealed gates Jacob told them to run through as though they were thin air. “I don't think that's what that means.”

“Anyway, no. I can't kill that thing on my own, and especially not while dragging around a pair of deadweights like you.”

“Why not just leave us to be eaten, then,” snapped the knight. They leapt through another set of heavy doors. Iron had given way to wood, which gave way to the dragon much more easily, but it still bought some time. “It'd make things easier for you, I'm sure.”

The merc jerked his head towards Eryntse. “She's important. You...” He eyed the shattered sword Lionel as-yet refused to relinquish. “...We'll see.”

“Well that's--”

But they never found out what it was, because just then all the air was knocked out of him, when he ran full-force into an enormous metal door as though it weren't thin air.


“They're more like guidelines, really.”

Steven had refused to let him lead, opting instead to be backseat-driven while he scoped around every corner for signs of danger. Instead they'd just found more imps.

“They're not ours, of course. I suppose the Director must have set them up originally. Maybe one of his successors. They're meant to keep things interesting, you see.”

“Keep. Things. Interesting.”

Sruix hemmed and hawed. “...Entertaining? Not to me, mind, (left here,) but it is intended as such for some. You grew up on a relatively stock twentieth-century earth, you must have learned about Roman gladiators at least. Bloodsport's not that unusual, in the grand scheme.”


“In any case, they're woven into the structure of the thing. Default settings, if you will. Usually in the vein of What Can Go Wrong, Will, but there are more subtle ones. Ah... Left again? No, no, down those stairs. Where was I?”


“Subtlety! Rules that might not be enforceable on smaller scales. Gladiators had their Colosseum, you see, but you are given cities, starships, whole planets to roam! Once even a solar system, but that was a special case. So we need you, the contestants, to come back to each other sooner or later. Otherwise telling you to kill one another's a bit meaningless. And even if you don't kill each other, there's the social excitement of watching you simply interact with those you've been instructed to off!”


“And then, of course, if you actually continue to not kill each other, then one or more of you is made to die. Left here.”

Steven froze.
“What. The actual fuck. Is wrong with you people!”

“We are a society of Elephanzors.”

The wanderer turned, slowly. Sruix' face was iron. “Secure in our power and unwilling to use it for anyone but ourselves. You,” his finger jabbed into Steven's chest as they were suddenly nose-to-nose, and just as suddenly not, “and your gloves had, however small, a chance to change that. So you are here.”


“And here,

you will go lef-- auh, right. Your right. The possessive, not the contraction. You-- ah-- just-- go.”

He did.

And gasped.

“The hell is that?

“Oh, you know, the terrible experiment of one queen, a rainbow of princesses, a team of alchemists, a necromancer or two if she's hedging her bets, and fifteen years.”

The Midnight II loomed menacingly.

“Would've been five years, but the first one burnt down.”


“Well, the good news is, the dragon shouldn't be able to get past this door, because it's some antimagic material.”

“Lemme guess.” Blitz went to massage his cheek, but a metal barrier prevented that, too. “Bad news is we can't get through, because it's some antimagic material.”

Eryntse snuffled. “Maybe we lost it?”

“That was a straight corridor. How. How could we have lost it.”

“Maybe it got... turned around...?”

Blitz sighed, and sat down to wait for his inevitable demise. Kill Jacob, and two problems go away. “I don't suppose you were lying about not being able to fight it?”


“Might be able to bleed it to death? Scales looked patchy in places, but none of the traditionally-fatal areas. Bet its blood is caustic too, though.”

“She's a her.”

Blitz forced air between his teeth. “That's. Not important right now. Okay?”

Jacob looked thoughtful. “It might be. Stronger legs mean I'd have to avoid getting crushed going around the back more than usual, among other things.”

“You're kidding.”

“It's a defense mechanism, I hear.”

“Hey," murmured the woman, "why do we have to go through this door, again?”

“Oh my god. Are you seriously serious right now there is A DRAGON CHASING US.”

“Well, yeah, but, like.” Eryntse visibly strained to find exactly the arrangement of words that would succinctly yet elegantly illustrate her meaning. Why... do we have to go... through... this door... again...?”

Blitz buried his helm in his gauntlets. “I'm going to die.” Or kill the girl, if you think the swordsman too difficult. “I'm going to die surrounded by the stupidest--”

“Oh my god, why didn't I think of that sooner? Eryntse, you're a genius.” She clapped delightedly. “Sometimes. C'mon, Leo, get off your ass, we're going through the wall.”

Just then, the door opened.


Something down the corridor shrieked. Or maybe roared. It was hard to tell. Sruix looked up from the insignificant solid grey brick that was the door control.

“You see? Murphy's Law. Where there are monsters trapped, there are monsters freed.”

“Wh-- You!”


“Steven? What's he doing here? Weren't you with--”

“Thankfully these monsters are none too dangerous. To us, anyway. Sorry, Pendleton.”

The crimson cuboid discovered its powers of Temporary Flight When Flung Very Hard, and found it did not like them very much. Its protests were cut off with the lower half of its torso, when the dragon leapt up to meet it. The beast shook its catch violently, sending its innards everywhere.

Jacob irritably flicked rust-colored wool from his shoulder. “Is anyone going to explain what the fuck is going on?”

“One of them was a sheep, you see,” nodded Sruix. “Used her wool to create an army, though one as docile as their forebear. The other princesses hate them, for that is their fate, too.”

“I see.”

Sruix crumpled to the floor a second time, and the merc shook out his fist. “Steven, why don't you have a go.”

“Oh, uh. The Grey Queen's turning all the other princesses into a boat?” He jerked a thumb upwards at the abomination of entwood and dragonscale and pegasus wing being fussed over by a thousand rusty pillows. “So we're doing a jailbreak to get them to fight, uh, Talis? to get my gloves back.”

Jacob nodded. “Do we need the boat for that?”

“That was the plan,” grumbled the floor.

“Well then,” frowned the merc, gesturing at the beanstalk enveloping the lower half of the boat, “your plan needs work.”
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
"I told you all the balloon was a terrible idea," Eight grumbled, pounding on the control console. "Told you I could get us a more stable solution that didn't involve relying on a magical object we knew nothing about with a mind of its own. But no, nobody wanted to go out and get the materials for me."

"Hardly even seems worth the trouble at this point," Three sighed. "Midnight's ripping things apart and it's not as if we've got any way to chase her off. Best we can do is keep her away from the infirmary and attempt to minimize the damage when we hit the ground."

