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[ARCHIVE] The Way of Moderation

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Posted Apr 10, '10 at 11:53am

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Stealing the Show

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/5-18.png

Manta provided an image of his getup. He even brought his own DJ. So I figured it was worth adapting and sharing with you guys.

"ALLLLLLRIGHT IT'S GONNA GET NUTS IN HERE!" Strop was in fine form, as would be expected since being an MC required having a big mouth and no shame. "CAN YOU FEEL THE TENSION!? THIS IS FOR REAL, DID I MENTION I'M SHAKING IN MY HOOVES? RAAAAAISE THE ROOF!"

There was a... smattering of whoops and cheers from the motley crew that barely filtered through the driving bass of the backing music. This too, was to be expected, since, well, nobody was really expecting this turn of events and it was safe to say that the majority of them weren't exactly from a... rapping background.

"AND NOOOOOW, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, I PRESENT YOUUUUU..." Strop looked to the stage, only to find somebody was already there:

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/5-19.png

Strop scratched his head. "Whimsyboy? Now why haven't I-", but before he could get any further, Whimsyboy flew into a bizarre mixture of verse and beatboxing:

The following was written by Whimsyboy himself:

Hangin in south Armor,
*UNS* *UNS*
Pickin out the pockets like I just don't care.
Takin eggs from the farmer,
*UNS* *UNS*
Takin'em back to go eat in my lair.

Stealin stuff, cause I can!
Ready to go, ready to be a man.
Took it, then I ran!
That's what I do, be a hater or a fan.

If you're a hater or a fan,
*UNS* *UNS*
Don't think I'm really gonna be your man.
If you're lookin for donations,
*UNS* *UNS*
Maybe go to apothecaries or the sages.

Stealin stuff, cause I can.
Ready to go, ready to be a man.
Took it, then I ran!
You can be a hater-

"Okay time's up!" Strop, finally realising that Whimsyboy was not one of the victestants of the WoM, advanced upon the raccoon. Whimsyboy squeaked, leapt off the stool and flashed a victory sign: "I'll see you all later!"

Then he grabbed the nearest object and ran out the doors of the hall.

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/5-20.png

Strop wiped his brow, character momentarily broken. "Okay, uh. Who's next?"

---

Manta

"WTF."
Strop walked us into the place. It looked like giant potatoes were spraypainting the walls. Firefly seemed to be the leader...
    "Hey, did you notice..." somebody mumbled. Everyone suddenly looked different.
    That's when Strop told us our next challenge: A WoM rap contest. Since I thought I might be the only one who genuinely likes rap out of the entire group, I felt like I had an edge.
    "Okay, fine, I'll go first then! MANTA UP!" A cloud of smoke enveloped me.
    Sounds of coughing filled the room, but when the smoke cleared, an acquaintance of mine from the lake and I were standing there, bling'd up. It was quite a sight to behold.
    "LET'S GET THIS **** STARTED! HIT IT DJ!"

****************************************************************************
My name is Manta,
A ranter,
I'mma tell y'all 'bout my plan to
Dominate.

With my Deej, Small Fry,
We go'n shake your feet,
We go'n rock the house,
We go'n DROP THE BEAT.

Gotta fin on my head,
Gill slits on my neck,
Swag to spare,
Now here's a story  about my trek
To become a mod
And take over the place;
Hey, scratch that part,
I'll be the dominant race.

Now it
All started at the bottom of the lake,
With my mom who can't cook
And my favor for her sake
To go up to the city
And fetch her a tome on
How to make meals
for her only son

But on the way
I saw a curious scene
A crowd of people
Gathered round in a ring
They was reading this poster,
And it caught my eye;
"Way of Moderation,
"6th August '09..."

(spoken) Tch. Sign me up for that.

Refrain:
Didn't know what I'd got into,
All I wanted was to win.
Now I'll be lucky
Just to keep my fins.
Been attacked with dodgeballs,
Blown up, crushed by dragon claws;
It'll all be worth it
When I am a mod.

Now I was chillin on the porch
Of my new crib,
On Aristocrat Way bought
With my new fortune.
When a certain fool filly
Comes with a razor in his hands,
A sack full of balls,
His assistant and

The intention of clipping
Off my hair
(Punishment for some ****
For which no one should have cared)

Long story short,
Lotta stuff went down;
It ended up with us two
Destroying the town.
Whatever the case,
It doesn't matter much.
My place was safe,
All the rest was poor chumps.

*refrain*

Now,
After one long scene
With my main dawg Flippo
A rival of mine was
Found guilty and dipped in
Tar and bird feathers and
He looked like such a fool.
And I couldn't help but look at him
And think "dang, if I ain't cool."

Next thing to come was
An interesting case;
A li'l obstacle course of death
Called Steeplechase.

(spoken) Simple, am I right?

To get through this thing,
You need speed and air.
Lucky for me, long as
I din't drop my hair.
Halfway through the thing
Another fish dude gets ticked
He started raiding
The course with all his dead fish

And imagine my surprise
And the look on my face
When this huge-*** dragon
Started wrecking the place
I made it through his claws
Nearly got to the end
But I had to fight one more guy;
Just popped a staff in his head

(Spoken) Aight! I'm gonna let my DJ Small Fry mix it up a little! Drop the beat, Fry!

*commence Small fry scratching the records*

(spoken) Almost done here guys. Stay with me.

Now I thought I was doing great,
Thought I was breezing along,
But in another plot twist
A crazy dryohr dropped the bomb.
Now when that thing went off,
Not no one was hurt
'Cept when all the smoke cleared,
We were all wearing skirts

That crazy little beast
Turned the dudes into chicks
Replaced all our clothes
And got rid of our...Knicks...hats...
I had some crazy misadventures and
Beat up some musclehead fools
And when my assets grew huge
All the other guys drooled.

No homo.

*refrain*

Now some way or other,
I turned back to a boy
And about 2 MONTHS later
Strop proceeded his ploy.
He took all his victestants
To the new arena
The joint was filled with graffiti
And some li'l potatoes...

But here I am now
Rocking up the stage
Manta's here to entertain y'all
With Small Fry the deej.
But now it comes to an end
Because I've finished my tale
Manta going out, and I'm
Keeping it unreal.

*flash of light*
*end song*
***************************************************************************************

God I felt like a retard. I thought I'd just go home and sing some Blues Brothers. But, eh.
Small Fry tapped my shoulder.
"'Ey, Manta, you 'member the deal?"
"Yeah, yeah, Fry. Here's 20 bucks."
"Coo'. Don't ever make me do this again, ya hear?"
"Fine, I don't want to do it again."
I removed the fake ring from my dorsal fin. It just clamped on. Who honestly thought I could get a piercing that quickly? I thought I would keep my hair like that though. Seemed pretty streamlined.
"Who's next? It's your turn." I leaned back in my chair and put my hands behind my head. "Ow! What the- oh..." I'd forgotten to take my bracelet off. "...I'm keeping this..." I just rested my hands in my lap.

Thoad

OH SNAP.
    Thoad stared at strop and his hip-hop horsey getup. the first words that came out of his mouth were very simple, and probably something that most people didn't see coming. "I'm out of here," He said, leaving the hall. He was stopped at the door by a little piece of concience. "Dangit Thoad! This is your best chance of becoming a mod. It's too fun to be immature and you have a dA to worry about instead of an Ag"
    Thoad knew that this was true, and mumbled a curse under his breathe before continuing with this little... Rap battle. "So how do I do this?" Thoad asked, a rage-filled frown on his face. He was told to rap about the past WoM accomplishments. "What? You have to be kidding me. No. No way. Dude. Just-" He was cut off short with his conscience. "Just shut up and do it" it said.
    ..."Well god,"
    "I must be a sob,"
    "So let's turn a knob,"
    "And screw up some..." Thoad paused his failsome rap to think, "cod?"
    "Aw screw it," Suddenly, there was an overtone of beat boxing, from no apparent person.
    "Iiiiii-"
    "Deflected the balls, I answered strop's calls."
    "He pissed me off, I flipped him off,"
    "He got rizzled, there was a drizzle,"
    "We ended it, I sent it,"
    "Down the road,"
    "I got a cold,"
    "Or rather a flu,"
    "IT made me feel blue,"
    "I became a swine,"
    "I had no wine,"
    "Hell, I couldn't even dine."
    Thoad decided to calm down a bit just to re-assure himself how much this rap sucked. His conscience reminded him: "Remember Thoad, just YA GOTTA BELEIIIVE". For some reason, Thoad's Rapper spirit animal appeared in front of him. IT was.. a dog. But no no, it wasn't snoop dog. It was...
    "YO DAWG YA GOTTA BELEIIIIVE" Said the all famous dog, PARAPPA THE RAPPER.
    Along with him was his onion-y friend: "KICK, PUNCH, IT'S ALL IN THE MIND, IF YOU WANNA TEST ME, I'M SURE YOU'LL FIND, The things i'll teach ya is sure to beat ya, But nevertheless you'll get a lesson from a teacher!"
    Thoad was confused, and questioned his sanity. A talking onion was yelling at him and a small dog was telling him to beleive. But suddenly, he felt something. He felt something deep inside his body. A burning fire bursting out of every single crevice and pore.
    "HYAAAAAAAAA-"
    "Iiiiiii-"
    "Beat the swine,"
    "it was sublime,"
    "Then came zoph,"
    "and I had a terrible cough,"
    "To drop the bomb,"
    "That would stirr the calm,"
    "Then I looked at my palm..."
    Thoad took another small break, hanging his head. Parappa in all his jedi-ghost goodness continued spouting things about beleiving in yourself while the onion taught him. Thoad reccollected himself trying to remember the past events.
    "I had PMS,"
    "I liked myself less,"
    "I searched for a berry,"
    "To cure my cherry,"
    "But that would be ..."
    Suddenly, Thoad hit a dead spot. "PG 13?" No way, that'd be stupid. "PG MA?" Even more stupid. Thoad got into a rut. Thoad said only one more thing.
    "Screw it," He paused to take a huge gasp of air, "YOU GOTTA BELEIIIIIIIIIVE."
    And so the deal was settled. Thoad the Toad had made the absolute worst rap ever. This rap was so bad, it made vanilla ice cry. There was absolutely NO consolation. It was the absolute worst. However, it would probably qualify in a "So terrible it's good" fashion.

The Bullman

The Bullman had two mottos: "Help those in need." and "Anything a horse can do, he could do (unless he didn't want to)." And rapping was one of those things that he could definitely do or at least fake and do better anyway. All he had to do was figuratively sling a string with swing and sing.

"In the days before the Way, the way for change, in flames, in names, in outright stranger games, in fame, acclaim, there came the story, the allegory, for glory, without category intimidatory Taur we (He felt rather smug as the rhymes piled up and the exposition loosened.) know as the never gory cool man, (booming his 'oo' sounds as he went along.) by his own rules man, never is a fool man, beat you in a duel man, one and only Bullman (He switched it up as the verse broke into his accomplishments.) was the early one, never one to hurry fun, only once the girly one, yet still the strong and burly one. He's the one who's surely won once this tourney's done Having fun in the stands with hat in hands, making plans, thinking grand, for the day he gets to ban. He hardly falls mostly (Slurring over the adverbs as fast as possible to render them mistakable for other words, he continued past the hiccup in the beat.) dodged the balls through the walls from the halls of those who scrawl true and all tales of the one who's tall always good for any brawl. He beat the course, the feat of horse with no defeat of course from the source by feet and force landing on all fours, black and bruised, mod abused but refused to ever lose. He's the story, allegory, for all glory no category Taur we know as the Bullman the only one who'll stand full chance as the one who'll ban."

He was done or at least that was a good place to stop, as he had run out of things to say.

Kingryan

KingRyan glanced nervously around and the chaos surrounding him. It was utter madness. People adorned themselves with large shiny jewellery that hung from thick gold chains around their necks. To him, it all seemed too much...this horrible youth culture...

Finding a seat near the back of the hall, where it was also a little dark so that if it got boring he could go to sleep, KingRyan sat down and waited for the performances to start. Even the youthful KingRyan trapped inside this prune like body wasn't that big of a fan of rapping, it was way too fast for him. Slow, imageric poetry was much nicer.

As he began to think up something that he could string together to rap, he had an epiphany and realised that he probably wouldn't get asked to rap since he was so old. He closed his eyes to block out the bright lights of the stage and soon fell asleep.

~~~~~

Some time later he was woken by someone poking his arm quite roughly, followed by a shake.

'Err...KingRyan? It's your turn to rap...' a voice said. KingRyan kept his eyes closed, hoping that if the person thought he was dead he would get left alone. That was until he had a tail put in his face - which was accompanied by the faint odours of a horrible smell.

'Yes old man,' an enthusiastic voice said, 'That's my tail in your face and if you don't wake up now and get up on that stage I'll have to use my secret ban weapon...the BanBum.'

KingRyan opened his eyes to the lovely sight of a horses backside visible above the band of Strop's rapping shorts which were sitting quite low.

'Ah, Strop, I see that bum rash of yours hasn't quite cleared up yet. You really should get that seen to,' he said before awkwardly getting up out of the chair and moving towards the stage with a suprising pace for an old man. Strop was left looking a little bewildered, before trying to twist his head around to see if he really had a bum rash.

Walking up to the microphone, KingRyan thought as fast as he could about what he could rap about.

Clearing his throat he started down at the rows of expecting faces, many amused by his age.

'Umm...well Hi everyone...you know I don't really like to rap...so I thought that I would give a bit of imageric poetry instead...' he started before trailing off as the crowd booed. Cenere quickly walked onto stage and whispered to him that this wasn't allowed and that he would have to rap (before turning back into cardboard? coninuity error #505).

'Well...ok so I have to rap then...umm....I apologise but I'm not good at rapping...'

Taking a deep breath, he began...with a skill that even he wasn't expecting...

