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QtE 24, Round 2

The second round of fights from QtE #24. Normally, this would be a round of 8, but since the previous round was a round of 18 this is actually a round of 9.

It wound up being a 9-man free for all, since it sounded like a fun way to write things out. I've decided to preserve the original order that I initially released these in, so as to preserve the chaotic atmosphere of the fight; they are in a jumbled chronological order to build suspense and keep it interesting.

Part 1: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

One hour ago, William Treacher awoke to discover he was, in fact, not dead and had instead been transported to an insane God's defiled paradise. Now he lies in the rubble of some once-great building, clutching at the ruined mess that used to be his stomach as his life slowly ebbs away. War cries and loud explosions echo in the air as various projectiles whizz through the wreckage, barely missing the preacher's broken frame. Somewhere in the confusion, someone shrieks in pain; another victim of the Creator's grand plan and the fighters' desperate quest to escape their deranged captor.

With one hand still clenched firmly around his mortal injury, William carefully rustles through his pocket until he pulls out a pair of well-used (but reverentially cleaned) prayer beads. Ignoring the bloodstains left behind by his hands, he slowly begins turning them between his thumb and forefinger. Gritting his teeth, he draws a weak breath into his lungs and mutters a prayer he has said so many times before, though never with such urgency. Or so many pauses for air.

“Our…Father…..who art…in Heaven……..Hallowed be Thy name…”

* * *

The city was huge, sprawling for miles in all directions. William stood a half-fallen skyscraper, getting a feel for the strange place he had been unceremoniously dropped into. It was largely the same view wherever he looked; destruction, desolation, and death graced his eyes no matter which way he turned. Most unnerving of all, he noted the lack of sound due to the lack of any living beings on the planet besides himself and the other 8 competitors. Even the wind seemed to blow without making a sound, further reinforcing the idea that the entire planet was little more than a graveyard. William sighed, picking his way down the building.

Reaching the bottom, a far-off yell reached his ears. Turning his head in the direction it came from, he saw a cloud of dust rising up towards the cloudy sky. Sparing a quick glance at the compass in his hand, he noted the needle gradually swinging towards the sight of the presumed conflict. He smiled savagely, confident in the Lord's ability to provide. Gathering up the folds of his priestly vestments, he set off at a jog towards the skirmish.

* * *

“Thy…Kingdom come…they will be done…” (rattling gasp for breath) “On Earth…as it is…in Heaven…”

* * *

Now William fought for his life. Around him, 8 others did the same.

They fought in what appeared to be a ruined cul-de-sac, as the foundations for several houses stuck up like unfinished trees at the southern end of the area and facing a single road heading north. Bad Luck quickly darted across the street as Victor launched streams of flame after him, laughing in pyromaniac glee. Gunshots rang out as The Black Hat opened fire from some unseen position, forcing the Blue Bomber to beat a hasty retreat as near misses ricocheted off the asphault. Somewhere behind him, William heard Johnathan's crude jokes and Val Hallen's thundering guitar riffs echoing off the broken buildings. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sayq suddenly appear…and then ANOTHER Sayq made of dark matter suddenly appear in front of the first one. He heard one of them curse and vanish again, closely followed by the second one who laughed evilly.

William shook his head, attempting to ignore the many distractions and focus on his one true target; the dark-haired hydromancer before him. Sword drawn, she eyed the mad preacher warily, keeping a close eye on his every movement. With a move quicker than the eye could follow, he reached into his robe and flung a vial of holy water at her. Not waiting to see her reaction, he bellowed a holy war cry as, knife held aloft, he raced forward into the fray.

* * *

“Give…us this day……our daily bread…..and forgive us *cough cough wheeze* our…tresspasses…..as we…forgive those…who tresspass against us…”

* * *

Kiera almost laughed at the pathetic old man's attacks. A bottle of water? How comical! It had been a simple matter to turn it to her will, forcing it to burst in the air then turn to ice as it coated the ground. As anticipated, the fool slipped and fell flat on his arse as he tried to charge her after his pitiful distraction. With a wave of her hand, she fired a concentrated tendril of water to crush the man's scrawny neck and end this hopelessly one-sided fight for good.

