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The Way of Moderation has ended (page 566)

Posted Jan 7, '12 at 12:49am



10,822 posts


Also, just fyi I've written the next segment, so you guys who are still involved CHECK YOUR EMAIL!

Because on Tuesday I'll be writing another part and then will be updating later in the week, ready or not. Because after that is the big one.


Posted Jan 7, '12 at 6:57am



12,941 posts


Aw, Strop. You know they really just want the thread to continue on and on and on and on. Instead of getting this to the end, I am sure they are just stalling like heck to be sure that this OCT will see its third and fourth anniversary, and the launch of AGv3 and AGv4 and so on, totally looking away from the fact that the hosts have negative time to do this, which means they would need to run it themselves if they ever want to see it done.
You know, out of loooove.


Posted Jan 7, '12 at 6:59am



10,822 posts


Well I do admit I'll feel a bit sad when this is all done.




Posted Jan 7, '12 at 7:02am



12,941 posts


Except, you know, you have residency, I have my internship, research and my master to do...
I don't know if that counts as freedom.


Posted Jan 15, '12 at 1:09pm



12,941 posts


And suddenly the thread was updated and the story moved on!
Why would we do that.


Posted Jan 15, '12 at 5:10pm



378 posts

Ummmm, major **** up time.... Clicked last post and BOOM! all pages numbers popped up. O_o

By the way i like strops comic book-type story. Fun to read. :D


Posted Jan 15, '12 at 5:13pm



378 posts

Wow, AG2 really is getting messed up. You can't view the image. Here it is for a second time, if it still doesn't work then i won't bother doing another one. *Puts image in*
Suddenly the picture comes up. Wow, i got to write that much until my image came up so i wouldn't be surprised if it takes forever with you aswell.


Posted Jan 15, '12 at 5:34pm



12,941 posts


Would would be surprised how may time that glitch has hit this section. It lost its novelty around '10.
Annoying, but hardly as annoying as the "last page leading to page 580, when the real last page is on 540" thing. Makes it harder to link to it, when Strop and I are screwing around.


Posted Jan 17, '12 at 5:55am



4,164 posts

When this whole thing finally wraps up...I'm sure we'll do heaps more reminiscing than as each anniversary has passed - but, when it started, I still went to school...

Would would be surprised how may time that glitch has hit this section. It lost its novelty around '10.

Yeah, prettty much. Back in the day...

And your previous post summed it up perfectly. STALL STALL STALL!!


And then half the moderators resign?


Posted Jan 20, '12 at 12:47am



10,822 posts



This will be my last update for 2 weeks as I am about to do some travelling.

So be warned, I will end this one on a cliffhanger.

You have now been warned, so we shall proceed!


What if I said I'd never Surrender

Cen stared at the masses, rushing towards him. There wasn't anything else he could do, a cold fear having numbed his limps entirely that very moment. He really needed to throw up. It felt like something had lodged itself in his throat, either fear or his heart trying to abandon ship while it still could.
This was utterly moronic. This was insanely stupid. This was something only Strop could pull off, and here he stood, essentially because of a weak moment of 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'.
Well, it still did. Except for the aspect of sudden, violent death he was looking at with the storming raiders all heading for his neck in that slow motion run he wasn't sure whether to assume came from some comical effect of the situation, or his mind simply going into overdrive. In this very moment, it could be anything. Fairies. Unicorns. Dragons. Sexy librarian chicks. Anything.
But hell, there was nothing to do about it, and even if he could, it would most likely be at the expense of someone else.
Can't have that.
Cen let out a roar of suppressed emotion and swung the baseball bat hard at the nearest raider.


"He's doing better than I expected," Strop mused, body half turned, watching Cen face the charge with an extraordinary lack of self-regard. Then a voice in his head, as well as the thousand bodies hurtling in his direction, reminded him of the urgency of the situation. Hesitating one moment more, he summoned the biggest poof he could manage, throwing up a mighty curtain of black, impenetrable smoke.

Godspeed, Cen, he thought, not wanting to acknowledge the next part, but knowing anyway: you're on your own now.


But Cen was in the company of many. The smokescreen clouding everything beyond him, it was just him, his baseball bat, and every eye in the vicinity locking onto him and heading towards him.

The bat made no noise as it sunk into flesh and rearranged faces. Every sound was just a jumbled, dull roar drowned out by the rushing of blood through Cen's ears as he waded through the sea of arms and fists pummeling him from all sides. His hands were numb, even the burning in his arms as he swung the bat indiscriminately left and right. As if in a daze, he watched as the bat slammed into the face of a complete stranger, probably about his age, who had no reason to hate or wish harm on him specifically, until that very moment where he swung a baseball bat into his face. He watched as the features distorted, cheeks flapping as the stranger went limp like a ragdoll, a bit of spittle and a bloody tooth flying out as the head snapped to the side, eyes crossed, only to be replaced by another five faces screaming wordlessly.