"I'm working on it! But that's not very easy when she keeps knocking out our secondary engines."

As if to emphasize the point, there was a loud explosion a moment later.

"That's engine number seventeen down. I don't suppose you can get Twelve to keep her away from the engines, too?"

"He's already got his hands full. Just focus on the engines closest to the infirmary."

"We don't have engines close to the infirmary. That would be a safety hazard."

Three sighed.

"Then I suppose I'll have to take care of it. Which engines do you need the most?"

"Losing any more is a big problem. But if I absolutely had to, I could barely manage with engines thirteen, seventy-two, and ninety-nine." Eight pointed to a map of the castle. "Seventy-two's right under us, so we've got problems if it goes out anyway. Ninety-nine is far enough along the underside of the castle that she probably won't go for it. Thirteen, however... it's right over by seventeen, and we already know she's in that area."

There was another loud explosion.

"That was eleven."

"Point made. I'll lead her to the other side of the castle."

Three hopped on his horse, leaving Eight to damage control. As usual.

Midnight was growing bored. Only three knights had been dispatched to fight her. Three! If they were in such poor shape, it was a wonder they'd launched an attack at all. Perhaps it was sheer desperation, or perhaps they wanted some semblance of a heroic death.

Whatever the case, they were merely annoying. She had fought dozens of knights without any trouble, and while these three were admittedly better-trained than most, they simply didn't have the numbers to actually threaten her. Assuming they even had weapons sharp enough to pierce her scales in the first place, which was doubtful.

At first she had thought the knights a mere stalling tactic, but they'd been fighting her for a good fifteen minutes now and nothing had happened. If anything, they were keeping her here longer than she had planned; if it weren't for these pests she had to swat, she would have flown back some time ago and waited for the castle to plummet.

But she couldn't leave now. The knights would think they'd won. Three knights defeating the Midnight Queen? Quite aside from the humiliation, that was bound to lead to hope. And hope, as she well knew, meant trouble.

She'd worked hard to destroy hope the last time around. She did not want to go through that trouble again.

Midnight crushed another tower with a wave of her tail as she watched the knights circle her. If these fools weren't going to fight, they could watch their precious castle fall under her might.

Then she felt a sharp pain on her underside. She howled, and glanced down below.

So it had been a stalling tactic after all. A fourth knight had flown up and struck her in the belly with a lance while she was focused on the other three.

Unfortunately for him, it wasn't nearly enough to do the job. Midnight pulled the lance out of the wound and snapped it in two. Without the element of surprise or his weapon, the fourth knight did nothing to aid their chances now.

As if to drive the point home, Midnight reached for him. But Three had already expected his attack to fail, and was flying off as fast as he could. He hadn't even bothered to hold onto the lance; he only wanted to draw the Midnight Queen's attention.

In that regard, his plan had been a success. She was already chasing after him, only pausing to swat away the other three knights if they dared draw close.

Twelve did not dare. He had caught on much sooner than the other two. They needed to draw her away from this part of the castle. That was more important than anything.

Including their own lives.

From miles away, an eager pair of eyes watched the raging battle with a smirk.

"Looks like that kid was right," the Duke of Desire said, handing his telescope to Razz. "They've only got four knights out there. And there's smoke all over the place! It's not staying up long at this rate."

"Don't see why you're makin' such a big deal outta this, boss," Razz said, putting the telescope away. "Sure, it's a lotta scrap, and we can make some sweet stuff with it, but it ain't changin' much. Midnight's still runnin' things, only without the Knights gettin' in her way."

The Duke laughed heartily.

"Oh, no, no, no. The scrap is just the icing on the cake. Okay, there's a lot of icing here, and it's good stuff, but that's because we're looking at the biggest, sweetest, most delicious cake anyone's ever made."

"I think ya lost me there. What's so important about the knights losin' their castle?"

"It's simple, Razz. When Six For Gold goes down, this whole sky's gonna be mine."

"Uh, that's great boss, but I don't think the Midnight Queen's gonna let you do that."

"Oh, that." The Duke grinned. "That's just a matter of cleaning up. And I got just the mop for the job."

"I don't think a mop's going to help much against a dragon, boss."

The Duke sighed.

"I gotta teach you about metaphors sometime. In fact, why don't I teach you about this one right now. I got a solid plan and it's no fun if I don't explain it to anyone first."

Eight stared at the lights. They'd gotten the queen away from Engine Thirteen, but in the process they were leading her through about forty engines that would have made things quite a bit easier.

At least he'd slowed the descent most of the way. If they could chase off the queen, they'd be more or less fine... but as angry as she was right now, that wasn't likely to happen until the fight had a clear winner.

And, Eight reasoned, it was unlikely to be the knights.

He could worry about that when this whole mess was on the ground, he supposed. For now, he had a job to do.

Midnight finally grabbed Three in her talons. She crushed his steed in her other claw, and raised the knight up to her face.

"You think you're clever, don't you," she snarled. "Think you might have actually hurt me. But I'm afraid all you've done is earn yourself the privilege of dying first."

"I do not fear death or you, Grey Queen. I pledged my life to the cause of ending your tyranny long ago. Do your worst!"

"Tempting. But I haven't really got time for my worst right now, not with your friends still pestering me." She swatted away another knight, as if to press the point. "Fortunately, there's a very simple way to dispose of you that won't require too much of my attention."

She flew away from the castle as the other knights pursued her, grinned at Three one final time, and let him go.

Eight hadn't seen the Queen pull away, but it had made his job a good deal easier. He had enough engines available to slow the descent to a safe level, but still fast enough that they'd be on the ground before the Queen got back to wreak more havoc.

Hopefully, anyway.

Eight's hopes turned out to be well-founded. The castle touched down, and he promptly vented the dust out of every engine to produce as much smoke as possible. Hopefully, it would make the crash look like a crash. It already felt like far more of one than Eight was comfortable with.


The Duke drew back a curtain, one that Razz had never actually noticed before, revealing a large, musty old stone.

"I don't think a rock's gonna be much of a mop, boss. Unless you were gonna throw it at her?"

The Duke lowered his sunglasses just enough to glare at her, then pointed to a large hilt stuck in the rock.

"There's a sword in there. A very special sword. It's got a fancy name and everything, can't say I remember it but that's not important."

"So what's so special about it?"

"It's packed with enough light magic to turn the Midnight Queen into the Noon Queen. Which, if you're still having trouble with metaphors, means it's going to fry her something good. There's just one little catch."