Though dazed, William's divine-endowed reflexes saved him. He ducked under the watery tentacle and, as it swung harmlessly over his head, summoned up the energy for a divine prayer. A flash of light suddenly brightened the area, cutting through the darkness of the cloudy day and temporarily blinding all those foolish enough to look at it. Including Kiera.

Seizing his opportunity, William threw a pair of his best bibles in a long, lazy arc towards her. As they exploded, he lost sight of her in the resulting dust storm. Patting his hands clean at a job well done, he turned away to engage in combat with one of the other hooligans in the area.

* * *

“And…lead us…not…into…..temp…tation….”

* * *

He didn't see the sword descending behind him. Not until it was too late.

Divine shield already spent, the only defense between his flesh and the cold, hard steel was his cloth robes. Unsurprisingly, the blade passed straight through them.

William stared down in shock as a patch of red blossomed over his robes. He looked up just in time to witness Kiera dancing away and laughing evilly…but why were her skin and clothes dark? And why was there a second Kiera, scratched and bruised with torn clothes, standing just a short distance away?

These thoughts danced through his mind as he sank to his knees. Then fell onto his side as his life ebbed away.

* * *

“But…d-deliver…us from………..evillllll…” mumbles poor William, smiling weakly as he finishes his Lord's Prayer for the final time. With a final soft sigh, his eyes close for the last time as his soul joins his God in Heaven.

From the sky, a booming voice rings out. Not that of the creator; this one was filled with rage and seemed much older, as though the creator were a mere child in comparison to this ancient power.

“YOU MORTALS HAVE REALLY GONE TOO FAR THIS TIME, HAVEN'T YOU? FIRST MY SON, NOW MY BEST PREACHER…I'M SICK AND TIRED OF ALL YOUR NONSENSE!”

All combat stops as the remaining 8 stop and stare at the beam of light which has enveloped William's broken corpse.

“YOU WILL ALL SUFFER FOR THIS OUTRAGE. SEE THE FATE FOR THOSE WHO STAND AGAINST THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF TREACHER AND HIS LORD! WITNESS THE WRATH OF GOD, PUNY MORTALS!”

As William's soul departs from the dead world, holy fire and burning brimstone rain down upon the city, forcing all remaining competitors to scurry for cover or be incinerated by the Wrath of God. Those left strong enough to fight and run are lucky enough to make a clean escape…but two other poor souls join William, unfortunate victims of the a mad preacher's dying prayers.

* * *

Somewhere out there, the soul formerly known as William Treacher smiles, grateful that his death was not wholly in vain and the wicked have still been punished. Eager to join his Lord, he rises towards Heaven…only to be stopped by the force of God himself.

“No William,” states the Lord, no longer consumed by his rage. “It is not time for you to rest with me yet. There is much work to be done.”

Seeing the mortal's confusion, the Lord smiles. “Follow me and I shall explain everything. You still have a key role to play, my child. As do several of your former adversaries. We must discuss this at length with the others in due time; we go to meet them now…”

The two glowing beings fade into the darkness of eternity.

* * *

From its position above the ruined city, the Creator hears the exchange between the Lord and the soul.

And, for the first time in eons, it is afraid…

Part 2: Two Other Poor Souls

The two figures stood facing each other in the dusty street, each with his eyes firmly locked on his opponent and his hand hovering near the pistol at his side. It was high noon, the sun beating down and turning the deserted world into a veritable frying pan. A tumbleweed rolled by, perfecting the image of the tried-and-true Western standoff.

Okay, well that part with the tumbleweed is total bullshit, but all the other details are more or less right.

At one end of the street, the side closest to the cul-de-sac, stood The Black Hat. Utterly dismissive of the heat, not a single bead of sweat rolled down his demonic forehead; the fires of Hell were far hotter than some backwater world. At the other end of the street, Bad Luck stood (luckily enough) in the shadow of a large pile of debris. The cool shade both kept the burning sun off his skin and concealed his movements from The Black Hat's beady red eyes. With a slow, lazy movement, Bad Luck threw a piece of paper forward. A sudden breeze picked up, carrying it forward close enough for the cowboy to read the words “The Black Hat” etched into the page.

He spat. “So. You're tryin' ter accomplish what no lawman ever could. Reckon a scrawny feller like yerself won't stand a much better chance'n any o' them,” he taunted the other figure.

