The group watches the exhibition matches that are part of the opening of the Games, and then Marcella and Fianna have their first team match against Boris and Prism.
Last time, a man in the stands had just explained the Rites to the group.
Marcella just looks thoughtful, and is assessing the mood of the crowd in the wake of the last match. Hank looks slightly uncomfortable at the level of violence potentially involved, and also is still uncomfortable about the issue in the Rite of Injustice having been them. Iris seems surprisingly apathetic; she doesn’t appear surprised in the slightest. Amy looks very determined.
The crowd’s overall reaction is whispers, cheers, and lots of talking. After about five minutes, during which someone has tidied the sand, a group of changelings and hobs come out and begin setting up a series of horse jumps along one side of the arena. A minute later, the announcer says. “Ladies and Gentlemen! The Exhibition Matches of the Aachen Summer Games! These eight warriors represent the best that the Summer Court and Heimdalzunft as a whole have to offer! They will fight to protect our LOVELY Queen with the last breathe in their bodies! Are you ready!?”
The crowd roars and surges to their feet. Marcella joins in the cheering, but stays seated. Hank claps, but stays seated in deference to the people sitting behind him. Fianna claps, excited to see what the summer court is made of. Amy claps, and watches intently. Iris watches quietly. She stays seated, clapping silently more out of politeness than anything else, her eyes riveted onto the contestants.
The announcer says, “And now, I give you the Summer Chosen! Put your hands, paws, claws, curious metallic thingies together for the Suuuuuuumeer Chosen!” The drums start up again. The crowd is roaring.
Hank leans forward, interested to see who the Summer Chosen are.
“I give you the renowned Murderous Max! Stalking the mortals in preparation for stalking the True Fae, he brings to our court the determination and willpower needed to one day bring down the Fae from their lofty feathered thrones!” As the crowd roars again, a tall slender darkling dressed simply in summer colors that seem … oddly grungy slinks out onto the sands. He reaches the center of the sand, put his hands above his head and turns them into long thin blades.
Hank leans back very suddenly. Amy whispers to Fianna, “Why are the thrones feathered?”
Fianna shrugs. “I have no idea. I never saw any thrones, just a giant telescope. And it certainly wasn’t feathered.”
Amy giggles at the mental image of a feathered telescope.
“Have you heard of him, Hank?” Marcella asks softly, still watching the man down in the arena. Hank shakes his head, but he has a frown on his face. He is not pleased by being represented by someone named “Murderous Max”. Neither is Marcella.
“That’s some name,” Marcella mutters, shaking her head. She looks unimpressed.
Iris doesn’t look happy precisely, but she is too absorbed with what is going on down there as well as her own thoughts to pay much attention to anything else. Zia claps politely, but is not particularly drawn in by the pageantry.
As the cheering dies down, the announcer continues, “Our next Summer Chosen comes to us from the moment the air becomes full of ozone, the blue skies begin to cloud. She brings storm wherever she goes and boy, can she fight! Give it up for Summer Knight Shuria Stormcloud!!!!” A tiny woman, wearing full armor that seems oddly translucent, flows onto the sand. Her hair, skin and eyes are constantly changing, the blue of a summer day melding into the gray-green as a storm rolls in. Her hair cracks with ozone. She holds a long tapered metal pole and has a sword strapped to her back.
The crowd cheers unequivocally for her and the motley hears one group chanting ‘SHURIA SHURIA SHURIA SHURIA’.
Amy goes back to watching the fight, images of feathered telescopes forgotten. Marcella looks more interested in this Chosen than the last one. Iris looks a little less displeased. Hank claps for Shuria. He generally has a pretty high level of respect for the Knights. Zia comments, “a+ for her outfit.” Hank nods.
“Very thematic, and probably enchanted,” Marcella agrees.