The Duke gave the hilt a tug and groaned.

"See, Razz, this sword can only be pulled out by the bravest soul in all the sky. Now, I'm no slouch in the bravery department, or any other department for that matter. But the thing is, there's a whole bunch of knights out there fighting Midnight even though they've got no chance. That's damn brave, and while they're around, I've got no way to use this thing. But, if their castle comes crashing down, and all the knights with it..."

"Then you're the bravest, boss?"

"Well, there might be a few stragglers to deal with." The Duke gripped the hilt with both hands and pulled repeatedly, gasping for breath before he continued. "But the basic idea's clear enough. Get rid of the competition, pull out the sword, take care of Midnight, rule the skies. Simple plan, and once Six For Gold's out of the picture, it'll be a lot closer to coming true."

Razz scratched her head.

"I think I get it, except for one thing. If there's still any brave guys left after the knights are gone, how are we gonna find 'em?"

The Duke burst out into laughter.

"Razz, honey, it's easy to find brave guys. All you gotta do is go out cruisin', make it clear you're lookin' for a fight, and see who turns up. And as it happens, I'm about to have a fine new ride for cruisin' in. I tell you, this day just keeps getting better and better."
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
The group looked on with slack-jawed expressions as two strangers dazedly tumbled out of the beanstalk boat. The duo was…eclectic to say the least, consisting of a purple-clad princess and for some reason, a gigantic jello-lizard most people recognized as Sen. Sen was wearing a hat, holding a balloon, and seemingly contemplating murder more than usual. The sheer awkwardness was almost tangible until something lit up in the princess’s eyes.


Steven found himself in the arms of princess, which he immediately recognized as his friend, Violet. At this revelation, his heart fluttered and on reflex, he reciprocated the embrace. They held each other for a long time, head on each other’s shoulders in knowing silence. Steven was ecstatic, but there was a falling feeling as he realized his brief happiness was merely a matchstick in the joyless void of the knowledge he learned from Sruix. He pulled away.

“Violet! I—”

“Alright, alright. Enough with the friendship-talk,” Sen clumsily stepped forward. “Me and Vi here are going to kill the Midnight Queen because we can. Now I don’t particularly care about you jerks but you better join us or leave us. If you try to stop us, you are welcome to try, but you’re going to have go through these babies.”

Not-quite Sen pulled up a hand and showed out long, creepy, and most importantly, how potentially pain-inducing their claws were. Jacob was nonplussed.

“What, surprised?” Sen sneered.

“I never knew a bloody lizard was so…articulate.”

“Hmph, the fact I could talk is the least impressive thing about me. I’m the freaking gardener of the apocalypse. I am neither plant nor animal. I can bisect a man with my feet-hands. I am literally bigger than you, and the fact I could speak. SPEAK? That seems to impress you more than anything else about me.”


“Or the urgency we have in hand. Come on, you do realize we have a dragon to kill? I am frankly insulted at your priorities.”

“What a coincidence,” Jacob raised a suspicious eyebrow. “We were thinking about the same thing too.”

“Nice, nice. More dead-meat for the Midnight. I suppose this is an alliance then? A deal?”


“Good, good,” Sen gave a cursory glance at the basements and its inhabitants. Haphazardly placed cages full of chimerical abominations. Sen immediately recognized them to be former royalty, twisted at the sadistic whims of the Midnight Queen. The sight made their blood boil as he still felt a connection with these wretched monster. They were still their kin after all and they’ll never get their comeuppance. But wait, that just gave them a good idea…

“You jerks go ahead, I’ll stay here.”

“A couple minutes ago, you just said you want to fight the Midnight Queen with us,” the mercenary sneered. “I suppose it is you who did not get their priorities straight?”

“No, I do. I have my priorities. And a plan in order.”

Sen clambered past the group, making sure to shove Jacob because why not. As they went past, they could see Violet glowering at them. Her cheeks sunk in and her lips bunched together in annoyance. Violet had realized the ruse they pulled over everyone’s eyes and not exactly happy about their little stunt. Sen’s smile got even eviler and teethier when they saw that. Violet had some pretty good plans, but Scarlet could make it better.


The group arrived to unpleasant stillness. On a crimson throne, there was Midnight in all her draconic majesty. She was currently in the process of relieving something of their limbs. As soon as she heard the footsteps, she looked up surprised. Surprise that was soon obsoleted by extreme annoyance as soon as she remembered. Who. They. Were.

“Oh, look what we have here, two heroes and their pets. Almost cute,” she forced a chuckle, anger seething behind her jagged teeth. “Surrender now and maybe I’ll play nice. If you try to play hero, well…”

Midnight threw something at Steven. Violet leapt forward to parry on reflex. She was confused by the squelching for moment, a mystery soon solved by the slow realization that she was hands deep inside the ragged end of an armored torso. She screamed and jerk back in instinct as what remained of the thing unceremoniously went down with a wet thud.

Violet looked at her blade. It trickled with slick, slippery grey, coating the bell guard and her hands. Her trembling, trembling hands. She didn’t know what to feel, but the feeling was certainly not positive.

“You--Was that even necessary?”

Hmmmmmmnah. I just wanted to see your fear once more” Midnight stood up, seemingly to grow large and menacing. “You can’t exactly frighten a corpse.”

You--. Steven, help me! We have to kill her!”

“I do not recommend it.”

Steven turned around and saw that Sruix had placed a gloved hand on his shoulder. Sruix had an unreadable expression. His glasses were cracked and dirty but the dim glowing of his eyes told all Steven needed – a warning.

“G-Get away! I know what I’m doing!”

“I’m trying to help. No vagueness. No hidden strings. No ridiculous parlor tricks. I have to tell you three things – you are not a contestant anymore, you are definitely not prepared, but most importantly, you have a future ahead of you.”

Steven struggled to get away, but Sruix had an iron grip on his shoulder. The ex-gentleman violently turned Steven around so they can see face-to-face. Steven could see faint desperation lacing the urgency of his clenched teeth.

“Please…just, do not fight Midnight Queen. You will not win – you don’t even have a weapon for fuck’s sake. You are definitely going to die. It is going to be sad and all, but the worst part is it is going to be meaningless. It definitely won’t help us and it is definitely not going to get out this madness.”


“Because your gloves, your damn gloves.” Sruix made a forceful motion at Steven’s hands. “Your gloves are a core part of your identity in this entertainment. Without your gloves, you’re just a human. You’re boring. You’re nothing. You do not interest the organizers that may be.”