Cen felt something hit him in the side, and his body buckled. But strangely he felt no pain, he merely turned, his right hand dropping the bat only for the left to pick it back up and sling the head into another face. He pulled back on the bat, but it was held in place by a pair of hands, tugging away from him. Without even thinking, his foot lashed out and he felt something give, and the hands flew away.

Then more hands rushed in, grabbing him, his hoodie, his ponytail. The binding came loose and his hair came free, pulled in all directions. Somewhere, somehow along the way he had lost the bat after all, so he swung blindly with his fists, raindrops spraying out in arcs as his arms windmilled wildly. Possessed by the strength of a beast, he battered everything, drove them back, the fingers that tried to pull him by his locks slipping away. In irritation he flicked his head, hair fanning out before tangling in wet clumps over his shoulders and covering his face, save for his wide, unblinking eyes and bared teeth.

Something hit him from the side, hard. His knees buckled as he was carried, arms firmly wrapped around his waist until he fell against the horde pushing from the other side. When his fists had no effect, he started driving his elbow into the dome of the tackler until they collapsed, but arms had already looped around his chest, locking him in place. Snarling, he shook from side to side but the hold was firm. The body of the man who tackled him was trampled under as more raiders crowded in to claim their pound of flesh, and with nothing left to do, he stomped hard, driving his heel into the foot of his persecutor. As the grip softened he wrested himself free, and was met with fists, many fists and feet, digging into him and driving him back and down. At first he heeded them not, sending his own fists back, but eventually their numbers overwhelmed him and gradually, he saw himself going down, doubling over, until everybody was piled atop him in a mass of wet clothes and flailing limbs and bunched fists pummelling him awkwardly from all angles, none of them causing any pain but all of them stopping him from rising. Even as he was being crushed into the cold hard wet cobblestone, he reached out, clawing at exposed ankles and latching onto legs with his teeth, until finally, with a sigh, the last vestiges of his inhuman strength left him and he himself went limp, sprawled out on the ground, able only to feel the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.

Vaguely, he felt the toe of a boot prod him in the ribs, but after that, nothing else came, and his vision faded to the impenetrable dark grey of the clouds and the driving rain, and just beyond that, the vague silhouette of the castle.


"No!" Was all Strop could manage when he saw the raiders regrouping and charging towards the castle gate, with no sign of a Cen to stop them. He turned to the last few dozen stragglers, trying to manhandle them through the gate. "Hustle hustle hustle, nobody gets left behind!"

And then they were all around him, the raiders, not even paying him or his compatriots any attention, just charging past them and through the open gates of the castle. Armor Games' Castle.

"MAN THE GATES!" Strop yelled, "SHUT THE BLOODY GATES!" Gathering up the last of the stragglers he picked them up and bolted through the door, fairly surfing the wave of invaders deep into the dark main corridor of the castle. Far behind him, he heard a merciful clang as the gates slammed shut, followed by a loud rattling that echoed down the hall incessantly.

Then he was deposited on the ground, the wave of invaders dispersing as they ran amuck, branching into every corridor and room of the castle in their quest to destroy everything they saw.

Standing slowly, Strop collected his thoughts, listening to the rattling of a hundred hands tugging at the shut gates. The castle was sturdier than the makeshift wall, he knew that much, so maybe it could even withstand assault from the outside for the nine or so minutes Dank needed for his grand plan... how many had passed the gates? Maybe a hundred or so, or maybe even two hundred, before it shut? How much damage could that many people cause to the interior of a castle?

He had a more pressing concern to attend to, though. Dank needed every mage he could find, however he could find them. He just hoped that somebody else would be around to bring some order to the rest of the chaos, before it consumed even the castle itself.