~~~~

Well Hi everyone KingRyan's my name,
I was a beta tester yea thats my fame.
I've been in this city for a year or two,
And around this region since Tolkein wanted to sue.

It's been a long road of ups and downs,
The forums soon got filled with ambitious clowns.
I tried to interact but they were plain dumb,
I was so suprised they weren't suckin their thumb.

The great forum reshuffle found me my home,
And it was about then I started writing my archive tome.
From the A to the M to the W is where I hang,
Yeah me and all my hommies are part of that gang.

The Pokemon contest is my escape,
And some of the drawings can get pretty ape.
I enter the Art contest regularly,
Though I didn't win once last February.

I likes the ArmorGames.
You like the 'ArmorGames' (crowd participation).
I likes the ArmorGames.
You like the 'ArmorGames!'

So before I kill this rap,
And go and take my nap,
You people gotta know,
That your behaviours sunk low.
You're a bunch of spammers,
And you should stop spamming because it really annoys me and you should really stop playing with basketballs around my house because one of these days you're going to break one of my windows and I am going to absolutely kill you.

The crowd went silent.

Sorry folks, that's a wrap.
I think its time to take a nap.
My rapping skills are all but dead,
So I am heading back to bed.

With that, KingRyan hobbled off the stage and back to his seat.

Leon McAcid

Round 6: Allusions of Grandeur

    Leon was surprised and annoyed. How could Leon McAcid rap? After all, he thought, he wasn't the rapper type: He was always out stealing gold, wearing bling or shooting people while the rappers wrote songs about skipping through flowers, tender lovemaking or giving to the needy. He thought for a moment. Perhaps... a rap about the thug life? Maybe unconventional, but it was worth a shot. Leon stood up, straightening his hood. He pulled out his bag of jewelry, selecting a few of his tackiest rings and a large, golden chain complete with a heart-shaped locket. On impulse, he opened it. He absentmindedly put away his jewelry bag as he read the inscription inside. He chuckled. Just a few sweet nothings in elvish. No real rapper would have it any other way, but Leon never liked jewelry with inscriptions. He shrugged. He wondered briefly if should have searched for a mirror before deciding that he would look cooler with his hood up and that elves had terrible taste in jewelry anyway. He waited for his turn on stage, making sure he snarled and bared his teeth at anyone nearby. Finally, he was called on:
"Now," shouted an over-enthusiastic voice "give it up or M.C. Acid!"  Leon s******ed. M.C. Acid. He was going to use the name Tasty-Freeze, but M.C. Acid was definitely better. Leon grabbed the mike and began:
"Hey yall." He said in true rapper style. "Imma start this rhyme at the beginning." He rolled his eyes at his own diction. "So anyway, back in the day, it wasn't just ol' Leon like now." He thought about how to start. He knew he would rhyme team with extreme, and perhaps psychic supreme. Bluebell went with hell, obviously, but he wasn't sure how purple energy beams or Screeching Leopard would fit into the overall equation. He thought for a moment. "You know what?" he asked with an exaggerated hand motion. "Suckers can't handle the beginning. We're gonna start around part two." With that, Leon's rap began:

            "We were in a village, Edward and me
            Willin' to fight, if you pay the fee
            got to a tavern, where stories begin
            'cuz which *************s don't meet in an inn?

            Met a hot elf, made a threat on her life
            to my surprise, elf pulled a knife
            glad mediation prevented any pain
            how was I supposed t' know Ed devoured her brain?

            Long story short, the inn burned down,
            sent me and ol' Eddie skippin' outta that town
            found an oasis along the road,
            town was in the desert, I thought you... knowed?"

Leon blinked rapidly. Knowed? His human was rusty. Not knowing what to say, Leon used the time that would have been spent on the next verse sort of bobbing his head and flashing jewelry to the music. Occasionally, he would mumble "Uh-huh" or "yeah" at key points. It seemed to work out. With some reluctance, he picked up his rap:

            "If you remember, we had a mission
            killed and ate a lion as we got in position
            We have to be brave as we invade the cave
            Eddie's brain wave brings down a knave!"

Leon winced. Cave was such an easy word to rhyme, too. Maybe he just wasn't cut out for rap.

            "A big-*** hydra got in our way
            now you know me and Edward messed up his day
            What did we do with the body?
            Aw, come on, yall know me!

Instead of rapping, Leon simply spoke the next part of the story (or, as it's know in rap circles, performed a "talky bit"): "Yeah, we skinned its corpse and left its skeletal heads on pikes as a warning to others." Leon said. "Then we used the skin to make super-cute hydra skin hand bags. Uh-huh.

            Now this sort of news might amaze
            but me and Eddie found a bridge somewhere in that cave
            Now this baby arced over a pit
            but it was made of rainbows and gumdrops and ****

            I'm tellin' you now, this bridge was the bomb
            but that's not really the point, let's get to the WoM!"

With that note, Leon threw his head back and cackled, causing his hood to fall off. He quickly pulled it back over his head. Unfortunately, his haste caused his right ear to be turned inside out. The annoyed Leon struggled to fix this. After fixing his ear, Leon began straightening his hood. Suddenly, he looked up. He removed his hands from his hood and slowly walked back to the mike. "So as I was saying:

            I first heard of this event
            'fore any of you even caught its scent
            I wasn't gonna join in, too easy a win
            they wanted me to join, to my chagrin

            Went to the place to sign on up,
            met a dude on the way so I was like 'sup!'
            he knew bout the WoM, with inside information
            told me what was up with little persuasion

            Learned about the situation
            with his cooperation
            gonna take down the mods, then administration
            for the record, this dude wasn't Caucasian."

Leon shrugged. Maybe he was exaggerating little bit, but it kind of made sense: If Leon had extraordinary knowledge in the rap, it logically followed that anyone who actually knew what it was had inside information. "So then I sent in my application-" Leon rapped. "Er, never mind. I'm not starting that again." Leon waited for a few more measures before continuing:

            "Sent in a filled-out form
            it evidently was the norm
            whole deal was kinda unimpressive
            so next round I got aggressive:

            I was in the tavern a few rounds ago
            Strop came by with balls to throw
            he threw them real hard and they kinda hurt
            I knew his plan I would have to subvert

            Tried to fight past but he was too fast
            I could avoid 'cause the place was so vast
            tried to fight but his aim was unsurpassed
            lost the game but had a blast!"

Leon paused to take a breath. He was getting ahead of himself. His lines were becoming longer and longer. He decided that the best method of getting back on track was to employ a talky bit: "So then, one dude up and blows up a bakery or some crap. Might have been some sort of governmental building. I don't know. Anyway, we followed the clues and it led us right to the guilty party. Then, the dude tried to make his escape using the obstacle course built into the moat - I'm not making this crap up!

            We chased this guy and didn't die
            though I had the help of my ally
            Pretty soon he summons a dragon
            we escape with the rest of the lagan!"

Leon stopped for a moment to pat his hyena.

            "Then, I turn into a girl
            not my cup 'o tea, but I gave it whirl
            not sure what happened, it was really confusing,
            but I got this ****ty jewelry and cash I was losing."

Leon pulled out the piece of jewelry he had purchased while female and tossed it off stage. He wasn't sure how much he had paid for it, but it must have been overpriced.

            "That's it for now, we're caught up to the present
            I hope you all found this rap pleasent
            that's all for now; it's off stage with me
            Keep a look out for Leon's tale part three!"

Both Leon and his hyena laughed like gnolls and hyenas. As the music faded away, Leon trotted off stage merrily, mumbling something about silly elf songs.

Crimson

A New Tone

Crimson had been challenged with what could only be called his worst fear...rap. He was not going to stand for supporting such a genre, so he had to look for another main stream genre that was at least better then rap. He looked through his archives finding only the Legend of Brutal, and or course such a genre is dead so he would not be able to pull something like that off, but there was still hope in a still alive genre that was almost just as good:

Second wave of American Tween Melodic Rap Metalcore...it'll have to do!

He brought to the stage magic self-playing guitars, drums, and scratch-table(or whatever its called) and decided to try to keep as close to the metal part as possible...

--------------------------------------------------------------------
[Song starts with black metal voice]
I heard the screams from my keep
Preparing to defend it like Helms Deep
I grabbed my boots, my cloak, my blade
only to find out there was no need for aid
The source of the commotion was an ad
One that for the first time wasn't half-bad
I gazed at the wall of ink, till my eyes turned pink
It was a competition of power
One from which I could not cower
The chance to feed the blades taint
To use the spammers blood as paint
So I grabbed my  blade and was on my way,
except the challenge was not on this day
so I waited and trained for what was to come
training myself till my hands went numb...[voice goes normal]ok well maybe not
[changes back]
but still I trained unless you forgot,for future foes or at least I thought
I entered the theater waiting to meet my fate, when Frank came in crashing late
Fire and flares shot through the air, as music played in an epic manner
shooting through the sky without a care underneath the Armor banner
Then came a yell "Queen Carlie" they screamed with a resounding shock
as I rubbed and polished my shiny red co-[voice changes again]blade....yeah
[voice changes back to black metal, but lowers to almost a whisper]
so I waited as the crowd got quiet
except for the trolls trying to start a riot
but besides them all was silent
not even the flamers wanted to get violent
I tried to listen to what she had to say
before my attention quickly started to decay
[Voice changes back to black metal]
then came Strop being formal as ever
he would tell us about our future endeavor
He then called to the stage Cenere who was quite withdrawn
repeating himself before he shuffled on
He told us that we needed to "register today"
before the crowd rushed the stage to his dismay
[insert random guitar solo here]
I waited in the Community Hall for the contest to begin
when a multi-colored ball almost hit my chin
more came around and hit me in the face
I tried cutting them down failing to my disgrace
I used cheap paintings each as a shield
before I noticed that the entrance was sealed
[goes schizo and changes into nerdy voice]
I backed into a corner and used magic made purely of math
to trick the balls and cut myself an open path
I quickly made my way to a secret exit and gave them the slip
I decided next I would wait in my keep for the time and made the trip
[changes back to black metal again]
Afterwords came a french hippo wanting revenge
it was his "boulanger " that he wanted to avenge
[turns back into nerd]
boasting about his heroics for whatever reason
before asking again of our apparent treason
After much bickering we eventually realized who did the crime
We eventually agreed that it was dudeguy who was covered in grime
[back to black metal...this must be confusing to keep up with huh?]
Then it was time to run the obstacle course
My only chance to beat it was a magic force
The same math that would win me beat round 3
would be turned into my own personal flying banshee
It was obvious though that this course was quite underhanded
I beat the challenge by the skin of my face on which I landed
but it was the next day that the true tragedy would occur
[Another guitar solo for good measure]
Zophia released a bomb that made the he's into her's
I immediately realized that I was somehow a chick
I knew for sure when I saw that I didn't have a di-[voice goes normal]...well you get the idea
[back to black metal, this is the last time I swear!]
I kept to myself only buying new jeans
until of the curse I was washed clean
Its been quite a story to tell my friend
but this is where the story comes to an end

--------------------------------------------------------------------

As he stopped singing fireworks shot up out of nowhere, and he used the distraction to escape the stage while the ADD infected audience was distracted. He decided to back in with the crowd so that he could watch the rest of the show.

Chill

This is it.

Chill stepped out into the area where the rap battle was taking place.  It was a large, round room, with various stages set up everywhere.  Chill had come prepared for the event - wearing nearly opaque golden glasses that he needed to look under to be able to see, plating his entire mouth in gold, buying a solid gold coffee cup to accompany him to the stage, and even blending some gold leaf into some water to maintain an aura of gold mist around him at all times.  He also had a few gold bars cut into strips and fastened to one of his hoodies.  His shoes were painted gold.

Stepping out onto the stage, he grabbed a microphone and introduced himself.

"Hey, I'm Chill, it's my pleasure to be performing for you guys today.  I'll be detailing my achievements insofar for the Way of Moderation Trials!"

Chill cracked his knuckles, his spine, and his toes, and busted into the rap.

came in clad in the opposite of orange
just more mold from the internet sporange
wrote the first two lines as a rap unrelated
just offtopicness of the ASC upgraded

from the other AG I autoextradited
came to this one self-indicted
signed up as part of the WoM canon
taken by the wing like little Rhiannon

tearin' up dodgeball like I was from the Triassic
speed and smarts combined, cephalothoracic
destroyed half the Armusement Park, playin it bombastic
while I was trippin my balls off on senna and acid

I ain't the best in physical fitness
my muscles have a pitiful quizzical thickness
I got the strength and fluffy down of a permissible Cycnus
I'm not exactly a target of insatiable libidinousness

but when the steeplechase came around
I fell in line and held my ground
despite losing my pants halfway through
around 5th place is what I managed to accrue

and when I was crash-course ballistically emasculated
crazily, unexpectedly, unfairly effeminated
I became a master of retail recession suppresion
when I stopped buying crap, I caused a depression

and now I'm here, broadcastin' my skills
rappin' like a madman, handin' out thrills
light as a mite on a feather quill
I'm bustin' out cold, and my name is Chill!

