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Posted by
Mar 16, 2006

Edited on
Mar 16, 2006

After his rest the soldier yet again walked out into the arena. To his surprise there was a little girl standing close to one gate. Close to her was a huge abomination made up mostly of bone and very little flesh. His staff was with him like always but this time he also carried a small lamp. He walked forward with such confidence that even the abomination was taken aback. Once he was fully in the arena the gate slammed shut and the emperor resumed the fight. The girl took her chance while the abomination was distracted to summon a huge tempest to finish him off. Again the attack did barely anything. This made the abomination mad, he hated thunder and lightning. He charged forward and thrust out his arm right toward the girl. As it hit the soldier casted a shield around her. She was untouched. Confused, the abomination turned to the soldier. He spoke slowly as if he was hit in the head too many times.

"Why help enemy? Why not kill it?".

The soldier laughed, "Who said I was helping?".

The shield started to get smaller as he spoke, confining the girl to a very tight space. He put down the lamp and started a complex summoning spell. Out of the lamp billowed a red cloud that got bigger and bigger until it looked roughly like a man. The cloud was a little bit taller than the abomination. In a flash it took the form of a man. The man had red skin and pointed ears. He had a single pony tail coming out of the back of his head that reached the bottom of his neck. He wore white pantaloons with a black belt. Attached to this belt was a large, shiny scimitar. He wore black boots that came halfway up his shin. The solider had summoned an extremely powerful afrit. He turned to the solider and bowed. "How may I help you master?"

"See the monster... destroy it so that it can never come back"

"It will be done."

He took his sword in his hands and evaluated his opponent. The afirt and the abomination collided and battled like two demons spit up from one of the deepest rings of hell. While the creatures fought the soldier released the girl.

"Now we fight."

He lunged towards her and attacked her with his staff. She jumped back and just like before sent another fiery attack at him. It hit his arm that was still wounded from his last battle. It scorched him but didn't do too much damage. They went back and forth, staff and magic, for what seemed like an eternity until a huge explosion flung both of them against the wall. In place of the afrit and the abomination there was now two piles of ash. The only way the afirt could have destroyed the abomination so that it would never come back would be to destroy himself. By doing this he is allowed to take one person down with him except his master.

The solider was the first to get up. He walked over to the girl but remembering what happened to him with the thief stood far enough away so that he could touch her with his staff and dodge any attacks. When he first saw her she reminded him of someone but he couldn't figure out who but now closer to her he realized that she looked like his daughter. He went numb, the last time he saw his daughter was three years ago before she died. A crazy thought went through his head. The girl was the right age and looked just like her, could this girl be his daughter? Could she have survived the explosion? Slowly she got up to her knees. When his daughter was little he gave her a locket he made for her birthday. It was unique, no one else could have one like it. He saw it around the mage's neck. He was about to call out her name when she shot a full power flux at him. She had won.

In his hospital bed the solider lay there thinking about the young mage. Was she his daughter? He would have to wait until he was healed to find out.

Posted by
Mar 16, 2006

That night, the young mage found herself dining in the Emperor's palace. The walls were coated in gold, the dinner table blanketed in red velvet, the plates and cutlery composed of sterling silver. She sat at the far end, alone, of the ridiculously long table, where she could see all the rich ladies and gentlemen. Ach, all those pastel silks and stiff, long coats...the girl especially loathed the way they talked to each other. So delicate, so modest, so...fake.

And the food...bland, and tasteless! She didn't even know what half her dinner was called, but she heard names back and forth across the table: "caviar", "hors d'oeuvres", "shitake", "asparagus", always follwed by, " simply delicious! Don't you agree?"

"What do you think, little girl?" The mage twisted her head upwards to see the Emperor towering over her chair. "You could be a proper lady someday, too, if you win the tournament. I could invite you into my palace, and you wouldn't have to live on the streets like a trashy gypsy. Would you like that as a prize?"

The sorceress vigorously shook her head, much to the tubby man's discontent. Now, gypsies..."No? Well, maybe you'll think about it, little lady. Pretty, young women like you shouldn't be wasting their good looks in the arena!"

Was that supposed to be a compliment? When the Emperor turned his pudby back on her, the girl inconspicuously pointed her wand at his crimson, kashmir robe...



In the cover of the Emperor's square, trim hedges, a hooded man in black pressed his scythe harder against the nobleman's neck.

"Don't make this worse," the assailant warned. "for both of us. Just answer my questions, and you'll avert a painful death. Understand?"

"Uh, uh..."

"Come on. I haven't got all night." With his free arm, the assassin unsheathed a pointy knife from under his robes. The nobleman glimpsed this second glint of steel and started sobbing uncontrollably. "Okay, okay! I'll tell you anything!"

