Rites of the Spring Horn

Game 42: An Unexpected Victory


The Lambswool team discusses their strategy for their match against the Spreezunft Destroyers, deciding to give the match their best even though they expect to lose. When they actually fight the match, it becomes much closer than expected. After knocking out the Destroyers’ three attackers (some several times), Hank eventually is able to carry their Lamb across the center line, and Vogelfrei unexpectedly wins.


Iris spends the rest of the day of her doubles match trying to come to terms with things, plotting or fretting in the stands about her team doing something dangerous. Marcella is essentially ordered directly to bed that night.

The next day is the 10th day of the games. Vogelfrei has their Lambswool match at 11:30. Amy and Marcella both want to get to the Arena early to find good seats.

Marcella plans to talk to her Lambswool teammates in the morning about the match, and asks them to meet up around 8 am, before they get on the bus. Zia agrees reluctantly. Fianna arrives for strategy discussion toting several breakfast foods from the kitchen’s morning offerings. Hank arrives blissfully unaware of the bloody events of the previous day. Marcella also has an extra roll from breakfast for Hank’s contract.

“Morning all!” Marcella greets as she walks up. She hands her extra roll to Hank. “Here, for that catch for your contract.” Marcella looks a little more tired than usual, but is completely healed. She has a thin black line running down her temple, which looks like it may be how her skin handles scars.

When asked how she is doing, Fianna grumbles vaguely about scars, but doesn’t elaborate.

“Good morning to you as well, Marcella. How were your events of yesterday?” Hank eyes her temple, but doesn’t say anything about it directly.

She grins fiercely. “Won both events, just barely. Iris saved my bacon in the weaponry doubles match.” She glances around at the group to make sure the whole Lambswool team is there. “I also wanted to check in with all of you about our match today.”

Zia says grumpily, “I’m here and I have the sword. It is very chatty.”

Hank eyes the sword with the same kind of appraising look he gave Marcella’s temple, but doesn’t say anything about that either.

“Huh. Chatty? Well, I’m glad it’s talking to you at least,” Marcella says, looking a little surprised. She hesitates a moment, then says, “So, our opponents today are the Spreezunft Destroyers. You know, Madoc’s team from Berlin?”

“Well, so much for that, then, eh? Shall we concede, or are you all very intent upon dying?” Hank asks.

“Yaaaay~” says Fianna. “Well that leaves aside my strategy from last time. No way I can play tug-o’-war with THEIR Lamb.”

Marcella chuckles as though Hank made a good joke, then nods at Fianna. “Right, that’s what I was thinking. They seem to depend on their Lamb to defend herself, so Hank and I should concentrate on getting between the rest of them and Zia while you go after Clota.”

Zia blanches and turns a light yellow, then it shifts to a reddish-orange. “I really don’t think we can win against someone who can cross swords with Kenna….” she says, “But I bothered to commune with your spooky sword so…”

Marcella glances from Zia to Hank, and her smile fades slightly. “It is true, we have pretty slim chances against these guys. They’re some of the best in Europe. Personally, I’d like the chance to go up against them and see what they’ve got, but I recognize not everyone talks with their swords the way I do.” She smiles ruefully.

“Her thing’s that crossbow mounted net, yeah?” Fianna says. “If Zia can use the ‘spooky sword’ to create that wall of wood like last time, that makes that useless. Dunno the breaking point on that, but she could also aim that at one of us, and take us out of the running as far as the whole protective/friendly kidnapping dealie goes.”

Zia mutters, “I’ll talk with your sword, alright, give it a piece of my mind.”

Hank smirks. “I suspect that she will be disappointed if she attempts to ensnare me in that net.”

Zia smiles at Hank, “I don’t think it is for you, fortunately for her. The bamboo sword seemed happy when I fed it glamour and I had more control over what I summoned then. I think I can make it at least kinda strong.”

“True, but if I’m the only one who’s making an actual go at her, and she gets ME….” Fianna trails off. “Iunno, I might be able to break out of it, but I dunno how strong the stuff actually is. Best case is it only puts me down for half a minute or so.”

Marcella smiles. “I’m glad you had a chance to practice with it, Zia.”

“However, I would like to save some of my glamour for destroying the weapons of anyone who actually picks me up and carries me across the field,” Zia notes. As Zia discusses destroying weapons, the color shifts slightly to purple.

“Yes, I think I should be our backup Lamb-pursuer if she manages to take you out, Fianna,” Marcella agrees. She hesitates, then says, “Our other option is to try and end this as quickly as possible, and have both Fianna and I go after their Lamb immediately. However, that leaves Hank and Zia and the sword standing against the rest of their team, and I don’t know that I’m comfortable with that. Not when we’re the ones that talked you two onto the field in the first place.” Her gaze rests on Zia as she finishes.

Hank shrugs, “I am willing to adapt to whatever strategy, as needed, depending in what Zia will be comfortable with.”

Zia sighs, “Do whatever you think is less likely to result in me being dragged unceremoniously across the field.”

“Well, if we want to make a strong push from the get go, I suppose Hank could toss me again. That’d shift their focus away from attack, and I’m pretty sure me flying through the air is too fast a target for that net-bolt to hit. Even if she does take the shot, that puts it out of commission for the rest of the match, and then Marcella can push when available. On the other hand, it is a strategy we’ve used before, and I bet they’d expect it.”

“True enough. Perhaps we should have saved it for a later match? Ah well, I thought our previous opponents would appreciate it,” Hank sighs. Fianna snickers appreciatively.

Marcella shrugs. “They’ve shown their hand with the net, we’ve shown ours with the trick Fianna and Hank did. I think we should go ahead and do that early in the match, and if it looks like Fianna needs the backup, I’ll make my own way over to their Lamb.”

“Sounds good to me. At least me trying to pull her somewhere will make it unlikely for her to use her net,” Fianna says.

Marcella nods. “Agreed.” She smiles and looks around their little circle. “Good luck everyone. Remember, no one’s going to get permanently hurt in this match, no matter what way it goes, and Zia, they aren’t allowed to put a scratch on you,” she reminds her, meeting her eyes. Then she grins wider. “Just try and have fun!”

Zia raises her eyebrows at the idea of having fun at this match. "Yes, let us go willingly to our doom…” and sweeps out of the room to the bus.

“Pah!” Fianna says with a wave of her hand. “Compared to yesterday, we’ll barely get scratched today. Meet you at the bus, I want to pick up some wrist tape from my room just in case.” She jogs out.

Hank blinks at Marcella, the only remaining person in the room. “Compared to yesterday?”

Marcella gets a slightly guilty look on her face and glances away. “Weeell …. Fianna kinda took a dagger through the collarbone in her match yesterday. But they patched her right up in medical, and she’s fine now,” she hastily assures him.

Hank pointedly looks at the temple that Marcella has made more obvious by turning her head. “I see.”

“C’mon, let’s head to the bus. I’ll fill you in on our matches yesterday on the way,” Marcella offers, heading the way that Zia went. Hank follows. She matter-of-factly includes the extent of her own injuries when giving Hank the full details. He is in impassive listening mode.

Marcella sends a text while they’re riding the bus, after she’s done filling in Hank.

Zia has already arranged with the bus driver to get her garment rack with the uniforms onto the bus. It is taking up the handicapped spot. Hank gives the rack the side eye, and studiously waits at the front of the bus for the entire duration of people getting onto it, making sure that there are no individuals who need the handicapped spot.

They all get to the Arena. They find moderately good seats, about center, opposite the monarch box, but not at the front of the free seats. Marcella settles into her seat, keeping a closer eye on the crowd than usual.

Zia sits herself down next to Marcella and informs her harshly, “Don’t be an idiot today, Marcella.” That wisdom imparted, she gets out her embroidery frame again, puts it together, and begins to work on it. Hank peers curiously at Zia’s frame from the other side of Marcella.

Marcella raises an eyebrow and pats Zia’s shoulder lightly. “I’ll try my best.” After a while she takes out her sketchbook and starts sketching the Arena, waiting for the matches to start. She actually does a pretty decent sketch, but it’s not of the Arena they’re sitting in. The center of the arena in her drawing is flooded with water, and there are two ships facing each other, tiny figures fighting each other on the decks. None of the crowd in her drawing have faces, but they don’t all appear to be human-shaped.

Amy sees everyone else doing crafts and decides to try embroidery, again. Amy’s embroidery is decent—nothing extraordinary, but fairly good. Amy is embroidering a castle in snow.

Hank spends the first part of the morning reviewing his notes on the Spreezunft Destroyers.

Fianna has no crafty things or abilities, and mostly just sits there twiddling her fingers.

Zia, studiously ignoring everyone in the lead up to their match, embroiders an incredibly complex scene of Queen Kenna and her Knights of Summer, each person showing their skills. She stitches incredibly fast and precisely, and the entire thing is done within an hour and a half. Being made in the hedge, it gives the bearer a +1 to dex, a +1 to Stamina, it and whatever item it is sewn into can shrink or get bigger, and if the bearer unravels one square, it will give the bearer 1 glamour. The last will eventually destroy the item. It is also worth lots of money.

The Lambswool team is due to be checked in at 11:00. A few minutes before 11, Marcella taps each of the team members on the shoulder. “We should probably head down.” She stands.

Hank nods, and stands. He’s tried to stay to the outside of the group, so that getting up won’t block the view of too many people behind him.

Zia shakes herself a little, almost as if from a daze, and frowns. “Very well, let us go,” she says.

Bored with all the crafty things, Fianna practically runs to the check-in room. Marcella follows Fianna down the now-familiar path.

At the check-in, the friendly man who’s been checking them in most days says, “Ah, Marcella and your team! I’m hoping to get above for your match today. You know who you are facing?”

“Certain and utter humiliation?” Hank posits.

Marcella nods, grinning. “We saw the Destroyers’ last match. It’s an honor to just get to face them.”

The man takes Hank’s statement as a joke. “Ah, I’m sure they won’t shame you! Madoc is a good man! In any case, just to clarify, how would each of you like to be announced?”

“Madoc is one of four and therefore outnumbered,” Fianna points out. “Still, I expect this will be fun.”

“Marcella Boneblade, same as usual,” Marcella answers. She leans over to Fianna and whispers, “So, are you going to take up ‘Starfist’? That’s what they were calling you yesterday.”

“Same as usual,” Fianna echoes flatly. “I’m not adding anything to my name until I think long and hard on it. Names are important—whether you use them or not.” Marcella nods.

“Ziazan will be fine,” Zia said.

Hank shrugs. “What was I announced as previous?”

The man ruffles through his papers. “Dr. Hank, I think.”

Hank makes a vague moue, but shrugs again. “That is acceptable.”

“Excellent! Then you are all set! There is a room set aside for your use and the clothing is already in it,” he says. “Good luck to all of you.”

Marcella thanks him cheerfully and heads to their room. This time she does not start changing in front of Hank. This time Hank waits outside of the room in the first place. She waves cheerfully as she goes in. “Sorry, promise we’ll be fast!”

Zia hands everyone their outfits.

When Marcella changes, Zia and Fianna can see that the naginata blow to the ribs left a pretty serious scar. It looks like a dark seam, as one might see on aged ivory, but it’s no longer an open crack. Marcella changes quickly. Zia tsks at Marcella’s scar.

Marcella can see that Fianna’s dagger injury has left no scar at all, and that the skin in that area looks like it hasn’t been touched. Fianna also changes quickly. Marcella notices Fianna’s lack of scar, but doesn’t comment.

Zia changes quickly, the colors as she changes switching to match their outfits.

Once Zia sees everyone changed, she opens the door for Hank. “All yours!” she says cheerfully.

Marcella dutifully troops out of the changing room. Fianna leans against the hallway wall to wait.

Hank also changes quickly, pulling on his cestus and his uniform, which covers the gloves. He also tucks a coin into his pocket. Once he is done, he reopens the door.

“Oh, here!” Zia hands him a chocolate. Hank accepts the chocolate from Zia. Fianna and Marcella have already offered him food earlier in the day.

After about 20 minutes, they are asked to come to the pre-walking out space and reminded to walk out when their names are called. Marcella has two swords strapped to her back, plus her dagger on her hip, and looks ready to be moving instead of waiting around.

Fianna has her fists freshly wrapped in boxer’s tape and also looks rather impatient.

“Darklings and Ogres, Fairest and Wizened, are you ready for one of the up and coming ducklings to face one of the most renowned small Lambswool teams this continent has ever seen? Folks, this may not be pretty, but it will surely be fun! For the second 4 on 4 Lambswool match of the second round, I give you first the Aachen VogelFREI!!!! Their fearless leader, now a veritable veteran of the games with all the times her blood has wet theses sands, the unstoppable bone shaker, please welcome Marcella Boneblaaaaade!”

There is distinct cheering and a group of people right near where Amy and Iris are sitting stand up and wave Marcella Boneblade banners. A chant goes up.

Marcella jogs out onto the sand, grinning fiercely as befits her introduction. She hopes someday she gets to meet this announcer. Marcella waves in the direction of the loud cheers, as well as at Iris and Amy.

Amy stands and cheers as loud as she can.

“Next, please welcome the spunky and violent shining star of the bunch! With her impressive punches and determinations, she is sure to make every opponent wish they could be on her team. I give you FIAAAAAAANa!”

Amy continues cheering loudly.

A group of about 20 people near the monarchs’ box chant, “Fianna Starfist, Fianna Starfist.” They hold banners and a large embroidered banner that looks like a larger, less complex version of some of the pieces Zia has been making. Amy recognizes it.

Fianna walks out, exuding confidence, and pumps her fist in the air, and sends a cheeky grin in the direction of Iris and Amy … acknowledges the banner wavers, and makes a mental note to talk to Zia later.

Marcella offers Fianna a fistbump when she gets close enough. Fianna accepts.

“Next, please welcome to the sands, an elegant brawler with quite an excellent bedside manner. He may be fairly new to the Arena, but I am sure that he will defend his team with every ounce of ability he has. Please put your paws, hands, thingamabobbies together fooooooor Dr. Hank!”

Hank walks out to join Fianna and Marcella. He is significantly less… enthusiastic than either of them, though he does wave at the banner wavers, and Iris and Amy.

“Last, but certainly not least, I have the honor of introducing the Vogelfrei Lamb, a Craftswoman with a love of all things rainbow who showed last match that her craft abilities do not stop with those lovely outfits everyone is wearing! Please welcome Ziazaaaan!”

Zia walks out like a queen, taking what cheers there are as if they are merely her due. She has both guns, the sword, and the trusty tool hanging off of her. She joins the rest of the team, giving them a cool nod.

“And now, for their opponents!” the announcers says with a bit of glee.

Marcella’s sharp eyes turn to the entrance their opponents will come through, chin held high, at least giving off the appearance of being relaxed and confident.

“From the capital of Germany, our Arena is pleased to be graced by the renowned Spreezunft Destroyers from Berlin! Their leader, a man so skilled in the sword that Monarchs from all over Berlin beg for him to teach them, the veteran of a thousand fights and a thousand matches. I give you Madoc, the Knight of HONOR!”

Madoc walks out onto the field confidently, waving graciously at that the cheers that erupt from the stands. He is decked out in full armor. He stands directly in front of Marcella and gives her a firm nod and a smile.

Marcella smiles and nods back, restraining her restless energy, but looking eager to get started.

“Next, I present to you a model of loveliness, but boy does she have a sharp edge! She is fast and you don’t see her coming until the knife is in you! I give you, Muriel Fawnheart!!!!!!”

Muriel Fawnheart walks out, a deer Beast who is small and slender, but with loooong legs. She wears a simple jerkin and has small sharp objects all over her.

The crowd cheers wildly for her. She ignores them mostly and stands next to Madoc, across from Fianna.

“It is my honor to next welcome, the Crimson Dragon of Berlin, the Summoner of Night, who needs no further introduction, Phthonos Nemesismaker!!!!!!”

The crowd cheers wildly, including a fanclub.

A man covered in crimson scales with tiny wings and golden horn with a gem hanging from it comes out. He bears no weapons but his claws, and wears an intricate black metal chain mail armor. He walks out proudly, smiling and stands in front of Hank, sizing him up and finding him wanting.

Hank gives him a nod and a wry smile.

“Finally, I give you the Lamb of the Destroyers! With her size, few teams have her so much as made her budge from the circle and boy, that is hard what with that club smashing down on your head. A giantess of the water, the immovable rock of the Lambswool circles, I give you Clota SEAAAAASKIIIIN!”

The crowd goes crazy as a very large woman with rough features and blue-green skin that appears to have been embroidered with a sea scene. She is wearing simple armor that covers her torso, shoulders, and reaches down to mid-thigh. She carries in a crossbow, a club, and has a brace of arrows on her back. She walks calmly, slowly to face Zia and hefts her club a little bit. Zia just smiles back at her, in head deciding whose weapons looked more loved. Those will go first.

Ritter Rime comes onto the field. “Do both teams promise to fight a fair fight and not harm the lambs?”

Marcella nods. “We do.”

Madoc nods, “We do.”

“You may now take your places.”

Hank snaps off a salute at Kenna, before the teams move. It is British style, with the palm of the hand facing away from the face. Vogelfrei, and probably a fair number of the other team, can hear Hank mutter, “Avē Imperātor, moritūrī tē salūtant.”

Zia glares at Clota for one more second, goes back to the circle, and takes the sword and sticks it in the sand in front of her. She then unholsters both of the guns and sticks them in the sand too. With a sigh, she takes up the sword.

Marcella positions herself in the center and farthest forward on her team’s side, similar to the place she took in their last match.

Clota goes back to her circle, rolls her shoulders and readies her club.

Hank sets himself up next to Fianna, further back from Marcella.

Fianna cracks her knuckles and waits.

Madoc positions himself a few feet from the line in the center. Muriel is off to his side about 10 feet back. Phthonos is opposite Muriel.

Marcella uses her seeming ability to add her wyrd to her health, and her skin thickens into bone plating. She draws her onyx saber, as well.

Ritter Rime eyes both teams, laughing to himself slightly about “upstart babies in the games.” Then he takes up the flag and dramatically brings it up, shouts, “BEGIN!” and brings down the flag.

As soon as Ritter Rime lowers the flag, Zia, holding the sword in her left hand, the laser gun in the right, focuses on the sword for a moment. Putting 2 glamour into the sword, a bamboo hut appears around her, sturdier-looking than before with several small windows to shoot out of. She shoots the laser gun at Madoc out of one of the holes. It goes right through his plate armor.

Fianna waits until Hank can toss her.

Madoc dashes past Marcella towards Zia, but does not get too far past her.

Muriel runs up and launches a handful of knives at Marcella with a quick toss. None of them hit her, but they are flying through the air around her.

Phthonos runs up to Hank and rakes sharp claws across his side.

Hank side-steps Phthonos and grabs Fianna, stealing her hat in the process. He grows until he is the size of a grizzly bear, and then throws Fianna at Clota.

Fianna sails through the air, long ponytail flapping like a banner, and lands with a ‘thunk!’ a short distance outside the opponent Lamb’s circle. In the air, she activates her favorite contract, gaining EIGHT extra dots of strength. Using her held action, she runs the remaining distance and lunges at Clota and attempts to grapple her. Fianna not only successfully grapples her, but manages to drag her a few yards outside the circle as well.

Marcella spins on her heel to chase after Madoc, activating her familiar bone shard contract as she runs. Her sword connects across his back, giving him a shallow wound.

Clota responds to Fianna’s presence by aiming her club at her. Fianna, who is not in fact large enough to get her arms around anything wider than Clota’s bicep, is a relatively easy target. Her gigantic club swings around and strikes Fianna in the side. There is a sickening crack that echoes throughout the arena, and Fianna is knocked off and sent sprawling several yards away. Clota strides nonchalantly back to her circle.

Zia gasps from within her little bamboo hut. “Oh you nasty troll. I hope you like your teammates because I am going to blow them up now.” Zia picks up the explody gun. She shoots at Madoc exceptionally well, placing the shot right at his torso. Madoc looks like he has been hit by an elephant tranq and falls over unconscious. Zia is very surprised.

The crowd gasps in shock and then starts cheering, chanting “Vogelfrei, Vogelfrei, Vogelfrei.”

Marcella looks slightly stunned, staring down at the prone form in front of her.

Fianna spends her entire turn standing up. She is even paler than normal, and obviously careful of her left side.

Muriel makes a dash past Marcella, straight at Zia.

Phthonos gestures at Marcella, but nothing seems to happen. He looks very frustrated.

Upon seeing Madoc go down, Hank gasps. Dodging Phthonos again, he sprints to Madoc. Activating the Cestus, he rips off the torso plate with the bomb attached from Madoc’s armor, throwing it at Muriel. Not only does it hit Muriel, it knocks her down with her stomach to the arena floor, and the piece with the explosive lands on her back.

Having recovered from her surprise at Vogelfrei’s sudden reversal of fortunes, Marcella heads for Phthonos. She swings as she runs, scoring a deep cut down his ribs. He hisses at Marcella as she runs past, both from the pain and from the sheer affront to his ego.

A large crossbow bolt slams into Hank’s right shoulder. Clota puts down her crossbow and begins reloading. Hank outright ROARS with the impact of the crossbow bolt.

The explosive on top of Muriel goes off, singeing her.

Zia shoots Phthonos with the explody gun. He is injured by the impact, and the bomb sticks.

Instead of moving back towards Clota, Fianna advances back towards the center a short ways, then grabs a pair of stars from her hair and tosses them at Phthonos. The first strikes the back of his shoulder, but the second goes wide and sticks in the ground a short ways beyond.

Muriel spends her turn standing back up.

Phthonos gestures at Marcella, and this time his contract works. She goes blind. Marcella freezes, a confused look crossing her face, but doesn’t say anything yet.

Hank, not realizing something has happened to Marcella, knocks Muriel back down, and also grapples her.

Furrowing her brow, Marcella tries to share senses with Phthonos’ skeleton. She finds it, and now knows where Phthonos is. Marcella raises her hand in Phthonos’ direction and yells, “Freeze!” She has her eyes closed, her sword lowered at her side. She wants his skeleton to stop moving. Phthonos is strangely not moving at all. Out of an abundance of caution, Marcella makes an exception for his head and ribs, so she doesn’t interfere with breathing.

Clota reloads her crossbow.

The bomb on Phthonos explodes, and he falls to the ground with a scream. Marcella winces when Phthonos screams, and tries to release the hold of the contract. She isn’t fast enough to let go before he goes unconscious, and she feels the concussive waves.

The crowd is again stunned at this development. “Well, my friends. Who knew? Two of the Destroyers are down for the count and only one of Vogelfrei has taken serious damage. This is certainly unexpected! And the little lady with the guns did so much of it!”

Zia decides to go for Muriel. She shoots Muriel with the explody gun, damaging upon impact, and it sticks to her.

Fianna moves forward, grabs two more stars from her hair, and aims them at Muriel. Both hit, low on her legs. Muriel manages to wrest herself out of Hank’s grasp—barely.

Hank hits Muriel, then backs out of range of the bomb that’s stuck to her. She takes the punch, but she looks ready to drop.

Marcella tries to activate her sense-sharing contract on herself to give herself a slightly better sense of her surroundings, but it doesn’t go off. She stumbles slightly, then stops moving and says, “Guys, I’m blind! Sorry, but I’m not gonna be much help!”

Clota aims her crossbow again … at Madoc. The shot fires, and strikes him right where his armor was ripped off. After a few seconds the bolt falls out, revealing a tiny, syringe-like tip … and Madoc opens his eyes.

Muriel’s bomb goes off, but doesn’t harm her. Zia shoots Muriel with the explody gun again. Muriel is blown back by the impact and falls over unconscious.

Fianna notices that Madoc has opened his eyes and aims two stars at him. They embed themselves in his chest. Madoc stands back up, sword in hand.

