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  1. “Dex? Dex! Ah, back with us now are you?” A murmur of laughter rippled around the classroom from the other kids which the tutor squelched with an ill-tempered bark. “Perhaps you’ve discovered the answer to my question amongst your daydreams, is that it?” Dex stared glumly at the short, beak-nosed tutor. Since he was clearly expecting an answer, standing there with his beady gaze fixed intently on Dex, Dex shook his head, which only served to enrage their teacher further. Stalking down the aisle between student desks, Longhair lashed his cane through the air in short, sharp whips. The ominous swishing made Dex cringe. He knew what was coming. Dex stood outside in the hallway, banished from Longhair’s classroom for his misbehavior. Pulling a small ball from a concealed pocket, he began kicking it back and forth between his feet. Flicking the ball up with one foot, he bounced it off a knee, off the heel of his left foot, onto his shoulder and then back down to his right foot. In his mind, he started to hear the roar of the crowd. His imagination filled in the voice of the commentator, talking about this new, young talent that the Scholar’s Guild had found. The ball bounced in front of him once and as his senses blurred the lines from reality to fantasy, he took that shot on goal. There was a crash, and the sound of tinkling glass. Dex’s attention snapped back to the present and he realized with a slow, dawning horror that he’d kicked the ball through the glass in the Master’s office door. The door was wrenched open, sending some of the more precarious, remaining pieces of glass flying, and the Master’s large frame filled the open space. “DEX!” He roared, and the young boy slunk guiltily towards the office. -- From where he stood at his office window, Master Augur looked down into the dark courtyard where Dex was supposed to be working. It was early evening although the courtyard was still light enough for the boy to work. Laboriously sweeping the heavy brush slowly around the courtyard, Dex never once looked up to see the master looking down at him. Beside Augur, Longhair groused on about the daydreaming student and all the ways he was unsuited to the Scholar’s Guild. The master didn’t disagree with his subordinate, but still there was something about the boy. Below them, thinking no one was watching, Dex had abandoned his broom and recovered a sad, slightly deflated leather ball that had been left by one of the senior students. With deft grace the boy moved the ball around the courtyard, bouncing it off walls and then intercepting the rebounds as if tackling another player in Guild Ball. Grudgingly, Augur admitted that the boy was gifted. Maybe it was a gift that the guild could make use of... -- Walking out onto the practice pitch that sat nestled amongst large oak trees, Dex marveled at the fresh air and the feel of his boots on the turf. He didn’t pay any attention to the two men who stood shoulder to shoulder on the far side of the pitch, deep in conversation. “He’s far too young Augur,” said Sage. “Just watch,” the Master Scholar replied, although he didn’t disagree with his veteran goalkeeper’s assessment. The coaches sorted the hopefuls into two teams and blew the whistle to begin the game. Older boys and girls on both sides immediately tried to assert their dominance of the younger ones, holding the ball or attacking the weakest of the opposing team. Unsure what to do with such a small player, his captain had posted Dex out on the wing to be ignored. Their team got the ball and Dex ran down the side of the pitch into position to shoot on goal. Unmarked by the other team, he stood there, waving his hands frantically above his head, trying to get the attention of the girl with the ball. Ignoring him, she passed it out to the other side just before she was hit hard, taking a shoulder to her chest that knocked her on her back. Again, jumping up and down now, Dex tried to attract the attention of his teammate, indicating that he was open. Instead the boy tried a poorly aimed kick on goal himself which was easily deflected and once again the other team had the ball. Annoyed, Dex jogged back down the wing, following the play. Suddenly he felt a massive blow between his shoulder blades that made him stumble and fall. Face down in the dirt, he felt a heavy boot stomp once on a kidney and a sneering voice say, “Stay down. This game is no place for children.” Taking a deep breath, forcing himself to get over the pain in his back, pushing himself slowly up to his feet, Dex just shook his head and jogged back down the pitch. His opponents scored and one of his own team went to recover the ball for a goal kick. It was the same girl that had ignored him earlier and Dex's hopes dwindled. To his own amazement, she kicked the ball hard in his direction, maybe seeing that he had clear grass ahead of him, or perhaps just taking pity on the young boy. Trying not to waste his opportunity, Dex took off running, the ball just ahead of him. One of the largest boys on the opposing team lumbered towards him. Kicking the ball between his legs, Dex deftly ducked the clumsy haymaker and sprang past. A stronger kick sent the ball sailing forwards in time for Dex to jump a clumsy, skidded tackle coming at him from the side. Suddenly he was clear. He took one step. Another. Planting his left foot squarely, he kicked, striking perfectly. “No way,” Someone whispered. Lazily arcing through the air, unaware that the shot shouldn’t be possible, the ball struck the goal. Just like that, Dex made the team.
