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7 mos ago
Current Shilling a good medieval fantasy:…
8 mos ago
Don't mind me. Just shilling a thread:…
9 mos ago
So worried right now. My brother just got admitted to the hospital after swallowing six toy horses. Doctors say he's in stable condtion.
9 mos ago
Nice to meet you, Bored. I'm interested!
9 mos ago
Ugh. Someone literally stole the wheels off of my car. Gonna have to work tirelessly for justice.


Oh gee! An age and a gender and interests and things. Yeah, I have those. Ain't no way I'm about to trigger an existential crisis by typing them all out, though. You can find out what a nerd I am on discord, okay?

Stay awesome, people.

Most Recent Posts


Frustrated, Jocasta shook her head. "I wish I could say that I did," she replied, "but there isn't much. I remember the Bajja, though." She shrugged. "There was a man: I don't think he was a parent. They'd have erased something like that. Something with an 'A'..." She trailed off and furrowed her brow, shaking her head after an extended moment. "Ambrose?" She scowled. Angelo? He was important to me, though. I remember his big rough hands, skin like tanned leather, the smell of the ocean always on him. He carried me on his shoulders, I think." She smiled faintly. "Along the docks, too, and the thump of that wood beneath my feet." She glanced down at her feet momentarily.

They continued along and she made sure to greet the others. When Zarina appeared beside her again, Jocasta was already looking up at her expectantly. "I remember a dog: a big golden one with floppy ears. No micropets, actually." There was a slight hitch in her next push, but then she forced a smile. Perhaps it was because she knew the dog to almost certainly be dead by now. Perhaps it was something else. "Much as I love animals, I don't think a pet is a great idea for me, given tethered issues with... Well, lifespan," she responded, lowering her voice at the end. "Anyways, We're about here. I'll pay you some other way. You know I will. I don't take freebies, Zaz." Then, there was a surge of magic, an open portal, and an idyllic seaside scene on the other side.

@Pirouette@YummyYummy@Salsa Verde@Suicharte@Tackytaff@RezonanceV@Fetzen@Th3King0fChaos@viera

The Fortunes of Kingdoms

The fortunes of nations rise and fall in war like waves on a beach. Sometimes they ebb low and other times, they flow high. If the Parrench had been mauled in the Fields of Fire, then they had come away with a dragon in the hands of one of the king's most trusted: Sir Maerec of Solenne. If the Eskandr were now directly threatening Chamonix and King Arcel with a superior force, then at least the city was wholly committed to its defense and Eleanor was on the way with what remained of her army.

Burned as well, had been a goodly portion of that great city of the yasoi: Loriindton - in some respects cleansed in the fire. The Eskandr were vile now, in the eyes of these people, their cause firmly allied to that of Parrence, and the soul of Talit'yrash'osmax irrevocably damned in the process. They rode out in force and with all due haste to strike a blow for their chosen side.

Meldheim had been put to the torch, a thousand years of Eskandr history and culture along with hundreds of souls lost. Yet, some had been saved by what many were calling an act of the Gods. A prince had been ransomed as well, but the result had been a people united and rallied and an alliance with Kressia formally struck. A second great heathen army incubated in the southlands, gathering its strength before a march north and a final reckoning. Preceding it, however, came the forces of Kressia, now assured of its position as an Eskandr equal and fully committed to the conflict. Queen Astrid had joined them atop Frelser, the great Volcanic Dragon who lived in the Eldfjall and was hers to command, along with a small number of elite Æresvaktr warriors.

Ebbs, they say, and flows.

A Test of Loyalty

Talit’yrash, now effectively Baroness of Loriindton, was one of those people who knew much about the fortunes of battle. Leading a battalion of one thousand from the city where she ruled in all-but name, she drove them hard on horseback. The rangy, tree-dwelling yasoi were less-than-comfortable under the open skies as they departed the forests of south-central Parrence and entered the east-central plains.

It was at the small town of Belfleur where they encountered a conundrum: a sizable Eskandr raiding party under the command of Jarl Ivar the Red, a notable fireblood and cousin to Þorunn Silverhair, had been attacking the town’s outlying villages and now threatened the larger settlement. Ensconced behind his motte and bailey walls, Guillaume, Baron of Belfleur, had raised every able man in his service and even some women and put out a desperate call for assistance. The yasoi had somewhat coincidentally arrived at just the right time to intervene. While they held a substantial numbers advantage of roughly three to one, dealing with the Eskandr would almost certainly slow their rapid march to Chamonix, and there were some among them who were not particularly keen on helping the Parrench as opposed to simply putting an end to the ruinous war. Their choice was stark and a test of where their loyalties lay: bleed time and strength saving the two-thousand souls of Belfleur or let the town and its people burn in the name of reaching Arcel with all due haste.