Hank thunders towards Madoc. On his way, he passes Marcella, grabbing the top off her crown (he now has two delicate hats perched on top of his head) and casts Gift of Warm Breath and Transfigure the Flesh. Hank is now as big as a polar bear. He tackles Madoc. Madoc staggers back, but is still standing.

Marcella tries her sense-sharing contract on herself again. This, time, it works. She can now “see” and is able to move more freely, but not well enough to attack as normal. Looking more confident than when she took her last stumbling step, Marcella runs after Hank towards Madoc. With an extremely lucky swing, Marcella not only misses Hank, but actually gets a deep cut in on Madoc. Her eyes are still closed. Madoc falls over once again.

As Madoc goes down a second time, the announcer goes, “Oh Wow!!! Madoc is down again! My friends, this is one for the history books!”

Clota spends her turn reloading her crossbow with another syringe arrow. Fianna moves back towards Clota.

Hank whispers to Marcella, “Shall I go for Clota, then? I … we didn’t actually plan this far.”

“Uh, I guess so?” Marcella mutters back. “I can see a bit with a contract, but only what’s directly around me. Why don’t you go back up Fianna, and I’ll keep an eye … er, I’ll guard Zia from any of these guys who Clota wakes up.”

Hank runs towards Clota. Marcella stays where she is, opening her eyes every so often to see if her sight is back. She uses a communion contract to sense all of the instances of her element within 20 yards, so that she can tell if any of the unconscious enemies around her start moving.

Clota shoots her arrow at Phthonos this time, and Marcella registers the subtle shifts in his bones that indicate he’s awake. She turns her head towards him.

Zia notices that Phthonos is awake and shoots him with the explody gun. Phthonos takes some damage, and the bomb sticks.

Fianna tosses two more stars at Phthonos, and hits him once. Her hair is now depleted of ready-to-go stars. The smaller ones that make of the majority of the lights in her hair are in the process of growing larger.

Phthonos gestures from the ground at Hank, presumably to blind him, but it doesn’t work. Hank keeps running.

Marcella moves over to Phthonos and stabs her sword down at him, running him through the leg. Blood sprays up at her, and Marcella registers that he’s bleeding more than he should be. Her eyes widen in shock.

After a moment Ritter Rime runs onto the field, “Pause!!! No one move! This man is being taken off the field for medical attention.”

Two people come onto the field, doing an evaluation. The wound is staunched and he is taken off the field. Within five minutes, Ritter Rime glares at all of them and says, “You may continue!”

Clota reloads. Fianna runs until she is just outside Clota’s circle, and outside her reach.

Hank continues running.

Marcella, slightly at a loss, moves a little closer to Muriel and Madoc. She gets between Zia and the two prone figures in front of her.

Clota shoots Madoc, who opens his eyes once again.

Zia sticks her hand in her pocket and takes out a length of very sturdy rope. She yells, “Marcella, rope!” then sticks her hand out one of the holes and throws the rope to fall at Marcella’s feet.

“Wh – for Clota?” Marcella asks, keeping her eyes and other senses focused on Madoc.

“Yes, I thought it might help,” Zia shouts back. Marcella nods, but doesn’t respond.

Fianna activates her strength contract once again and lunges for Clota in another grapple attempt. She again manages to drag her a few yards out of the circle by one arm.

Madoc stands up, and Hank notices. He reaches Clota and Fianna, and bodily picks Clota up and starts whipping her around in a circle, with Fianna still attached. “MANUEVER 7!” he bellows, and at the apex of the swing Fianna releases her grip, flies towards Madoc, and tackles him to the ground. In her little bamboo hut, Zia makes a little gasp.

Marcella blinks, unsure why there is a sudden Fianna, then uses this opportunity to lean down and tuck the rope Zia threw her into her belt.

There is a brief struggle as Clota attempts to break free, but she fails.

Fianna punches Madoc in the face. He struggles and attempts to get up, but fails. Fianna barely manages to keep him down.

Hank runs forward carrying the grappled Clota. He is getting close to the center line. Clota manages to get free, and lands on the ground.

Zia cheers wildly, but can’t do much else. She is very pleased with how Hank’s outfit is holding up.

Fianna punches Madoc again, and he falls unconscious.

Hank picks Clota back up…and runs her over the center line.

The crowd literally explodes.

Zia makes the bamboo hut go away. She marches right over to Madoc and checks on his health. His pretty armor isn’t very pretty anymore.

Marcella can now see. She blinks and looks around, a look of disbelief on her face as she realizes that they’ve won.

Fianna is breathing heavily, and after a moment gets off Madoc and brushes herself off. She refuses to acknowledge that her ribs are in pieces and simply stands there, grinning.

Then Marcella runs over to Zia and Fianna. “I’m so mad I couldn’t see most of that! Good job, guys!!” She ruffles both of their hair, then puts a hand under Fianna’s elbow when she notices her state of injury. Fianna gives Marcella a look, but doesn’t protest.

Ritter Rime comes out on the field and announces that Vogelfrei has won the match. There is much cheering.

Game 41: Blood, Guts, and Glory


Marcella wins a weaponry singles match by the skin of her teeth. Iris qualifies for the sharpshooting finals. Fianna wins a bloody no-holds-barred singles match, but takes heavy injury herself. Iris and a barely-recovered Marcella fight a weaponry doubles match against a pair of Spring Court sisters. Though Marcella is knocked unconscious before the end of the match, Iris is able to incapacitate their opponents with her rifle and accept their surrender. At the end of the day, Iris competes in the sharpshooting finals. She doesn’t place, but she also does not come in last.


This is ninth day of the games, the day after Amy’s dream match. At 9:15 is the weaponry only singles for Marcella, then the 10:00 is Iris’ sharpshooter qualifier, then a no-holds barred no one is in, then no holds barred singles for Fianna, then at 1:00 the weaponry only doubles for Marcella and Iris. The sharpshooter finals are just after Iris and Marcella’s match.

The group gets okay seats, roughly in the center, but a few rows back from the front of the free seating.

Zia sits down, looking rather tired and grumpily takes out crafting supplies. She takes out a needlepoint frame and begins to embroider it with fierce, fast stitches. While she waits for the match to start, an embroidered portrait of the team begins to take shape.

Marcella looks cheerful and well-rested as usual. Iris has a notepad with her match details and seems anxious. She does sit down and certainly won’t miss Marcella’s match, but she is fidgeting and drawing absentmindedly. Amy yawning a lot, and seems to be a bit spaced out.

Marcella goes down to check in for her match soon after they arrive. There are a couple matches before her in this round, but the number of competitors is slowly decreasing, so there is only one pair at a time in the arena. As the quality of the competitors increases, however, so does the length of the match, so Marcella has a bit of a wait before her name is finally called by the announcer. She waits patiently, and strides confidently out onto the sand when she’s called.

“….and her opponent, the Demon of the Rhine, Shyama Spearbreaker!” A huge blue woman with wild black hair walks in, wearing shining plate mail and toting a massive double bladed axe.

Marcella nods her head to Shyama, drawing her sword and grinning like a fiend. The salute is returned, the answering grin full of pointy teeth.

“And…begin!” the announcer yells.

Marcella reaches up and grabs her bone necklace, activating a swirl of razor-sharp bone shards that surrounds her. At the same time, her skin thickens into bone plating. Shyama rolls and aims a double handed swing at Marcella’s ribs. It connects solidly, knocking her to the side.

Iris stops drawing, one hand shaking slightly, eyes glued to the two competitors. Zia stabs at the canvas with her needle, only one eye on the match below.

Growling, Marcella comes back quickly, using her seeming ability to add her wyrd to her health. Then she swings her sword hard in Shyama’s direction, catching a solid hit along her leg. Shyama stumbles and swings again, scoring another solid hit across Marcella’s shoulder.

Looking unfazed, Marcella sweeps past Shyama and cuts deep into her ribs. Shyama looks impressed, and she sees a very familiar tensing of muscles as her strength increases. She swings at Marcella again … and completely misses. She looks quite peeved.

Every time Marcella is hit, Zia stabs at the canvas and gasps, and when Shyama misses she smiles a bit evilly.

Marcella’s muscles tense up under the effects of that same contract, and she gets in another deep cut on Shyama’s collarbone. Shyama is still standing, but she’s pretty roughed up. She roars, making a horizontal slicing motion right at Marcella’s head. In connects solidly.

Marcella has a large crack running down her temple. She sways slightly, blinking blood out of her eyes. She looks pretty badly roughed up herself, but a determined light is still in her eyes. She bulks up again under the effects of the same contract she used for the last blow, then reciprocates the blow to the head.

Shyama sways for a moment, eyes unfocused. She lifts her axe overhead to attack, and then swings … but the swing ends halfway through, weapon clattering to the ground, and the woman’s huge forms follows swiftly after, toppling like a tree. Marcella blinks down at her, uncomprehending for a long moment.

The announcer proclaims Marcella’s victory with a hefty amount of incredulity in his voice as the crowd goes absolutely bonkers. After wiping the blood out of her eyes again, Marcella grins wearily and raises a fist in victory.

“Woah! Yay, Marcella!” Amy calls.

Zia seems to be stabbing through the canvas with every move, little gasps as Marcella gets hurt. Towards the end, she mutters, “You fool thing, risking yourself for goddamn glory.” When Marcella wins she nods as if she never expected anything else. Mutters “you can’t understand follow.”

Paramedics tote Marcella’s opponent off while other take her by the arm and help her to the infirmary once she allows it. She follows the paramedics when they come out for her, swaying on her feet a bit as she goes. Marcella passes out shortly after the paramedics get her to the medical bay, bleeding profusely.

Iris is breathing quickly, knuckles white and skin even more ghostly pale than would usually have been the case. She is shivering slightly, but starts clapping slowly while Marcella is being led away. “Sh-she’s going to be alright, isn’t she?”

Fianna lets out a whoop when Marcella wins and then leans over towards Iris. “She’s tough, she’ll be fine. Besides, she’s got a match with you later today.” Iris smiles slightly at her, before she remembers her event is up next.

There are a couple more matches, then the field is cleared for the sharpshooter qualifiers. Shortly after the end of Marcella’s match, Iris is due in the waiting room. Iris gets up quickly and clasps her rifle as soon as possible. It’s not very hard to tell where she is headed.

She recognizes most of the participants in the waiting room. With a few exceptions, most of her competition was also in the skeet matches. She smiles at them, shyly perhaps, but becoming calmer and gaining slightly in confidence. She knows she’ll never win the entire event, but she does hope she’ll be good enough to pass the qualifiers at least.

Shortly, the competitors are called out to the arena proper, where a series of staggered targets have been set up. Iris is given a number. She’s is eighth to attempt the qualifiers.

As Iris comes out, Zia cheers. She like events where the things being shot are not people.

As the qualifying rounds go on, the seven people in front of Iris are a mixed bag. Two people do awfully. One of them she don’t recognize, and one didn’t make it past the skeet qualifiers. Three of them do very well, one of whom is the gentleman who took the gold in skeet. And two others do fairly well, but not exceptionally.

The mediator calls Iris to shoot. Iris steps forward and readies her rifle, now noticeably calmer and actually radiating some sort of grace (for once in her life).

“Shot!” the mediator calls. Iris’ first shot is a direct shot to the bullseye. Zia cheers.

“Shot!” The shot lands a couple inches outside the bullseye.

“Shot!” Iris’ third shot goes slightly wider than the second.

“Shot!” Another bullseye strikes the target.

“Last shot!” The last shot lands juuuuuuust off the bullseye.

Iris is done, and is directed to a bench to await the results of the qualifier. Zia cheers for her as she walks off the field. Amy cheers as well. The canvas is showing a stylized version of the team. On Zia’s embroidery canvas, Marcella’s crown is quite prominent and bone shards encircle her. Fianna’s fists are abnormally large, holding a star in one hand, she looks dainty and her hair spreads around her. Iris holds her rifle proudly a shattered pigeon lies at her feet. Hank looks brawny and smart in his 4 on 4 outfit. Hulda is more a suggestion in the background, as if she is hiding. Zia wears a lovely rainbow outfit and holds her rainbow guns. Amy is in her apron from the dream match and looks to be leaping over the rest.

The last two competitors compete. The last person to take their shots is a tiny women with mouse ears who hits five bullseyes. Following the last shots, there is a five minute tally period, before the results are announced. Iris has come in fifth, but she does advance to the finals. Iris, appropriately, looks relieved if still a little embarrassed, though she does cheer for the mouse eared woman.

A slightly groggy Marcella has been speed-healed and released from the medical bay, after being warned/threatened to do no strenuous activity until her match that afternoon. Moving slightly slower than usual, Marcella makes her way back up to the team in the stands. She’s disappointed to see that she missed the sharpshooting match entirely. Zia just glares at Marcella as she comes into the stands. There is much stabbing of canvas.

“Hey, how did your match go?” Marcella asks Iris once she returns.

Amy looks concerned, “Are you ok?”

Iris looks extra embarrassed now. “Well.. I came in fifth, but at least I made it in. Are you alright?”

Amy nods, “You did great, Iris!”

“Congratulations on making it through the first round! And yeah, I’m fine.” Marcella grins. “You should see the other lady.” Noting Zia’s stiffness and the general concern of the group, she adds, “Really, they patched me right up in the medical bay.”

Zia hmphs at Marcella. “Iris, you did you a great job!” she compliments her.

Fianna heads down to the waiting room for her match.

Iris just shrugs. “Well at least if you want me to hit something it won’t be very precise but I’ll hit it. Good luck, Fianna.”

Below, the announcer’s voice fills the arena. “Ladies and Gentlemen! We are now ready for the next round of our no-holds barred SIIIIINGLES. With a lovely array of competitors for your bloody pleasure this afternoon, please your paws or mitts or hands or scissors together for this ROUUUUND of competitors!”

Marcella settles into her seat, looking excited.

“It’s all about speed today, folks! A newcomer and someone we haven’t seen in these parts for a couple of years now. Keep your eyes on these two, because this is going to be a blink-and-you-miss-it fight. Please welcome back Fianna, the starry-haired brawler and give a warm hand to Genevieve, the Alsatian Vagabond!” he says brightly. As with Marcella’s match, they are the only pair on the sands at this time.

Iris resumes looking vaguely ill and muttering, “Why am I doing this to myself?” in German. Marcella gives Iris a reassuring pat on the hand.

Everyone except Amy overhears a few conversations and learns that Genevieve is one of the rare Courtless. She wanders Western Europe, an odd combination of mercenary and hedge guardian. Most people find her unapproachable.

Fianna comes out onto the field. The woman who meets Fianna on the field is petite and borderline androgynous, long red hair tied back in a tail. She is very clearly a Beast changeling modeled after a red squirrel or similar tree dwelling creatures, and her long tufted ears are decorated with hoops and studs and fanciful earcuffs. Her belt rides high on her waist, a dagger on either side. She gives Fianna a brief nod, drawing and readying her weapons, but saying nothing.

Marcella watches Fianna’s opponent with interest and an odd, slightly resigned air. Iris looks rather curious, if still a little green at the prospect of what is to follow.


Genevieve leaps towards Fianna, quickly striking at her twice with her daggers, scoring two deep slashes in an ‘X’ mark across Fianna’s torso, in an all-out attack.

Fianna responds with an attack of her own, tensing her muscles as she activated her contract. Genevieve is left undefended aside from a clearly enchanted leather cuirass, having spent her ability to dodge Fianna’s rejoinder in her attempt to do more damage faster. The punch connects solidly, knocking her back several feet. She rolls her shoulder and changes her stance, only keeping one dagger forward, positioning the other back in a guard stance.

The crowd ooohs and ahhs at the fast moves.

Zia stabs into the canvas, muttering, “More idiots risking their lives for nothing!”

Apart from a twitched wince there is no reaction from Iris. She either refuses to or can’t look away.

Marcella’s eyes are fast on the two competitors, hands tightly clasped and elbows on her knees as she leans forward. This opponent is skilled enough that she’s a little concerned for Fianna.

After a moment she attacks, with just the one knife this time, and cuts Fianna high on the right arm. Fianna aims a right cross at Genevieve’s face, and they can hear bones shatter. A gasp bursts from the closer spectators, and when the opponents disengage, Genevieve’s jaw is hanging at a crooked angle.

She recovers well. Clearly judging that she needs to try to end this as soon as possible, Genevieve switches back to the two daggers as an offense, and while her first strike misses, the second drives straight home and through Fianna’s collarbone. Another gasp is heard from the audience.

Marcella winces in sympathy at the blow to Genevieve’s jaw, then hisses at the following blow to Fianna’s collarbone.

As Fianna’s opponent’s face is shattered, Zia gives up pretense of stabbing her canvas and gasps, putting a hand to her own face. Then the dagger in Fianna’s collarbone makes her wince and look away.

Fianna, very clearly in pain and looking not a little woozy from the shock, uses her left hand to grab Genevieve’s arm, still extended after he strike, and throws a punch with her right at her ribs, using the speed and her left arm to bend her opponent’s extended arm and move her closer for a stronger strike.

The punch connects cleanly, and the breath whooshes out of Genevieve’s lungs, Very slowly, she loses her grip on the dagger still stuck in Fianna’s collarbone, and topples to the ground, unconscious, blood oozing from her mouth. Fianna stumbles and goes down on one knee, but manages to keep her head held high as the announcer calls the end of the match, and the medics cart the competitors off for healing.

The crowd goes wild. A group is chanting Fianna’s name, calling out, “Fianna Starfist, Fianna Starfist, Fianna Starfist!”

Marcella lets out a loud cheer and whistle when the match is over, looking relieved and grinning fiercely. Zia cheers and looks down and realizes she has stabbed herself slightly with the needle. She sighs and commences grumbling about Fianna’s idiocy. Iris is just shaking. Whether it’s revulsion or nerves isn’t immediately obvious. Marcella gives Iris another reassuring pat on the hand.

There is around an hour before Marcella and Iris’ match. This is the lunch break, so they are cleaning the sands and things. Fianna is in the infirmary.

Iris crumbles her drawing and sinks into her chair.

Zia continues sewing. She is all done with the figures and is now doing “Vogelfrei” along the bottom. “Zia, that’s amazing!” Marcella says, looking over at her embroidery. “You really captured the spirit of the team.”

Zia raises her eyebrows at Marcella. “Yes, I should hope so, the violent spirit of idiots!”

Marcella chuckles. “That’s us. Well, some of us, at least.”

“It is a commission. So don’t think it is for any of you!” she retorts.

Marcella looks intrigued. “Oh really? I’m surprised there’s that much interest in Vogelfrei as a team.” She looks thoughtful. “Anyone we know?”

Iris looks down. “I’m not that violent am I?”

Zia looks at Iris nicely in comparison to everyone else. “You are not that violent, not all Iris, not like some people.” She ignores Marcella’s question.

Fianna sneezes in the infirmary.

About five minutes before Marcella and Iris need to check in for their match, Marcella taps on Iris’ shoulder. “We should probably head down soon.”

Iris nods and puts her paper away. With all the nervousness and looking ill she has been doing recently it’s a miracle anyone remembers her normal complexion – now is no exception.

Marcella still looks a little paler than her usual ivory complexion, but is moving much more energetically. Iris doesn’t even have that excuse. She hasn’t gotten gored yet and would much rather keep it that way – even if it means shooting a few kneecaps.

“Both of you be careful!” Zia says as they walk away.

Marcella waves back. “We will!” she calls over her shoulder.

Iris smiles at Zia, half turning and looking vaguely guilty for going on to commit yet more violence, but she signed up, so she would go. Not to mention that she really needed to get over her fears before they got her into trouble.

In the stands, Zia is back to stabbing her canvas, almost done with the word “Vogelfrei.”

As they walk down, Marcella says, “You just concentrate on taking out their ranged fighter, if they have one. I’ll try and take the brunt of the damage if I can.” She grins, showing more teeth than smile.

Well… at least she didn’t get much time to fret, Iris thinks. She nods with as much confidence as she can muster. “Alright. Good luck, if they don’t.” She doesn’t sound like she likes the prospect at all.

Marcella nods, looking determined. “We’ll be alright.”

Check in happens as usual. The listings for this round shows that they are in the first match.

“Good afternoon my gentle flowers! I know that the sheer violence of the matches today surely put you off your lunch, but yet, here you are again!” The announcer laughs and continues in a quieter voice that encourages confidences, “It’s okay, I know you love it! Today is the next round of the Weaponry doubles!!!!!! Are you ready!???” The crowd roars.

“First up from the Vogelfrei Motley, I mean Group, we have Marcella Boneblade, Queen of Speed and Resolution! And her partner Iris Sharpshooter!!!!!!!!”

Marcella strides out onto the field, showing no sign of her earlier unsteadiness. Iris walks out beside Marcella with as much confidence as she can muster. If she has got to be nervous it better at least stay hidden from the audience. Although perhaps being underestimated by the opponent was a good thing? She’d think about that later. For now she manages to look quite dignified, coming to a stop a few meters behind Marcella.

“And challenging them today are two of the youngest darlings from the Spring Court! I present to you, the Salix sisters, Lea and Brooke!” Two tall and willowy young women walk out onto the field, long hair made of ropes of leaves and pale, rough skin like trees. The one in front carries a long spear with a curved blade at the end; the other has two holstered pistols at her waist.

Zia looks at their opponents. “Hopefully they are horrible … but I doubt it.”

Marcella gives them a polite nod as they walk out, standing loose and at ease in the center of the arena. She recognizes the first woman’s weapon as a naginata.

Iris nods as well but while she can pull off sort of hiding her nervousness she will certainly look quite reserved while she is at it. She eyes the two pistols contemplatively and is glad to have her rapier as backup in case her opponents repeat her stunt from earlier.

“Let’s see what this match has in store for you today folks … in injury, or entertainment! Begin!”

Iris – true to form – takes aim at one of the pistols. The pistol on Brooke’s left hip shatters, but the bullet lodges in the remains and does no actual damage to Brooke. She looks very surprised. Marcella grins evilly. Iris is just nervous her rifle might be next.

Zia smiles that Iris got off to such a good start. And taking a weapon off the field is always good.

Lea responds to the attack on her sister by taking a swipe at Marcella with a strong overhand strike. She cuts Marcella across the shoulder, but not much else.

Brooke retaliates to Iris destroying one of her weapons by shooting at her. Iris gets nicked across the hip. Iris doesn’t even seem to notice, if anything she looks relieved.

Marcella grabs her necklace and activates her now-familiar swirl of bone shards. Then she lunges forward and swipes at Lea, but doesn’t get through her armor.

Iris aims at the other pistol. Brooke’s second pistol shatters in her hand. She looks at the remains in astonishment. And the resigned fury. Iris just sort of raises an eyebrow and smiles slightly.

Amy cheers. Zia cheers for Iris, “You go Iris!”

Lea takes another strike at Marcella, horizontally. The naginata bites several inches deep into her ribs … and gets stuck. Marcella staggers a bit as the blade bites deep.

Zia goes back to stabbing her fabric.

Brooke, now weaponless, charges Iris in an attempt to tackle her. Brooke sends Iris sprawling across the floor, falling on top of her.

Marcella grabs the naginata blade firmly and yanks it out of her side, grunting slightly. Blood is soaking through her shirt and armor, and a huge crack in her side is visible through the cut in her clothing. She closes her eyes for a moment, and her skin thickens into bone plating.

Zia is stabbing through doing the background on her canvas.

Iris tries to push Brooke off of her. Brooke keeps Iris pinned, but only just. “This is kind of pointless.” Iris seems surprisingly unfazed and okay with the situation.

Lea swipes again at Marcella. Her naginata bounces off, doing no damage. Lea looks very confused.

Brooke makes an attempt to grab Iris’ rifle. She gets hold of it, but then Iris shrinks it out of her hands.

Marcella turns and sprints towards Brooke and Iris, dropping her sword on the way there. She leans down and tries to grapple Brooke and lift her off of Iris. Brooke is lifted off Iris with a squawk of surprise. Iris smiles a ‘Thank You’, then moves backwards as fast as possible, bringing her rifle back to full size as she goes along.