Sruix sighed, excess air going between his teeth.

“Plus…do you not care about Violet? Think of it, you and her in a nice surfacebound cottage. Or Kingdom, if you’re feeling ambitious. No dragon and certainly none of this gladiatorial nonsense. No suffering and strife until the last of your peaceful days...”

Steven looked at Violet and had a cascade of emotions. He gotten used to feeling insignificant since the revelation that every factor of his life was just a string of coincidences pre-planned by otherworldly forces to turn him into a weapon against the tyranny of the Elephanzor. But that’s all gone to shit. He has nothing. He is nothing. He’s just a homeless wanderer in the void of the multiverse. But Violet? She had potential. He despaired, she hoped. Her determination was so…enviable.

He saw that the Midnight Queen was lunging towards Violet. Her jaws slavering and wreathed with jagged teeth.

He ran ahead.

“Steven what you’re—”

Violet felt something wet and coppery-smelling splatter all over her. She saw the reptilian eyes of the Midnight Queen glared back in shock. In shock? She wondered if the Queen was so close and so surprised, why she did not feel any pain. When she looked down, her breath caught in her throat and her hair stood on her skin.

Steven, or what was left of him, anyway - sheared between the teeth of the Midnight Queen into rancid paste. The only thing left intact was his head and his left arm. His head had a stunned expression as though he was only aware just now what’s going on. He tried to mouth something at Violet but the bit of life he had went away as soon as the arm dropped out of the dragon’s lips.

Ugh,” the Midnight Queen growled. "Your boyfriend tastes terrible."

Violet stood there in stunned silence before flying into a screaming rage. She proceeded to slash at the dragon’s head, which proved nigh-impregnable until she drove her sabre into one of the Queen’s eye.

BITCH,” the dragon shrieked, flapping and stamping around in pain. “YOU TOOK OUT MY GOOD EYE.”

“I guess you didn’t see that coming,” Jacob smirked. He started to hum and flicker. “Alright guys, we got a scaly beastie to take down. Those who cannot fight, stay away. Those who can fight. Aim for her eyes. Or her vulnerables, whichever is easier to reach. She is tough but she feels pain. I think we got the advantage here, if we can take it.”


Midnight Queen was currently squaring off with the princess and the time knight. She certainly had not noticed Lionel now and that suited him fine. He slunk behind. Finding purchase on some rubble, he slowly climbed to a height that allowed him to see everything. The dragon looked small and the figures that darted between her legs even smaller.

Look at them. Like ants.

Lionel blinked.

They’re never going to live.


You don’t care about them.

Yeah, maybe.



Wait, what are you— Lionel shrugged off the voice of his father. Too often he heeded his word, and for once he wanted a chance of his own. Of redemption and glory. He slipped down a handy shortcut that brought him near the back of the draconic queen. He could hear the clash of blade against scale as he gotten closer and closer. Just needed to climb on the dragon. Are you shitting me. Juice up his arm. Do you have a death wish. Apply a healthy amount of kilovolts to the base of her neck and for once, he—

—had the misfortune to bump into Jacob.

“Out of my way, lad.”

Suddenly, pain. White hot pain. Compounded by the psychic screaming of his father. Lionel could look in stupefied horror as he was aware of sudden wetness trickling down his chest. Yessire, that certainly is blood. A quick test with his slowly numbing fingers confirmed his theory. He would had laugh, but he was getting cold and the vertigo was certainly not helping.


Ah, that woman. Lionel never thought that annoyance had the gall to come to his defense. He was almost appreciative.

“J-Jacob, you big meanie. He was helping!”

“Well, if he was trying to help, he shouldn’t have been such a clumsy oaf.” Lionel winced as a broadsword the width of his head slipped into his shoulder. Icy spikes of pain travelled to his freezing extremities. “Besides, he’s a big danger to everyone involved.” A dismissive sniff. “As far as everything goes, I did everyone a favor.”

“You-you can’t just assume things!”

“Assumption? You take that hypocrisy back. I don’t assume things. You assume things. You assume that everyone is your best friend. And I hate to break it to you, that’s not how the world—gah.

A clawed hand spirited away the mercenary. From Lionel’s spread-eagled position, Jacob’s struggles reminded him of a ragdoll to the wind. This brought him no end of amusement, even with the cacophonous screeching of the worm in the background. With the last of his energy, Lionel only regretted not stay consciousness any longer – he really wanted to see Jacob converted into dragon-shit.


“More talk than sense, huh?” Midnight sneered.

The armored figure fit neatly into her calloused palms. He glared and started to flicker and hum, reverberations vibrating down her knuckles. Midnight was mildly impressed. She gave him a brief squeeze. There was a burst of energy and the stink of ozone, but he was still there, even more disheveled and annoyed than usual. As much as Midnight enjoyed to see him struggle, all good things must come to the end. She dealt the final blow.

Or would have if her arm was not stuck. Her arm was covered in a bundle of matted wool. The all too distinct shade of red and the click-clackity-clack-clack banished her doubts. She knew who it was, but the certainity made her felt a rare and hated emotion – dread.

“Hey bitch.”

Midnight looked up. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a mountain of a monster suddenly materialized too close for comfort. Said monster was both carapaced and caprine, furiously converting its ever-growing beard into a pile of half-formed minions. Midnight recognized it as the former Scarlet Queen. It also recognized her.

It bleated angrily. And gave her a mighty headbutt. She dropped the armored man on reflex.

“Yes. Yes! Yeeees!” A tiny lizard-bird she hadn’t saw before cackled with glee, bobbing with such vigor that the hat could barely cling onto its forehead. “The cavalry’s here and revenge has never been so sweet!"

Chimerical abominations of all shape and size flooded out of the entrance. A vortex of fur, scale, and skin. A sea of countless limb, jutting in alien directions, confounding her reflexes. They were many. They were determined. But they were weak. They can’t beat her. She bit, scratch, and tore, determined not to lose to the failures she painstakingly separated from her successes. She can’t lose. That was inconceivable.

“What are you even trying to do?” Midnight shrieked. “Are you trying to teach me a lesson?”

“Nah,” it shrugged. “Just providing a distraction.”

Midnight was so intent on her victory that she did not realize that Violet slipped into her blind-side until the adrenaline wore off. She was painstakingly aware of a sabre drove between her adamantine scales. The throbbing, oozing pain indicated it hit a vital spot. It made her felt mortal, insignificant. She hated it.