The cheering doesn’t die off for Shuria, particularly not from her fan club. After about a minute, the announcer says, “Cutting beauty is not merely a phrase with this lovely Summer Chosen. One of most loyal knights of Queen Kenna, her jeweled beauty and sharp claws are renowned for taking out both suitors and the Queen’s enemies. I give you Summer Knight Ryujiin Jewelblade!!!!!!” The crowd erupts and right near the monarchs box a trio of young men hoist up a sign saying “Cut to the Quick! And We Liked it!” A tall woman of truly striking beauty walks onto the sand. She is covered in jeweled scales and the angles of her body are sharp and defined. Her armor trends towards the “does this really cover me” kind, but is quite lovely and seems to be made out of scales she had shed. She has twin swords on her back and her hands have delicate claws on them, as do her feet.
Hank delicately and deliberately does not examine her armour in too much detail. Marcella continues cheering for the Chosen, though she’s still keeping an eye on the crowd, who seems to be cheering for what Chosen, etc. She does take a critical look at Ryujiin’s armor, assessing all the weak points it may have. Zia makes a nod of appreciation for the showmanship of the armor.
“You’ve seen flashy, you seen sneaky, you’ve seen pretty. But this woman comes in a package that makes no promises, tells no lies. The veteran of thousands of fights both in and out of Faerie, The Pirate of the Hedgemeadow, the general of madcaps, I give you, Therese Hightower!” A compact, muscled woman in practical armor with touches of decoration walks out onto the sand. She wears a helmet and has an array of weaponry on her person. She doesn’t look that … changeling, until she flips up her visor to pump her fist in acknowledgement of the changelings around the arena who are pumping their fist at her. Then they see the scars that cut across her face.
Fianna whistles. Marcella shows the most interest in this Chosen of all those they’ve seen so far, looking impressed by her clear battle experience. She claps and whistles. Hank claps for her at the same level he clapped for the other knights. He does learn towards Marcella and comment, “Now that is real armour.” Hank continues to be politely not looking at Ryujin if he can avoid it.
Marcella nods approvingly. “I’d always go for functional over flashy, myself.”
Iris looks at Ryujin a little more than strictly speaking necessary.
“No knight of Winter has ever been so honored! Has ever served the Court of Winter for so many years with such dedication. His heart runs so cold, not even the embrace of Summer’s hottest Flameheart could melt it. Armed with ice and snow and a stiff upper lip, I give you Winter Knight RITTER Rime Icefall!” the announcer said with glee. The knight identified as that “stuffy bag of winter air” by Varecia stalks onto the sand. He wears full armor that drips with ice and skins is visible is almost blue. He carries a greatsword that seems translucent and made of ice. As he comes to the center of the sand, he raises his greatsword high into the air and as if on cue, about 20 people sitting near the edge of the arena chuck massive icicles onto the sand in his honor. The crowd roars, though a few people yell, “Stuffed shirt!”
Marcella chuckles a bit at the crowd’s reaction. “Good to see some non-Summer representation,” she says. Hank gives a cough that is not quite successfully hiding a chuckle at the people shouting stuffed shirt.
The announcer continues, “My amazing spectators! I give you the one, the only, changeling to ever return to his Keeper of his own volition, hurt him a grievous wound and returned to tell the tale! One of the most skilled warriors of our generation, the man who killed giants, ogres, what makes you wake in the night in fear and showed no fear, no remorse. A man whose cap shall never stop bleeding as long as his desire for revenge against those who would take our lives burns strongly. Let’s hear it for Weaponsmaster JONTY the Everbleeding!!!!!!!” Jonty walks out onto the sand, an arsenal on his very large frame. His clothing is nice by virtue of lacking obvious holes. A good third of the arena chants JONTY JONTY JONTY JONTY. The crowd is going wild.
Amy looks surprised, “He did what?” She stands and claps. “Wow, Jonty. Wow!”
Hank jumps to his feet to cheer for Jonty, adding a quite loud bear-like roar to the wildness of the crowd. Zia rises as well, seeing as it is for a friend. Marcella looks like she’s gotten a punch in the gut when the announcer says that Jonty had returned to his keeper and lived to tell the tale, but wipes the surprise off her face almost as quickly as it came. She too rises for Jonty. Fianna pumps her fist in the air and gives out a loud whoop. “Get on with it, you blessed madman!”