  2. Might as well give the challenge a go, fun to do a little writing again and get some rust of the proverbial goosefeather pen. The Frost princess In Eisnor everything has a chilly egde to it all, like the snow and ice has permeated into the very soul of every citizen and rodent, not at all an easy distinction up here. Vitriol could think of no other place for a good time away from Calculus’ disapproving eye. She behaves like she's everyones mother, just not understanding of her needs. She needs the cliffhanger of true life and danger. Living on the edge of her next evolution, she could perhaps never become a culmination of evolution as Katalyst, but she'll make her dues. The rumors of a mad girl terrorizing the fields in Eisnor, both on and off the pitch apparently. Wild light blue hair and a skintone that can make any mortician envious, except the scarring from fire and frostbite along her arms and legs. The Eisnoran Alchemists alerted the team about this girl after she had stolen large quantities of chemicals and equipment leaving frozen and shattered bodies behind. No one of any consequence had died, therefore little action came from the incident. Yet, it was a challenge to the guilds power and such had to be dealt with sooner or later by someone or another. Vitriol might not be the realm's finest detective, but such was hardly the need as the culprit is known. Vitriol sent herself north to get away from Calculus latest rants. There is no love lost between the vice captain and the star striker. Vitriol was the reason Midas could showboat and pretend to be someone. She sealed the deals and took up the slack in the matches. Who was Calculus to give out orders anyway, all she did in the matches was stand there with her bug spray. The excuse of a stadium in the north loomed over the streets some hundreds of meters ahead, already from here it was clear a match was underway, the screams of pain and ecstasy was intoxicating as always. Vitriols reason for playing, the high, the ecstasy of the chanting crowd and constant life threatening war of the game. No drug or concoction had still gotten Vitriol to those heights and she had tried them all. Making her way to a good place in the stands the game envelop Vitriol one kick at the time. The player she is here to see, wild blue and white hair only applied to one individual and the only one wearing white. blue and Alchemist greens discreetly hidden. Sporting the colors without authorization is close to a death sentence by itself, but one thing at a time. It’s game time after all, and one does not simply interrupt a game. Except for the girl there was one other oddity on her side of the pitch. It seemed harmless enough, essentially a flat circular disc a few inches from the ground, light in color with a web of nearly invisible strings emanating like a spider web across the backfield. Even if the opponent is a player down, four players should make for an easy goal, and this was clearly the expectation from the crowd and the team alike. The wild girl gave ground, throwing small vials left and right, the ground freezing solid with foot long spikes of razorsharp ice like she’d been throwing caltrops around. Vitriol found herself with a trace of a smile as she realised the endgame, she wasn’t giving ground. She was leading the team into the web, effortlessly dancing between each thread. The leading brute with the ball was not as graceful, Vitriol would have compared the fellow with Ox, but all things considered it would be a grave affront to every Butchers player. Except Meathook perhaps, that wench would be dense enough to compare or perhaps the Fishermans little mascot, Angel or whatever her face was. An audible snap, like a whip, is heard across the stadium as the contraption retracts the webbing in a fraction of a second and slings it towards an towards the direction it was triggered. The webbing tangling the brutes and a nearby lowlife as fish in a barrel. Then, the wailing commence as the net dissolves into liquid ice burning and corroding. Seconds later the crowd reacted with a cheer that could wake the dead and was rewarded with a beauty of a goal before the fish in the net had exhausted their first lounges of breath. Vitriol cleared and caned herself some space in the stands so she could sit comfortably. This could be a good match yet and enjoy it she would. The ball is kicked back into play by the fans right down the middle to the somewhat recovering team of Sealhunters. The players were hardly in a place to recover the ball, but unlike the team the fans are accurate with their kick, it ending in feet of a grizzled veteran with a staff and thick furs. The approaching demon, one can not call a girl with such a look anything but, sprinting towards her target with fury and malice emanating across the field. Vitriol liked her look, the youthful pure innocence of malignity and spite to the world. Barriers and limitations meant nothing, only time to break them down and conquer, pushing them further. This could have been me she mused, and as soon her mind snapped violently back to the reality of the blazing flames and destruction of her past failure. As the shudders subsided and her vision cleared and hands calmed the grizzled veteran lay there with shattered legs and Vitriol felt rather than saw the final goal. She has injuries as mine, yet she has not lost her furious blaze, why not? “I need to know” Vitriols mind shouted. This girl can not remain here, we need her, I need her, as the crowd rose to their feet drowning her moment of sanity until only a name remained. A-ni-ma, A-ni-ma, A-ni-ma....
  3. Forum Challenge - Koh, the Wildfire

    Officials hadn’t bothered with an attempt to clear the pitch of snow before the initiate’s game had begun, figuring the bizarre training arrangement didn’t warrant a serious effort. The result was this… mayhem. The Hunter and Butcher initiates had abandoned any pretense at playing for the ball when the snows mixed with blood. This sickly concoction slicked the pitch in a red-pink slush that clung to the combatants from head to toe, dispelling any notion of control. Theron watched one player intently as he navigated the particularly vicious game; an archer by the name of Koh, he and his tracking falcon worked in tandem with each other to tear down the largest players of the opposing team. In spite of his excellent situational awareness, Koh played the part of captain to the initiates poorly. The wordless commands to his falcon didn’t extend to the other Hunters. Without someone to rally their movements they were hopelessly outmatched against the ruthless and brutally drilled Butchers. Their rookie leader had clearly been given the rudiments of captaincy and marshaled them into a formation that drove into the Hunters’ lines as gracefully as his own jagged bludgeon. He’d already secured his share of takedowns against two small of stature hunters, nearly severing one of their arms in the process. This was the same game that Koh excelled at Theron noted, watching as Koh's arrow cut through the winter winds to reach a butcher initiate's leg mid-stride. The skewered leg gave out beneath him, and the butcher went tumbling face first into the icy ground. Koh’s bloodthirst was unparalleled, even among the Butchers who had taken glee to turn the white snows scarlet. In truth it was troubling, thought Theron as the archer loosed another spiteful arrow into the downed butcher's body. From here it looked lethal, but the sawbones plied their trade in miracles. Theron suspected that his behavior was the effect of long and bloody winters beneath the Moon Goddess’s grasp. Theron was now the only one to be relied on in matters of the Sun Father’s judgement. So he watched, wondering if the damage had been done... it looked grim. This cruelty was all that Koh knew. Arrow and claw tearing through flesh, crimson spilled amidst snow, winter’s savagery matched only by his own. He wasn’t lucky enough to be chosen by the Sun Father. He was