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Thread: [Iron League] The Dancing Stones

  1. #1
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    Revenant's Avatar

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    [Iron League] The Dancing Stones

    [Closed to Philomel and Shinsou Vaan Osiris]

    A flash of vertigo accompanied William’s transition from the real world to the Citadel’s magically created chamber. A handful of years had passed since William had been one of the arena’s regular combatants, long enough for him to lose the affinity that he’d had for the place. Back then he’d been in and out of the Citadel so many times that he wouldn’t have noticed the dizzying sensation, but like everything else with him, times had changed.

    A couple years wouldn’t mean much to most people. Sure there were those who lived active lives and could measure the difference of a couple years in leaps and bounds, but for the majority of Althanians, years passed in and out with little change. William was one of the former, a mover-and-shaker in the ways of the world, but even among that crowd he was an outlier. The last few years hung heavy on William’s shoulders. He’d experienced multiple events which had completely upended his existence one after another. No one could go through that amount of turbulence and come out unchanged, and William was no exception. In fact, he was still struggling to come to terms with exactly how much he’d changed and who he now was. The Citadel was his way of doing that.

    Straining himself physically had always been both mentally and emotionally cathartic for William. There was something that he found freeing about throwing himself headlong into a task, whatever it may be. Back in his time as a woodsman, he’d found solace in the ritual of felling a tree and then rendering it into something useful. Hours of repetition spent stripping a tree into precise, functional shapes left his mind free to turn over his problems.

    This practice had become even truer following William’s transformation into a living weapon. The act of violence freed him, however temporarily, from the constant state of rage and pain that he existed in. But that was part of the changes that he’d gone through. He’d mastered the spirits whirling within him and was no longer the mindless savage he’d been when he’d first set foot in the Citadel. No one guided his destiny anymore but himself, he’d seen to that. Now he just had to figure out what that destiny was.

    So it was that he found himself tracing the familiar paths through the streets of Radasanth. His mind clutched the problem tightly, unwilling to let it go but unable to make heads or tails of it. What he needed was to lose himself in the old ritual. He’d fight hard, focusing on the combat and letting his subconscious free itself to tackle its own issues. After all, everyone knew that there was no growth without conflict.
    Last edited by Revenant; 08-31-2017 at 08:58 PM.

  2. #2
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    Revenant's Avatar

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    The Citadel chamber that William had requested was one that he’d used before. An arena the Ai’Bron monks had dubbed the Dancing Stones. William had faced a fire mage the first time that the monks had given the chamber to him. He’d been impressed by the mechanics of the place and had always meant to have the monks build it for him a second time. Time and circumstances had prevented reuse of the Dancing Stones, but there were no obligations keeping him from it any further.

    Combatants would enter the arena on opposing sides, a standard feature of most of the Citadel’s prepared rooms. They would have the chance to prepare themselves or to conduct any other ritual preparation from a starting platform which faced their opponent across a field of swaying stone pillars. The field was large, designed to give the combatants ample room to dodge around one another. The pillars themselves were tightly packed together, at least initially. All that changed once weight, any weight, touched one of the pillars. This event would cause that pillar to descend, falling away from the top of the field. The descent would be slow at first, but would increase in speed the longer that the weight stayed on it. Once a pillar started dropping there was no way to stop it, and each pillar would continue to drop for twenty feet or so before completely falling away into nothingness. The monks considered anyone who was trapped on a pillar when it fell away to be the loser, unless somehow both combatants managed to fall away at the same time. William hadn’t asked if that had ever occurred.

    But the precarious nature of the footing was only one of the reasons that William enjoyed the Dancing Stones arena. Another was that though field was large, it wasn’t endless. Sooner or later even skilled opponents would find themselves with fewer and fewer pillars to use as footing, and that footing would be farther and father apart. Furthermore, a violent wind whipped constantly across the arena and through the stalks of the pillars to discourage anyone attempting to use flight to avoid the stones. Anyone trying to fly in the arena would be sent violently crashing among the pillars if they were below the top plane of the field, or would be hurled out into the bright blue void around the pillars if they tried flying above it. Tempting either would be a gamble with more odds of losing than not. Fortunately for the combatants, the wind’s violence was kept to a minimum as long as they remained on the magically enchanted pillars themselves. Jumping from pillar to pillar, William knew, was also permitted.

    “This is perfect,” William said as he stepped, grinning, onto his platform. The biting wind brought tears to his glowing eyes despite the fact that the cold had no meaning to him. The vast field of pillars swayed gently in front of him and he knew that once he stepped out onto them there would be no time for thought of debate. The only thing that he’d have would be his instincts and the quick-paced staccato of action and reaction.

    William reached up and released the clasp on his cloak, allowing the savage wind to tear it out into the bright blue sky surrounding the field of pillars. Likewise he dropped the heavy dragon bone cleaver and titanium breastplate he wore, allowing them to fall into the nothingness beneath the field. They would only hinder him here.

    William grasped his warscythe tightly and let his transformative power flow through him as he waited for him opponent to arrive and take their place.

    It was time to fight.

  3. #3
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    Philomel's Avatar

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    The first thing she noticed was the skin-crawling wind.

    Like the genesis wind of an oncoming hurricane it whipped at high speeds and with a bite that could force the mightiest man to his knees. For a faun, thickly furred from the waist down, there was a natural protection for at least some of the body. Yet, it did not serve the rest of her humanoid form. Thus, bending down and trying her best to shelter against the doorframe that opened onto this empty stone dais, Philomel unwrapped part of her many-fabriced belt. Beside her the lithe, russet form of Veridian stalked, his body tense and alert - clearly he was having the same reaction to the wind as she. Fell weather had been their foe many times - and winds like this were always foreboding. They sang the arrival of a devious future, one to be wary of of that stank of deception and harm.

    Using part of her as a cover as she unfurled a length of fur and wrapped it around her neck, the golden eyes of the fox peered out over what seemed a large field. It was a land of emptiness, of a void that sank eternally in darkness, save for the stone pillars that stuck up like stalagmites from the gloom. Their tops were flat, and various grasses, dirts and rocks appeared on them - at least he and his companions would not be short of their element. Being the only land between them and an area in the distance that seemed identical, this place was dangerous and likely treacherous. One wrong footing would send any of them plummeting down into the endless nullity beyond.