The Way of Moderation Part Twelve: Leon McAcid

Written by Xzeno

A single torch burned in the dank hallway. Dark wrought iron claws held it in place, burning above the rubble to which the rest of the hall's furniture had been reduced. A gray and white striped foot tip-toed over a fallen hat stand. The blue-hooded gnoll followed, white bow drawn and hyena in tow. Leon grimaced as he tried to make out what was beyond the torch's glow. Vague, dark silhouettes slid in and out of reality, as though beckoning him to join them.
“Marley, go ahead.” the gnoll growled, gesturing towards the darkness with his head. Some ten feet behind his companion, Leon carefully crossed the cluttered hallway, holding an arrow between his front two fingers. His steel armor clinked as he entered the darkness, ears perked up, ready to react in an instant. On his left, he heard a breathy hiss. He whipped around, arrow at the ready. Marley snarled, adopting an aggressive posture as he peered into the darkness. Leon lowered his bow. Just the sound of the darkness slipping through the cracks in the gray stone. Leon moved on.
He passed from the dark, tight hallway into a dim, tight foyer. A chandelier, knocked to the ground by some event or another, lit the room with, albeit lazily. He saw motion on the balcony. He clanked up the nearest flight of stairs, stepping over a burning support beam. The fire roared behind him, but his focus was on the figure. Down the dark hallway he saw...
“I thought I saw...” Leon started, turning to Marley. The hyena's nose was in the air, and its eyes burned with determination. “Bullman...” Leon whispered. He started down the hall in pursuit of the image. He barreled down a dark hall, passing wooden doorways on either side. He saw the hulking figure turn down a corridor, silver armor glinting in the light of a candle. He turned down the corridor and into the light.
No sign of the minotaur. Instead, he saw a hallway glowing with the light of programming magic and flame attacks. Four trolls, armed with black hoodies and Guy Fawkes masks, hurled fireballs at a a group of three Armor Gamers. One of them wore a torn blue SHOPS tshirt, but the other two seemed normal enough for Internet furries. Leon nocked an arrow. He saw a fifth attacker: It was a silver steel machine, rolling on a pair of treads, with a boxy body and a square, vaguely pig-like head. One of the Armor Gamers, a penguin, caught a troll's fireball and hurled it at the pig, but it seemed immune to flames.
Leon let his arrow fly, catching one troll in the base of the spine. He flipped through the air and fell, shouting. Leon nocked another arrow and fired without hesitation. The remaining two trolls whipped around, hurling fire. One of the Armor Gamers, a rather buxom fox took one troll from behind as Marley pounced on the second. Marley defeated his easily enough, but the fox merely forced the troll to his knees.
“Surrender!” the fox demand, deep voice resounding through the hall.
“Never!” the flamer shouted. Leon took him at his word and fired another arrow. Only the pig remained, shooting cylindrical meat at anything that moved. It wasn't as deadly as the flames, but it sure was annoying. The SHOPS footman jumped the pig, punching its ugly metal face. Instantly, it wrapped its arms around him. He began to scream in pain as the pig mumbled incoherently about (dot) and (at). Leon drew his flail. The sharp clang of metal on metal filled the hall. The pig fell, headless. The SHOPS kid stood, coughing. He looked up. Silvery metal streaked his face, and one eye glowed a mechanical red.
“Are you alright?” the penguin squeaked.
“Yeah, I'm fine.” he groaned. “I just have to...” He threw up a pink paste.
“You sure?” the penguin mused. Leon tasted the pink glop.
“Spam.” he growled. “He's been infected.”
“We need to get him to Armor Hospital.” the fox said, deep voice booming. Leon looked up and down her exaggerated curves.
“There is no Armor Hospital.” the gnoll growled.
“What, then?” the penguin asked. Leon fired a forth arrow and moved on in silence, hyena in tow.
A steel hand wrapped around a burning torch. The darkness melted before as he penetrated the dark castle. Leon held the torch high. The shadowy halls snaked in all directions.
“I'll never find that bull at this rate.” he growled. Right on cue, the wall behind him exploded. There stood a hulking figure, even taller than Leon and at least three times as wide. Shining plate armor flowed from a silver steel helmet with massive bull horns. Beneath the helmet was nothing. No glistening skin showed through the *****s in the armor. It was just the shell of steel and then nothing. Leon wasted no time in dashing away. He dodged down the dark halls with wild abandon. The living armor pursued heroically, crashing through wall after wall as it jammed its body through the tight passages. Leon panted for air under the stifling weight of his steel, rounding a corner into a burning orange room.
Leon blinked. To his surprise, the room was largely intact. The orange glow came from one of the palace's many furnaces. Though the dwarves who tended the smeltorium (technical term) had long since escaped, the furnaces still burned with stocks of coal and lava. A chandelier, lit with burning candles, completed the mood lighting and generally made the room unbearably hot.
“Marley, here!” Leon called, beckoning to his hyena as he scanned the room for genre conventions. One appeared in the form of a hook to which a rope was tied. Leon didn't even bother to see what the rope was attached to. Leon nocked an arrow. As the living armor crashed through the door, Leon fired. His shot severed the rope. Needless to say, this somehow led to he chandelier crashing down around the steel monster. As it stumbled, Marley leaped at it from the side, knocking it off balance completely. It fell, crashing into the furnaces. It threw up its arms in a silent howl as molten metal and burning coal cascaded around it.
A metal clang filled the hall as Leon clapped his hands together.
“That's that then.” the gnoll declared as he watched the flames consume the steel shell. Giving Marley a pat on the head, Leon turned to walk away as the shell melted completely in he flames, leaving only the emptiness inside.
