Posted Oct 20, '10 at 8:37am
Strop I was wondering if I could be in the background of something?
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 8:41am
If I wrote the next part like the final book of Virgil's Aeneid, then I could put a ton of people into the background. Unlike Virgil's Aeneid, most of the cameo characters will actually survive.
If you have a character ready, then we'll see what happens.
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 8:47am
I DO I DO! If you could tell me a situation then I could come up with something good (I get a lot of A's for writing at school)
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 9:02am
OKAY HERE IS THE FIRST OF THE UPDATES!
Note that there's these "IMAGE" tags, it means I plan to draw something but won't be able to do it until after the exams, probably.
Warning: As usual, the following update contains references, but not explicit descriptions, to stuff that is probably not PG-13.
With a long sigh, Strop lay back in his bed, back propped on the wall. The last few days had felt like a nightmare, a strange sequence of half-baked happenings that made little sense to his overloaded brain. At least this one problem was over, all he had to think about was the much larger one looming just around the corner. It was all fun and games at first, seeing as the whole purpose of the city was for people to get together and have fun, but then the fun and games seemed to take progressively nastier turns... which was all the worse seeing as they weren't even derived from his sense of slapstick sadism. This was the nature of competition, and he was just going to see it through and hope something good came of it. Because if it didn't kill him, it would be all good.
Just then, Strop heard a familiar voice. "Congratulations on winning your case." His head snapped to the trapdoor at the far end of his room, but nobody was there. He went back to staring into space and froze.
Miniature Cen was standing on his nose, looking at him with a neutral look on his face.
"YOU!" Strop gasped. "You've got some nerve, pretending to be my good side then almost screwing me over at every turn in that court case. And you kicked me in the back of my head too. We're going to have words buddy, we're going to-"
Miniature Cen bowed and poofed out of sight.
"HEY! GET BACK HERE, GET BACK-"
"Aww, maybe Stroppykins should calm down a little."
This time it was a sultry female voice that pricked Strop's ears, and sure enough, miniature Strip peeked over his nose.
"It's not good to get angry at something that isn't there," Miniature Strip simpered, fluttering her wings and rising a little before draping herself over the bridge of Strop's nose. "Perhaps you should blow off some steam some other way," she winked suggestively.
"I'm not sure I even have enough energy for that," Strop replied flatly.
Miniature Strip pouted for a moment, then batted her eyelashes.
COVER IMAGE: Reckoning The final two, with upgraded equipment.
"Please, be seated."
Crimsonblade, one of the two finalists of the many hundred who signed up for the Way of Moderation Tournament, sat in the small, secret room located in a secret underground section of ArmorGames. Strop figured that Crimsonblade would likely have already known about the location, and Leon wouldn't, so it would be the easiest way to hold this secret final pep talk before the final event of the tournament. In four hours' time.
"How are you feeling now?" Strop asked Crimson. Crimson shrugged.
"I'm sure you know, back in the day," Strop reminisced tangentially, "Of a time when a certain user once almost became a moderator. Or so it appeared that way."
"I do," Crimson replied simply. Strop had to assume that they were in fact talking about the same person, and went on.
"At least, it appeared to the users that he was the perfect candidate for the job, but I take it that you yourself already knew otherwise."
"Maybe I did." Crimson's chiselled stony features gave nothing away. "But it was public knowledge anyway."
"Correct," Strop held up a finger, "So I also take it that you appreciate the difference in the perspectives between the users who approved, and the moderators who didn't."
"He didn't become a moderator and was banned after terrorising the forums, so obviously there was a difference."
Strop decided he didn't need to push the point any further. "Well... yes. The moderators' concern was that he turned out to be very dangerous, very dangerous indeed. And yet the difference between a good candidate and a bad one was very subtle. And that," Strop spread his hands, "Is the situation we find ourselves in today."
"What do you mean?" Crimsonblade asked. "Are you talking about Leon McAcid?"
Strop coughed. "In a manner of speaking." He coughed again. "...yes."
"I don't understand," Crimsonblade frowned ever so slightly (thus proving to Strop that his face was not paralysed by botox). "Leon McAcid doesn't even resemble that case." He hastily added, "Obviously I don't mean physically."