It had been four days since that first glancing encounter between the vanguard of Sweyn’s army and Arcel’s rearguard. Upon realizing that they were at grave risk of being caught between two enemy forces, the Parrench had broken off from their attempted relief of Chamonix and occupied the high ground west of the city, in the village of Saint-Guilhem and the partially ruined Avincian watchtower known as the La Tour Courbée. From this redoubt, they loomed over the efforts of the two Eskandr armies to dislodge their countrymen from the great city of the East.

The Southmen began constructing engines of siege and sent out raiding parties to harass the surrounding countryside, hoping both to resupply themselves and force the Parrench army to battle while they had the numbers advantage. Arcel, meanwhile, ordered small detachments out to make contact with the nearby villages, evacuating noncombatants and levying local militias to defend themselves or assist the Grand Armée.

Then, in the great distance, scouts began reporting the approach of a fourth army - a smaller one - and the rush was on to identify it. By the time that Queen Eleanor was recognized at its head, the Eskandr were moving to cut off its path to Arcel’s force and the Parrench were at just as great pains to ensure the union, for then they might have the strength to mount an offensive. Forces were urgently recalled from the countryside: Ulfhild of Ulven’s raiding band, Arnaud the Aheri’s militia squad, and the Nashorn’s engineers. The question now became one of just how much each side would be willing to commit.

Notice: @A Lowly Wretch@pantothenic@YummyYummy@Wolfieh@McKennaJ71@Suicharte@Ti

Thin Air has ended and, with it has concluded what would appear to be the day's dramatic centerpiece. The muggy, overcast sky that has been held back only through the efforts of the Zenos finally opens up and a warm tentative drizzle begins. A small and nondescript paper advertisement, written in a neat, swirling hand, hunkers under the little shelter on the noticeboard by Balthazar Square. It includes the following message:

If you’re reading this, an opportunity awaits you. I have lost an item of great value: left in a spot that I can only vaguely recall back near my hometown of Mdara on Djamant. The search will likely be long and arduous, but whosoever recovers it for me shall be handsomely rewarded. Those who do not will still receive compensation. You will not need to dress for rain.
- Jocasta Re

The message has been up since the previous evening and anybody who is going to respond to it will either follow its summons or not at this point. There is a further notice that Jocasta would like people to meet her close to the Arch of Lunatics at Moli’s Emporium near Mudville. The time given is 2:00 HO. A small group gathers. It includes some of her closest friends along with others who she does not know particularly well.

When the group starts to gather, many of them recognize each other and begin to chat. The Trials are entering their final phase and many of their teams are in good position for a top ten finish and the rich rewards entailed. Some even occupy a coveted top five spot. A few familiar with Temporal Magic notice a surge of its particular type of energy some hundred yards distant. It isn't a minute more before Jocasta herself appears: a small white and gold angel juxtaposed against the browns and greys of a damp and soggy day. There is nary a speck of mud to sully her clothes and, presently, the rain seems to tail off. Nonetheless, she is living a sartorially dangerous life at present, and specks of mud stain her gloves and the lower reaches of her dress before long. She makes a sour face, but doesn't hold it for long as she scans the faces of the recent arrivals. Among them she finds some of her closest confidantes in Zarina and Yalen, friends like Kaspar and Trypano, and newer faces like Niallus, Marlijn, and the yasoi Ashon. She takes a moment to greet them each, and make introductiosn with the three who she doesn't really know.

"Follow me if you're interested," she says simply, flashing a small smile of welcome and motioning for them to follow. The ground is awful and she only manages to traverse it with the help of the Gift. "So, it's a jewellery piece," she announces after a bit, twisting to regard them. "For those of you who know anything about tethered 'refuges', you'll know why I can't remember the details. We all get a nice chemical memory wipe upon entry, and everything before that point is hazy." They wind through the fairgrounds. The Roseball pitch from yesterday is still up and will be until the end of the week. Some of the locals are using it, their play a good deal more skilled and less powerful than that of the students. "I'll remember it when I see it, though." Jocasta furrows her brow. "That, I know for certain: these kinds of things can trigger memories, and I'd like to know a bit more about who I am. I also remember there was a sense of urgency, foreboding. I hid it up in a prickly pear cactus near Bajja Misħuta - the Cursed Bay - in an awful hurry." They're in an area near some supply sheds and there is another surge of magic. A portal opens. "Temporal Magic," she remarks to the few who aren't in the know. "I'm good with it and I don't know how or why. I'll open the portal up every hour for about a minute for the next six hours. If you're not back by then, I'll try to come and get you." She flashes a weary look. "Don't make me come and get you," she warns. "Anyhow, the good part's this: recover the piece for me and don't raise every red flag that I've got about your motivations and I'll teach you Temporal. For everyone else, it's one magus and, if you wanna learn and I like you, you can pay. A girl's gotta keep food on the table, right?"