meant to die clinging to his mother's frozen breast, and yet he simply refused. Bow in hand, the little hunter was determined to carve out his place by the Sun Father’s side, even as the Moon followers called him her child. Koh’s hatred kept him warm by burning away the lure of the Moon, yet this was not the Sun Father’s way. Inside summer’s embrace that anger would devour him, as the flame devours the forest. He was a capable hunter, but he was not taught to nurture, to provide, or to protect. The horn of the game’s end blew, interrupting Theron’s thoughts. In the midst of its heavy note, an arrow splitting the air made no sound. Butcher victory. The kill that ended the game was claimed by none other than the Butcher’s rookie captain, burying his bludgeon into the skull of one of his previous takeouts as she returned to the pitch, still limping. The triumphant butcher fell to the ground before the horn had even quieted. Blood filled his mouth as an arrow’s shaft stuck cleanly through his throat. No one but Theron saw the moment Koh had loosed the arrow, seen the intent behind his eyes; not to claim a victory but to murder the victor. Nevertheless, the guild would need to step in and defend his action. Claim that the arrow was released before the game’s end and struck its target after his victory. Theron shook his head as the surviving initiates returned. “Koh,” Theron addressed the rookie quietly, before he had even completely left the pitch. Koh’s attention turned to Theron, unspeaking, unblinking. “When you killed that butcher… the game was already over.” Koh took an uneven breath and spoke, voice trembling with rage, "he killed our sister... while she was wounded and couldn’t defend herself.” “That is our way. That is how the strong survive.” Despite the final tone of Theron's reply, Koh lashed back, like wounded prey goring its predator, "if the strong are only capable of preying on the weak then what is it that makes them strong?" He didn’t stay to hear Theron's reply. Within his voice, Theron could sense something he misjudged; a yearning for a place by the Sun. Something that had been warped beyond recognition by painful winters. Undoubtedly his hatred would consume him in time, but sometimes a Wildfire is what the sick forest needs to be reborn. Figured it was time to post this and hopefully receive more targeted feedback. Many of the people I've had go over it aren't as familiar with GB's lore, so I haven't gotten major feedback regarding that element of it, and I'm always looking for ways to improve the overall flow of the writing. Please let me know what you think.
  4. Forum Challenge - The Fool

    The short story of a rookie looking to make the Fool's Guild. He has no name in the story, but I'm calling him Bilk for the sake of it. 1000 words exactly, enjoy! The Fool My mouth widened so much that it strained my lips painfully. That’s just how bored I had been. The game was nearly over and I hadn’t even sniffed the ball once. I was beginning to think no one here was going to give me the chance to show off my skills! I was contemplating napping when I saw the other team go for a pass near my position. No, wasn’t a pass! They were trying to catch me off guard and take me out! Kh-dnk! Tiny, white dots of light danced in my eyes when the ball smacked against my head and I stood there with a dumb look on my face as the ball dribbled to a stop right by me. The laughter that rolled through the other rookies in the scrimmage was not lost on me, even if my only response was a goofy, dazed grin, as though surviving the punt was a win all by itself. The angry voice that ripped through the guffaws pulled me to my senses. “GET THE BALL!” The call came from a tall, athletic man looking to impress the Fishermen. “LOOK OUT!” Another teammate cried. My head turned in slow motion as the other team was advancing to recover the ball. “No, wait!” I flailed and quickly hopped over the ball to protect it, just as a tough looking man stomped down on my foot. My shriek was, admittedly, rather high pitched and elicited another round of chortles from my compatriots. Even the dastardly toe crusher paused to grunt an approximation of a laugh. “Eheheh…” I laughed nervously myself and jutted forward. The man quickly went back to trying to retrieve the ball but now our legs were hopelessly tangled. We both dropped to the ground and rather hurtful epithets spilled from the man’s mouth. I unfurled our legs and as I hopped up, I may have accidentally put my foot down on the poor bastard’s- Ahem Let’s just say his shriek of pain matched my earlier yelp in pitch... I had far more important things to worry about as another opponent was advancing from behind to try and catch me! My legs pumped frantically and I put a hand on my head to keep my cap from flying off. I kept my eye on him, making sure he was losing ground. “Go! Away!” I tried to wave my pursuer off when I suddenly felt something under my foot. I was no longer touching the ground but instead I was trying hard not to topple end over end as I balanced on top of the rolling ball. "I can do this! I can do this!” I muttered to myself as my stumbling feet found their rhythm. I looked up and smiled proudly, as if I had just scored a goal. More laughter. More derisive calls. “Buffoon!” “Rube!” I’m doing my best! My embarrassing run came to a sudden and rather soft halt as I crashed into a tall, buxom woman on the other team who had positioned herself to intercept me as I flailed about. My hands came up to protest the incoming punishment, but found a rather cushiony brace to help prop myself up straight. Our eyes met and the fury that roiled in hers was matched only by the heat washing over her cheeks. She decided to forgo the slap for a powerful closed fist that knocked me for a loop! I twirled on my feet to the side, mocking a graceful pirouette. I was lucky to still be conscious, but she was not as fortunate. My previous pursuer had caught up with me and sold out for a punishing tackle! The woman’s mighty punch had knocked me clear of the charging bull and the two collided in a violent impact. Both were laid flat! I scrambled to my feet and corralled the ball, dribbling as I marched on. Somehow, I had ended up near the opposing goal with only one man in front of me. A hulking brute wearing a mask and snorting at me. He cracked his knuckles and took a rumbling step in my direction. His mass alone was enough to block the goal and I could feel my trembling knees knocking together. “Sir…” I squawked, a nervous frog in my throat. I dropped to my knees, cowering over the ball and throwing one arm over my head. “If you’re going to beat me up, at least don’t hurt my cap!” I chattered as I set my cap next to me. I got to me knees and shoved the ball towards him with my hand and then grabbed my own collar. “I’ll even save you the effort!” I punched myself in the cheek and once again another roar of laughter came over the field. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone take themselves out of the game!” One of the other players barked. I spat out some blood and began to crawl to the pitch’s edge. The goaltender eyed me until he was satisfied, then turned and gave the ball a good punt. Splort! Chunks flew through the air and I laughed as I watched the gourd I replaced the ball with splatter! When he angrily turned toward me, I was back upright with the biggest grin on my bruised face. I raised my big, jangling cap and revealed the real ball. I tilted my head to the side and the ball dropped. It caught the curl of my boot, slid off and lightly touched the goal with a soft noise. Bop. That was the game and my grin turned into a cackle of laughter. I fell down, clutching my sides as I surveyed the others on the pitch. A man soon approached me. Somehow, he commanded respect despite wearing a motley similar to mine. “You’re a Fool.” “I hope to be, sir!” I grinned. “Though, I don’t think I could ever compete with the likes of them.” I said as I motioned to the pitch.