Leon stepped out of the black hallways and into a dilapidated courtyard. He blinked. The courtyard, surrounded by walls, had no ceiling. It was open to the air. Yet the darkness did not relent: night had fallen, with only the moon and stars lighting his way. Leon stepped over a broken fence as his eyes adjusted to the dark. At the center of the courtyard, surrounded by rings of sad looking flowers, was a half-collapsed gazebo. Leon paused briefly to wonder if a half-collapsed gazebo was safe, and to reflect on how it became night so quickly.
He decided not to worry about either affair. He dodged past a fallen column and entered the gazebo. To his vague surprise, he found he was not alone, and not in the many-toothed horror way he expected. A young woman sat within the gazebo's wooden frame, looking a little on the terrified side.
“So you're an evil demon.” Leon announced.
“What? Me?” she sobbed. “No I'm... but it's out there. Prowling this courtyard. There were three of us, but it hunted them down. Like a pack of hungry jackals.” Leon raised his eyebrows incredulously. She paused briefly before continuing. “It trapped us here, took us out one by one, and left me, to toy with me, and...” she looked up at Leon, eyes wide as a tear slithered half-heartedly down her cheek. Leon remained unmoved. “Alright, so I'm an evil demon. You just had to ruin the surprise. I bet if you were on a date in San Francisco-”
“Get to the point.” Leon growled.
“Point...” she drifted off for a moment. “Well, I was going to lull you into a false sense of security and then devour your soul. But you just had to ruin that. First part, at least.” She and Leon stared each other down for a moment.
“So the first item is...” Leon began.
“Definitely still on the menu, yes.” the demon announced. Leon made a leap for a nearby shrub as the demon blasted out of the wooden structure in a ball of flame.
“You seemed like the man of steal type!” she screeched as she hurled plumes of fire after the gnoll.
“Well, maybe I've turned a new leaf.” Leon shot back as he crawled through the bushes. Leon felt the heat of the flames through his steal armor as he rolled from shrub to shrub, but had no interest in a more direct approach. The demon snarled, then let out a primal howl. Within moments, she was joined by a chorus of savage calls.
“Great,” Leon muttered “now I'll be hounded by all sorts of spirits.” He made a dash from his bush for the gazebo. A jackal, its edges glowing bright blow as the faded and diffused into the matter around them, charged from Leon's left, snapping at his heels.
“Quit dogging me!” he shouted, swinging a metal fist at the beast as he ran. He dived behind a shattered bench and surveyed the battlefield. The spirit-jackals were everywhere, prowling around in the darkness.
“She can really pack them in.” Leon observed to Marley, who cowered beside him. As the jackals hedged him in, he hopped to a nearby hedge.
“Get him!” the demon ordered, her jackals running towards Leon, paws silent in the night.
“Time to make a split-second decision.” Leon announced. He and Marley darted from the bush in opposite directions. The jackals jumped and howled, running into each other as they bumbled after him. He slid down the side of a mucky trench, branches and leaves poking him as he his in the ruined foliage. Leon had a moment to think as the jackals hunted Marley like a dog. They passed his hiding place again and again, failing to see him each time, until, by some unfortunate accident, he flexed his left ankle, joint cracking, just as one passed. Its ears perked up. It stiffed. It let out a howl. Instantly, the demon was at its side.
“Did you really think you could hid there?” she demanded.
“It was a last-ditch effort.” he admitted.
“My jackals may have failed, but you know I have other assets.” she cackled.
“You are pretty hot.” he conceded as he dodged a ball of flames. He bounded towards the wooden gazebo, only to be cut off by flames and spirit-jackals. He turned back in the direction of the smeltorium, but was cut off similarly. He dived for a birdbath, but he wasn't even granted that luxury. He turned face to face with the demon. Marley skidded to his side, kicking up dirt.
“Sorry it has to be this way.” Leon shook his head.
“It doesn't, though.” the demon giggled. “You and I could do this all night. You can dodge but you can't hurt me.” She took a few steps towards him. “Come now gnoll, can't you think of anything better we could spend all night doing?” She walked toward him as she spoke, hips swaying. Her nose was barely an inch from his as she whispered the last word. His eyes sparkled, the bushes and branches reflected in them. With a sly smile, she threw back his hood. At the moment, Leon took a stab at solving the problem. He moved in a flash. His metal fist clasped tightly around the wooden shaft of an arrow, which protruded from her neck, blue fletching illuminated by the flames.
“How did you...” she sighed as her burning blood bubbled from her neck. Leon turned tail and ran, hyena at his heel, as the demon fell to the ground in a pool of her own flames.
Leon and Marley skipped through the darkness of Armor Castle, eyes peeled for Bullmen and Bullman-related products. As they rounded a corner, Marley tripped over something and Leon tripped over him. Leon looked up to see the vague utline of a person.
“Trippy.” Leon said in awe, trying to see through the darkness.
“Do you have any idea who I am?” the figure said promptly.
“I'm in the dark.” Leon shot back.
“Allow me to illuminate the situation.” The figure clapped its hands. Instantly, every torch, candle and lamp in the room lit itself, throwing the figure and the room into a warm light. Leon was standing in the ballroom, but not as he knew it: instead of disorginized wreckage, there were tables set out neatly, with silverware and diners. Instead of a food fight, there was an assortment of fine wines and gourmet dishes. Instead of screaming, there was music, and instead of bloodshed, there was dancing.
“I can't be party to this.” Leon complained.
“Come now, you must dance. We all have to dance eventually.” the figure Leon had tripped over in the darkness extended a gloved hand to him. It was wearing a tuxedo, a tophat, and a mask carved crudely in the likes of a white rabbit. With a start, Leon realized all the dancers wore animal masks, though most were elegantly formed.
“Bullman.” Leon growled, pushing past the rabbit. A mask in the likeness of a dairy cow sat delicately on a woman's nose as she danced across the floor.
