8 minutes. That was all the time that remained before the first battle would start. People from all sorts of species and worlds were gathering to the Deadgold Arena, ordering outlandish snacks and merchandise on their way to their seats. Men, women and even children could be found in place since the realm of Taraboxus was not one to care much for age limits. Cameramen positioned in safe spots were preparing their equipment, testing it to make sure that both sound and video was working properly. Some people in the massive crowd seemed rather excited for what was about to come, having high hopes for the bloodshed. Others were more suspicious due to the failure of the disappointing previous season. No matter the case, almost 200 000 people had gathered to the gargantuan building, watching the action first hand. This was not even taking into account of the ones who were watching at home.
The champions were sitting in their separate rooms, preparing for the introduction battle in different ways. While Johannes Svartsvard was testing his heavy blade against some corpses in his room, cutting and breaking them with ease, Xanthe Justice was strapping iron weights on her baseball bat and adjusting her mechanical tricycle for the fight. Annika Lundadotter on the other hand was practicing with her Ulfberht sword and shield against some wooden dummies as she was planning on protecting her allies to the best of her abilities as Ryo was cleaning her guns, not wanting to risk any of them getting jammed in the heat of the struggle. The Sorrow, sitting in her completely empty chamber, was looking through her extendable claws and laser blasters before placing her rubber duck between her ankle and her golden bracelet, wanting to keep it safe from harm. Escobar placed some cigars in his white suit along with an extra bar of lead and silver before testing how fast he could morph the metals into anything from knuckles, knives and guns, making some tricks with them as well. Lizzy Strong made a couple of handstand pushups while keeping some weights on her legs and tail, holding onto the metal pole that she was planning to use as a weapon.
Syranon Glaed, on the other hand, did nothing but shut his eyes and pray for his newfound allies. The paladin was hoping that the light would bless them with protection from their foes and enemies. He was wishing that they would find a way to leave this realm one day. It was a desperate wish, but he was never one to give in so easily. For a moment, everything was as quiet as it could possibly be. The only sound he heard was the beating of his heart and the deep breaths he made. It was the calm before the storm.
A knock on the door broke the silence, making him look up. The door slid open to reveal guards dressed in heavy armor, wide shields and long blades standing outside.
“It’s time, newcomer. Follow us.”
Syranon sighed as he got up from the floor and followed them. He held onto his blessed sword as he was led by through the hallway, noticing how the paths leading to the food hall were shut off. The heavy footsteps of the large guards made their armor rattle as they always kept a consistent pace.
They walked for what felt like 10 full minutes until they reached a much larger area where even more guards could be seen, some of them wielding guns as well. Staff members could be seen moving around heavy boxes in a hectic pace or looking through different kinds of electronics, making sure that there was no form of sabotage or flaws with the machinery. Other staff members were cleaning up the floors and walls, using cranes to get to the spots that could not be reached otherwise. On elevated walkways, only reachable by ladders, there were armed guards present as they were looking down on the people below, making sure that everything was going accordingly. He could hear the cheering of crowds coming from a gargantuan gate of steel in the middle of this room as he noticed other guards coming from different hallways leading into his location. The gate was big enough to fit a jumbo jet through it.
“Make your way over there. The others will do the same.” said one of the guards before pointing towards the gate.
The escort troupe moved away from the paladin as most of the guards made their way to the sides of the large gate, watching over all sides.
“I hope you’re ready, Syranon.”
The voice of Ryo called from a distance, catching his attention. He turned towards her and noticed that the separate groups of squads had all escorted each champion to the waiting area. The beastman gave her a nod before all of the champions walked towards the gate, coming closer with each step. Annika was once again getting pestered by the preaching Xanthe who was riding on her mechanical tricycle as The Sorrow was keeping her safe distance from the rest. Johannes walked up to Escobar and gave him a high five as Lizzy leaped over to Syranon’s left side, giving him a sly smile.
“Where you thinking about me back there, boy? Something dirty, perhaps?” flirted the monkey girl with a wink, making the paladin nervous and blushing once more.
“Well…not…not sure ho-“
Before he could finish his sentence, he felt her strong tail wrap around his leg and pull back, making him trip onto his chest. She made a small laugh as Ryo walked up to Syranon, pulling up the paladin before letting out a sigh.
“No offense, pal. You’re just too fun!” said Lizzy with a big grin as she ruffled his hair teasingly and roughly before leaping off towards the gate in a few quick jumps.
“Seriously, you have got to stop falling for that trick.” stated Ryo in a serious tone as both she and Syranon walked towards the gate, stopping next to the other champions. Syranon scratched his head, looking a bit embarrassed.
As all the champions stood aligned before the massive gate, they could hear the crowd of thousands calling for action. While both Escobar and Johannes were more than eager to run in once the gate would be opened, the rest were not as happy. Lizzy knew she had to fight, but she did not plan on killing anything, just knock out the enemies. She has never killed anyone before and was not about to start now. Annika on the other hand was never one to fight for entertainment, only for sport, war and defense. She knew that this was a life or death situation, forcing her to slay those who threaten her allies. Ryo stood by Syranon’s side as she loaded her guns. Though this was not the type of situations they fought for, they knew they had to stick together in order to survive. Xanthe revved up the engine for her tricycle, preparing to kill anyone who she thought was a man inside that arena. She was planning on avoiding any female as much as she could, due to her irrational hatred for the opposite gender. Sorrow simply wished to keep her toy safe and get back the place she was more familiar with. To participate in these games was the only way she knew how.
