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QtE 24, Round 1

The first round of eliminations from QtE 26 (ie: The round of 18).

Fight 1: Shin vs. William Treacher

The glowing intra-dimensional portal fades. The 18 figures are left standing on what appears to be a small, floating island in a sea of pure darkness. In spite of this, there is breathable air here, indicating someone doesn't want you dead. Well, just yet, anyways.

A voice booms from somewhere in the black: “Welcome, warriors, to Quest to Escape! You, the greatest fighters in the cosmos, will battle each other to escape from this prison I have created. Or else you will never leave. I shall now determine which of you shall fight…”

From out, a pair of giant 18-sided dice pop up and tumble through the air. Upon landing, one reads “13” and one reads “8”.

“It is decided!” booms the unseen Creator. “The first battle shall be fought between… William Treacher, The Mad Preacher and Shin!”

The two fighters in question vanish into thin air. “The rest of you may wait here until it is your turn. And by “may”, I mean you will unless you wish the flesh stripped from your bones while you still live.”

Shin opens his eyes and looks around, confused. William stammers some ancient Biblical curses under his breath as he too looks around their surroundings.

The fighters have reappeared in a world gone totally mad.

They on the opposite ends of a church…with walls nearly half a mile apart and a floor made of loose dirt. Somehow, although it appears to be indoors for all intents and purposes, strong gusts of wind occasionally pick up, fluttering the pages of the bibles innocently sitting on the wooden pews. “This is an unholy creation…” mutters William darkly, wondering what has become of this once-holy place.

A voice speaks directly into the inner workings of William and Shin's minds. “I couldn't decide which arena I wanted to see a fight in, so I combined them,” states the Creator (for obviously, that's who it would be) as though it were a perfectly obvious solution. “Now FIGHT!” screams the voice in the minds of the two men.

Recovering quickly from the mental shock, Shin charges forward towards William, eager to strike the first blow and put a quick end to the fight. “I claw you!” he yells through the bloodlust, slashing forward with his aura claws.

Before he can touch the stunned preacher, however, a sudden flash of light blinds Shin, causing him to miss William entirely and crash headlong into one of the pews. Seizing the opportunity, William flings a series of daggers at Shin. With the perfect aim of a master assassin, they pin Shin's sleeves and pant legs to the heavy wooden bench. “Ha! Missed me!” laughs Shin, oblivious to his condition.

Ignoring his opponent's taunts, William reaches for a bottle of holy water, blessing it and invoking the name of God while Shin futilely struggles to break free. “Dodge this, heathen,” he says simply as he flings the bottle forwards. With a final desperate lunge, Shin successfully strikes the earth with his fist, yelling, “I punch the ground!”

The surprisingly well-aimed battle aura strike hits the bottle dead on, causing it to burst into flames and send burning glass flying towards both competitors. William is protected by a holy aura…but Shin is far less fortunate. A large portion of the glass strikes him, slicing his flesh followed by immediately cauterizing it. He cries out in agony and rage, furious at the battle's progression. Seizing his chance, William launches a new projectile at the wounded fighter; this time, a Bible.

It explodes the second it hits Shin's broken form. With disdain, William notes that Shin is miraculously still alive despite the great, bloody hole that once was his chest.

Shin gives the preacher a mad grin. “I won't die by you, preacher man,” he states simply. With a final yell of exertion, he rips one arm free of the restraining daggers. Catching one before it hits the ground, he swiftly slits his own jugular with his one free hand.

Blood fountains into the air. Red stains appear the dusty arena as the drops fall. William sighs and quickly recites a blessing, praying Shin's soul is received safely in Heaven.

The landscape fades and William reappears on the floating island. “Pity about the end of that,” booms the Creator, as though upset that Shin decided to take his own life. Beneath William's feet, a small pedestal rises with the roman numeral II etched into it, indicating that he has moved on to the next round.

WINNER: WILLIAM TREACHER, THE MAD PREACHER

Fight 2: Bad Luck vs Gentleman Jack Cuervo

An 18-sided spinner rises up from the ground. It spins first clockwise, landing on the number “19”, then spins in the opposite direction and falls on the number “10”.

“Next fight shall be between 'Bad Luck' and 'Gentleman Jack Cuervo!” says the Creator with gusto, previous disappointment forgotten.

The two fighters in question vanish into thin air, assumedly to appear again in some hellish place and fight for their lives in this unnatural plane of existence…

The fighters reappear in a massive Oktoberfest tent full of people speaking German. They appear to not notice the contenders and continue drinking without pause, reveling in one of the finer parts of Bavarian culture. Around the tent, however, several ladders with salt on top of them have been set up. The walkways between the tables are littered with cracks and the doors have mirrors on them instead of typical window glass. “The other mortals will not get in your way. They are merely dummies to make this fight more…interesting,” states the Creator in each fighter's mind. “Now have at it!”