“Speaking of the things that go bump in the night, that fits this man perfectly. He ran with the Hounds of Hell, hunted the darkest parts of human and Fae imagination, destroyed the terrifying Man of War in the Battle of Avalanche. As the right hand man of the Autumn King, he has used the deadly fire he holds within him to keep order for longer than I recall. I give you the Autumn Master of the Hedgewall, Nodons!” The dark skinned man from the bus walks onto the sand. He has a sword across his back. His skin is rich black of dog fur and his eyes glow with green flame. Near the monarchs box a group of people dressed in Autumn colors chant various things, “Sweetongue! Baron Hound! Nodons!” The crowd is crazy with cheering.
Marcella claps, but has sat back down now that Jonty is no longer the focus of the crowd. Amy does the same. Hank continues to stand out of respect for Nodons, but he’s just clapping, not cheering the same way he was for Jonty.
“Our final Summer chosen is a princess of battle! Armed with only her claws and wits, she savaged her Keeper in her escape. The Tiger of Summer, the Devourer of Despair, the Protector of Summer’s Rage. I give you the renowned Summer Master of the Hedgewall Mauritania!” The tiger skinned woman they first saw at the trial walks onto the sand, moving gracefully, dangerously through the sand. She is wearing full armor and armed with a spear and a sword on her back. The crowd goes absolutely crazy, and a horde of fans with tiger stripes painted on their faces scream her name.
Marcella cheers again, and notes that this is someone she recognizes, but doesn’t have any other reaction. Hank stays standing and continues to clap but sits down after a bit, since this is the last one. Iris has just been watching and taking in information so far, she seems unnaturally still if anything.
“And now, the summer games will begin their exhibition matches! Ladies and oddments, these are not fights, but lovely lovely examples of what our abilities can be!” The crowd quiets and the 8 standing in the center of the field exchange smiles and nods. Rime walks off the sand. Music begins to play. Without warning Ryujiin and Therese begin to fight. It is clearly a planned stylized fight, but not a joke of a fight. Therese is clearly wielding some of the less flashy fighting contracts, dodging, knowing what comes next. Ryujiin is making full use of her claws and her armor seems to flow to where it is needed. Meanwhile Mauritania and Razorhand are fighting, quick fast fighting that almost cannot be followed. Nodons stands smiling, waiting. Rime suddenly bursts onto the arena, riding a horse that is truly a monster. They start taking the jumps, but about three in, the jumps levitate getting higher and higher, held by Shuria. Rime creates pillars of ice to help the horse reach them. The crowd is screaming. Then Rimes is finished and raises an icy eyebrow at Nodons. Nodons scoff and walks to the jumps, then he flows into a massive hellhound and begins taking the jumps, adding a flip which he uses to spit sickly green fire out of his mouth and set the jump on fire. The jumps come down and Shuria presses air onto all the of jumps, making flames lick higher Rimes takes the jumps again, deftly avoiding the fire.
Marcella is trying to keep an eye on all of the fights, impressed by the level of skill and showmanship all of the combatants are showing. Amy cheers for the combatants, especially those doing the jumps. Hank is also trying to watch all of them, but quickly gives up on following Mauritania and Razorhand. He focuses on the jumping, and Therese’s fighting. He’s also looking around for Jonty, who he doesn’t see yet. He cheers for Nodons when he outperforms Rimes, but quiets a bit when Rimes also makes the jump set.
After this, all eight of the Chosen engage in a carefully coordinated fight that has contracts carefully and dramatically used to best effect. Rimes fills the Arena with snow and ice, much to the displeasure of Mauritania and Nodons. Jonty piles what is left of the horse jumps together throws the snow on them to put it out and in about ten seconds constructs a wall of sorts. Dividing into two teams, they fight over the wall, not able to see each other. Despite this, no one is hurt. Jonty eventually destroys the wall and the fight seamlessly falls into pairs fighting pairs. After about 20 minutes of truly fabulous contract and physical fighting, the eight stand at the center and bow.