  5. Forum Challenge - Wretch

    Stepping out from the shadows, Wretch squinted as she looked out over the pitch. It'd been months since she'd been brought up from the steps into the guild house and today was the first time she'd seen the sunlight. Her blinded eye stared pointlessly off to the side where the patrons were watching, hidden in the cool shade away from the blinding light in the Mortician's training pitch. Dressed in rags little better than the ones she had been found in, she filed into place behind the 'captain' of the match for her side, 9 other rookies around her, all looking for their big break. Black feathers fell out from the layers of dark rags as Wretch took up her position amongst the other nameless trainees. That had been the first thing that had been stripped from them. Names. Ideals. Goals. They meant nothing.Obedience to the guild was everything. Wretch turned her good eye to regard her opponents. Worm, Rat and Crow up front. Maggot and Slug behind. It wasn't an unusual line up considering things. They hadn't known each other well before they had joined, but all of the rookies had been told to keep an eye on their rivals. They had to – learning to spy and root out those disloyal to the guild was as much part of their training as anything. Wretch, however, had an advantage over all the others. With a shrill whistle the game started and wordlessly Wretch dashed forwards. Unlike the others she had little interest in the ball, instead she had targets. They hadn't been allowed to bring any equipment onto the pitch, but what her opponents didn't know was Wretch didn't need a thing. Rat was her target. He was her rival, even though he hadn't known it. The tall Valentian was slated as a replacement to Ghast, a position Wretch coveted for herself when the time came. But without the heavy club the man had become reliant on, Wretch knew this was her best chance. Around her, the game had gotten underway. Worm and Crow had begun chasing Creep after he'd retrieved the ball, beginning to weave through the brightly lit debris. The pitch was likely some old gravesite by Wretch's guess, some now unmarked grave where debris from a shattered mausoleum made for a tricky ground to pass or dribble the ball, a challenge intentionally imposed on the young Rookies. After all, if they could play in blinding light and poor footing they'd be in good stead for dealing with any of the lower league pitches. The ground was clearest towards the centre, funnelling all the new players towards one another... But Wretch skirted the edges, clearly looking for something. As she rounded the base of one of the former foundations, she caught a glimpse of sunlight reflecting off the floor. A crooked grin slipped across her lips as she picked up the shard of glass, wrapping one of her rags around what would serve as a grip. For a moment, she caught a glimpse of her own reflection and was reminded once again of why the crows in the Rookery had been her main companions for the last few months. Jagged scars covered the right side of her face, down past her jaw and across her throat. She'd been lucky to survive the attack, but even today the memory made her flinch. Slashing claws and snapping teeth that stole her voice so she couldn't even scream when the nightmares woke her... But Wretch shook her head, then tightened her grip and began dashing towards her target. Even without his weapon of choice, Rat had begun physically dominating the match. Tall and burly, with enough bulk to palm off most of the other underfed recruits. Each of the ten had been mentored at least in passing by a member of the team and Silence had put his all into making sure he would have the brawn when he needed it in the future. Rat had been fed well and treated far in excess of what the other recruits had received, making him the envy of the others. Wretch, on the other hand, had only the briefest of contact with her mentor – after all, someone as petty as Cosset saw little use in the savage, scrawny thing to the point where she'd almost forgotten about the Wretch entirely. It'd been on nothing but a whim that she'd even let the waif into the building, something about that one good eye appealing to some meaningless thought. Instead, Wretch had made it her business to know everything about her mentor she could. She listened. She watched. She learnt. And as she dashed up behind the oblivious Valentian and jumped onto his back, she put her learning into practice. The glass shiv buried itself into Rat's throat, a spray of arterial blood gushing out in a crimson arc. In the patrons box, an array of commotion took place, Silence shrieking in rage to Obulus as Cosset jumped out of her chair, a wide smile across her lips as she dashed to the edge of the box, captivated as Wretch shoved the basic shiv in and out over and over in a flurry of frenzied hatred. She would take everything from the hypocrites who had the world handed to them. And one day, those at the bottom of the pile would rise to the top, drowning the rest in blood.