Bad Luck [b](there is no way in hell that I'm typing his full name out)[/b] immediately rips out his handgun and fires several shots at Jack. However, due to Jack's tendency to drunkenly swagger about, the first four shots narrowly miss him. One strikes a drinking man right in the face, somehow provoking him to violently explode and causing both fighters to momentarily flinch.

Jack recovers first, gargling a stream of nigh-unintelligible words as he rushes forward with his bottle held high. “Hnnargh shammiches terghush sushernnn, fucker!” he yells as he brings his weapon down on Bartholomew's head. Or, at least the place where Bad Luck's head was a second ago…at the last second, he was able to teleport out of harm's way. Jack attempts to chase after him, spewing more unholy-sounding drunkenese curses at his opponent, until he crosses an invisible line between two tables. Jack suddenly collapses, vomiting explosively out on the dirty tent floor.

Bad Luck breathes a sigh of relief. [i]Wasn't entirely sure that was going to work,[/i] he thinks to himself, glad the heavy-drinking Jack isn't immune to the effects of his ring. He again draws his pistol, aiming carefully at the drunkard's head and pulling the trigger. Unluckily (and ironically) for him, the shot strikes Cuervo on the shoulder, spinning him around and sending him face-first into his own pool of puke. He stands up with a wide grin despite the bloody wound in his shoulder, seemingly recovered from the cat ring's ill effects. “Ha! Looks like all your tricks can't stop me, ya fucking panzy,” he taunts, before he realizes exactly what he just said.

The Gentleman is no longer speaking drunkenese; he's fully sober. The sickness induced by Bartholomew's attack must have had a detox effect, purging most of the alcohol in his system. Jack begins bawling and frantically apologizing to Bad Luck for the trouble he caused while intoxicated.

Bad Luck is not amused. As Jack walks forward to try and put his arm around Bartholomew, he focuses on his ladder ring and tents his fingers. Cuervo trips up over his shoelaces and, once again, falls flat on his face, bawling about how much of a useless drunk he's become over the years. He tries to push himself to his feet, crying for someone named Zeke to show up and help him (though no one appears). After a few tries, he unsteadily stands on his own to legs again…

Followed by Bad Luck expertly shooting out Jack's knees and firing a round between his shoulders, dropping the Gentleman back onto the ground as he moans in pain, dead nerve endings finally starting to come back to life. Remorselessly, Bad Luck walks over and slits Jack's throat, ending the match for good. The Oktoberfest tent fades into darkness and Bartholomew reappears next to William back in the waiting room.

WINNER: BAD LUCK

Fight 3: Valhallen vs Summit

“You two shall fight next,” booms the Creator's voice after a long minute. Valhallen and Summit both vanish without ceremony, no reasoning given behind why they were chosen…

“-on't know, puppet pal Mitch. What is a cowboy's favorite kind of horse?”

“It's a bucking BONKO!”

*BONK*

“Hahahaha…”

The fighters appear on what appears to be a film set just in time to see a tall, purple puppet hit a short, yellow one with a large foam club. A satisfying *BONK* sound ensues from the comedic violence as the studio audience erupts in schaudenfreudic laughter. When the fighters appear, all stop and stare at the Viking God of Rock and the frozen Elementalist.

“This time they're really humans. Making replicas is so tedious. However, they remain irrelevant to your fight,” comes the voice of the Creator once again.

Warming up with a rapid series of arpeggios, Valhallen glares (or…at least appears to glare under his long golden locks) at Summit. “You are most certainly going dooooown, dude!” he declares, using one hand to point at the frigid figure while still fretting the guitar with his other hand.

Summit says nothing. His only reply is to summon forth a towering frost golem, much to the shocked surprise of the studio audience. He extends one hand, palm raised, towards the rocker and brings his fingers back towards himself in the universally-recognized “bring it on” gesture.

Valhallen leaps forward with a battle cry of, “HELLO CLEVELAND!” as he brings down the Axe upon the frost golem's head, shattering it into thousands of ice shards. Heedless of its cranial trauma, the construct bats Valhallen away like an annoying fly, sending the rock god crashing into a video camera as both the audience and puppets watch on in mute horror. Summit again draws upon his powers, calling forth a deadly 10-foot spear made of jagged ice. However, he hesitates with the throw for just a moment due to the rock god's amazingly good looks…

And then the ground shakes, ever so slightly.