"The situation has certain parallels," Strop explained. "On one hand you have a user who appeared to be good, and was thus considered set to become a moderator... and on the other you have a complete nutter who appears set to become-"
"Are you saying that you think I won't win?" Crimsonblade stiffened slightly.
"Er, no. No no no!" Strop backpedalled, before admitting. "Well, on paper, the betting odds are stacked against you. I mean, people knew you were hurt and Leon wasn't, and-"
"They should let the contest be the judge of that," Crimson cut in cooly. "After all, I have prepared very thoroughly. So long as the battle goes to the Wilderness-"
Strop held up his hands. "That's what I was getting to. There will be a round in the wilderness." He paused. "Things must be decided in that round... if you know what I mean."
Crimson, the cloaked master of the magical blade, studied Strop for a long moment. "I'll do my best."
"Please, be seated."
This time, Strop sat Leon McAcid down at a table in a (very) quiet corner of the Tavern. Probably quiet because the tavern regulars had long learnt to avoid the gnoll. Or perhaps avoid anybody who would be speaking to Strop, since Strop usually visited the tavern just before, during, or after some serious trouble that usually involved the trashing of the Tavern's interior and usually several of its patrons.
"What can I do for you this time?" Leon flashed his teeth in that sardonic smile Strop could never quite read. "Have you another favour to ask me?"
Strop opend his mouth to speak, before pausing and changing tack: "Actually, I suppose you might consider it one, but maybe not."
"Interesting," Leon mused, "Given the tournament's but maybe three root beers and two trips to the commode away. What manner of 'maybe favour' might this be?"
There was another pause. Clearly the favour was either an awkward, a delicate, or risky one. Finally Strop spoke: "It's more of a mutually beneficial proposition. Do you remember the time you were turned female?"
Leon blinked. "Yeeeessss," he let the sibilant tail slither through his teeth and trail into nothing, not sure what to make of this yet.
"Well, do you remember what it was like? That week or so you were female?"
"I do, actually." Leon did remember, it was hard not to. "I remember being basically better at everything and feeling pretty good about it too."
"Good." Strop said, folding his hands on the table. "So how would you like to turn female should you win the tournament?"
Now it was Strop's turn to blink. Once again, when he least desired a direct answer from the evasive Leon, he got one.
"See this foot?"
For a moment, Strop was afraid Leon was going to channel Klaus. "...yes?"
"This is all the female I'll ever be, thank you very much."
So much for that idea.
It was hardly the place for a dwarf. With all the flashing lights, neon, and various unedifying activity, Dank had always held NewGrounds in somewhat distasteful regard. Yet on the other hand, there was something about its irreverent perversion that held a certain charm... if one stuck around long enough to tolerate it. Obviously some of it had rubbed off on Dank, seeing as he kept a herd of penicorns.
Studiously ignoring everything that went on around him, Dank strode down the drag, a large, circular package hoisted over his back. If he delayed his return to ArmorGames long enough, perhaps by dropping by Devoidless to hammer on his crag again, maybe he might miss the tail end of that idiot horse's tournament and everything would blow over and things would return to normal. He'd never much liked the idea of a tournament to decide the next moderator, but then again he had always figured that was because he never really liked anything much, with the exceptions of his hammer, hammertime, and of course, his herd of penicorns. Chiefly because they had properly punished that idiot horse for blundering onto his land.
Thinking about it was making his anger levels rise again. He decided maybe he should swing into the nearest establishment. That was probably a poor choice of words, because it was quite likely that the establishment he had just stepped into was in fact a swingers club.
Fortunately it was not (it was merely a H-club), so Dank ignored the "under 18" warning, sat down and ordered a glass of milk, then thought the better of it and ordered a glass of water instead. While he was waiting, several noisy patrons burst through the doors. Dank knew they were underage because their voices kept breaking every three words, and was about to blast them for being annoying twerps when he heard what they were saying.
"...that furry thing that started the flamewar and had the moderators lock down the whole place a few months ago?"
"Yeah! I heard she's actually from ArmorGames."
"What, that place? But it's full of *********s!"
"And not only that, 'she's' actually a 'he' who crossdresses!"
"roffle that makes sense, I mean," and here they all chanted together, "THERE ARE NO GIRLS ON THE INTERNET!"
"Ahahaha, what a *********", one of them rejoined.