The champions all pulled out their weapons as they awaited the gate to open. However, for a moment nothing seemed to happen. Johannes, not being a man of patience, gave the gate a kick with his steel boots out of frustration.
“COME ON, ALREADY! JUST OPEN UP!!” shouted the death knight as Escobar looked over the other champions that he was standing next to, wanting to pass the time. The gangster raised an eyebrow at Lizzy’s weapon of choice before looking back at her.
“Wow… a monkey with a staff. Real original.” he said with a sarcastic tone, making Lizzy give him a stern glare in return.
“Says the Colombian drug lord calling himself Escobar.” responded Ryo as Lizzy made a small chuckle. The gangster simply looked over the demon hunter with a judging look.
“Hey, lady! I’m not fucking Colombian! I’m Cuban!” stated Escobar, sounding insulted by her claim. Syranon, who was hearing it all, became confused by this.
“Wait…I thought you told us you were Mexican.” wondered the paladin.
“No. I said I was Puerto Rican. Or maybe I said I was Brazilian. Or maybe Spanish! For all you, know, I could be Bosnian! Either way, I’m not telling!”
As Escobar was playing more mind tricks on his fellow champions, a man in armor, noticeably larger than the other ones, approached them, standing in front of them with his weapons held in position. His armor had small thorns and spikes on almost every corner and carried a darker, more menacing shade of black than the other guards. The guards made a respectful salute in his presence. He looked over the champions quickly one by one before standing before the line they made.
“Captain of the Shielded Guard here. I have been requested to inform you of two simple rules that apply for the battle, so listen closely.” he said in a strict and fierce tone, catching the attention of the champions. Johannes extended his right middle finger towards him, but the captain ignored it simply moving back and forth before the line of champions.
“Number one: Don’t try to escape. Even if you attempt to do so, there is a magical barrier around the arena that only the mightiest of magicians can bypass. Not that it will do you any good thanks to our snipers. The good news with this is that it protects you from the rotten fruit that the audience would throw in case you bore them”
“Damn it…the dudebros are getting smarter. Guess flying away won’t be an option…” muttered Xanthe for herself.
Unluckily for her, the other champions heard this foiled plan of hers, turning their heads towards her with an angry and judging look, except for Syranon, who only seemed more worried by this than anything else. It was clear that they were not ok with her idea to leave the arena without them.
“I’m sorry…what did you mean by ‘flying away’? Can your bike do that?” said Lizzy in a calm, but still furious tone.
Escobar took it more seriously than the others as he reached for his lead bar while swiftly walking towards her, pulling out a bowie knife in the process. Xanthe showed little to no emotion about this irate gangster.
“Sister. I was going to spread the word of the Sisterho-“
She tried to explain her intent on building a female army like in her own world, but Escobar had no intentions of listening. His pilot glasses hid the redness of his eyes at the moment, caused by his hatred for those who leaves a group behind.
“Shut up, you fucking little pussy! You god damn TRAITOR! YOU WERE GONNA DITCH US, HUH?! LEAVE US FOR DEAD?!” he shouted as he was only a few feet away from her, about to stab her in the face.
However, before he could lodge the knife of lead into her skull, he felt a strong force drag him from behind and down to the ground, hurting his back greatly. Before he could get up, the captain stood on his chest, keeping him pinned down.
“And that leads us to the next rule: Don’t try to kill your fellow champions during any match that is not a death match. I should point out that our snipers have magic bullets that can bypass the barrier in case you try to do so.” stated the captain before he got off from Escobar’s chest. The drug lord was groaning and couching, moving around in pain from the slam and the stomp from the captain.
“That will be all, champions. Once the gate opens, you may enter the battlefield. Best of luck to you. You’ll need it.”
With those words, the Captain of the Shielded Guard walked away from the large hall as six guards followed suit.
Syranon knew he couldn’t let his allies be hurt before the fight, making the paladin move towards Escobar. The paladin placed his hands on the back of the gangster, making them glow for a few seconds. Suddenly, the pain in Escobar’s body was no longer there. He looked surprised and in awe as he got up, being able to move around with no problems.
“Whoa…cool, man…thanks. Not even cocaine kills pain that fast.” said Escobar before giving the beastman a pat on the back and getting back in his spot, feeling as good as new. The healing had also seemed to calm him down a bit more as Syranon gave him a kind smile in return.
Xanthe looked as if she was about to say something while giving the paladin a stern glare, but she was instantly stopped by Annika.
“If we survive this, I will tell you a thing or two about fleeing from battle…’sister’” The last word that Annika spoke carried heavy contempt in it as she gave the leader of the Sisterhood a glare more harsh than the others. As a Viking, it was unacceptable to flee from a fight no matter the cause.
The champions all tried to calm down and focus on the upcoming battle. Xanthe, now aware that she had lost lots of trust from potential allies for her own agenda, was a bit worried, but she was thinking about how she could get them on her side.
Before they could wait any further, they heard a loud and rumbling sound in front of them. The gate began to shake and tremble as it moved aside, making the crowd outside cheer wildly. This was the first sign that the bloodshed was about to start. They eyes of Johannes lit up as he became completely unaware of the guards moving behind them all, blocking any escape path that the others might want to have.
“Well…seems it’s time to get going.” said Lizzy before taking a deep breath, feeling the mild breeze of the air against her skin. Though she sounded confident, she was actually feeling a bit uneasy. She was confident in her abilities to survive, but she was more concerned about keeping the other champions alive without killing anything.