Again. Louder this time. And a chanting voice can be heard drawing steadily closer…

“-vee Puppet Pals! TeeVee Puppet Pals! LOTSA FUN FOR GUYS AND…”

The wall explodes. “GALS!” booms the giant purple creature which has just burst through. A masked man wearing an American flag as a cape wails, “Kruuuuuuuuunk! STOP THIS AT ONCE!” from his position just behind the purple giant. Valhallen shakes his head sadly; looks like the other Justice Friends have just showed up.

Surprised, Summit loses control of the ice lance for just a brief second. A piece of debris from the now-pulverized wall hits it from behind, propelling the spear forward with unerring accuraccy straight through the heart of the purple Puppet Pal. With a long drawn-out scream, Mitch passes on to the great bonk-fest in the sky. Clem slowly shuffles forward, poking his partner's corpse with one fuzzy hand. “M-Mitch? You a-alright there, buddy?” he haltingly asks. His question remains unanswered.

Krunk stops his happy jumping and stares in absolute shock at the scene before him. Then his facial features re-arrange themselves in an expression of pure rage. “YOU KILL PUPPET PAL MITCH! KRUNK SMASH ICEMAN NOW!” he roars, grabbing Valhallen and Major Glory by their legs and charging forward with a deafening roar.

Summit frantically creates an ice wall from thin air to stop the raging purple behemoth, but to no avail; Kunk charges right through the wall, smashes Frosty with one swing of Major Glory, then brains Summit by swinging Valhallen at him. By some freak of chance, the Viking god's Axe firmly connects with Summit's skull, dealing a fatal blow that breaks the elementalist's neck with the pure force of concentrated Rock.

Just as suddenly as they appeared, the fighters all vanish, leaving behind the dead Mitch, the sobbing Clem, and one very confused studio audience who just witnessed a fight they will never forget. A slightly dazed Valhallen reappears in a heap on the same platform as William and Bad Luck, announcing that he has won the match and may proceed to the next round.

WINNER: VALHALLEN

Fight 4: Darren Jones vs Johnathan "Merry" Merrill

“All this fighting is beginning to bore me,” muses the Creator. “Time for comedy relief!” he declared with a booming laugh. Johnathan “Merry” Merrill and Darren Jones vanish, about to take part in what may well be the multiverse's first pan-dimensional joke off.

A red curtain sweeps back, revealing the darkened room beyond as a ripple of applause washes over the stage. Multitudes of candles glow out in the darkness, barely revealing the tables they rest on and the baroque patrons sitting around the light. Somewhere up in the rafters, a spotlight flicks on, illuminating the tuxedo-clad emcee smiling broadly in center stage. Over the speakers set up around the elevated stage, his voice rings out, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and welcome to this very special presentation hosted by Klub Komedy. Tonight, we feature two comedians who will face one another in a head-to-head battle of wits and ingenuity, resorting to every trick in the book to make you – the audience – laugh the hardest. You be the judges, you decide the winner, and each and every one of you is guaranteed a good time tonight,” he recites to a cacophony of claps and cheers.

He graciously holds up one hand for silence, waiting for the jubilant noise to die down before continuing. “And now, to introduce the contenders! In this corner, the world famous court fool with more than a few angry monarchs after him,” (brief laughter as the emcee's eye's sparkle and his smile grows ever so wider) “Give it up for…Johnathan 'Merry' Merrill, the Jester!”

A second spotlight penetrates the gloom of the right hand corner of the stage where Johnathan the Jester stands in awe over the miracles of the modern comedy club. He flinches as the spotlight's glow transfixes him, shielding his eyes with one arm and blinking furiously in the new light. Clearly the medieval jester is rather unused to all this modern technology…

Ignoring the jester's confusion, the emcee continues with his opening speech. “Annnnnnd in the other corner, the terror of middle school miscreants everywhere with a wit sharp as the knife he carries,” (light laughter) “Please give a warm welcome for…Darren Jones!”

A third spotlight shines upon the other corner, revealing Darren standing with his arms crossed and a bored look upon his face. Not to much different from the yearly talent show… he thinks with a yawn. “And now let the contest…BEGIN!” shouts the emcee as he frantically scrambles offstage, putting as much distance he can between himself and the comedians before the fighting starts.

Johnathan walks forward, more confident now. With a malicious smile, he states, “Well, I think I can safely say this will be a short fight. It'll be a tall order for someone like you to beat a fool of my caliber,” into the mic as the audience howls with laughter at Darren's embarrassment. He snaps back, “Yeah? Well you're a fine one to talk, beanpole. My granny could snap you like a twig and she needs a wheelchair to get around!”