  6. Never really done anything like this before, but I figured I could give it a shot. New Moon, the story of a Rookie under Theron's Hunter's in her first game as captain. I definitely appreciate any critiques or criticisms. Devana looked on as the Butchers descended upon her team. It was like lions descending on prey. For reasons unknown to her, Captain Theron had put her in charge of the Hunter's rookies for this skirmish game, and this was very different from the Fishermen's rookie team they played several weeks prior. She charged in, intent on stealing the ball from the opposing captain, Ribs, so called for his tendency to break them. She watched as her brother, Chase, whacked another Butcher in the kneecaps with his club, before spinning past him and making a break for Ribs as well. She shouldn't have been watching. She completely missed the fist coming from the other side, and it caught her square in the gut. Pain exploded in her eyes, and for a moment all she could sense was the interesting combination of blood in her mouth, pain in her chest, and grass in her nose. Cursing herself for the lapse in attention, she groaned, and thankfully whoever had sucker punched her moved on to someone else, but she wasn't down. She's only been on the ground a few seconds, but Ribs had even moved closer. She waited for just the right moment, then sprang at the boy, catching him by surprise. With some footwork that left him dizzy, she managed to steal the ball away, and make a break in a random direction. She looked for anyone who might be open, knowing she didn't have long before Ribs would be on top of her again. Chase was locked in a slugfest with another boy on the Butcher's team, and the rest of her team were too far on her side of the field to be of any help. So she ran. She didn't get far before she felt a presence coming up fast behind her. In an almost instinctual move, she stopped, pivoted on one foot, and jumped backwards, lifting the ball up with her leg. It slammed into Rib's face, and she used the slight spring of the ball to vault off of him. She made a graceful summersault in the air, twisting to land facing the Butcher's goalpost. Not pausing to see Ribs land, she heard the thud after several steps. Clear now, she felt amazing, and within seconds was close enough to score. With a solid kick, she slammed the ball into the Butcher's goalpost, and she took a moment to watch with pride as the score cards flipped over to show 4-0. She jogged back to the field, surveying her team's status. Two of her Hunters had been carried off, to one Butcher that looked like she had a broken leg. Chase was still dodging and weaving around the other boy, and Ribs was just beginning to stand up from her kick, a bruise already forming on his forehead. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as the Butcher's representative, Boiler, she thought, drop kick the ball out, over her head, and back onto the field, in the center, between Ribs and Chase. Ribs immediately broke into a sprint towards it, and Chase, likewise, disengaged from his opponent and ran for the ball. The two met in a flurry of fists and clubs, both trying to knock the other out for control of the ball. She ran to help out her brother, but was cut off by his earlier adversary. He eyed her with a cold grin, flipping a flat stick of metal over in his hand. Flatiron, his name was. She knew she didn't have long, Chase couldn't handle Ribs, even injured as he was from her kick. She ran straight at the boy. It caught him off guard, and she used the slight flinch to jump forwards, planting her hands on his shoulders. She vaulted over him, high into the air. This high in the air, she could see another of her Hunters coming from further down the field, a very young girl named Jaci. Devana pulled a small sling from her pocket, and, in midair, twisted to launch a rock at the ball between the two boys. It struck, knocking the ball out and away from the two, and towards Jaci. Ribs jumped after it, earning a club to the back of the head from Chase. Jaci met the ball, and began running down the field. Devana landed hard, and her chest complained from its earlier hit. She watched Jaci run downfield, but the girl was no match for Flatiron's speed. Ignoring her own pains, Devana began running, not towards Jaci, Chase could handle that, but towards the goal herself. She felt the ancient powers she had always known well up inside of her, and bracing for impact, released just as Flatiron swung his bar towards Jaci's head. In an instant, she felt the bar strike her, and she fell into the grass for the second time this game. She watched, as downfield, Jaci stumbled a bit from the disorientation of Devanna's moon blessing, but the girl was clear for the goal. Just before her vision went black, Devana saw Jaci kick their second goal. Then she smiled as everything went black. Her crazy plan had worked. It would be up to the rest of her team to finish it now. Across the field, a white haired girl sat in the bleachers and watched as Devanna shifted, then fell. She idly spun a snowball in the seat next to her, before the barest of smiles crept across her pale face, and she left, leaving the snowball to melt, and the game to finish. She'd seen what she needed.
  7. Forum Challenge - Making the Cut

    Just do it. Slit his throat. He's lying there, waiting. "No" she said. The man in the barber chair opened his eyes looking up at her, her thick black fringe sticking to her forehead, she was profusely sweating. "I-is everything alright?" He stuttered. Valerie just smiled, before sliding her straight edge back across his supple throat, then back down again, taking away the soap with it. She wiped the blade on the flannel over his shoulder, "DONE" she exclaimed; an odd tone of relief rang through her voice. What a waste of time. She left him in the chair, getting some cold water to drink in the back of shop- "cool and calm" she said to herself quietly, staring straight at the water settling down after her swig. "Cool and calm". "Valerie." Edge interrupted her thoughts, "its time, get your kit, we're about to kick off." Valerie nodded at Edge, "I'll be there shortly." The Barbers Guild team captain, nodded and replied, "good, don't want to lose our star so soon." He winked and left, laughing. What was so funny, she thought to herself- probably at what you did to that baker boy last week. She shook the voice from her head and walked back into the barber shop. The Barbers Guild were relatively new to the game of Guild Ball, but each district the guild was in, were trying players out for the main team. Valerie was the newest of this team, having only played one game, which she was reluctant to play in. She said she wouldn't play again after the incident but Edge had insisted she had to play one more game. One more game to impress the Longshanks. Edge had big plans for his team, really get the Barbers on the map, or as he would say "get a slice of the pie." Edge was the one who took her in when she had nowhere to go, he hadn't said he'd figured out where she'd come from, but Valerie thought he probably had guessed. Edge was different, the only person she'd met that she didn't have to stop her self from harming, she hadn't worked out why yet. There were quite a few people int he crowd, all Local to their region, but none Valerie knew, the rest of her team were waving and shouting to their friends and family. The opposing team were doing the same, members drawn in from the local Gardeners Guild. Gardening was a trade only the wealthy could afford, so it was obvious how they had special kits made up embroidered and clean. Valerie's kit wouldn't come clean. The stain of the baker boys blood still splattered up her sleeves. The Gardeners were all glaring at her, the Baker whose blood she was sporting was the cousin of the Gardeners team captain, so she thought he wouldn't be the most easy going in this game. The gardener captain was a tall man, white, styled hair, clean shaven with a little knick just below his chin. Clearly the sign he's started shaving his own face