Marcella pokes Fianna again as she cheers. “Okay, now we really probably should head down.” Fianna nods, an excited grin on her face, and stands to leave.
Amy stands and cheers. Hank cheers for Jonty in particular, over the course of the fights, and stands and cheers for everyone at the end of the exhibition. He pauses in his cheering to clasp both Marcella and Fianna on the shoulder and wish them each luck.
The announcer says, “Give’em a round of applause. Come on, that was awesome! Now! The first competition in this year’s games, the first set of the singles no holds barred matches!” Changelings and hobs come out and clean off the sand.
“Let me know how these matches go, we’ll see you guys in a little while!” Marcella says cheerfully, and heads down the stands towards the place where she checked in before.
As they walk down, Marcella asks whether Fianna is using a second name. She says that she may, at some point in the future, but she doesn’t want to attach one yet until she’s sure she knows what she wants to identify as.
At the check-in point, there is a large crowd milling about, slowly moving inside in pairs. The changeling at the desk doesn’t look up as Fianna and Marcella approach. “Names for confirmation?”
“Marcella Boneblade and Fianna,” Marcella replies. Fianna raises an eyebrow at Marcella’s new name. Marcella winks at Fianna’s surprise.
The changeling waves them through the door. “You two should be on relatively soon … newer competitors usually are. Stay near the gates at the far end of the staging area, and when your names are called, enter the arena. Good luck.”
Marcella waves in thanks and leads the way towards the gates.
About two minutes later, the announcer starts announcing who is coming out. The only name the group in the stands recognizes is Varecia’s. Varecia is fighting against a changeling from Belgium who appeared to be made of chocolate. There are five fights going on at once on the sand.
The fights go on for various periods of time. Varecia finishes her fight covered in chocolate, but victorious. Two ogre changelings who seem determined to beat each other into the ground take a full half hour for one of them to go down.
Amy doesn’t pay much attention to the singles matches, fidgeting in her chair and craning to try to see where Marcella and Fianna went. Hank cheers for Varecia, but gets more and more fidgety as the matches progress, waiting for Fianna and Marcella’s match to be called.
The cheering dies down at the singles matches for the day end. “We will now be moving on to to doubles matches,” the announcer says. “Four pairs will fight it out for honor and glory at a time.” There is a pause as presumably the arena is tidied. “Without further ado, our first pairs!” The announcer begins rattling off the pairs who will fight, until finally: “And in the southwest corner, we have Boris the Mighty and his partner Prism, fighting against two newcomers, Marcella Boneblade and Fianna!”
Amy cheers wildly, leaning forward and coming precariously close to overbalancing, but not seeming to notice. Hank also jumps to his feet to cheer, grabbing the back of Amy’s shirt as he does so. Amy turns around, startled, stares and Hank for a second, then resumes cheering from a more reasonable stance. Hank lets go as soon as she seems stable, but keeps an eye on her.
“Welp,” Fianna says. “Let’s go.” Marcella takes a deep breath and leads the way out.
The pair that faces Fianna and Marcella across the sand is curious. One, a man larger than Hank with rough pebbled skin and two sharp protrusions extending off his nose, carries a greatsword made of black metal in one hand. The other is an androgynous changeling who appears to be made entirely of opaque, frosted glass. They are carrying a short spear.
Iris stands to clap. Cheering isn’t really in her nature, and anyhow it would have come out weird with the knot forming in her insides. Zia claps as their names are called. “Now don’t be idiots,” she quietly admonishes the people who can’t hear her.
“And with that we have all our pairs for this round! Let’s have a good clean match, everyone! You know the rules: now … BEGIN!”
Prism immediately couches her spear and lunges towards Marcella, and the spear tip scrapes Marcella’s ribs.