He finished by throwing the microphone, which had become encased in ice, into the crowd.  The air around him was so cold that his gold mist fell to the ground in a million shining beads, and the very air around him began to liquefy, only to evaporate again within less than a second.  Stepping off the stage, he was so lightheaded that he had to freeze himself a walking stick, which he leaned on heavily.  He was still smiling as he left the stage, only to fall down outside, scooting up against the wall, taking puffs from his asthma inhaler.  An audience member, decked out in gang signs, walked out.

"Yo, what drug you doin' there?  I haven't had a hit 'a' anything for a while, lemme knock some down."

"This is my asthma inhaler.  You'd get higher from sniffing a rotting banana."

"D*mn man, when a guy wants a buzz . . . ."

Chill was visibly annoyed at this point, and so he froze the guy's mouth shut, forced himself to his feet, and walked off, back to Aristocrat Way.

http://img442.imageshack.us/img442/1598/chillfortherap.png

Frank

Well, here we go, Frank thought. This is most likely going to blow my chances to hell...
Frank walked out onto the stage, slat glasses blinding him, digital clock swinging into his gut, and pants so on the ground he left a trail where the floor had been dusted. The crowd was already making fun of him. He hadn't expected this until he actually started to rap.
"Dammit..."  He pulled his pants back to his waist, lifted his slat glasses so he could se the mic, and proceded towards it. Then someone in the audience threw a tomato. Frank dodged it, and turned angrily towards the culprit.
"Yer not supposed to throw till after I rap, *******!" But they kept coming, and not just tomatos. Frank could've sworn he saw a watermellon in there. Giving a heavy sigh, Frank ran back stage and grabbed his bow. He knocked a special arrow he had picked up during his female experience, and fired it above the crowd. When it reached it's peak, it exploded in a rain of sparks and light, singing eyebrows and disorienting users all around.
"Okay, now that I have your attention, I'd like to begin." All were quiet, save for the starter of the food fight. "That means you too, *******." Frank got his attention, in the form of another tomato. This time, though, he caught the projectile and returned it to it's sender. That shut him up.
"Now then..." Frank took a minute to go over the rap in his head, and then began.

I gotta be honest this contest's been hell
Goin' for the final eight but I ain't doin so well

I been shot down, horse punted, beaten with balls,
And that ain't even the start of it; you should se my scars

Pony boy here he got his tail in a twist
Over the crazy sh*t he got planned for our next sentence

And through all this I been strong I hven't given up
Cause eight's not enough, I'm goin' for Number One!

"You may now throw." And so the crowd did. Frank ran once more back stage, grabbed his cutlass, and jumped into the crowd. He herded off ******* and a few others, and ran out the back door after them.
--

I may have put as little effort into this as I did my first entry. Woo, procrastination...

Back to the corner.

Goumas

I would like to sing a song. The song is about me, I think, and the way of moderation. I have to say that I find it quite good, maybe instead of a moderator I should become a singer or a composer. I am really a music pioneer.
Here is my song:

Aayooh
I'm tired of being an alchemist
I want to become a moderator
I am very skilled
I am the most qualified

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I take a look at myself
And realize I am tall, though I always were...
So I did not realize anything new
I just acknowledge it

Heyy, Heyy, (ay) Heyy

Now I will sing or if you prefer rap about the tournament
I came here, cause I wanted to discover new career opportunities
I want to coach and research and only here I can do these

Owww, Oooohhh Owww

This song is all about me so I will try to avoid talking about anybody except me, here is what I did:
I was hit by a ball
Yeahh
I did not bomb Flippin's bakery
Yeahh
I did not manage to win the steeplechase
Yeahh
I was turned into a sexy lady
Yeahh
And finally I wrote a song

Now bye!
Go eat some mozzarella
Ella Ella eh eh eh
Eat some mozzarella

Parsat

Saturday was movie night for Parsat, and he was excited. After a hard week of searching he had finally managed to procure through his illegal movie contacts a bootlegged VHS of Night of a Thousand Fists. Plopping down with a bowl of Shin Ramen on his couch he turned on the TV, which happened to be turned on to AGNN. He would have turned onto the VHS setting had his curiosity not been piqued by the blaring music and roaring crowd in the background.

"Yo yo yo, we're here live at the WOM rap battle, bringing you all the highlights of fail..."

Parsat just about snorted the LD50 of capsaicin up his nose when he realized that he forgot all about the rap battle. He slumped over into his chair, Styrofoam bowl clattering softly on the floor. 50/50 chance to live...or die...

Pixel

Pixel stood there with rosy cheeks pusling with embarressed crimson blood. Rap? Rap?!?! Of all the things in the world Pixel hated; neigh despised(!) it was rap. 'Why couldn't they ask me to compose a conerto' he mumbled soflty. But he new his aim and goal in life was to be a moderator and if included a rap then so be it. He took a deep breath to steady himself and proceeded to with:

#So I read the application form;
Been my dream since I was born.
If I could time travel? If was an emote?
I just closed my mind and scribbled; didn't care what I wrote.
So many questions they don't need to know these things;
Want to know it all, yeah they think they are kings.

Pixel took another deep sigh his mind twisted with derision and protest and the words coming from his mouth. The lyrics spewing out filled him with hate anguish but worst of all embaressment.

#Sat there in my castle had no worries in the life
Just sat there with my basball bat looking for theives; they are rife.
From when I'm sit in a tree just passing the time;
To know when I'm stood ehre being forced to rhyme.
My life has changed, I fear it ain't no good;
Running round assault courses  getting covered in mud.

As Pixel started to pass through the lines about his recent "experiences" he thouht more and more about just how much he had been put through. Previous to the last few months the closest he had got to sport was a bit of football (Association) and being subjected to brutal games of dodgeball and obstacle courses was not to his liking. But he proceeded...

#Chilling with my music had no thought in my head;
Got hit by a dodgeball made my skin go red.
Had to fly up in the clouds to dodge this assault;
Barely had a chance to look back to see who was at fault.
Being hounded by a horseman was a brand new game;
Just felt glad he didn't have a brilliant aim.
Sitting on the clouds laying low for a while;
Looking out for dodgeball which I reckon are vile.

#Next was the assault course man it started out easy;
it didn't last long just ended in catastophe.
I flitted around had little to do,
obstacles below me so I just flew.
Round the corkscrew tunnel, over the plank;
Miss the ugly tunnel man it looked rank.
But a rumblin' started rumblin'
A groan began to groan.
Up came a mod with anger in his eye;
Down came his ally swooped from the sky.
I hid and I dodged.... didn't wan to be seen
If they'd a seen me don't know where'd I'd have been.
I looked at my friends all batterd and bruised;
And I shook my head their in a terrible mood.

#So then I was a lady;
No clue how to change back I was afraid-y
Had to change my whole life;
didn't need to look for a wife.
Just cared about my hair;
and if the boys would stare.
Didn't look for a cure;
thought it was just a bore.

#The trash was piled high; still looking for a remedy
'Voidy came a burnt it; made the whole palce so fire-y
With the place in flames no idea what to do;
Dank had to save it was long overdue.
Didn't know how it cured me but I staked my claim;
I had to be a moderator it was my one true aim.

The end was in sight and Pixel afforded himself a smile. Everyone else may hate his rap but his sole consolation was that he did too.

#I was sat at home chilling filling my life with crap;
Now I'm summoned here and I'm supposed to wrap!?!
So I do my research put on my Gorillaz mix-tape;
Think off how to rhyme I learn from an ape.
I stare out at you all hating myself;
The stress this is inducing can't be good for my health.
Will this make me a mod? Will it make me a God?
I need your congratulations gonna make your head nod.

Pixie sighed and trudged off.... he hated rapping more than ever and felt confused as to what exactly he had signed up for.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I apologise to anyone who likes rap I fear this is an insult to the art lol.... and I do apologise for being late next time (hopefully) will be different.

Strop

"AIIIIIIIIIIIITE!" Strop's voice was obviously cracking now. "THAT WAS THE BOOOOMB."

Most of the victestants, most of them having been systematically humiliated, stood back in a slightly subdued throng, wondering just when the evening was going to end. It was well after midnight, so surely the law enforcement would be around to tell them they were making too much noise... oh, well, if a member of said enforcement wasn't making most of the noise.

Just then, Strop made a zig-zag motion with his hand and the house DJ of the night, Firefly, zipped up the music. In the absence of the pounding bass, the silence was deafening. Or rather, the ringing in everybody's ears. Strop reached into his ears and plucked out some plugs. Then he picked the mic up again.

"AND NOW," he boomed before he coughed, and tried again. "And now," he rasped, "Let's wrap up proceedings." He laughed with a whiny whinny before continuing: "I'd like to announce the awards of the night!"

With a dry snap, Strop opened a card he produced from apparently nowhere, and read:

"The Fifteen Minutes of Infamy award for most embarrassing media accessory goes to... Chillaaaaaahhhh!"

Chill slouched to the stage and, for his efforts, received an empty plastic CD case.

"The N**** Whut award for most "Authentic" rap goes to... Maaaaanta! Yeah, let's have it up for him and the musical stylings of DJ Smaaalll Fryyyyyy!"

But Small Fry had already retired from the debacle, so Manta was the only one who received a diamond studded pendant. Made with paper and gems of congealed glue. With the inscription "WINNAR" on the medallion.

"Treasure that always, Manta, that be some srs bling there yo... and last... and in this case least, the Oh No You Din't award goes to: Thooooooad!"

Before Thoad could move, though, Strop walked off the stage. He picked up a tomato left behind from Frank's performance, and mashed it in Thoad's face as he walked by. "There you go buddy. Now where can I get a drink? I'm parched."

As the crowd watched Thoad build up to an apopleptic rage, Strop noticed a familiar stall set up in the corner of the hall. "Just the thing!"

http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2010/063/c/e/Cameo_Stand_2_by_Hectichermit.png

This image is the original, done by HecticHermit

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/5-21.png

"Hey, rasta mon, hit me up with some juice!" Strop said, flipping fifty cents on the counter. Hermit immediately brought up a suspicious-looking flask, which Strop downed in an instant.

"Ahhh that hit the spot... oh, uh, what's going on..." It seemed the effect of whatever strange potion the horticulturally heinous Hermit was also instantaneous: "Not again," was all Strop had time to say before his knees buckled and he hit the floor with a muffled thump.

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Posted Apr 10, '10 at 12:03pm

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Nill on Luck

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Posted Apr 10, '10 at 12:07pm

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

The sunlight filtering through the trees heralded the dawning of the day. Strop, trussed up and on the ground, was still out as cold as the humid, morning air. The dew ran down the cracks in the trunks of the tree that stretched to the horizon and then some.

Strop opened his eyes.

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/6-3-1.png

...was his first thought. Instantly alerted to the fact he was not, as was his usual custom, waking up in his bed in the tallest tower of Armor Castle, he started racking his mind for any memories that might explain this anomaly.

None were forthcoming.

Then there was the fact that it was cold. And wet. And he couldn't feel his hands and legs. He couldn't even see or move them, and when he tried to move his head, he realised that, too, was immobile. The last person to have done this to him was Nill, which incidentally was also his last memory. But that didn't make any sense.

This morning was rapidly turning worrying. But first things first, Strop thought to himself. He'd have to free his limbs somehow. Despite many wildly exaggerated tales of their abilities, ninja were not gifted with the powers of telekinesis. Strop could only really poof and appear as long as he could actually move (and as long as he had one of those nifty smoke bombs on hand, and neither was the case.)

What was a tied and bound person all on their lonesome to do then? On the off-chance that his ever-reliable sla- protege was present, Strop called out.

"Cen?"

"Cen, are you there?"

"CEEEEEEEEENNNNN!!!"

"I should have known", Strop muttered to himself. Chances were, these days Cenere was more likely to be gallavanting with that girlfriend of his, Sai. Which was just the kind of thing a young man should be doing, and, for Cen, not a moment too soon, but still, it was a rather inconvenient development.

Awkwardly, Strop rolled over until he felt the sharp edge of a rock poking out from the soil. It was all he had to go on, so he started rubbing up against the rock, hoping that he wouldn't starve or go mad before the friction wore the ropes down. Provided this was going to work at all in the first place.

Ubertuna's Fishmanly Pledge

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Trouble Ahoof

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/6-6.png

Strop had a sneaking suspicion that people were staring at him. But he had more pressing things to attend to. He wasn't sure what they were, but he was pretty sure he'd remember once he reached home. That was all that was on his mind: sawing at the surprisingly well-crafted rope took half a day, and finding his bearings and walking back to Armor City took another half, so naturally he was feeling pretty crappy. Seeing as Strop couldn't move his head, he wouldn't have been able to reach his room up on the top of the highest tower of Armor Castle, if it weren't for the rope ladder somebody very kindly left dangling from his window. After whatever trip he had last night, he desperately needed to freshen up, and there was no better place for that than in the privacy of his own ensuite bathroom.

As predicted, the tap was running thanks to the recent heavy rains, so Strop started splashing water over his face. That was when he felt something hard and plastic attached to his forehead. And that was when he looked up into the mirror.

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/6-7.png

Elsewhere in ArmorGames, the tournament victestants, those nefarious folk, heard Strop's earth-shattering scream. And they probably giggled.