Bad Luck did not respond. The standoff continued for another agonizing minute until The Black Hat finally lost his patience. Yelling, “DRAW!” he ripped his six-shooters from their holsters and fired two bullets. By some manner of demonic powers, they quickly split into a whirring hail of bullets that rushed towards the still-unmoving Bad Luck.

Every shot missed its mark, leaving Lady Luck's champion unscathed. Drawing his own firearm, he leveled the pistol at the stunned Black Hat and returned fire with a single shot.

Expertly, the cowboy fired one of his own bullets and shot the shell out from the air. Pointing his other pistol at Bad Luck, he prepared to fire a seeker round that would trace Bartholemew to the ends of the earth. Or until it killed him. Whichever came first.

But then the building behind him exploded, throwing his aim off in a big way. Turning around sharply, he barely had time to see Victor come flying out of the air and slam headfirst into the cowboy from Hell, knocking the wind out of him. Val Hallen emerged from the resulting dust cloud, yelling, “My axe DOES go all the way up to eleven, dude!” He stopped and looked around, noting the confused Bad Luck and the other two fighters collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Then, as if this was some sort of queue, all hell broke loose.

Johnathan the Jester came out of nowhere, smacking Val Hallen in the face with his fool's stick and making several crude jokes about the Viking god's effacement hairdo. Furious, he retaliated with a face-melting riff that caused the poor fool to cover his ears…though he still made annoying faces at his guitar-wielding opponent.

The Black Hat kicked Victor off himself as Bad Luck started shooting again. One bullet narrowly whizzed by the Blue Bomber, who responded by firing a series of energy bolts in his direction. All of which missed. Unfazed, Victor yelled, “Dodge this!” and (after a few seconds of charging and running closer) unleashed an impressive stream of flames at Bad Luck, forcing him to retreat.

Kiera then lept out from behind a building, washing a stream of icy water at The Black Hat. However, using one of his flaming demonic bullets, the cowboy kept the ice from melting and started running from the hydromancer. Before Kiera could follow, she was forced to parry a series of rapid strikes from Sayq. The stealthy warrior teleported behind her, but was unable to get past her more mundane defenses. A second Sayq appeared and attempted to do the same thing to the first Sayq, who teleported away. Closely followed by his dark matter counterpart, who was obviously the enigmatic Dopple in a shapeshifted form.

Kiera closed her eyes and took a deep breath as chaos raged all around. Opening her eyes, she noticed William standing before her, solemn expression on his face. In one outstretched hand, he held a paper that simply said, “Kiera” in jet black ink.

She nodded once and drew her sword into a ready position; there were no words to be spoken here, only the fury and bloodlust of constant battle.

* * * Later… * * *

“Alackday, and fuck my luck…” groaned the figure whose legs were buried under a pile of old bricks. Bad Luck groaned again, inwardly laughing at the irony of the situation; him, Lady Luck's champion, befalling such a sad fate as this. “Never should have depended on her. Never should have trusted the strength of that crummy old wall, or the weakness of that kid's energy shooter. Knew it was a bad idea…”

Attempting to move only made the pain worse, so he watched the fighting helplessly from the sidelines. Victor had run off somewhere, apparently satisfied to leave Bad Luck incapacitated instead of dead. The Black Hat and Sayq were now circling each other warily in the center of the cul-de-sac. Val Hallen and Johnathan were still duking it out in their own special way, and the other three…

Two Kieras stood facing one another. One with a smug look on her face and one with annoyed anger. William lay in the dust, barely alive, as the two exchanged words. As he watched, Bad Luck noticed the preacher rolled some beads in his hands as his mouth moved, then lay his head down to die.

Then things got…peculiar.

Bad Luck blinked, unsure if he should trust his eyes. The old man was now a beacon of light, piercing the perpetually dusty sky. A great voice boomed down, muttering something about the Wrath of God. Knowing what was about to happen next, Bartholomew Adolphus Darien Lucifer Urser Claudius Kevin stopped struggling and lay back, accepting his fate. From one jacket pocket, he retrieved a silver cigarette case and, placing one in his mouth, watched the fire fall from the sky. He closed his eyes with the barest hint of a smile on his face, imagining the look on Lady Luck's face when she heard about this.