Lea whirls around and reaches to strike Marcella and misses. Brooke manages to wiggle out of Marcella’s grasp and lands on her feet.

Marcella runs back to where she dropped her sword, picks it up, and stands ready to face Lea again.

Iris for the first time looks straight up pissed off – ruffled yes, but mostly pissed off. She takes aim, and Lea stumbles as an unexpected shot comes at her. She turns and attacks Marcella, cutting across her chest.

Marcella staggers at the hit, then slowly crumples to the sand. Her bone shards dissipate.

Amy gasps and stand up in her seat. Zia stabs the needle through the fabric. “Marcella…you are an idiot.” She is staring at the field now.

Brooke attempts to run to tackle Iris again. Iris does not get knocked down.

Iris moves a few more steps back and aims for Lea’s kneecap. Lea’s kneecap explodes in a shower of red. The shock causes her to crumple to the ground, unconscious.

Brooke tries to tackle Iris again, and almost knocks her over, but is not strong enough.

Iris looks frazzled, but very, very determined. She’s got to stop her moving now, makes a few more steps back and then aims for Brooke’s kneecap. Brooke’s kneecap explodes, and she falls to the ground. She is still conscious. She attempts to rise, but fails.

Iris looks tortured, but looking over to Marcella, she has got to finish this and fast. She is moving back again, just to make sure and takes another shot. No point in finesse now.

Brooke raises a hand. “I yield!” she shouts.

Just about to take one more shot, Iris looks very relieved not to be forced to finish the fight. She moves back towards Brooke and offers her a hand. “Thanks.” She couldn’t honestly stay mad at the woman for trying to take her rifle, if she’d destroyed her weapons and injured her far worse.

“Ugh…” Brooke says. “No problem. My sister owes me fifty bucks though. She was the one who thought this was a good idea.” She looks at Iris with a look of exasperation. “I’m a painter. I don’t do this normally. Learned the pistols so I could defend myself. Wow, my knee hurts.” She’s babbling and not a little groggy.

With an again slightly tortured expression Iris replies, “Well at least you’re still conscious… I feel worse for Marcella. If it weren’t for me… or I suppose you…” her expression is fairly complex then, she certainly isn’t happy but neither can she blame Brooke, “she’d still be standing. I’m sorry. I’m a hunter … and I suppose competitive sharpshooter sometimes. I’m sure they can fix your knee.”

The announcer confirms the win for Iris and Marcella and physicians come to cart them all off to the infirmary. Iris, while bleeding, is walking easily and needs relatively little care, but won’t be moved from Marcella’s side until she wakes up. Certainly not before her next match. She will probably attending that still with blood on her clothes.

“Next up … the sharpshooter FINAAAAAAAAAALS! But first a break while we clean up. Take this time to visit your concession stands and the bathroom everyone. See you in 30 minutes!”

Fianna, upon seeing the group walk in, insists on Marcella being put in the bed next to her and then grills Iris for the details. She is more than slightly high on pain medication. Marcella is still unconscious.

Iris slowly recounts the match for her, paying special attention to how glad she was Brooke gave up instead of having to finish it.

One of the nurses fusses over Iris’ cut for five minutes and then sends her on her way. Iris pretty much ignores the nurse but lets her do her work without complaint. She is by far the best off out of all of them, after all.

Zia is stabbing at her canvas, muttering about Marcella being an idiot and how no one should be allowed to be in these fool matches ever again. The embroidery is almost done.

Iris is due in the waiting area for the sharpshooter finals. Said sharpshooter in training is finally convinced to attend her own competition and leaves Marcella to Fianna’s questionable mercy.

Amy goes to the infirmary to check on Fianna and Marcella. Fianna is almost lucid again. Marcella is awake, but still pretty groggy, and her torso is swathed in bandages.

“Marcella! Fianna! Are you two ok?” Amy runs into the room, then catches herself and walks.

Marcella grins woozily at her. “Hey Amy,” she says. She just woke up, and she’d clearly on a lot of pain medication.

The head doctor on call is looking at Marcella with exasperation. “Twice! In one day! The contests are out there, not how many times you can waltz in here missing half of your internal fluids. Hmmph.”

“Sorry doc,” Marcella says, looking unrepentant. Amy smiles because Marcella seems like she will be ok, and goes to check on Fianna.

Iris’ four competitors are also assembled, and she is shortly called out onto the field. Iris goes third. This time she walks out easily. A lot of things are easy after facing the prospect of being cut up by a sword. Maybe she is getting better at this after all.

The first competitor whiffs two whole targets and gets no bullseyes. They leave the shooting area in an embarrassed hurry. The second competitor, the small mouse woman, gets five perfect bullseyes, prompting a salute from Kenna. Iris is next.

Iris also salutes the Mouse woman, as well as giving her a very inquisitive look. Maybe she can figure out a few new tricks. Although on second thought, maybe running should be higher on her agenda, after the last match.

Iris is beckoned to the shooting area. She enters.

“Shot!” It hits the target, though not the bullseye.

“Shot!” Same results.

“Shot!” Same again.

“Shot!” Bullseye!

“Last shot!” It hits the target, but only just.

Iris is sent to the waiting area. With shaky knees she walks out, leaning against the wall to have another look at the mouse woman. Well at least she wasn’t last. And she was alive. And uninjured. Or mostly uninjured. She couldn’t stop thinking about Marcella again, and that scratch didn’t count. She felt fine.

The fourth competitor does similarly well to Iris. The last does slightly better. Iris comes in fourth, so she doesn’t medal. But she does not come in last either.

Zia is watching the next event grumpily.

As soon as she can, Iris makes her way back to look for Marcella and Fianna. She’d train later. “Marcella! Are you alright? I’m so sorry I didn’t expect her to…”

Marcella brightens a bit when she sees Iris. “Iris! I’m glad you’re okay! Fianna said you took out both of them by yourself!” She looks slightly guilty. “Sorry I wasn’t much help.”

“Sorry I had to be rescued. I kind of snapped and started aiming for the kneecaps. Your girl didn’t take it very well but I’m so glad Brooke gave up before I had to try and shoot her unconscious …”

Marcella still looks a little guilty. “Sorry, I was hoping to do more damage to them so you didn’t have to.” She glances around the room, looking for Brooke and Lea. “Glad everyone’s okay in the end though.” She looks a little dizzy after turning her head to look around the room, and closes her eyes for a minute.

“I wasn’t even trying to hurt her at first. I just got upset when she tried to take my rifle. I suppose I can’t blame her but still …”

Marcella’s eyes snap open again. “Oh yeah, and those shots on Brooke’s pistols were amazing!” She’s grinning. “Our opponents better watch out for their weapons!”

Iris manages a smile then. “Well as long as nobody tries to break mine. I need to stop being so pathetic. At least I’m getting my nerves under control now.”

Marcella shakes her head, then stops, looking like she regrets moving. “You’re not pathetic, Iris,” she says firmly. “You just took out two opponents by yourself! I couldn’t even manage one hit,” she says ruefully. “Don’t underestimate yourself.”

“I suppose. But you can just go out there. I’m terrified every time and I still try not to hurt anyone. Or not to hurt them too badly. I just feel like I’m not good enough. I need more training, I think. I didn’t say I’m terrible at what I do, I just act absolutely pathetic.”

Marcella reaches out to pat Iris’s hand, but is about a foot too far to the left. “It’s okay to be afraid, Iris,” she says comfortingly.

Iris slumps slightly. “Thanks. Just as long as I can keep it under control.”

Fianna looks up with a smile when Amy comes over. “Hey … how you doing?”

“You ok, Fianna?” Amy asks.

“I’ll be just fine,” Fianna says with a smile. “Maybe I’ll even scar! All my old ones are gone.” Amy looks at her oddly, but is satisfied.

“I think I’ll probably have a new scar too Fianna. Why do you want any?” Iris asks.

“Because I should have them. They’re like stories. And history. And I’m missing mine,” Fianna answers.

Game 40: Amy vs. Mircalla


Amy fights a cooking-based dream battle against a changeling named Mircalla Rubenstein. Though she comes up with many creative attacks, Amy is ultimately defeated. Afterwards, she expresses interest in learning more about dream battles.


Mircalla and Amy have both summoned weapons and defenses. The dream is currently a kitchen with a glass floor over a mountain gorge. Amy swings the ladle down against the glass of the floor, causing cracks spreading out from herself and towards her opponent. She pouts a bit when the floor does not outright break.

Marcella waves around her pink glowstick, looking like she wants to shout encouragement, but restraining herself.

Mircalla gestures sharply at a pot on a nearby stove, which overboils and spills molten glass over the crack on the floor. It spreads towards Amy’s feet.

Amy dodges the glass at her feet. Despite Amy’s excellent dodge, the glass flows over the crack that Amy made, flowing into it and sealing it. Mircalla smiles at Amy, her composure unruffled. Amy smiles back, using the ladle to scoop the molten glass (trying to get all of it via dream physics) and toss it back at Mircalla, while causing it to become hotter to melt through the floor, instead.

Mircalla takes a ladleful of molten glass to the face and begins screaming. The floor begins melting out beneath her. Though it does not give way quite yet, it bubbles hotly around her ankles.

Fianna waves her glowstick like a maniac. Marcella waves her own glowstick even more enthusiastically, pumping her fist up and down. She also glances over at Mircalla’s real body to see whether the injuries translate outside to the real world, then goes back to watching the screen. The injuries do not translate, but she looks in pain. Hank has his glowstick out, and turned to the right color, but he’s mainly just holding it in the same hand as his notebook while he takes careful, even notes. Zia is waving her glow stick occasionally, but more because she is startled, not to celebrate. She looks very unhappy.

Mircalla’s scream cuts off abruptly and she makes an elegant little gesture with her hands. A MASSIVE anvil big enough for elephants with hands to forge armor on is above Amy’s head. Before Amy do more than look up, the anvil is falling towards her. Mircalla says, “I got you a present, I hope you like it!” The anvil smashes into Amy’s head and pushes her through the glass floor. She is falling down into the gorge.

Zia gasps and clutches at her crafting supplies, kinda as if she would like to be clutching someone’s hand instead. Marcella glances over at Zia, then reaches over and pats her on the hand.

“When did this become the fucking Looney Tunes?” Fianna hisses under her breath in an incredulous voice. Hank blinks briefly, before placidly resuming his note taking.

“Amy’s got this,” Marcella whispers back, like she’s trying to reassure herself as well. Zia takes Marcella’s hand and holds it tightly.

Amy cries out, but once realizing she is out of the kitchen, seems pleased. She tries to summon a giant golden eagle from out of the gorge to catch her, and for her to ride on. However, her summons fizzle.

Mircalla calmly summons an armored parasol and leaps out the hole, floating gently. As she floats down, the spokes of the umbrella shoot projectiles rapidly downwards, in the direction of Amy, but not hitting her at the moment because of the anvil.

Amy tucks into a ball and rolls through the air, coming out from under the anvil and angling herself towards the water below as she uncurls. She notes that what she had assumed to be water is in fact a lovely curry. As Amy touches down in the curry, the anvil crashes down into the curry behind her, blocking the flow of the curry largely from continuing down the gorge. Mircalla is about three quarters of the way down when suddenly large gemstones in the riverbed begin to explode around Amy.

Amy twirls in a circle in the curry, causing her apron to flare out and create gusts that deflects most of the shards of exploding gemstone away from herself. A few get through, sticking in her skin. Though those of the group who have seen her be injured in the real world know that though her injuries there do not look too different from those of normal humans, here they appear to crack and splinter, with gem shards becoming lodged inside her, but drawing no blood. Small pieces of Amy chip off and fall to the ground where the impacts take place.

Amy points into the air with her ladle, and a giant sea snake made of soft noodles rises up from the curry, following her direction. As it goes past her, Amy grabs hold of a neck noodle and uses the momentum of the creature’s leap to swing herself astride. The noodle-monster leaps through the air, crashing down mouth first and digging its uncooked-noodle teeth into Mircalla. Amy jumps off just before the collision, leaving her once again standing before her opponent. Mircalla is now covered in brothy monster slobber, and has several bite marks.

“Sometimes I wonder what goes on in her head,” FIanna deadpans, waving her glowstick.

Marcella grins, squeezes Zia’s hand, and waves her glowstick some more. “Go Amy!” she whispers. Zia waves her glow stick a bit.

With a wry smile, Mircalla wipes a bit of slobber off of her face, then turns the parasol to have the point face Amy. There is a loud cha-chunk noise and a small rocket explodes out the end of the parasol. As the parasol collapses, the rocket hits Amy square in the chest and explodes. Amy is … together, moderately, but fissures run everywhere.

As Amy takes the blow, Zia shudders and grasps Marcella’s hand. “This is horrible. Why would people do this to other people! Ugh.” She seems to be trying to get herself angry.

Marcella squeezes Zia’s hand. “They both signed up for this. No permanent harm done,” she tries to reassure her.

Amy notices the cracks and grimaces, looking seriously displeased (as opposed to just in pain) for the first time in the match. Realizing she’s in bad shape, and won’t get another shot at this, she tries something a bit more dramatic.

Amy tries to turn the whole battlefield into the scene from her painting, but with boiling soup instead of water. The islands can be whatever the dream wants them to be. The key part is that she would like her opponent to be in the boiling liquid, while she is safe on an island. She exerts her will on the dream, and where the curry river ran through the gorge there are now islands. The liquid in between them steams softly. Lumps of meat, carrot and other foodstuffs rise up out of the curry and expand, become giant examples of themselves and forming islands in the liquid, which begins to boil. Amy herself rises up on a giant hunk of potato. Mircalla dodges and ends up on an island.

Mircalla summons two massive ropes with heavy rocks on the end. She throws the first expertly, the rope end latching onto Amy’s left wrist, the rock end behind the anvil, wedged behind it. Then she throws the second one, latching onto Amy’s right wrist. She pushes the rock end into the river which flows so much more strongly after Amy’s edit to it. The flow of the river pulls the rock down the river until it reaches the steepest part of the gorge. Amy is pulled apart along the fissures and cracks.

Amy looks startled when the rope wraps around her first wrist, and resigned when it wraps around the second. She closes her eyes as it pulls her in two. She shatters explosively, and those looking closely at the moment between when she starts to split and when the shards fall can see that she is hollow. The porcelain shards sink into the river, weighing down her clothes, and there is no more of Amy to be seen. Mircalla makes a little curtsey, then summons a bowl and spoon and calmly has a bowl of the river soup.

Marcella squeezes Zia’s hand when it becomes clear Amy is going to be pulled apart, and holds up her glowstick in a salute. Fianna winces at the last, but keeps her glowstick high. Zia looks like she is fighting tears a little bit, rainbow colors gathering at the corners of her eyes. Her coloring is a resolute dark dark blue with a few jagged yellows in it. She puts up her glowstick for Amy.

The crowd is going crazy. There is much cheering for both of the participants, the general theme saying good things about Amy’s showing.

Hank carefully finishes his notes, caps his pen, and tucks them both back into his jacket. He seems to shake himself a little, before also putting up his glowstick for Amy. He reaches over and pats Zia’s hand. Zia nods in thanks at Hank.

Amy jerks back to wakefulness, and she hurts ALL over. She is still very much groggy and barely out of unconsciousness though. She also will have insomnia for one day.

Mircalla jolts awake and, a trifle unsteady on her feet, and smiles and waves at her fans. She walks over to Amy and leans over the chair, “Good match little one, you may want to train some before doing this again.”

Now that the participants are awake, Marcella cheers aloud, “Way to go Amy! Good show!”

Amy perks up as her opponent comes over, smiling at her. “Thanks,” she says in response, “That was neat. You were awesome. Your umbrella was so cool. It did so many things!” She becomes more awake as she talks, gathering energy and enthusiasm, though occasionally wincing as she overdoes it in her excitement. “How did you think of it? Are you from this Freehold? I- oh!” She hears notices Marcella’s encouragement, and waves up at her. She is trying to be bouncy and excited, but prevented by the fact that it hurts.

Mircalla smiles. It is a bit of a predatory smile. “I gain inspiration from many sources and I have long trained in dream battles. I would advise you to train with someone who does not need to take you out to win. I am not from this freehold, but your freehold holds several highly accomplished dreamers, including your own Autumn King.” Then she turns and drinks in the adulation of the crowd as the announcer proclaims her the winner. Amy is finally slightly unnerved by her opponent, so she shuts up.

With a final nod to Amy and another appreciative gesture at the audience Mircalla strides off the stage. A young male changelings comes up to Amy and asks if he can help her off the stage. Amy nods. “Yes please. Thank you.” She is pensive, as she walks off, thinking about what Mircalla said. She hadn’t known this was a thing she could be trained in, and she would like that, but she can’t ask a king. He helps her off-stage. Another person wakes Nanda and helps him offstage.

As soon as Amy is off stage Zia says, “I’m going to go check on her, she seems so hurt and…” she trails off. “I am sure they will let me in,” she says quite determined.

Marcella lets go of her hand and pats her on the shoulder. “I’m sure they will,” she agrees, grinning.

Zia releases Marcella’s hand and puts away the craft supplies still sprawled on her lap. Then she marches to the side of the stage as they begin to set up for the next match. After what seems to be a very animated discussion with the person at the side entrance, Zia is let in. She gracefully, angrily walks to where Amy is, in a back room, where Amy is laying down. The young man attempts to insist Amy is resting. Zia informs him she is checking on Amy, thank you.

Amy tries to sit up when she sees Zia, but lays back down quickly when she sees that Zia is mad. “Amy! Are you alright?” Zia asks her.

“I’m ok. Um… it hurts a bit more than I thought it would, but it’ll be fine.” Amy smiles at Zia, then looks down at herself, seeming a bit perplexed.

“I know it can be so very traumatic when horrible things happen in a dream, are you sure you are alright?” Zia asks, the colors of her skin seeming to flow a bit as she says this.

Amy looks alarmed. “It’s ok, Zia. It wasn’t one of those dreams. It was fun. I mean, I didn’t like the hurting parts, but I like making things happen. Did you see my spaghetti monster?”

Zia takes a little breath. “I, well, as long as you thought it was fun. Your spaghetti monster was very inventive. I was quite impressed.”

“Thanks!” Amy stops smiling, “Really, the last part was pretty bad. I don’t like cracking and breaking, but I woke up right after.” Cheering up again, she says, “I would have liked to ride a regular sea monster better, but why would a regular sea monster live in soup? That’s silly.”

Zia nods in a façade of calm. “That would be quite silly. Are you still hurt?”

Amy shakes her head, “Not really. Just a little. Did I fall out of my chair, or something?”

“You didn’t fall out, but when you got hurt in the dream, you looked like it hurt here too, but without visible hurts … you seem a bit out of it,” Zia says. “Can I sit with you until you are ready to go home?”

Amy plans to check on Nanda as soon as they let her, which will be in about five minutes. She nods. “Ok.” She is looking less cheerful as time passes and the initial excitement fades. “I should work on being human in dreams, I think. I don’t mind getting hurt, I just don’t like breaking,” she says. Then, “Poor Marcella.”

Zia pats her hand and looks like she would like to give Amy a hug, but doesn’t want her to feel too condescended to. “That would be good, though I don’t know how often you will be dream fighting.”

“Mircalla said I should get training. I think I want to. She also said I should ask the Autumn king, though. I can’t do that! He’s a king.”

“Training? Training in dream battles?” Zia asks tentatively.

“Yeah!” Amy says, “Way better than all that knife stuff Jonty wants me to do. And if I get really good, then no one can hurt me.”

“I guess, I mean, I think that all the other competitors were really good and they still got hurt … But if you are going forward with this, it would be good to get some training. I am sure someone other than the Autumn King could train you.”

Amy frowns, “That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?” Zia asks quietly.

Amy opens her mouth, then shuts it again, several times, looking frustrated. Finally she starts speaking slowly, and with many pauses as she chooses words. “I meant that, if I am good enough at dreams, all dream things, so battles count, then my dream will be mine, and no one can take them.” She looks unsatisfied with that and adds, “I will always be in control.” Zia waits patiently while Amy speaks and nods at the last part. She does not say anything immediately.

Amy looks up suddenly, startled. “Nanda! Is he ok? I need to go say sorry for breaking his floor.” She pauses, “Well, ok. I didn’t break his floor, but I tried.”

Startled by the abrupt change in topic, Zia responds, “I think so? He was sitting backstage when I came in.”

“Oh good. I hope he’s not too upset. I know he loves his kitchen.” She jumps off the bed and go looking for Nanda. Zia follows after her. Nanda is sitting in a chair back stage. He looks fine if a bit tired.

Amy hurries over, “Are you ok? I’m sorry I broke your floor.”

Nanda looks up, “Ah Amy, I am happy you are well. I am just fine, don’t worry! What small hurts I have taken are nothing to the harm I have done to my freehold.” Amy frowns at that, not sure how to respond, and looks at Zia.

At Amy’s look, Zia jumps in and says, “We are happy that you were not hurt, though it must be distressing to have a battle in your dreams.”

“Ah, it is not a pleasant thing, but neither is it the worst I have endured in my life. Please, both of you should come by to my home sometime and I will make you something to eat!” he offers.

“Really?” Amy says, “That’s so nice.”

“I would love to have you and your whole team over when there is a chance! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be getting home. It was a pleasure to see you both again,” he says.

“Bye!” Amy says, and leaves.

Game 39: Lucien vs. Anastasia Bleakness


The group watches a four on four Lambswool match, then in the evening, watches the first of the dream battles (between Lucien, the Night Terror of Dresden, and Anastasia Bleakness of Heimdalszunft). Once Anastasia wins that match, Amy begins her dream battle against an experienced opponent.


It is the 8th day of the games. During the day there are no events in which the group will be participating. Marcella, Hank, and Fianna have decided to watch the 4 on 4 Lambswool match at 11am. Amy has her first dream battle in the evening at 8pm. The first dream match is at 7:30pm in a space outside the Arena in the hedge.

When Marcella, Hank, and Fianna arrive at the Arena about 15 minutes before the 4 on 4 match, they find the stands quite full. Both Jonty and Mauritania have just finished their singles matches. They find okay seats, they can see, but they are not towards the front of the free seats or the center. Marcella regrets not having seen those singles matches, but settles in the seats they find.

After all the matches finish up, they start setting up for the 4 on 4 match. Once the match begins, they can see that the two teams are using very different techniques from each other. The first team, from Aachen, is very careful, and everything is very planned. Their Lamb causes the sand of the arena to make a barrier and sucks at various people’s feet as needed. She is largely undefended. The other three press hard on the Lamb. The other team, from France, is very quick and nimble, darting around the arena, changing places and roles constantly. The French team wins, but barely.

Hank is set up to make the same set of play notes that he’s been making the whole time. He notably is torn between cheering for the local team and cheering for the French team, but is definitely interested in both strategies. Marcella observes the players and their techniques closely, making note where some strategy seems like something the Vogelfrei team could use, and also trying to get a sense of the two teams in case one of them are Vogelfrei’s next opponents.

After the match is over, Marcella spends the rest of the day training. Hank heads to work until the evening’s dream match. Fianna also does some work in the training room.

Amy spends the earlier part of the day working on craft things for the store. Zia happily crafts with Amy for the store and the vendor. She asks Amy if they can add something with Amy’s name on it. Amy looks embarrassed, but agrees. She does a little bit of reading that afternoon as well.

Around 7:15, the group arrives at the Arena and follows the path through the Hedge to the Dream Battle Stadium. This is a rather grand name for a small earthen arena with seats made of hedge-vines. As everyone walks into the arena, they notice that there are a fair amount of people in the Arena, but it is not quite full. Set into the ground at the bottom in the arena section is a very large bed. Everyone but Amy notices that the person sleeping fitfully on the bed is one of the servers from the Iron Nail who went on trial. The bed has conspicuous manacles, which are not currently in use. They also notice that there is a strange projector-like thing behind the bed and a very large screen.