    As Philomel wrapped more fabric around her face, covering her mouth and nose, he relayed this information to his beloved faun, showing her what he did through their immortal mental connection.

    Is there anyone else here? she asked, tying the last knot of the wool around her face.

    Veridian dared to take a step forward and test the wind. It buffetted harsh against his side, rippling over the red and white strands like a wave - but he found he could stand his ground. His lowness to the earth was his ally here, and the wind, though it was harsh, was not enough to knock him from his paws. The chill also was not enough to quell him, for he felt the fire, born of the tenth of a fire demon living within him, swarm to command and fill him with warmth.

    Staring through the cavitied plain he spied two other sizable stone plinths. One was empty, but the other had a being stride through the whispers of the breeze: a two-legged being, dark and mysterious and baring a strange, curved and wicked-looking weapon.

    He showed her what he saw. Philomel made a slight face but twisted around, now her purple hair caught back beneath the semi-mask she wore. Her horns protruded still, uncvoered and massive, ready to face their foe. Letting out a slow breath she thought about the best weapons in this situation, comparing the weight of the two hand-and-a-half swords on her back, to the crossbow at her side and the various daggers at her waist. For protection she had her drake-scale half chest-plate and leather gauntlets - they could stay. But for the rest ...

    What had led her here was mere curiosity. A new challenger, they had said, was within Radasanth, a man by a name she knew not. A 'William Arcus' of some apparent fame, but a man who she knew little about. At least he was not on the Gilded Lily radar. Whether friend or enemy, Philomel was here to find out. For there were few heroes and villains that she did not know in her home city, who walked the streets and visited the brothels that she herself was Matriarch of.

    Perhaps he has just been living in shadow? Veridian suggested, lifting his head up to her. Philomel paused, before reaching into the folds at her waist. From them she drew out the smallest black helmet, that was made to look like a fox's skull. This she fixed over his upper face and jaw, where two small holes allowed for his gleaming golden eyes to peer out.

    That should protect your face at least from the worst of the breeze.

    Veridian nodded, showing her directly that indeed he could see much better. In fact, his view of the man was quite clearer now that he was not contending with the strain of a hungry wind.

    Delath will need to come up here, Philomel said, now sorting through her weapons. Dragging the two swords from her back she winced as she tried to decide whether or not she could take them both. And Mao is with him.

    Just what their opponent might say and think when they revealed the final two of their party - a tiny rabbit riding atop a twenty foot earth dragon - was anyone's guess. It made Veridian chitter with amusement as he judged how far he might be able to jump. The closest pillar at least was close, but ones in the distance were further.

    Keep both, Veridian answered her unasked question. Get rid of the daggers, but keep the swords. I suspect both the Rabbit and Nameless will be useful.

    Comparing the slightly curved, mythril blade to the green-hilted, ivory, straight one, Philomel grunted. Both of them will be, she agreed as she started dropping a volume of throwing knives and daggers to the ground. Until I need.

    Veridian nodded. Until we both need to.
    Last edited by Philomel; 09-01-2017 at 09:15 AM.

  4. #4
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    The Citadel was a place where one could cheat the reaper itself, or suffer at the hands of its patrons over and over in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Rarely, other than to train or to sate some perverted urge to kill, would any man, woman or child set foot in the place without good reason.

    It made Shinsou Vaan Osiris think about his own reasons for wanting to join the Iron League.

    As the Telgradian stood in front of a polished granite table, he found himself asking why, time after time, he revisited this monolith of the Ai’Brone’s creation. Water glistened on walls of polished stone behind the Ai’Brone attending to him as a cohort of orange robed monks washed them with cloths. The turquoise pommel of Stygian shone in the elegant lamplight of the Citadel’s foyer. A brisk breeze stirred the hairs on his neck from the open doorway behind him, and through that entrance a low sun beat down on his back, casting its soft orange glaze over Radasanth.

    Time after time he competed here. His reasoning in the years before; to train, to build up his strength, did not carry the same mote of honesty as it used to. Shinsou’s powers had not only returned, but had grown exponentially. There was no more need to train. The truth was that even with all of this power at his command, the Telgradian still got a rush from fighting. It was instinct. His heart skipped a beat every time his sword pierced another’s flesh. His screams of pain echoed his numerous failures in the arena, but they were there to remind him that perfection was sin. Perfection would make everything pointless. No-one ever learned anything without falling down along the way, and Shinsou was no exception. Some people strived for godhood. Most who came here even lived their lives depending on reaching it. They were always disappointed. His mind was held prisoner to the simple fact that he obsessed over being tested and being pushed to his very limits. Here, in this Citadel, Shinsou admitted the reason for his persistance in the Citadel was the one small truth that defined him.

    He constantly needed to learn; about himself and the extraordinary people who lived here. People who might become allies. People who might become threats to him.

    This is why it required almost no thought whatsoever to sign up to the Iron League.

    “Your opponents are powerful. Philomel van der Aart, the second ranked fighter. William Arcus; ranked sixth but far more dangerous than that rank suggests. Do you wish to proceed?"

    The strange voice belonged to a strange face, curiously nondescript for a monk of the Ai'Brone and framed with a rotund set of cheeks. His robe was the colour of earth after rain; the hallmark of a League Warden. How many months had passed since Shinsou had last faced such a challenge? Only the Faun's name stood out at first. Given his connections to her, it wasn't strange that the name jogged some feelings within him. Other, more disconnected ones followed, though. They weren't feelings of love, or friendship. No. This time they were feelings of determination; a competitiveness burning to get out. Tactical thoughts flooded his focused mind as Shinsou began to analyse.

    Philomel's here. She'll no doubt have brought Delath and Veridian, too. Her transformations will make things difficult, but it won't be anything I can't handle. As for Arcus? I heard bits from Storm Veritas, but I don't know enough about him apart from the fact he's a raging mentalist. Hopefully, that's an exaduration.

    Clenched fists turned his knuckles white.