With that, a swirling portal of light and energy opens and, through it, people catch glimpses of a rocky and idyllic seashore in some semiarid place. In the distance, a small castle on a peninsula guards the brilliant azure waters and a grounded shipwreck thrusts its bow out of the water and onto a gull-covered islet. There are cacti scattered about among the rocks, shrubs, and wildflowers and they can almost hear the bleating of the birds, the smell of salt and seaweed, and feel the cool ocean breeze and warm sun on their skin. "Shune's clarity and Reshta's fortune, friends."

  • A listing of all active side missions may be found here.
  • A thread will be opened up on discord for this storyline to progress once all participants have confirmed.
  • You may confirm your participation by reacting to this post. If you have any questions, you'll have two days to post them on the forum.

@Pirouette@dragonpiece@Ti@Salsa Verde@BreathOfTheWoof@jasbraq@Th3King0fChaos

It’s a simple job, on the surface: get an article to press that the city’s printers are hesitant to print. It appears late on the board, almost as if sneaked in. The pay is less than amazing, but adequate - one magus each - and the poster is looking for five people. “Enough is enough,” it stridently claims. “The people at the reins are steering us off a cliff. Now, they want to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. If you're motivated to make a change, meet us by the fountain north of the Arboretum at 2:00 HD and wear a red ribbon.”

Shortly after, the notice disappears as suddenly as it went up and the day passes. At the appointed hour, those who’ve made themselves available gather in the small plaza surrounding the fountain. The water laps and splashes under the light of three moons and moths and crane flies zip and swirl around a pair of gas lamps. To the south, the arboretum is uncharacteristically still and silent, despite the curfew having been lifted for this event. Perhaps people are scared of the recent unrest. Perhaps they are merely tired after the full-day slog that was Roses & Neskals. There is only the subtle hiss of the gas-powered street lamps and the persistent howling of a distant dog as they arrive.

The students have no trouble recognizing their co-conspirators. They appear to be Ingrid, Zarra, Dory, Sven, Desmond, Casii, Ymiico, and Ayla, each adorned with some variation of the ribbon they were asked to wear. They exchange nods. A few minutes pass and there is no sign of anyone who looks like a potential employer, though nearly everything about this ‘job’ is strange.

Then, just as a couple begin grumbling, a poster materializes on the wall of one of the buildings overlooking the small courtyard. It reads: “When, if ever, is it acceptable to break the law?” Then, a second poster: “You have two minutes,” and a third: “...I’m listening.” It appears that a response is required, for the benefit of… whoever’s listening.

Don't Stop to Smell the Roses 𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥𝅯 𝅘𝅥𝅰

Some called it mortal terror. Others liked to characterize it as ‘adventure.’ Whatever it was, it had become an expected and even essential part of the Ersand’Enise experience. A sanguinaire’s rampage had been halted the previous night. Ancient catacombs had been explored in the Torragonese desert. Students had celebrated their completion of The Dragon by dancing with Eskandish druids in a summer grove well into the evening.

There was, of course, more. Some was of great import, but the sun rose the next morning, the same as it always did, and triumphs and tragedies were placed neatly aside as the day began. Yet, there were some who did not even wait. As Ipte gave way to Shune, they were already rising, stretching, yawning. Hearty early breakfasts were cooked. Eyes were rubbed and yawns stifled. Copious amounts of coffee and other stimulants were consumed and Chemical Magic was in high demand. The hundreds of largely-bedraggled youths who crowded the plaza before Balthazar Hall nonetheless found their enthusiasm once the Zenith appeared. As usual, she was all-too happy to lap up their adulation.