"Of course you will." With a hidden smile, the hooded man withdrew his knife. "Now, hold yourself together. If I can't hear you, you're as good as dead." His victim trembled and bobbed his head, the golden curls on his head bouncing. He spastically choked up sobs, but it was apparent he was trying to steady his nerves.

Eventually the assassin spoke again. "Alright, then. Tell me, sir: did the soldier with the staff win the tournament?"

"N-no!" As the nobleman spat up the word, he broke into another steady cry. The assailant pressed his scythe harder, and his victim's eyes streamed with tears. "A-A little girl won, wi-with magic powers!"

"Good, good. You're doing a good job. So, who will compete against the girl?"

The nobleman turned stiff, and his skin went pale. "I...I don't-"

"Answer me!" Steel pierced the victim's neck, and blood trickled from the fresh cut.

"I-heard-a-rumor-about-a-knight-from-Doravan!" The nobleman blurted the whole sentence out at once, and the assassin relaxed the blade. "He wears the b-best armor in the land and wields the finest b-blade ever crafted, or s-so the people say."

"Better. Much better. Now, this is a very difficult question: if someone were to, theoretically, enter the arena in place of one of the two, how would I-they do that?"

"Uh...I've heard t-t-talk of an underground passage to the arena. Th-they say there's a lift there, that takes you right into the, the...the place where they fight."

Underneath his hood, the black-garbed man beamed. "Amazing! I honestly didn't think you'd know that one. What a good informant you've been. For being so honest, I have a special prize for you." From a pocket in his robes, he pulled out a minute flask of green, gelatinous liquid and popped its cork with his thumb. "A little victory drink for a gentleman."

The nobleman, still trembling and pale, reluctantly opened his mouth and allowed the stranger to pour the gooey substance down his throat. Finally, the sickle was lowered and put away, as well as the flask. "Happy trails to you, friend. May the Brotherhood of Theives forever be in your debt." And with that, the hooded one parted the hedges and departed from the garden.

So the nobleman stood there alone, shivering in the shadows. Would he suddenly fall over and faint? ...No? He began to chuckle a little, then even more so. The wiry man then laughed in earnest, loudly and clearly...

...and spit up a ball of yellow-green slime. He turned rigid, then found his own feet melting under him, into the same substance! Wildly he looked at himself, with his arms spread-now they, too, were dripping with slime! It was squirting out from his own flesh, devouring his body.

"! Help me! Someone help-b-bb-b..." His lips sealed together, and when he tried to speak, bubbles were made across his slimy exterior...

The assassin hurried his pace toward the village, not once looking back while others flocked to the scene. "There has to be a better life for me," he muttered, walking briskly to the shabbier side of town. "Anything but this..."

Posted by
Mar 19, 2006

The child of arcane lifted her arm, thinking better of it. Although the old coot was getting annoying, he was the Emperor, and more imporantly: old. There was nothing to gain from his death, as of yet. There were far more pressing issues at hand, like tomorrow's match, and that fool that calls himself a soldier. If he ever found out the truth about his daughter, it could all be ruined for her.

"Well my little dear, it grows late and probably past your bedtime, you wouldn't want to be drowsy during your match tomorrow, would you?" the tubby man said as he turned around to address her in front of all the nobles, causing some to chuckle. With a small curtsey she left for the bed chambers with her head down, hair blocking her seething eyes.

. . . . . . . . . .

Morning would tell of two matches, the first didn't start until it was already over. The crowd was restless as they waited for the bald monk to make the first move upon the archer, who boasted with a swing of his golden locks, that he would kill his oppenent as soon as they moved. That, was an hour ago.

"C'mon, ya ol' shiny head! Did you waste all yer energy waxin' yer cranium?" Taunted the rather bored hunter. Arrow fixed to fly through the brown robes and to the heart of his opponent. Who unsurprisingly did nothing. Easing the arrow down, the shooter picked up a stone and held it up for the crowd to see, before he started to wind-up. "I'm gonna make a pretty lil' dent in yer forehead and then see if I can't hit the same mark with m'arrow."

The stone flew, but missed even the hood entirely as the monk ducked down to be almost paralell to the ground, and then shot of at the assailant. Shocked, but not stupified, the archer notched and loosed an arrow at his oppenent. Those eyes... those youthful luscious lips...that meant-

The monk's foot landed from its first bound, and the pious hands pulled the cloak of and twirling in front of the body, catching and snagging the arrow from its flight.

Cursing, the sharpshooter readied another arrow, this no feeble old man that he fought, but a rather prime, and strong female; so strong that at this rate she had two more strides before she'd be within arms reach.

The fabric continued to swirl off the woman as she moved forward, sagging yet another arrow next to the first as yanked the cloth up in a long rope to swing above her head. As her foe grabbed another arrow, she whipped her arm out and the cloth followed suit as the arrows found their new home in the archer's eye sockets.