    “Where do I rank?”

    The League Warden met Shinsou's golden gaze, then glanced away.

    "Number one. Don't let it go to your head, or you'll be number six by the end of the day."

    ***

    The stone chamber crumbled from sight, torn apart by the machinations of the Ai'Brone portal. Before long the arena appeared and reality returned, piecemeal, over a period of fifteen seconds.

    As Shinsou's foot touched terra firma, a brisk breeze gathered force into what felt like a gale wind that gave his skin the numb sensation of needles. Wide blue skies replaced the grimy stone interior of the Citadel's chamber. The platform on which he stood faced its opposite number across a plethora of unstable pillars. The arena was large enough to play to his strengths, Shinsou figured, and the pillars themselves were tightly spaced. Neither smell nor sound interfered with the ambience of this, and suddenly it occured to him that his opponents were already supposed to be here. The Telgradian could see what appeared to be the infamous fiery form of William Arcus on the corresponding platform ahead. He had no need to rely on memory any more for details about the man; everything he needed to know he could feel in his stomach like a lead weight trying to pound its way through his lower intestines, such was the sheer power Arcus emitted. Who was this man? A powerful practitioner of either the arcane or incarnate arts, to have such a strong presence. Demonic or undead by the manner of his appearance, and angry.

    There was, however, something missing. Philomel was supposed to be here, too, but the Telgradian couldn't sense her presence correctly due to the interference from Arcus's ferocious power. It was then, as he looked around, that a problem appeared. A faun shaped problem, to be precise, on a platform to his right.

    Shinsou finished scanning the shifting environment, betraying no unease. Pushing aside a partition of chestnut hair so that they better revealed his eyes, he turned to face a guarded Philomel and her familiars, watching him from across the way. She was probably expecting a monologue, or some sort of arrogant or playful statement of intent, judging by the way she perused him with her sceptical expression and almost bristled at him expectantly. Indeed, the faun would have been forgiven for thinking that way. Perhaps she expected a greeting, or at least an acknowledgment.

    However, there were no such words for her. Instead those inscrutable golden irises pierced her, penetrated her; daring her to make a move against him. She would assume that, by now, she had the measure of her friend, but today he was a totally different animal and his facial expression did nothing to hide that. Disconnected and determined, Shinsou was a very dangerous man.

    Sorry, Phi. You can chew me out for this on the other side. Come, Enpera.

    Shinsou Vaan Osiris, the leader of the Brotherhood of the Castigars, rose to his full height and snapped his right palm open as the green and silver guard of his treasured sword manifested within his grasp. The other two sheaths on his belt, tucked in, slapped against the inside of his white greatcoat and the side of his waist. His expression was almost hollow with dark circles framing his eyes.

    There was no sense wasting time.

    Go for the throat of this fight, before anyone steals a march on you.

    In his left hand, Shinsou called forth an intricate arcane glyph of purple and black, one that smouldered in his weathered flesh. As the symbol pulsated, two vines of dark matter crept up from the floor besides him, each curling around the hilts of Shira and Stygian. They violently pulled the blades from their sheathes; Shira to Shinsou's left facing William Arcus, and Stygian threatening Philomel on his right. In his own hand, he wielded Enpera menacingly.

    The game was set. Three swords in play, two opponents and a thirty foot reach. Anyone who dared to enter the field would have a hailstorm of steel to contend with, but that wasn't much of a threat right now. He needed to make his opponents move.

    "Nightfall."

    With a crackle, the right tentacle curled back and heaved Stygian's form through the air as hard as it could, launching the deadly elven blade at Philomel. At best, it would cut her and she would succumb to its power of suggestion. At worst, it would force her to move into the arena, where she would be within reach of his deadly assistants.
    "By the time they figure out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach...earning 20%"

  5. #5
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    Revenant's Avatar

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    As the first fighter in the arena, William had some extra time to size-up his opponents. He was a veteran of a hundred fights just like this one and knew that understanding his enemies would be just as important as understanding his own limits. Neither opponent was familiar to William so despite his desire to simply rush headlong into the arena, William forced himself to stay his hand and study them.

    Years ago in the frozen wasteland of Berevar, William had challenged the Thayne Jomil and had emerged victorious. In reward the Thayne of chaos gifted him with her blessed sight. Ever since, William saw nothing but the entropy in all things. It didn’t matter if what William looked at was a living creature, an inanimate object, or even threaded weave of magic, everything appeared to break down and waste away while he watched. The downside was that it made it next to impossible to appreciate anything beautiful or to hold any sort of meaningful relationship. After all, it was hard to get past seeing a partner growing frail and dying a dozen different ways every second of every day. But Jomil’s sight wasn’t purely a curse. There were benefits to seeing the flaws and weaknesses inherent in everything, primarily the knowledge of how to exploit those weaknesses.

    The first enemy to enter was a monstrous humanoid with a familiar. It was likely that she was a naturalist of some sort, given what William knew of faun’s and their connection to the earth. She was graceful and slender and would move easily across the Dancing Stones, though how much traction she could muster with her hooves would be something William would have to test. But he’d have to be wary of her companion, who likely aided her magic in a variety of esoteric ways. Despite this, William’s destructive enlightenment told him that she had entered the arena with little more defense than her breastplate and her agility. Neither of which would prove to be much of an obstacle to his razor claws or obsidian scythe.

    And then there was the man in silver and white. He was more armored than the faun, sporting a full-body suit of dehlar, a gleaming overcoat, and a plethora of blades. William’s first instinct was to dismiss the swordsman and focus on the monster, but that changed when the man conjured two inky, sword-weilding tentacles. They waved in a rhythm that defied the howling winds around them and occasionally swept around in an arc that covered half the arena. The mage spoke a word and gestured at the faun, sending one of the tentacles to assault her with some sort of magic infused blade. That left only one blade to defend the mage. He had just made himself William's priority.

    The sound of grating stone rose from where William's clawed feet dug into his platform. He tensed, every muscle in his powerful body coiled as tightly as an Aleraran watchmaker's precision mechanics. Then, with a snarling battle-cry which was lost to the wind, William launched himself into the Dancing Stones.