"Freaking /b/tards," Dank muttered to himself, trying to go back to ignoring them while he nursed his water. But it was impossible as there were so many of them and they were all so darn loud.
"Yeah well I heard that AG's bigger than NG now!"
"TRAVESTY!" they yelled together. "WE WERE HERE FIRST!"
"And that half their moderators are, like, furries."
"KILL IT WITH FIRE!"
"Let's raid them and show them who's boss!"
"YIFF IN HELL, FUR*****S!"
"WE ARE LEGION!"
"IN THE NAME OF TOM FULP!"
Amidst the various irrelevant warcries, Dank's frown deepened. This didn't sound quite par for the course, in fact it sounded potentially troublesome. He tossed back his water and stumped back outside, and his blood ran cold.
It was immediately apparent that the teens in the H-club were only the tip of an iceberg. The streets were chock full of people marching, some in troll masks, some in Guy Fawkes masks. Others were riding the NewGrounds tanks and trading gay jokes. This was far bigger than just a group of teens from a single cell of /b/ or some anti-furry trolls on 4chan or something deciding to hold a grudge, this was...
Moving as fast as his stubby legs would allow him, Dank rushed back to his apartment, where his penicorn was leashed (...leashed?) and leapt aboard. The penicorn reared, kicking the air, then took off, blazing a rainbow trail towards the land of ArmorGames.
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 9:11am
Sounds like war.
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 9:55am
I knew this would happen...as soon as AG became big enough to be noticed...we'd be attacked...
Really, a group of organised /b/tards could reaaallly destroy the forums veerrryyy quickly....
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 10:00am
Yeah hope it takes a while for them to actually get here. We've got a final round to get underway!
But seriously. What's the worst thing that could happen to the AG forums as they are now? Something like that would come near the top of the list, ahead of a rogue moderator and behind the spontaneous and simultaneous meltdown of the physical servers and their backups.
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 10:00am
Posted Oct 20, '10 at 10:05am
Thoad, did Strop remember to reattach your skull, perchance?
Anyway, seriously. You'll get a chance to respond tomorrow. Have fun thinking about it tonight!
Posted Oct 21, '10 at 3:58am
Nobody posted D: This means I'm going to be triple-posting, but meh.
This is it! This is the final update before the first set of assignments for this round. Given that what I'm posting here is a nearly, but not quite complete draft, pay close attention to what happens yes, but I would be aware that the major exchange that takes place in it will be expanded slightly in the archived version. This will not affect the progression of the story.
Day of the Finals
The Amphitheatre. Where everything (from the perspective of this tournament) had begun, and where it would also end. That would be as the public saw it. But as for the perparations and the consequences... they stretched far beyond the public eye either way. This was, after all, the event to herald a new moderator, thus this was hardly an end, but rather, a new beginning.
Outside, the benches were filling, hundreds upon hundreds of people streaming through the main archway and going up the stairs and through the back passages up to the very brim of the structure. As the minutes ticked by, so too did the rising excitement. Today was going to be a big show, maybe even the biggest in what was already the biggest tournament in the history of this land, and what's more, it would all culminate in the crowning of a new moderator!
In the wings of the backstage, Strop wrung his fingers together. He had woken up feeling ill, and this feeling had persisted all through the day, despite his desperate hopes that it would go away, just like everything else. "Calm down," he muttered to himself. "It's not like this is worse than an exam." He took a few deep breaths, then looked around again.
Save for him, the wings were empty.
"Darn it all, where are they? It's already time!" Strop cast his mind over the list. Moe had withdrawn to contemplate things after his series of unusual outbursts during the court case, and naturally Flipski would have accompanied the brain-in-a-jar. Carlie was still "on secret business", likewise Dank was running an errand. Devoidless was moping in some undisclosed location (which had since been disclosed to him but he wasn't curious enough to find). Nemo was still Nill, speaking of which, Ubertuna was... well Strop hoped that the tentacle hadn't had its way with him, and Zophia was probably either working on that or had forgotten about today, though she had left him some handy projector screens and along with that camera he'd found hiding in the corner of his room (God forbid he ever find out exactly what Zophia had seen, though he could already imagine...), that was at least the AV technical aspects covered. But otherwise, he was completely alone on this one, with the possible exception of-
Strop noticed a silent shadow suddenly appear next to him. With a mixture of relief and further stress, he noted that it was Cenere. Briefly he also noted that Cenere's face was no longer bruised, rather, it had resumed its mask-like quality. "Ah, there you are, let's get to it already shall we?"