A moment later, he was instantly cremated as the fire and brimstone fell to the earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

* * * Meanwhile… * * *

Val Hallen had a monstrous headache.

Johnathan's weapon was deceptively painful when it connected, making the world spin more than a bottle of Jack Daniel's would. The taunts and harassing nature of the fool weren't making things better; Val Hallen was slowly being worn down, too tired to even flick his flowing locks into their usual sexy position. And they both knew it.

“What's the matter, girly-man?” mocked Merry as Val Hallen gasped for air. “Getting a little [i]tired[/i]?” he cackled as he threw an old bicycle tire at the Viking god. It fell perfectly over his head, falling all the way down to his feet. Val Hallen tried to run backwards, but Merry pulled hard backwards on a near-invisible string and sent the Norse rocker falling heavily towards the ground. “Have a nice [i]trip[/i], see you in the [i]fall[/i],” chuckled Merry as he made the incredibly overused joke.

Val Hallen closed his eyes and braced himself for a death blow that never came. Slowly opening his eyes, he saw Johnathan staring warily at the old man covered in light in the center of the cul-de-sac. His back was to Val Hallen and he was clearly not paying attention.

Wasting no time, the Viking god freed himself from the molesting tire . Raising his axe in one final desperate strike, he smashed it downwards on Merry's head, knocking the skinny fool unconscious. After a few deep gulps of air, Val Hallen desperately thought up something witty to say.

“Nobody insults my hair, bra. NOBODY,” he roared angrily. The badly-concussed Merry had nothing to say.

Then a great, booming voice rang out from the sky, heralding fire and brimstone from above. Ignoring the exhaustion in his body and the pain in his legs, Val Hallen started running in the opposite direction.

Johnathan, lacking that luxury due to his unconscious state, was obliterated in the raging firestorm. Many great kings heard the news and toasted their good fortune; someone had dealt with their dirty work for them, leaving them to rule their provinces without fear of insult. Well, until most of them were beheaded. But that is another story.

Part 3: Laser Light Show

“YOU!”

Valhallen turned around as the hoarse shout rang out across the dusty street. Thoroughly confused by the sudden change in scenery, he had wandered lost in the city with little attention to the compass in his pocket or the name “Victor E. Dance” scrawled onto the scrap of paper next to it. This cry from some unseen person was the first sign of life he'd seen since the waiting room exploded. Seeing no one, he slowly turned back around, extremely tense and half-expecting a knife between the shoulder blades. What came next was almost as bad.

“I said YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU CRANK DAT SOULJUH BOI, YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU CRANK DAT SOULJUH BOI…”

Turning around again, Valhallen witnessed his target, Victor, doing a ridiculous dance in the middle of the street while singing some of the most horrendous lyrics known to man. Seeing Valhallen turn around, he stopped the dance moves and took out a piece of paper with the name “Valhallen” written on it in dark ink. The Viking god of rock replied, “Though your musical skills are equal to those of a terrible 80s cover band, we will most certainly fight, bra,” as he pulled out his own piece of paper, revealing Victor's name.

Quicker than Valhallen could blink, Victor unleashed a hail of energy bolts, yelling, “Pew pew pew!” sound effects at the top of his lungs. However, due to the god's well-honed beer-bottle-dodging reflexes (hey, unruly fans are the first thing any music god learns how to deal with), he successfully deflected the projectiles with his mighty axe. He returned fire with a sonic attack, strumming a powerful chord on the axe and forcing Victor to stop shooting in order to cover his ears.

“Ha!” taunted the Blue Bomber once the noise died down. “You call that volume? I bet that thing isn't even louder than my Guitar Hero controller; it goes all the way up to eleven!”

“Oh yeah?” replied Valhallen with a wicked grin. Victor saw him flip a few switches on the axe, included one marked with a skull and crossbones. He watched as the rocker pulled an Industrial-Strength MegaPick of DESTRUCTION ™ with real titanium-braced edges. Valhallen played a single earshattering chord with enough force to send Victor flying backwards through a dilapidated wall at the other end of the street, sending a huge cloud of dust into the air in the process from the sonic shockwave. Stepping through the ruins, Valhallen boasted, “See? My axe DOES go all the way up to eleven, dude!”