The audience members simultaneously let out a loud, “OOOOOOOOOOO DISS!” much in the style of annoying small children as the “fight” starts to get interesting. Johnathan rolls up his sleeves, declaring, “Hah! We'll see who gets snapped now, young knave!” as he bops Darren on the head with his inflated bladder-on-a-stick. Darren recoils, quickly turning his trusty pocket protector into a steel buckler to ward off further attacks as he fumbles for his knife. In response, Johnathan turns his stick around and begins stabbing at Darren, harassing him with the sharpened end. “Guess you got the short end of the stick now, pipsqueak!” he cackles as the audience cheers him on.

“THAT'S IT!” yells Darren angrily, charging forward with his knife to try and stab the annoying jester in the throat.

Johnathan easily leaps over him. Then boots Darren in his unprotected crotch. As he drops to the floor, whimpering in pain, Merry John stands over him and cracks one final joke: “Your temper's nearly as short as you are, little man. Makes me wonder how big your needle dick is…”

With a final roar of laughter and furious applause, the audience make their final decision clear. Johnathan turns and bows to the audience, basking in the applause of a thousand unseen clappers.

Followed by vanishing into thin air and reappearing back in the waiting room, up on the higher level alongside the other victors.

WINNER: MERRY JOHN

“Wait a minute,” says John to the darkness. “What happened to that Darren kid?”

“Don't worry,” rings out the Creator's voice into his head. “He's in a…better place now.”

John shrugs, satisfied merely with the facts that he is still alive and moving on in this tournament.

Elsewhere

A typical school hallway. A brown-haired student on the short side takes a couple books out of his locker and zips up his bag just as a meaty hand taps on his shoulder. He freezes, fearing what is about to come next.

He turns around slowly. Behind him, the entire hallway has filled with extremely muscular kids who must have been held back a few years. And who had been taking steroids that whole time. “Well pipsqueak,” says the leader, a hulking 6-foot-6 brute with a five o'clock shadow and a bald head covered in gang tatoos. “Ready for today's morning beating?”

The other bullies grin madly as they don concealed brass knuckles, eager to pound the school runt within an inch of his life purely for the sake of fun.

Darren gulps. A dark spot appears on the front of his school trousers. The last thing he sees before the world goes dark is a large, hairy fist rushing towards his face…

Fight 5: Victor E. Dance vs Spambot

“NEXT ROUND!” booms the voice in the sky to all the competitors. “Spambot the Spam Robot versus Victor E. Dance, The Blue Bomber!” as the two aforementioned warriors vanish from sight to take part in the next battle.

“Another great viking victory was at the Green Midget café in Bromley. Once again the Viking strategy was the same; they sailed from these fjords here, assembled at Trondheim, and waited for the strong North-Easternly winds to blow their open galleys to England whence they sailed on May the 23rd.”

The fighters reappear to see a historian in front of a map giving a lecture on…Viking history? What the hell is this? Both Victor and the spambot look around, confused (well, only Victor since the spambot was never programmed to comprehend confusion) at the scene before them and wondering the reasoning behind such a lame-ass stage.

The man in the front of the lecture hall presses on, “Once in Bromley, they assembled in the Green Midget café. And spam selecting a spam item from the spam menu…” Behind the Historian, the map slowly draws its way up to the ceiling, revealing an innocent-looking breakfast bar crowded with Viking warriors and one very frazzled waitress. The historian and Vikings all sing out, “Spam spam spam spam spam SPAMMITY SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM! WONDERFUL SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!” going into a well-coordinated kickline.

“Well, it seemed appropriate at the time…” comes the voice of the Creator in the warriors' heads. Victor shrugs, jumps up on one of the tables, and fires off several dozen energy bolts at Spambot. However, the weak attacks bounce harmlessly off the robot's titanium shell and richochet into several nearby bar stools. The waitress screams and runs out of the building, but the Vikings and historian continue their relentless spamming. Spambot retaliates with robotlike precision, firing a flaming piece of spam that narrowly misses Victor and hits a Viking full in the face, giving him some serious third-degree burns.

Ignoring the screaming Norseman, the robot rushes forward to bring his razor-sharp-can-lid-robot-hands-of-DEATH™ slicing through Victor's puny human flesh. However, Victor charges his gloves and releases a wall of ice that stops the robot cold (pun intended). Unfazed, the robot orders George to attack his fleshy opponent while he fires another flaming spam wad at the ice wall, melting a big hole in it. He charges forward a second time, trying to attack Victor on two sides and throw him off guard.