Strop bolted out of the bathroom for no reason in particular other than chucking a total spazz. But he did see a fancy envelope placed in the "IN" tray on his workdesk, with one of those fancy wax seals bearing the logo of ArmorGames. Tearing it in half, Strop shook out the note within and read it aloud:

"To the User Strop,

This letter is to notify you that a formal complaint was lodged against you by another user. You are hereby under investigation for the attempted murder of Chill, by the method of releasing an arrow at his person.

A search warrant of your residence has been issued. At some point you will be contacted for an interview. Attempts to leave the land of ArmorGames will result in a warrant for your arrest.

We will update you on the results of our investigations.

Sincerely,

The ArmorGames Secret Police."

Strop scratched his head. He shot Chill? With a bow and arrow? But that couldn't be possible, after all, he-

On a sudden impulse, Strop rushed over to the weapons rack. His bow and quiver was missing.

Strop sank to his knees. Surely he could not have broken his oath!? That sacred oath for which his bow had specifically been carved for, the embodiment of his way of life... yet if he could not remember what happened, he could not say for sure what he had or had not done. And what was this about a secret police? Surely the SHOPS squad hadn't reformed without his knowledge? Or maybe this was one of those hokey user-based groups that liked to throw their weight around, or maybe this was one of those secret secret admin-level groups that investigated abuse of moderator power. After all, moderators were only enforcers of the law, and goodness knew how many violations Strop had committed in the past few... well, rather, moderators weren't supposed to be above the law. Yes.

If only he could ask Carlie, but Carlie was absent.

Then again, why not take it from the horses' mouth? Not his, of course, but Chill and the rest of the victestants. After all, he had to get on with the next round, and he had to decide who was going to continue into the final stages of the tournament.

First things first, though. He had to get rid of the horn and the dye. And trim himself even, despite the fact he'd been growing his winter coat out specifically for the coming winter.

Darn those pranksters. He swore he would get to the bottom of this.

Interview with the Strop

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/6-8.jpg

The door opened into a small concrete room. The only light in the room was the sunlight that peeked through the barred window near the ceiling, opposite the door. This was the storage room of the library, to be precise, but it was still kinda scary.

"Please, take a seat."

The silhouette obscured by the dusty glare gestured to the seat on the opposite side of the wooden table. If one squinted hard enough, they would recognise the pointy equine ears and presume that the one sitting opposite them was Strop, seeing as Strop was the one who issued the summons, but still, one couldn't quite be sure. But one thing was for sure- whoever sat opposite allegedly-Strop was half blinded by the glare, whereas Strop could see every expression, every facial twitch and flicker they made.

"This is an interview to determine whether you'll be going ahead in the Way of Moderation tournament. I have just a few questions to ask you."

And so the interrogation began.

 

Posted Aug 5, '10 at 10:04am

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

DECLASSIFIED: The interviews!

As a bonus for anybody who makes it through these archives, it is now safe to publish the interviews before the Round of 8. Happy reading!

Crimson is a reticent person, so I had to simply transcribe his answers as follows:

1) Hello Crimson. I note that along with Kingryan, you've been here since the days of beta. How do you think the land of ArmorGames has changed since then?

First I do need to note I was not a member of the actual member of the beta, but have been around since before then, but regardless I think the most obvious ways the land has changed would be the architecture, especially after...oh what did you call it again the Great Reshuffle I think. On top of the city being better built now with a new administration overseeing it all, there is also the fact that we have a....different moderation team...partially, from what it used to be.

2) Given your experience, can you think of any reasons you have not already been made a moderator?

Well if the stories of the wheel of moderation are to be believed then it would be because of bad luck, but if it were based on ability, then I supposed I could think of a few reasons such as a few isolated incidents where I didn't act to the best of my ability, as well as not always being as active as I would like to be, but besides that I think it could be based on certain factors that I can not control.

3) Do you think there is anything you could do for ArmorGames that you couldn't do as a moderator?

The most a moderator really does that a normal member couldn't is act as the police, and in that way they can enforce the laws in ways that normal members could not, such as shutting down flame wars, and banning those who troll and spam. Outside of those obvious things I see nothing else as of right now.

4) Why a crimson blade?

The truth behind the Crimson Blade is that its actually a reference to The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, but its an item all of its own with its own properties, and at the same time is sort of a calling card I suppose.

5) Where do you live, anyway? Just curious...

As far as you are concerned I live in the Aristocrats Way in my Crimson Keep.

6) ...can you tell me anything about the ArmorGames Secret Police?

I'm sorry I have no idea what your talking about, but if you uncover any information on that subject I wouldn't mind being informed.

7) Were you a member of SHOPS?

No.

8) Finally... where were you two nights ago?

During the actual battle I was either competing, or watching the others amidst the crowd, but after that I was mainly off to the side watching the others argue amongst themselves.

9) ...battle? What battle? What happened exactly?

Sorry I should have specified that I was talking about the rap battle, as in the competition that all the victestants had to compete in during round 6, afterwords people were crowded together arguing amongst themselves. During that time I may have listened in once or twice, in which they were talking about shaving and framing someone for a crime or something, but I really can't remember. I was too busy that day dealing with other things that did not concern the Armorlands. I think Zophia was there though listening in as well. She might know what happened better then I do.

10) Okay, thanks for your time, you may go now.

...

The following was written by Kingryan

Kingryan walked hesitantly into the dark room, one that he had once spent an uncomfortable night locked in after he had been looking for Cenere's hidden supply of chocolate. Somehow, he wasn't seen bending over the boxes in the back of the room and the cleaner locked the door on him.

Now, most of the boxes had been moved to the edges of the room and a large wooden table, similar to his desk, was placed in the middle. At the table was none other than the sillouette of his favourite moderator, Strop. Calm had been his favourite until he disappeared, now Strop was the only one he really talked to. When he talked to anyone that was. Oh the joys of being a recluse.

"Please, take a seat."

Kingryan sat on the hard wooden chair at the table. After a few futile attempts at trying to get comfortable, he looked up at Strop with a curious expression. Strop then began to speak:

"Now I know you are wondering why you are here," he began before KingRyan cut him off.

"Wow, its awfully dark in here...why did I have to come here to meet with you Strop? Surely there is somewhere that is brighter or at least more comfrotable?"

"well, that's besides the poi-" started Strop.

"Hmm you look a little cold there Strop and your hair looks a lot shorter. How did that happen?"

"It wa-"

"Anyway, that isn't important. What is important is why you brought me here, what was the reason for that anyway? How come you haven't told me yet? I'm sitting here getting cold and you haven't even told me why I'm here,' and with that, Kingryan let out a big sigh and waited patiently for Strop, who was slightly awestruck, to speak.

Strop took a deep breathe before starting.

"This is an interview to determine whether you'll be going ahead in the Way of Moderation tournament. I have just a few questions to ask you."

"What tournament?" was Kingryan's blank reply.

"The Way of Moderation Tournament," repeated Strop.

"Ohhh why didn't you say that in the first place?" laughed KingRyan.

"I did," Strop grumbled under his breath before continuing in a stern voice, "KingRyan, this is a very important conversation that we are having is very cruicial to your survival in this Tournament...so I need you wake up that teenage boy within you so that you can answer my questions precisely."

"Oh," was the only reply that Strop got, before KingRyan closed his eyes and began to shake a little. Then, with his eyes still closed, he reached into a pocket inside his robe and pulled out a small tablet which he promptly swallowed. He then shook some more before reopening his eyes which darted around the room quickly. Strop looked at him amused.

"That was odd," said Strop, "can I begin with the questions now?"

"Certainly," answered KingRyan.

Strop picked up a piece of parchement from the table and squinted at it, trying to read what was on it. KingRyan sat and waited for him to begin. After some minutes, Strop began.

"Ok, question 1. I know that you have been here longer than I have, but don't you think you're a bit too much of a bogan to be a moderator?"

"First of all, Stroppykins, I am not a bogan. Whatever that is anyway. And yes, I have been here for longer than you have...and then longer than a lot of other people...but I guess that is just me...I like the ArmorLands, they are like home to me. To me, being a moderator was one of those secret dreams that you never really get, so I suppose my alterior motive for entering this contest was so that I could become a moderator...and finally put those annoying youths in their place for touching my stuff and disrespecting me!"

"I see..." was Strop's answer, as he was slightly amazed at how strongly KingRyan felt about this topic. "Let's move on to the next question shall we? So let's see...The next few rounds are going to be even tougher than the first few. Will your back hold out? I mean, I heard it crack no less than twenty-seven times during the steeplechase. And uh, yes, I know these things because I am ninja."

KingRyan scratched his head before looking blanky at Strop. "Err, what was the steeplechase again?"

"YOu remember...that big obstacle course that was made in the Moat of the ArmorCastle? And you had to go around the course...but you ended up landing in the water?" answered Strop.

"Ohhh that thing. Well you know I don't really remember it, because it was such a long time ago, but if you're wondering about my back...I think that it will be fine. I have a few tricks up my sleeve...you must remember that I am actually a teenage boy beneath all of this wrinkly exterior. Brains before brawn as always, dear Strop. I have not only knowledge from being an old man, but I also have the mind agilty of a 16 year old."

"But you couldn't remember the Steeplechase?" queried Strop.

"I didn't say I always had it. Only when I need it...when I can fully wake myself up..."

"Oh..."

An empty silence filled the room as Strop contemplated this, until a bird chirping outside broke it. Strop clapped his hands loudly to awaken KingRyan, who was resting his head on the table and letting out soft snores.

"Uh, what? What's going on?"

"I was interviewing you?"

"Oh yeaaah, I forgot..." KingRyan yawned, "Well, continue?"

"Ok, umm, Question 3. Do you ever change that robe of yours?"

"Yes. Next question," came the brief reply.

"That's good to know. Umm, Question 4...Why do you call yourself Kingryan when you're not even even ranked a King?"

"Do you really want to know the origins of my name? It is quite a long story..."

Strop pulled a timepiece from somewhere in his suit and consulted it before answering.

"No, lets move on to the next question. Question 5, Do you ever change that robe of yours?"

"Yes. Next question," came the brief reply.

"That's good to know," answered Strop, slightly amused, "Question 6, There was this rope ladder drawn onto the wall of my tower two nights ago. Would you happen to know anything about that?"

KingRyan scratched his head and pondered this. He gazed up into the square of sunlight. After a minute or so, Kingryan answered.

"A rope ladder you say? Drawn? Well yes I can draw things into life with my quill, but I can't quite remember what I was doing two nights ago. I don't see any reason why I would want to get into your tower in the first place. It might be possible that someone may have stolen my quill and drawn the ladder with it, then put it back. Yes, that seems like the most logical explanation. Besides, I like wooden ladders better, more sturdy."

Strop was speechless for a moment as he digested this. It mustn't have been Kingryan, he wouldn't have been able to think up drawing it himself. Someone must have stolen the quill. It made a lot more sense to Strop now.

"Ok, I think that is all the questions I have for you right now...but just before you go...remember the woolen, uh, underwear you knit? ...could I have a scarf?"

Kingryan stood and looked at Strop. "I don't think that I have ever been able to properly knit in my life. I think that old woman who came and lived in my cottage for the time that I was away did though, because I found a lot of wool strewn around my cottage when I got back. So yeah, you'd be best to find her."

And with that, Kingryan bid Strop goodbye and left the room. He walked to his favourite armchair in the library and fell asleep, exhausted after the interview.