“Holy cow!” Leon exclaimed as he saw her partner: a short man with a strange green mask, with huge black eyes. He fidgeted nervously as he danced, lips moving to create half-formed words.
“Cowabunga!” Leon shouted, slamming into the boy from the side. He imediately formed the vague semblance of a waltz frame and attempted to dance with the woman.
“Hey.” Leon said simply. The woman made no reaction as she continued to dance, her mask staring at him expressionlessly. “So this is the legendary Armor Ballroom in its full glory.” Leon observed. The cow's blank eyes hovered in front of him, unblinking and unfeeling. “Cud you at least say something?” Leon pleaded.
“You're really milking this.” she observed.
“Didn't mean to offend.” Leon cackled. “I'm udderly sorry.” With that, Leon got the slap he deserved and went off to sample the drinks. Leon took a sip of a fruity drink, wincing.
“Packs quite a punch.” he observed, looking to the center of the floor. There, a woman in a red fox mask bounced across the floor, dancing from partner to partner and power move to power move.
“Way to be, girl!” Leon called across the room. She grabbed the white rabbit, dancing with him excitedly. She took the lead, maneuvering him around the floor. She kept herself between him and Leon, blocking his view of the rabbit with every sway. Finally, she twirled away from him, leaving him standing alone at the center of the floor. Wordlessly, he removed his mask. A blackness poured from behind the mask, swirling and taking shape as the dancers danced away from it. The tuxedo elted into the darkness as it took form. It stood as tall as a man, lanky arms hanging at its sides, its body tapering into the floor. Swirling tentacles of darkness hung from its face, but beyond these it was featureless. As Leon approached it, he saw pinpoints of light near its base, twinkling in the infinite blackness. He looked into the swirling darkness, seeing equal parts history and prophecy in its depths. The dancers reeled away, but Leon paid them no mind.
“Six...” he mumbled, extending a steely hand. He reached towards it slowly, fingertips extending. The octopus-headed blackness made no motion to respond, billowing like liquid smoke. He touched it. Instantly, the darkness vanished. The torches were gone as quickly as they had come. The ballroom was the same disorganized mess he had first seen. The music had been replaced by commotion. Each dancing couple revealed itself to be a dueling pair, Armor Gamers and trolls locked in battles to the death, or at least that's how they seemed to see it. Everyone was on one side or the other, save one Ager who was, blunt in one hand glock in the other, caught between loyalty and trollish nature.
But Leon still had no mind for them. In the center of the floor, embedded in the stone, where the darkness had been, was a sword, light glinting off its handle. Not just any sword, his sword. He wretched from the stone, whipping around the room. Marley at his side, he held his sword high. Flail in one hand, sword in the other, Leon and his hyena charged into battle. Leon smashed into his opponents like a rolling wave, his weapons branches of steel whipping about in the wind. He bowled over Armor Gamers to get at his enemies, striking them down with blade and flail. His wild eyes glanced around the room, falling on a familiar figure.
“Strop!” he shouted as he slashed a troll to the ground. The ninja pony turned to back to Leon mid leap, landing elegantly on a table. He stood slowly, catching the gnoll's eye. Leon panted, eyes locked with Strop's as he batted at a few attackers. Then, the pony gave Leon a quick nod, flipping away from the battlefield. Then, a knight with a tower shield smashed into Leon from the side.
The gnoll's face slammed into the ground, but he whipped around. The knight raised his shield, fending off Leon's sword strike. He swung his flail, sending it over the knight's shield, bashing his helmet. The knight raised the shield and Leon thrust into his newly exposed midsection. Leon turned, swinging his sword at a pimply teen. He blocked the sword and Leon struck him in the side with his flail. He leaped as a table slid towards him, rolling along it as three trolls charged. He struck one with each weapon as he landed, dodging the third sending him flying into the jagged, broken table with a shove. Someone screamed as a support pillar cracked, sending a chandelier swinging through the room. Leon shoved a troll in its path and dashed into another group. He slid across a wall of ice as it drifted lazily through the room and bowled over a pair of trolls.
“It's coming down!” A troll shouted, pointing to a growing crack in the ceiling. Leon ran him through with a sword as he watched in horror. Trolls and Armor Gamers both stopped fighting, lowering their their weapons as they watched the ceiling crumble. Leon continued to hack and bash through the trolls even as they tried to have a moment. While everyone else tried to dodge the falling rubble, Leon tried his best to shove trolls into it.
“Mages! Go now!” someone shouted. Water surged through the cracks in the pillar, snaking its way through the ceiling. As the water froze, Leon slashed three more trolls aside. For a moment, the ice held, keeping the building intact. Then, a deafening shatter filled the room.
“Everybody out!” a wizard called, indicating a frozen tunnel he had created over the door. Trolls and AGers alike charged for the new opening. Leon tripped one, cackling as he swung his flail. The ceiling began to fold in on itself, collapsing as the support pillars shattered. Leon glanced up, then turned for the exit, shoving people out of his indiscriminately. As he neared the ice tube, he turned around, drawing his bow. He fired a few arrows into the oncoming trolls, calling to the Armor Gamers. His steely gray eyes surveyed the battlefield, coming to rest on Marley, who stood growling at the center of a circle of trolls. Dropping his ivory bow, he charged into the room. Leon crashed through the trolls, scooping the hyena up and tossing him over his shoulder. As he began to dash for the exit, he looked up. The ceiling was falling, chunks of stone and steel surrounding him. With a roar, he hurled the hyena through the opening in the ice. Sword in one hand, flail in the other, Leon glared up, eyes burning as the building fell around him.