Marcella raises her eyebrows. “Well, I guess that’s where they get the battleground from,” she murmurs quietly.

Hank, who had rather studiously not been thinking too much about this event, jerks to a stop for a moment. Marcella pauses to wait for him. Zia, who had also been fairly uncomfortable with this event, pauses with Hank as well. Marcella glances back at the two of them to see how they’re taking it.

Hank shakes his head as if to clear it a bit, and notices that everyone has been waiting for him, and that they are blocking the way. “Sorry,” he mutters, and continues in. Zia is tightlipped and eyeing the set-up, but continues walking with Hank when he moves forward.

There are quite a few seats left, but the only seats with enough room for all of them are either in the back left corner or front center. Marcella nods reassuringly at Hank, then glances around and leads the way to the seats in the back.

Zia follows Marcella to the seats and resolutely takes out her crafting. As she settles into the chair, she is a little creeped out by how the hedge vines adjust to her size. Hank is clearly more than a little creeped out by the whole thing, and startles noticeably as the vines shift.

As everyone sits down, the vines that make up the back of their seats adjust to them. For Hank in particular there is a sense that the whole seat adjusts to his slightly larger than normal size. People are still milling about, but a metal apparatus is being fitted to the server’s head.

“So, what are these battles like? Have you tried one before, Amy?” Marcella asks, looking around for other competitors.

Hank continues to fidget in the shifting seat for another minute or two after everyone gets settled. He stops and looks up as Marcella speaks, though.

Amy shakes her head. “No, I haven’t.”

Marcella smiles at her. “Well, I guess we’ll see from this first battle. When do you have to go check in?”

“Really soon. I don’t think I’ll get to watch the battle, so I guess it will be a surprise.”

“Hopefully it won’t be too full of surprises,” Zia says, almost a mutter.

“It’ll be ok, Zia,” Amy says, “I’m not scared.”

The lights in the arena briefly dim and come back up a few times. The friendly announcer’s voice comes over the speaker, “Good evening! It is almost time for the dream battles to commence. I would like to remind you that for this event, we do encourage less active cheering as it may disturb the participants. We will be handing out lightsticks for your celebratory use instead. Please be seated and geeeeeet ready!”

Zia shakes her head. “I certainly hope it will be okay. Dreams are dangerous things.” Hank nods.

Marcella smiles reassuringly at Amy. “You’re a creative thinker, Amy, I’m interested to see what you come up with.”

Amy smiles happily at Marcella’s comment. She holds up her paintbrush, “And I have this. It will help.” She gets out a set of paints and some paper, and looks thoughtful. “I should probably get started. Oh, but maybe I’m not allowed to yet. I’ll wait until I check in, and ask.” She puts them away, again.

A slender changeling is handing out bundles of lightsticks. Each person can change the color they glow with a knob at the bottom. Hank fiddles with the lightstick, figuring out how to change it to each color.

The announcer speaks again, “And now, ladies and gentlemen! I would first like to acknowledge our battleground for this match, I introduce to you, Lucien, the Night Terror of Dresden! No mind is safe from his devasating control of the dream!” A short gravewight with pale, pale skin and hair, large dark eyes and long slender fingers comes out and sits in a chair to one side of the bed. A good number of the people have their lightsticks turned green and wave them about, cheering quietly.

There’s not much reaction from Amy. She’s too busy thinking about her upcoming match. Marcella claps politely. Fianna notices the color theme and turns to Amy. “Any color you want us to wave around for you?”

“Does it have pink?” She looks curiously at Fianna’s lightstick, having not taken one, herself.

Fianna flicks through a variety of colors on the lightstick before it registers a strong, bright pink color. “Guess so,” she says. Hank nods, and shows the rest of the group how to adjust theirs to pink. There are about 20 colors on these sticks. Marcella also starts cycling through all the different colors, looking fascinated.

Amy nods, “Yeah! That one.” Amy is now wishing she’d taken one, just so she could have it to play with, later.

After the cheering dies down, the announcer says, “Next, please welcome one of the most skilled Aachen Dreamers, Anastasia Bleakness. No childhood dream is safe from her twisted machinations!” A tiny woman, more a girl, comes out in a lovely black dress, very childish except for the fact that this is unrelieved black. She is incredibly beautiful and perfect, but her features seem cold.

The crowd cheers and waves the glowsticks set to blackish color. More people seem to support her than the first person. She smiles a lovely, dark smiles and waves at the crowd then takes her seat.

Amy stares at her, fascinated. Marcella claps politely, but doesn’t change her glowstick away from pink. Hank has finished fiddling with the glowsticks, and has taken out his notebook. Though instead of leaning forward intently watching and jotting things down, as he did with the previous events, he’s more hunched over it. Zia is still crafting in a determined fashion, but she exhales as the description of this competitor is announced.

A man comes up, adjusts the metal device on the server’s head and then pushes a button on the projector. Suddenly the screen is filled with what looks like a scene from an old horror movie. It is dark and black and white, tinkly eerie music begins to play. He gives a thumbs up to the operating booth and the announcer says, “Competitors! You may begin!”

The scene on the projector is reminiscent of an old film noir movie. Dark lightning, thunder and lightning, sharp angles, and mysterious shapes lurking around every corner. The two competitors sit in their chairs, closing their eyes, and while their physical selves remain in their seats, doppelgangers appear in the dreamscape. Both competitors immediately activate what looks to be the same contract, phantasmal energies swirling around them to form what seems to be armor—a trenchcoat and a broad-brimmed hat a la Dick Tracy for Lucien, and a lovely evening dress for Anastasia. Items coalesce out of the same energies in their hands, a gun for Lucien and a demure little parasol for Anastasia.

Now that things are actually starting, Hank seems to have settled a bit, and he’s taking thorough organized notes in his book.

Anastasia immediately swings her parasol in a perfect circle around herself and when the mist settles she has a large dark dog with glowing acidic drool. She holds the other end of the leash in her left hand. The dog leaps forward at Lucien who shoots the dog, but the dog keeps coming as if it phased right through him. The dog falls upon Lucien, but he summons a thin sheet of some kind and wraps the dog in it. The dog falls away, struggling in the sheet.

A woman comes and taps Amy on the shoulder, “We are ready for you, please come to the back.”

Amy follows the woman, waving to her team as she goes. Fianna gives her a thumbs up for good luck. Marcella whispers, “Good luck!” as she goes.

Lucien then raises his hand and a great vat rises from the floor, as in an old monster movie. Inside the vat is a monster with many tentacles. With the gun he shoots open the glass. The strange monster gloops towards Anastasia. Anastasia just laughs, a high tinkling laugh, and summons an easy bake oven large enough to fit said monster. Her parasol shoots out a tentacle of its own and slowly pulls the monster into place. The easy bake oven is the only thing in color on the screen.

While Anastasia is occupied with her lassoing, Lucien takes the opportunity to shoot at her. One bullet hits her in the arm, but the other two hit the parasol. Shortly the monster is in the oven. It dings and then fall out 3 smaller monsters who attack Lucien back.

This continues back and forth for a long time. Both are clearly very good at what they do, but Anastasia is that much more in control, that much more creative. Finally Lucien takes a final blow when a giggling doll eats his dream face. He passes out in the real world, falling off the chair.

Looking impressed, Marcella applauds for Anastasia.

Anastasia disengages from the dream. She stands and curtsies to the audience. They go wild, waving the blackish lights. The announcer says, “Anastasia Bleakness!!!!! Another win for Aachen’s premier competitive dreamer”

The organizer informs Amy that she has one minute before being summoned on.

Someone comes and revives Lucien a bit. He sits up and gives Anastasia a nod, then is escorted off stage. Anastasia bows and leaves the stage. The same man from before turns off the projector, removes the device from the server’s head and wakes him gently. He is clearly groggy, but allows himself to be escorted.

Behind stage, Nandakumar comes out of one of the little room. He looks apprehensive, not quite as jolly as his wont. He is wearing a long nightgown. A young woman says something quietly to him and he nods. She hands him a cup of something steaming. He downs it and begins to walk towards the stage. Escorted by the woman, Nandakumar comes out on the stage to an assortment of cheering and boos.

Marcella grimaces when Nanda comes out, and glances around to see if Amy is in view, but doesn’t look surprised. Marcella is very relieved she did not pick the front row seats.

Hank has been very quiet and focused on his notes up until this point, not really reacting to anything going on in the match, or to the rest of the group. When the match ends he’s got his head down for a while, focusing on wrapping up his notes. Then he looks up as the cheers/boos start, and his pen scratches violently across the page. He takes off his glasses, and rubs at his eyes, before carefully cleaning his glasses and putting them back on. He then busies himself with fiddling with the glowstick, which he had turned off before.

Zia hisses and silently promises herself not to get on the court’s bad side. She would not be fodder for this, this disgraceful parody, etc. insert internal sputtering here.

Nanda bows at the crowd, seeming to ignore the boos. He lies down on the bed, a wary look at the manacles, but they are not applied. He gets under the blanket and closes his eyes.

The announcers says quietly, “Please allow our battleground a few quiet minutes to settle himself and fall asleep. Please note that one competitor, Amy, is new to the dream battles and has elected to use pink as her color, thank you.”

Everyone hears someone a few rows forward say, “Oh, I wonder if this the same Amy from obstacle course yesterday! She was awesome!!! I didn’t know she did dream battles too!!! Her opponent is so good though … and Amy is so cute!” Her companion says, “This is gonna be awesome!” Marcella grins a bit.

Meanwhile, using her magical paintbrush, Amy paints a picture of a group of many small islands, varying in size between 3 and 50ft across, and varying in shape. Some are close enough that it would be possible to hop from one to the other, though it would be a long leap, and others are much farther apart. The weather is sunny, and the sea calm, but dark shapes are visible under the surface of the water. The larger islands have trees and brush and/or a field of rocks on them, the smaller ones are bare sand, or have a single rock, tree, or bush.

After a few minutes, Nanda appears asleep and the contraption is put on his head. Hank returns to his scrupulous notes.

The announcer says, “For our second battle of the night, we have an old hand at this and fresh blood! This should be fun, my friends! As a reminder, please don’t be too loud. And now, let us begin! First we have Mircalla Rubenstein, the chameleon of the Rhine! As amorphous as a dream, she leaves her challengers breathless with the beauty of what she creates!” A tall, slender woman comes out, takes a curt bow, and sits in the chair. The crowd cheers, waving blue-green glowsticks.

“Our next competitor comes to us fresh from the Hedge, but already ready to join the battle with the big guys! Please give it up for AAAAAmy!!!! She may look sweet, but we know from yesterday that she doesn’t give up!” Amy walks in, and waves up at the spectators, before going to take a seat next to the bed.

A few pockets of pink glowsticks wave. Zia waves her pink glowstick determinedly. Fianna flails her glowstick. Marcella waves her pink glowstick enthusiastically and shouts, “Go Amy!” She controls her volume so that she won’t wake up Nanda though. Hank waves his glowstick somewhat briefly, reminds Marcella that they’re supposed to be quiet, and goes back to making notes.

As Amy sits down, Mircalla gives her a nod and mouths, good luck.

The tech guy comes out and turns on the projector. They see on the screen a bustling kitchen with many strange contraptions with a glass floor that is over a lovely mountain gorge. “Aaaaaand now, competitors, you may begin!!!!!” the announcer says.

Both Amy and Mircalla are able to project their representations into Nanda’s dream.

Amy gently places one hand on Nanda’s temple, and one on her own. As soon as she is in the dream, she activate Phantasmal Bastion to create armor, manifesting an apron as pictured below. For a weapon, Amy conjures a plastic ladle, with a pattern matching her apron. The handle is polka-dotted, and the spoon part is the bright pink.

The look Mircalla gives Amy is hilarious. Mircalla responds by creating for herself a very professional looking chef’s coat and hat, with the addition of a rolling pin, presumably a weapon, in her right hand.

Game 38: The Obstacle Course


Marcella wins her second round match of no-holds-barred singles, and then Fianna and Amy compete in the obstacle course. They are neck-and-neck with a third competitor, but in the end, they tie for the win.


A day and half after the end of the Lambswool match begins day 7 of the games, when Marcella will compete in the second round of her no-holds-barred singles fight, and Fianna and Amy will compete in the obstacle course.

Marcella checks in at the desk pretty much as soon as she arrives. The clerk at the desk smiles when Marcella checks in. “You’re really going all out for you first year, aren’t you? Well, you know the drill, head inside and we’ll be starting in a few minutes.” Marcella thanks him and heads in.

At 9:15, the announcer says, “Good morning, good morning! I hope you are ready for the amazing feats that we will see today! Thank you for your continued support of the bloodlust and lunacy, I mean, continued support of the celebrations of strength and valor of the Summer Court and all who come to our lovely events!”

The crowd, a little bit tired, does cheer. In one corner most of the team is surprised to see about six people throw up a Marcella support flag. They are cheering wildly. Zia is not surprised, since she sewed the flag and got paid for it.

The announcer announces the first two pairs and then says, “Our next pair of dueling dervishes!!!! I give you, the Bone Queen! Marcella Boneblade, the leader of Vogelfrei. She’s smart, she’s fast, let’s give her a cheeeeeeer! Her opponent is quiet and sneaky. This is not the person I want to run into in an alley, the Dervish Phantom of Bremen! Martella Bruuuuugel!”

The crowd cheers for both of them with enthusiasm. Martella doesn’t have a fan club though.

Martella is a tall and thin darkling, wispy and pale, with smoky, see through hands and hair. She has an Asian aesthetic, and carries a paired set of a katana and a wakizashi. She gives Marcella a nod of respect and draws her weapons. Marcella nods back respectfully and draws her onyx sword.

As soon as the match starts, Martella makes a swift side cut at Marcella’s side, and follows up with a swift stab from her wakizashi. Marcella’s skin thickens to give her two more points of armor, and then she cuts the Phantom’s side with a quick flash of her blade.

Martella reaches out and grabs Marcella’s arm, and seems to be trying to do something, but nothing happens. Grimacing, she swings her other arm around and strikes at Marcella’s opposite shoulder.

Marcella concentrates for a moment and adds her wyrd to her health for the rest of the battle. She tears her right arm out of Brugel’s hold, scoring a deep cut along Brugel’s arm as she pulls her sword hand away.

Martella elects for an all-out assault. Her first sword comes around in a wide arc and hits and the second follows it but glances off without doing damage. Marcella gets in close and slices her opponent across the ribs.

Marcella’s opponent is looking severely injured. She make one last attack at Marcella, and fails to connect with either of her swords.

Marcella lunges in, looking determined, and hits again with another nasty cut. Martella falls to the ground, her hair ceasing to smoke as she falls unconscious.

Zia cheers. So does Marcella’s little fan club. Iris cheers as well, although she also looks decidedly ill at the display. Amy cheers and claps, but stays in her seat, this time. Hank leans over to Zia, “Did you make that?” He gestures to the fan club.

Zia smiles at Hank. “One of them bought a Marcella hand towel from the stand the other day. They asked the merchant who supplied it. They paid me to make it.”

Hank grins, “Good to see she’s showing well.” His smile falters a bit. “Although that won’t endear her to some.” He’s been trying to keep an eye on the crowd for the malcontents from the last few events.

The announcer’s voice blares over the intercom. “There will now be a short intermission as the grounds crew sets up for the obstacle course, always a crowd pleaser!”

Amy jumps up, “Oh! That’s me.” She heads off towards check-in. Fianna follows to check in herself and make sure Amy doesn’t get lost. Marcella has gone to the medical area for treatment after her battle.

The arena space is veiled through the crystals so the group cannot see what they are putting up. Then at 11am the announcer says, “And now!!! The obstacle course of the Aachen Summer Games! These participants don’t know it yet, but the organizers put a real doozy together! Are you ready to see who is the most dexterous, the most agile, the fastest, the smartest?” The crowd cheers loudly. “I’m not sure. Try again?” The crowd cheers even louder and everyone who has a banner waves it around. Marcella’s banner, despite her not participating, waves around too.

Hank roars with the crowd. When the announcer asks for the second cheer, he is even louder, this time sounding distinctly like a literal bear.

“Much better! Okay, with no further delay, I give you the obstacle course that will NEVER BE FORGOTTEN!!!!”

More cheering occurs. Marcella cheers from the medical area, where she is still healing from her match. She is shushed by the medical staff who are not done lecturing her.

The veiling crystals turn off, and the obstacle course is revealed. “Here’s our set-up!” the announcer yells. “We’re starting off easy with a rope wall—but once they climb up and over the side there’s a pool of water with poles. Competitors need to traverse the pools either by the poles or by swimming through the water—though the Hedge piranhas-a traditional addition—might dissuade them fom that path! After that, there’s a dodge course, with three large, quickly swinging mallets that need to be dodged else they be knocked into the mud below, and following that a downwards slope that’s been greased! Let’s see our competitors try and stay on that! Following that is the hurdles, many of which have been wrapped in unpleasant materials, so the competitors better jump high! Following that are the gymnastics rings, which they need to pull themself across another piranha infested pool of water, and after is a new suggestion, the log roll! I’m told that’s a fun one. Then the rope swings, requiring competitors to grab and swing between several moving ropes, then an area of obscured mists full of sharp obsstacles and suddenly moving things that will try to attack our competitors, and finally, we’re ending with a gigantic mountain of straw that they need to climb up and over. Ever try climbing loose hay? NOT easy! As always, only phyiscally-affecting contracts are allowed, as well as kith abilities. Let’s see who has the best luck and skill, shall we? Let the competitors in!”

The doors open, and Amy and Fianna are allowed to walk out to the start line of the course. Fianna gives out a low whistle. Amy stares for a moment, “Wow, that’s big. It looks like fun!”

Only a handful of changelings are competing in this event, many of them younger changelings, several of whom look like they weren’t expecting this to be so intense.

“Competitors, take your marks!” There is a starting line to line up at.

Amy dashes to the line. Fianna ruffles her hair as she passes. “Good luck, kiddo.”

A changeling with a starting pistol steps to the line and raises his arm. “On your marks…set…” the pistol cracks, and the race is on.

A few changelings, including Fianna, rocket straight up to the top of the ropes and down the other side. Most changelings are somewhere between a quarter to three quarters of the way up. A handful have already fallen. Amy is about two-fifths of the way up.

The changelings who have already reached the top head out onto the posts, jumping from post to post. One changeling falls into the water below and starts frantically swimming to the other side. Several changelings who had been attacking each other on the ropes knock each other back to the bottom. Fianna has made it to the second post of five, another changeling has made it to the third, and two others are on the first poles. Amy is almost to the top of the ropes.

Amy makes it to the top of the ropes and the beginning of the poles just as the group at the bottom resumes climbing. Fianna and the changeling ahead of her both advance one pole, as does one of the changeligns behind them. The other falls into the pool below. The changeling in the pool aleady is bleeding slightly from several tiny bites, but is still swimming to the end of this section of the course.

Amy neatly jumps two poles ahead onto the couse and bumps the other remaining straggler down into the water. “Oops,” she says.

Fianna does the same to the person who had been ahead of her. In the meantime, the first swimmer below has reached the edge of the course and is climbing out, and the other has begun swimming in the same direction. Five other changelings reach the top of the ropes behind them.

Amy advances to the fourth pole, as the swimmer below continues swimming, and three changelings make it out onto the first and second poles behind her, two others falling below, while Fianna and the changeling just climbing out of the water move onto the dodge course. Both make it past all three of the swinging pendulums. Both are also looking at each other with something akin to vague competitive murder.

Amy moves across the last pole and bobs and weaves through the swingers like a pro. A couple of changelings move across the poles and past the first of the swings, while another makes it to the fifth pole. The second swimmer crawls out of the water only to be knocked into the mud by a swinger. Fianna activates a Separation contract, and is enormously frustrated when her competitor does as well. Both of them make it halfway down the slope, but both stay far enough away from each other that they can’t get attacked.

Amy pulls level with the other changeling on the slope, as Fianna moves forward off of it. Three changelings make it past the swingers, and one advances onto the slope a short period.

Marcella has been released from medical, and comes up to join the group in the stands. “Wow, what a spread,” she says, impressed at the sight of the course. “How’s it going so far?” she adds to Hank.

The other changeling and Amy move off the slope and the ones behind them are moving across it. One is almost all the way across. Fianna moves into the first of the hurdles, jumping across two wrapped in barbed wire.

“They are both doing pretty well.” He catches her up on what has gone on so far. “At least neither ended up in the pirañas?”

Marcella’s eyes widen. “The what now?”

Hank gestures down to the field, “If you fall off of the poles, you are in Hedge piranha infested waters.” He thinks about it for a minute. “Apparently they are traditional.”

Both Amy and the other changeling near the front jump across one of the hurdles, and two of the changelings behind her reach the bottom of the slippery slope. Fianna trips and falls into one of hurdles.

Marcella sits and winces at Fianna’s fall. “Well, I’m glad they made it past that part, at least,” she agrees.

The other changeling pulls ahead, with Fianna right behind her, and Amy right behind her. In the meantime, all of the changelings right behind Amy fall into the hurdles.

Hank gestures at the gymnastic rings, as Amy approaches them. “Not quite, actually.”

“I didn’t realize the obstacle course was so … dangerous,” Marcella says, looking slightly concerned for Amy. She grins. “They’re kicking ass, though.”

Amy finishes the hurdles and moves onto the first row of rings. The other changeling reaches for the rings and overbalances, falling into the water below. Fianna moves to just past Amy.

Amy moves to the end of the rings, and Fianna jumps off just past her. The other changeling is swimming beneath.

Amy steps on to the first log in the log roll. Fianna makes it to the second. The other changeling pulls herself from the water and joins Amy on the first log.

Hank nods at Marcella. “They rather are.”

Amy skips forward two logs and Fianna moves one, so they end up on the same log. The other changeling is right behind them. Amy giggles as she passes Fianna.

Amy makes it through the last of the swings and lands in the beginning of the misty area, Fianna landing next to her not half a second later, and the other changeling lands next to her.

Fianna and Amy both advance a few meters. The other changeling moves a few steps a runs into a pole.

Amy moves forward a bit more, Fianna moves until she is almost out of the mist, and the other changeling moves to just past Amy.

The other changeling proceeds to immediately run into another obstacle, and Amy moves forward another few meters. Fianna jumps on to the giant hay montain and begins climbing.

The other changeling immediately runs into another object, as Amy runs out of the mist and begins climbing the hay mountain, Fianna a few yards ahead.

Amy rockets ahead, climbing like a monkey, until she has reached the top of the mountain of the hay. Fianna is right behind her, and the other changeling has finally exited the mist and is beginning to climb.

The other changeling is climbing with a vengeance, and is right behind Fianna and Amy, who are tied.

The other changeling surges forward up and over the top as Fianna and Amy stumble off the bottom of the mountain and across the finish line at the same time.

Zia cheers loudly. “Woohoo Amy and Fianna!”

Hank cheers. Marcella stands and cheers too.

Fianna picks Amy up and spins her around, laughing like a maniac. Amy stiffens and freezes for a second, then begins laughing too. She pumps her fist in the air triumphantly.

Iris stands up cheering, but also muttering to herself that these events can’t be good for her life expectancy. She looks very relieved. Hank pats Iris on the shoulder.

The other changeling reaches the bottom of the hay pile and strides over. “Great race, guys! I saw the finish from up top! It was a pleasure!” She holds out her hand for a handshake. Fianna takes it and shakes it. Amy tries to shake it, waits for Fianna to finish, and then takes her turn to shake hands.

The announcer, who has been making snarky commentary this whole time, mostly about piranhas, says, “And Fianna and Amy of the Aachen Freehold and Vogelfrei cross the line together!!!!!!! Can you believe it? A tie for the first time in oh, 15 years or so! And they are both such great friends! Isn’t it just adorable?”