The following was written by Gantic

An equine figure sat beyond a stark wooden table that seemed petrified like the walls. The Bullman looked twice around and could not figure whether it was Strop or statue. If he squinted he could make out what he thought were the rapstallion's perplexing blue eyes that were brighter than they appeared to be.
"Why were you squinting?" Strop asked as the Bullman to the only seat.
"I wasn't squinting."
"Yes you were. Why are you acting suspicious?"
Why was the horse acting suspcious?
"What am I doing here?"
"This is an interview to determine whether you'll be going ahead in the Way of Moderation tournament. I have just a few questions to ask you."
"Shoot."
A prickly silence filled the room before Strop spoke. "Interesting choice of words."
Interesting? What was so interesting about shoot
"So. The Bullman as a moderator, eh?" There was a hint of derision in Ponyboy's voice, almost as if anything was better than this. The Bullman furrowed his brow slightly to avoid from obviously squinting.
"It's not a tough question," Strop said.
"That wasn't a question,"  the Bullman replied.
It wasn't.
"So. Why do you want to be a moderator?"
"So I can help people." The Bullman brought his handhooves to point to himself and then to a gesture of giving.
"You don't need to be a moderator to help people."
"Moderation provides me with tools that would better facilitate the necessary aid citizens require."
"So you don't think moderators are doing a good job?"
Pies. He had to watch what he said under the scrutiny of the blue-eyed bobby. Any hint of his vigilantism would be the end of his stint.
"I think they could do a better job. There are often parts that go unmoderated, like the slums."
"We don't have slums."
"The shacks."
"Have you reported aberrant behavior to the moderators before?"
Pies. Pies. Pies.
"Yes."
"Uh huh. And in what ways are you a hero?"
"I save people from trouble, fighting evil wherever it may be."
"Not that I'm one of those vigilante mod wannabes," the Bullman added quickly. "Strictly adventure heroism, journeying into the wilderness, living the itinerant lifestyle, saving those in distress, mentoring greenhorns."
He held two fingers on each side of his head to mimic buffalo horns but the atmosphere in the room was as humorous as having to eat dirt to survive. The Bullman wasn't sure if Strop believed him and he wasn't even sure if that was Strop. The horse had not appeared to have moved at all and he could barely make out the face.
"Is there a problem with your eyes?"
"No.
"You're squinting for the third time."
"It's dark in here."
"Are you afraid of the dark?"
"Me? No. I've camped out under the stars enough times."
The light from the only window disappeared as readily as the thought that the chamber would, should anything happen to the window, came to the Bullman. The Bullman stood quickly and drew the rubber ducky. Perhaps some fell beast had landed outside the tower! He shielded his eyes as the light from the window flashed from the darkness.
"What's with the rubber ducky?"
"It's a long story."
"We have a long time."
"It all started when I was five..."
The Bullman hadn't known how long he had been talking, perhaps it was hours. Strop had not moved one bit even with the magnificent regaling of his life's work that all led to the moment where he had found the rubber ducky. He had to wonder...
"Are you a tape recorder?"
"No, now sit down. What is your greatest weakness, besides the pitch black darkness?"
"I'm not afraid of the dark! I was just preparing myself for the worst case scenario."
"Uh huh."
"Uh, agility can be a problem but I make up for that in strength and intelligence. I may not be as agile as a horse but I have more strength, endurance, and stamina than a horse."
"What do you have against horses anyway?"
Strop's voice was nuanced with barbed curiosity and the Bullman knew not if he should answer truthfully. On the other hand, he had almost blocked the details from conscious thought and even if he knew specifically, psychoanalytically, why he was biased against horses, it wasn't something he'd admit to. Heroes had their flaws but they were never prejudiced, so he said the first thought that came to mind.
"I don't have anything against horses."
"You seem to hold yourself superior to horses."
"It's friendly competition."
"It says on your application 'Shoes are for horses.' What is that supposed to mean?"
"Only horses where shoes and get pedicures. That's what I mean."
"And you don't have anything against horses?"
"No. Why would I want shoes and pedicures?"
"One last question: Would you happen to know what happened, uhm... two nights ago?"
"I didn't win."
"Uh... anything else?"
"No. You passed out and I couldn't wake you up. After some time, I just left for help but you were gone when I came back."
"Okay, that is all. You can go now."

The following was written by Poisonarrow

It was nearly midnight when two black clad figures dragged Frank out of his apartment and all the way to... Somewhere. He didn't really know, having had a sack thrown over his head, but it seemed like a long way.
Frank heard a door open, and was dragged farther on. After what he judged to be a few feet, one of Frank's kidnappers pulled him up and sat him in a chair. His accomplice pulled the sack off of Frank's face, and he winced as bright sunlight met his eyes for the first time in a few hours.
"Dismissed," said a silhouette sitting across from Frank. As his eyes came into focus, Frank glanced at the silhouette in front of him and noticed his pointy ears. He only knew one person with ears like that.
"Strop? What the hell?" Frank was pissed. First off, it was way too early for anyone but those  nocturnal lurkers to be up, and second, well... There was no second reason.
"Please, calm down. This is an interro- interview to determine whether you'll be going ahead in the Way of Moderation tournament. I have just a few questions to ask you."
"Couldn't this have waited until, I dunno, sometime after I woke up? Cause really, I doubt I'm capable to answer any questions right about now."
"So, ninja or pirates?" Strop said, ignoring Frank's remarks.
"Seriously? I can't believe you even need an answer for that."
"Answer the question, please."
"Pirate," Frank said, rolling his eyes. He might as well comply; there was no escape from Strop, and Frank had first hand experience. The ninja pony wrote down something, and continued with the interview.
"How does this 'air pirate' thing work, anyhow?"
"Well, we're basically freelancers who take on jobs for money. Think Cowboy Bebop without the underlying good intentions, and a steampunk setting. Really, it's just a moral gray area. We got the name Sky Pirate from the government, seeing as anyone who doesn't cooperate with them is a pirate in some way."
"I take it your more a true neutral than a lawful good, in that case. Do you think that's compatible with being a moderator?"
"Sure. An impartial standpoint is better than one from any certain perspective, the way I see it."
"What was it that brought you down to Earth?" Strop inquired, while writing. He was probably taking notes.
"Guess I just needed a change of scenery, and this seemed an adequate place. Besides, I hadn't had contact with anyone but the rest of the crew for almost a year. We got blown off course on a job a while back, and hadn't reached another port since stopping here."
"Do you realise just how much in the way of carbon emmisions your porta copter makes?"
"Eh.... No, honestly. But I hardly ever use it here, so I didn't think it'd be much of a problem."
"Where can I get a pair of those goggles?"
"These? I had them made special. Not another pair like 'em, but I can see to it that you get a pair made, if I'm ever out and about." More notes, and then Strop looked up.
"Where were you two nights ago?"
"At the rap battle, though I didn't stay for long. If you remember, I had to deal with some spectators."
"Actually I don't remember, tell me more."
Frank hesitated for a moment, sensing that Strop might be suspicious of his involvement in the... Proceeds, two nights ago. He had been back, after all, and had taken part in humiliating Strop.
"It was all and well, I was getting on with my rap, until some ******* started up a tomato chucking contest. I had to chase him out of the hall. I came back later to see the awards ceremony, but after that I left. It was getting a bit too late."
Frank sat, fighting the nervous tick that was getting into his leg. Did he buy it?

Finaly, Strop released a shrill whinney, and the two black clad figures stepped forward.
"He's done."
The two figures grabbed Frank by the arms, throwing him out of the room, and Frank found himself at the center of attention of three late-night visitors to the library. Ignoring their bewildered looks, he headed back to his appartment on Profile Lane.

The following was written by Thoad

Thoad sat down in the seat. His stare was emotionless, though his eyebrows managed to converge into a unibrow. While in the seat, he mumbled something about chickens and pleasure devices for women (OOC: HA. I WORKED MY WAY AROUND IT). He took out a hard candy and popped it into his mouth with a flick of the thumb. "New trick! You like?" he asked the silhouette, suddenly having a smile of light-heartedness.
     The dark figure said nothing, and clasped it's hands together. It remained silent for a while. Thoad didn't know what to do... and then he just broke the silence with a word completely chosen at random, "HEY STROP? FISH." His voice was  completely serious. Finally, the dark figure took a deep breathe and stated: "So Thoad, how's the iHerpes coming along?"
     Thoad was a little startled at this. "Holy sonofaHOAR. I had no idea that you were listening to my shouts into the darkness! Stroppy I feel so special!" Thoad wanted to place his hand on Strop's shoulder in appreciation, but Strop raised his hand, blocking him.
     Thoad collected himself and coughed into a fist. "Eh, yes. It was very aggresive. Really ripped me to shreds. However I've gotten through it... I just have to visit one of the experts to flush it out of my system, you know?" Thoad paused a little and shifted in his seat. He was starting to remember the worst of it. "Not to be vain (vane?), but I seem to be a little more enduring since the beggining of the tournament." Thoad could have talked about how much shat had hit the fan during the past few weeks, but decided not to.
     "Really? Well that's nice. Have you been able to maintain the Zombie Survival Club in the Meantime?" Strop asked. Thoad suddenly thought to himself; oh sonuvabiscuit. This must have a direct effect on this outcome! "I let my assistant do most of the maintaining. I make sure to keep it updated and report any spam I find. I also answer questions that are there. As well as try and give some ideas as to organization" Thoad hadn't really expected his answer to be so lengthy. Strop seemed to be in thought about this. More than likely picking it apart to see what Thoad had really meant. Or at least that's what the kid thought.
     "So what is the Zombie Survival Club actually about?" Strop asked, clasping his hands together. Thoad didn't need to think about this at all. He had said it so many times it was just a natural FAQ that seemed almost completely unimportant. However, since it was one of the more hoity-toity users he kind of had to sugar-coat it.
     "I'm so glad you asked Strop! The Zombie Survival Club is a club meant to test anylization skills as well as comprehension and imagination. First, it starts as your base plan. I use this to assess one's literary and logical level. Learn a little about them. It also helps in order to learn a person and what materials they might have on them. It also helps to find a liar in there who may try and pull some..." Thoad made a strange *ahem* sound, "junk out of their anus in order to have an advantage. We like the ZSC to test you, not just entertain you." Thoad contemplated this for a second, and continued, "Then, we have the Scenarios! They were entered a little later in the Club's history. They tested the survival and comprehension skills. Some of them tend to be a little easy though. It all depends on the user who made them. I try to make mine fairly hard but passable. We give you a set of supplies, a situation, and a setting. Sometimes a story just to get you immersed into it as well." Thoad felt he might have given a little too much information about the club, and decided to end it. "With a nice overtone of Zombies, for the mad scientists or wannabe murderers to enjoy. Who doesn't like cracked open a Zombie skull...? Well, besides Cen."
     "Do you think your Orginizational skills reflect your ability to be a moderator?" Strop probed. Thoad let out a sigh and looked up at the ceiling. He hadn't noticed anything. The room was simply too dark. This act may have been a sign of weakness, but Thoad was really contemplating the question. "It depends, have you really seen my organizational skills in action? I tend to get a decent plan together but never execute it because I'm afraid that it'll be a little too new for people to grasp as firmly. For instance, the ZSC."
     "That's not what I asked. I asked if you think your skills reflect your ability." The shadow said. It had a scolding tone to it, but it wasn't blunt.
     "Oh, sorry. I'd say that it could. It should for anyone, really. Long passage short: Well no durr," Says Thoad, with a supposed-to-be silly face at the end.
     "Where were you two nights ago?" Strop's tone suddenly changed to a friendly, decent intentioned conversation to an interrogation. Almost comedically.
     "I was at the last round. With Parappa the Rapper. My spirit animal. He's a rapping dog. I think there were a few fumes in the room at the time. Tad fuzzy." Thoad was incredibly embarrassed with his terrible rap. With a acid-trippy moment in the middle, as well. "I would figure you'd remember my uh... entry."
     "OH yeah, and there's a Zombie behind you." Strop said, in all seriousness.
     "Strop you and I know that zombies are not inside the city walls. Unless it's one of the users who decided to take that odd Armatar. But just to amuse you, I'll have to look over my shoulder." To Thoad's surprise, he did indeed see a Zombie. The first question that ran through his head was how the thing got in there, and how it had remained so quiet.
     Thoad took his helmet off and quickly hit it over the face. Right cheek. Soon after, he turned it around, knocked the chair over and did a swift roundhouse kick to the back of the knee. After it went dead-leg, he palm-hit the back of it's head so it hit the ground hard. He propped his foot firmly on it's back and with the other foot, he crushed the neck. Finally, he did the finishing blow, knocking off the head of the zombie.
     Thoad put his hat back on and turned to strop with his eyes closed, "I learned some new tricks too, isn't that cool?!" A dumb smile spread across his face.