The champions slowly moved forwards, some less enthusiastically than others, witnessing the crowd before them. It was overwhelming to have so many people watch them from above, hearing their roars of excitement and anticipation fill the air. The champions were all dead silent, looking at the crowd in either awe or horror, except for Johannes, who was loving the attention to its fullest. Different names were being called out from the loud audience to the people standing in the sand. Unbeknownst to them, the crowd had been shown promotional footage for each champion, highlighting some of their greatest achievements in order to give an idea of what these champions could do to quench their lust for blood. An announcer had worked up the crowd, playing into their anticipation and excitement like a puppet master to get them in the right mood.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! A big applause for the one who brought us these glorious fighters! The Realmgazer herself: Nikoli Zarbo!”
A sudden voice spoke from a speaker system as a wide magical image zoomed in on a white-haired, middle-aged woman in blue robes and a purple magician’s hat, sitting in an elevated VIP room. Next to her were creatures similar to those that the champions saw before being teleported to the Deadgold Arena. She smiled kindly and waved out to the crowd who clapped their hands for her en masse. The champions all looked up, now aware of who was responsible for kidnapping them from their homeworlds.
“Hmmm…if she brought us here, then she should be able to bring us back…we will have to keep an eye out for her.” said Ryo towards her fellow champions.
“THANKS, LADY!” called Johannes as he looked towards the VIP spot, sounding as thankful as he could.
Unlike the rest of them, Escobar and Johannes were taking their situation rather well. Escobar felt at home since he no longer had to avoid the law or go through complicated drug deals wile Johannes was happy to be able to do what he does best for money: killing things. Xanthe looked at Nikoli’s image, wearing a frown on her face.
“Betrayed by a woman…she must have been brainwashed by the patriarchy!” said the leader of the Sisterhood.
“Can you please change the subject for once? It’s getting repetitive.” lamented Annika as she rubbed her own forehead, getting a headache from the paranoia of her ally. Xanthe simply held onto her baseball bat and shook her head in response.
The magic image in the air faded into an overhead view of the arena before switching its focus to a series of small gates around the arena. Now and then, the image would focus on some larger gates, one as big as the one they entered from. Everything was silent for a moment as the champions were looking around themselves, wondering what would happen. They had no idea what kind of foes they would face in the Deadgold Arena as they were scattered around the area. Syranon went to thinking as he began to move to the middle, holding his blade in a defensive position.
“Guys. Gather in a circle at the center. Keep your eyes open for anything.” said the paladin as Ryo and Annika moved to his side.
Escobar, Johannes and Xanthe were reluctant to do so, but they knew deep inside that it was a good idea. The rest of the champions moved in, keeping their backs towards one another. The death knight pulled out a Tormented Bolt, ready to throw it at any foe as Escobar moved his hands to his bars of lead, pulling out two Glock 17’s out of the solid metal. He then touched the silver bars with his guns, giving them a shiny coating for the sake of looks. Ryo pulled out her pair of Desert Eagles as The Sorrow looked over her claws one more time, making sure that nothing was in the way. Xanthe tested her engine, making it spew some smoke while Annika looked at the send for a moment, noticing that it was completely dry. This would be the first time in a long while that blood would be spilled in the arena. That or they just clean up very well.
“Stay sharp…if anything too strong comes out of those gates, try to gang up on whatever it might be.” said Ryo before pointing her guns outward.
A sudden rumble was heard as the crowd cheered in near perfect unison. The smaller gates opened as a swarm of fifty skinless feline creatures rushed towards them, big as leopards and armed with 10 inch sickly yellow teeth and sharp brown claws, curved and long as fingers. The beasts roared as they kept coming closer to the champions by the second. Escobar was taken by surprise by these absurd creatures, making him skip back a bit.
“What the fuck are those things?!” he said before shooting a few bullets towards them.
He fired 9 lead bullets wildly, but only managed to kill 4 of them with head shots. 4 missed and another only hit the tail of one feline, angering it and making it charge him. As the beast got close enough, the gangster slammed his two guns together, turning them into a long machete. It leaped towards him as he made an overhead swing against it, splitting its skull in half before the dark red blood spilled onto his suit. He held the big knife in the air, swinging it around triumphantly as he held out four fingers with a big grin on his face. He could hear how the other champions were fighting, spilling blood onto the warm sand.
“FIVE KILLS, BITCHES! I’M THE KING OF THE GOD DAMN JUNG-“
He turned around and saw Ryo point one of her guns in his direction, wearing a serious look on her face. Before he could even morph his machete back into a firearm, she fired a shot. The bullet flew right past his ear and moved through the skull of another feline that had tried to jump onto Escobar’s back. He turned to the corpse before looking behind Ryo, noticing 7 dead of the beasts.
“9 kills. 9 shots. Stop bragging!” she said before she moved her arm to the right, shooting down another one without flinching. The drug lord was stunned for a second before he turned the sharp blade into two glocks again.
“God, she’s fucking hot!”
In the meantime, The Sorrow stretched out her right hand as the small purple crystal in her palm began to glow. An electronic sound was heard, as if something was charging up inside of it. The sound attracted the attention of seven beasts, making them charge towards her as they bared their drool-drenched teeth. They were a few feet away from the pale cyborg before a purple laser blast was shot out, leaving a smoking, basketball-sized hole in their torsos. A seventh feline rushed towards her size, but didn’t catch her off-guard. Her long claws extended from her hands at high speeds, seeking their way into the ribcage of the animal and piercing its heart, cutting through bones and tissue like a warm knife through butter. She looked at her rubber duck and noticed that it was still safe around her bracelet.