Instead, Victor calmly draws Awesome into one gloved hand while he points the other at the magical chicken. With a cry of, “Trogdor BURNiNATE!” he launches a stream of fire at George, sending him floating off in fear of being roasted to a crisp once again. Victor quickly sidesteps the robot's flurry of attacks, then touches Spambot with the hand holding Awesome, sending a jolt of electricity into his metal exoskeleton.

Spambot lets out a high-pitched whining chatter as the electric attack fries some circuits. The can lid hands stop spinning and the robot's eyes flicker on and off. His self-preservation chip desperately tries to reactivate the damaged systems with some success; the hands start spinning again and the lights again light up, albiet slightly dimmer this time. Spambot turns sluggishly, trying to spot Victor among the dancing Vikings.

A loud whistle from one of the tables causes the robot to quickly turn about, just in time to see Victor finish charging up his gloves one final time. With a loud cry of, “Behold Thor!” the geeky human releases a lightning storm that (mostly) hits the robot with the full force of mother nature's wrath. It is too much for the poor robot's metal body to handle; his outer covering explodes, showering the café with mountains of golden-brown spam cooked by Victor's attack. The Vikings cheer, “Spam from Thor! Spam from Thor! Spam from Thor!” as they rush forward to Victor and raise him up on their shoulders. They hand him a flagon of mead and a plate of spam. With a wild grin, the historian claps his hands and yells, “Once more for good measure everyone!”

The Vikings and Victor stop eating for a minute, throwing their heads back and all chanting in unison: “Spam spam spam spam spam SPAMMITY SPAAAAAAAAAAAA-”

“-AAAAAAAM!” finishes Victor by himself, now back in the waiting room. Looking around, confused, he realizes the Creator must have teleported him back during the victory celebrations. He mutters angrily at his bad luck, taking up his place alongside the other victors in preparation for his next fight.

Fight 6: Kiera vs Walrus

“I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100,” booms a voice out of the darkness. A giant hand points at Walrus. “Guess.”

The blubbery mammal shrugs. “69?” he guesses.

The hand turns next to Kiera. “And your guess?”

“50” she says after a second of hesitation.

They both vanish into thin air. “Aren't you supposed to ask more than two people?” comes a voice from the back of the room. The Lawyer, true to his name, appears to be making some sort of legal case. “Not if I don't want to ask more than two people,” states the Creator flatly.

The Lawyer frowns deeply. “This is clearly unjust. You can't just expect us all to obey your tyrannical rules and regulatio-”

A hole in the floor opens right below him, sending him falling into a pitch black abyss. His screams echo for quite some time before they fade from earshot. “We run this the way I say we run it. Or you end up like him.” booms the voice meaningfully. “Anyone got a problem with that? Anyone?” says the voice. The terrified warriors all shake their heads.

“Good,” says the voice simply, satisfied at the response.

“The Emperor Penguin is the largest penguin in the entire world, weighing in at up to 80 pounds and standing nearly four feet tall. They are very social animals, living in colonies with populations in the thousands; a survival trait which allows them to survive the harsh winters here in Antarctica and to better protect them from predators such as…OH JESUS CHRIST A FLYING WALRU-”

Thus were the final words of nature documentary star Dave Stirwen before he and his portable camera were crushed by Walrus' impressive girth. Uninjured from the fall due to his blubber coating, he sits up, scratches his head with one front flipper, then replaces his monocle and top hat (as any gentleman should carry a spare top hat and monocle on his person at all times). A short distance away on the frozen Antarctic wasteland, Kiera nimbly lands atop a snowdrift, sword held at the ready.

Meanwhile, at the penguin colony, the bumbling black-and-white birds stop their endless squawking and turn to watch the fight about to unfold…

Before Walrus can light up his pipe and take a breather, Kiera fires off an extremely concentrated burst of frozen water, aiming for the blubbery mammal's heart. However, the icy projectile merely bounces off his tough hide, dealing only superficial damage. Seeing Kiera's surprise, he yells, “I'm a walrus, you fool! Ice doesn't bother me!” in a thick British accent. He quickly rushes forward (well okay…humps the ground while moving in a forward direction at a relatively good walking pace) while muttering about vorpal blades going “snicker snack”.

Gritting her teeth, Kiera sends out a rushing flood of water that wraps around Walrus' flippers and freezes him in place, halting his awkward advance and giving the hydromancer a chance to think up some new strategy. However, the aquatic warrior rears his head back and brings his tusks down on the ice, shattering it and freeing him. “I'm a walrus, you fool! I have tusks!” he roars triumphantly, shuffling forward a little faster this time.