after last weeks game. Let's open that cut up "Stop it." She said to herself, "it's just a game, no one needs to get hurt." But someone will, either us, or them. Valerie hated to admit it, but she was right. The two captains shook hands and the Gardener whispered in Edges ear. Edge, a stocky man, bald head and a thick beard, turned round, his face white and ghost like. What he heard must have chilled him deeply. The score was in favour of the Gardeners and they were outnumbering the Barbers with 6 to 4, it was just Edge, Valerie, Soap, and old barber, a veteran of the century war and Tyson, Edge's pet chihuahua. A very small animal with a styled Mohawk between his ears. As He looked ridiculous, had little impact on the game, but he was very distracting and the crowd loved him. Whilst she was looking at the miniature dog, she saw him barking at Edge, who had two Gardeners laying into him. They stepped back as he collapsed, a pile of black cloth, beard and tattoos. She saw them laughing as time seemed to slow, and squaring up to Tyson, ready to attack the mascot. Tyson! "Don't worry Valerie, we've got this" she said reassuring the voice in her head. Valerie charged the two Gardeners before they could get too close to the dog, she slit the throats of the young one in one quick flurry with her straight edge. At the same time she grabbed the ponytail of the other and dragged him to the floor then started kicking his head, turning it to a bloody mush, glistening on the grounds. The crowd went silent, clearly in shock of this display of violence. She let out a deep breath, then slowly turned to the Gardener captain, his face whiter than Edge's was at the start of the match. Valerie wasn't in control now. She flicked her straight edge, cleaning it in an instant, she'd clearly done this before the Garner worried... "Her", Longshanks said to his hooded associate. "We want her in the Barbers Guild." "But, but she's uncontrollable, unhinged, unhealthy!" "She's perfect. She's fury, rage and beauty." The associate looked across the pitch at Valerie. Her thick black hair, messy and stuck to her face in a mix of blood, saliva and sweat. "Beauty?" He questioned, "are, are we looking at the same woman?" "Just picture it, the revenue. She'll draw them in for her beauty before the match, then keep them there with her displays of violence. Perfect to elevate this start up Guild to the big leagues." Longshanks started to laugh, the only sound in the crowd of people watching Valerie sat in the middle of the pitch, stroking Tyson, both of them covered in the Gardeners teams blood. "Calm and Cool. Calm and Cool." Valerie repeated over and over to herself and the little dog.
  8. A Rookie’s reflection The long summer afternoon finally turned to dusk as Luka made his way across the high meadow, to a small cops that overlooked the training ground. Once among the trees he slumped down at the base of an old oak and sat for a time in its dappled shade. He was not by nature a solitary young man but it had occurred to him that it was now weeks since he had last spent any time alone and perhaps this evening warranted some consideration. As Luka stared into space allowing his mind to wander without direction, his eyes came to rest on a small pool of water close to where he sat. The pool was formed by large roots pushing above the ground creating a natural hollow. The water was dark and still and Luka found he was looking into his own reflection. He had never been given over to prolonged study of his appearance much less vanity. Yet as his eyes lingered on the watery image they could not help but observe how the face gazing back had changed in the last six months. For one thing he looked leaner now. Jaw and cheek bones that had once been rounded with a kind of youthful softness now looked hard and angular. Indeed, with its curved nose and keen eyes his face now had an almost hawk like quality about it. His hair was the same dark mess but now he carried a jagged scare on his left cheek. Evidence of a lesson learned the hard way when training. Not all the changes were purely physical. There was about him now a kind of intensity. A serious cast to his expression that said he no longer had time for the cocky immature boy he had been last winter. Last winter, it seemed a life time ago. He had first trudged through falling snow into the mountain foothills in search of the Sun God’s training camp. The days had been shorter then and much of his early instruction was conducted at night or under cover of thick, lead grey clouds. The irony had not been lost on him. Despite the camps name, the sun had been conspectus by its absence. When they eventually arrived Luka and the other hopefuls had been placed into “the pack”. The pack was the collective term for all prospective players wishing to join the ranks of the Hunters guild. Mostly young men and women looking to make a life and a name for themselves, or else hide from a past one. How any of them came to be in the pack didn’t matter. Not age, not gender, not background. Once you crossed that threshold and joined the pack you were the same and you had nothing. Not even a name. You were Whelp, New blood, Pup or any other derogatory nick name that your instructor chose to spit at you. You had no individual identity and you succeeded or failed collectively. It seemed to Luka that this first phase of tuition did not have much to do with playing Guild ball at all. Some of the other prospects had even commented to that effect when they reached the limit of their endurance. Questioning why they seemed to forever be running up hill or carrying heavy logs over the mountain only to return them the next morning. Those hopefuls had not lasted long. Nether had the ones who’s failings routinely led to collective punishment. The pack policed its self. The training was hard enough without extra thrashings encored because a pack member had failed to demonstrate basic skills or sufficient effort. It was a cruel, almost barbaric way to live, but then nature is often cruel. There is little sympathy in the wild for those that are not strong enough or don’t contribute. It was a hard time, both physically and mentally. Many of the packs members failed or quit. Some were told to leave. Others were forced out as a result of the injuries they sustained. One by one people fell by the way side. One day they had been there and part of your team the next they were gone and dead to you. Of the forty or so hopefuls that had made up the pack on day one only fifteen had come down out of the mountains to continue training in the foothills as the days finally began to lengthen. Those next months had been a stark contrast to the packs time in the mountains. Their instructors seemed no less hard or demanding but now they offered explanations to tasks, learned names and imparted advice gained over years spent stalking pry in the wild. They also began to measure the individuals rather than the collective. Guild ball had suddenly become the centre of Luka’s world. In the mountains he only needed to think about surviving each day. Now each day came with a flood of new information and skills to be learned. He began to see the game as never before. Where once there had been twelve players franticly chasing a ball now there were formations with clinically precise spacing. Strategy began to unfold in his mind and Luka found he could see where the ball would be rather than watching where it had once been. Reading the intention off other players became just as important as the ball. Once he had assumed the first man to the ball was the best player. Now he could see that sometimes the first man to the ball was just the most gullible being lured into harm’s way. Training reached its climax for the pack. Fifteen had become eleven. Eleven became nine. Nine had dwindled to five. No longer a pack but five rookies. Rookies who had grown strong, resilient and cunning. Who understood how to put the team first and how to play the game as part of that team. Tomorrow the mystic cycle would turn again. Tomorrow Luka would become a Hunter.