The third event of The Trials, Roses & Neskals, better known nowadays as Roseball, was set to be an all-day tournament, played out in twelve separate arenas spread throughout the Twin Continents. Three minutes were given for teams to choose each other and, while the 1280 youths gathered were old hands at it by this juncture, there was now some strategy involved. They knew who the 'good' teams were. They also knew who were rivals in the standings, and five more of the potential prizes had been revealed. Many glances were taken at the leaderboard. Alliances were made strategically. Vyshta's Favoured and Shortlisted, formerly popular choices, found themselves able to attract only each other. You Could Never was also frozen out by erstwhile friends until rescued by CUBED and the Ice King. To everyone’s great amusement, the two Æresvaktr teams - Pravda and Sadan - finally joined forces.

There was less time to mingle. The bracket was revealed, portals were opened, and teams were assigned their starting locations. Most would not be playing immediately, but they needed to go through. For the second time in as many days, they emerged in a plethora of exotic locales, ready to play.

Not All that Glimmers Is Gold 𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥𝅯 𝅘𝅥𝅰

It was late afternoon before the wheat had been separated from the chaff, and most of the teams who had stood at the top of the rankings had battled their way through four single-elimination rounds, the sleep-deprivation of their early morning, and the sensory bombardment of their new surroundings and thousands of cheering and jeering fans. They were bruised, battered, and exhausted by the time that they found themselves in the group stage with - for the first time since lunch hour - a touch of breathing room. Browsing the sumptuous buffet tables of their four opening match locations, some collapsed onto the tables, chairs, and bleachers that had been set out for them while others took to snooping around the area, hoping to take int he experience or find local treasures. Word had spread from fellow competitors, hosts, and older relatives that it was Roses & Neskals tradition that various items of value should be found throughout the surrounding area.

For some, it was the whimsical 'Château de Fromage', quaint village square, and idyllic beaches of Picodon Supreme. Others dined above the pounding waves of Razor's Edge, the towers and steeples of the great city of Harrowend rising from the fog on the near-distant mainland. There were those who dined in the sumptuous gardens among the statues and columns of the Imperial in the Thalak capital of Vessaklion, and still others whose meals were taken looking out over the vast canyon of the Anghazi Floater in the jungles of southern Virang.

Then, it came time to play. The bracket had played out almost perfectly to seeding, with the only exception being the upset of the Æresvaktr Alliance at the hands of a colossally boosted Vyshta's Favoured and Shortlisted in the Round of Sixteen. The second and third-placed teams were gunning for the top spot and, so far, none of their matches save their epic clash with pre-tournament favourites Æresvaktr had lasted for more than fifteen minutes. Questioning minds now turned their thoughts to the only question really worth pondering: just who, if anyone, could stop them?


Matches will be played out live in discord threads over two days each. Each team will have two large posts. Individual players may post as many times as they like during this period. However, they are limited to twitter-length posts, please, for the sake of brevity. Please read the hiders thoroughly. If you have read them and still have questions, feel free to ask a moderator for assistance.

It's time to D-d-d-duel!


Smoke trickled from the corner of Tyrel'yrash's mouth and up into the moonlit room, gradually dissipating. She lay there, naked under her ghostlike covers, hands folded behind her head and a pipe on the nightstand beside her. Chad'amis'yida shared her bed and they had shared each other. She took another pull from the pipe before it went out. She wanted to blow rings but she wasn't very good at it. She nudged him and offered it and Chad had a smoke as well.

The night air lay cool and damp upon her skin and she could feel a hint of goosebumps, but it felt strangely good. The sweltering stink of Hogh Munkhelad was still with her: its narrow claustrophobic streets and feel of enclosure. She halfway wanted to throw something on and run out into the night just to feel unconfined. "You look pensive," remarked her special one, and she snorted. "That obvious, huh?" He nodded and blew a couple of rings of smoke. She'd failed again. "Like three monkeys in a trench coat," he decided. She turned her head, looked him in the eyes, and they smiled together. "It's not a bad pensive," she decided, trailing off.

"Fuck. Whenever a chick says something like that, you know you're doomed."

She punched him on the shoulder and rolled onto her side, resting an elbow on the mattress and the side of her head on her hand. "Ypti, you're such a dick."

"That's uh... the idea."

She rolled her eyes. "Anyway, it's more like missed opportunities."

"Babe, we're in the top three. Like, seriously, what more do you -"

"Oh Vysh, I know. It's not that."

"Praying to yourself?" He arched an eyebrow, rolling onto his side to face her as well. "So what? regretting not inviting that pretty little human?"