“Foul monsters! Return to the pits from where you came!” said Annika before she shielded herself from 3 of the animals, holding them back with one arm alone. With one hard push, she knocked them back with her shield before kicking one in the head, knocking it out before piercing it through the neck with her blade. As the other two jumped towards the Viking, she made a horizontal swing, decapitating both of them.
Xanthe was constantly driving around with her vehicle, kicking up dirt and constantly avoiding the beasts as much as she could. Her shades indicated the gender of the animals, noticing that most of them were female. She refused to attack them, but she knew she couldn’t convert them. She instead sought out whatever male she could. After witnessing a separated and lone male beast, she activated the turbo drive of her tricycle, giving her a quick boost of speed before landing her weighted baseball bat into its head, managing to kill it.
“Death to the male gender!” shouted Xanthe, hearing how the audience booed her in response, both men and women.
“Dudebros…” she muttered before noticing more animals chase her, making her retreat faster since they were female. She really seemed reluctant to actually kill the rest.
“Come on, kitties! Let’s have some fun!” taunted Lizzy as she kept leaping over the animals as soon as they got close to her.
The monkey girl managed to dodge whatever swipe or bite that they made, even when they were faster than lions. She stuck to her mentality of not killing anything, but she would still deliver a beatdown as needed. She kept taunting the animals as she rolled over and under them, slapping them to catch their attention. Once she had 13 of the things following her at the end of her daring acrobatics, she knew it was time to finish it. As one of the felines leaped towards her, she grabbed it by the tail and swung it around like an Olympic hammer, knocking out twelve of the sourounding animals before tossing it with great force against a beast that tried to sneak up on Syranon’s back, knocking them out cold. The paladin turned around just as he had stabbed one of the beasts through the gut, noticing Lizzy blow a kiss towards him, making him nervous yet again. Even in the midst of battle, she still wanted to have some entertainment at his expense.
“T…thanks, Miss Strong…” said Syranon before noticing yet another of the beasts coming towards him.
Though caught by surprise by the sudden appearance of the animal, the beastman still managed to roll to the side in the last second, feeling how his cape kicked up some dust in the process. It charged towards him again, but as it tried to grab him with its claws, he aimed the blade towards the heart of the feline, killing it and dealing a burning wound thanks to his blessed sword. It was clear to him that these were some form of demons or undead due to how their flesh and bones would be charred by the silver blade. The holy warrior suddenly realized a way he could slay as many beasts as possible. Syranon noticed how the beasts that Lizzy knocked out were slowly waking up again, shambling towards him clumsily. He placed his sword aside as his hands began to glow with a bright white light, making the feline animals stop in their tracks to admire the light. As they were distracted by the illumination from the beastman, the light suddenly became stronger and focused like a spotlight. The seven beasts caught in the light instantly turned into ashes, not even being allowed to turn move for a second before they were no more. The 5 remaining beasts that had moved towards Syranon before instantly retreated back to their gates once they became aware of the divine power that the paladin possessed. Some people in the audience looked a bit scared, cringing at this display of light. Justifiable since most of them were demons as well, vulnerable to this form of magic.
Johannes witnessed this exorcism of demons, remaining silent with his mouth wide open even as one of the beasts began to bit his legs. So far, the death knight had not killed a single thing, unable to hit anything due to the speed of the creatures. The only thing that Johannes had managed to do was to receive a good amount of deep cuts on his face and left arm from a pair of felines, making much of his partially clotted blood drip onto the ground. He never took it well whenever Syranon managed to best him at something. This became a catalyst for his rage.
“BULLSHIT!” yelled Johannes loudly before he kicked away the animal from its leg, snapping its neck in the process. He let out a battle roar as he saw two more rush towards him.
As one feline made a leap, baring its teeth at him, Johannes made an overhead swing against the creature, cutting the animal in half with one might blow from his large sword. He pulled out a long organ from the creature, possibly the intestum tenue, and began to chew on it before placing his sword on the ground. As he devoured the organ with his sharp teeth, his facial wounds were slowly closing shut. He was glaring at the other feline, noticing how it hesitated to attack him for a moment. After feeling how his face was no longer bleeding, he walked towards the creature, daring it to strike him.
“HIT ME, BITCH! I DARE YOU!!” shouted the death knight before the animal roared back, running towards him.
More of the felines began to run against him as well, trying to gang up on him. Johannes grabbed the first animal by the neck with one hand, tearing off its head along with a piece of the spine. He used the skull as a mace, striking down another one of the animals on the temple and killing it instantly. One of the remaining beasts leaped onto his back and began to bite his neck, making him bleed more than before. In response, he reached back and took hold of the animal’s arms before slamming down onto the sand before him, breaking its spine in 4 different places. Trying to avenge its fellow beast, another one jumped in front of him, only to be caught by the neck. Johannes strangled the animal as he began to chew it through the forehead, biting through brains and bones with little to no issues. He tossed the dead animal aside, crying out in anger as his mouth, neck and teeth were covered in a thick layer of blood and saliva. His bloodlust and fury was wildly entertaining for the crowd to say the least. It was rare that one as mad as Johannes would appear in the arena.