    Behind him, the platform tumbled away, seized by gravity and hurled into the yawning abyss that waited at the bottom of the arena. There would be no going back and no safe harbor for the burning warrior now. His fate was entwined with the shuddering pillars that were already descending whenever he touched one, though his leaping bounds skipped two and three at a time.

    Experience reminded William that the number of pillars would begin dwindling fast once the other combatants entered the Dancing Stones, so he stuck to the outside edges of the arena where the number of pillars were already light. He didn't know just what the mage's tentacle was capable of, only that it was tough as titanium and had a titanic reach. Agility was on the tentacles side, but William doubted it could match him for sheer strength or speed, so that was where he was planning on hitting it. Move fast enough and the pillars would only start dropping at a glacial pace. He could leap into the tentacle's reach, strike it hard with the flat of his warscythe to drive it away, make a quick strike at the mage while it recovered, then retreat to an already triggered pillar so as not to drop any of them that he didn't have to. It wasn't the greatest plan, given that he knew next to nothing about the mage's other capabilities, but William had always been the type to charge in first and adjust his plan as necessary.

    As if reading his intention, the tentacle rippled along it's length and thrust it's sword at him. William paused on his pillar as the blade came in and put himself on guard. He eyed the blade's incoming trajectory, ignoring the lurching feeling in the pit of his stomach as the pillar dropped faster and faster beneath him. This close he could see that the shimmering blade appeared to be made of ice, and for a moment he thought about simply blasting it with fire, but this wasn't really the type of arena where one could afford to try new things just for the fun of it. Instead, William let the reach of his warscythe meet the incoming blade, turning it aside with a screeching smack just before the blade struck home.

    He leapt the moment his weapon met the mage's, jumping up the the next pillar inside the tentacle's reach. He'd have liked to have moved closer, but his delay had dropped his feet significantly below the top plane of the Dancing Stones and he didn't want to risk catching on the edge of another pillar and tripping himself up. He would never forgive himself if tripped and died.

    As soon as he'd gotten his feet back under him, William prepared to make his move, but the tentacle was faster than he'd thought. The thick, oily body of the thing curled inward to form a protective line between William and the mage, and he could feel the ice blade twisting around to come at him from behind. That was something he hadn't considered. Once inside the tentacle's guard, the conjuration essentially had an unlimited avenue of directions from which to attack him, all the while using it's bulk to funnel him away from it's master. William cursed himself, spun out and leapt inwards towards another ring of pillars.

    His initial gambit had failed, now it was time to reassess his situation.
    Last edited by Revenant; 09-15-2017 at 09:28 AM. Reason: Communication error.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  6. #6
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    Philomel's Avatar

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    The instant he stepped onto the third platform, Philomel felt her heart sink.

    Damn, thought she, Shinsou, why did it have to be you?

    This man she knew well, unlike William Arcus. Indeed, Philomel and Shinsou had a history behind them, full of battle, strife, shared hope, trust and that most unequivocable of bonds - sex. Their bodies had combined in more ways that one, making sweet music of sword on sword and flesh by flesh, meeting eyes and then cursing one another. Experiences had brought them terrifyingly close to death, near to love, and bordering on obsession. Allies were they normally, as their two great organisations met with common foes, but today - now - with his entrance, they would be forced to be enemies.

    So little time did he give. It seemed no sooner than Shinsou arrived and his golden irises met her solid silver ones than he whisked his way into action. The trio now present, he swiftly drew out his weaponry. That tapered-hilted blade, the personality-filled Enpera appeared from nothingness and the man seemed to breathe. A crouch and a shout later, and he had summoned his familiar shadowed enchantments into existence, quite literally writing them to into life.

    His execution was marvellous, his footwork artistic. No sooner had he begun to make the motions for this to begin than Philomel realised this battle was going to be harsh - and rapid. And short-lived if she did not make decisions now. Two enemies: well, she had the advantage over that. Sucking in her breath Philomel blasted instructions to Veridian and the other members of their merry, murderous party as a dark hand flew towards her with a shining blade, coming like a righteous hand.

    Keep an eye on Arcus. I will deal with Shinsou.

    With an upwards thrust Philomel threw up her mythril blade, Nameless, cutting off a sharp blow from Shinsou's enchanted one. Down then came the Rabbit, whistling through the air like the sharp wind itself, parrying yet another mighty and sparking blow. Veridian meanwhile bared his teeth as his eyes searched for William Arcus, leaving the clashing of steel to his beloved. Easy was it to spot the second enemy, for it only needed one to follow the other string of black, smoke-like projectile from Shinsou. When he found the human, however, he was gifted with knowledge that he never wished he had had to be.

    Fuck. Philomel, the platforms and the pillars ... they are incredibly unstable. They-

    He cut off, letting her see for herself as he shoved the picture into her eye. She was silent for a moment as she frantically used two blades and barely managed to stop Stygian from wounding her. An image of Arcus dancing over steadily tumbling columns of landmass darted between them for a partial second. A sign that in here, now, there really would be no time.

    Fine then, Philomel gritted her teeth and suddenly crossed Nameless and the Rabbit in front of her, fighting off Stygian's most recent slash with a loud, merry clang. Into the fray, full throttle we must go. Focusing, she directly contacted Delath, where he was waiting in the earth below the Citadel, Mao the rabbit holding onto his scales. With a wordless command she summoned him, without taking her eye of Stygian she gave Veridian an idea of what she had planned.

    There were two enemies - but they could be four. So swiftly, so easily. Bringing rock and fire like no one else could. Four to keep the fight mighty until the last one of them tumbled into the void: all of their ultimate, inevitable fate.

    As the earth began to tremble beneath her, Philomel screamed - and so did Veridian. Fire began to ripple up his spine as hair dramatically sprouted up hers and the two of them danced a tango of rage and fury. Blood boiled, souls that lived in them rejoiced as they allowed that secret part of themselves to begin to overwhelm them, strength and swiftness becoming their ally. Philomel's scream steadily turned into a bellow as her throat thickened, her muscles developed, and she thrust hard - hard back against the fray. Midway through her face enlonging and becoming that of a dark-coated goat, she suddenly pounded the ground with her hoof. It threw her into the sky, away from the platform, right into the air, taking the shadowy arm and Stygian along with it. The second it gave her, even though minor, provided essential time for her full form to take place and she slammed - smack - into the ground, next pillar over as the now twisted, mutated form of a true bipedal goat. Truly Raging, not yet Enraged.