"I'd have been good with three, maybe even four, but he wasn't interested." She didn't let herself think about why. She already knew, of course. "Didn't you have that Ingrid girl as a partner and she wasn't like... a bitch or anything?"

He smiled. "She was pretty cool, but she was in a hurry to get to somewhere in Torragon, so yeah." He shrugged. "So, what is it? You made up with that bad human copy of you?"

"Damy, don't be so mean," Tyrel whined, "and yes. Her name's Penny." She smiled faintly and rolled her eyes a bit. "Honestly, such a big character and get this: I think she's like... literally dating that weird stalker guy I had before."

"That's a good thing?" Chad prodded.

Tyrel shrugged. "Hey, at least he's leaving me alone," she chirped. She caught herself then. She'd launched into a long meandering emotional conversation, just like her special one had said she would. She grimaced slightly. He really did know her too well. "Anyway, it's like..." Her face became earnest. She took a moment to scratch a itch under the covers. "We're here in Constantia and I'm supposed to be like... this goddess or whatever."

"You say it like you don't believe it."


"Tyrel..." he mimicked.

She rolled her eyes. "Anyway, don't laugh at me. I was honestly thinking we could do some good. The Consansoi are hurting really badly. Maybe there's like... something I can do." She rolled onto her back again and let out a sigh. It lingered in the night air. Outside, crickets chirped and nocturnal life skittered about the city. There was a tree not far away. One good gift-enhanced leap and she could be there.

"So, if you wannna do it," he replied, sitting up and glancing fondly down at her, "then you should. You know I'm always here."

"To make fun of me?"

"Someone has to, Goddess."

"Say it again, please!" she squealed.


"Oooh, Chad!" She let out another snort and her face became serious after a moment. "I wanna do it," she said. "I wanna help them. I wanna bring them hope, if I like... can." She sniffed a bit and sat up, drawing her knee to her chin. "I just don't know where to start."

Chad scooted up beside her and wrapped his right arm around her shoulders. Tyrel snuggled into his warmth. "What about that cousin of yours?" he asked. "She's lived among them for years." He furrowed his brow. "Do you even know for sure if she is your cousin?"

Tyrel went silent. She gave a little nod and he kissed the top of her head. "You know my family has secrets."

"I know," he replied.

"She's... related to me."

"Hard to miss."

The putative goddess knew it. Her mother wasn't her mother. Her cousins weren't her cousins. They all looked uncannily similar and she only stood out by virtue of her missing leg. Some received the curse, others didn't. She didn't know for sure about Ismette, but she would venture that her newly-discovered relation was like Mirette, who was out enjoying the night, of course. "I'll speak with her."

"You want me to come?" Chad asked concernedly, his voice a rare tone of earnest.

Tyrel shifted and slid over top of him. She shook her head and kissed him on the lips. "I love you."


“This is our chance,” said Benedetto, adamantly. He was all for the cause. Unlike Jocasta, whose loyalty extended only as far as her sense of gratitude and fear that she would be a target should she strike out on her own, he shared the goals of the other who stood in this room with him. He shared them to the very core of his being. “They’ve pushed too hard for their fucking war and now even the rich kids are getting squirmy.”

“Your words may not betray you, Ciano, but your demeanor here does.” The figure in the black mask clasped gloved hands behind the small of its back. “Why should we care for the opinions of the rich? Why should we spend our hard-earned funds on their folly?”

The youth scowled. “It pisses me off too but, if we don’t, then Revidia or Perrence will get their hands on some big weapon and the war will come even faster.”

“And why, Ciano,” said a second masked figure, “should we want to prevent this war?”

“‘Cause it’s people like us who'll die!” he retorted, temper flaring.

“People like us die anyhow,” said a woman in a red mask. “And, usually, when we do, we simply accept it. Perhaps we grumble some, here or there, but we never get angry enough to do anything.”

“Unless there’s a war,” said a silver-masked figure with a rich Torragonese accent. He shook his head. “I don’t like it either, but it needs to be something brazen, something that lays bare the truth.”

“I would rather a hundred thousand die in the span of a year and then so many less for the indefinite future,” added a woman in a green mask, “than continue as we are.” She shook her head. “Something has to give.”

They were all against him here: the adults - the people who knew better. For all their talk of ‘we’, it wouldn’t be them dying. A silence built. The clock on the wall ticked relentlessly through its seconds. “So that’s it?” Benny demanded, “we don’t help when we can?”