As the death knight left himself open, one of the animals managed to pounce on him and pin him, forcing him down onto his back. It tried to bite his face, but stopped as it suddenly heard a loud crunching noise before it felt something break through its ribcage with great force. Johannes glared into the eyes of the skinless feline as his left hand held an icy cold grip around its heart, freezing it in a thick casing of ice. He pushed the animal off from him, tearing out the once warm heart before shattering it like glass under his grip. As the two last beasts charged him, he picked up his sword once and stabbed forward, impaling the first one through the head, all the way to the lower legs. As he pulled out the long sword, the last feline slashed him across the face, giving him three big scars across the face. Johannes slowly turned his head towards the beast, wearing a wrathful gaze on his face that made the animal take a step back. It tried to walk back, but the bleeding undead wrestled the animal down to the ground before lifting it over his head. With one hard pull, he tore it in half, the crowd cheering as blood and guts showered over him. His allies were visibly disturbed by his brutality, even more so when he began to devour the limbs of the animal in order to heal his wounds.
Annika, wearing a worried expression, slowly moved towards Syranon as the champions watched in disgust at Johannes.
“Warrior of the light…you seem to have some history behind this man, so tell me…is he a draugr?” asked the Viking, sounding as if she really didn’t want to know the answer. Syranon looked away, feeling a bit lightheaded.
“N-no, Miss Lundadotter…but he’s something similar…though he only goes this violent on a bad day…” responded the paladin in a shaky voice. Annika, even though used to seeing organs and blood spill onto the fields of battle, was disturbed by the act of devouring foes.
After a brief moment of tranquility, or as tranquil as a massive arena of screaming fans possibly could be, Escobar laughed as he moved closer to Johannes, pulling out a lighter.
“That was fucking beautiful, man! Here, let me light it for you!” said the gangster as Johannes took a couple of deep breaths, spitting out the blood from his mouth. The death knight reached into his armor and pulled out the cigar, grinning as it was lit for him by Escobar.
As the two more enthusiastic champions were blowing smoke into the air and bragging about their recent match, Ryo began to look from side to side, wondering if they had won or not.
“Strange... I was expecting more than this.” thought to the demon hunter for herself, putting her two guns back into her holsters, looking over the carnage before them.
Gore, guts and limbs were spread all over the once dry sand, a bad omen of things to come. The stench of dead flesh was spreading into the once fresh air, churning the contents in the bellies for most of the champions. Some of them knew they would have to get accommodated with similar sensations with time since they didn’t know for how long they would be stuck in the realm of Taraboxus.
The Sorrow looked over to the rubber duck that she had placed into her bracelet, making a small smile after noticing that it was still safe and unharmed. As the cyborg tended to her beloved toy, Lizzy walked up to Ryo and gave her a playful hug from behind, much to the annoyance of the demon hunter.
“Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” said the monkey girl with a big toothy grin on her face before she was met with an icy stare from Ryo.
“Could you get off from me, Lizzy?” retorted the demon hunter, not caring much for being touched by others. Though she was not intimidated by the stare, the monkey girl did let go of Ryo.
Meanwhile, Syranon was happy that none of his allies were harmed too badly in the battle, thinking that it was over for now. He walked to the center of the arena, wearing a delighted smile. As Lizzy and Annika sat down on the ground next to each other in order to have a friendly chat, Xanthe kept her distance from the group, writing something on a notepad with the help of an ink pen. Sorrow was simply standing in her place, looking towards the crowd wile Johannes and Escobar were laughing and reminiscing on what had just happened, smoking their cigars in the process. Ryo walked towards her long-time friend, giving him a pat on the back and a nod of approval.
“We all did great today, Ryo. Let’s hope that the next challenge will be easier.” stated the paladin, feeling great inside because none of the champions were lost. His partner agreed in silence.
Johannes picked up his blade once more from the ground as he held out his arms in triumph, witnessing how the more bloodthirsty part of the crowd seemed to like him for his intense savagery. His grin beamed with pride as he began to brag loudly towards his audience.
“WAS THAT IT?! THAT WAS FUCKING EASY! I COULD HAVE KICKED THEIR ASSES ALL BY MY SE-“
The massive steel gate on the other side of the arena began to rumble and shake as it moved slowly moved to the right, making the audience cheer even more than before. The champions all looked towards it, noticing how sand and dust were getting kicked up into the air for every inch that the gate moved. A thick and wide cloud blocked the view of whatever was approaching them, but the cloud did settle by the seconds. Once the gate stopped opening any further, the champions could hear something heavy walk towards their destination, making loud thuds for every step it took. The smell of ethanol was felt in the air, becoming more intense the closer the creature moved towards them. A shape that glowed with a yellow-reddish color could be seen behind the settling sand, noticing that it was quite a distance away from them. A loud and monstrous breath could be heard as the champions readied their weapons, wondering what they were up against.
Once the cloud had thinned enough for the champions to get a good look at the creature, they were met with their next foe, standing a hundred feet away from them. It was a large lizard-like being, as tall and long as a big bus. Its amber yellow hide carried no scales, possessing a smooth and partially reflective texture that was covered in a transparent secrete that was constantly surrounding the beast in smaller licks of flame. It had eyes as brown as peat and saliva as golden as diesel, constantly drooling with the scorching hot spit. In its mouth were a small row of tiny teeth and a long, ever-burning frog tongue.
At the sight of this large amphibian, the hearts of the champions began to beat faster. Escobar and Xanthe slowly moved backwards as the others stood their ground, staring at the approaching enemy. For every step that the salamander took, small flames at the shape of its feet were left behind.
“By the eye of Odin…is that a dragon?!” exclaimed Annika as she raised her shield, ready to protect her allies. Ryo shook her head in response, holding her guns out.
“No…it’s a salamander. Thankfully not as tough, but still a foe to be reckoned with.” said the demon hunter.