The following was written by Manta

I approached the door. When I knocked on it, it creaked open.
"Come in," someone whinnied from the darkness. I recognized that whinny, since there was only one person in ArmorCity who could whinny, but it seemed deeper and more broody.
I walked inside, lightly, on the balls of my feet. The door slammed shut behind me. Wham!
It was almost completely dark, save for one barred window at the back. Someone sat across from me, behind what seemed like a desk. If it hadn't been for the pointy ears and the summoning from Stropplet I'd received already, I may not have known the figure was Strop.
"Come. Sit down, carp-boy." That ever-familiar nickname gave him away, too.
"That's fish-MAN to you, filly-guy." I took a seat, as he asked.
"Cute. I have some questions for you."
"Yeah? Go on." I pulled a piece of candy out of my pocket. I couldn't eat the stuff underwater because it melted too fast.
"Where'd you get that candy, huh? I think that's a little suspicious!"
I raised my eyebrow and glared at him. "Is that my first question? Because I bought it at the Armor's Market. It's fish flavored."
"WTF. They sell that crap? And isn't that cannibalism?"
"What, you never use glue?"
"That's different, fishy!" he yelled, leaning forward on his hands. Spazzy as ever. "Ahem. Let's get on with it. So, you're a kickboxer, hm? Any style in particular?"
"Yeah. I've been taking it since I was a fry. I prefer Kenpo. It's all about balance, using your opponent's energy against him, then striking when he's distracted. Pretty brutal, more so than it sounds."
"Kenpo? That doesn't seem very fish related. It's not even a lame fish pun! Everything else you do is!"
I gave him the same glare I'd give to a newbie. "Strop, I can survive on land you know. I found a good one up here. Besides, there's only like 14 fish-people, you honestly think that any others know how to fight? I had to go to Armor City to find a Sifu to train me."
"Fine... In any case, I hear you have a great dislike of necromancy... how will you resolve to get along with Ubertuna, in that case?"
"I don't. I never see the guy anyway. Doesn't he hang out in that filthy moat all the time? I guess he does a good job of guarding it. Well, except for when that bear guy got in. Klaus. If I was a mod, psh, that stuff would never happen. I'd be all, KEEYAH! TAKE THA-"
"Shush! Let's say you do meet him? Then what?"
I thought on it for a second. "I dunno."
"I dunno? Is that all you can say? And just why is that? Why don't you know!?"
"Calm down. I've not once talked to the guy, I dunno what he does. I guess as long as he doesn't use that stuff around me, I'll be fine."
"I see." I couldn't tell, but I think he was writing this down. "Next question." He leaned in really close to me, to an extent where I could smell his horsey breath. I leaned in just as close and grinned. Then he asked something which took me by surprise a smidgen. "Do you... wear underwear... under those shorts? It's strictly for scientific purposes, I promise you." The grin fell off my face.
"Yes?"
"Ah." He mumbled something as he wrote that down and looked up at me from his notepad for a moment as he kept scribbling. "Now tell me a bit about your father."
My father. He'd died when I was pretty young, so I didn't know much about him. It didn't botherme much to talk about him.
"Well, he died when I was very young, so I don't know much about him. It doesn't bother me much to talk about him." ...deja vu... "I have a picture of him at his funeral... *see picture, the other attachment*
"He looks so graceful."
"Yeah, he died during the great raid on Zelda Universe, from the 4chan empire. That's where we lived before we moved here."*
"Zelda... Universe? Isn't that where the great race of Zoras lived? Aha! I always thought you looked familiar!" He slammed his fist down.
"shush. My family lived way back elsewhere before they moved there, we're not related. Anyway, I want to be a mod because my dad was fighting to stop the trolling and such, and I feel I need to help finish what he started."
"Fair enough. Moving on... Do you have a grudge against me for shaving your hair off, by any chance? No, seriously, that hair shouldn't be on your head. It looks like you have seaweed growing out of your scalp!"
"Are you kidding?! I work on my hair for hours sometimes! I've sculpted, built, given body to this hair, cared for it as though it were my child! You should respect my hair just as I do! Of course I have a grudge against you!"
"Aha! so you've admitted you have a motive! Yes, yes! I've found the person who-"
"WTF? No, I was kidding, bro, come on, I'm the last person to hold a grudge. I mean, yeah, I was mad, and I had to work on my hair for liek ever when it grew back, but yeah. not angry.
"Is that so?" I could feel Strop raising his eyebrow.
"What was that all about, anyway?"
"That brings me to my next question. Well, see, I woke up yesterday to find myself shaved in patches... you wouldn't happen to know anything about that now, would you?" He clicked on a light as he said "would."
"BAHAHAHAHA! OH MY GOD, IT'S EVEN FUNNIER WHEN YOU'RE AWAKE! AHAH! AHAH! Pwwwwhhhh.... PWAAAAAHAHAHA! I THOUGHT THERE WERE JUST PATCHES! BUT YOU DON'T HAVE ANY HAIR AT AAAAAAAHAHAHAALLL!!!"
Strop made that kind of >:O face.
"I mean. No." I twiddled my thumbs.
"Come on, Carpo. You need to answer this truthfully."
"Fine. Hectic gave you a potion or something, and you fell over, out like a light. So, we got back at you for all the pain you put us through. I think I thought up the shaving, but I dunno. I remember making you tye dye was my idea, and combining all our revenge ideas into one was mine too. But I think you may be in a bit of legal trouble. Talk to Leon and Chill about that one."
That same >:O face.
"That all?"
"...WT... yeah... get outta here."
"I was out the door before I knew. Fer srs, that thing closed behind me and I was outside.
_________________________________________________________________________________________
*Kind of a true story. I used to go to the ZeldaUniverse.net forums, 4chan raided us, and the guy who showed me the site quit, or "died."

The following was written by thisisnotanalt

Chill is called into the dark room.  Stretching as he stands up, he pops a piece of mint gum in his mouth, puts his hood down, and walks into the room.  It's dark, and the outline of Strop is barely visible.  A smile flickers acrosss Chill's face as he notes the almost cliche surreptitiousness the area exudes.  He sits down in the chair and relaxes.  Strop - or what appears to be Strop -  shuffles around a few papers, and the interview begins.

    "Er, hi Chill. Are you feeling... well?"
    My arm is a bit achey, but I'm wonderful otherwise.  No sickness, asthma problems, anything like that.
    "No chest pain or anything?"
    You seem to be concerned about my asthma.  I assure you, it's very well-controlled, and I am having no problems as of now.  My other powers make up for my asthma and more.
    "Well, in that case, why don't you tell me about how your water power might be useful as a moderator."
    Most of the mods have some sort of ability beyond banning, something that serves to assist in their profession.  Dank is a master of AS, 'Tuna can throw around fish, etc.  If I was made a mod, then I would be able to manipulate the state of water to assist in catching and reprimanding the unruly users.  Water is in the air - I can take advantage of the humidity if needed, and water on its own isn't an uncommon sight.  It more than makes up for my lack of especial prowess in giving chase - I can stop the messiness of a chase through the city streets before it even starts by freezing someone out.  Due to my age, a lot of the offending users will expect to be able to get away with no problem.  So there's also that aspect.
    "Speaking of which, you're the youngest candidate in the tournament. What effect do you think this has, compared to older candidates?"
    It only serves to motivate me to prove myself more completely due to my young age, and it also serves to give me more room for improvement.  Being a child, I can learn faster than the adult victestants, meaning that as a mod, I'll grow faster into the mold and become a functioning member of the team more quickly and completely.  If I win and become the mod, I'll only grow into a more effective, more mature mod over time.
    "So... where were you two nights ago?"
    After I was done with the rap battle and got my award - which was very nice by the way, thank you - I just went home.  All the talking so fast and the particulate matter from my homebrew gold mist got to me, so I took a hit from my inhaler once I was outside and went home.  I spent the rest of the night reading and speaking with some of the officials at the CoG headquarters.  I need to be kept updated on their status, after all.  I also made myself dinner.  I recently bought a Latin-American cookbook and tried swordfish xnipec ceviche for dinner.  After that, I took one last float through the Imaginarium and hurried to bed.
    "The raw fish sat well?  Was it . . . satisfactory?"
    It was quite delicious, yes.  And The curing process eliminated any food poisoning.  I still have leftovers.
Before the next question, Chill looked away for a moment to give his eyes a rest from the glaring sunlight.
    "The glare bothering you?"
    Not much, but I don't want to lose my vision just yet.
    "Will your affiliation with the Cult of George interfere with your position as moderator, should you win the Trials?"
    No, actually.  I'm supposed to stay here for the rest of my life.  After becoming a grandmaster, I left so as to experience more walks of life.  I won't see the temple in person again until my death.  So no, don't worry.  I'm supposed to stay here.
    "Seriously, you can level with me. I didn't shoot you with my bow, did I?"
    I don't remember the incident very well.  I think I passed out after I was shot.  I think another victestant used your hands to shoot the bow at me, but I don't remember who.  He or she would've had to have been strong, though, because the bow looked huge.

    "Er, I think that's all.  Thank you for coming in."
    Strop shuffles around a few more papers, and Chill makes out a faint nod in the darkness.  Assuming he has been dismissed, Chill gets up and leaves the room, stretching his arms as he leaves.  He thinks the interview went rather well, and wondered if who is probably Strop would be interested in trying some of the ceviche leftovers.

The following was written by Xzeno
Part Seven: I Don't Really Wanna Dance With a Leon

Leon walked into the small, concrete room. He looked around briefly, taking in information.
"Please, take a seat." someone said, gesturing to a seat on the other side of a wooden table. Leon's ears flattened as he bared his teeth, but he quickly regained his composure. After a moment of standing in silence, he took a few heavy steps toward the chair and put his hands on hips.
"Pretty amateur set-up you got here, kid-o." Leon chuckled.
"Please, take a seat." repeated the familiar silhouette.
Leon sat down, resting his elbows on the table.
"Thank you." Strop said politely. Leon looked up at him. Rather than stare into the glare, Leon pulled his hood further over his eyes and looked down again, so that only his muzzle was visible to Strop.
"Sorry about the hood." Leon said insincerely. "I'm a bit put off by your... mood lighting." Strop watched him in silence for a few moments.
"Leon... McAcid." Strop began.
"Yes." Leon cut him off. "You should know that."
"Yes, what I mean to ask is-" Strop continued.
"What's up with that?" Leon insisted loudly. "Did you really hope to gain anything from that exchange?"
"I was-" Strop began.
"Or were you just trying to lead me into another question?" Leon braved the light long enough to show Strop a toothy smile. For another few moments, there was silence.
"Did you pick that name yourself, or was it given to you?" Strop asked, ignoring Leon's tomfoolery. Leon looked up abruptly. He shouted in pain and looked down once again, rubbing his eyes. After some time, Leon spoke:
"What's in a name? Is that who I am? Names are just labels we use to put concepts into words. Before a name has meaning, the concept must be understood. Asking my name gives you nothing. Am I a Leon, like you're a Strop? Truth is, we're not: I'm not a lion, and you're not Strop... no, you're certainly not a Strop. What is your name, anyway?" Leon waited for a moment. "Doesn't matter. If that doesn't answer your question, I have never changed my name. Leon's a pretty common name among gnolls, even if it isn't traditional." Strop waited expectantly.
"Okay then. What about McAcid?" he prompted.
"What about McAcid?" Leon asked, hood hiding his look of confusion.
"Is that a common name where you come from?" Strop asked more directly.
"Not really. I mean, if someone asks for a Mr. McAcid, it's probably me, but no one's gonna be surprised to hear the name, know what I mean?" Leon growled from beneath his hood.
"I think I do." Strop half stated, half asked. "Now then, Mr McAcid: How do you envisage yourself as a moderator?" Leon thought for a moment.
"Envisage, eh? I had you pegged as a human." he said slowly. "What are you anyway?"
"I'm a ninja horse. 'nuff said." Strop replied, maintaining his serious demeanor.
"You're a ninja horse, like I'm gnoll trader? Is that it? Are you really defined by a race and job any more than I am defined by my name? I asked 'what are you', Strop. Not 'what do you do'." Strop sat quietly. Leon removed his right arm from the table.
"I believe I am the one asking the questions, Mr. McAcid." Strop said serenely.
"Very well." Leon snorted. "Me as a moderator... You know me, I'd run around, cause trouble and destroy the evidence. Maybe ban some people here or there."
"I take it that means you won't, uh, get along with everybody else." Strop said, moving on to the next question. Leon snickered and bobbed his head. Finally, he spoke.
"Look, Strop, allow me to level with you. I'm not so bad." Leon said in a low growl. "If AG needs a hero, I can do that. If AG needs another guy to prevent trouble, I can do that too. A small unit of elite dudes with weird powers, fighting on one particular side instead of causing general mayhem? I can do that. I have lots of previous job experience with stuff like that. Truth is, the only difference between me and you is that you're pointed in the right direction. I can be pointed in the right direction. You see, AG is a bit different than where I come from in that it has directions to be pointed in the first place, know what I'm saying?" Leon laughed. "As a moderator, I might be a bit mischievous, but I'd never cause any real trouble. I'll be silly and maybe a bit rude, but when it comes down to it, I'll not only do my job but do it happily." Leon looked up at Strop for a few seconds before hiding under his hood once more.
"What I mean is..." Strop said slowly, analyzing Leon's words. "That flail. Looks kinda... nasty."
"This thing? Yeah. Flails are intimidating weapons. Traditional gnollish stuff that. I'm not actually all that good with a flail, I just carry it for tradition's sake. I'm mostly an archer." Leon explained airily, examining his flail. Suddenly, he looked down again and rested his arms on the table, voice becoming serious once again: "Yeah, my flail looks nasty. So does that dragon's axe, and... hell, that dragon. So does your hammer. So does your - I mean, my bow."
"Good point." Strop agreed, with the slightest hint of suspicion. "If you remember, we were all turned female some time ago."

"How could I forget?" Leon agreed.

"How do you think your performance as a moderator might be changed if you were still female?" Strop asked stiffly.

"I'm glad you asked that." Leon said honestly. "Lia would certainly be kinder, much better at mediation (though I also have previous job experience with that, too) and and much more reliable. She might not be more fair, as she's probably prone to fits of rage (she was when I met her) but you know what else?" Strop waited.

"You were supposed to answer that." Leon said. Strop continued to wait. "OK, fine then." Leon said, arm sliding a bit on the table. "Do you really want that kind of person to be a moderator? Do you want to give that power to some goody-two-shoes spam reporter, or do you want to give it to someone who'll actually do stuff with it?"

"I would prefer a combination of both." Strop replied coldly.

"Bit this isn't about who deserves to be a mod most, is it? It's about who'll do the best for the kingdom. The queen doesn't know, and her moderators don't know, but you know, and I know, don't we, Mr. Ninja Horse?"

"Next question: Has PETA harassed you about those hyenas yet?" Strop asked, changing the subject.
"You know, that was never adequately explained." Leon said profoundly, nodding his head a bit.
"Um, alright then. Last question: Where were you two nights ago?" Strop asked quickly.
"Ah, you know me. I was out howlin' at the moon." Leon replied flippantly. "I might have caused a bit of trouble along the way, but I didn't do anything that would... shall we say, cause any lasting harm, physical or... otherwise.” Leon said slyly. Strop's shoulders tensed slightly.
“Will that be all, then?” Leon asked.

"One more thing." Strop said suddenly.
"Shoot." Leon prompted, leaning back in his chair.
"Four on the floor, Mr. McAcid." Strop instructed. Leon quickly went back to a standard sitting position, eyes still hidden. "Now: Do hyenas really howl at the moon?"
"Not that I've seen." Leon responded dismissively. "We done, then?"

"Yes, I believe we are." said Strop. "You can see yourself out." Leon stood up and trudged slowly toward the door. As he stood on the threshold, he looked back at Strop over his shoulder and said: "See you around, Strop." With that, Leon left the small, concrete room.