“Try to see the bigger picture, Ciano,” said a scholarly voice. “If -”

“Our friend is right,” interjected an unexpected ally. It was Certosa - Jocasta. “It is important to see the bigger picture, but i would argue not only that. It is important to see all angles.” Benedetto bristled. Why was she speaking in support? She was not on his side. She never truly was. “If the students are allowed to publicly take control of the music box, then they are tied to it. They have taken a stand and, in doing so, divided the ruling class. They have made themselves a flashpoint and a target. We can use them to start undermining our overlords from within. Unlike you who are older and wiser, I have not yet given up hope that we might have our revolution with a great deal less bloodshed.” She glanced his way. “It is a hope that I believe Ciano shares.”

Benny scowled. “Don’t speak for me, Veleno.”

Their eyes met for a moment and then she looked away. This was a plan of hers, he knew, a trap. Jocasta was ever setting traps and he was her favourite prey. It had been that way since he had first arrived.

“The students will surely be martyred,” rumbled a man in a dark wooden mask, “and they are not the sort of martyrs that we need. They will make some doubt the course they've chosen and the necessity of our great work. A few decent-hearted individuals on the other side does not erase the need for them to fall as a whole.”

“Not all of them were born rich,” Benedetto reminded them.

“And not all here were born poor,” Jocasta added pointedly. That was it! It struck the boy that this would fail but she would fail with him. She would appear on his side, and then she would worm her way into his confidence and report all of his actions back to their seniors, as she had before. Jocasta was a snake. He couldn’t disavow her, though. Not now. They were always telling him to ‘behave’ and they were all hypocrites, for they were bad people, just like him, as soon as they left this room.

It was ten more minutes before that happened: ten minutes of pretend deliberation and discussion that was designed to lead to an inevitable conclusion: “thanks, boy. Now butt out and let the adults make the decisions.” He all but stormed out, fists clenching and unclenching themselves, and stood in the near-empty plaza. He could kill half of them, he knew. It was just the other half that was the problem. Benedetto spat on the ground and then Jocasta was beside him. She sat there under the moonlight with her porcelain face and her hands folded demurely on her lap. Her long, pretty blonde hair spilled over her shoulders and… her chest. They were so big, and her waist was so small and her eyes bright and wide and… He scrunched his face up in a snarl. “What do you want, cripple?”

She ignored the insult. “A victory,” she sighed. “To actually be listened to.” She let out a snort. “How about you?”

Benny kicked at a pebble. “You can stop trying to be all friendly and shit.” He watched it skitter into the distance, across the cobblestones and past the small fountain. “I’m never gonna like you. I know you’ll just rat me out to them and they’ll all think you’re so fucking great. That’s what you do.”

He could feel her eyes upon him, but he didn’t give her the satisfaction of meeting them. He’d wait and let her seethe while she came up with some new plan for either getting into his confidence or under his skin.

“Whatever,” she said shortly, setting hands to wheels. He looked over as she turned and wheeled away, without even glancing back.

Crickets chirped and water splashed peacefully in the fountain. Fucking bitch. She kept hoping he’d forget: forget how she’d stepped over him - figuratively - within days of their first meeting, how she’d used him, how she’d betrayed him. Everyone had, really, and he wasn’t that convinced anymore that they were any better than the people they were supposed to be fighting against. If they wouldn’t give him the money, then he’d steal it. Benedetto gathered energy to himself and launched up into the sky, reveling in the cool of the wind on his skin, through his hair, and the flapping of his shirt. He’d steal what he needed, then. Stupid Ingrid and that asshole Desmond were actually doing the right thing. He’d steal the money to help them and because… fuck these people who thought they owned him.

He continued heading north, away from Mudville and out over Ersand’Enise. There’d been some fight in the Workman’s Quarter earlier in the evening. A half-dozen people had died. It had taken twenty minutes before help had arrived because the school’s people didn’t patrol the Workman’s Quarter. Everyone would talk about it the next day, of course: what epic magic was used and all that shit and, yeah, that pretty cool, but they'd hardly waste a breath on the people who died because those people weren’t special. They didn’t have magic. The sum of their lives would be six: the number of casualties, to show everyone how bad it had been and how heroic the people who’d stopped it were.

The boy's fists clenched and unclenched. If the past few months had taught him anything, it’s that he was strong, but not the strongest. There were some people who he just couldn’t go up against - not yet. He had to find another way to…

Then, Benedetto got an idea: an idea that could change everything.