  9. So, the forum challenge inspired me. First, a couple of notes: - In my mind, the Astronomer's Guild has several related business interests beside tracking the stars. The have excellent navigators, the best cartographers and mathematicians in the Empire, and even dip their toes into fortune telling and stuff we'd classify as astrology in the real world. Game wise, these would be represented by control effects and luck-modifying abilities like Confidence. In the War, in addition to navigation, cartography, and logistics, the guild would also have had some folks able to do combat trigonometry* who would either be ridiculously good snipers or part of elite siege- and anti-siege-artillery teams with the Engineers. - "Seyfert" comes from "Seyfert Galaxy", which is a galaxy with a "small, intensely bright" center. I thought that sounded pretty Rookie-ish so I grabbed it. - If it were up to me, the Astronomers would have an Owl named Archimedes, or Arc for short. This references Watchmen's Nite Owl, and through it Disney's Sword in the Stone, and Arc could also be short for Arc-Second which is a measurement used in astronomy. I just couldn't work Arc into the story properly. - I wish Grange wasn't named Grange, because "Lagrange" would be a great Astronomer name. - "Corona" is intended to be one of the Astronomer's Captains. - Other astronomer-y names I like: Mote, Syzygy, Albedo, Apogee and Perigee, Nadir and Zenith, Nova, and Umbra. *TVTropes link; follow at your own peril. Anyways, here's draft one. Tell me what you think of it, and if you think there need to be any changes to improve it! Seyfert, Astronomer Savant Seyfert did his best work at night. To be sure, most of the Astronomer's Guild could say the same; the line of work did often require a view of the firmament, after all. But even those parts of his studies that did not require a direct view of the sky - the mathematics, the memorization of star charts and of maps of the Empire, even the card-reading he so struggled with - all came more naturally to him by the light of a candle or the full moon than by the glare of the Sun. And so it was with this assignment. Mistress Corona had gently "suggested" that he should try for her Guild Ball team. He wasn't quite sure why. Compared to the brutes he'd seen running the field at the few games he'd attended, Seyfert was waif. He'd put up as much resistance to them as a leaf does a river. So here he sat, in the middle of a shadowed courtyard, staring intently at a ball illuminated only by the scant, powdery light of the moon. He studied its seams and stitches, as if he could divine some shred of skill from it like a crystal ball. Just as with the cards, no answer was forthcoming. He threw the ball away with a scoff, and as it bounced across the cobblestones he let himself fall back, arms spread-eagle. The sky above him was painted with stars. It was a perfect night for viewing. This was what Seyfert lived for, the dance of the stars in the night sky. Even if he weren't here "practicing", he'd have been out well into the morning recording their paths. The "Song of the Spheres", Corona called it. Seyfert glanced at the ball where it had come to rest. How could something so crude be worth the Guild's attention? He got up to fetch his equipment from his quarters - he couldn't let the night's sky go to waste, he rationalized to himself. The ball sat forgotten. --- Seyfert cursed at himself under his breath as he rubbed his eyes. Why were the tryouts being held so early in the morning? He'd have thought, with their nocturnal line of work, the Guild's officials wouldn't be any more keen on mornings than himself. Perhaps the higher echelons of the Guild were too busy with their politicking and maneuvering to make observations themselves. Regardless, he sat on a bench outside of an interior court, waiting his turn to be judged. He'd hate to disappoint Corona, but he expected failure would be his lot. The sooner this was over, the sooner he could return to The Song. Every few minutes, the door to the room would open and a consul would beckon another candidate in, and few more later the prospective player would leave, downcast or angry, begging for another chance or fuming. No one seemed to leave pleased. All for the better, Seyfert thought; he wouldn't have to feign disinterest or disappointment, then. Finally, nearly nodding off, Seyfert was called into the court. Inside it was a dome, thick metal ribbing criss-crossing seemingly randomly, each arc holding a stylized moon or sun or star. The consul handed him a ball, and explained to him the test; he had ten minutes to find the goalpost and hit it with the ball from the center of the court. No more. The consul returned to the door and pulled a few levers in a console set into the wall. With the last, the floor of the court seemed to rumble; the bands along the wall began to move as the floor slowly rotated. It wasn't just a court - the room was a functioning mechanical orrery. It must have cost a fortune to commission from the Engineer's Guild. At first, he couldn't see a goal to kick for, but after a few moments of searching he found it - a small brass disc polished to a mirror finish was the only plate in the whole room that wasn't ornately decorated. It orbited slowly, constantly obscured by the motions of the other rings. As he followed it, Seyfert kept expecting it to reveal itself in its fullness so he could finally take a shot, but without fail another would intercept its path and prevent his shot. Seyfert scowled and looked at the ball at his feet. Once again he was struck with how unimportant it seemed, how crude it was compared to beautiful motion of the night sky, or even the facsimile cranking away around him. All of this was pointless compared to the Song of the Spheres. Seyfert started with a sudden realization; wasn't a ball just a sphere? Perhaps it was ridiculous, comical even, to put it in those terms, but already it had him looking to the walls with a new perspective. He could now see the rhythm of the orrery, the patterns in the orbits of the stars and the paths the arcs took. His head jerked to the side - there, that was where the arcs would part and reveal the goal, even if just for a moment. He looked down at the ball, calculations running in his head, estimating when the goal would show itself, how hard and how far he needed to kick the goal, accounting for the rotation of the floor. He took a breath, then kicked. The ball flew in a gorgeous parabola, its path like that of a star in the sky sped up to last seconds instead of hours. Seyfert's heart began to sink as he saw the spot he had aimed for was still blocked - maybe he was wrong, and he would leave the court disappointed. But at the last moment the arcs parted, and with a sound like a gong his shot struck home. Seyfert collapsed to the floor as the room ground to a halt, laughing giddily under his breath. Maybe there was something to Guild Ball after all.