 

Posted Aug 5, '10 at 10:05am

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Panda-gazing

Jointly written by Strop and Ulimitedpower

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-0.jpg

Dead of night. Perfect for covert operations. Perfect also for interrupting star-gazers. With no other leads, Strop was going absolutely mad from not knowing how to begin conducting his defense for the alleged shooting of Chill, because he didn't know what would be required of him.

Perhaps some divination was in order.

And so it was that Strop came to a strange brick house that belonged to a certain Ulimitedpower. Normally he would not rely on a practice not supported by evidence (okay, who was he kidding on that one), but desperate times called for desperate measures. Taking a deep breath, Strop rapped on the door.

Inside, a booming voice echoed, "Don't you people notice that days like these happen once in a thousand year? Coming! ." A moment later, the door opened and Strop saw a mass of black and white. Then it stooped and a panda's head popped through the frame. "Hello there."

"Good evening. My name is Strop. You must be Ulimitedpower," Strop said.

"Why yes, I am, but I have to let you know it's not Unlimitedpower, it's Ulimitedpower. People think that somebody made a typo on my birth certificate, but I'll have you know that's not the case!"

"But I said Ulimited..." Strop got the feeling that the hapless panda copped this a lot. After all, why in the name of all that was good would anybody be called Ulimitedpower!?

"Oh. Well in that case I should tell you that it was a typo on the birth certificate. Nobody in their right minds would call somebody Ulimited..." The panda chuckled, and Strop wondered if he was slowly going mad. "You better come in before the planets align over your head."

Strop was really cold, so he quickly complied. Ulimited shut the door and shuffled into the lounge. "What can I do for you?"

"Well", Strop explained, "I'm in a bit of a pinch and I'm not sure what to do, so I thought I would ask for some help."

Ulimitedpower leaned forward slightly. "And how is it that I should help?"

Strop twiddled his thumbs. "You're an astrologer, right? You should have access to an observatory-"

The panda blinked. "What did you just say I am?

"Uhm, an astrologer, right?"

"I can assure you there is a giant difference between a stupid-crystal-ball-staring loser and an ASTRONOMER!"

"What is the difference?" Strop inquired.

"Say that again?..."

Strop, caught off guard, missed the tone of voice and thought Ulimitedpower must be old and deaf.

"What's the difference between..." Strop was abruptly interrupted by a loud noise.

"YADAYADAYADA!"

"Excuse me?" Strop replied.

"Get out of my house, I don't have time for superstitious simpletons," Ulimitedpower's mood had shifted from friendly host to generally pissed. Strop too could barely control his rage and anxiety of this not working, but he knew he had no time to loose. "Fine" he breathed and strutted to the door, but not before giving a glare (and suppressing the urge to say something rude about chocolate cups). He opened the door and stopped, thinking of how he could turn the situation.

"Hurry up," a voice said behind him.

No, the situation was doomed. The door banged shut as Strop left the house.

Only a miracle could save him.

---

"Sheesh, that guy should get a psychologist" Ulimitedpower thought, "He seemed so nervous, as if what he wanted from me was important." It did not occur to him that perhaps what Strop had wanted was important. Instead, he filled his jug from the cocoa machine and looked at his 'Do To List' to see if he'd missed anything. Cleaned the dishes? Check. Read the newspaper? Check. Repaired the roof? Errr... Tomorrow. Then he saw something scribbled in the corner, as if he'd been in a hurry. 'Get an autograph from Strop'. The Panda's blood went cold. What was that funny pony's name again?

Uh-oh

Ulimitedpower grabbed the house keys and ran for the door, almost spilling chocolate everywhere. He grabbed the door knob and... **** it, he'd done it again! Pulled the knob out of its socket. Ulimitedpower sighed, put the cup on the floor and lifted his hand in a fist.

---

When Strop heard the 'Cling' of metal being torn apart, he'd whizzed around to the source and realized it was coming from the door he'd just gone through a minute ago. Needless to say, what happened next:

a) Surprised Strop
b) Shocked Strop
c) Looked plain wrong

The door crumpled under the force of a truck, and Strop half expected a giant to step out, but nooo, it was a giant panda. There was a glint in his eye, of madness or genius Strop couldn't tell, but he hoped the latter.

"Stay where you are"
"Yurrr..." Strop still had to get over the shock of watching two hundred pounds of meat destroying doors.
"I'll do what you asked"
"Really?" Strop's surprise got over his shock.
"Yeah, but in return, you'll have to do something for me, got it?"
Strop stayed still, weighing the deal. What would this bear want from him? Hopefully not something embarrassing or something he couldn't give.

"Unless your brain has melted or you've lost motor functions, you'd better come inside."

Strop walked stiffly to the door, into beckoning light.

A miracle had happened.

If a Sai spots a ninja...

Written by Cenere

Strop stopped on a rooftop, spotting the open window on the second floor in the next building. It couldn't have been easier, and it could actually mean he would be able to catch Cen for once. Ever since he had gotten himself a lady, he had been near impossible to contact. Near impossible here meaning "Could have left a note, but didn't care". He grinned behind the soft cloth mask, and sprang downwards to the windowsill and entered in a somersault. He stopped short in the landing, staring at a girl sitting on Cen's bed. She sat stunned by the sight of him, Strop imagining it was his awesome entrance, thought it seemed it was more the "he was a ninja, she could see him, thus he was not a ninja, but he looked like a ninja, so he should be a ninja, but she could..."-paradox that had baffled her.
Cenere looked out from the kitchen, silently observing the scene of a ninja horse in a landing pose staring at a girl with a confused look on her face, before shrugging.
"So, Strop, are you staying for dinner?" He nodded towards the pony with a calm, questioning expression, but didn't stay to hear the reply. The comment pulled both out of their amazement.
"So, you are..." Strop looked at the girl, who turned her gaze towards him again.
"I'm Sai, Cen Cen's girlfriend!" She smiled sweetly, about the same time as a loud noise was heard from the kitchen.
"Sorry, pan. Lost grip."
Sai giggled a bit before once again turning her attention towards Strop. "And you must be the wannabe ninja?"
"It's rock star ninja, actually." Strop snorted, glaring towards the kitchen.
"But Cen Cen said..."
"Dinner's ready!" Cen shouted shrilly, as he entered the room with a big bowl.
Strop raised his tail a bit, remembering the matter of which he was there to discuss. "Cen?"
Cenere raised his head a bit, looking over the rim of his glasses. "Yes."
"There was a lot of trouble with the last ro.."
"I left a note and the papers for you to pick up. But obviously you can't see the note when it was stuck on the door which you never use." He sent him a glare.
"Uhm, yeah, so you are busy now, I guess I will come back later!" Strop jumped to the windowsill. "When you are done being grumpy." He mumbled under his breath before jumping off to the nearest building.

The Verdict

Each of the following was written by Strop

Chill

And it was cold. Freezing cold. Strop had no idea how high he was, but even if the tower was the tallest physical structure in Armor Games, this construct he had climbed up and up and up until the tower itself was a mere speck below the clouds was simply transcendent. But that its various ephemeral planes were joined with an icy staircase told him everything he needed to know about who was maintaining it. Strop also knew from his geography classes that the normal lapse rate for altitude gain was 6.5 degrees Celcius for every thousand metres of gain, but since he had no idea how far he was up, that trivia was useless. All he knew was that it was the middle of the night, it was a frosty winter, and he was freezing his butt off, and that he was really feeling the shave job that (probably) Manta pulled on him.

At last, he spotted the lone hooded figure, shooting ice with one hand, mug of tea in the other. Now Strop knew why his name was Chill.

"Ahem."

Tranquilly, Chill turned around. "Nice night isn't it."

A draught blew through, causing the structure to sway. Strop clutched his shoulders and shivered. "No, not really. I'm not supposed to be talking to you for, uhm... legal reasons. But it's my duty to hand you this." Strop produced an envelope, bearing an official wax Seal of ArmorGames on it. Chill took it and cracked it open.

"It's an invite to the next round." Strop explained, unnecessarily. "I look forward to seeing the extent, and perhaps more importantly, the use of your powers."

Before Chill could respond, Strop poofed. It was, after all, intolerably cold.

Crimson

Business as usual, and as the days wore on, Crimson went back to his accustomed practice of waiting. On this day, however, as he emerged from Aristocrat Way, it was Strop who was waiting for him.

"Good morning, Crimson," Strop said, surreptitiously handing him an envelope with a fancy wax seal on it. Silently, Crimson took it.

"Good morning, Strop," Crimson said, not opening the envelope. It would be best to open something like this in the privacy of his own keep.

"I still do not know how you feel," Strop remarked, "as a veteran who sees the generations come and go. Or what you might do when challenged by the young and ambitious."

Crimson, shrewdly, felt it better not to speak.

"But is the time for waiting ever over? I guess we shall find out." Strop shot over his back as he began walking away. Silently, Crimson watched him go.

A man of few words could only be known by his actions, after all.

Frank

Frank was minding his own business, kicking rocks. But minding your own business wasn't really an option in a land like ArmorGames, oh no.

In this case, Frank heard a sput sput noise, and the whinnying of a panicking horse. Instinctively, he dived for the pavement, and not a moment too soon. Immediately overhead, a hoof brushed his hair, and he looked up just in time to see a ninja horse strapped to a portacopter. His portacopter. Careening wildly and flying directly into the fence not ten yards in front of him with a mighty smash.

When the smoke cleared, Strop was standing in front of Frank, dusting his suit off.

"Nice dodge," Strop said.

"...thanks," Frank replied, not really sure whether to yell at Strop or sock him one for crashing his portacopter. Only if he tried to yell at Strop, he would probably have a sock stuffed in it, and if he tried to sock Strop, Strop would probably beat him blue and yellow.

Fortunately, Strop ended this awkward stream of thought by handing him an envelope, bearing a wax seal of ArmorGames. Frank took it, and turned it over suspiciously.

"I'm curious to know the similarities in the way of one who is indifferent to authority, to the way of one who is authority," Strop remarked cryptically. "Oh, and you might want to tune that 'copter up," he said, gesturing with his nose to the plume of black smoke from beyond the fence. "You'll be needing it."

And with that, Strop left.

Gametesta

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-1.jpg

"I see the curse has been occupying you."

Gametesta didn't understand it, just as with other occasions. This time, he had been minding his business in the wilderness when a giant wave of doom came crashing down on everything, and suddenly he had to run through the treacherous mountain pass just to try avoiding it.

"I tried flying but my wings suddenly don't work!" Gametesta yelled. Underneath him, the ground crumbled away and he barely scrambled onto the next ledge. Beside him, Strop kept the frantic pace until they hit a ramp and went soaring into the sky. Panting, Gametesta tried to catch his breath.

"The problem is, Gametesta, you're not going to be able to finish the moderation tournament like this," Strop remarked as they belted through the clouds, the wave still looming over them. "Is that thing ever going to go away?"

"I... don't know!" Gametesta gasped as he fell through the cloud and back to the seemingly endless mountain pass. "Probably when I die, which is how it always works!"

"Gee, that sucks," Strop mused, now sliding over an oil slick. "I suspect the tournament isn't exactly a priority for you in that case."

"I only joined so I could get closer to NoName, anyway!"

"Yes, I remember that." There was a pause as they both jumped to hurdle a rock which had been sadistically left in their way. "But I should tell you. Nemo is no more. He's currently trapped as a she, known as Nill."

Gametesta almost fell over- an event that would have carried a fatal outcome, at least for the time being. "What!?"

"So yeah, it's probably not Nemo, but we'll keep looking into it. Good luck." And with that, Strop flicked out a surfboard and slid out the side of the wave.

Darn it all. If it wasn't Nemo, then who was it? Caught in his preoccupation, Gametesta didn't see the rock he tripped on, and the next thing he knew, the wave reared up and swallowed him whole.

Goumas

"You didn't turn up to your interview, Goumas." Strop folded his arms, and waited for Goumas to reply. Pensively, Goumas fidgeted, his own hands skittering along the table in the corner of the now rebuilt and newly refurbished Flippo's Boulangerie (with 30% crustier baguettes!)

"Sorry. I was... attending a job interview."

Strop's ears pricked. "What interview was this?"

"It was for the position as a soccer coach. But I didn't get it, because they wanted somebody... bigger. The game isn't about technique anymore so much as strength," Goumas lamented.

"Ah, I see," Strop said, gnawing at his (butter-less) rosette. There was a pause before he continued: "What did you want out of the tournament anyway?"

Goumas pursed his lips momentarily, before replying: "I wanted respect. All this time, I wanted to be a scientist but I was stuck as an alchemist. And I want to teach, and coach soccer, but nobody would hire me because I don't have a reference..." Goumas hung his head.

Strop thought about this, before placing a hand on Goumas' shoulder. "You know what, Goumas. This tournament probably isn't for you. The kind of respect that a man like you seeks may not be the kind of respect you gain as a moderator. But you have shown your character to me, throughout this tournament so far..." Strop pondered, before resuming. "I think there is a vacancy at the Armor Academy. I could support your application there as a referee, if you wish."

"Really, you would do that?" Goumas perked up instantly. The Armor Academy, the single best (and probably only) school of the land of ArmorGames? He had not dared to even think of applying to such a prestigeous institution, for he figured that they would instantly turn him down, especially what with that scary looking Dean...

"Yes. I can't promise you'll get the job, Goumas, but I am sure it is worth a shot."