Strop stooped down.
“Nice bow.” said a tall kid in a cowboy hat, leaning against a shattered support beam. Strop brushed the dust off of the longbow's white wood, examining it.
“This looks like it, boy.” Strop said, absent-mindedly scratching Marley's ears. The hyena hung its head, poking his nose at a pile of rubble.
“I told you, it collapsed on him.” the mage from the ballroom said, brushing his blonde hair out of his eyes. Strop lowered the bow with a sigh.
“It's a little long for me.” Strop said matter-of-factly. “One for the Armor Museum.”
“Strop...” the kid in the duster began. At that moment, the rubble began to roll down the pile. Sure enough, a dented, dusty steel gauntlet burst through the stone and wood. Leon pulled himself from the rubble, detritus rolling off of his gleaming armor. He was covered in dirt, chunks of ice frozen into his fur. He brushed a twig away with his metal gauntlet, snarling. His grimace became less regal as he patted out a few flames near the base of his cape, and immediately turned back to Strop, grimacing regally. Strop stood tall, the wizard and the cowboy dwarfed next to him, despite the cowboy's great height. Only Leon towered over him, stepping down from the pyre of broken castle.
“I believe you have my bow.” Leon announced, yellow eyes glaring down at Strop. Strop looked up at him. He turned his head to the side, seeing his own reflection in Leon's eyes. “Seriously man, you don't separate a gnoll from his bow. That's, like, some serious... history... cultural... give me my bow.”
“How are you still alive?” Strop asked coolly, handing the gnoll his bow. Leon reached his metal hand out, taking hold of the white wood as he pulled his hood up over his ears.
“You know,” Leon said “that was never adequately explained.”