Three pairs of eyes stared back at Valhallen; The Black Hat and Bad Luck's duel had been interrupted and both fighters stared at the new intruder. Valhallen paused, unsure of what to do.

Then an inflated bladder on a stick hit him in the head, sparking a whole different fight.

* * * Later… * * *

It was late afternoon; the sun began it's slow descent in the dust-clouded sky. Valhallen and Victor once again stood at opposite ends of the street. Only this time, both fighters were wounded and clearly feeling the pain of the earlier battles.

Valhallen was obviously having trouble even standing, leaning on his axe while panting heavily. Numerous cuts across his face and shoulders told of close encounters with a pointy stick, while scrapes across both knees and elbows told of many untimely trips and falls during the frantic escape from William's secret weapon.

Victor was in little better shape. Rips, tears, and bullet holes in his cape told of too many near misses to be comfortable. His face was slightly greened, as though he was suffering from nausea. One glove sparked and fizzled, victim of a glancing blow; it appeared to be barely functional.

Victor glared at his opponent, casual banter made obsolete after the savage melee earlier in the day. “You want me dead, I want you dead,” he said simply. “We both can barely stand. Let's finish this thing quickly before we both completely exhaust ourselves.”

Valhallen nodded once, knowing exactly what the young hero meant. Standing on his own two feet, he shouldered the axe for what could very well be his final outro. Warming up his tired fingers, he began to sway his hair to and fro, charging up immense amounts of static energy…

In response, Victor drew a battered-looking Awesome into his semi-working gloves. Focusing energy into his gloves, he yelled, “I'ma charging mah lazerrrrrrrr!” in preparation for the devastating attack to come…

Both unleashed their attack at the exact same time.

A thundering bolt of static electricity and vigor shot forth from Valhallen, fueled by the headbanger's mighty shredding powers. On the other side of the narrow street, Victor fired a pair of deadly laser beams into the ground, propelling him upwards. He then changed the direction of the red beams so they pointed straight at the still-glowing Valhallen.

The two super-mega-awesome attacks met with a violent smash made of blinding white light. The resulting explosion left a huge crater in the center of the road, flattened what few buildings were left standing, and was clearly visible from orbit in spite of the planet's dusty covering.

As the smoke cleared, it became obvious that both fighters were down. Valhallen was sent flying by the blast, resulting in his unfortunate smashing into several brick walls. With his axe broken from the several impacts, his source of godlike powers vanished, leaving the Norse diety to slowly die from lack of rock in his body.

Victor landed badly, breaking both his legs upon impact. Both Awesome and his gloves had been vaporized, leaving his hands a pair of charred hunks. In spite of all this, Victor remained alive, struggling to push himself up into a sitting position. After several false starts, he finally succeeded in pushing his back up against a pile of rubble, sighing heavily while smiling; he had won. “Victory. Victor E. This day belongs to me, ME I SAY! VICTOR. E. DAN-”

A gunshot. Silence.

It was a textbook headshot, perfectly aligned with the middle of Victor's forehead. He never stood a chance, not at that range with that lethal of a hit. From behind a nearby pile of splintered wooden boards, The Black Hat strode over to Victor's corpse, admiring his own handiwork. The paper with “Victor E. Dance” remained safe in his pocket after he grabbed it during the chaos earlier; hopefully the Creator would see the cleverness behind this little strategy and reward him.

The Black Hat chuckled; things were definitely looking up.

He tried to take a step forward, but couldn't. Surprised, he tried to look down and see the cause, only to discover his neck muscles no longer worked. He tried to call out, to run, to wave his arms about, to do [i]anything[/i] involving motion. Even to breathe as his lungs ceased to work. Even to will his heart to keep pumping blood through his demon-possessed body.

Time appeared to have stopped, with little reason as to why. How inconvenient…

Part 4: A New Challenger Approaches

Johnathan “Merry” Merrill, renowned court Jester, was dead. He remembered fighting a long-haired Norse god, then being hit in the back of the head and falling unconscious, then waking up in time to see a ball of holy fire tumble from the heavens, instantly vaporizing him.

But, he thought, If I am dead…why can I still remember? Why am I still here to think these things over?

His little train of thought paused for a second, as though running into a medium-sized buffalo herd on the railway track of metaphors. Come to think of it, where the bloody hell is “here” anyways?