  10. Forum Challenge - Bummer for Bill

    It was still early morning, Bill lay awake listening to the screeching call of the rooster, commanding the sun to come up and pushing away the darkness. But there was no pushing away the darkness in Bills head. The war had cost him everything, his parents, his sister, his home. Too young to take up arms and fight back he had wandered around, from meal to meal, from dirty alley to wet gaps under bridges. The only thing the war had not taken was his life, and he was spared on numerous occasions. The first time when soldiers set fire to the house: Mother took up his little sister and ran out, as soon as the sparks came dripping down from the roof, set alight by a few torches thrown up there. The door to safety and freedom was kicked open, only to find lust craving evil men on their front step, awaiting the inhabitants. One of them grabbed Bills sister, two others took his mother and hauled them both away, chased by his father who commanded him to flee and go towards the church. Bill was never a good boy, and so he chased after his father, witnessing how his dad was jumped on from the back he screamed in warning. Too late. His father got stabbed in the back by a shortsword and fell to his knees. Bill bellowed a war-cry, giving his victim ample warning of his arrival. The brigand turned about and butted Bill in the head with the back of the shortsword that took the life of his father. Bill went down, face first in the cobbled street and felt in the distance how a foot came crashing down on the back of his head. Several teeth cracked, as did his nose. The iron flavoured blood poored down the front of his face and filled his mouth. Trying to stay focused Bill could make out the shapes of men, holding down his mother and sister, through a haze he heard them scream. A shrill contrast to the low rumbling laughter and grinning sounds the men made, saliva dripping from the corners of their mouths as they forced themselves upon the women. Hours passed before Bill regained contiousness to find his dead parents and lifeless body of his sister, clothes of the women tattered and smeared with blood and dirt. Yet more hours passed before time started again in Bills life and he buried them under some rubble producing a cross from the debris. A second time his life was spared was when he stumbled upon soldiers fighting. One of them spotted him and raised an axe that missed his head by a hair. It would’ve split his head open if it was not for the arrow that pierced the soldiers neck and made him trip. A voice called out to him instructing him to flee the scene. A third time it was a member of the physicians guild that found him, curled up like a ball under a bridge. Boiling up inside with a fever, coughing his lungs out, he saw the world through the haze. He shrieked as he could make out a shadow closing in on him, not knowing it was his saviour this time and not one of the men assaulting his mother and sister during the flashback he experienced. A loud bang disturbed his musings and the sleep of his fellow rookies, he sprang out of bed as if launched by a catapult and grabbed his gear before the voice bellowed: “Rise and shine lads! It’s a new day and you have much to learn still! Out in the yard in 2 minutes for the morning drill!” The owner of the voice never showed his face. Marbeille next to him had clearly been awake too since she was getting dressed , slowing Bill down as he admired her curves. Aware of his watching eyes she hastened to cover herself up. What was he thinking, the lovely Marbeille was out of his league, as the daughter of a reknown beekeeper. Still when their eyes met… The dorm started living, as an ants-nest that was disturbed and soon he was in the yard doing push-ups and sprinting back and forth amongst his peers. Some of them there hoping to escape the life bestowed on them by birth, looking to do something else than what was expected, others because their parents wanted a superstar Guild Ball player in the family. And yet others, like him, not sure how they got there but with nothing else to do. All were equal amongst the rookies, until you showed skill. Skilled rookies were soon to be scouted by guilds on the lookout for players. Bill noticed from the corner of his eyes that Mallet was there, talking to some others and he did his utmost best to shine in the football game. He got teamed up to play against Marbeille but made sure to avoid having to go near her, lest he should have to tackle, or hurt her… At best Bill was an average football player, a descent distance to his kick, but no real accuracy to be amazed over, his fighting skills were lacklustre at best. He was strong, but had a good heart and held back so not to harm his peers. He received a pass and sprinted forward, hoping to impress the scouts, and Mallet in particular, but ran headfirst into the defence and got a blow to the head making him sway on his feet. The defending midfielder tackled the ball with ease and passed it to Marbeille, who skilfully received the pass and dodged forwards to make a counter attempt. Bill never knew what happened and when he shook his head he could notice a female sprinting past him, but it was all a blur still. Two men from his team moved in to stop Marbeille and they squashed her inbetween them knocking her down. One of them stumbled on top of her, the other laughed in an evil way bringing Bill back to where he lost his parents. A rage came over him and he shook off the haze, only to be blinded by his rage. Both men went down, each under an arm of Bills. His fists hammering down on their heads as if he was beating a drum with the rhythm of his heart. Shouts fell upon deaf ears as orders to stop were lost on him. It was Mallet who plucked him of the two and with a slap to the face brought him back to his senses. “What have I done?” Mumbled Bill “You beat up two of your own team, rookie.” Answered Mallet, and he continued: “And you made it into the Masons guild training programme” “I’m an apprentice to the masons after beating up my own team?” “Well, best not to do that again, …” a grin lurked around Mallets mouth as he pushed the boy in front of him towards the administrations office to get the paperwork out of the way. Mallet wasn’t going to let this beast get stolen from under his nose…
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