The Final Countdown

"Well, Leon, I honestly didn't think I'd ever come to say this, but thank you." Strop dusted his hands and his ninja suit off, surveying the rubble that was previously the Great Hall. "I didn't expect a being of chaos to make order through chaos."

"Don't mention it," Leon said gruffly, examining his bow and trying to wipe invisible ninja horse fingerprints off the lacquer. "Maybe that's why you're having such a hard time."

Strop ****ed his head. "Pardon?"

"I mean," Leon pulled the string back and released it with a twang, causing him to grit his teeth in irritation and fiddle at the ends. "You're chaotic too, you know that? But all you've done is try to be all orderly and stuff. Maybe it's the way you're going about it. It doesn't quite, you know. Mesh."

Strop scratched his head, not sure what to make of the comment, and so decided to ignore it. "Can I rely on you to keep this place in lockdown? Kingryan's position needs securing, so everybody else can remount their defense from the battlements."

Now that his bow was in good order again, Leon nodded, all businesslike: "Consider it done." Briefly, both of them reached out, Strop's bandaged fist and Leon's gauntleted one bumping with a metallic clash. Then with a whirl of his cape, Leon turned, bounded through the rubble and was gone.

Strop turned to the young mage next to him. "I'm glad you made it Chill. We need you and your colleagues most of all."

Ominously, there was a loud, deep thud and the castle walls shook. A bit of loose dust rained down upon them from the ceiling.

Chill nodded cooly. "What would you have us do?"

Briefly, Strop weighed up the situation. Enough damage was done to the castle as it was, would it be worse if he created more, or risked the inefficiency of them getting lost in the sewers? "Freeze the back wall of the hall. I'll blast a hole through it. If you have a signal to gather all your colleagues, now's the time to use it."

"Roger." In a matter of seconds, the wall had frozen over, and Strop had blown yet another hole in the castle with a mighty sidekick. "Dank's waiting for everybody at the Aristocrat Alley." He took a deep breath, and sighed. "He has a plan."

"And what will you do?" Chill stood in the icy portal, a slide of ice forming to the ground below.

Strop looked around, suddenly feeling all forlorn and empty inside. "I will... stand here and wait for the world to end."


Black Tuesday

Written by Maverick

From atop the hill, Mav could see clearly the destruction that hounded the city. Thick, black, oily smoke was going up from the city from several raging fires. The facades of several burnt-out buildings stood above the streets, like the blank stare of a once mighty face. Even as he watched, one of the hulks collapsed into the street, throwing up rubble and dust into the alreadly clogged atmosphere.

'I suppose global warming is the least of our worries.' He said, to no body in particular.

An odd sound struck Mav's ears. Or rather, it was the lack of sound that caught his attention. An eerie silence had settled upon the city, much like the quiet before the storm. Upon closer examination, Mav could see small figures scurrying about, all heading towards one section of the town: The Castle. The Alamo of the city, it would seem that the remaining defenders hoped to make their last stand here.

Knowing the importance of his mission, Mav realized that he would have to get to the Castle. And the longer he waited, then the more NGers he'd have to go through. He began to jog down the hill, and towards the city.

Mav soon reached the outer walls of the city. They were strong, tall, and well-built. The Gates of the City still hung securly in their place. However, a large rift had been smashed through the wall, and blocks weighing several tons had been scattered about like so many tinker-toys. After a few moments of cursing, stubbed toes, and clambering over the rubble, Mav entered into the city.


Testing out

Five dozen mages. It was a paltry number in the context of the million strong population of AG. And it was barely a fraction of the number of students who attended his classes at the Academy, but he spotted in there some of his brightest and most capable. And it was nearly five dozen more than a single mage with a scheme so big he could not do it alone.

It just might very well be doable, Dank thought as he clanged his hammer down onto the cobblestone of the top of Aristocrat Alley, trying to make himself heard above the din of the downpour. "Students!" He called, and they turned to him, their headmaster. He cleared his throat and subtly employed an amplification script to up his volume.

"This will be your final class for the semester. It will also be your final exam for the semester."

Everybody looked at each other, confused. Why was he talking about school at a time like this?

"This is because the Armor Academy has been demolished due to, uh, well as a consequence of recent and ongoing events. It will take the rest of the semester to rebuild it."

Murmuring rippled through the crowd, but was quickly hushed as Dank slammed his hammer down again, splashing rainwater everywhere. "Listen carefully! I want you to cast your mind back to the course on defining objects, moving objects and collision detection! Because these will be the subjects on your final exam! What is it!?" He barked at the raised hand somewhere up the back.

"What do you expect us to animate?" a reedy voice whined.

"This!" he announced, gesturing to all of Aristocrat Alley. When all he got was blank stares in return, he clarified: "I need you to uproot every mansion and castle on this alley."

The class burst out in a tumult of protest. "What do you mean all of them? There's a hundred houses and sixty of us!" "They're too big!" everybody clamoured. Dank slammed his hammer down again, turning up his volume further.

"What do you mean too big!? Size matters not! Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?" Everybody subsided, looking a bit forlorn and scared of making an inadvertant dwarf joke. Dank scowled.

"And well you should not. Because this is a group exam, so you all either pass or fail. And if we fail, we'll all either be dead, or homeless. So failure is not an option."