Without any further hesitation, Xanthe revved up her engine to its fullest, making her tricycle fly. She tried to avoid the creature, having no weapon to which to harm the salamander with. For now, she planned to circle around the foe, hoping to confuse it and hopefully deal some form of proper blow with her weighted baseball bat. Escobar looked up at her, feeling enraged by her refusal to battle the monster directly and doing his best to restrain himself from shooting her.
“YOU COWARD LITTLE SHIT!!” yelled the drug lord before pulling out 2 lead guns from his bars, holding his arms out against the creature.
The burning beast looked up at the fanatical leader of The Sisterhood as she had managed to go 60 feet into the air. In one rather swift move, the salamander made a quick cough as it launched a big, sticky load of burning spit high up into the air against her, enough to cover an entire human in the deadly saliva. Witnessing this at the corner of her eye, Xanthe tried to dodge the warm fluid with a barrel roll. Though she managed to dodge most of it, noticing how most of it got stuck onto the magical barrier around the arena, she still felt something warm near her tricycle. Before she could even look back, she heard an explosion behind her before feeling a small piece of warm metal lodge into her left calf, making her grit her teeth together in pain. She looked back and noticed that one of the aerial engines had been set ablaze by the slimy projectile of the salamander, making her loose air and sending her down to the ground quickly. Desperately, she made her way down to the sandy ground with a rough landing, shattering her breaks in the process. Thinking that she couldn’t fight the creature, she decided to simply keep her distance from it, hoping that the others would do the job for her. Johannes couldn’t help but to let out a gut busting laugh at her misfortune.
“SO MUCH FOR RUNNING AWAY, ASSHO-“
With one fell swipe, the salamander knocked away the death knight with its scorching paw, knocking the air out of his lungs and sending him flying 20 meters away before crashing hard onto his face, breaking his nose in the process.
“Oh…my sexy face…” he groaned as his chest plate had now received a big dent along with a large black burn-mark due to the brute power that the salamander possessed.
As the salamander turned its attention towards Johannes, The Sorrow took the opportunity to attack it, wrapping her extendable fingers around its neck in an attempt to choke it and keep it in place. As she began to drag the massive amphibian with her robotic strength, Ryo and Escobar pulled out their guns, firing away at the chest, face and front arms of their foe.
“Spread out, guys! We can’t risk standing too close!” called Syranon, thinking of a way to take down the beast in the best way possible. He wanted to do his best to keep the others alive through the games and he would never forgive himself if anyone fell in their first battle.
Luckily for the paladin, the other champions seemed to think well of his idea, obeying almost instantly. During this time, the bullets from Escobar and Ryo were piercing through the enemy’s scaleless hide, managing to cause the salamander to slightly bleed with blood as black as oil, though it did little to actually slow the beast down. The burning secrete kept cauterizing the wounds before too much blood could leak out. Lizzy and Syranon tried to attack the salamander up close, but whenever they got near it, its hide became much warmer as the flames rose higher, making them unable to strike it with their weapons. The beast let out a sore roar as it began to rise up with its hind legs, pulling The Sorrow whit it and making her loose balance. Once the cyborg got close enough, the salamander used its mighty head to ram her hard, breaking her grip around its neck and knocking her away for a couple of feet. She became dazed by the strike the hard skull and was having a hard time to get back up on her feet. Annika rushed to her side, extending her shield as the salamander moved towards the cyborg.
“Recover, maiden of steel! I shall keep the lizard at bay!” said the Viking proudly as the salamander kept coming closer.
The Sorrow had received a few burns on her claws, making sure that they were in need of a repair if she ever wanted to extend them again. However, she did not care as long as her rubber duck was safe. That was when she looked at her bracelet. Her toy was no longer there. Her eyes grew wide in shock and terror as she kept turning her head around wildly, wondering where it could have gone. She froze when she saw where it was placed. It was just a stretch away from the smoldering feet of the salamander. It would be destroyed if the creature got too close to. She would not have the time to run towards it and she couldn’t use her claws due to the damages. For the moment, she thought the rubber duck would be destroyed.
“…No…” she lamented in a monotone, yet noticeably sad tone, a tear escaping her eye as she tried to get up as fast as she could.
Right before the salamander was about to take the defining step that would break her most beloved possession, a bright flash of light appeared next to the creature, blinding it and making it fall back. The creature was thrashing and rolling around, trying to regain its vision as it roared loudly and thus avoiding the rubber duck completely. The Sorrow was stunned by this divine and sudden intervention, wondering what had just saved the most important object in her life. She got up on her feet as her sights were now locked onto the rubber duck, witnessing how a gloved hand picked it up from the sand.
“I believe that this is yours, Miss Sorrow.” said Syranon, walking up to the cyborg and handing her the plastic toy with a friendly smile. She carefully grabbed it, wearing her stunned expression towards him before slowly placing the rubber duck into her bracelet once more.
“Any ideas of how we can fell this beast, warrior of light?” asked Annika as she noticed Escobar wasting an entire bar of lead for bullets in order to cause any significant damage.
“We need to slow it down first. Lizzy and I tried to deal blows towards the legs, but the salamander keeps burning hotter anytime we get close. I have an idea on how to deal with that issue, but in the meantime, you have to keep the others safe.” responded the paladin as he rushed away to get his idea into motion. The Viking responded with a nod as The Sorrow began to look over her claws and then towards the paladin. A small and warm smile crept up the cyborgs face as she saw Syranon walk away.
The Salamander was getting its vision back as it once again stood up, noticing how both Ryo and Escobar were shooting away at it, causing small holes in its skin but no lasting damages.
“JUST DIE ALREADY!!” shouted Escobar as he in desperation pulled out a large machete from one of his last lead bars, throwing it against the salamander and lodging the blade into its tail.