    Behind her the fox chittered with appreciation as his whole body quintupled in size, fire very literally burning over his coat. But his paws kept their place. Even as he drew to the size of a mighty horse, he remained for the ground beneath him to continue to rumble, the quake to begin ...

    And for this party to truly get started.
    Last edited by Philomel; 09-10-2017 at 06:20 PM.

  7. #7
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

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    What was it that Telos Soltair had hammered into him from being a boy?

    'God is in the detail.'

    The moment that William Arcus had stepped from his podium, Shinsou had watched carefully. He could, after all, afford a few moments to watch thanks to his autonomous appendages protecting him. The stone had crumbled away into the void the instant that this fiery, scythe wielding beserker had entered the fray. Further casualties of masonry followed as Arcus danced over the stones, determined, but ultimately failing, to draw first blood and the pillars underfoot began to shudder and descend. Arcus had realised the folly of that particular assault and was now circling round again to find another angle, but the entire fifteen seconds worth of action had told Shinsou what he needed to do next.

    The platforms disappear the moment you leave them, thought the Telgradian, So, why leave?

    With his left hand, he called upon his icecraft. A shining silver glyph illuminated his palm as Shinsou welded the joint of the platform he was still stood on with Dehlar strength ice. That podium would be going nowhere. On this high ground, with his dark matter arms giving him ample reach within the field of the lessening number pillars, the Telgradian was still in control.

    Eventually Arcus would run out of both footings and time. Shinsou was relying on that, for now.

    It was then his thoughts returned to the Faun. As she did he, Shinsou knew well what to expect from his friend. Years of knowing and trusting Philomel had reaped knowledge about her that many would not ever be privy to. The Faun was a complex woman; part romanticist, part visionary and full of raw power that put her firmly in Shinsou's sights. Many men had fallen prey to her charms, her wit and, when those failed to get a result, her terrifying transformations - even John Cromwell had struggled against the monstrous goat form - so the Telgradian knew that when she used them, she meant business.

    Today was no different.

    Time after time, Stygian had met her beautiful blade and had been parried aside. She was truly a master of the art of swordsmanship, no doubt learned from years of training and teaching in the Gilded Lily, but finally her patience seemed to thin.

    What followed was an unholy deluge that Shinsou was all too familiar with.

    It felt as if the world was being torn asunder. As the entire arena began to shake, the faun Philomel and Veridian bellowed in that feral, ghastly tone that signalled a sudden shift in intensity in the early part of this battle. Glorious flames that Shinsou recognised - and feared - began to envelope the fox. Partway through the transformation she suddenly pounded the ground with her hoof, launching herself into sky whilst Stygian tumbled helplessly into the consuming darkness below.

    When the faun landed, the twisted, almost grotesque form of a bipedal dark goat stood in her place. It was only half of her true power, but Shinsou knew that was coming soon enough.

    Sorry. Can't let you do it. I've seen what that thing can do.

    There was no more time to ponder. The hazard to Shinsou was obvious and, without quick intervention, inevitable. He had to act fast and furiously; the priority had to be that half power goat form.

    Behind Shinsou, a few feet above the crest of his oaken hair, mysterious arcane energies began to meld together in the air. Forking, icy tendrils of white convulsed and converged around each other to form a fifteen foot wide frozen circular portal. The sheer arctic power of the magic chewed into the grimy stonework behind the Telgradian, coating a massive semi-circle around him in crystalline ice and leaving a whistling expanse of space where solid stone used to be.

    Out of the snowy chasm that gaped behind him protruded fifteen thin, dangerous spears of dehlar strength ice. Some would attempt to extinguish the flames of Arcus's rage as he hopped from pillar to pillar by making his footing ever more treacherous, with each spear being able to freeze an area, on impact, up to five foot each. No flame stronger than dehlar would melt it. The rest would be enough to deal with Philomel and Veridian.

    They were going to feel them, alright.

    The spears hung there with an ethereal hum as they waited for an order.

    Without even having to motion, Shinsou commanded the storm of projectiles to split and attack both targets at once. They shot out of the portal and wildly tore towards their intended recipients, their frigid power ripping at the bare stone around them. Seven scattered loosely in an attempt to cut Arcus's movement off whilst the remaining eight cannoned towards the much larger, much more pressing issue of the pairing of Philomel and Veridian.
    "By the time they figure out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach...earning 20%"

  8. #8
    Senior Member

    EXP: 104,451, Level: 14
    Level completed: 4%, EXP required for next Level: 14,549
    Level completed: 4%,
    EXP required for next Level: 14,549


    Revenant's Avatar

    GP
    303
    AP
    33
    Name
    William Arcus
    Race
    Revenant
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone

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    Every time William moved to make another approach towards the mage the tentacle slashed in, quickly as a whip. While it was easy enough to dodge the tentacle or to parry its slashes at the edge of its threatened area, moving in was starting to seem more and more improbable. From out here there were only so many angles that the blade could come from. Even two pillars inside the tentacles reach would let the construct come at him from any direction. There was no way that William was getting into melee range with the mage without drastically changing his plans.

    That annoyed William but it was something he could deal with. Facing off against a variety of abilities was one of his main draws to keep coming back to the Citadel. He’d faced dozens of opponents in these magical chambers, each with a completely different and surprising array of special skills that kept him on the tips of his toes. Seemingly insurmountable odds were only that way until you shifted your thinking process to uncover the flaws that lie within them. Adapt or die, that was William’s belief and he wouldn’t begrudge the mage for presenting a difficult lock to pick.

    What William could hold against the man was the slight smirk his face as he settled his posture. The spirits-damned bastard had no intention of actually entering the arena to fight. Only to throw up a formidable defense and let the pillars tumble under his opponents. One by one William and the faun would lose available footing until there was nowhere to go but under the reach of the mage’s tentacles or into the abyss. That level of cowardice lit a rage in William’s gut that was reserved for the people who William truly hated.