For a moment, Strop wondered whether Cen would dissent, but this was not a moment that he had. Barely waiting for the imperceptible nod, Strop emerged from the wings to the stage with Cen in tow. Strop felt a little numb as the roars of the several-thousand strong crowd buffeted them, but nonetheless he raised his arms, waiting for the gradual quiet, before he began to speak through the 'fone.
"Welcome, all, to the final round of the Way of Moderation tournament!" The crowd roared again, and Strop had to wait a little while longer to resume. "This is the culmination of over a year of thrills, of spills, of growth and frustration, of triumph and defeat, and now, of the ultimate test. So now it is time, to meet your two finalists! MAKE THEM FEEL WELCOME, CRIMSONBLADE AND LEON MCACID!"
Strop surreptitiously slipped some ear plugs into his sensitive horsey ears before he was deafened by the crowd. Cloaks trailing behind them, the two finalists strode to the stage. Crimsonblade, as always stern and collected, his gloved hand resting atop the scabbard of his eponymous sword, was shadowed by the hulking Leon, seven foot of drooling, gnashing, maniacal gnoll, who had certainly dressed for the occasion, with silvery breastplate and gauntlets and Imperial blue cape, not to mention the new acquisition of a straight sword... Strop did a doubletake as he realised the parallels to the province's heraldry, and his hairs stood on end. Certainly he knew Crimson had done his preparations, and thoroughly at that, but in the case of this makeover, Strop was left wondering.
Calm down, he told himself. These past few days he had been getting far too ahead of himself in condemning Leon. After all, he repeated, Dank was grumpy and belligerent, Devoidless was a capricious pyromaniac, Zophia was a pervert, Nemo was often in it for teh lulz more than anything else... the no-nonsense Crimson he had felt would be... a safe, competent choice to be sure, but Leon may have seemed more the part what with this oddball collection of crazies. That was what he would have liked to think, if Leon didn't continuously give him the creeps. And the last person to give him the creeps turned out to be one of those dreaded impostors, but that was another story for another time...
Better get on with it.
Strop held the 'fone to both finalists. "Have you any words to share before we proceed?" He asked them.
"Like my new cape?" Leon offered. "It was very expensive, or rather, it would have been if- well let's just say it's very valuable and I hope you like it." He flashed a toothy grin that set the tips of Strop's ears a-quivering.
"Uhm, thanks Leon. How about you Crimson, do you have any words for the audience?"
"Yes." Crimson said. Then he added, "That was it."
Strop's ears flattened for a moment, then perked when he realised that he could now just get the pleasantries over with and move along to the part he didn't have any control over. Cen stood stony still right beside him, saying and doing nothing that would possibly hinder the cause of hurrying-the-heck-up-so-he-could-go-back-home-and-forget-about-life.
"Right then. WELL!" Strop raised his voice once more. "This marks the beginning of the final round of the Way of Moderation Tournament! As such, this final, to decide a winner, must decide which of these candidates is most suited to the way of moderation in the land of ArmorGames! We have tested the various attributes of moderators many times, with increasing difficulty and competition as the rounds have worn on, thus this final test will bundle everything into one. There will be," he held up his fingers, "two rounds! One will be right here, on this stage, representing conflict within the city, and the other will be in a clearing in the wilderness, for a moderator has to be able to weather both."
For the next part Strop had been especially careful to plan such that every contingency had been covered, so he picked his words carefully. "The first round, on this stage, will be contact sparring to submission or to first clean hit, which will be awarded one point. The second round, in the wilderness, will be full combat using full environs to surrender, which will also be awarded one point. At the end of the second round, if the scores are tied, the event will repeat in order again until the scores at the end of the second round is broken. Killing the opponent in either setting will result in disqualification. Finally, you are allowed to use everything that you carry on your person, but under no circumstances may you use bystanders or other persons," with this he shot a glare at Leon, who whistled nonchalantly and looked in another direction. "And this time, causing excessive collateral damage may result in deductions."