Looking around he saw what appeared to be an exact replica of the “waiting room” where the fighters were imprisoned earlier in the tournament. However, the dark void surrounding the area had been replaced by white clouds, giving the area a peaceful atmosphere instead of the claustrophobic fear of the Creator's room. Merry's jaw hung slack, both awed and confused by the scene before him.

A loud ripping noise, like someone tearing through a piece of large cloth, interrupted his thoughts. Turning quickly, he caught side of a dark portal quickly open and close, dumping someone into the new area from gods-only-know where.

Bad Luck stood up, brushing the soot off his jacket. “Well. That was quite the way to die, wouldn't you say?” he said casually. “Holy fire and brimstone; nasty stuff that.”

Seeing the Jester's look of confusion, Bad Luck chuckled. “No idea what's going on, eh?”

Merry shrugged. Being only mortal, he had little experience in such things as death and whatever follows it. “I'll let you in on a little secret,” replied Bad Luck, “I don't either. I figure we'll find out if we just stay calm and hole up here for a little while.”

They didn't have to wait long; with a much louder RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP, a giant being with flowing, white hair and a matching beard stepped into the room. William closely followed him with a little smile on his face.

“Greetings mortals,” boomed the deity (for nothing THAT tall with flowing hair could be anything besides a god, right?), “I am Ieovus the Omnipotent, who's holy wrath shall be wreaked upon this 'tournament' to restore Order to this chaotic place. For too long, this obscenity upon the universe has been allowed to persist. But now, we have the means to destroy it, to eradicate it for the Good of All.”

Merry and Bad Luck, both in awe over the deity, stood silent until the last echoes died away. Then Merry cleared his throat, carefully, and replied, “But what, o Ieovus, is this obscenity you mention? And how will we go about destroying it?”

“Ah,” replied the god with a smile, “You shall see, my son. But first, we must wait for the others to arrive. I do believe more of them will be along shortly, but one has yet to shuck the chains of mortality…”

Two loud rips. Valhallen and Victor sat on the floor, confused by the sudden turn of events. “Ah,” said Ieovus, “It seems we have our two most recent arrivals. Do not hold your quarrel against one another; that was in a different time and a different place, and such meaningless fights have no place here.”

Though the two once-rivals looked at each other warily, neither lunged forward to attack; it was hard to argue against the deity's crushing voice.

Two more rips. James O'Kennig walked from one portal, seemingly unfazed by the other fighters and the massive Ieovus. From the other - which was much larger - Walrus shuffled his way out, monocle and top hat tilted just so to indicate confusion.

One final RIIIIIP echoed throughout the chamber as the unfortunate Lawyer hefted his plasma wrench and he strode into the room, expression unreadable under his scarf. He gave a knowing nod to Ieovus, as though he had expected this all along.

The portals closed with a soft “ziiiiip” noise as the deity nodded back slowly, “Glad you could join us, Lawyer” he stated.

“The Lawyer is no more,” the mysterious fighter responded, without emotion. “You may henceforth call me the Judge instead, for it is what I have become,” he continued, much to the confusion of the other fighters.

Ieovus, for his part, didn't miss a beat. “And so it shall be. We are now missing only one final warrior,” he thundered, “And then I shall explain everything in detail.”

Ieovus cocked his head to one side, listening to sounds no mortal could here. “I believe we will see her soon. Come. Let us watch,” he said with a wave of one massive hand. The clouds across one wall parted, revealing a confused mix of colors and shapes. Slowly, they began to align themselves, eventually turning into a crystal-clear picture of Kiera, running for her life from some unseen foe…

* * * Elsewhere… * * *

Kiera ran through the streets, avoiding the long shadows on the ground and carefully listening for any movement besides the arid wind. She clenched her short sword tightly, ready for anything the strange world or it's violent new inhabitants could throw at her.

Good thing too; it saved her life. At least for the moment.

A dark figure popped out of the shadows. A pair of gleaming knives appeared seemingly from nowhere and began their deadly plunge towards Kiera's neck…only to be deflected by a lucky parry from her sword. Shooting a stream of ice across the floor, she slid backwards to put distance between herself and this new foe.

Sayq laughed. “So. All that running and I still found you, girl? What exactly were you trying to accomplish?”