    All but one of those people had been dead a long, long time.

    William whipped his scythe out and slapped the mage’s tentacle away from him once again. He’d taken up a position on one of the already triggered pillars while he thought his next move. The seconds that he’d stood still had increased the pillar’s falling speed to the point where William could feel it the motion beneath him. He waited for the tentacle to spin into a new arc before leaping to another previously triggered pedestal. At least that plan had worked in his favor. But with the mage making no sign that he would ever join the fray, losing even one pedestal was a devastating blow.

    A hideous bellow drew William’s attention, loud enough that he could hear it even over the howling winds around him. He spun, expecting to see the faun bearing down on him but the creature had simply swelled to enormous proportions as she had leapt into the arena. Her fox was also undergoing some sort of transformation, though it showed no sign of joining the fray at this time.

    “Better one than nothing,” William grumbled.

    The faun’s new massive stature would prove an interesting diversion, but William wasn’t sure how tactical it would be to increase one’s center of mass while balancing over an endless void. She’d gained reach and likely increased strength and toughness from that bulky frame, though a cursory glance with his destructive enlightenment told William that the transformed state didn’t grant the faun any defensive capabilities that would shield her any more than her naturally tough skin and armor would. Her transformed nature also meant that all William would have to do was to push her off-balance and let gravity do the rest.

    Despite her form change, William still considered the mage the more dangerous opponent. Now that both he and the faun were in the Dancing Stones it would only be a matter of time to failure if they left the shadow mage to his own devices. It was critically important that he find a way through the man’s defense.

    William turned his attention back to the mage just in time to see the man’s conjured spears of ice fly in his direction. He reacted without thought, the warrior’s instinct he’d honed through hours in the Citadel kicking him into motion. Jumping from the last pillar had taken William completely out of the tentacle’s reach, but the way that the mage had splayed his projectiles left the revenant covered no choice but to dive back inside.

    Thankful that he’d loosened his arm by batting at the tentacle and its sword, William’s weapon slapped away the first two spears as he leapt into their midst. Two snaps of ice behind William told him that another two had slammed into the pillar only just a second after he’d left. And yet another spear sailed harmlessly by William as its momentum carried it on a deadly trajectory for where he had been.

    It was an impressive display of reflexes to have dealt with five icy missiles in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately the mage had sent seven missiles to attack William. He brought his clawed hand up to meet the first spear in a fumbling attempt to slap the attack aside. The bone splintered where the ice lance struck, drawing an involuntary gasp from the revenant. Blood like liquid fire poured from the wound, hissing as it boiled over the body of the ice weapon. But the spear’s magic wasn’t finished, and William found that the spear shattered as it struck and formed an inch thick coating of ice that covered the bone carapace of his right arm from claw to elbow. Normal ice would have cracked instantly upon meeting William’s super-heated skin and blood, but this ice was tougher stuff and was slow to melt under his heat.

    Frustrating as that was, it was only a minor wound compared to the last spear, which struck William with enough force to hurl him back against the pillar from which he’d just jumped. The weapon tore through William’s body easily and pinned him against the side of the pillar just below the surface which had already been iced over thanks to the first two spears which had struck it. The mage’s icecraft flowed around the searing wound in William’s shoulder, the thick ice from it bonding with the rest of it on the pillar.

    Though the attack had been painful, William had experienced worse and pushed through it. His mind cried out for a moment to let his healing take away the pain but William knew he didn’t have that luxury. He was pinned against a pillar that was dropping with increasing speed and every second he spent bound to it brought him closer to the abyss.

    William considered dropping his warscythe, but he’s already dropped all his other gear into the swirling abyss. It would be almost impossible to win against these foes with nothing more than his claws. But he needed his one good hand to free himself and to keep from plummeting off the side of the pillar the moment he did so. As painful as it would be, William knew that he needed to free his wounded hand and that he couldn't afford to be squeamish about it.

    Heat drew into William as the revenant focused the power of his molten core from the air around him and transferred it to his limps. The bone carapace on his arms and legs responded instantly, transforming completely into lava-like molten fire. Pain lanced up William’s arm as he flexed the now-molten limb against the ice that covered it. Strong as he was, William suspected that the best result he could have hoped for without the fire would have been to crack the magically toughened ice before falling out of the arena. With the fire however, the task was much easier. It took only a second for the cracks to appear in the sweating ice and only another half a second of force before the ice completely shattered.

    Though his hand screamed in protest, William transferred his scythe to it and clamped down to make sure that he didn’t lose it. His healing had already started to secure the bone carapace back together but he’d have to fight through it until then. He was still in danger and he was getting angry about it. Here he was, desperately scrambling for his life over a yawning darkness because he’d played by the arena’s rules while the mage smugly stood above him.

    There was nothing in the world that William wanted more at that moment than to crush the man’s skull with his bare hands.

    Roaring, William struck the ice covering his shoulder, digging his burning, pointed claws into its mass. He anchored the claws of his unwounded hand there and then the burning claws on his feet against the side of the drooping pillar itself and then with a strength that could crush rock to dust he heaved. A fresh burst of pain shot stars in front of his eyes as the twisting force of his motion pulled against the hole in his shoulder. He flexed as hard as he could but even so felt something slide loose with a pop inside. Steaming blood gushed into the ice from the wound, joining the molten fire on his arms and weakened the ice that much further. And then he was free, the ice shattering off his straining shoulder without warning.

    Only a hand span of stone remained between William and the edge of the arena. He knew that he didn’t have time to get his bearings, but there were still enough untouched pillars around him that William simply kicked off his rapidly dwindling perch and flailed for another. It was an awkward, ugly jump, and it didn’t take him that much further up the next pillar over, but it was enough to save him from an untimely demise.

    Stone splintered under William’s claws as he gripped this new pillar. It hadn’t been touched yet so its movement was still glacially slow. That would change now that he was on it, and it would only get worse the longer he took to catch his breath. Besides, he couldn’t afford to take his time to recover while that mage was still smirking on his platform.