The beast yelped a bit from the sting before turning towards him, charging him before it felt a strong force against its jaw, knocking out a tooth. Lizzy had thrown her metal pole against the salamander, distracting it and catching its attention. She waved at it and laughed before throwing a rock at it, taunting and annoying it greatly. The salamander began to chase the monkey girl, but she was far faster, able to dodge and leap over whatever burning saliva that it spat against her. She knew it was now up to her too keep the beast occupied as she kept throwing sand against it, provoking it over and over to get her. The only thing that was difficult for Lizzy was when it tried to use its tongue to grab her, considering how swiftly it would launch it towards her. During the long chase, Lizzy would always run back to her pole whenever she got the chance, throwing it with great force against the salamander in order to knock out a few teeth. Ryo kept shooting the creature in the leg, but even the power of her guns couldn’t deal any proper damage.
“Johannes! Wake up! We need your help here!”
Syranon was kneeling next to Johannes, shaking him and trying to get him back in his feet. The death knight’s face was lying in a smaller pool of blood due to his broken nose, groaning and shifting around.
“Ugghhnn… what?” asked Johannes as he slowly and awkwardly began to sit up, wiping his face from the dried blood. He then pulled out a lung from one of the slain felines, carefully eating it in order to restore his face.
“Johannes! We need to put out the fires of the salamander if we are to harm it properly. I know you have a spell for that problem.” said Syranon as he helped the death knight get back onto his feet, pulling him by the arm.
Johannes was shaking and wobbling around, still feeling the effects from the hard strike from the salamander. He coughed a bit as he was steadily getting back to his senses, turning his head in order to look at the burning amphibian before looking back at the young beastman. After being speechless for a few seconds, Johannes grew a wicked smirk on his face before nodding to the paladin. He knew that Syranon was referring to a spell that he didn’t get to use very often: The Tundra Scream.
“I like the way you think, furball. I know what to do.” said Johannes as he let out a small and sadistic chuckle, making the paladin feel creeped out.
“Well…good. Just wait here until Lizzy leads the beast over to you.”
With those words, Syranon moved away from the undead warrior as his teeth and mouth were slowly getting covered with a cold layer of frost. Johannes was trying to concentrate and prepare the spell since he was very prone to backfiring most of his magic whenever he rushed it, which was most of the time. And as things looked, he would have enough time to prepare the Tundra Scream properly.
The paladin noticed how the monkey girl kept taunting the salamander, keeping it on the run at all times. He kept his safe distance from them as he called towards her.
“Lizzy! Get the salamander to Johannes! He will give us the opening that we need to finish it off!”
As she looked towards Johannes destination, noticing his evil grin, she became rather reluctant to do so. However, Lizzy trusted the paladin, having realized that he had no intentions of tricking her. One as easily flustered as Syranon was not one to backstab others.
“Ok, cutie. But I will kick his ass if he touches me!”
Lizzy leaped over yet another attack from the smoldering tongue of the salamander before she began to sprint towards Johannes, who was a long distance away from the both of them. Sand was getting kicked up into the brown eyes of the amphibian, making it harder for the beast to see her. The other champions except for Xanthe, began to after the salamander after the instructions that Syranon was calling out. She kept running for 20 seconds before she finally got close enough to Johannes, feeling her heart beat rapidly. She saw him open his mouth, noticing how cold air was falling down to the sands beneath him before he took a deep breath. She had no idea what would happen, but she knew she didn’t want to get caught between the two of them. With one big jump, she sprang over him when she was just 14 feet away. The salamander kept running forward, about to trample over the grinning Johannes.
Those were the last words he spoke before he let out a loud and cold shout, unleashing the Tundra Scream. Freezing winds were blasting out from his roar, carefully slowing down the salamander by the second. The constant flames were starting to die out as the mucus around the skin began to freeze solid. The salamander tried to fall back after a moment of resistance, but it was too late at that point. The head, torso and front legs of the beast were immobile, stuck in a thick casing of ice as the rest of the body was moving weakly, twitching from time to time. Though the back parts of the animal beast was still burning, the flames were much smaller and nowhere near as hot as before. Johannes’ mouth was also frozen at that point, the spell having backfired partially.
“Aahhfgh!” cursed Johannes as he tried to break the ice with the help of his hands, feeling how it kept his jaw from closing.
The remaining champions all rushed towards the salamander, keeping their weapons ready. This was their opportunity. Annika stabbed the salamander all the way through in the left hind knee as Syranon pierced it through the right hind knee, making the salamander shift and move its tail around as it was bleeding greatly through the open wounds. Ryo used her last bullets, shooting the beast in its right side as Escobar took the last lead bars in his possession and morphed them into throwing knifes, throwing them over and over into the beasts left side. The casing of ice around the head of the salamander began to thaw as it was once again moving around greatly. The Sorrow began to run towards the enemy head first as she cocked her right fist back. Once cracks began to form in the cold casing around the skull, she gave the beast a murderous glare, far colder than the ice itself before she swung her arm against it, giving it an uppercut so hard that it shattered the ice like glass in one blow. The skull of the beast was launched upwards as the jaw was shattered in three different places. The mighty enemy staggered and lost its balance before it let out a pained groan, falling down on the ground with a heavy thud.
The salamander didn’t move for nearly a full minute.