The remaining competitors struggle acoss the line or choose not to, depending on how they had done. Just as with Iris’ match, laurel wreaths interwoven with the winner’s colors are given to the three top scoring competitors. Fianna’s and Amy’s are woven with gold and the other major competitor, a Levenquick name Rialta, has one woven with copper. The announcer cheers them once more, and then the grounds crew begin breaking down the course for the next event.

Zia's Journal, 12-14-14
In which Swords Get Feisty

Dear Journal,

That damn game was just as bad as I expected it to be, but it had a lovely surprise added in. The day began well enough. Iris did quite well at her skeet competition. It is good to see her excelling publicly in the Arena events. Maybe she will begin to feel safer here if she fits in. Then it was time for us to suit up and head on out.

Hank is quite adorable in his modesty. Marcella…is less than thoughtful sometimes. I forget that she didn’t actually go through puberty and everything in the real world because she is so put together in general. I forget in general that most of Vogelfrei, everyone besides me and Hank, were rather young when they were taken. In any case, Hank seems rather uncomfortable with naked or otherwise very, shall we say, exposed women. I should keep this in mind for fittings and things.

The Lambswool game…well, we won. Marcella’s sword suddenly manifested a bamboo hut to protect me. That was pretty useful, but apparently Marcella didn’t know it could do that. I do not like discovering abilities of enchanted weapons in front of an Arena of people. Furthermore the hut wouldn’t let me out! I almost panicked Journal, being trapped in that small space, unable to make it let me out. But hey, no one would have seen right?

I managed to be kinda useful during the game, but the team really had it well in hand. I don’t know that my support was really needed at all. That said. I really wish I hadn’t let Marcella talk me into any involvement. Just, watching people fight, get hurt for kicks seems so wasteful. And holding a sword, well, it makes me remember just enough.

Marcella is playing her hand too much with everybody else with that conversation about Jonty. Poor Amy…hopefully someone will tell her all the things she misses eventually.


Game 37: First Lambswool match


Iris competes in the skeet finals and places third. Marcella, Fianna, Hank, and Zia compete in a Lambswool match against another newbie team from Aachen. After a strong start to the match, and the unexpected revelation that the sword Marcella lent to Zia is magical, they win the match.


The final for skeet is this morning at 9:15am, and the team’s Lambswool match is at 11:30. The group gets pretty good seats – not The Best, but pretty good, almost the center.

Zia has carefully transported their costumes and the weapons she had made to the Arena. A very terrified young man used to holding weapons for people has been entrusted with the costumes.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Good morning good morning! On this intense summer day we have a lovely lineup of ACTION for you! Just for you my darlings who come back every day so faithfully! Well, okay, it is really Queen Kenna who has arranged for all of these gorgeous fights, but my point is made. This morning we begin with the skeet finals! Five incredibly skilled changelings who I wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley or a bright field will compete to be champion of SKEET!!!!!” the announcer says very dramatically.

Hank desperately wishes there was some time of competition in the Games that involves goals, just to see how the announcer reacted.

Iris is – as usual – incredibly nervous. She’d made it so far, but considering everyone else present, she’s quite certain she’s going to lose.

The first changeling, a falcon-man, takes his shots. He hits them all, doing very well. The second, a pixie-like changeling of no discernible gender does fair, but not outstanding. The third, a changeling solid like stone, takes his own shots … and does abysmally. He looks fairly embarrassed, but the crowd claps politely anyway. Iris is up next.

Iris is grasping her rifle very tightly, she swallows hard in stepping forward, but there is no going back now. She owes it to herself to at least try.

The judge gestures for Iris to step up to the shooting stand. Iris steps up, again swallowing hard as she does so. She looks paler than usual as well.

“Ready, aim…” the judge says, giving her time to do so. ’Pull!" The first pigeon flies. It hits, and the next pigeon is pulled.

Marcella is on the edge of her seat, watching intently and cheering each time Iris makes a hit. Hank is quiet, as if his cheering might somehow distract Iris. But he is clearly watching intensely.

She hits, and the next is pulled at the same difficulty. The shot hits dead on, shattering it perfectly. The crowd cheers. The next pigeon is pulled. It hits, and the last pigeon is launched. She hits last pigeon, and Iris’ turn is finished. The last changeling to go, a woman who shines lightly from her skin, does quite well. The judge then calls a five minute pause to calculate the winners.

Hank cheers when Iris hits her last pigeon, when he won’t potentially distract her anymore. Marcella cheers loudest at the last pigeon. Amy has been cheering the whole time.

Iris is just relieved she didn’t do terribly. At least she doesn’t think she did, she’s still nervous, but at least she did get there in the first place.

The judge comes back to announce the winners. He is carrying three laurel wreaths, which he explains to the crowd will not die until the winners of this event have been determined for the next year. There are also three small medals on breastpins, a gold, a silver, and a bronze, which will be awarded at the end of the Games once the craftsman have had the chance to engrave the winner’s names on them. The first place winner is announced to be the falcon man who went first, who had the best qualifier. The second place winner is the brightly shining woman who went last. The third, “…of Vogelfrei, Iris!"

Marcella jumps to her feet, cheering loudly for Iris. Amy leaps out of her seat, doubling the volume of her cheering. Fianna lets out a loud whoop. Hank also jumps up cheering. Zia cheers loudly.

The judge presents Iris a laurel wreath wound with bronze wire flowers. ’’Congratulations."

Iris smiles, she is still shaking a little bit, but definitely happy with her laurel wreath. She wonders if maybe she should ask the falcon man for training. “Thank you.” It turns out that the falcon man is from Dresden, so it might be a bit difficult to ask for training from him. But he has won this event for the past four years. Iris puts the wreath on her head and somewhat shyly congratulates the two others. She doesn’t manage to get herself to ask for more training though. And with that, the event is over.

Iris makes her way back up to the stands, shaking slightly but happy. Marcella congratulates Iris when she gets back up. “That was awesome Iris! You did a great job! Congratulations on the bronze!” Marcella enthuses when she sees her.

“Iris! Iris you won! That’s so great!” Amy says.

“Thanks… I’d like to get a bit better still but… it’s hard. You’ve got your match soon, right?”

“We have to check in down there in about an hour, yeah,” Marcella says.

Zia congratulates Iris and then turns to the group. “Did we decide we were just using Vogelfrei as our name? For the match?”

“Oh, that’s what I figured, yeah, but we can use something else if you want,” Marcella says.

Hank gives Iris a double thumbs up when she gets up there, and then turns to Zia and shrugs, “I had not thought about it. Does anyone have other thoughts or suggestions?”

No one does, and Marcella leads the way down to check-in with the rest of the Lambswool team a few minutes before 11:00.

Zia says as they head down, “Oh the explosives I’ll be shooting will still go off if I miss, so … don’t walk over them …”

Marcella raises an eyebrow and says, “That’s … good to know,” at the same time that Hank blinks, “Good to know.”

“I thought it might be. Guns are new to me since leaving Arcadia, but I believe that they will useful,” Zia replies. Once everyone gets down there, Zia retrieves the costumes. “Marcella, where do we check in?” she asks.

“There’s a desk, I’ll show you,” Marcella says. She leads the way over. Hank follows. He also has his bag with him.

As they approach, the man who is generally there waves. “Marcella! This is your team for the 4 on 4?”

Marcella smiles at him. “Yep, this is Fianna, who you know, and Zia and Hank.”

“Pleasure to meet you! Have you played a 4 on 4 before?” he asks amiably.

“Not … here” Fianna says evasively.

“Nope, this will be our first one,” Marcella says, raising her eyebrow slightly at Fianna’s comment. Fianna’s return eyebrow raise is her way of saying “I-told-you-where-I-came-from-what-do-you-think-I’m-talking-about?” Marcella shrugs slightly and doesn’t say anything. Hank blinks, trying to figure out what kind of subtextual things are happening with eyebrows.

“Not here? Oh, do they play it in Arcadia too? I didn’t know that,” the checker says to Fianna.

“Not that I am aware of.”

He smiles softly at her and moves on. “Well, does your team know the rules?” he asks Marcella.

Marcella glances around at the group, then nods. “Yes, we’ve seen some matches and reviewed the rules pretty thoroughly as a group. Unless there are house variants here that weren’t mentioned in the books at the freehold library, we should be all set.”

“Sounds good! Well, good luck to you all! Vogelfrei is doing so well, I am sure that you guys have a great chance!” he says brightly.

Marcella looks pleased with this statement. “Thanks, we’ll do our best!”

“Okay, so, are you going with Vogelfrei for your team name? Would you like to be announced as the Aachen Vogelfrei?” he asks.

“Yes, that’s the name we’re going with,” she confirms.

“Excellent. You are all set, if you go into the prep rooms, there is a room set aside for your team to change in. Someone will let you know when it is time,” he says.

“Great, thank you for your help.” Marcella heads over to the changing room. Zia follows after her. Hank nods at the man, and then follows the group.

The room is small, but adequate for changing. Zia hands everyone their costume. “Okay, they should all fit, lets get ready for this lunacy…”

Marcella gives her a reassuring smile. “We’ll be okay, Zia. Don’t worry.” She starts changing with no indication of modesty at all.

Hank accepts the costume, and then takes one look around the room, and a second look at Marcella. He then very studiously hangs it up somewhere (either on a hook if available, or back on the rack Zia took it from), and steps out into the hallway.

Zia nudges Marcella, “Generally we ask before changing in front of people, especially men.”

When she sees Hank step out into the hallway, Marcella looks slightly guilty. “Oh shit. I always forget about that.” She shrugs. “Oh well, I guess we’d better change fast.”

Zia nods and takes off her clothes without turning around. As she picks up her uniform, she closes her eyes and the color scheme of her body changes from oranges and pinks to blue and green. Fianna changes quickly, more because she doesn’t like looking at her own body rather than for any concerns for modesty.

When all three of them are changed, Marcella sticks her head out the door to look for Hank in the hallway. “Sorry about that. We’re done now.” Zia steps out into the hallway to give Hank privacy to change. Marcella follows her lead. Fianna does as well, and leans against the wall.

Hank also changes quickly, pulling on both cestus and uniform. Like Fianna, he doesn’t like looking at his body, and also feels awkward leaving three people standing in the hall.

After a minute or two Zia knocks, “Does it fit?”

Hank opens the door again, revealing that he is dressed in the uniform. “Yes, quite nicely.”

“Excellent.” Zia surveys everyone. “Yes, I do think these will do. I didn’t want to get too frilly or complicated, these are for fighting after all. But the colors work nicely for everyone and the fit is good, though, it could be adjusted.”

Marcella glances at Fianna’s uniform when Zia says she didn’t want to get ‘too frilly.’ “These uniforms are great, Zia, thanks for all the work you put into them,” is all she says.

“Now, Hank, you can snatch the little hat from Fianna or the cover on Marcella’s crown as needed.” Zia says. “My pleasure. Might as well make sure we are acceptably clothed.”

Fianna pulls a package of peanuts clearly purchased from a snack stand somewhere in the arena and hands them to Hank. “Sorry. Almost forgot.”

Hank accepts them. “Thank you,” he replies, and opens the package to begin eating them.

Zia smiles. “I didn’t!” She pulls out a small cake, already cut into four pieces. “To our not-death!” She then gives everyone a piece with a warning not to get anything on the outfits.

Marcella hands Hank a wrapped-up biscuit she clearly got from the freehold breakfast. “Here you go!”

Some voice in the back of Hank’s brain says “Remember to wait at least half an hour between eating and swimming” and wonders how that applies to tournament games. But he eats the biscuit and the piece of cake, very fastidiously keeping all crumbs off his uniform.

Zia leads the group back into their little room. She adjusts a few things on everyone, then turns to start putting on weaponry. The two guns go into holsters built into her costume so the ball and chain is not interrupted. The trusty tool goes at her waist. She tucks a knife into a little thing as well.

“All right guys, any more questions about the strategy we came up with last night? Zia will be our Lamb, Hank will be keeping their attackers away from her, I’ll be holding off their Lamb’s defenders, and Fianna will be trying to bring their Lamb over to our side,” Marcella says, looking around. “We’ll be doing our best to win, but this is really about making a good showing for Vogelfrei and having fun.” Marcella is strapping on both her ivory and onyx swords as she speaks, and she also puts her jeweled dagger on her belt.

Hank nods. Zia nods, clearly a bit nervous. “Fun, huh? Well, at least we’ll go down pretty.”

Marcella grins. “We’ll look out for you, Zia. They’re not allowed to hurt you, and I feel confident in your ability to hurt them back if they try.”

Zia nods. “Oh, I forgot your sword.” She puts the bamboo sword into its sheath on the belt with the trusty tool. The trusty tool goes, “You need something other than me! HUMPH, you see if I help you.” Zia ignores the tool and says, “Oh, I’ll hurt them alright. I’ll destroy any weapon that I can touch.”

“That’s the spirit!” Marcella says happily. She continues to be peppy and encouraging while they wait for their match to start. Hank does not participate in pep-based activities.

There is a gentle knock on the door. “You guys are up,” they hear through the door.

Marcella opens the door and steps out. “Thanks,” she says to the person who knocked. They are ushered to the staging area. Hank is clearly more withdrawn and quiet than normal as they move to the staging area and beyond.

A young tree changeling says quietly, “You will be announced in the order of team captain Marcella, Hank, Fianna and finally the Lamb of your group, umm Zia. Please walk out as you hear your name called.”

Marcella looks slightly more nervous than Fianna has seen her for her own individual matches, especially when she looks at Zia or Hank. She thanks the tree changeling. “Will do, thanks!”

They hear the announcer’s voice get going. “And now! For a 4 on 4 match of a horde of those newcomers flowing out of the Hedge! These two teams have never played this game of loved changeling pastime and we will all be properly supportive, right everybody?” The crowd obligingly gets nice and rowdy, though they hear a few boos. Marcella is intrigued to hear that their opponents are also newbies. She scowls at the boos.

“The first team is Heimdalzunft Vogelfrei of Aachen!!!!! First welcome Marcella Boneblade, who has beaten every opponent she has faced in this games! Who bears already the crOOOOWN of a champion!!!!!”

Marcella makes a displeased face at his last statement, but clears it off her face as she steps out into the arena. She jogs out onto the sand looking fierce and determined.

“Next, please welcome the solid and dependable Dr. Hank!!!!! Don’t let his size fool you, this man has the fingers of a surgeon!”

Hank walks out onto the sand to stand next to Marcella. He does not appear look around at the crowd at all.

“She is star-spangled and tiny, but don’t let her size and cuteness fool you! Fianna of Vogelfrei has taken out every opponent to come before her and boy, can she punch!”

Fianna strides out onto the field, doing the best she can to look as non-cute as possible.

“Finally, please welcome, the Lamb of Vogelfrei’s team! With emotions as fiery as her hair can be, prismatic Ziazan can take anyone’s heart she pleases!”

Zia walks out onto the field gracefully. She looks like a weapons storage bin, but she smiles and keeps her hair matching her clothing.

Now that all the team is on the field, they can hear people cheering, mostly for Fianna and Marcella who have already been fighting in the games. Marcella is still grinning confidently, and waves a few times. She looks excited.

There is movement on the other side of the field as the announcer introduces their opponents. “Our second team’s only been out of the Hedge a little longer than the majority of Vogelfrei, folks! May I introduce the interestingly named Fantastic Four! First up, we have team Captain Jillian Blitzplume!”

The woman who moves onto the field radiates white electricity that arc between the feathers that decorate her arms and take the place of her hair. She is dressed in black and white.

“Our second is the unstoppable competitor who chooses to be known only as the Mountain Man!”

A large changeling whose skin is made entirely of pebbles and rocks strides in. He wears no shirt, just a sturdy pair of jeans.

“Third, we have the quick and energetic young Gillyflower Sands!”

A young woman with rabbit features jogs in, all cheerful and smiles. She’s wearing a jumpsuit in red and yellow.

“Finally, the Fantastic Four’s lamb, Corus!”

A glowing Fairest in a long yellow coat strides out, sparkling happily. Those of the party who have any knowledge of comic books or superheroes realize that their opponents have decided to come to the match dressed as Storm, The Thing, The Flash, and Jubilee.

Marcella thinks they look vaguely familiar, but can’t place all the specific superheroes they have styled themselves after. Those who are near Hank hear him choke on a laugh when the announcer says the name “Fantastic Four.” The group can hear Hank muttering their names under his breath as each one comes out. Zia does not place any of them really, but vaguely recalls the Fantastic Four to be a comic book thing. Fianna has a look on her face that is halfway between holding in hysterical laughter and wonderment at the lack of seriousness this shows.

Marcella grins at Hank and says quietly, “You a fan?” Hank cocks his eyebrow slightly and nods.

The other team is facing them. Ritter Rime comes up and instructs the two teams to shake hands. Marcella steps forward and holds her hand out to Jillian Blitzplume. She gives Blitzplume a friendly smile. “Nice to see another newbie team. Good luck, and may the best team win.”

Zia shakes the hand of Corus. “Good luck! I should warn you that our team is awesome.” As she says this, her coloring shifts very slightly to red and she smiles in a slightly menancing fashion.

Corus raises an eyebrow. “Thanks, but we won’t need it, trust me.”

Fianna shakes Gillyflower’s hand firmly. “Good luck,” she says simply.

Hank steps forward and shakes Mountain Man’s hand. “Grimm versus McCoy, eh?”

A couple people might hear Fianna mumble almost silently, “Storm and the Flash and Ben Grimm I get. Why Jubilee?”

Hank hisses back to her, “Do not underestimate Jubilation Lee, or anyone who styles themselves after her.”

Mountain Man suddenly perks up, and they realize that he’s probably no older than seventeen or eighteen. “Yes!” he says excitedly. “Best kind of match!”

The look Fianna gives Hank is equal parts ‘WTF’ and ‘whyyyyyyyyyy?’

Ritter Rime is glaring at all of them. Marcella looks amused and pleased by her team’s antics. Hank looks at the Ritter and schools his features into a contrite expression. “THE CONTESTANTS WILL NOW GET INTO PLACE FOR THE MATCH,” Ritter announces.

Marcella gives Blitzplume a nod, then gives a slight bow to Ritter Rime. She gets into place and draws her onyx sword. She has taken point.

Zia laughs gleefully. “Well, we did something good today,” she says quietly, and walks back to her circle. She takes out the bamboo sword and begins to speak to it quietly. She starts talking to the sword, and then suddenly in her head she gets an image of a bamboo forest and feels safe.

Fianna starts near the middle, behind and to the side of Marcella. Hank positions himself in front of Zia, next to Fianna. Marcella’s skin thickens into bone plating. She also spends a point of glamour to add her wyrd to her health for the rest of the battle.

The other team arranges themselves similarly, with Corus in the Lamb’s circle, Mountain Man in the center middle, and Gillyflower and Jillian on either side.

The match begins, and Jillian starts by activating a shimmering sheath of crackling electricity around her, jumping into the air, and starting to glide very quickly towards Marcella.

Zia stabs the sand of the Arena with the bamboo sword, eyeing it a little bit suspiciously. Marcella had not warned her that it talked. She pulls the explosive gun and holds it at the ready.

Marcella reaches up and grabs her ivory chess queen necklace, activating a swirl of razor-sharp bone shards around her entire body. She raises her sword and braces for impact. There is ooh and aahhing in the crowd at her use of the contract.

Corus raises her hands. She lets off a brilliant flash of light, but none of the group are blinded by it. Judging by the grumbles coming from the audience, not everyone in the audience was as lucky.

Hank calls, “Maneuver Seven!” He grabs Fianna’s cap to activate his contract and grows larger. He then grabs Fianna, swings her around, and launches her towards Corus, over Mountain Man. Fianna sails like a comet over his head and lands not five feet from the edge of the opponents’ Lamb circle. She activates her strength contract and lunges to grapple Corus, who tries to struggle but can’t move.

Gillyflower immediately dashes towards where Fianna has her team’s Lamb pinned. She launches herself shoulder-first from a dead run at Fianna in a flying tackle. Fianna staggers as she is hit solidly on her left side by Gillyflower, but manages to keep her feet, if only just.

Mountain Man makes his best attempt to run back to help his teammate, but he takes his entire action to get back to the Lamb’s Circle.

Jillian looks like she wants to be able to turn around, but her trajectory can’t be adjusted. She slams into Marcella, her hand grabbing her and sending an electric shock through her.

Zia aims the explody gun with care. She shoots Jillian and the explody bomb sticks to her back with bruising force.

Marcella disengages from Jillian and sprints towards the other team’s Lamb and defenders, trusting Hank to keep Jillian from Zia. She looks like she’s concentrating as she runs, but nothing happens.

Corus continues to struggle, but Fianna has her held tight.

As Marcella runs off, Hank jumps forward to engage the only member of the Fantastic 4 on the Vogelfrei side of the pitch. He grabs Jillian and knocks her out of the air. Jillian makes a startled noise as she is knocked aside.

The bomb goes off about two seconds after Hank pushes Jillian aside. The explosion pushes her off her feet. She is bleeding profusely from her back.

Zia laughs, “Hah! You all just see what happens if you get close to me!”

Fianna takes her chance to make a run for the middle line, dragging Corus behind her. She reactivates her Strength contract to give herself some extra grip, and dashes. Burdened by Corus’ weight, she doesn’t get quite to the midline, but she only has about thirty feet to go.

Gillyflower spends her entire turn getting up.

Mountain Man turns as Corus is dragged off, but Marcella is in between him and Corus and Fianna. He takes a few large strides, activating a familiar looking strength contract on the way, and then aims a haymaker at Marcella. The blow can be heard all over the arena, it lands so squarely, and Marcella is thrown to the ground.

Jillian takes the opportunity to fly at Zia, though she is not aiming to hit as she did before with Marcella.

Zia picks the sword up out of the sand, holding it in front of her. Zia thinks, ‘Okay, okay, Hank can protect me, but I’ll be ready … and this gives me a hand to unmake her armor.’ She braces herself with the sword, and then is almost rocked by an intense vision of bamboo sprouting, protecting, forming a circle around her. She feel safe, warm, protected. She opens her eyes and indeed, surrounding her is a little bamboo hut. Everyone else sees bamboo appear to flow from the sword, flowing in a circle to rise and around her. Zia gasps. “Marcella!!!!! Why didn’t you tell me this was a magic sword!!!!!!”

A string of confused Gaelic profanities stream from the other side of the field. Marcella’s eyes go wide when she sees the bamboo surrounding Zia. “Wow, I guess it likes you!” she says with glee.

Gillyflower, Jillian, and Corus manage to keep from getting too startled, but Mountain Man just stops over Marcella’s prone figure and stares at the hut. He lets out a low whistle. “Cool.”

The crowd is surprised. Everyone hears a lot of “Wow! what kind of sword can do that?” One person yells loudly, “Did the Queen give you that sword Marcella Flamelicker?!”

At the insult, Zia, inside her little hut, yells, “Why don’t you say that to Marcella’s face down here on the sands! Or better yet, say it to me! I’ll unmake every stitch you’re wearing!” Marcella makes a rude gesture in the direction of the person who made the “flamelicker” comment.

The other team noticed the insult, and don’t seem very happy with the crowd. Gillyflower and Jillian in particular look furious.

Marcella spends her turn getting to her feet, taking advantage of Mountain Man’s distraction. “That blade is straight from Arcadia, I don’t need any favors to get ahead!” Marcella calls back to the person in the crowd.

Corus becomes spends her turn creating an astoundingly bright light centered on where Fianna is standing. Blinded, Corus is able to use the distraction to pull out of Fianna’s grip and move several feet back towards her circle.

Hank jumps at Jillian again, pulling her out of the air in a crushing grab. The breath whooshes out of Jillian’s lungs as Hank plucks her out of the air.

Fianna can be heard swearing up a storm inside the nimbus of light before she turns and dashes out and manages to snag Corus before she can move further away. She grapples her again successfully, but they are farther from the center line now, about fifty feet away.