“B-bastard.” The Queen gurgled. She attempted to swipe at Violet, but the princess was too fast and her limbs and fading consciousness was too slow. She made a few lunges before her knees finally buckled behind her weight. Midnight fell with a mighty crash and she laid there defeated, too aware of her inevitable fate. She had an epiphany that since she died blind-eye up, at least she'll never witness the smug countenance of the victors. Oddly satisfied, the Queen exhaled her last breath.

Midnight was dead.
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
Eryntse was tangled up in the Red Monster's luxuriant beard, giggling. She would've dearly loved to play the wildest game of pattycake these Skies had ever seen with the creature, but she was a princess and princesses weren't supposed to have anything upwards of two boring hands. Jacob was fending off a blueglass orb, plated and shuttered like the business end of a hermit crab after store hours had concluded. It was either trying to be friendly or trying to eat his sword, and neither were appreciated when he had a Blitz to subdue. "Just because they helped us with the dragon, doesn't mean these things are-" - he had to pause here to nudge away the Hermit Crorb - "safe."

Sen waved an airy claw as they relaxed atop Big Red, overwhelmingly leg like a particularly green baby heron. "Her name's Coquelicot," Sen said to Eryntse, like that served as any explanation. “She’s chill, and the rest would quite suffice if you could send them home with that hole-sword of yours.”

“Unless one of these creatures had - oof - a past life as an espresso machine, that’s beyond my immediate capabilities,” said the knight, closing a portal in the wall once it stopped expelling rubble. He grabbed Blitz more-or-less gently by the ankle, and got to dragging him out. “Me and this guy - and that, uh, princess in the goatee there, we’ve got a more immediate problem.”

Jacob frowned. “You as well, if you’re actually the you I’m thinking of. On that though, my curiosity will just have to wait.”

Sen quit baring his teeth for a goddamn second, which almost managed to convey a serious expression. “You’re talking about the fight. Our fight.”

“Noooooooo please don’t fight,” wheedled Eryntse. Sen snorted, clattered down the Red Queenbeast’s flank, getting right into Eryntse’s personal space and a faceful of queenbeard for his trouble.

“Who said anything about fighting?” sneered the fruit. “Wasn’t me, and totally wasn’t that shortstack with the sword there going in to finish the job he started.”

“Can we go back to you not talking?”

“H-hey! Leave Blitz alone!”

Eryntse scuttled over, quite firmly planting herself in front of Blitz. There was rather more of her than Jacob could quite take in, even under all the ribbons and tulle, something unnerving that bade the mercenary unclench his sword-hilt. “Fine. You can take care of him, but that means take care of him. If he gets up and murders me, it’s on you.”

Blitz summarily babysat, Jacob batted a few beastly admirers aside and picked his way around Midnight’s corpse, to where Violet was standing vigil with a gang of gelatinous mauve urchins. One cradled in her arms whipped out a pseudopod, tapping her on the shoulder plap-plap. She turned around.

“Oh. Hello.”

The creature slipped from her grip, resuming Violet’s place in the circle around Steven. Another coughed up her sword into a waiting hand. “Brave hero from afar-”

“Please, let’s not do that.”

Violet sighed with relief. “Yeah, ok. I was definitely not planning to speak on behalf of the entire Skies when I woke up this morning. I’m sure Jonquil or Pearl could provide, if they think to leave the tower at some point. Seriously though, thank you for your help. My queendom isn’t far from here if there’s anything you need, although I suppose I don’t know how long you’ll be-”

“On that note - and thank you, I’ll fervently pray for five goddamn minutes where I can take you up on that - I was actually here to check up on him.”

Violet gripped her sword a little tighter. “Steven? Why?”

The merc thought long and hard about a delicate way to broach the subject. “He is dead, right?”

“Um, yes?” The queen, aggrieved, looked Jacob up and down, gesturing at his own dragonproof equipment as she went. “I don’t know if you noticed but he threw himself at Midnight with no armor, no weapon, he didn’t even have his gloves and seriously what is your problem?” She pointed an accusing finger at the broadsword, which Jacob had been leaning on to keep his hands free. “You know that’s bad for the point, right?”

“It’s a magic sword,” Jacob somehow refrained from saying. Instead:

“My problem. If Steven’s dead, may he rest in peace, then you and I shouldn’t be having this-” Jacob stopped, turned, scanned the cacophonous gathering; Sen froze mid-skulk and took a very sudden interest in the dragon corpse he was sneaking around. “-conversation. Which, actually, could we continue it somewhere private?”

“If I might interrupt-”

Jacob whirled around faster than Violet could react, his sword upon a cleaving arc for her head. Sruix, standing in the blind spot behind her, blocked the blade with a raised hand.

There was a tense moment where nobody moved, other than the beastly crowd (making enough collective noise that none of the three heard Sen go
“oooooooooooooooh shit.”) “Are you here,” asked Jacob, leaning into his sword (however ineffectual) “to gloat, patronise, or explain?”

“The last one, I’m hoping. The former is more the purview of the man I’m here to warn you about.”

“And the second?”

Sruix shrugged. “Eh, we take turns on that one.”
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
The Royals had retreated to their tower well before the fighting began, learning of the assault from a throng of distressed minions who'd joined them to take shelter. It was a clanking once-monarch, a dozen suits of armor joined into a distinctly un-knightly agglomeration, which tore down the door and fairly terrorised everyone in its search for the Yellow Queen.

Its gold-leaf scales hummed as Jonquil stepped forward. She turned to the others, disbelieving.

“Midnight’s dead.”


“Your battle’s still underway?”

“Most assuredly,” said Sruix. A pause. “Pronouns notwithstanding.”

“Blitz. Me. The princess. Sen. And, despite all recent evidence to the contrary, Steven.” Violet’s hand clenched about her sword hilt. “Last I checked.”

“We really haven’t the time,” sighed the former Grandmaster, “for you to ‘detective’ this out. It’s Talis.”

The knight just frowned, so Sruix got as far as “He’s-” before Jacob waved a hand.

“No, you shut up. Ceding to us mortals a turn to talk is hopefully torture for you, so it’s win-win if I try enforce some semblance of courtesy into this discussion.” His fingers drummed at the hilt of his sword, onetwothree-four, onetwothree-four, before he heaved a great sigh and kneaded at the ol’ temples Templar. “I’m actually goddamn doing this.” Jacob gazed upon the riot of a throneroom; then, to the Purple Queen: “I apologise, your majesty, in most situations I try for introductions before I carve someone’s head off.”