Strop swallowed and cast one final look at the audience, then the finalists, then Cen (the latter had still not moved, and Strop was beginning to wonder whether he'd switched with the cardboard cutout again). Then he raised his hands high, and proclaimed: "I now declare the first round OP-"
"STOOOOP!" a cacophony of shouts sounded from stage left. Shocked, Strop whirled around to find a gaggle of hooded figures clambering onto the stage. As hooded figures went, it was hard to tell one from the other, but this lot seemed familiar...
"In the name of the Secret Society of Armorgames Representing Victims of Moderator Abuse, we protest! This tournament is a sham, for the Moderator who runs it is corrupt, therefore we can't accept any result!"
After a moment of shocked silence, the benches of the amphitheatre erupted in noise. There were cheers, boos, calls of "get off the stage!" and "stop trying to be mini-mods!" Amidst the noise, Strop was contending with a million different voices in his head. One was telling him that maybe he could turn this to his advantage and delay or even force the closing of the tournament. However the other nine hundred thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine were telling him this was absurd, and what's more, everybody was here and watching his every move and these guys had to be dealt with and-
"ENOUGH!" Strop shouted so hard that he ended up whinneying instead. Even with the awesomesauce power of the megamegafone, he was unable to get anybody's attention, so instead he produced his banhammer and slammed it into the stage so hard it cracked. Everybody froze mid-protest and stared at him.
"Good," Strop muttered, before picking up the 'fone again. "Look guys, if you have a complaint about me, I suggest you forward it to the administrators, and they'll-"
"No, that won't do, you'll just censure us again like last time! We brought a legitimate complaint and all that came from that was that crazy automaton threatening to 'shut us down' if we didn't shut down our group. That is injustice, it is totalitarian, and we won't stand for it!" The hooded antagonists turned protestors folded their arms and, apparently literal-minded as well, emphatically sat down on the stage.
Strop's ears twitched at the onslaught of complicating factors. "Need I mention that you're disrupting some major proceedings with actions unrelated to the event, and this is expressly against the rules of this city?" he gritted through clenched teeth.
"We're not moving anywhere until you address our complaints. Even if you use your brutal tactics or threaten us with your banhammer. Especially so, in fact!" the protestors huffed defiantly.
Strop raised his banhammer. This was, after all, a bannable offence. But then again... he felt several thousand eyes staring at him, waiting to fulfill that carefully crafted prophecy of these protestors... he desperately wanted to say, "And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the true way of moderation, dealing with **** like this." but this would hardly go down well, so he simply had to find the best other solution...
"Look," Strop said, "You're going to have to use the appropriate avenues to file a complaint, otherwise it will simply not be addressed. Now please leave." He pointed to the grand door, hands on hips, and, as expected, was met with silence. He looked at the finalists, who both stared back at him. Leon put his hand on his sword suggestively, Strop blanched and waved him down.
"Very well then, in that case I'll just have to make you leave myself." With that, Strop marched up to the nearest protestor, and picked him up by the arms. Predictably, the protestor started kicking and screaming and generally flailing all about, so Strop quickly grabbed one of his arms and locked his wrist as gently as he could. Thus immobilised, the protestor was reduced to simply screaming and flailing with one arm, so Strop went to take the other arm in a similarly non-violent manner, only to have the protestor start flopping about like a fish. Grunting, Strop went for the full body grab, and somehow the protestor managed to likewise wrap himself around Strop, where they swung around in an ungainly waltz. In the process, Strop noticed that the protestor's hood was gradually slipping off-
"NO!" another protestor yelled, abandoning his seated pose and rushing at Strop, but too late, the hood was off, and now all the protestors were charging at Strop but not before everybody saw-
"OH TEH NOES, TROLLS!" Sure enough, the real reason the protestors were hooded was revealed in all their tusked, green, stubbly inglory. Strop could hear the rising hubbub as he was involved in a ten-way battle to control a bunch of trolls who were trying to pin him down as well as futilely keep their hoods on. By now he was quite sure that he had used all the pacifism the public would expect, and were he to neglect pragmatism in the interests of crowd control the event could quickly become chaotic, or, at least, far more chaotic than he had planned. Again.
"That's it," he declared to the maurauding trolls, "You're now attempting to directly harrass a moderator!" And with that, he brought his banhammer to bear.
Ten seconds later, the trolls lay in a dazed heap in the middle of the stage, and all eyes were fixed on Strop once more. All eyes, except, that is...