The Dragon: Street Hoghs

Whatever wonders the Iron City of the Hegelans had to offer, racers had to imbibe them as they ran, for it was now all to play for in this final leg of the race. The labyrinthine streets of Hogh Munkhelad, at times grand and open, at junctures narrow and claustrophobic, were inevitably confusing for the new arrivals. They were made even more so by the addition of barriers, blockades, and purposely unreliable signage. Dozens of people of a species most had never encountered before and some had never even heard of peered eagerly down from windows and balconies, pointing, clapping, and shouting. Others ran alongside them, some allies and some given the task of becoming obstacles.

Charging through the portal, the students who'd come from Longwan had the luxury of awe and exploration. Their peers who'd been waiting for the past hour did not. They had been balances on a knife edge of anticipation for almost as long as they'd been here, and now they took off. While some relied on brute power, others hoped for fortune and treasure, and some leaned into special talents and abilities, there were those who took a methodical approach to finding the five token stations and the five gates they would need to pass through.

And yet, for all of the teammates simply carried as deadweight instead of having their talents utilized, for all of the crashed rickshaws, lost 'geniuses', sneaky plans quickly debunked, and great efforts not quite rewarded with results, Vyshta once again had her say, and not in the form of Tyrel'yrash, whose magic did much - but not quite enough - to overcome her physical shortcomings. A free gate key allowed Yulia Vasilieva to skip an entire step and steal the lead from Marlijn Vaanse. Silas Reiger and Ahrora Babayeva's teamwork, nimbleness, familiarity with the region, and shameless sabotage allowed them to leapfrog well ahead as well, and not without the help of some Powergazer energy detection.

Sometimes, there's no substitute for being lucky. Sometimes, there's no substitute for being good. It came down to a footrace, with all of the top five finishers in sight of one another in a flat-out sprint. In this, the Vossoriyan Sanguinaire held off her hard-charging Kaganese opponent, Zarra Travendour burst from the greyborn dimension for a last-second kinetic boost that saw him leave his one-legged teammate in the dust and nearly saw him poach the lead, and Marlijn Vaanse was simply outclassed in raw power and not quite able to close the gap. You Could Never-Shortlisted took the win and, with it, the crucial 200 point finish bonus, SYCAMORE-Good Guy Team came from way back in the pack to claim second and a crucial fourth-place finish overall with their late charge, and Snaked and Afraid-Vyshta's Favoured edged out Lucky Seven-Sea People and Heartstoppers-Skull & Crossbones, who came in as a pair just as they'd started.

The cavernous underground city erupted in cheers and celebrations at the finish of The Dragon of DZ54 and the first public step in the opening of their cloistered civilization to the rest of the world. Other teams finished over the proceeding half hour, hearty drinks and congratulations handed to all. For some, these felt well-deserved; for others, they couldn't help but ring a bit hollow. The medal ceremony was held then and there, in Hogh Munkhelad, with the Zenith and three Arch-Zenos in attendance. The high finishers reaped the rewards, while others went back to the drawing board, worried that their chances of that much coveted top five overall finish were fast slipping out of reach. They would have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow in the next event of The Trials: Roses & Neskals.

Next Up: Roses & Neskals

The Dragon: Invasive

The cold, snow-covered people who burst through the portal could not have looked more out of place amid their tropical surroundings. Waves gently rolled in and out beneath a star-filled sky, revelers laughed and clapped, and fireworks echoed in the near distance. The moment that their teammates arrived, however, the racers here were ready, and had been for quite some time. They darted off into the darkened jungle, hurling light and magics before them, pursuing their quarry after already having - in many cases - pestered the locals for what they knew of the invasive little pigs that they were to capture.

While much searching for treasure was done and interesting discoveries were made, many of the teams here employed similar strategies, relying on Chemical magic, local knowledge, and the natural environment to lure the micropigs over and put them to sleep. The speed and effectiveness they did this proved largely dependent upon how much they were bent on searching and how well they made their prey come to them. A raw carrot is one thing. An enticing aroma, spread unnaturally far and enhanced with magic is quite another.

It was the Lucky Seven-Sea People alliance who combined this optimal strategy best with luck when they found a crate of four pigs already captured, allowing them to cruise to an easy victory. Many other teams enjoyed similar though lesser success, and it was - in general - an odd sort of race: no distances or speeds to be measured, but a task to be completed instead. The only alliance who notably went belly-up were the VOID-Crusaders, whose shrimp dog, Eek, seemed very alarmed by something in the water and had to be actively corralled multiple times, taking up nearly all of Yaufin’s efforts and forcing Ysilla to divert many of her puppets, which had already been struggling to grab the small, quick animals.