The massive audience exploded in one big cheer, loving every moment of the carnage that had taken place. They began to chant out different names, each one belonging to one champion or the other. All of the champions slowly approached the unconscious salamander, looking over it as it was not moving in the slightest. The secrete from the hide was no longer burning as the arena looked as if a violent bus crash had taken place. After a few seconds of staring at the salamander, Escobar approached it in order to pull out the lead knifes, forming them into a single bar again. The Sorrow pulled out her rubber duck from her bracelet and hugged it softly, wearing an almost childish smile on her face. Xanthe began to write something in her notepad as Annika picked up some teeth from the arena, wanting to keep them as tokens of the battle she had taken part in. Ryo walked up to Syranon who was sitting on the blood-soaked sand, hoping to catch his breath.
“I have to hand it to you, kid. That was a rather good plan you pulled off there.” said Ryo before looking over the crowd, wondering just how so many people could gather for these brutal games.
“Thanks…I was a bit worried that something would go wrong… having to rely on Johannes can be messy and risky, even when you have him on your side.” responded Syranon before he got to his feet again, wiping some dust away from his cape.
Lizzy looked over the defeated creature as she held onto her staff, raising a questioning eyebrow at it.
“Are you guys sure we defeated this thing?” she asked, scratching her head with her tail.
Johannes suddenly walked past her, spitting out a bloody piece of ice from his mouth. It was clear that however he managed to break the frost around his jaws, it was not pleasant. He wore a big frown on his face before he placed his foot on the skull of the salamander and buried his blade into its head.
“Yea, looks pretty dead to me!” exclaimed the death knight before he pulled out his sword, walking towards Escobar to relight his cigar. Lizzy cringed at the sight of the skull-drilling blow before she walked away from the dead salamander and instead decided have a talk with Ryo.
As the champions were enjoying their victory, the magical image in the air was displaying them all with the fallen beast in the middle of the carnage. The voice of the announcer was heard as the large gate was opened, letting through some staff members in vehicles to drag away the dead salamander.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Tonight, you have witnessed history! For the second time ever, after 83 years, the introduction battle was ended with no dead champions! The test of survival was set before them and they all passed! Congratulations, warriors from worlds both far and wide! You have earned your rest for the night! That was all for tonight, folks! Thank you for sharing this once in a lifetime moment with us! See you tomorrow at the Deadgold Arena, where we will have even more surprises for you! Good night, everybody! Take care!”
The crowd went wild as bombastic music was playing loudly through the building, ending the day on a high note. Johannes and Escobar held their hands high in triumph as Lizzy couldn’t help but to give a playful wave towards the audience. The champions all moved back to the massive gate where they came from, happy that they were all alive for the night.
“That has to be one of the best nights in my life. Did you see those people out there? They loved us! Mostly me, but you too! Man, if I could still get an erection, it would be so god damn hard right now. Phew! I’m going to enjoy this place!” stated Johannes as he gave Escobar a hard fist bump, causing the drug lord some pain. The others simply ignored the pride of the death knight, minding their own business.
“The Aesir granted us their favor for this battle. I owe them greatly.” said Annika as she looked over her sword, noticing how it was free from any damage. Her shield, however, would need to be repaired.
“The patriarchy is getting strong…never the less, me and my sisters life to fight for another day.” said Xanthe for herself, sounding rather ungrateful for the accomplishments of her allies.
The other female champions simply looked at her with a judging look as Syranon seemed a bit worried that they might do something drastic. However, before anyone could utter a word, Johannes kicked her tricycle with great force, shattering the two wheels on the back and knocking them off completley. He still wore his proud grin as he kept walking past the other champions
“Hehehe… No thanks to you, fuckface!” he said in his calm and joyful voice.
“Dude, that was just harsh” said Lizzy in response, calling him out for his aggressive nature.
“At least I didn’t try to ditch you guys!” called Johannes, still moving towards his destination. This made Annika remember something as she stood in front of Xanthe.
“You may make your way to your chambers, fellow champions. I need to speak to Miss Justice in private.” Stated the Viking, looking down on Xanthe as the others walked to their rooms. Though Syranon was reluctant to do so, wanting to see if she was hurt, he knew it was for the best considering the moment.
Once they were alone, Xanthe looked up at the tall woman, still wearing her usual stern look.
“About what, Annika?”
“Your lack of loyalty to those who bleed along your side!”
Xanthe was silent for a moment as she corrected her sunglasses. She was feeling worried that she might lose a potential ally in the northern woman.
“I am a fellow sister. It is in my nature to be loyal to the female gender. Not like men.”
Annika leaned closer to Xanthe, wearing a very annoyed look on her face.
“The paladin didn’t attempt to flee. He in fact put his life on the line to save a toy owned by a woman. The criminal stuck with us to the end. Even the undead didn’t leave us to die!”
“It is a trick, Annika! Manipulation for the long run! I wanted to escape in order to build an army to free all women and to end the rule of man! To build a perfect matriarchy! You have to tru-“
At the mention of the army, Annika’s patience had reached a critical limit.
“SILENCE! I have had enough of your excuses! You have preached for hours of this ‘patriarchy’, showing hatred towards our allies and THIS is how you want to deal with it?! Replace an oppressor with another oppressor? Fight injustice with injustice?! By slaying others based on gender?!”
Xanthe did not waver as she opened her mouth, about to defend her actions.
“NO! I will hear NO MORE of the poison you call words, Xanthe! Change your name, coward! ‘Justice’ does not suit you!”
Without any hesitation, Annika Lundadotter walked away from the leader of The Sisterhood, leaving her alone in the large room. Xanthe stood there for a long moment, sorounded by silence before she moved towards her broken tricycle picking up the parts.
“Hmm…seems she has been corrupted beyond saving by Syranon…I will deal with her later…”