"Hey, Cen, a little help here. Could you get all these trolls somewhere secure?"
Cen was still staring blankly into space, probably hoping that last request was a mistaken artifact of his hearing, and that the event would go on without a hitch.
"No seriously Cen, I can't leave this amphitheatre, I need you to take these trolls out so I can start the round." This time, Cenere glanced at him. Then the trolls. Then back at him. Then he went back to his vacant stare. Strop waved at him, but elicited no further response: just a set jaw and steely stare somewhere that was not Strop.
In the back of his mind, Strop heard an echoing: "He's being insubordinate... and you know it." The echo made his hairs prick, and he swatted at his head, but to no avail, it only got louder and louder until suddenly Strop was recollecting a certain imaginary conversation he had the previous day...
"He's being insubordinate," Miniature Strip had said to him. "How else do you explain all the absences... and how else do you explain the notes in the court case?"
Strop swore he could feel bubbles forming in the stirring current of his blood. Oh yes, there was that...
"And think of how embarrassing that day was! It can't have been good for your reputation..." Miniature Strip absently twirled a lock of her hair while rattling off the various examples, rubbing Strop's loss-of-face in his face, "...and to top it all off Cen even kicked you in the back of the head!"
"But that's not Cen, it's..." Strop stopped, frowning.
"There's a reason Cen is your 'conscience'. He's the one who made you give that coffee to Chill. And he's the one who hung up on you when you needed help the most." Miniature Strip tilted her head and stared meaningfully at Strop. "Think about it, will you?"
Strop did think about it, and it was starting to confuse him. "But Cenere was so diligent and hardworking, how, why, I mean... he didn't even complain about- he couldn't possibly-"
Miniature Strip leaned up close, her bust almost spilling out from between her folded arms. "There are other ways to express feelings and attitudes other than words. And I think you need to say something about it!"
And right when it seemed her ample globes were about to spring right into Strop's face, she poofed in a burst of fire and smoke, a fading giggle the only remaining sign of her presence.
Back in the present, Strop put his hands on his hips. "Look Cen, this isn't the time for dilly-dallying. It's not like you're going to get ANOTHER black eye from this lot, they're all already dazed. They just need locking up, and I just need to get on with this tournament, okay?"
Cen shrugged and spread his palms open slightly. He wasn't moving. He wasn't about to help Strop here. In front of all these people, even more than in the Great Courts, he was showing Strop up. This was beyond simple unwillingness now, beyond doubt, it was...
"Cen," Strop started walking towards him. "I thought you were starting to grow a little spine after all those months of training. All those months of time invested and that work you put in, I thought it was doing some good. But if such a simple task as this is beyond you, I don't know what to say."
Strop said this all quietly, after all, everything was on display, and he just wanted to spring Cen into action, somehow, yet somehow it was like talking to a brick wall. What was one to do when talking to a brick wall?
"Come ON!" Strop raised his voice slightly. "Be a man would you? When you got a girlfriend I thought things were going in the right direction, I was even prepared to overlook the absences because you were still getting the paperwork done... but now she's gone and you're just standing there moping like you can do nothing about it? Where's the man in that, huh? Even without saying anything, all you're doing is wallowing in your own self-pity, and now you're going to let that take over your life, instead of standing up like a MAN and actually doing something productive?"
In Strop's increasingly cloudy vision, he thought he might have seen Cenere twitch, but ultimately all Cenere did was to avert his eyes and look down. This was not the desired effect at all... even though it was what Strop should have expected, but this only served to inflame him further. Even if his voice was still not audible to everybody, his increasingly wild gesticulations carried plenty of volume.
"You can't be serious! I can't believe I've wasted so many months on this! I honestly thought you were better than this, Cen, but you're as hopeless as before this tournament began! I wasn't gonna mention it, but now it's come to this, over the recent months I've noticed things. The absences coz you were gallivanting around with Sai were one thing, but running off right before the semi-finals? Those notes you wrote in the court case? What were you trying to pull there? Huh? You're trying to screw me and this tournament over by undermining it aren't you."
At this, Cen started muttering and shaking his head, but he was inaudible under the verbal onslaught of the now enraged horse.