“Enough of the small talk, Dopple,” she replied evenly. “Your disguise can't fool me.”

Dopple snorted, shifting from the Sayq disguise into that of a crotchety old man. “Fiesty one, ain'tcha? Looks like this might turn into a real fight after all,” he said with a leering smile.

* * * Earlier… * * *

William slid to the ground and slowly died. Kiera stared at her mirror image, confused. “What do you think you are doing, Dopple? This was my fight.”

The mirrored Kiera tossed her hair and shrugged. Reaching into one pocket, she took out a slip of paper with “William Treacher” scribbled onto it. “I can't pass up an opportunity good as that,” she replied with a fiesty laugh, pausing for a second to deflect an incoming energy bolt with a block of ice. “If you're still in for a fight, I'd be [i]more[/i] than happy to give you one!” replied Dopple (for it was, of course, Dopple shapeshifted into Kiera) with a sick burst laughter.

Kiera fingered the paper in her pocket with the name “Dopple” written on it. She nodded slowly, readying herself for the second time as Dopple took up the exact same mirrored position…

Then the great voice began to ring forth from heavens, deafening the fighters. Dopple hissed, “We'll continue this later…” as it shapeshifted into Sayq and teleported off elsewhere. Kiera took off at a run down the street, not wishing to be vaporized in holy fire.

* * *

And now the two rivals – Kiera and Dopple – once again stood facing one another, prepared for a fight to the death. In the broken shadow of a crumbling wall, the old man cocked his head to one side. “Your move, missy,” he said cockily.

Kiera snarled, launching a rapid succession of ice shards at the shapeshifter…who quickly dodged them all with a surprisingly well-executed handspring. The projectiles harmlessly crashed into the ground where he once stood. “Ha! You'll need better aim than that to stand a chance here!” taunted the old man, hands on his hips.

“Wasn't aiming for you,” replied Kiera with a smug grin. “Look down.”

“Eh?!”

Dopple complied, discovering that the old man's feet had been encased in ice; obviously the re-frozen remnants of Kiera's opening strike. Suddenly vulerable, Dopple felt a pang of fear for the first time in the tournament…

Kiera wasted no time, drawing on the power of Útgarða-Loki's horn to send forth a 10-foot-thick pillar of water which engulfed Dopple. As it began to spin and compact, the old man merely smiled, perhaps accepting his unfortunate fate. Branches suddenly exploded outward from the pillar's body, turning what once once a block of water into a crystallized tree of exquisite beauty and detail. Any collector of rare and unique artwork would have wanted to get their hands on it. Well, if not for the oddly-smiling cadaver in the middle.

Kiera sighed and sat down, head in her hands; using the Wetad had taken a lot of energy out of her. Closing her eyes for a brief rest, she hoped the Creator would give them a chance to rest up before anything else in this crazy fight happened…

A sudden series of cracking and crashing sounds, like a large boulder smashing its way through an iced-over lake. Kiera's eyes slammed open instantly. Looking over to the frozen tree, she noted it had fallen over somehow and, more importantly its prisoner had escaped…

She quickly reached for her sword, only to stop as something sharp touched between her shoulder blades. She froze, fearing the next movement could easily be her last. “H-h-how did you survive that?” she stammered, fearing she knew exactly who was behind her.

A mouth drew near her ear. She heard her own voice whisper, “That's my little secret, dearie. And now, we must end this little skirmish of ours; it's getting late.”

She felt the point against her back vanish as Dopple wound up for one final mortal blow. She closed her eyes, seeing no point in avoiding the inevitable; drained as she was, it would be impossible to mount a defense, so she instead waited for the blow that would take her from the mortal realm.

A blow that never came.

She opened her eyes and counted to 10. Then 20. Then 50.

She tried to turn around and see the cause of this strange mercy, only to find her muscles no longer seemed to move…

A voice boomed from the sky; not the ancient rumble of Ieovus, but the familiar Creator's speaking voice: “Five competitors have been killed. The remaining four of you have progressed on to the third and final round in the tournament. Congratulations!”

Kiera would have laughed at the irony of it all, had she been capable of doing so. Both she and Dopple vanished, leaving the blasted city behind for good, leaving one perilous situation behind for another…


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