    William bit down on the pain and started climbing the pillar. He allowed his injured arm to hang limply at his side so as not to cause any further damage to it while his regeneration stitched him back together. The progress he made was slow and awkward, but it was progress nonetheless. Still, there rapidly came a moment when the downward momentum from the pillar's increasing descent matched the speed at which he could climb. When that occurred, William steadied himself and then kicked off to hurl himself towards another pillar.

    This jump was far more controlled than the previous one, and William had chosen one of the nearby pillars that he'd already triggered on his first assault. It had moved for some time now, but the brief amount of time that he'd stood on the pillar meant that it was still falling at a relatively slow pace. Not that he had much choice in the matter. Three pillars in the surrounding area had already fallen into the abyss, and this one would soon be joining the others. That didn't count all the other pillars like the one on which he now perched, the ones that he had previously triggered. Though their descents were as slow as this one, enough time had passed that they were decidedly low enough to be functionally useless. This would likely be the last bit of use he could get from them. So much for his backup plan.

    The winds of the arena whipped through the lower reaches of the pillars as ferociously as they did above, but they'd been enchanted only to adversely effect creatures who were flying. Since they hadn't bothered William during his awkward, flailing jumps between the stone stalks, he assumed that they understood the difference between flying and jumping really far. It was time to take a risk.

    The edge of the Dancing Stones was slightly visible through the forest of pillars. Given how the path of descending stones lie in relation to that edge, William felt relatively certain that he knew where the mage's platform was. He readied himself, transferring the warscythe back to his agile hand and ducking into a low squat. When all was ready, William leaped into the air with all the power that he could muster.

    He shot off the pillar like an uncoiling spring and sailed over the field of the Dancing Stones with ease. True enough to his belief, he had moved inside the guard of the mage's tentacle and was facing the man's platform. The tentacle lashed mindlessly at him, driving its blade at him. William thrust his blade out to meet the attack and knocked it viciously aside. Before it could whip back around he gathered his energy into a molten ball of fire and launched the explosive magma shot towards the mage's position. The shot arced forward under the tentacles squirming mass, but William had aimed the shot so that it wouldn't directly affect the mage himself, but would instead fall under the mage's platform before detonating. Down there the explosion would hopefully do enough damage to the platform to destabilize it and force the mage out into the Dancing Stones. William just hoped that the tentacles weren't intelligent enough to understand his plan.

    Come on asshole, he snarled to himself. Time to join the fun.
    Last edited by Revenant; 09-15-2017 at 09:29 AM.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator

    EXP: 81,770, Level: 12
    Level completed: 37%, EXP required for next Level: 8,230
    Level completed: 37%,
    EXP required for next Level: 8,230


    Philomel's Avatar

    GP
    8,285
    AP
    73
    Name
    Philomel van der Aart (+ Veridian)
    Age
    30 (+10)
    Race
    Faun (+ Fox/Earth Spirit)
    Gender
    Female (+ Male)
    Location
    Corone

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    Like the rolling, anarchic thunder that sung the genesis of an uncoming storm the platform of stone was ripped chaotically apart. At first there was a faint crack - then there was an explosion of rock, dirt and roots that catapulted and soared into the sky. Clumps both as small as a child's fist and oppositely as large as a shovel blade were thrown high into various parabolas, arching high before descending many feet away. It was a matter of a single second between the sundering and the loam rain, that pelted down hard enough to cause a temporary distraction to those not expecting it. From the crevice that had been made came an almighty, terrifying bellow which would send those of weaker will scarpering for the bathroom. Couple with that, rising from the darkness there like a beast from hell, came the mottled, scarred and jugged head of the earth dragon, Delath.

    He roared defiantly, shouting his presence into the arena. Easily, he moved his forelegs beyond the edge of the hole and onto the main body of the platform. As he did so Veridian, who had quintupled in size and whose fur now rippled with blazing flames, leapt forwards, using his powerful legs and mighty form to carry him across to a pillar, the mask he had worn now broken and discarded, because of the sudden change in size. The wind did not bother him anyway now - he was warm enough. And so he jumped with no worries.

    It left the platform where their party had begun available for Delath to take full possession, heaving his long and hefty body into the battle.

    Veridian, now no longer needing to stay with the platform, dodged full throttle forwards, watching as the dancing scythe-wielder skipped from pillar to pillar. One, two, then three tumbled as he moved past heavy ice projectiles that were roughly launched in his direction.

    They were uneasily familiar, and it took Veridian far too long to realise that they owed their origin to Shinsou can Osiris. But he had no time to look back and see if more were being sent towards Philomel and Delath, and where he, the earth-spirit, had been moments before. Instead he had just his own path and his own battle to forge. Thus he drove his way over the stones, using full advantage of his new length and height. The pillars he briefly stepped on began to creak beneath his paws and splinter, even from the lightest touch. But this he did not care about. All he was concerned with was the man with the coal-black skin, who was spinning, dodging and - was caught. Pinned to a rock by one of the very ice spears.

    Gleeful that he may have found his opportunity, Veridian spurned himself forwards, trusting his legs to carry him that needed distance. He watched as the man unpinned himself and seemed to shimmer for a moment with a glow. An infernal glow. This irritated the fiery fox, but he kept on, watching as the bring stablised himself and prepared for an assault direct for Shinsou. As a ball of fire shot from the man's hand, Veridian launched himself forwards and opened his maw, sending forth a spew of flames that looked, for all intents and purposes, like a second pair of jaws - ones that would fasten around his wrist and burn with the heat of the hottest, hellish summer's day. Keeping Veridian himself out of view as he moved around to lithely skip back behind the man, not beside him.

    The man had faired well, it seemed with the projectiles of chill cold. The goat-headed Philomel, however, got a brutal, more forceful supply of them. As Veridian was racing towards William Arcus, and Delath was heaving his body from the platform, she continued to dance with the blade called Stygian. How Shinsou managed to control so many devices and powers at once was beyond her, but right now her body raged with so much raw emotion and instinct that she hardly cared. Instead, she fought for her own existence, throwing in everything she had.