“It’s Violet. Seriously, you can drop it with the formalities.”

“Jacob Helix. It’s a, and would be my, pleasure. Now, could you - would you - tell me, am I going to have to fight any of these characters in the next fifteen minutes?”

Jacob eased off his sword, pointing it at the queenbeasts milling about. Violet glanced at Sruix. The Grandmaster sulked.
“I wouldn’t think so, no. These are barely all the transformed royals who were trapped in the dungeon; she must’ve only broken out those with presence of mind still enough to help fight Midnight.”

“"Sh-? No, no. That can wait.” Jacob stared into Sruix’s soul like it was a camera on the set of the Office. “Really. I promise.”


“Talis,” Jacob physically shoved Sruix in the face with his gauntlet here, “had - has - Steven’s gloves. From Steven’s, ah, condition, you'd only assume he somehow co-opted Steven’s status as a contestant.” Jacob was pleased to still feel a Grandmaster's face underneath a handful of hair, and to this he directed: "If that's still and option, I've got a nice sword here with your name on it.

Sruix stepped from Jacob's grasp with no obvious moment of detachment.
"Oh, yes, it would be splendid if it were that simple. Just allow me to seize control of your Master-work reserves of power I completely forgot about when hiring you. Steven - his gloves - were a special case, though one I'd doubt Talis had intended for this eventuality. You say you met him?"

"Right. The dungeons. Stuck to interrupting my train of thought just the once; almost makes me forgive him for shoving me down a hole.. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what his angle was at the time - I was busy, Eryntse, right?”

A growl from the rubble, next to where Blitz was still lying unconscious. Kind of burbly and cute; rather princessly as growls go. Acknowledgement enough. “Great. Actually, Eryntse, can you bring Blitz and yourself this way a little? Lovely. Thank you.”

“And so.” intoned Jacob, with as little enthusiasm as possible. “We have an unlikely team of heroes, with nary a moment to catch their goddamn breath after slaying the monster of the week, and an insufferably theatrical antagonist who thus far has been content to needle us from the shadows. Anyone want to take a stab at what happens next?”

“They, um… all lived happily ever after?”

CRASH. Jacob sighed as he drew his broadsword. Vines snaked through the high windows and tore down the wall. The room dimmed, fresh egresses eclipsed by a hulking form. Sen jabbered angrily.
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
The monstrosity descended with an ominous hum, which didn’t really bother Eryntse until she realized it sounded more feminine and lively than a conventional engine. It was vaguely ship-like in the distance and as it came close, it was most definitely a ship? Uh? Yay?

Eryntse honestly found it hard to call it a ship. There was a sleek-like quality to it that reminded her more of an enormous monster-whale, erratic fins included, than a ship fantastic. Plus, the planks in this ship appeared to be monsters, whole-ones that are somehow squished into two-by-four rectangles. Some of planks are wriggling – no, struggling! – in ways that made her think of the disturbing implications involved in the production of this war-crimes vehicle. The entire aesthetic of the atrocity reminded her of a many-layered cake, if the cake could levitate and was entirely made out of meat.

It was really gross, to be honest.

There was some douchebag observing them, not that Eryntse – with her underdeveloped propensity for malice – had a capacity to call him that. The combination of monocle, goatee, and white gloves screamed supervillain, a ridiculous impression if it were not for the fact he looked forward to the possibility of murdering each and every one of them on the castle, nice and slow.

“Is this really necessary?” Eryntse asked somewhat naively. She felt pretty dumb saying that, and even dumber for hoping that there is some part of him would heed her sincerity, leave everyone alone, and maybe go on a redemption quest or something.

Talis responded with a disgusted expression and fiddling with something in his hands. Planks peeled partway off the whaleship and its shaped squashed and deformed, reconstituting into monster heads of all shapes and sizes. “kiillllllll me,” an extremely anguished-looking gargoyle managed to choke out before she and the others upchucked raw magic of all types and colors onto the tower.

Eryntse instinctively coiled from the roiling salvo. Her first instinct was to hide in the nearest excuse of a shelter, which harmonized horribly with her objective to save Blitz. She soon realized it was a bad idea to dawdle on priorities when the floor gave away to empty air. This is the worst! Eryntse whined introspectively as the sensation of freefall enveloped her. The place is so dangerous. The weather is so bad. The people are so…mean. She was so preoccupied with the cruelty of the world and her inability to save Blitz that she didn’t realize a certain balloon was floating towards her.


Scarlet/“Sen” was a little annoyed that a good chunk of the castle was completely disintegrated, especially since she had fancied taking the place to herself, maybe spruce it up with a new coat of paint, or even install a few personal renovations, but she had bigger fish to fry. The emptiness of the surroundings didn’t really bother her too much, even with two losers (Violet and Sruix) on her back, especially since she was – for the lack of the better word – “vine-surfing.” The stalk, anchored to the ruins of the castle, extended beneath each clawed step. Her makeshift staircase rapidly stretching towards the whaleship. She felt giddy with power and warm with the satisfaction at her own cleverness. This body was so awesome.

“I hate this,” Jacob said as he was getting the most intense cardio of his life, much to the sadistic glee of Senlet. She hoped (just a little) he would pass out and fall down because it would be hilarious.

“Haha, your legs are so short.”

“Well, that’s because you’re a bloody—incoming bastard.”

The whaleship burst out of the grey mists, revealing a horrified and definitely alive mermaid princess attached to the peak of the hull like a figurehead. The ship made a wide turn, exposing the broadside. A multitude of monster heads proceeded to pop out like earthworms after a heavy rain. There was a multitude of “i’m sorry i’m sorry i’m sorry” overlapping each other like a disgustingly pitiful chorus. The chorus crescendo’d into a much less pleasant noise of hacking and belching as yet another wave of wild arcane energy bathed the vines.

The magic harmlessly went past them and around them, disintegrating the vines. Of course, Talis would target at the vines. The pragmatism of those actions was almost admirable if the gravity of the situation wasn’t so concerning. As the whaleship disappeared into the clouds, Senlet thoughtfully tapped at her chin, deaf to the screaming and profanities of her two passengers plus a bearded swordsman. She couldn’t think of any immediate Good Ideas (or Bad Ideas, as Violet called them). This was concerning.