Gillyflower makes a run at Corus and Fianna, and tries to pull Corus out of Fianna’s arms. There is a brief tug of war with Corus as the prize, but Gillyflower can’t budge her teammate.

Mountain Man abruptly realizes he’s not been paying attention, and starts charging Fianna in an all-out attack. He can’t quite make it to her, but he’s almost there.

Jillian tries and fails to get out of Hank’s arms.

Marcella holds up a hand towards Mountain Man and closes her eyes. For a dizzying moment, she is sharing the senses of his bones. She asks the bones for a favor once she is connected to them, both through their magical link and by yelling “Freeze!” out loud. She wants his bones to stop moving or cooperating with his muscles. He stops dead in his tracks. He looks absolutely terrified, but not in pain.

Corus tries to break Fianna’s hold on her once more but fails.

Hank squeezes Jillian tighter. With a sigh, Jillian’s eyes roll up in her head and she falls unconscious.

Once again, Fianna activates her strength contract, and tries to drag Corus away from Gillyflower. She succeeds, but she can’t move any farther. Gillyflower tries once more to grab Corus, but she isn’t able to get a good grip on her.

Mountain Man still cannot move. Jillian is unconscious.

Zia, still holding the bamboo sword, is frustrated by not being able to see, though she does appreciate the protection. Since the sword had responded to her fear before, she thinks at it, ‘A window to see through would be really nice.’ The bamboo hut shivers and Zia feels it take a glamour from her and a small window forms. Zia looks out it and thanks the sword.

Marcella re-focuses the contract on Mountain Man, then runs up to attack Gillyflower. She slashes through Gillyflower’s armor as she runs up to where the three of them are fighting.

Corus again attempts to get out, and fails, and falls back on creating another one of the bursts of glowing light centered on herself. The other one winks out.

Hank carries Jillian with him (carefully, not still causing damage) since he doesn’t want her to wake up right next to Zia, but move back towards the center.

Fianna is able to drag Corus easily out of Gillyflower’s light grip—especially now that she’s been distracted by Marcella’s attack. She runs back towards the center until she’s only about ten yards away from the midline.

Gillyflower breaks from Marcella’s attack and dashes after Corus and Fianna but doesn’t quite reach them. Mountain Man is still frozen.

Zia picks up the explody gun, aiming it out her little window. The bomb hits Gillyflower and sticks with another bruising hit. Gillyflower stumbles in the middle of running at the impact. Jillian is unconscious.

Marcella re-focuses the contract on Mountain Man again, then runs forward to try and get between Gillyflower and Fianna. She runs up and lunges for Gillyflower, trying to hold her back from Fianna, but she can’t quite get a grip on her.

Corus attempts to break free again, but can’t. Fianna runs herself and Corus over the midline.

The crowd roars at their victory, though a few people clearly wish the fight had gone on longer. Ritter Rime declares that Vogelfrei has won.

Amy, once again, nearly falls out of the stands cheering. Without Hank there, she has to steady herself. Iris is standing as well. She can’t bring herself to shout, but she is more than happy it’s over, not to mention that their team won.

Zia, holding the bamboo sword, tries to convince it to let her out. It does not seem so inclined. Marcella walks over to see if she can help Zia out of the bamboo hut.

Hank, now that the match is over, immediately begins checking on Jillian’s status.

Gillyflower is turning around, going, “Hey, could someone get these off of me? Before they explode?”

Fianna lets go of Corus, and then addresses Gillyflower. “Knowing our Lamb, it most certainly does not come off. You might have to actually take your clothes off to avoid the blasts.”

Zia yells, “Yes, sorry, just take off the shirt!!! And throw it away from you! Not at someone else!”

“This is a one piece!” Gillyflower yells, offended, and then makes a mad dash for the arena floor entrances. Shortly, a red and yellow piece of cloth is tossed onto the sands where it is soon reduced to ruined rags when the sticky bombs go off.

Zia shrugs. “All’s fair in love and war. And speaking of … hey Sword, let me out!” The bamboo hut shivers a bit and the window goes away. “Marcella!!!! Your sword is crazy!” Zia shouts. Fianna starts laughing.

Marcella walks up to the hut. “Hey sword, the match is over,” she says calmly. “It’s okay to let Zia out now. And the sword isn’t crazy, Zia, just protective.” She’s grinning. “Sorry for not telling you, I didn’t know for sure it was magical until it reacted to you. One of the freehold weapons experts looked at it for me when I first got out of the Hedge, and wasn’t sure if it had abilities or not.”

“I’m getting the protective part.” Holding the sword in both hands, Zia thinks calm feelings at it. ‘Hey, the bomb has gone off, I am sure that that is what you were waiting for…’ The hut shimmers again and fades away.

Marcella gives her a small wave. “See, just looking out for you,” she says, still amused.

Zia sheaths the bamboo sword, telling it thank you mentally. “Yep, that it is. Maybe you should take it back…it seems to be moderately valuable.”

“I was wondering if it was waiting for someone who needed its protection more than me. I haven’t gotten it to do anything like that for me before,” Marcella shrugs.

Ritter Rime is standing at the center of the field looking a bit displeased by the ruckus. “If the winners will come to the center please!” he says grumpily.

Marcella heads for the center. Hank makes for the center as well, after making sure that Jillian is not in any immediate danger of any sort. Zia walks to the center, after putting the explody gun away. Fianna walks to the center.

Once everyone is at the center, the announcer says, “Changelings! I give you Heimdalzunft’s Vogelfrei of Aachen! The winners of this match!!!! Let’s give them a round of applause!” The crowd cheers.

Zia gives a little curtsey. Marcella bows gracefully and dismisses her bone shard contract. Hank bows less gracefully, and returns to his normal size. Fianna bows, though not terribly gracefully.

Amy who was not, in fact, cheering through the entire post-match kerfuffle, starts up again at full volume.

After the cheering dies down, Ritter Rime motions all of them off the field. Zia happily walks off the field. Marcella heads off the field, still looking pleased. “Good job guys!” Hank follows them. Fianna does as well.

They are directed back to their changing room to change. “Well…that was…not as horrible as I expected. You all did a great job!” Zia says once they are behind closed doors.

“You know we have to do it again, right?” Fianna says dryly. “Also I need a better strategy for the next match than ‘tug o’war.”

“You were great with the sticky bombs, Zia!” Marcella says. “And Hank, great defending. You really had my back with Jillian there.” She turns and claps her hand on Fianna’s shoulder. “And great job with the strongman act, Fianna!” Marcella looks thoughtful at Fianna’s ‘tug o’war’ comment. “Yeah, we probably should come up with something more to that.”

Hank nods, “Something to think about.”

Game 36: Day 4 of the Games


Marcella and Fianna both compete in and just barely win their no-holds-barred singles matches. After that, the group watches two 8 on 8 Lambswool matches, then Hank, Zia, Marcella, and Fianna discuss strategy for their 4 on 4 Lambswool match the next day.


Schedule for 7/17/13, Day 4 of the Games:
9:15 – No holds barred singles 1H
10:00 – No holds barred doubles 1E
10:45 – Weaponry singles 1C
11:30 – 8 on 8 Lambswool match
12:15 – 8 on 8 Lambswool match
1:00 – 4 on 4 Lambswool match
1:45 – 4 on 4 Lambswool match
2:30 – Long jump qualifier
3:15 – No holds barred singles 1I
4:00 – No holds barred doubles 1F
4:45 – Skeet finals
5:30-7:00 – Footraces

Everyone attending the games today comes to Marcella’s match. The group gets amazing seats, front and center in the best seats they don’t need to pay money for. Zia has her craft supplies ready. Everyone gets there around 8:30 for Marcella and Fianna’s 9:15 matches.

Marcella goes down to check in around 8:45, since she knows she’s supposed to be there about half an hour before. Fianna goes to check in as well.

When the two of them go to check in, the man who had checked them previously is not there. Instead, Madoc of the Destroyers is at the table. As they walk towards the table he says, “Good morning! Here to check in?”

Marcella walks up to the table. “Yes, Marcella Boneblade and Fianna, both for the no-holds-barred singles.” She nods at him. “Good match yesterday, congratulations on your win.”

As he rummages through the papers, he replies, “Thank you! I saw on the lists that you’ll be competing in the Lambswool matches. It is rare for fresh changelings to enter.” He takes his pen and checks off both of their names, making a small notation.

Marcella grins. “We thought it would be a fun game to try. If we make it long enough to face your team, that will be an honor in itself, but I’m not sure about our chances at that.”

“You never know! Well, I wish you both luck in this and the Lambswool! You’re all set,” he says. Marcella thanks him and heads over to the waiting area. Fianna as well.

Shortly, the now-familiar voice of the announcer blares over the speaker. “Welcome to the fourth day of the Summer Games! We have a full docket of exciting and bloody matches for you to watch today, so settle yourselves in, folks, we’re kicking today off with a bang with everyone’s favorite, the no-holds barred singles! Who will come out on top, and who will be carried off to the healers? Who knows? LET’S FIND OUT.”

The first round of four is called, but neither Fianna and Marcella are in this round. The fights don’t last very long—a feathered fighter with a bow drops their opponent in less than a minute in one notable match—and the Arena is soon cleared for the next round.

Marcella and Fianna’s names are both called in the next round. Marcella is matched up against a mountain of a man calling himself Eli Battlehewn carrying two gigantic swords, and Fianna is matched with another Fairest dressed to the nines in a dueling uniform reminiscent of something out of an old French court.

Hank perks up a little bit at the French court outfit, though of course he’s cheering for Fianna. Zia sits with an embroidery hoop. She is making another set of towels, this time themed for Vogelfrei, Marcella, Fianna, and Iris, to see if they sell. They will be very lovely towels that give a bonus to cleaning, but don’t do shiny things.

Marcella clasps Fianna’s hand and wishes her luck as they head out, and nods courteously to her opponent as they walk out into the ring.

Before the match officially starts, Eli Battlehwen pulls his two swords off his back—they are zweihanders, and he holds one in each basket-sized hand with ease. He smiles fiercely, and says, “I have seen you fight in previous matches. You are good. I think I am better. Why don’t we find out the proper way?”

Marcella grins fiercely back, drawing her onyx sword. “Sounds good to me.”

As Zia sees that Marcella’s opponent will be fighting with two swords, she says quietly to Hank, “Oh dear, do you think that this will go very well … is it hard to fight against someone with two weapons when you are using one?”

The announcer’s voice cracks over the speakers. “BEGIN!” Marcella’s skin hardens as she grows more bone plating armor. She darts in and slices Battlehewn across the ribs almost as soon as the announcer speaks, scoring a deep hit.

Hank frowns. “Typically, yes. However, it can depend on the fighting techniques used by each combatant. Marcella will likely count on being more maneuverable than Battlehewn.”

Battlehewn roars, but he looks more excited than angry. He swings the first of the giant swords at Marcella, and whiffs. He swings the second, and that one slams into her off arm.

Marcella roars back nearly as loud, and hits the arm that just hit her, scoring another hit. She also looks like she is enjoying herself, despite (or maybe because of) the intensity of the fight.

Zia eeps a little as Marcella gets hit. “Well, I certainly hope she does alright, that arm doesn’t look good … I hate watching people beat each other up …”

Hank shrugs at that, “It is pretty much the national sport back home. I mean, not this level of bloody.”

The Ogre lets out a thunderous laugh, takes a couple quick steps back to take advantage of his reach with the longer swords, and swings at Marcella again. The first strike scores a small hit on Marcella’s upper left thigh, and the second misses entirely. He is just out of her reach now.

“But to step into the Arena knowing you will be hurt, to do it over and over again…” Zia trails off as she has a little sigh of relief as one of his attacks misses.

Marcella sprints in close again, trying to keep her range close and deny him that reach. She spins behind him and slashes his back through a chink in his armor. He roars, and pivots to face her, but he’s looking pretty worse for the wear. He catches Marcella in the face with the hilt of one of the zweihanders, and the nasty point cuts her, and the other sword comes around to graze her.

Zia is no longer embroidering. “Oh dear, I hope she can see.” Hank nods. He is leaning forward in his seat, watching the match intensely now.

Marcella yells back and slashes across his front, ignoring the blood streaming down her face. Eli finally topples, the swords sliding out of his huge hands to rest on the sandy floor of the Arena. Marcella breathes for a moment, then lifts her sword triumphantly.

“Yay! Marcella!” Zia cheers quietly, more out of relief than anything else. Hank cheers.

Once she is sure she won’t fall over, Marcella leans down to make sure he’s still breathing. She is briefly alarmed, thinking she might have killed him outright, but judging by the medical team realizes he is not in fact dead. A team of changelings comes on to the field to bring him back to the infirmary. They bustle Marcella off as well.

While this has all been going on, Fianna has been having her own fight. When it begins, Fianna takes the first strike. A quick strike to the ribs does two damage to her opponent, who is carrying a rapier. Her opponent counters with incredible speed, and scores a bloody line into Fianna’s ribs.

Fianna responds with a strike to her opponent’s weapon arm that hits solidly at the shoulder. But it leaves her overextended, and her opponent stabs her through the leg.

Hank jerks, startled. That seems to be the worst hit any of the team has taken so far in the matches.

Now limping, and bleeding heavily from her leg, Fianna launches an uppercut at the chin of her opponent. He manages to almost pull back in time, but she still grazes him. He’s not looking too terribly good himself. His perfect outfit is torn and bloodied, and that last hit mussed his hair.

Zia is grumbling to herself, “Fianna, don’t go and get yourself killed before I’ve gotten you in that dress I’m working on!” She is clearly worried and expressing it with … rough affection.

Another strike from Fianna’s opponent takes her across the other side of the ribs, deeper this time.

In a last effort, Fianna launches a full on attack straight at the man’s nose. It connects solidly, and he drops, nose streaming blood. She stands there for half a second, breathing very heavily and streaming blood from her leg, but then she raises her hand in victory.

Zia nods in satisfaction and goes back to her embroidery

Changelings come to carry off her opponent, and one clearly offers to help Fianna walk, which she refuses. She has finished just after Marcella.

Marcella glances back at Fianna’s fight as she is led off the field. She gives Fianna a grin and small salute as she leaves the field. She has been in the healer’s room for approximately two minutes when she sees a very bloody Fianna walk in. Marcella raises a hand. “Hey, good match?”

Fianna nods. “Good match. Poncy little bugger certainly knew how to use that pigsticker. I’ve got a few holes that weren’t there before.”

Marcella grins, relieved to hear that Fianna sounds like her usual self. “Yeah, Battlehewn got in some good slices with those zweihanders. Glad to see you still on your feet.”

Hank goes down to check on them. There isn’t actually much useful for him to do, given the healers and medical equipment, but he hovers like an extremely oversized hen.

Next up are the no-holds barred doubles and a round of weaponry singles. Marcella and Fianna are both pretty hurt, but not fighting again today, so they are getting healed using the slightly slower methods than the other days. They will be released from the healing room in the middle of the first 8 on 8 match.

Zia completes her set of six Vogelfrei-themed towels. She is very pleased with them and once Hank comes back, she pops down to the vendor who has been selling her and Amy’s wares. The vendor is not initially eager to sell them, but she reminds her that the Queen herself acknowledge Marcella and Iris’ win and that she would be the only person with Vogelfrei merchandise. At that she capitulates and agrees to sell them.

Hank comes down to find Fianna and Marcella in beds next to each other having just been healed. A doctor is fussing with some bandages on Fianna. “Are you both all right?”

Marcella smiles and waves. “Hi Hank. We’re fine, just had a few exciting matches. Thanks for coming.”

“But of course.”

The doctor helping Fianna haphumphs a little bit. “About as all right as anyone who throws themselves to the lions. But they’ll be shipshape soon enough, Hank.” Hank knows the doctor to be Laurel, one of the shift heads.

Fianna giggles. “I feel floaty.” Marcella knows that they gave her a goblin fruit that’s basically magical anaesthetic so they could work on her leg. However, like many goblin fruit, it has a downside. In this case, like laughing gas.

Marcella winks at Hank. “Yep, right as rain soon enough.”

Hank nods at her. “Thanks, Laurel. How has this shift been overall? Do you need anything?”

Laurel shrugs, “Well enough, we’re good here though, you enjoy the Games with your friends.” She finishes with Fianna and admonishes her, “Now! You stay here until you don’t feel floaty at all, understood young lady?”

“I’m not a lady, I’m a star.”

Lauren is not fazed. “And I’m a magical healing tree. But your body is a lady’s. Treat it like one.” With that she heads off.

Fianna looks comically hurt. “I thought you were supposed to treat ladies nice,” she mumbles.

Hank heads back upstairs. After the weaponry duels comes the first 8 on 8 match for the day. The teams are an Aachen team including Knight Ryujiin and Knight Therese and a team from England. Both teams are clearly very practiced. The Aachen team divides into three parts plus the Lamb and focuses on pressure on the other side, slowly taking various members of other team out of play. Their Lamb is clearly using the dream contract Amy has and summons a steady stream of useful objects. The English team has a more defense-based strategy with their best two fighters making steady inroads towards the Lamb. Their Lamb creates a wall of vines that fight back. It is a long match, but the Aachen team wins.

Marcella and Fianna see the tail end of it. Fianna has stopped being off in lalaland and is now rather grumpy and a little dizzy. Marcella asks Hank about how the earlier parts of the match went, and closely watches the parts she is present for. Hank gives her a brief rundown when she arrives upstairs, and then goes through some of the plays with her when the match finishes.

The next match is a Koln team versus a team made up of players from a variety of freeholds. The second team is all older changelings. The group hears someone behind them say that they come together every year just to fight a few matches, and they were all in Arcadia together. And indeed, despite being a wide variety of kinds of changeling, they all have a sense of sameness.

The Koln team runs like a professional team. Their Lamb is a sand elemental who spends most of the match doing crazy things with the sand of the Arena. Their strategy seems to be very complex, more like a football team with the calling of plays. It is largely effective, but they can’t quite reach the other team’s Lamb.

The second team is clearly older, depending on kith abilities and contracts more than athleticism, but the years that they have played together is evident. They move like they know what the other is going to do before they do it. Their strategy is simple and consistent, a clean division of labor, with the Lamb protected by two people. They win the match when, with no outside indication anyone else can see, all seven of the not-Lamb players rush the other team’s Lamb while their Lamb pushes everyone away from him with a contract.

Marcella is intrigued by these changelings who were all in Arcadia together, and wonders if they escaped together like her and the chess pieces. She asks the person behind them for more information about the older team.

The person behind them, a grizzled hob who is munching on odd blue chips, replies, “Oh them? They’ve been around a long time. They play in this event every year and a few other games too. All of them came out of the hedge together, but live all over Europe.”

Marcella thanks him, and watches the team closely for any indication of what kind of Durances they might have had. The team as a whole has a sameness to them, like they were all either chosen for looking similar or made to look that way. All of them manifest their kith in a lovely but stylized way.

After the second 8 on 8, Hank will turn to the rest of the group and say, “Is there anything else anyone wants to see today? That was the end of the events I was particularly interested in.”

Marcella usually watches most of the events, but she is less interested in the footraces, so she is willing to head home a little earlier than usual, if not immediately. “I’d be interested in seeing the no holds barred singles and doubles that happen later this afternoon, but if the rest of you would prefer to head back, we can do that instead,” she says. “I would like to speak with you and Fianna and Zia about our Lambswool match, Hank.”

Zia looks up from her set of intricate, shiny Nodons handtowels. “I can leave whenever,” she says.

Hank is interested in watching the 4 on 4 duels, so the group stays for some of the other events. Their 4 on 4 match is tomorrow at 11:30.

Once they are back at the freehold and ready to discuss Lambswool strategy, Marcella offers her room at the freehold. “Or we can see if we can get one of the conference rooms, I’m not sure how busy those are during the Games.” She knows that two of them are currently essentially extra space for organizing the games, and others are hosting various events, so it would be potentially hard to get one right now.

Hank shrugs, “Whatever is easiest. Zia, is there anything you need to go over with us about our uniforms?”

“The uniforms will mostly take care of themselves, but I can bring them to the meeting,” she replies.

“Alright, how about we meet in my room when we get back to the freehold, then,” Marcella suggests. Hank nods.

When they get back to the freehold, Marcella and Fianna take some time to pretty themselves up. Then Marcella, Fianna, Zia, and Hank convene in Marcella’s room. Zia pushes in a rolling garment carts with four garment bags on it. Marcella looks impressed by the amount of preparation Zia is putting into this match. Hank starts to pull all of his notes and play charts out of his bag.

“Thank you all for agreeing to participate in this match,” Marcella starts, leaning against her desk. “Zia and Hank, I know you weren’t especially excited about doing this, so I appreciate your participation.” She nods in their directions. “So, Zia has agreed to be our Lamb. I was tentatively thinking that we’d designate Hank as her primary defender, and Fianna and I would go for the opposing team’s Lamb. Hank, how do you feel about that? What kinds of contracts do you have that would be relevant in this match?”

Hank nods, “That is what I was thinking as well. As my skills are primarily in close-range, unarmed combat, it makes more sense for me to be on the defense.”

Marcella nods. “Glad to hear it. Any contracts we should know about?”

He continues, “I have a few contracts that might be relevant to the match, though not significant game-changing ones. It is possible I could use Witches’ Intuition, though I am not sure of its application. If anyone is struggling they should fall back to me, because the Gift of Warm Breathe ought to allow us to prolong the fight past what might otherwise be possible.” He suddenly remembers, “I think I have already spoken with Marcella and Zia, but Fianna – you should offer me something to eat or drink tomorrow before the match. That is the catch for that contract.”

Fianna looks concerned. “Uh. Do I have to cook it myself, because … that might be a bad idea.”

Hank continues, “Transfigure the Flesh ought to help me, as well. I’ve already spoke with Zia about the possibility of working the catch into our uniforms.” He looks at Fianna. “No, it just relies upon the giving and receiving of some form of sustenance. I do not believe any of my other Contracts will be of particular use.”

“The ones you’ve already mentioned do sound useful, though,” Marcella says. “Zia, I’m hoping you won’t come into melee range of any of our opponents, but I wanted to offer you one of my swords in case you need it on the field.” She holds out her bamboo sword. “I know you have an ability to master any weapon if you practice with it first, but I’m not sure what the time limits on that are.”

Zia takes the sword reluctantly, but seems to instinctively hold the sword correctly. She looks down at the sword and her hand and puts the sword to the side. “Yes, I can certainly gain basic proficiency with any weapon I choose. I can do it before the match. I was planning on using these primarily.” She gets up and goes the garment rack. She takes out two long boxes. She opens the boxes and inside are two gun-like things, both enameled in rainbow colors with a batik theme. Marcella’s eyes widen slightly. Hank raises his eyebrows.

Zia pulls them out. One is smaller, closer to the size of a large handgun. “This one is a laser gun. The lasers are rainbow, naturally.” She takes out the next one. This one is bigger and has a large back end. “This one shoots little sticky bombs that go off about 30 seconds after sticking to the target.” She smiles at everyone, but is clearly still uncomfortable with the weapons.

Marcella whistles low. “Wow … I guess you have been busy, Zia.” Fianna glances at the garment bags with the uniforms with trepidation. Hank nods and Marcella’s comment.

“Oh, I just decorated these and helped plan the guns. A friend made the guns themselves. I am sure I could make guns … but I’d prefer not to explode myself in the Arena,” Zia replies. “I’m happy to carry the sword if you wish, Marcella,” she adds.

Marcella shrugs. “Whatever you are comfortable with. I don’t need three on me at once.”

“Guns are a bad idea at close range, anyways,” Fianna mumbles. “Especially that explodey one.”

“Fianna, we should also think about our strategy for going after the opposing Lamb. They will likely have a defender or two in addition to the Lamb, so I was thinking one of us could focus on holding off the defenders, and one could focus on getting the Lamb out of the circle,” Marcella says.