As the man twitched and screeched incoherently, the monk adjusted her robes, and then knelt down next to her enemy, muttered something no one from the stands could make out, and kissed him on the cheek. Immediately the archer stopped and sat up. Even when she removed the arrows, he did not so much as whimper. Helping him up, she looked to the Emperor, who gave his approval, and the crowd was not too slow to follow

Posted by
Mar 19, 2006

The soldier strained his sore muscles to see who entered his quarters. It was the resident healer.

"Oh, fit enough to turn your head now, are we?" he questioned with an edge to his voice. "I wonder why you weren't fit enough to beat a little girl." He seemed to be a little bit bitter against the gladiator. "You were the fan favorite, you know, to face the champion," told the doctor as he gave a rough examination to his patient. "Does this hurt?" The answer was already known. "Some of us had big money riding on this tournament. Guess that's all gone now since, you know, you were defeated by a girl." The healer was very adamant about this point.

"I was defeated, true," admitted the trooper stiffly, "but I'm far from out of the contest." The medic's interest piqued. "That foolish street urchin was my qualifying round, so my advancement onto the second round of eliminations was already guaranteed. I only entered that last round as a bonus hazard. Don't you know the rules?" The doctor did know the rules but, like most people, got so swept up in his emotions that they blinded him. As one of many possible hazards, the victor of the previous round can choose to enter the current bout to tempt fate. They can use this opportunity to cause severe damage to their future opponents at the risk of their opponents doing the same unto them.

"Oh, where is my head these days," humbly begged the physician, bowing. "I am so greatly sorry, sir. Truthfully, I am one of your biggest fans. Allow me to make it up to you." Turning about to a table, he clashed about some vials. "I have a very special recipe for an elixir that will make you fighting fit in time for your second round. It takes a very rare herb, so I normally never give it to anyone outside of the high nobility. In your case, however, I'll make an exception." Turning back, he held out a cup of thick, black fluid to the soldier. Accepting the raunchy mess, he quaffed the sour contents and immediately began to feel better, aside from the immediate nausea. "I believe you'll still be able to make the second match of the day. You need to know what you will be facing," pleasantly informed the healer with a smile that seemed almost too sincere. Concerned but ultimately determined, the soldier stood, braced upon his staff. His eyes grew, amazed that he could even walk this soon. With a nod, he thanked the kindly doctor and was off. The medic chuckled as his patient left. The potion truly was a powerful remedy. That was no lie; however, it was also not the entire truth. A good portion of the serum was Furies' Blood. The next time the militant became enraged, he would be thrown into a violent frenzy. This was just the healer's way of stacking the odds in his favor.

"Are you sure you do not wish to compete?" attempted the Emperor one final time. He was desperate to get her to compete again. The girl forced a smile and shook her head. She knew, especially from her match-up, just how dangerous trying to control one's own destiny could be. "Very well. You do not have to battle this time and will get the honor of watching the next bout with me." She began to reconsider her choice. "However, we still need something to make this next fight... enthralling. Please, my dear, select one." A servant, appearing from no where, knelt before her chair and unraveled a scroll for her. On it were rows of black pictures, each representing a possible bonus hazard for the arena. The images were simple, but their meanings were easy enough to understand. The wavy lines were water for flooding the stadium, and the fanged jaws represented releasing wild animals. There was one she could not make out, though, the vertical lines. With her selection made, the Emperor smiled and signaled out from his high enclosure. Many of the arena's guards were scattered, running to cranks on walls. Turning them in unison, patches of the coliseum floor began to rise as points broke through the sand. The audience loved it. Spikes meant blood and usually death. The iron spires were locked in place just as the recovering soldier managed to get to his reserved seat, and the new combatants made their way out

Posted by
Mar 19, 2006

Accompanied by the beat of heavy drums and a blare of trumpets, a feral, thick man bounded out from the gate, hunched over onto all fours like an animal. Skins were shrouded over his displayed back as well as a clumsy-looking stone axe. The brute weaved throughout the protruding spires with his unique run in an impressive display of agility for a man his size, although his girth narrowly managed to fit between the razor edges. The savage leapt and clasped onto a central spike and waved to his jeering fans. The music died, and only the audience's dislike of the wild one filled the stadium air. A sharp, grimy smile was hidden by his unkempt, grizzled, black beard, although its original color could only be guessed. His dark eyes beneath his wild brows scanned over the crowd, the crowd that came to see him fight, even if they only wanted to see his defeat.