Hank hisses and tenses with the first strike, eyes darting back to his ever-present messenger bag that he has tucked under his seat. Zia makes a little gasp as Marcella takes a hit in the first few seconds of the match. “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea…” she says quietly.
Fianna responds by yanking two stars from her hair, setting them between her fingers, and landing a right cross on the glass elemental’s face.
Amy sees Marcella get hit and rises her volume, “Go Marcella! You can do it! Yay, Fianna!”
“There’s a reason I didn’t sign up for those,” Iris grumbles. Her expression is even more serious than usual.
Boris unlimbers his greatsword and aims a downward strike at Fianna. It barely misses.
Marcella isn’t slowed down by the hit to the ribs, and brings her bone broadsword in a swift, brutal slash across Prism’s front. Marcella’s skin also seems to thicken into bone plating.
After getting over the stress of the first hit, Hank returns to his seat. In addition to monitoring the fight closely and cheering on Marcella and Fianna, he also begins to keep an eye and ear on the crowd to see how they are reacting to the fight.
Prism looks quite unhappy, and their skin is cracked in several places, but they aim another strike, at Marcella again. The spear goes through the top of her right foot.
With every hit, the crowd roars. As Marcella hits, everyone in the stands notices that the crowd is very focuses on the various matches (all four are going simultaneously in this round). As Marcella makes her first hit, someone shouts, “Queen’s Toady!” then is shushed.
Iris’ knuckles turn white. Hank glares in the direction of whomever shouted that, and cheers loudly for Marcella. Amy yells, “Shut up, you jerk!” in the direction of the person who insulted Marcella, then keeps cheering. A moment later she covers her own mouth. “Oops,” she says through her hands.
Fianna takes a deep breath and her muscles seem to tighten and gain definition. She then lands another punch to Prism’s solar plexus. The glass changeling doubles over and then lays prone on the arena floor.
As Fianna takes out Prism a Fairest yells, “Yeah! You show them Starlady!”
Hank switches from monitoring the crowd, which is kind of loud and vast for him to be able to pinpoint things anyway, to keeping an eye on the other matches in the breaths between strikes in Marcella and Fianna’s match.
Boris lets out a roar, and then swings his greatsword horizontally at both Marcella and Fianna. The sword hits Marcella and Fianna both. Fianna seems to take a slightly worse hit than Marcella, but with the damage Marcella has already taken, she is starting to look pretty badly off.
Zia hisses at the wounds.
Marcella growls and comes up swinging, driving her sword into his chest. She is fighting flat out now, no wasted motion or awareness of the crowd. She is focused on the opponent who is still standing.
Hank tenses in his seat.
Fianna sidesteps around the back of the large man, jumps, and lands two star-clad fists hard on Boris’ shoulderblades. He staggers, and one shoulder appears dislocated.
Zia grabs the hand of whoever is next to her. “This is such a bad idea…” Iris startles, then refocuses on the match.
Roaring in anger, Boris swings around, trying to hit the target at his back that he can’t see. He manages to take Fianna high on the leg, but only barely. While he’s distracted, Marcella goes for a slice to the ribs, and hits. He is looking really bad. Fianna jumps again, this time to crack the back of his head. Boris suddenly stiffens, and then falls like a giant tree, landing with a resounding boom! on the floor of the Arena.
Marcella straightens, standing still for a moment to make sure he’s down, then plants her sword in the sand and raises a fist, looking weary but triumphant. The crowd celebrates as he goes down. Theirs is the second match to finish. Marcella and Fianna know that etiquette has everyone stay on the field who doesn’t need immediate medical attention.
Fianna chucks her stars at the Arena floor, burying them in the sand, and then slings an arm around Marcella’s shoulder, grinning widely. Marcella leans down slightly to make this easier for Fianna, and starts grinning too.
Iris stands back up to clap again, but she still looks worried and perhaps weary. Hank jumps to his feet and cheers for them.
Zia stands up and cheers. “Vogelfrei, Vogelfrei, Vogelfrei! Marcella and Fianna!”