    No communication was made between her and Veridian. In a battle with two foes it was necessary to split their resources and thus dedicate wholly to separate battles. Practise had told them also that if they kept their minds separate, except in dire circumstances such as near death, they were more likely to survive and win. Thus, Philomel faced Stygian and Shinsou and Veridian faced Arcus.

    It was a difficult fight, keeping the blade from her, so then when the spears of ice came she had little hope, despite her terrible form. Barely time had she to see them, keep Stygian back and balance on the pillars. And so, it was with much agony that an angry spear jammed itself harshly into her shoulder and sent her spinning off course.

    Fearfully, she screamed - a harrowing, abhorrent sound that shattered any hopes of peace that may have been resting in hearts. As it collided with her she began to fall back, the soft underside of her hooves in their specialised manner not even enough to stablise her in that desperate moment. And her arm that was hit siezed suddenly, a jolt of paralysis jarring down it, forcing a hard hold onto the blade there. She dodged a blow from the shadow-held blade with the luck of falling, and it looked for a moment like she would tumble into the dark void below right away and be out of the battle so early.

    But -

    But ... One hoof still touched earth for the needed length of time. The rock and soil beneath that hoof rippled, a seeming rip in reality for a microcosm of a second. Her form, still with the icicle lodged in her shoulder and rapidly spreading ice over her torso - suddenly disappeared. Almost instantly she was back again, now safe behind Delath who had fully emerged. At feel of her pain he let out the angriest, most hateful roar, and flicked his massive tail. Lanuching himself forwards he took her place against the row with Shinsou, but not with any concern for Stygian. Instead he battled against the buffetting wind, flying high and directly into the fray, jaws agape. As he did a green essence, like the pollen of a spring morning began to pour from his mouth, fighting against the breeze via the strength and force of his own breath. Spiralling in a direct shot for Stygian and for Shinsou himself, a metre and half long from the incarnation of his mouth but already beginning to spread as it burst into the air.

    As Philomel dropped her blade from the hand that still worked and savagely ripped the ice from her shoulder. Blood and horror was clear, but in a delightful way the chill that had served a purpose in thickening and clotting the blood already. Grabbing a palmful of dirt, direct from beside her, she shoved it over the wound. Sucking in her breath she waited as the healing began to rapidly take place but her wounded arm still refued to move.

  10. #10
    Senior Member

    EXP: 104,451, Level: 14
    Level completed: 4%, EXP required for next Level: 14,549
    Level completed: 4%,
    EXP required for next Level: 14,549


    Revenant's Avatar

    GP
    303
    AP
    33
    Name
    William Arcus
    Race
    Revenant
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone

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    [Since Shin has dropped out, Phi and I are removing him and continuing on]

    The mage’s tentacle slammed hard into William’s back. He’d deflected the conjuration on his way into the air but once up there, even he was at the mercy of gravity. Magically hardened darkness slammed him back down onto the Dancing Stones like a rolled up paper swatting a gnat. It felt like struck full-on by a careening wagon, and not an empty wagon at that. William wasn’t surprised to see a spattering of molten blood sizzling in a line out from his lips and chin. And he didn’t need the shifting pain inside him to know that the he’d just taken some serious internal wounds.

    But the roar of his magma shot’s explosive concussion tore across the howling winds and told William that despite the consequences he’d been right to take that risk. He pushed himself back to his feet, gritting his teeth against the pain in his chest and lower gut until the blood in his mouth forced him to do otherwise.

    His plan had worked, and the mage’s pillar was finally pitching backwards into the void. Even so, the motion seemed glacially slow to William as the twin tentacles continued to whip around despite the fact that their roots were in free fall. He slapped the tentacle aside as it came back down for a second smashing strike, though the motion was perhaps too rough as another wave of pain rippled through William’s core at the motion.

    Get it under control, he chided himself. You’re far from finished here and have already been frozen, stabbed, and bludgeoned half to death.

    William watched with mixed emotions as the mage attempted to jump from his toppling pillar only to be met with a blast of rolling green fog from the dragon circling overhead and thrown backwards to fall soundlessly into the abyss. Or perhaps not soundlessly, William mused. After all, he wouldn’t be able to hear the man’s screams over the howling wind if he tried. And William tried.

    The platform had started dropping noticeably by then and William gauged the distance between it and the next one over. Now that the mage was gone there was almost a full third of the arena that was available and untouched. Far better than the patchwork he’d left near his own starting area.

    That was when the reality of there being a massive dragon overhead managed to make its way through William’s concussed haze. He blinked and looked up at the dragon quickly, studying it for a moment. Then he turned to look at the massive goat creature that he could only assume was the full transformation of the satyr. She had somehow managed to return to her starting platform and looked to be healing a wound similar to the one that William had taken from the mage’s icy spears.

    “Not another one,” he growled, looking at the completely stable platform that his final opponent stood on. He was going to double the words he had for the Ai’Brone about this arena and the nature of the opponents that they chose to put in it against him.

    He needed time to heal and to assess this new threat. Giant goat beast, flying dragon, and a fire fox, he grimaced. What else could this creature summon against him? That thought made William pause. Something had been screaming in the back of his mind, but the addled fog in his head had stifled it. Where was the fox?

    Blades of fire bit into the William’s lower back, sinking an inch into the meat beneath his armored hide. He snarled in pain, but the blood in his mouth and throat caught the noise and turned it into a gurgling, strangled gasp. William seized and hacked, coughing a cloud of blood across the top of the pillar. The burning maw bit down again, striving to sink deeper into William’s flesh, but this time he was prepared and he strove against it. The attack held for a moment against his strength before the phantom jaw snapped and shattered. William spun around in search of the giant fox, heedless of the multitude of wounds that he’d received.

    He spotted it on a nearby pillar, having managed to circle around him while he was focused on dealing with the mage. He knew that he should retreat and go on the defensive. That he was not in a strong position. But being bludgeoned in the head and stoked to insane levels of rage didn’t often lead to making sound decisions. Instead, William brought his warscythe up and leapt at the fox, going fully on the offensive.
    "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me." - Call of Cthulhu

    David vs. Goliath: History's first recorded critical hit.

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