As frustrating as things were, the tarpit lurkers were less of a hazard at night, being notably less active, and the series of torches set up made it easy for teams to find their way back. Snaked and Afraid-Vyshta’s Favoured were quick, as were Xicallicoatl-Gunboat Diplomats, Heartstoppers-Skull & Crossbones, and You Could Never-Shortlisted. In the end, though, it proved a poor round for frontrunners, as overall points leaders Void-Crusaders crashed and burned and Afraval’s alliance fell out of first position for the first time since the opening leg.

With dozens of youths rushing through the hotly-anticipated portal to the exotic locale of Hogh Munkhelad, they had different goals: some vied for first place, others for redemption, and still others desperately trying to break into the top five, regroup, or hold off the charge of a fast-gaining team below them. It was all to play for. Soon.

The Micropig. Kill one and you're officially going to Oraff's Hell.

Next Up: Street Hoghs!

The Dragon: The Dragonspine

They were welcomed by howling winds, crunching mud, and whipping cold, but also by warmth. As the desert racers bundled through the portal, they were quickly wrapped in warm quilts and provided with hot cider, waterproof boot-covers, and all of the hospitality that this distant corner of Eskand could muster. If the land was poor in wealth and luxuries, it was rich in spirit and conduct.

Their arrival caught some by surprise. It was easy to retreat into a comfortable haze of quilts, cider, and conversation, but those who knew this place and understood the nature of the competition recognized the importance of staying limber and acclimating. Those who started ‘cold’ started better.

Quickly, an invigorating hike turned into an exhausting slog. A shallow incline turned into a steep one and, even further, into a perilous vertical. Powerful gusting winds whipped snow into the climbers’ faces and picks dug into rock and ice alike for purchase. Great white dragons circled overhead, a looming threat, and treacherous fissures promised a quick and painful fall or else cruel and opportunistic creatures that lurked unseen. Before long, sparse shrubs and mosses gave way to hardy lichens. In turn, these submitted to bald rock.

Yet, this was not an exercise so cut and dried as those that had come before it. While all competitors were given a wooden board, rope with grappling hook, and set of picks, they were not forbidden from bringing equipment of their own. Ashon of VOID-Crusaders came with his Dervish gear. Ghaven of You Could Never-Shortlisted wore his runic items with pride and purpose. Ingrid and Sven, both Eskandish, had their own gear to supplement what they’d been provided. Perhaps the strangest and most novel, though, was Trypano Somia and Chimalpepech of Xicallicaotl-Gunboat Diplomats. They came with… more or less a bobsled and a great deal of Kinetic Gift to use.

There were some, such as the Hegelan, Ghaven, antigravity mage Ashon, and mana-enhanced powerhouse Augusto who were never not going to thrive. The discovery of helpful items along the way certainly did not hurt the chances of many of these frontrunners and their partners. Yet there were those who suffered. Some fifty racers would have fallen to their deaths were it not for the intervention of local safety crews. For all of its speed, the bobsled nearly crashed multiple times due to sabotage and the naturally-occurring fissures. Summit pegs were hidden and frozen to the ground, ropes were cut, and avalanches were started. Were it not for the Gift, the majority of teams would not have had so much as a hope of completing the challenge. Indeed, some did not even appear particularly interested in doing so, so ardent was their search for treasures. Sven Bjornsson, both competitor and local, came away with the egg of a Grand Mountain Serpent, abandoned in a hollow just off-course by its mother. Rope dragons attacked these explorers almost at will, but even those who stayed on course were not immune to their attentions. The beasts had to be fought off by staff and students alike.

It was not these that caused the single greatest calamity, however. That distinction lay with Benedetto Corvi of Lucky Seven-Sea People. Harassed by a juvenile Tyrannus Monsigneus, he took the dragon on in single combat and slew it upon the mountain, rendering a large section of the course near-impassable for some time.

The leaders were already ahead, however. Hopped up on a series of boons, adrenaline, and natural abilities, they clambered, skied, or slid down the mountainside with varying degrees of grace and competence, some - like near-local Ingrid Penderson of Snaked and Afraid-Vyshta’s Favoured - treating the massive ski jump as an experience.

When all was said and done, however, it was You Could Never-Shortlisted who once again crossed the line first. Lucky Seven-Sea People lost further ground, Xicallicoatl-Gunboat Diplomats gained, and the racers plunged through their third portal with some hopes waxing while others waned.

Next Up: Invasive!
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