"Shut up!" the berserker shouted in a loud, coarse voice that showed his unfamiliarity with the spoken word. His order only begged louder boos. "I 'ould like ta introduce my opponent," he barely barked out, "in 'is last fight of the tourney!" The savage had elicited even more hatred from the coliseum, and his expression clearly showed he was satisfied with what he had done. "Y'all about ta see me beat this-" the detested combatant began until the heavy, metallic clanking of chains drowned out his voice. The opposite gate slowly cranked up, taking the attention of both participant and spectators of the fight.

The early afternoon light trespassed little into the east gate. There had been many rumors surrounding the entrant of this round; the crowd hushed in anticipation to which ones were correct. A vague shape appeared in the shadows. Filthy, clawed feet first appeared as the mystery emerged. The legs were bent in a stooped gait and also covered in white plates and spikes of their own. Another slow, choppy step brought the giant's gnarled fingers to light and illuminated his skeletal armor. A confused hush swept the crowd when a familiar face, that dismal mask of death, was revealed.

"Impossible!" the rainbow mage sputtered in disbelief. "That thing was destroyed!"

"A graveyard golem was defeated by the afrit, true," the emperor told with almost too much pleasure, "but not this one. The soldier killed its twin, and as you can imagine, it was none too happy about it."

"You mean to tell me that both of these... these things were enlisted in the tournament?"

"Well, no," admitted he, casting down his eyes sheepishly. "The original entrant went missing, and it offered to fill the spot."

The girl stared on in wide-eyed disbelief. "But, that means-"

"Yes," concurred the fat man, "and if you want to keep that out of the tournament, try telling it yourself." The young mage shrank back into her posh seat uneasily.

The berserker wasted no time. He unstrapped the heavy blade from his back, which fell with a dense thud. A wild yell escaped his lungs as he tugged on the knotted handle, finally managing to lift it from the dirt. Momentum built as he whirled the axe around, breaking the tips off several of the hazards in the process. The vengeful undead still made its steady advance, even after the savage released the frenzied weapon. It spun through the air, shortening all spikes in its swath, before breezing past the gaunt giant. At first glance, it seemed unaffected, until its right arm plummeted to the ground. The thing's shoulder and chest now bled maggots, and the wretched stench actually worsened. It gazed down to its fallen member coldly before returning the black stare of its unforgiving skull mask to its foe and beckoning his approach.

Another feral scream emitted from the mountain man. He charged forth with his huge arms forward. One locked with the abomination's only attached arm; the other pushed away the twin's body and jagged armor. The barbarian could feel his strength overpowering his opponent, but the nightmarish fiend reversed his efforts, and now the human moved headlong toward the sharp edge of a spire, like a sword piercing the ground. The berserker squeezed tighter onto the thing's hand, dusting some of its older bones, and kicked up against the razor edge. He pressed a rebound from the hazard, cutting through his boots and soles in the process but keeping his life, and flew at the freak with surprise force. The wild man strangled and pushed all his weight onto the walking graveyard, knocking it backwards. He guided its head perfectly onto an unseen spike that ripped through the vacant eye in the upside down skull mask.

The savage rose himself and his arms in victory to mixed reaction from the crowd. Feelings were the same as the monster slid itself back up the pole, trailing a black, viscous slime on the instrument thought to be its destruction. Enraged, the berserker raised his fur cloak, completing his transformation into a beast. The lumbering bear-like monstrosity roared at the dead one and rammed it. Both were carried through the metal spires that appeared to snap with ease until the coliseum walls were met with a thunderous crash. The golem suddenly vanished from its foe's grasp. From all across the field, towers of bone took shape and chased after the shapeshifter. He powered through wave after wave, suffering no more than mere cuts on his thick hide as the columns sundered. The nightmare itself finally reappeared, erupting from the earth to high above, brandishing a spinal spear trained on the grotesque ridges on the bear's back. He rolled out of the way. The golem instead stuck another spire, this one breaking off into its chest. It turned to find a sweeping paw that struck true the side of the freak's head, knocking it clean off its cursed body. The decapitated form stood motionless, leaking all sorts of maggots and dust.

The bear rose up, this time a few yards into the air, propelled by a pointed skeletal structure. None could see how much of the sneak attack pierced the savage's husky form, but when the attack relinquished and the beast was left to the spiked pit below, the impact was painfully obvious. Though far too late in the match to save him, the emperor called the winner. The severed head rolled side to side in denial, and the fiend continued its destruction; no guard dared to stop it.

The graveyard golem raised its arm victoriously in the air with its other arm when nothing was left of its opponent. The audience had not come to see this sort of blood sport; many had left as the colossus continued to mutilate its foe's corpse. All during the dismemberment, the loose head of the monster was fixed on the soldier, who looked down from the ranks as a spectator this time. Two matches remained in this level of the tournament; during the second level, these two would have their grudge match

** There is still more to this story. Continue to the next page. **

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