Fianna ponders for a few moments, then speaks. “Your defensive capabilities are better than mine,” she says. “I’m also faster. It might be best if you could keep the defenders occupied while I run in for the grab. Plus, even if they have a Lamb that’s wicked heavy, like in the match the other day, I can make myself stronger to move them.”

“I have that contract too, but you make a good point about durability. I can take a lot of hits without going down,” Marcella agrees. “That sounds good to me.” She looks over at the garment rack. “Anything we should know about these outfits, Zia?”

Zia smiles, much more excited about this than the weapons. “You should know that they are lovely and engineered to assist with your fighting styles. They are made as armor in and of themselves, no messing up the lovely lines.” She walks over to the garment rack and dramatically unzips all four of the garment bags. The uniforms are a rich blue with subtle green stripes and hints of yellow. Each of them is a tight fitting shirt, practical pants, and for the girls, a short skirt that goes over the pants.

She walks over to the first outfit. “Hank, this is yours! It should help you move more quickly and easily. There is a cap to go with it and it will grow and shrink with you without any damage to the outfit.” Hank gets up to examine his outfit. On the chest of the outfit is a stethoscope in green and a needle. On the back is a ball with a chain that has a broken cuff. Hank runs his fingers carefully over the stethoscope.

“Marcella, here is yours! It will make you stronger! I also made a translucent cover for your crown to protect it and color it to match the outfit! Oh, and Hank, this pull off easily and form into a very small cap!” Zia explains happily.

Marcella steps forward as well and admires the outfit. “Wow, this is amazing, Zia,” she says. The front of her costume has a stylized crown in yellow and green, the back the broken ball and chain.

“Thank you Marcella! Fianna, I hope you like your outfit too! It will make you faster and more agile, as well it cannot be cut by your stars or set on fire!” she says. Fianna’s little skirt has more frills on it than Marcella’s and there are cute little cap sleeves that segue into long sleeves. The front of her uniform has a trio of stars.

Fianna’s eye twitches, but all she says is, “Thanks.”

Marcella glances between Fianna and Zia, but doesn’t comment on Fianna’s attitude. “This will be a huge help, Zia, thank you for putting in all this effort.” She looks around the room. “Any other questions anyone has, or other strategy things we should make sure to discuss before our match?”

“I hope you all like the outfits. They all also have pockets and were made to try to self-heal themselves so that blood loss can be minimized,” Zia adds. No one else has other comments or questions.

Game 35: Day 3 of the Games


The group heads to the Arena for day 3 of the Games, where they watch an exciting match between Nodons and Lurid, Fianna fights in her contracts one-on-one match, they observe a Lambswool 4×4, and Iris participates in the first round of skeet shooting.


That evening, Marcella continues training with her swords, and keeps an eye out for Jonty in the training rooms. She does not explicitly ask after him, however. She plans to stay late, but not long after she arrives, Fianna comes to yell at Marcella and drag her back to her room so she gets more sleep. Marcella also get several people coming up to her in admiration. One of them wonders at her dedication to be back on her feet training so quickly.

Marcella looks slightly chagrined and glances over at Fianna, who is glaring at her from the corner of the training room. “Just working on a new technique,” Marcella says. “I’ve been ordered bed rest for the rest of the night after this.” She has been training with two swords at once for the last few days.

The person nods and says, “Very good. I look forward to seeing your next matches!”

“Well, then, you mind if I stay here and watch, then,” Fianna says pointedly. Marcella thanks the person for their compliment and glares a bit at Fianna.

Iris goes to the shooting range that evening. The other two people at the range congratulate her on her amazing showing at the game. Iris is rather flustered, blushing and concentrating on what she’s doing instead.

Amy makes another effort to try to find where her companions in Arcadia came from before they got taken to Arcadia. The competent one, who is currently assisting one of the doctors, has been doing her best to remember and to help Amy when she can. Amy has been alternately spending time talking to them to try to see if she can get any more information (anything: age when taken, name location, what their school looked like) and then going on the computer to try to put pieces together. She will look in their dreams for clues too, if they agree to it.

Schedule for 7/16, Day 3:
9:15: No-holds barred singles 1D
10:00: No-holds barred doubles 1C
10:45: Contract singles 1A-Fianna
11:30: 4 on 4 Match 1A
12:15: 8 on 8 1A
1:00: No holds barred singles 1E
1:45 No-holds barred doubles 1D
2:30: Skeet Qualifier-Iris
3:15: Weaponry only singles 1B
4:00: 8 on 81B
4:45: 8 on 8 1C
5:30: No holds barred singles 1G
6:15: No holds barred singles 1H

The whole group piles on the early bus and notice that is MUCH fuller than yesterday morning. Amy squeaks into a seat just before the bus leaves that Fianna has saved for her. Hank is a medical shift this morning at the Arena.

Amy is overwhelmed by the number of people, and so is very quiet. Iris is looking around for anything unusual, as always. She feels nervous, so her paranoia kicks in more than usual. She looks around and notices that many people are wearing black shirts with a raised glowy hound in the center with green fire pictured licking around the dog. Iris has a close look at the dog, then quietly asks someone close to her about it.

The person next to her raises an eyebrow. “One of those newbies Aachen is so flooded with? The Autumn Master of the Hedgewall will be competing in the first champion match today, the one at 9:15. Nodons is very popular, I can’t believe you don’t know who he is.”

Iris shrugs. “Yeah, sorry. Seen him once or twice, didn’t know he was that kind of popular.” She forces herself to smile. “I’m glad I got up early then, I’m sure it’s going to be a good match.”

The woman nods, “Of course! I am sure that they make sure the hotshots get to the next round, make the finals more fun, but yeah, Nodons usually puts on a good show.”

The group arrives without incident at the Arena. It is not quite as full as it was the first day, but much fuller than the day before this early in the day. The team does not spot seats as good as they have had before, but do find seats with a good view at one end of the Arena. Marcella leads the way over, then looks around with interest at the crowd.

Zia settles herself in, opens up her crafting bag and begins to work on embroidering hand towels with a stylized version of Kenna’s sword and Heimdalzunft Summer Games 2013. She offers Amy the run of her craft bag. Iris looks over at the bag as well. “Iris, if you’d like you are welcome to craft while we watch,” Zia offers.

“I was going to take notes, but I guess while nothing interesting is happening … Thanks!” Iris has a look in into the bag, searching for anything unrelated to needles. Zia offers her a variety of materials to pick from. Iris picks up some clay, curious about the material and well aware she’ll probably need to reshape it a lot to get something half decent.

Amy is interested in Zia’s embroidering, and decides to try to embroider Ring. She chooses a hand towel to embroider.

Zia makes a really lovely set of six hand towels with a set of embroidery on it. The hand towels give a +1 to cleaning rolls, and when being used, the swords sets itself on magical fire.

Amy tries valiantly to embroider Ring, but she didn’t secure the thread very well or sketch out the shape she was trying to make and it looks to be a bit of a mess. She spends the next ten minutes carefully picking out the thread.

As Iris picks up some clay, the announcer says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the first match of the day will begin in five minutes.”

Iris tries to start crafting, and the clay slips out of her hands and lands square on the head and shoulders of the person sitting in front of her.

Amy gasps, and then giggles. Zia pauses in her embroidery to sigh and then goes back to it, trusting that the team can handle this. Iris is terribly embarrassed and goes to apologize – and retrieve the clay if possible. The changeling in question, a very delicate looking plant changeling, turns around, looking a mix of terribly confused and offended.

“I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean to, I’m just so clumsy…” Iris is turning red again.

“Oh no, it’s ok,” the changeling says, cleaning it out of her vine-like hair. “Surprising, yes, but accidents happen. Besides, I quite like clay.” She hands the clay bits back to Iris.

“Thanks… I should probably put it away now,” Iris says.

Zia offers Iris the craft bag again, “You can try something else if you want.” Peering into the bag, she decides, knitting or crocheting is probably the safest option.

The announcer begins, “Good morning, good morning, my ladies, gents, beasties that bite in the night, welcome to the third day of the Games! It is my eternal pleasure to introduce to you all the participants in today’s first match!” He lists out the other four match participants. “And now, the match I know you’ve waiting for, the reason why you are here so early, I give you, Nodons! Autumn’s Master of the Hedgewall and his opponent, God bless him, Lurid Thunderbolt!”

The crowds screams and chants Nodon’s name. There is a small contingent in one corner waving signs for Thunderbolt, but the group can’t hear them over everyone else.

Amy puts the “embroidery” down, deciding she can finish picking it out once she’s seen what all the hubbub is about. As the match starts, Iris does a passable job of starting a scarf with green yarn. She carefully puts her small project down and withdraws the notepad and pen from her small bag as the match is about to start. Marcella applauds with the crowd, looking interested. Zia continues her embroidery (those six towels will take a bit) and watches the pageantry with interest.

Nodons walks out onto the field, wearing all black clothing that seems light against his dark skin. He is carrying a sword, but wearing no visible armor. Lurid Thunderbolt, a skinny man whose hair frizzes with the electricity running through him, runs onto the sand doing several rolls as he makes his way to his spot. He has a brace of throwing knives on his back and what look like odd brass knuckles with short sharp metal points on each knuckle. At his hip he has a shortsword.

Marcella examines both combatants closely, intent on their match. Iris does the same, in fact she has started to take notes. Fianna is mostly watching Nodons, as she remembers him from the exhibitions, but she keeps an eye on the new guy. Mostly because it’s kind of hard not to.

The bell rings and the other matches start. Lurid and Nodons look at each other for a moment, appearing to assess one another. Then they both attack with their swords, blocking and slashing. For the first minute or so, no one seems to have the upper hand, then a jolt of electricity jumps from the brass knuckles to the swords and Nodons is blown backwards, though he stays on his feet. The crowds gasps and those poor souls cheering Lurid redouble their efforts. The group can hear them now.

There is only pen scribbling from Iris. Marcella sits forward, wondering whether Lurid has any chance. She glances around at the crowd to see about how many fans he has in comparison to Nodons. Lurid has maybe…40 fans condensed into one place and maybe another 50 spread out. Nodons has…like 3/4s of the crowd really excited about him. Iris is making a note of it, just in case. Fianna is going to wait to see Nodons’ response before getting too excited.

With a smile, Nodons charges back, moving with remarkable agility for a man of his size. Sickly green fire collects around his hands and marches over the sword. Now every time their swords clash, the green fire seems to take a piece out of the other man’s sword. Lurid seems to have expected this and when the sword finally breaks into two, he throws the sword aside and rolls away, a zap of lightning bringing up the sand around the two so they cannot see them well for a moment. But when the sand settles, the pair are brawling, Lurid zapping at Nodons with his electric brass knuckles, Nodons letting the sickly green fire do its work.

Marcella is focused on their match, keeping just enough of an eye on the other matches that she’d probably recognize the participants, but she’s mostly just impressed by these two fighters.

“Ooh.” Amy seems impressed by the light show. Iris is back to focusing on the match entirely, trying to burn it into memory for complete note making as soon as possible. Fianna just whistles.

The brass knuckles are taking a beating and Lurid seems to be getting tired, but Nodons seems unfatigued, the quick flashes of lightning seem to be having very little effect. One brass knuckle entirely eaten away the fire, Lurid throws it unexpectedly into Nodons face and dashes away to a far distance from Nodons. He spreads out his hands and screams, “I call the thunder!” and a light bolt comes of the blue sky, but misses Nodons by a foot. Unphased by this Nodons smiles and howls. As he howls he morphs into a large black dog with flaming green eyes. His feet seems to ooze the green fire, melting the sand into glass.

Now it’s Marcella’s turn to let out a low whistle. Iris is still absorbed in doing her best to not miss anything and make accurate notes, as soon as she can look away and not miss anything.

“Woah.” Amy thinks this fight is way more interesting than the others. Her team not included, of course.

As Nodons takes a moment to recover from the change, Lurid throws a throwing knife squarely into one broad shoulder. This doesn’t stop the charge and Lurid is throwing those knives, with varied accuracy as Nodons charges him. It is not enough as the great black dog puts both paws to Lurid’s shoulders pushes him over and opens his mouth with those nice sharp teeth. Lurid is screaming with the pain of his weight on him and the fire now on his skin.

Rapt attention still, Iris doesn’t look surprised. Marcella narrows her eyes, wondering how far Nodons is going to go.

The dog cocks its head, one big green eye looking at Lurid, waiting. Lurid gasps out, “I yield” and the dog get off of him and melds back into Nodons, who looks very much like he just ready for the day rather than fought a pitched match. Black does wonders for hiding burn marks. Lurid lies in the sand gasping. Nodons runs one hand over the fire and it goes out. Lurid thanks him and Nodons helps him stand. The two raise their hands together and the crowd is soooooo excited. Those Lurid fans are cheering at the good sportsmanship. The other matches are mostly finished, though one continues all the way at the end.

Marcella applauds the match loudly, impressed at how long Lurid held out against Nodons. Iris looks at the crowd as much as the two contestants then starts making notes again. Amy cheers as well. Zia claps, pleased to see that the contestants approached it with such honor. Amy returns to picking out the mess. Iris produces over two pages of complicated notes in a fairly messy scrawl.

The announcer says, “What a show! Nodons! Is the winner of the match against Lurid. But ladies and gents, lets get a cheer for both of theeeeeeeeem!” The crowd is screaming and going crazy. The match at the end finishes. Nodons helps Lurid off the field after a few victory handpumps.

Fianna leaves to go check in for her match. Marcella wishes her luck. Amy also calls, “Good luck!” after Fianna. Iris is too busy to notice Fianna leaving, but hopes she will be alright.

A few minutes later the announcer calls the participants for the doubles match. One of the names they recognize: Varecia. She is paired with another woman with goat or satyr characteristics. The fight is not terribly exciting, as far as fights go, but Varecia and her partner win.

Iris takes notes again, but doesn’t produce nearly as much text this time around. Zia cheers some for Varecia, but is carefully completing the last of the hand towels during the doubles matches. Marcella cheers for Varecia as well.

Hank is in the medical area, helping the people from the previous match get patched up. He heals a young man from Belgium who has a rather nasty wound to his calf and foot. Hank stays in the medical area through Fianna’s fight, so he can be there to help if necessary, and then join the group after that to catch part of the 4 on 4.

A few minutes following, and Fianna’s event, the Contract duels, are announced. Marcella cheers when Fianna’s name is called. Four pairs of fighters walk on to the field. Iris only throws a cursory glance at the other three pairs before focusing on Fianna.

Fianna’s contract duel turns out to be against a Sand Elemental named Dust, a young man whose hair and eyes and golden skin all seem to be the same light grainy golden texture. Both combatants are wearing small necklaces with large gemlike things hanging from them. The announcer explains that to ensure that competitors only attack each other when a contract is in use, the necklaces will glow green when the wearer is using one, and stay dun when they are not. Participants may be attacked when they are not using a contract, but the attacker must always have at least one contract in use.

When the announcer calls the start of the match, Dust activates his first contract, clearly an Elemental contract, and surrounds himself with a miniature sandstorm. Fianna responds by doing the same, except she becomes covered in fire of blue, purple, and white tones. Some of the group notice that this seems to confuse Dust. He did not expect a Fairest to use Elemental Contracts. Both of their necklaces are glowing a steady green color, where they were previously dark.

He gets over his confusion, however, and makes an attack with his sand-sheathed fist. He misses, and Fianna returns her own punch. She hits, but it doesn’t seem to have been a terribly strong one. The two continue to fight this way for a short period, but no more hits are landed

Then, Fianna changes tactics. Instead of attacking, she cancels her contract, and her necklace goes dark. Confused, Dust throws a punch at her—and actually connects relatively solidly—and Fianna responds by activating another contract. Her necklace begins to glow again. It looks as though her muscles become more defined, and she begins attacking again. Marcella notice that this is the first contract in the Stone tree, because the last time Fianna used it she was fighting right next to her. Fianna’s next hit connects hard, and Dust staggers back a few feet.

He circles warily, then activates a contract that causes the sand of the Arena floor to fly up into Fianna’s eyes and circle around her distractingly. Fianna tries to hit him again, but the sand makes it hard to hit, and he is able to land another hit on her, pretty seriously this time. Fianna strikes out again, and hits him right across the jaw, and he drops to the Arena floor. The sand circling Fianna drops as well, though much of it falls on her, and she sneezes. She looks bruised, and she has tons of tiny little scratches from the sand, but she’s won. Dust and Fianna are the last of the four pairs in the Arena to finish, and she raises her hand in triumph, then is escorted by a brusque paramedic off the field.

Marcella cheers throughout her match, and gets a little louder when he sends the sand into her eyes. She stands when Fianna wins, cheering as loud as she can. Amy is standing up, hands around her mouth, cheering as loudly as she can, for Fianna’s first match. Iris cheers for Fianna as well, but goes back to the notes as soon as she has exited the Arena. When they finish, Amy seems really excited. Marcella’s been hurt worse in these games, but she still looks a bit concerned for Fianna, and is glad to see her delivered into Hank’s care.

Hank is in the paramedic area when Fianna arrives. He has already mentioned that he knows her to the other paramedics, so he is the one who tends to her. Fianna gives Hank a cockeyed grin. “Hey, it’s my favorite doctor. I’m not that hurt, don’t worry.”

Hank looks her over with a wry expression, “I think that I shall be the one to judge that.” Hank can see that Fianna has two cracked ribs, hundreds of miniature lacerations on her arms and face from the sand, and what will become an impressive collection of bruises if not treated. Her skin is covered in smears and pinpricks of blood. Most of her damage is bruising, not cuts, so she falls under the minimum care section, which means quick heal and release. Hank tends to her ribs and makes sure her cuts are disinfected.

As Hank finishes up with helping Fianna, he checks in with the person running the medical area. “It looks like this is pretty much where my shift was supposed to end. Do you need me further at the moment, or can I head out with my teammate?”

Hank is given permission to leave. He thanks them, confirms what his next shift will be, helps Fianna get up in a way that doesn’t jar her ribs too much, and helps her out of the medical area. When they reach the group, Fianna says, “Hi everyone! I found a Hank!”

Marcella grins and waves. “Glad you’re looking a little less bruised! Good match!”

“Yeah… I wouldn’t want to go in there,” Iris says.

“Eh, it wasn’t that bad. The Arena floor being made of sand gave him an advantage though. I’m going to be sneezing for a week.”

Marcella nods in sympathy at Fianna. “Yeah, this Arena definitely gives sand elementals an advantage.”

Fianna’s medical care was fairly swift, the sands has been cleaned and a tiny little woman is carefully drawing two circles at either end, each with about ten feet behind them to the stands.

“Good timing, Hank,” Marcella adds. “Looks like there’s a Lambswool match next.”

Hank snorts at Fianna’s statement of ‘finding’ him, and then grabs a seat. “Oh, good! It has not yet begun.” He begins to pull out sheets of paper with his rules notes, and an additional set of sheets on a clipboard that he’s made up with the court layout, that he lays flat over his knees. He also pulls out a set of multicolored pens. As the match layout seems to be completed, he uncaps two of them, holding one at the ready and sticking the other between his teeth.

Iris consults her schedule and grabs her pen again. “Sounds like it might be interesting.” She looks over at Hank’s notes quite interestedly. “Mind if I copy your notes later?”

“Feel fwee,” Hank mumbles around the pen.

“Thanks.” She goes back to her own things, pondering what kind of observations she should focus on now that Hank is present.

Amy makes another go at her embroidery. This time, it is quite lovely. Amy looks pleased, in a vindicated sort of way.

Marcella scoots down the bench to sit next to Hank and look over his shoulder. “We should definitely keep a close eye on the combatants to see how they’re defending their Lamb,” she says thoughtfully. “I agree with your suggestion the other day that two should go for the opposing Lamb while one guards our Lamb, but I’m not sure how fast the other team will close on our Lamb. Will the defender and the Lamb both need ranged attacks, or will the defender be primarily using melee while the Lamb supports with ranged?” Marcella is quite happy to continue in this vein until the match starts as she thinks strategy out loud.

Hank pulls the pen out from his teeth, and says thoughtfully, “I am honestly not sure, having never seen a match. I suspect that different teams will develop different strategies depending on the various skills of their members. Perhaps some teams might not leave a defender on a lamb at all, if they had a particularly strong and skilled lamb, and instead focus on overwhelming the other team’s defenses all the faster?” He thinks about that for a moment. “I do not think that strategy would be the best one for us.”

Marcella grins. “No, I don’t think it would.”

“Maybe a lamb able to anchor itself very well?” Iris suggests. “Rooted, really big or heavy maybe?”

“Or a lamb with a lot of melee skills themselves, or with strong ability to attack multiple opponents,” Hank responds. “According to my reading, almost all groups use a 2-1-1 pattern for 4 on 4.”

“My bloodthirsty companions, today we begin the Lambswool 4 on 4 matches of the Summer Games TWENTY THIRTEEN. Are you as excited as I am? Because I couldn’t be more excited! This opening match will pit two of the best four on four teams in continental Europe against each other. Only one will move onto the second round. This is going to be rough and bloody and people will be hurt! Except the lamb of course, we know the rules. So please escort your children from the Arena and lets get this STARTED!” the announcer says with glee. The crowd is pretty enthused, though not quite as enthused as he is.

Hank picks his pens up again, and gets prepared for marking plays. Amy looks dubiously at the Arena. Iris turns her focus back to the Arena in front of them, pen at the ready.

“Or a Lamb with ranged attacks that can keep multiple opponents away, yeah,” Marcella murmurs to Hank, and then focuses on the Arena in front of them. Hank spends the match marking plays and maneuvers, and making notes on each team’s strategy and defenses.

“Today, the teams that will be fighting are: The Volksoperzunft Players from Vienna!!!!! Please welcome Aria Crystalsinger, Britta Firestealer, Laetha Flametouched, and Hans Mozart to the sands!” The crowd is quite excited, particularly when Laetha Flametouched’s name is called. A quartet of changelings comes out. A woman who looks light and delicate and is wearing armor that is tight and flexible, but doesn’t restrict the delicate flaps of skin that run from her sides to her arms; an average sized woman with a pale, shrunken appearance to her and little sick-colored lights at the tips of her fingers; an incredibly lovely woman who appears to be gently lit by an internal flame; and a tall man who looks like someone rolled a rock from the ground. The four stand at the center of the Arena, all facing the group’s end of the Arena.

Only Fianna notices that Laetha Flametouched seems incredibly hard to take her eyes off of. Iris shows particular interest in her.

Amy doesn’t seem particularly enthused by this match, and is only half paying attention. She doesn’t actually watch most of the non-exhibition events that no teammates are in. Just kind of wanders around enjoying the atmosphere.

“Watch the girl with the fire,” Fianna whispers to the group. “As in: watch out. She’s got some mojo going on but I can’t figure out what. Hard to take your eyes off her though.” Hank makes a note of that. Marcella squints a little harder at Laetha Flametouched after Fianna’s tip. Iris blinks and sits back harshly, looking down at her notes and starts writing, before looking back up only slowly.

“Our other team, from the capital of Germany, are the renowned Spreezunft Destroyers from Berlin! I give you, Madoc, Knight of Honor! Clota Seaskin! Muriel Fawnheart! and Phthonos Nemesismaker!” he announces. Four changeling move out onto the sand. They recognize the first one as the man who challenged Kenna on the first day. The other three are as follows: A very large woman with rough features, blue-green skin that appears to have been embroidered with a sea scene. She is wearing simple armor that covers her torso, shoulders and to mid-thigh. She carries in a crossbow, a club, and has a brace of arrows on her back; a short woman with long legs and delicate deer ears who is a veritable walking armory of small sharp things; and a man of normal stature covered entirely in crimson scales and from his back are tiny wings that flutter as he moves. Coming out from his forehead is a single golden horn, which he has a small green gem dangling from a ring attached to it. He has sharp claws on his scaled hands and bears no additional weapons. The line up opposite to the other team, their backs to the group.