With a growl of frustration and anger, Kiera summons forth a rushing flood that sweeps downhill from the snowbank, turning the whole face into a near-unclimbable sheet of ice. Seeing this, Walrus flaps his webbed flippers and takes flight. “What?!” says Kiera, shocked. “How can you fly?”

“I'M A WALRUS, YOU FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!” comes the gentleman's response as he stops flapping right above Kiera, turning himself again into a two-ton projectile and forcing the hydromancer to leap out of the way. She trips over a protruding rock and goes sliding down her own ice sheet, frantically trying to reverse her own spell. Upon hitting the ground, the aquatic mammal bounces back up into the sky, aiming his next drop again at Kiera's position as he swiftly descends towards the ground. In a final preparation, he opens his mouth wide to bring his deadly tusks down on Kiera's unprotected skull and end the fight once and for all…

…And swallows Kiera's short sword, held in her outstretched arm. Walrus weakly mumbles, “Ow. Bugger…” as the cold steel makes quick work of his unprotected innards. Grimacing, Kiera reaches into his bowels and retrieves her grisly weapon, gingerly holding it between her thumb and forefinger. Both the hydromancer and the walrus' corpse vanish, leaving only the stillness of the Antarctic desert once more.

The penguins watch for another minute and, disappointed that the day's entertainment is over, go back to huddling for warmth against their frigid surroundings.

WINNER: KIERA

Fight 7: James vs Black Hat

Kiera reappears on the champion's platform with her sword cleaned of Walrus' internal fluids and such. She thankfully sheaths it as the voice in the sky booms out, “Next up, let's see a Celtic warrior do battle with a demonic cowboy. Sounds like fun to me!” it says with a cheerful, booming laugh as The Black Hat and James O'Kennig vanish into thin air, just like so many before them.

The fighters reappear in a winding desert canyon with walls so tall that the narrow, sandy flats at the bottom are covered in shadow. The once mighty river that carved this impressive architecture has long dried up; a victim of the surrounding desert's burning heat. Wordlessly, James levels his spear at The Black Hat as the demonic cowboy loads fresh ammo into his six-shooters. They slowly circle each other in the extremely limited maneuvering area, each trying to find some weakness in the other's defenses.

Suddenly, the cowboy from Hell sees an opening, quickly raises one pistol into a firing position, and fires a single well-aimed shot…which quickly splits into a whirring hail of bullets all heading directly for James. However, the spear-wielding warrior closes his eyes and concentrates hard, spinning his enchanted spear quicker than the eye can follow and deflecting most of the bullets.

Most of them…

A single round makes it through the dancing spear's impressive defense, hitting James square on the right shoulder and rendering the arm useless. With a Celtic war cry of rage and pain, he runs forward to stab The Black Hat with his faerie spear. Not planning to make this happen, the cowboy fires off several rounds at the advancing spearman; all of which miss as James leaps between the cavern walls, making himself a difficult target. With one final jump he flings himself into the air above The Black Hat and hurls his spear straight downward, followed by grabbing it with his good arm and riding atop it like a surfboard. Using his uninjured arm once more, he tears his longsword out of its scabbard, bellowing ancient curses as he hurtles towards his foe.

In desperation, The Black Hat leaps out of the way of the plummeting James, narrowly dodging his sword's swing as the sentient spear rushes by. James growls in anger, pulling the spear around for another pass and another attempt to lop off the cowboy's head. As he spins around, however, The Black Hat fires off a special bullet, filling the narrow defile with dark smoke and making it nigh impossible to see. Understanding the danger of flying blind, James dismounts his flying spear, puts his sword away, and holds his spear in a defensive position. Looking around at every angle, he attempts to see where the cowboy's next dangerous attack will come from…

Somewhere out in the smoky darkness, a gunshot rings out. A single bullet travels inexorably closer to Jame's unguarded back, only to be deflected by his ever-vigilant spear.

Which bursts into flames. And begins screaming.

Frantically, James tries his hardest to put out the unholy flames and save his precious weapon. Everything he tries – even urinating on the hellish blaze – only seems to make the heat more intense, the fire spread faster, and his spear scream louder. The rising screech rings through his ears, making it all the harder to concentrate on the task at hand.

When, behind him, the sound of cloth ripping somehow blots out the weapon's panicked cries for a split second. James feverishly turns around, loosing a throwing spear from his back, and stares at the three guns pointed at his face.

The Black Hat grins evilly. Sure, he'd ruined another perfectly good shirt, but seeing the look on James' face when he saw that third arm was all the worth it. Eyes never leaving the Celtic spearman, he says simply, “Draw.”