"You don't have to say a word, your actions speak it all! Or perhaps your lack of actions! You don't want to accept any responsibility, to the extent that you won't actually say anything about it..."
At this, Cen's eyes raised until he was almost looking at Strop, and this time he could be heard to protest: "But I did say something about it, you just weren't-"
"No Cen, all you do is just stand there with that face that says 'I disapprove of this, I am not going to say it because you obviously don't value what I say, so I'll just wear this face that disapproves and not say anything.' And you know what? I was gonna tolerate that. I was until you decided to get all passive-aggressive about that, and you know what? THAT'S JUST NOT CRICKET."
Now Cen was staring at Strop, the slight slouch in his shoulders gone as his blood went up. "Listen to me for a minute," he started, before he paused, then pursed his lips, then turned and walked past Strop, towards the main entrance. "Nevermind, excuse me."
"OH NO YOU DON'T," Strop roared. "This time, you're gonna stay right here and tell me in your own words what the hell your problem is. No running away to Sai, oh, that's right, she left you didn't she! Well, you're not gonna run away and shirk your responsibility again!"
As if Strop had loosed an arrow through his back, Cen's shoulders stiffened. Then slowly, agonisingly slowly, he turned. And when he faced Strop, there was fire in his eyes.
"No, I am not shirking my responsibility," he murmured dangerously. "If anything, I am exercising responsibility by doing everything I can to prevent another of your homegrown disasters, which, given I can do nothing against a moderator like yourself, would be to withdraw and take cover."
Strop boggled. "Disaster? Disasters? You think what you've seen are DISASTERS?" He clenched his fists so hard he shook. "Perhaps it's because you've been spoilt by the mollycoddled confines of ArmorGames, this place we've worked hard to instill a culture of lawfulness in. Perhaps I should be a little pleased, even, that you are so **** NAIVE that you could call the events homegrown disasters. Perhaps they are disasters, in that there were unexpected outcomes, but it's more likely you don't know what the big world is like!" Strop swung his arms wide and shouted at the top of his voice, riding the rush of fury without a second thought. "You want to know how I became qualified to be a moderator? I'VE BEEN PLACES. I'VE SEEN REAL CONFLICT. I'VE BEEN BEATEN TO THE POINT OF DEATH AND I CAME BACK WITH A DETERMINATION TO SERVE GREAT JUSTICE. You want to know what the Way of Moderation is all about? Well, it isn't for little babies like you who think everything has to be safe and sound. It's about weathering stress, facing danger, managing conflict, and thinking on your feet, and everything I've set in this tournament reflects all those things if you bothered to look! I've done everything I can think of to truly test the candidates' aptitudes and development from the perspective of a moderator, and if you aren't going to appreciate this, then I really HAVE wasted my time, and you really ARE just being obstinate and obstructive!!!"
Strop paused to take a breath, but in the gap, Cen, his face ashen, gloriously, horrifyingly, took the charge.
"Don't you think I know this?! Don't you think I have seen this myself?! Sadly, I think you are wrong on one point. Moderators might not be babies, but you are certainly nothing but a child! You take no responsibility, you think everything is goign to be okay! I don't even think you believe in what you just said, and if you do, it is nothing but self-pity because you were framed for something you didn't do, when you should be happy you weren't prosecuted in, say, causing several users traumas, injuries and mental scars, or ruin an entire street in your little games! I am wasting my time! I am wasting my time on you and your petty little power games!"
Then the crowd, collectively as one, gasped. Cen had finally spoken.
Most shocked of all was the target of his unchained wrath, that capricious colt, Strop. If he hadn't a coat of fur, he would have gone just as deathly pale as Cen's knuckles, protruding from his fists. Then he recovered, or perhaps more appropriately, he lost it even more.
Strop pointed to the grand archway of the Amphitheatre and planted his other hand on his hip. "FINE THEN. IF YOU OBJECT SO MUCH THEN YOU'RE FIRED. MAN UP, GO AND SORT OUT YOUR OWN PROBLEMS BEFORE YOU START COMMENTING ON MINE." Strop pointed to the grand archway of the Amphitheatre and planted his other hand on his hip.
But Cenere would have none of that nonsense, because he had also lost it: "YOU CAN'T FIRE ME, YOU NEVER PAID ME A DIME BECAUSE OF THIS! IF NOTHING IT WAS VOLUTARILY AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I REGRET IT!"