Marcella leans forward a bit to get a better look at the Berlin team. Zia is sketching the people of the teams, plotting some kind of Lambswool merchandise.

“They’re a dramatic bunch, innit they?” Fianna drawls.

“Well, if Madoc is any fighter to judge by, they probably have the strength to back it up,” Marcella agrees.

Ritter Rime comes out to the center and supervises the team shake each others hands. He announces loudly, “The teams have promised to fight a fair match! May they do themselves and their freeholds honor!” That said, the teams fall into position. For Destroyers, Clota Seaskin, the large woman goes to the circle. The circle is just wide enough for her. Madoc moves to the front with Phthonos and Muriel is in the midground. For the Players, Laetha moves into the circle, Britta Firestealer stands near her and the other two come to the front.

Marcella clasps her hands and puts her elbows on her knees, watching intently. Iris is taking notes.

Ritter Rime moves to the side of the Arena and picks up a large flag in summer colors. As he brings it down, the brass bell rings and the fight begins. Madoc engages Hanz Mozart and Phthonos dashes towards the Windwing. But Laetha steals the show by throwing a shawl covered with bells off to the ground and then she sings a short tune. None of the group feel a strange fascination with Laetha.

Phthonos stumbles just as he makes his way to the Windwing. Aria, smiling, clocks him with a solid punch to the head. The rest of his team seems unaffected and Clota fires a crossbow bolt at Aria, which takes her in the shoulder.

“Nice contract use,” Marcella mutters, still concentrating on the fight.

Phthonos gets up and, clearly fighting the dizzy of being clocked in the head and the urge to look right at the lovely woman in the circle instead of focusing on his fight.

While the fighters are occupied Muriel Fawnheart dashes to the other team’s side, dodging Britta with ease and lassoing Laetha, but Britta catches up to her, cuts the rope with ease and grabs her around the throat. Something more than that is clearly happened, but Muriel kicks Britta in the groin and cartwheels away.

The game continues, each side slowly beating each other up, but most of the fighters have healing goblin fruit in their pockets and use those liberally.

The one time anyone gets within reach of Clota and doesn’t get smashed in the head with the club, Hans literally cannot move her out of the circle, she is just too heavy. The Destroyers are trusting to Clota’s own defense abilities while the Players trust to Britta’s life stealing fingers. Madoc and Phthonos prove themselves to be very capable fighters, but not nearly as agile as Aria who repeatedly launches herself off of Hans head and chucks pointy objects at people.

The game ends abruptly when Muriel gets Britta a good 10 feet from Laetha and Clota puts a very odd object into her crossbow. She shoots directly at Laetha and the crowds gasps at this breach of the rules, but the strange object becomes a net which encapsulates Laetha and, being still connected to the very large crossbow, Clota just starts cranking her in towards to the center line. Despite the best efforts of the Players and Laetha’s struggles, she is pulled over the center line and the Destroyers win. The crowd is very enthused, though there a quite a few broken hearts at Laetha’s defeat.

Iris looks pensive and is scribbling furiously. Marcella applauds the Destroyers’ victory, and looks thoughtful as she considers the different strategies used.

Zia makes commentary along the lines of, “No nets, absolutely not. Marcella, you will ensure this does not happen.”

Marcella looks over at Zia. “We’ll all do our best to make sure there are no nets, Zia. You are still allowed to change your mind about this if you want to, too, you know.”

“So,” Fianna says. “Mobility is clearly really important. Zia’s not going to be able to use the Destroyer’s strategy for holding their circle, so we can’t use that.”

“I said I would do it and I’m going to do it. I have the outfits mostly made. Just do what you promised,” Zia says. Marcella nods seriously.

The skeet qualifier is later the same afternoon. As with all contained events, there is one day with the qualifying events and the following day is when the finals are held. The rules for skeet are simple. Each participant will have five clay targets launched into the air for them to hit. They will be at random intervals all over the Arena. Participants get bonus points for hitting particularly well, such as at the apex of the target’s flight or directly through the center of the target. There are twenty participants, and only five will move on to the finals tomorrow. Each participant will take their turn with the shots, and then the final scores will be tallied.

Iris is not looking too nervous this time. Marcella wishes her luck before she heads down. Amy yells, “Go Iris!” when her name is called.

There have been several impressive showings already. One person in particular center shotted three of their five targets. But there have been no runaways. Iris, who is about three-fourths of the way through the qualifiers, has checked in already.

The shooting station for participants is at one end of the Arena. The clay targets can show up anywhere in the air above the rest of the Arena floor, though not the stands. Iris’ rifle has been previously inspected to make sure it is legal for the match, and the judge now asks her if she is ready to start.

She comes out, looking ashen white again, but as soon as her hands touch her rifle, she looks more confident. The judge gets a firm nod from her, the rifle is loaded and she takes a stance, ready to spot the targets and shoot.

The first target launches, Iris shoots, and it shatters. Marcella lets out a loud whistle.

The second launches and shatters. The judge on the field calls out, “Center shot!” There are cheers from the crowd.

A third target launches. It shatters.

A fourth is launched. A second call of “Center Shot!” rings out.

Marcella cheers loudly after every shot. “She’d doing really well!” Amy says to Fianna.

“She is,” Fianna agrees.

The last target is launched, and shatters.

Marcella stands and cheers Iris after the last shot. The crowd applauds politely, and there are some outright cheers from certain parts (guess where) and Iris is led off to a waiting area to await the end of the qualifiers and see if she made the finals. There are only four more people after Iris, so the event ends quickly. The judges spend a few minutes tallying the scores.

Iris doesn’t look entirely unhappy with her performance, rifle resting across her lap, but she stays quiet for now. When the five names of the participants moving on are announced, Iris’ is one of them. Every person in the group had two or more center shots.

Marcella cheers again at the announcement. Zia cheers for Iris. Amy is cheering as well. Iris allows herself a grin. She is well aware her competition is at least as good, probably better than her, but still… she’s not about to get shot by them, so it isn’t as much of a concern for her.

Game 34: Day 2 of the Games


Hank starts researching strategies for the Lambswool game, and discusses them with Zia. Marcella wins first weaponry duel in a quick and bloody fight. Marcella and Iris win their first weaponry pairs duel. The team continue to get flak from the crowd for participating in Kenna’s quick trial of the Iron Nail conspirators.


The evening after the opening of the Games, Marcella has a quiet evening in, preparing herself for her next events. She spends some time with the other chess pieces. She also does a little weapons training the night before.

Fianna spends her time taking it easy, doing periodic light aerobics and stretches, but mostly making sure she doesn’t aggravate tired muscles or any lingering injuries. She also attempts to get a good amount of sleep, because that always works so well for her.

Amy practices with her readers.

Iris is nervous and practicing with her rifle. She also goes to read a bit about the Games in the library. It has a prominent display of Summer Games-related reading material near the entrance. This is mostly made up of past game rosters and records, but there is also a book on the history of the games in Aachen.

Iris grabs a book on the general history of the Games and a record book of the last ten years or so. She’s mostly looking for information about injuries. There are a few mentions of dramatic injuries and one or two deaths over the course of several years, but the books do not keep a general injury count.

Hank helps Marcella and Fianna with any additional healing and medical needs. He also spends some time researching more about the Lambswool game and various strategies around it. He may, if he has time, also do a bit of independent looking into the different places Hulda had found for potential housing for the team.

The display in the library has a few books on tactics and analytics by games experts on what trends in games seem to have worked and what didn’t. It isn’t an entire book, but there is a small passage detailing the Lambswool games in one of the books.

Hank notes that the strategies in the book are meant for the 8 on 8 game and that the 4 on 4 is discussed as for training, for more fun teams or paradoxically for teams that take just their very best players. The focus of the strategies’ categorization seems to be around whether or not the Lamb is capable of defending themselves well and requires less defense, dividing into parts based on function, and the line between too much hurting and not.

Hank notes what he can of different strategies and how to recognize them, and also learns the rules for real. He also tries to figure out if there is a particular strategy outline that would fit their group the best. He pays special attention to the ‘what constitutes too much hurting’ and also send Marcella a text about the ‘best players’ aspect of 4 on 4. Hank concludes that the best strategy for their team is to have one person guarding the lamb, and two people going after the others’ lamb. Zia should have some long range attacks planned.

Marcella texts back to thank him for letting her know about the strategy books, and decides to take a look at them tomorrow in preparation for their match. In regards to the ‘best players’ thing, she texts Hank back, ‘Since this will be the first time we’re playing, we probably won’t get too far in the Games, but hopefully we all have fun!’

Zia spends the evening working in the craftroom. She is working on the team uniforms for the 4 on 4 game. She asks Hank if he would be kind enough to let her measure him

Hank is happy to come by and let Zia take his measurements. He also suggests to her that, if possible, the uniforms should include something like a hat or visor that can be easily removed.

Zia thanks Hank for coming and measures him. She says, “Easily removable? That seems counter-intuitive, we don’t want things flying off our heads, that might be very distracting?”

Hank tries to shrug without messing up her measurements. “Certainly, it might. I would only proceed if you can come up with something clever for it. Mainly, I was thinking that Transfigure the Flesh might be exactly the type of useful contract for this game, and the catch requires me to steal a garment too large or small. Actually, while I am thinking on those particular lines, you should probably each offer me something to eat or drink the day of the match, as well. Not that I cannot cast fully if needed, but it would be convenient.” He gives the same aborted half-shrug.

Zia looks thoughtful as she considers what Hank has said. “It is good to work in the catches in the uniforms, I agree. This one may be difficult, particularly as Marcella and I have limitations in the headgear arena, but I will think on it. Does your catch work if it is only part of a larger whole? Must it be an entire article?” she asks. “I would also be happy to offer something to eat each day as well. Might as well preserve glamour,” she adds.

“It needs to be a whole garment, and something that I can put on, though it can be either too small or too large for me,” Hank responds. “Though,” he looks at Zia with a quirk of a smile, “too large seemed likely to be more of an encumbrance.”

“Hmm…I can try to work with that,” Zia said and Hank can see that she looks a little distracted as if she is considering all the ways this could be accommodated. “Do you have any color preferences? Anything you would not like in the uniforms?” she asks. “I can see if I can make your uniform stretch or shrink with you,” she offers.

He considers that, “Something that stretches or shrinks would be quite useful. At the least, something that preserves modesty in the case of size change. Though I suspect you would be quite cross with me if I destroyed most of the uniform.” He is now doing a better job of holding still for her measuring than he was before. “Other that that, I do not have any requirements that come to mind at this time.”

Zia says, “It would be sad if you destroyed it yes, but I can make another. I will make it change size with you and see if there is anything else I can add. I hate to ask, but are there any weaknesses you have I could augment with the uniform?”

Hank fidgets for a moment before stilling himself again. Finally he says, “I am honestly not certain. What type of augmentation do you mean?”

“Well, with enough time in the hedge, I can weave in something to make you faster, stronger, augment vision, things like that,” she explains.

Hank thinks about that. “My maneuverability is definitely weaker than my strength. My glasses are mainly for reading use and close work though, my vision is otherwise reasonable.”

“Thanks! I’ll see what I can do. You’re all set! Thanks for let me measure you.” she replied, putting away the tape measure.

Hank explains the strategy he gleaned from the books to Zia before he leaves, particularly the parts about what types of role she might play. After the measuring is finished he also sends Marcella an email with that information, with references to the name and page of the book. Marcella may find the references odd, because they are formal citations with a bibliography in Vancouver (CSE) style formatting. He also mentions the sustenance catch in the email. Marcella is very confused by the citation formats.

The events for the next day are Marcella’s singles weaponry duel and Marcella and Iris’ doubles duel in weaponry. The events of the day go like this:

9:00: Weaponry only singles
9:45: Round 1B of the no-holds barred pairs duels
10:30: Round 1B of the singles no-holds barred duels
11:15: Qualifying rounds for the Archery competition
12-1pm: lunch break/an exhibition by another freehold
1:00: Weaponry only duels doubles
1:45: Contract based duels singles
2:30: Contract based duels doubles
3:00: Round 1C of the singles no holds barred duels
3:45: Round 1B of pairs no holds barred duels
4:30: Round 1, Game 1 of the 8 on 8 game
5:15: Footrace qualifier 100m
5:45: Footrace qualifier 400m
6:30: Footrace qualifier 800m

The earliest bus is at 7:30, and everyone is on it. The bus is not nearly as full as the one they were on yesterday, but it still only has maybe 6 or 7 empty seats. Everyone seems a lot more in ‘early morning’ mode, though one man in what appears to be a Mauritania fan t-shirt is very peppy.

The group arrives at the Arena around 8:15. The stands are not as full as yesterday, and they have their pick of wherever they wish to be. Marcella leads the way to a spot similar to where they sat before (prime seats in the unpaid seating). Hank follows. Zia follows, puts her stuff down, and pulls out of her bag two lap desks. She hands one to Amy. “Here! I brought more craft supplies!”

Amy takes it gladly. Zia opens her bag so that Amy can see. Craft supplies of all kinds are in there. “Take what you want!” Zia takes out a box of beads and starts playing around with them.

A brief page comes over the speakers. “Would all participants in the weaponry duels category please check in.”

Marcella stands. “Well, that’s me. See you all in a bit!”

“Good luck!” Amy calls after her. Marcella waves and heads down.

The check-in process is much the same as the day before. The changeling at the desk takes her name and directs her to the waiting/staging area. Marcella has her onyx saber with her today.

At 9:15, the announcer comes on the speakers. “Welcome back to another lovely day here at the Aachen Games! We’ll be starting this morning with the weaponry duels, so get ready to see lots of impressive fighting!”

Kenna is the only monarch in attendance at the moment, and she briefly stands and raises her sword, igniting it briefly. The announcer takes his cue. “The second day of the Games is officially open! Let’s begin!” A roar comes from the crowd. The group in the stands joins in.

As before, the announcer begins calling off the names of the four pairs of fighters to fight in the small miniature rings that were used the day before. Two pairs of names are called off before the announcer says: “Arabetha versus Marcella Boneblade!”

Marcella heads out into the ring. Zia cheers for Marcella and whispers a prayer under her breath. Amy, being next to her and listening closely, hears Zia say very quietly, “Allah Akbar,” and continue in Arabic for a few seconds, though Amy does not recognize that it is Arabic. No one else can hear what Zia said in the noise of the crowd.

A lean, wiry woman with dark eyes and brown, platelike spines extending from the top of her head down her back in lieu of hair walks out. She is carrying what looks like a sword, but is has curious small protrusions in several places.

Before the gong sounds, Marcella nods seriously to her opponent (in a “let’s have a good match” kind of way).

The final names are called, and the announcer addresses the combatants. “Weaponry only, kith abilities are allowed, no contracts or otherwise outside help. Other than that, let’s see some good fights!” A deep brass bell sounds somewhere. “Begin!”

Marcella’s opponent returns the nods, then flips her sword horizontally, levels it at Marcella’s leg, and fires a bullet from her sword. It hits.

Marcella leaps forward, bringing a deep, brutal slash down on the woman’s head. Marcella is moving slightly differently when she fights with the saber as opposed to the broadsword.

Arabetha takes a heavy hit to her head, bleeding profusely. Blood is getting in her eyes. The crowd ‘ahh’s a bit, and there is a bit of wincing.

Arabetha staggers back, jumps back several more feet, then fires again, and hits Marcella with a bullet square near the collarbone.

Fianna hisses as the second shot hits home. She has issues with guns. The crowd’s attention begins to focus on their fight. This is the most exciting one for sure. Zia stops any pretense of crafting. “Dumbass. Was fighting in these stupid games a good idea,” she mutters. Hank is getting his hockey fan on in the stands. Unfortunately, none of the group speaks French.

Marcella growls and leaps forward, slicing across the woman’s torso to end behind her in a movement almost too fast to see. She turns to watch her and keeps her guard up, but doesn’t look like she’s expecting the fight to continue.

Arabetha goes down in a spray of blood. She’s clearly unconscious, and bleeding everywhere. The match is over, and paramedics hurry over to stabilize her before she bleeds out. The crowd cheers for Marcella. This is the first fight to finish.

Marcella bows in Arabetha’s direction, then looks around to make sure the paramedics are coming, and only then raises a fist in victory.

Zia breathes out. Hank waits until Marcella acknowledges the victory, then jumps to his feet with a roar (a very bear-like literal roar). Amy cheers, a bit quieter than yesterday, but still excited.

Zia jumps a little bit at Hank’s roar, but cheers some more at her victory. Hank looks a little chagrined when Zia jumps. “Sorry,” he whispers to her.

“It’s fine. Please, I want you to celebrate her victory, I just … find the concept of being hurt like this just for a game to be a bit upsetting,” Zia says back quietly.

Hank sits back down as Marcella exits the field. “I can understand that,” he says. “I suppose I grew up on some pretty violent sports in the mortal world, so this is a bit less of a departure.”

A paramedic marches over to Marcella, takes one look at her, and indicates she should march herself directly to the healing station young lady. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Marcella thanks the paramedic and heads over to the healing station.

The healing attendants check her event registry, then sit her down and start going to work. As she quickly finds out, super speed healing is a generally unpleasant experience. Marcella feels very nauseous and everything aches. The paramedics finish with her, but give her a large plate of high energy foods and direct her to lay down for the next two hours.

Marcella sighs a bit but dutifully follows the medics’ instructions. “Would it be possible to send a message to my partner in my next match so she knows where I am?” is all she asks.

The paramedic informs her that her next match isn’t scheduled until 1 o’clock, so she has plenty of time, but a message can be sent if she knows where Iris is sitting. Marcella tells them where the team is in the stands. “I just want to be sure they don’t worry, some of them are a little overprotective,” she adds with a smile. The paramedic promises to pass along the message.

When she is able, Marcella also tries to go congratulate her opponent on a good match.

Shortly, a changeling comes by with a message for the group in the stands: that Marcella will be resting until check-in time for the pair duels with Iris.

Zia asks anxiously, “Is she alright?”

“She’s fine. She was given accelerated healing, which requires a bit of recovery time because of the amount of energy used.” Amy is glad to hear she is alright.

Iris is looking extra pale, and asks whether Marcella is alright, but otherwise doesn’t really speak.

Hank wander down to check in on Marcella at some point to see if there’s anything she needs. She is cheerful and mostly just chats when he comes down. Mainly, Hank’s just paranoidly confirming the messenger’s report and the medics’ work … not because he distrusts them, but because he wants to see for himself.

Hank is gone for a chunk of the next event, since nobody’s in it. When he gets back to the group, he is juggling a wide variety of drinks and concessions. “I was not sure what people like,” he says by way of explanation. “So I just got a bit of everything…”

Amy takes some, “Thank you!” She happily starts snacking. Zia happily takes some snacks. Hank makes a note in his notebook of which snacks everyone accepted.

The other singles weaponry duels continue, none quite as dramatic as Marcella’s. Shuria fights in one of the duels and the crowd seems caught between cheering for her and some disappointment that she is using her natural kith ability to make the metal pole she holds electrocute her opponent. Nothing else of note happens until 12:30, when Iris is due to go check in for the match.

Iris looks white as a sheet, but determined to check in, despite her slightly insecure steps. She is looking around for Marcella.

Marcella is discharged at about that time and heads for the registration desk to look for Iris. When she sees how nervous she looks, she says, “Are you okay, Iris? You don’t have to go out there if you don’t want. We can still pull out.”

“No … I’m ok, if you are. You do look much better though, so I suppose we’ll be fine one way or another, right?” She doesn’t sound too sure of herself, but did bring her rifle and puts on a brave face to go with it.

Marcella nods reassuringly. “Definitely. The medics out there do good work.” She signs them both in at the desk.

The changeling at the check-in desk asks their names. Marcella gives them, after checking to make sure Iris is still using the same name. She says that she plans to change it properly later, but for now, she is.

As before, the combatants are stationed in the waiting room before the match. Soon, the announcer can be heard mentioning the start of the weaponry pairs. Marcella and Iris are the very first paired name called.

Marcella leads the way out. “Remember, just try and stay as far away from them as you can,” she murmurs to Iris. “I’ll protect you.”

Iris is breathing slowly and steadily, getting up without a shiver despite still being even paler than usual, and clutching her rifle. She nods, but stands a bit behind Marcella.

Their opponents are a pair of changelings called Calcifa and Usr. Both seem to be sea themed. Calcifa appears to be made of colorful corals, while Usr is covered in long strands of seaweed. Marcella nods her head to them as they wait for the start of the match.

The other set of pairs is announced (there are only two fights per round in this event), and then the bell rings again. “Begin!”

Usr starts the combat by stabbing at Marcella with a trident. He hits her in the side.

Iris takes aim, then fires, and Calcifa’s bow shatters in her hands. She looks very perplexed. Tentatively, she picks up a broken shard of the bow, because this is a weaponry duel, and you have to use SOMETHING to fight. Iris looks pleased with herself.

Hank shouts “Light it up!” when Iris shatter’s Calcifa’s bow. The crowd gives an roar of excitement when Calcifa’s bow is shattered.

Calcifa at least temporarily out of the picture, Marcella jumps forward and slashes Usr across the torso.

He stumbles back. Calcifa cannot attack immediately because she’s too far away, but she starts moving closer. Usr takes another shot at Marcella with his trident, hitting again.

Seeing that Usr is bloodied but still on his feet, Iris takes a shot at him. He falls over, a surprised look on his face. Only Calcifa and her little broken bow are left.

Marcella sprints forward and strikes Calcifa. Calcifa staggers, and tries to return a strike with the sharp spike of bow. She whifs pretty dramatically, not doing any damage to Marcella.

Iris shoots Calcifa again. She’s still on her feet, but only just.

Marcella changes her grip and brings the hilt of her saber up to hit Calcifa in the temple. Calcifa drops, unconscious. The crowd cheers. The paramedics run onto the field to collect the injured, one collecting all the pieces of the bow, presumably so it can be repaired.

Zia cheers for this battle, having felt a lot less nervous in general during it.

Iris looks a bit befuddled, even embarrassed, but smiles. “That went alright … are you ok?”

Marcella bows slightly in Calcifa and Usr’s direction, then walks over to Iris. “That shot on her bow was amazing! You were fantastic out there!” She claps Iris on the shoulder and grins. At Iris’ question, she looks down at her trident injuries. “Oh, yes, I’m fine. Glad you had my back, but fine.”

Iris blushes. “Thanks, I’m glad you just knocked her out. You were amazing.” Belatedly, she bows toward Calcifer and Usr as well.

Hank is very excited in the stands throughout this whole match. The people in the row behind them are showered in popcorn at one point, at which point he gets himself under control and turns around to apologize profusely. He is, after all, Canadian. Zia smiles at Hank’s excitement.

There is a murmur from the stands as Queen Kenna stands, smiles, and raises her sword in a salute in Marcella and Iris’ direction. It is quick, and she immediately sits back down, but the gesture is clearly one of “well done.” As Kenna does so, the crowd goes crazy. Before they were cheering, but now they are really excited and a small group of people start chanting, “Boneblade, Iris, Boneblade, Iris.”

Marcella nods her head in the Queen’s direction, acknowledging the Queen’s gesture, but does not give a more enthusiastic response.

Iris follows Marcella’s example, quite unsure of what to do now. She looks around the Arena, getting quite flushed even scarlet as the crowd erupts.

Everyone in the stands hears a male voice shout, “Queen’s pet!” Everyone, including Marcella and Iris, notices a woman thrown a watermelon into the stands shouting “Dog!”

Hank whips his head around, attempting to locate the voices.

Marcella tenses very slightly, but she doesn’t otherwise acknowledge the voice she hears. Iris is already too befuddled for any change in her state to make her look any more off. She isn’t surprised though.

Marcella again goes look for their opponents to congratulate them on a good match, and also to apologize for the bow.

Iris follows to apologize for the bow. She doesn’t really feel sorry, but she knows it may not be able to be repaired and Calcifa must have been attached to it, just as she feels for her rifle.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.