It was small mercy that for all the fantastical things that happen in Magpie Skies, the native gravity ensured the same rate of downwards acceleration, whether you were a gaggle of wayward gladiators or a corpse of a certain dragon rapidly coming to view. It grew larger and larger until it was comfortably level with the falling party. The mountain of worm-food looked worse for wear, what with the onset rigor mortis, multiple stab wounds, and the missing eye. However, Scarlet was getting Good Ideas, really Good Ideas.

Violet realized that but didn’t look happy at the realization.

“Jacob! You jackass! Get us over there!”

Jacob rolled his eyes, not even giving Sen a courtesy of a dirty look. However, Sen knew Jacob had the wisdom to realize that a single bad idea was better than no ideas at all, especially in the face of immediate death. “Fine, get into a circle. Tell campfire stories. Sing happy songs.”

The members linked hands together, much to the reluctance of pretty much everyone.


A flash of chrono-cyan wreathed around the dragon’s head, rattling as though it was in throes of supernatural possession. The entirety of the dragon was wrapped in and warped by alien foliage. Bones creaked and snapped as the vines readjusted them to relative normalcy. Gelatinous mushroom-caps interlocked like scales over bald patches. A sheen of algae weaved between the tears of wing-membranes. There was a sickly green mist as something ugly and poisonous gurgled in its throat. The final product was almost aesthetically pleasing, a perfect synergy between life and death.

Senlet was filled with sharp-feeling glee. Her compatriots felt otherwise.

Sruix looked a little green around the gills. “I…I have no words.”

God! I’m tired.” Jacob groused, he flumphed on a patch of wet moss.

“Scarlet,” Violet mumbled not-so-approvingly, pinching her temples. “I can’t believe you are puppeteering Midnight Queen’s corpse like a freaking cart. I mean I know she was a complete and actual monster but seriously?”

“Eh, the corpse wasn’t going to be useful otherwise. Also, she’s a dick.”

“Fair enough…” Violet didn’t really sound too convinced. “I guess.”

Soon, a red balloon with a saggy-pink sausage erratically bobbed into view. It’s Merlot! And Eryntse, she guessed. Merlot bobbed haphazardly, straining visibly. She unceremoniously dumped the creature along with the others, temporarily misbalancing the precarious stability of the dragon. Scarlet could feel her pin-teeth rattle as the entirety of the corpse wobbled like a weed-decorated aspic.

“’Ey, Scarlet,” Merlot nodded a telepathic greeting. “Lady’s sad.”

“I need a hug…” Eryntse wheedled.

“Oh for fuck’s sake—“ Sen wasn’t too happy about the additional passenger. “SRUIX, COMFORT HER.”

Sruix reluctantly sidled close and hugged Eryntse, who proceeded to hug him back with all six pairs of her arms and bawl wet, fat tears. The former grandmaster awkwardly patted on (what was probably the equivalent of) her shoulder.

“Uh, there, there, it’s okay to let it out,” it was obvious that Sruix had little experience on how to comfort giant pink worms. “It’s okay to be sad.”

“UGH,” Jacob kicked his legs in frustration and covered his eyes with the crook of his elbow. “Let’s go see if him dying ends the round, huh?”

The plant-dragon-zombie lurched forward, dribbling acid and shedding leaves. Like the world’s most horrifying tortoise, it slowly and steadily ambled into the clouds, almost eager to meet an equally horrifying abomination as a worthy opponent.
RE: The Battle Majestic (Round 4 - Magpie Skies)
“Bring us closer.”

The dracolichen swung around. The algae-laden wings groaning as they filled with air. The passengers clung on for dear life as they dove into the clouds, wind whipping through their hair and filling their ears. Eventually, the whaleship – abominable yet dangerous – bobbed into the horizon.

“Gonna,” Scarlet muttered. She seemed less green than usual. “Gonna ram the stupid ship with my dragon.”

“Yeah,” Violet was not amused. “No.”

Violet was a little concerned though. Scarlet seemed to be get less and less peppy the more time they spent on the dragon. Perhaps there was a finite amount of energy in the body she was currently possessing? Violet was…gladly concerned about that theory. The plant monster was capable of horrific things and the fact it might have a power cap was comforting, to say the least. Not that she would tell Scarlet.

“She’s right,” Jacob said. “Best we go as individuals.”

“Ugh,” Scarlet still mustered enough energy to roll her eyes. “Fine.

The whaleship got closer and closer, until they all could see Talis observing right back at them. Jacob made some gestures and made arcane utterances, before he leapt off the dragon. Violet watched as the mercenary got smaller and smaller. She steeled herself to do the same, but first, first, she’ll ask Scarlet to fly closer.


Talis held his breath as Jacob landed on the ship, the descent made more heavenly with the shimmering stasis bubble. The chronoknight was worse for wear –all scratches and dents – and his humorless expression indicated he meant business. The business of murder. Talis let himself a giggle –

– before Jacob was suddenly close to him, his determination and implacable fury palpable. The blade went in a dangerous arc and Talis could barely leap out of the way before the point buried itself into the grain of the transmogrified wood. The planks, in response, twisted and turned, braiding into a facsimile of mouth that swallowed the time-traveller’s sword. Jacob looked mildly horrified.

“What’s a bearded swordsman without a sword?” Talis sneered.

Jacob immediately decked him in the face. Talis clumsily fell to the ground and before he could even manage out a swear, the time-traveller pounced on him. They briefly struggled against each other, arms interlocking, before Talis managed to muster up enough focus to snap his fingers.

Jacob’s eyes bludged out as the space between them exploded. His breastplate crumpled inwards and Jacob sailed backwards, limbs flailing. The strength of the explosion was such that the mercenary violently skipped across the platform before sliding to a halt. Talis gestured with his right hand. The ropes and planks slithered on their own accord and wrapped around Jacob, effectively immobilizing him. He primed the more sinister of the gloves.

“Any last words?”

“V-violet.” Jacob wheezed.

Talis swiftly turned around and nearly got a purple foot in his face for all his troubles. Violet had disembarked from the dragon (courtesy of a vine) and currently was doing her best to hack him into pieces, and he could see – at the corner of his eyes – Jacob blinking out of his restraints, wrenching out his sword. Another setback. Talis could feel each one of them pushing him further and further from his goal into the inescapable void of failure. Helplessness.

He hated that feeling.


“We’re falling! We’re falling!”

Scarlet growled in annoyance but the pink worm was right. The leaves were shriveling up and the branches unmade themselves. The wing-membranes were growing thin – she didn’t need to look back to realize holes were starting to form – fast. Their dragon was losing attitude, at an alarming rate no less, and the princess was not particular wanting to test if she could survive the fall.