Eighteen shots ring out. Eighteen hellforged bullets fire forward, magically turning into demonic canines which fall upon the stunned James, ripping the flesh from his bones. His screams mix with those of his weapon as his blood drenches the sand, forming a small new river for the parched valley.

Holstering all three of his revovlers, the cowboy tips his signature black hat before vanishing once more into the mists of space and time.

WINNER: THE BLACK HAT

Fight 8: Morph vs Dopple

The Black Hat reappears alongside the other winners, indicating to the remaining combatants who won the last fight. A brief pause fills the waiting room, followed by the voice in the darkness booming, “Let us see how well a pair of shapeshifters fight one another. I feel it will be quite interesting.”

As expected, Morph and Dopple disappear. The voice continues to mumble to itself about the upcoming fight, seeming not to realize there are still people present in the waiting room…

The contestants appear. And appear again. And again and again and again and again and…you know what? Let's just stop there before this gets really ridiculous. An infinite number of Dopples and Morphs crowd the enormous room, looking around and gawking at each other, extremely confused by their predicament. Slowly, the millions upon billions of Morphs reach out and very carefully touch fingers with a different Morph, recoiling at the icy-cold touch.

“Oh. An 'infinity of mirrors' setup…” he says, realizing that the fighters are surrounded on all sides by mirrored walls. “Well, this should be an interesting fight after all,” says Dopple in an exact copy of Morph's voice. “Your move, hotshot,” it says with a malicious smile (Or would have. If blobs could smile. Just go with it, OK?)

With only a brief moment of hesitation, Morph changes form into a ferocious grizzly bear. The other Morphs all do the same, sending confusing ursine images all around the room. Morph oozes outwards, also turning into a bear-shape; albiet one made of dark matter. Endless reflections show the two bears circling each other, growling and stamping the ground…when suddenly the regular brown-haired bear charges forward with its wicked teeth bared. The dark bear mimics its actions perfectly. Maybe even a little more fluidly…

They collide in pitched combat, evenly matched. Each strike the brown bear makes is equally parried by his dark counterpart; every counterattack by the dark matter bear is quickly dodged by the original. Sensing the battle is perhaps TOO even, the brown bear leaps backwards, turns back into Morph, and vanishes from plain sight by using his chameleon powers.

Dopple shifts back into its original dark matter form, seeming to harmlessly hover in the middle of an endless series of images. A sudden sound like a furnace turning on echoes through the enclosed area as a burst of white-hot flame rushes towards the small blob…

Which vanishes from sight [i]just[/i] before the fire reaches it; it appears Dopple copied Morph's chameleon move when he first used it! The large black dragon (aka: Morph) thumps its way to the middle of the stage, sniffing the air suspiciously as it hunts for the elusive Dopple. As he looks at one of the mirrors, Morph notices movement behind him and swiftly turns around, expecting another dragon for him to engage in mortal combat with.

What he sees instead is a small Scottish terrier, scratching its ear with one hind leg. It notices the dragon and gives a friendly woof, staring at it with big puppy-dog eyes.

“What the hell…?” says the Morph-dragon, confused by the seemingly fatal move by Dopple. Meanwhile, the dog rolls onto its back, whining in a matter that some people would dare call “cute”. The dragon backs off a few steps, lowering its guard due to the seeming lack danger.

Just as the dog leaps up, turns into a gleaming white dragon, and bites off the black dragon's head in one swift motion before it has time to react. Ichor stains the mirrors, spreading across the infinite reflections like a dark red coat of paint. The white dragon changes back into a small blob of dark matter, which vanishes from the mirrored room and appears once more in the waiting room with the other competitors.

WINNER: DOPPLE

Fight 9: Steve the Waffle vs Sayq

A booming voice in the darkness sighs. “We are down to our last two competitors for the first round: Steve the Waffle and Sayq. No choice needed to decide the fighters here…” it says almost sadly as the two aforementioned fighters vanish with a small 'pop'.

“Well, what happens after round 1 is done,” asks Victor cautiously, wary of what happened to the other two poor bastards that asked questions.

“You shall see, mortal,” thunders the voice again. “It shall be somewhat more…[i]envigorating[/i] than mere one-on-one combat. But I'd hate to ruin the surprise, so that's all you will know for now,”

Victor gulps, now regretting that he asked.

“Do you like waffles?” “YEAH WE LIKE WAFFLES!” “Do you like pancakes?” “YEAH WE LIKE PANCAKES!”

The fighters appear in a very strange world that keeps changing backgrounds every minute; one minute, it features a pair of kids at a kitchen table. Then a pair of dancing robots. Then a pair of monkeys locked up in a zoo. One constant feature in each background are the breakfast items superimposed over the surrounding area. And the annoying, unseen voices singing a mind-numbingly catchy song.