Dank looked at the group again, confusion now being replaced by consternation. This wasn't exactly the pep talk he had imagined in his head, or maybe this what he always looked like as a teacher? He shook his head, trying to clear his head. After all, Strop and everybody else somehow managed to get this many people here, and the castle was still somehow standing. It wasn't over yet.

"Okay let's begin. We have a five minute deadline! Start by lifting the houses from their foundations, and we'll go from there. Once we've put everything togehter, my supervisor will coordinate object movements.

Everybody looked up. "Supervisor?"

A familiar brain in a glass jar popped into view, hovering on nothing but the power of its own telekinesis. "Greetings, class. Please do your best."


Like Taking a Potato Gun Against a Tank

"HOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD! HOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD!" Kingryan croaked at nobody in particular. Not like anybody could hear him: the few hundred AGers who had taken control of the wall were busy dumping everything they could get their hands on at the invaders trying to break down the gate and generally tear the castle apart. Occasionally, an explosion erupted, shaking the walls and sending several people flying to the ground to take cover as chips of mortar rained down upon everybody.

But even as their defense was valiant it was also ineffectual. Looming into view, the first of the giant mutant trolls had come crashing through the ruins of the Armor Courts. Only this time, from Flipski's last-ditch self-destruction, they had morphed yet again. Even larger, they stood well over a hundred meters tall, and seemed to have melted into monstrous hybrids of organic and inorganic material, having merged with various buildings and pieces of technology, like a T-1000 in a steel mill, or rather, like Tetsuo* gone out of control. And they were all back, hell-bent on crushing AG into oblivion.

"What can man do against such reckless hate?" Kingryan breathed.

"Ride out. Ride out and meet them," an anonymous ranger with a black beard declared.

In the midst of all the action, everybody stopped and stared at him incredulously. "Are you stupid? We just came IN here to get away from those lunatics!"

"Well do you have any better ideas!?" the ranger yelled back.

Nobody did. And the trolls came crashing even closer.

* from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. That is one messed up movie. I recommend you watch it. But maybe nowhere near or during mealtimes.



Strop sat, alone, on the ruins of the Castle Hall. He was still breathing hard, and with each passing moment, he could feel his suit, saturated with sweat and rain and caked with dirt and dried blood, sticking to him. He couldn't feel his mouth and was pretty sure he at least had a split lip. All the little and big hits he had taken were starting to mount, and his muscles were all sore and cramping.

How long had this battle been going? It was impossible to tell what time it was, through all the clouds and the rain. It could have been six hours, it could have been more than a day. Despite knowing he shouldn't stop to reflect lest he lose the will to start again, Strop felt it was too late for him. He was spent, and he couldn't think of what he had or hadn't done and what was to happen next.

The shaking of the castle became even stronger and more incessant, causing him to shake as his balance shifted. He looked up, squinting through the hole in the ceiling, and froze. The mutant trolls had reached the castle, bigger and meaner than ever. Even Flipski wasn't able to completely contain them. And this one already had its fist poised, ready to crush the castle with a single blow. And Dank was still nowhere in sight.

And in a few seconds, it would be all over.

Strop dug around in his suit, and brought out a bunch of narrow glass vials. The vials that Chill had given to him a while earlier. The boy genius had taken the trouble to concentrate only the most potent of potent caffeine for use in the most desperate of times. These times being even more desperate than that, Strop considered the sinister black powder. There was a reason he never drank coffee, banned himself from drinking it. The last time he had a mild instant coffee he had palpitations and couldn't sleep for two days. Something like this, then, he knew, would undoubtedly have far more dire consequences. But it was now that he had to make a choice, if only in his intentions: his body, or the city of AG.

Flicking the end off a vial, Strop grimaced and downed the contents of one.

Nothing happened.

Well maybe his body was too far gone to respond to even this deadly concoction. He sighed. While he surely enjoyed protection of the cartoon ninja gods, his constitution was still not quite like, say, that of Phillip J Fry and his unusual ability to drink a hundred coffees to boost his...

...maybe he hadn't reached the critical point of overload yet.

There was a giant crashing and a huge fist the size of a house drove its way into the castle, almost flattening Strop as it ended up where the Great Hall once was. Strop fell off the pile, almost spilling the rest of his coffee everywhere. When he looked up, the giant trolls were standing in a circle all around the castle, slowly but surely drawing back their fists. Even after the miracle of the first fist somehow failing to completely demolish the castle, it was now an imminent inevitability.

"Ah **** this ****," Strop muttered, and downed the other nine vials.




No further assignments currently. Okay see you all later. I still have some email access, but only from my phone.

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