Amy, already cheering, starts jumping up and down. “You did it! Go, Marcella! Go, Fianna!”
“Well, that wasn’t so bad, right?” Marcella asks Fianna, her usual cheerfulness slightly dampened by the pain in her voice.
Fianna whispers to Marcella: “Are you going to be able to walk off with that foot injury?”
“Yeah, I should be fine,” Marcella whispers back.
“Yeah, well, foot injuries are dumb about healing. Don’t do anything stupid. I won’t carry you off, but you can at least lean on me if you need to.”
Marcella squeezes Fianna’s shoulder gently. “Thanks.”
The other matches end within the next five minutes, and the announcer proclaims the victor’s names to the entire Arena. There’s a thunderous cheer, and then the gates are opened to allow the fighters back inside, where medical attention awaits.
Marcella does her very best not to limp as she leaves the Arena, head held high. The two of them head towards the medical staff on standby. Fighters are prioritized based on the time of their next event, and gotten as close to full health as possible. Since Marcella’s next match is tomorrow, she will be healed most of the way by the medical staff on duty. She is left with only a residual ache in her foot, and decides to ask Hank for his assistance when she gets back up to the stands.
Marcella keeps an eye out for Prism and Boris, and goes shake hands once they are revived. They accept her handshake. Boris turns out to be a terribly jolly man, and is happy to have had a good fight. Prism comments that they hadn’t wanted to be there in the first place, and Boris nods. “I owe a favor now.”
Marcella thanks them for a good match, as does Fianna, who also apologizes for the whole ’forceful dislocation’ thing.
Boris laughs and comments that he was not expecting such a tiny Fairest to make such a deep impression. And then he rubs his newly-relocated shoulder with exaggeration.
Marcella laughs and claps Fianna’s shoulder. “Our Fianna is puny, but she’s feisty,” she says with a grin.
The look Fianna gives Marcella could start a fire, and her hair starts smoking. This elicits another laugh from the big man, and even a quirk of the mouth from Prism. “It is a good thing to be unexpected,” the large man says. “Me? Everyone sees a big man, a fighter. They expect me. They expect you too, Boneblade. Your partner, my partner…” he throws an arm around an exasperated Prism. “They are our wild cards in this game.”
Prism pushes the big man off and finally speaks. “Trust you to pick a partner who’s only held a weapon a handful of times, Boris.”
Marcella ruffles Fianna’s hair, mindful of the stars, and lets her go. “I sure am lucky I had her out there, it’s true,” she agrees, still grinning at Fianna. “I’d have been done for between that spear – not bad for a non-weapons-specialist, Prism – and that sword.” Fianna is kind of at the I AM OLDER THAN YOU STOP THAAAAAAT stage.
Boris cradles his sword in his arms. "I am very proud of her. She came from Arcadia with me, and we have fought many battles together. He looks at Prism. “That’s it! We just need to find you a proper weapon!” The look Prism shots him is a devout “FUCK NO.”
Marcella lifts her sword in acknowledgement. “So did Ivory Promise. I hope she serves me as well as yours has you.”
Boris smiles. "And such a good name! You understand, then.” He rises. “I think I shall be returning now. Do you fight in any other events these games?”
“Yes, I’m competing in the one-on-one singles, as well as the weaponry singles and doubles and the Lambswool four by four. What about the two of you? And are either of you from Aachen? I don’t think I’ve seen you around.”
Boris shakes his head. “No, we come from Dresden. I came there from the Ukraine. I do the Games circuit this year. You sound to me German, but your partner I am thinking is a long way from home.”
Fianna snorts and simply says ‘Glasgow,’ and Boris laughs.
“Scottish! No wonder you have so much fight!” he shakes his head. “I fight the weaponry singles as well, and Prism is in the marathon. Perhaps we shall meet again!”
Marcella says goodbye and, once she is mostly healed, heads back up to the stands. There are no other planned events for today, and members of the group can stay or leave as they please.