“Do you like french toast?” “YEAH WE LIKE FRENCH TOAST!” “DOOT DO DO DOOT CAN'T WAIT TO GET A MOUTHFUL!”

“The beings you see will not interfere. Though you may get motion sickness from the background changes,” comes the voice of the creator, almost welcome to the fighters in the face of the ADD-fueled nightmare in front of them.

Shaking his head in an attempt to clear away all distractions, Sayq rips his daggers from their sheaths and teleports behind Steve in attempt to catch the sentient waffle off guard and end the fight for good. However, the talking waffle turns his syrupy coating into rock-hard salt, harmlessly deflecting the blade from his buttery innards. Steve then turns around and slashes at the agile Sayq, drawing first blood with a shallow cut across his leg.

Sayq retaliates, giving Steve a death stare from his missing eye. The waffle recoils, staggering backwards; though not fully paralyzed thanks to its maple syrup eyeguard, Steve still suffers from the attack. Sayq launches forwards once again to try and plunge his daggers straight through Steve's tiny figure.

Sensing the attack coming, Steve separates into his component squares just in the nick of time. As Sayq rebounds off the ground to recover his balance, the pieces of Steve all split up and run away, making them all very difficult to track. Gobs of maple syrup shoot out from behind brightly-colored pictures of french toast, slowing the vengeful war veteran with sticky, sugary goodness. Sayq growls his frustration, turning a pirouette while holding his daggers outward and slashing at the air.

The resultant shockwave rips around the room, scattering the many pieces of Steve in all directions and even halting the unseen singers with the sheer ferocity of the attack. Sayq wastes no time. Deciding to finish the fight now that Steve is dazed and weak, he sheaths his knives and mutters an incantation under his breath.

The entire arena blacks out, brightly colored backgrounds and all. Somewhere in the darkness, Steve's many pieces gulp.

A soft sighing sound emerges in the darkness. Followed by several shrieks of agony and a splattering of some liquid against the floor, as though flung extremely quickly.

After what seems to be an extremely long time, the darkness lifts…revealing Sayq standing, arms folded, in the center of a sticky pile of maple syrup and sliced waffle cubes. He vanishes with a puff of smoke, back to the waiting room where the fighters feverishly await the Creator's next announcement about the next round of the tournament…

WINNER: SAYQ

Transition to Round 2

The victorious Sayq reappears once more in the waiting room. The nine remaining heroes look around expectantly, wondering what the voice beyond the blackness has in store for them. A long minute of silence greets them.

Two minutes…

Three minutes…

Four minu-

Someone coughs nervously, shattering the silence. Half expecting a sticky demise for the cougher, everyone tensely looks around. But nothing happens.

Another minute…

One final minute…

A soft voice talking to itself beyond the darkness. “Could I do that? Well…I suppose I could. Hardly the best solution, but it will have to do.”

The loud booming voice speaks. “Time for round 2. This one is not going to be like round 1. You shall see why in a minute.”

“And now,” continues the voice, “For something COMPLETELY different.”

The waiting room explodes. The force of the detonation coupled with the sheer shock and surprise cause all the competitors to black out.

===================================================

William groggily rises to his feet, massaging the back of his head while wondering what in the Good Lord's name just happened. As he looks around, he sees a war-torn landscape as far as the eye can see; countless ruined buildings litter the parched ground, gutted remains sticking up like so many skeletons rising from their graves. A weak red sun shines through the red, dusty atmosphere doing little to illuminate the foreboding surroundings. Not a single sign of life exists as far as the eye can see; the entire city (if it could be called that) appears to have been violently destroyed quite some time ago…

The voice of the Creator rings loudly in his mind, interrupting his reverie. “Now hear this. You stand in the ruins of the once-perfect city Xerothia which I forged with my own two hands. It is now a place of ghosts and ashes…and five of you shall add their corpses to those long buried here. Your objective is simple: Survival. You have all been equipped with 2 days worth of water and food, an enchanted compass, and the name of one other competitor. Your goal is to stay alive while eliminating your competition; the compass will point in the general area of the target you must kill. Those are the only rules. You may kill another competitor besides your target, but should you fail to eliminate your target there will be…consequences.

Now go. Time is wasting and the sun is rising.”

William checks his pockets, finding a canteen, some trail rations, a compass, and a scrap of paper with the name “KIERA” written on it in. With a long sigh, he says a quick prayer then begins marching through the debris, compass firmly held in one outstretched palm…


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