Somewhere in the exchange they had marched up to each other and were now yelling directly into each other's faces, noses so close they were touching.
"THEN WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE, RUN ALONG TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND, IF SHE WILL TAKE YOU BACK!"
They stood there, frozen, as the crowd and finalists watched with bated breath. Strop, too, dared not breathe, for Cen's face had transformed. That restrained mask of faint disapproval had shattered, revealing his true expression: pure disgust. "I know of no words in any of the languages I speak that could describe what I think of you right now."
"That probably goes to show how much you know," Strop spat viciously.
Slowly, Cenere straightened. Then he stomped off the stage. Removed his jacket, and then, as an afterthought, his vest. Folded them neatly before placing them on the ground. Then he marched to the door, and glared directly at Strop.
All eyes settled on Strop once more. Strop stood there, blinking, looking every bit as blank as the audience, the finalists, even the unconscious trolls still piled up on the stage. Just like that, at this crucial stage, Cenere, one of the unsung pillars of the tournament, was gone. To where, nobody knew, and as to whether he would ever come back, nobody, especially Strop, could say.
Right at that moment, Miniature Cen wandered into Strop's peripheral vision. "Nice going," he deadpanned. "You probably shouldn't have done that. Oh well. Good luck."
Then he poofed.
With all his might, Strop resisted the urge to let loose a few choice expletives. Instead, he huffed, and pondered the situation. Cen wasn't coming back for now, that much was certain. He'd just have to ignore the trolls for now, as they were the least of his problems. In fact-
"Well, the show must go on!" Strop shrugged and clapped his hands. He breathed a few times to blow off the tremor in his voice, before picking up the 'fone again. "Finalists! Are you ready?"
The finalists looked at each other, before subtly stepping back, and nodding. In response, Strop raised his arms high.
"In that case, I now declare this round OP-"
Strop whirled around at the second interruption, ready to give the offender a good blasting, but stopped short when he realised it was Dank, astride a puffed-out penicorn, its tongue (and appendage) flopping around limply. "THEY'RE COMING," he bellowed again, "SAVE YOURSELVES!"
Strop was about to ask him what the hell he meant when his blood ran cold. Hot on his tail, and charging through the grand arches, was a crowd. But not just any crowd. Even visually challenged as he was, Strop recognised several of the figures in there: a father-son duo of spandex-clad chainsaw maniacs, a sadistic satyr with hooves that could outrun even Strop's, several kung-fu stick figures, along with a stickslayer, robots and cyborgs, a bunch of gun-toting and knife-throwing schoolkids, a throng of pimply teens wielding various nasty implements of flame and destruction yelling various internet slogans, agnry faices, and of course, in the background, those monochrome tanks and those dastardly tankmen who spoke purely in homoerotic double-entendres.
There was only one possibility, and only one response, and this one response was only possible if the innocent citizens of AG remained calm. "Everybody stay calm-" Strop began, only to be drowned out by cries of "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" Next thing he knew, Strop was swarmed under as everybody vacated their benches, swirling around, past and over him in a tidal wave of bodies and sound. He struggled against the current, trying to keep from drowning, but was dragged to the bottom and trampled upon by countless pairs of feet, until the only thing he felt or heard was a constant dull roaring, so he could do nothing but curl up into a ball and hope he didn't die.
The as suddenly as it began, it was over. Slowly, Strop opened his eyes, and stood up, peering through clouds of dust.
The Amphitheatre was completely empty.
"...hello?" Strop ventured. "Anybody?"
When Strop finally collected himself enough to run out of the Amphitheatre, the sinking feeling in his gut worsened. The whole street was engulfed in generalised melee. All around, users were fighting, running around blindly and falling. In the distance, he could hear explosions and plumes of smoke began to rise, blending with the heavy, dark, brooding clouds that hung over the city of ArmorGames.
A Newgrounds raid!? None of it made any sense, but then again, the law of Internetland itself was not to make sense. But Strop knew two things: a coordinated, city-wide raid was among the worst things that could ever happen to a city in Internetland, and that for these raiders to have stormed the Amphitheatre with such ease, on the far end of the city from the one and only gate, meant that there was possibly nowhere, nowhere at all, in the whole city of ArmorGames, that was safe anymore.
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