“Get. Get out of the way.” Scarlet caught a whiff of fragrance as something big and pillowy was pushed aside. Sruix, in his bespectacled glory, carefully stood up and grabbed at the browning vines. Scarlet felt a burgeoning alertness chipping away at her fatigue. She glared at the Gentleman, wondering what suspicious sorcery he had done.

“I’m helping,” Sruix snarled. “I can only provide enough juice for one action. One. Action. Choose wisely.”

“You mean--?”

“Yes.” A pause. “Really.”

Scarlet laughed with unprincess-like glee as she mentally pulled up the reins of the rejuvenated dragon and sped towards their whaleship. Clouds bleeding into smears. Their target seemed to be dimly aware, the hull pulling itself apart into a yawning maw, resplendent with plank-fangs and the groans of the trapped souls. Eryntse’s screams reached an ear-splitting crescendo and Scarlet swore she could hear her voice break microseconds before impact.


“You,” Talis swallowed. “You need me.”

Jacob responded by blinking closer. Roughshod columns rose like weeds but the mercenary made quick work of them. His stony countenance had transformed to annoyance – as though Talis was wasting his time. As though Talis was not enough of a challenge.

“I was here first. I was here longer than you – ”

Talis barely dodged a purple-colored blade. He survived three harrowing swings before his other opponent was too fatigued to continue. His other opponent in question was Violet. He remembered how he tricked her. Judging from the fire of her eyes, it seemed she remembered too.

“Sorry, mate,” Jacob swung at him again. “You’re convenient.”

Convenient? There’s easier targets to kill and forget about – ”


“That woman – ”


“ – the plant monster – ”

“You’re afraid of death, are you?”

“Afraid? AFRAID?" The question caught him off guard. "How can I be afraid if – ”

There was a sickening crunch as the undead dragon collided with the whaleship. The floor buckled as the planks undone themselves. The combatants were knocked prone but one did not need to stand to realize the plant monster angrily jabbering at her own impulsive decision, other new passengers, and the fact they were pummeling into freefall. Again.


Violet stood up. The blade was cool and heavy in her hand. She narrowed her eyes at the recovering Talis and frowned.

“You tricked me,” Violet snarled.

“You are ignorant. You are naïve,” Talis had gathered his bravado again. He deftly blocked the sword with his right hand. Red rust spiderwebbed through the blade. There was sort of an ugly beauty to it. “But choices are choices. You will have to live with the consequences.”

“You tricked me.” Tears started to well in her eyes. “You never told me how powerful the gloves were. You made this wretched ship. You took my future. You took the life. The life of – ”


Violet leapt backwards as something exploded. She raised her arm, feeling the sting of the embedding shrapnel and the stench of metal. She shook the rust from her eyes as she realized her weapon reduced to a pommel. She faced a raised hand.

“Steven? Is that what you are fighting for?” Talis sneered. “Foolish girl. The relationship you had is merely a series of animal impulses and arbitrary coincidences. Life is short. One must be cruel to survive and I intend to do so. It was a shame you were so generous with your trust.”

Talis pressed his middle finger and thumb together. Violet knew what was going to happen. She bared her teeth, and held her pommel defensively.

“Although it had certainly made things easier for me.”

Violet was ready to face her maker. She closed her eyes –

- and felt a hand on her bleeding forearm.

“ – Sruix?”

Violet’s eyes snapped open. There was the Gentleman. His other hand was wrapped firmly around Talis’s left hand. Sruix’s outfit seen better days but he still managed to look formidable despite his fallen nature. His spectacles glimmering ominously, as he carefully scrutinized the two combatants.

“Talis, you are out of control,” Sruix said, slowly, as though he was carefully choosing his words. “The gloves, the ship. You have lost your sight.”

“Let. Let me go,” Talis pulled at his hand, encouraging his opposite to further tighten his grip. “I can kill you too, you know – ”

“Talis, you do realize you and I are cut from the same cloth. Anything you can do,” Sruix frowned. “I can do too.”

Talis’s eyes widened. “You won’t.”

Sruix said nothing, but they felt something. Talis shrieked and struggled, but Violet could not see it. All she saw brilliance, beautiful and bright like facets of a perfectly cut amethyst, as the otherworldly magic surged behind her eyes. She felt enchantments crawling through her veins and dancing at the edge of her mind. For a brief moment, she was one with the universe – no, multiverse, and she could see the glimpse of Steven Taylor, her first and only friend, walking into the blinding horizon.


“Hey Pa, what should we do with this tree.”

Kollskeg the Unarmored shrugged. The alien seed had rapidly grown into a smallish tree. It was foreign and translucent and by all means, he should call it unnatural but the goats seemed to be developing a culinary fondness for it. The Chieftain quietly approved of whatever fed the goats, even if it likely came the worse end of that dragon.

“Pa, what should we do with…these guys.”

Kollskeg shrugged again, more empathetically to express his confusion. Strange and novel visitors had recently walked over the hill to their village. They consisted of identical knights who referred themselves as numbers and chimeric patchwork blobs the hue of setting sun. The leader, who referred to himself as “Eight,” had recently inquired him if he could stay in their humble village. Kollskeg was like why not. They seemed to have a good head upon their shoulders. Plus, they could totally help him slay more dragons.

“Pa, what should we do with that dragon?”

Kollskeg turned around and there was a sight to behold. An enormous dragon-like creature. Vines crawled across its skin like rich ore and their entirety was dappled with vibrant-colored hues. The wings were enormous and angelic, though made of planks instead of feathers. An entirely purple person, dressed in royal finery, stared at her white-gloved hands. She looked despondent as she lightly touched her steed with her left hand.

The dragon collapsed into a heap of compost and royalty. The princesses and queens screamed in disgust and tumbled away, revealing an enormous, plant-studded dragon corpse in the process of rigor mortis. Kollskeg’s mouth started to water at the thought of roast dragon.

But the thought didn’t last as he saw a sprinter, wearing only a singular lense and an expression of absolute anger and shame. He hefted his axe, wondering if he should really go after this individual or not.

“Don’t.” Kollskeg felt a rubbery claw on his shoulder. It was that strange dragon, although for some reason it was wearing a wide-brimmed hat and was accompanied by a mincing pink worm. There was an uncharacteristic annoyance alight on its snub-nosed face. “Even. Try.