Goumas squared his shoulders and drew himself up straight. Yes, if moderator Strop had confidence in him, then surely there was some hope after all! Since he was compelled to enter this crazy tournament in the first place... perhaps this might truly be a new beginning for him.

Kingryan

Strop sat across Kingryan. He was asleep. At least it was the library, where Kingryan spent most of his day asleep anyway.

"Kingryan," Strop said.

"Huh? Wuzzat? Who goes there? You young'ins spamming on my lawn again!?" Kingryan jerked upright and flailed briefly before adjusting his glasses. "Oh, it's you Strop. What do you want?"

"Well, Kingryan, I was wondering whether you remember the interview?"

Kingryan scratched his head. "What interview?"

"Nevermind," Strop said. "You do remember the Way of Moderation Tournament?"

Suddenly, Kingryan's eyes lit up. "Oh yes, yes, I do remember that! I was going to be showing them young whippersnappers a thing or two about brains over brawn!"

"I'm impressed," Strop admitted. "But I'm afraid there's a problem... see..." Strop dug around and pulled out a very large file. "This is your medical record," Strop said.

"Are you sure," Kingryan quavered, peering at the stack of folders, all bound together to make a megafolder. "I don't remember having that many hospital visits."

"I did the best I could to streamline your medications," Strop said. That in itself had been a pretty daunting task. Not only was he on an anti-cholinergic for urinary incontinence, but then somebody had put him on a cholinergic for the resulting urinary retention, and to top it off, an anti-Parkinsonian agent for the tremor (a side-effect of the anti-cholinergic). Then there was the morphine which Kingryan had required for a bowel resection (it had herniated and become incarcerated, causing much bother), which was never withdrawn (Strop blamed a certain 'surgeon' who no longer worked in ArmorGames) which meant that nor was the coloxyl and senna (and that was all he was going to say on that matter), and then there was the hexamine hippurate which was there for no real reason at all other than "all old people have UTI until proven otherwise"... and this was all before getting into the cardiac medications. Strop was not surprised that KR's creatinine was somewhere in the three hundreds, but he was sure surprised that KR was not either comatose, completely incoherent, dying of renal failure, or dead from respiratory depression.

"But the real concern for me is your echocardiogram." Strop pulled out a separate report.

"Echo what?" Kingryan said. Strop pointed to an impossibly small number printed on the report. "I'm talking about your aortic stenosis. It means if your body needs more oxygen, your heart is not going to keep up and you will faint. I have to say I didn't realise it was that significant because you seemed to be getting along fine."

"I was!" Kingryan exclaimed, not liking the technical words and the morbid nature of this discussion.

"But the problem is that upon closer examination, we've discovered that your stenosis is serious enough to warrant consideration for surgery."

"What? I thought I already had a pacemaker..."

Strop rubbed his head. "That's for arrythmia. This is for a valve not opening wide enough... but the point is, if I let you continue in the tournament, the medical board would almost certainly have me deregistered."

"Oh..." Kingryan stroked his beard. "So I'm not going to be continuing in the tournament then?"

Strop bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Kingryan, but I can't allow it."

Kingryan leant on the table. "I see. I guess moderation isn't for me, then."

"I didn't say that." Strop shuffled the files off the table, replacing it with another folder. "Just that your path in the tournament will differ. There are things that require your expertise."

"Such as?"

"Your skills as an archivist." Strop was fairly sure that he was breaking a record for the amount of time Kingryan had ever stayed alert, so he was keen to wrap it up as soon as he could. "Read through this folder. It will tell you all you need to know." Strop rose to leave.

Kingryan opened the folder, and adjusted his glasses as he stared at the image on the front.

"I've never seen this before-" Was as far as he got before he fell asleep again.

Leon

The tavern, a place for one to tell stories that nobody really wanted to listen to. Where you could ramble and not even make sense and it would always look like somebody was listening, either because it was so darn crowded that their ears really couldn't go anywhere else than next to your mouth, or else you could quite easily reach out and hit them if they didn't look like they were paying attention.

Leon was telling his umpteenth story about how his umpteenth hyena exploded, while downing his umpteenth drink (he didn't know what it was, but whatever it was can't have been good for him, which was as much as he could expect from a tavern), when he felt the attention shifting away from him. It seemed that somehow, people were clearing out. Was it that this drink was giving him bad breath? Or even gas? Annoyed, Leon snapped out of his rambling reverie and snapped: "Hey, what's your problem?"

"That's not exactly relevant now, or is it?" Leon blinked and turned his gaze upwards, finally realising that the reason for the crowd's desertion was Strop. Striding purposefully towards him. With his banhammer, Thor, in both hands.

"Is that supposed to intimidate me, Strop?" Leon growled, slightly intimidated. Sure it didn't look nearly as nasty as his flail (it looked laughably ridiculous, in fact), but it had to power to ban, while Leon's flail only had the power to... brutally and grotesquely maim.

"Actually, no." Strop tossed the banhammer aside and it magically poofed into smoke. "I wouldn't have had to do that if my bow was still in my possession, if you know what I mean." Leon could have sworn that Strop's eyes turned an icier shade of blue, but then again that could have just been the drink kicking in.

"Uh, sure. I know what you mean. If you... had your bow you wouldn't have had to use Thor," Leon answered obliquely. Strop glared at him a moment longer, before shaking his head and producing an envelope, which he flicked at Leon. Cagily, Leon eyed it.

"All you need to know is in there. And all I will say for now is that it's not our job to point you in any direction. In this tournament, you'll be meeting many who already have direction. Or try to. What you do when you meet them..." Strop trailed off, and started shoving his way back through the crowd.

Leon chuckled, sliding a claw under the wax seal. "Looking forward to it," he said, now to nobody in particular.

Manta

The sounds of fists and feet slamming into bags echoed throughout the gym. Hair slicked back with sweat, Manta worked another stinging combo, danced back and shot forward, sinking his knee into the bag, but this time, it didn't even budge. Surprised, Manta spun around and tried a spinning back kick, but suddenly the bag was replaced by a ninja horse and his foot was neatly caught in the palm of the ninja's hand.

"Do fishmen have nuts?" Strop wondered, "Because if they do, you'd be a goner in a street fight."

Spluttering, Manta sprang back. "This isn't a street fight you a**! And I'll have you know- actually, nevermind." Was this why Strop had been asking him about his underwear? What a pervert.

Strop laughed, catching the boxing bag on its backswing and leaning against it. "Easy there carp boy. I'm just wondering if you've had a chance to have a real fight since you got here."

Manta blinked fishily. Come to think of it, he hadn't. "Come to think of it, I haven't," he replied. Kicking balls around and destroying entire neighborhoods was fun, but it wasn't quite the same thing.

"That's what I thought," Strop said, fishing around in his ninja suit before producing an envelope with a fancy wax seal on it. "I'll be honest. You're young. And perhaps a little naughty." Strop's eyes narrowed slightly as he said this, and Manta had to try very hard not to bust a gut laughing. "But you're fit, agile, and you remind me of me a little."

Manta had to think about this one a bit. After all, where Strop was suspiciously interested in jewels, Manta was primarily interested in globes. They were very much not the same thing, so perhaps it was just as well that Strop mentioned "a little".

An awkward silence ensued while Manta thought this over.

"Anyway, you'd better practice up." Strop nodded before sauntering over to the boxing ring. "Get some gloves on and hop in."

"What," Manta blinked, "You're actually going to spar with me?"

"Oh, no no no," Strop said. "That wouldn't be fair for all of us. But I know just the guy who could help."

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-2.jpg

Pixel

All the lonely people, where do they all come from,
All the lonely people, where do they all belooonng,

Pixel was in fine voice, for he was home alone, curled up on his very plush couch in front of the very nice warm crackling fire with a very VERY nice cuppa tea and a book. The weather was getting colder, and the people getting older, and...

"Ironic that a recluse would be singing Elanor Rigby," a muffled voice echoed.

Pixel jumped, almost spilling his tea all over his couch. "Who's there!?" he burst out.

Just at that moment, there was a clatter, a loud thump, and something landed in Pixel's fireplace. Directly in the fire. Then a rather sooty ninja horse scrambled out of the fireplace, spraying embers and smoke everywhere.

"IT BUUUUUUURNS!!!" Strop screeched, flailing about, his tail on fire.

"MY CARPET," Pixel yelled. And with that, there was general chaos and mayhem in Pixel's loungeroom until somehow, Pixel's tea was splashed on Strop's tail and then all that remained was Strop moping over the singed ends of his tail. His grooming really had suffered since the start of this tournament.

"Well, sorry about that," Strop said, dusting himself off. "I didn't want to break your window, so I thought..." he trailed off when he realised that this was one of those it seemed like a good idea at the time moments.

"Couldn't you have knocked?" Pixel asked dourly, wondering how many AP it was going to cost to get the carpet cleaned. And he was now short one cuppa tea. Strategically, Strop completely ignored the question.

"Well, anyway, I just came here to give you this." Strop pulled a now-slightly-sooty envelope from somewhere inside his ninja suit, bearing a shiny wax seal of ArmorGames on it. Pixel gingerly accepted it.

"It is man's destiny to clash, for man has a will," Strop said. "I've seen you dance like a butterfly, Pixel, but can you really sting like a bee?"

Pixel didn't have any time to answer, for Strop suddenly bowed and disappeared in a poof of black smoke. Pixel sighed. Couldn't Strop just have done that too?

The Bullman

The snow piled up thick, the brown soil of the wilderness blanketed in white. Through it, The Bullman lurched, wondering how the darned Horseman could ever walk in it without leaving tracks. If he so much as touched it, an indentation would instantly form.

"Fancy seeing you out here, The Bullman," a familiar voice called to him. He whirled around, nearly losing his balance but somehow managing to recover himself with aplomb, or so he thought.

"Just taking a little stroll," The Bullman sniffed with a little disdain. "What do you want?"

"Ah." Strop waggled his finger a little, digging around in his suit before flicking a rectangular object at The Bullman. The Bullman, somehow, caught it neatly between thumb and forefinger, as befitting a hero of his caliber.

"It's not a matter of what I want, so much as what you want." Frowning at Strop's riddles, The Bullman looked down at the envelope and noticed the official seal of ArmorGames on it. His heart quickened ever so slightly. Surely this was going to be the next step to his destiny?

Strop continued: "I can see your motives. But here is where we shall test your actions. How you identify the bad guys, and how you will deal with them. This is essential to moderation."

"Very well," The Bullman said. There wasn't much else to be said, for the ninja horse had disappeared into the thick of the snow once more.

Thoad

There was something particularly soothing about the combination of glowshrooms inside Thoad's little caven and the snow falling outside. Inside, Thoad was reading fine literature (haha, fine, right) and trying to formulate his latest and greatest plan to cut zombies down en masse. That was, at least, until a silhouette blocked out the view of the snow through the manhole.

"Hi, Thoad," Strop said.

"Oh hello there!" Thoad exclaimed. "What brings you here to my humble abode?" It was at this moment that Thoad remembered what happened the last time Strop paid him a visit, and promptly reached for his shotgun.

"No no," Strop said hastily, "Nothing like that! I just came to give you this." He dug around his suit and dropped something, which fluttered about in the air until it landed at Thoad's feet. It was an envelope bearing the official ArmorGames seal.

"Is this... an invite? YOU CAME TO INVITE ME? YES! I AM SPECIAL!" Thoad tore open the envelope, ready to bask in the glory of opportunity and thus a step closer to victory, and hopefully, glorious, glorious moderatorship!

"Uh, anyway," Strop said. "I just wanted to give you that." He looked at Thoad, now in the throes of a spazz of Strop proportions. Then Thoad realised that Strop was staring at him, and he calmed down. "Sorry," Thoad said. "Go on?"

"That was all, really," Strop said. "But I should tell you... growth is one thing. The journey it becomes is a long, tortuous one that should only end with your death."

"Right, death. Torture. Got it." Thoad nodded. Strop looked at him briefly, before turning and leaving. In the glow of the shrooms, Thoad lay back and smiled. Nothing would stop him now.

Dealing with the Dean

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The heavy oak doors and the heavy brass plate with the inscription "DANK: DEAN OF ARMOR ACADEMY" were undoubtedly the most formidable doors in the whole of the institution. All throughout the administrative corridor, the other staff would tiptoe for they feared the surly dwarf, not only because he had a formidable knowledge of the cirriculum, but because his banhammer happened to be the only genuine hammer of all the moderators of ArmorGames. Now, nobody dared exit their offices, for not only was another moderator visiting, but this moderator had appeared to set Dank off on one of his agnry raeges.

Dank slammed his armored fist upon the table, causing another crack to appear in the woodworks. In his other fist he held a now-scrunched-up piece of paper.

"What is the meaning of this!?" he growled. Opposite him, Strop sat, his chin barely propped on the desk, for while Dank was sitting on a stool, Strop was sitting on a kiddie-chair. Office rules.

"Uhh, well, we had a chat and I thought it would be nice to give him an opportunity-"

"I can't let any Tom, **** or Harry teach whatever at this institution! Have you seen the CV? It's pitiful. Alchemist!? What kind of credibility can one garner from that poppy****, you tell me!?"

Strop rubbed his ears. "It's not like he's seeking a teaching position in that anyway. He wants to be a chemistry teacher, and a soccer coach, and I'm pretty sure your secondary education programme needs somebody like that."

"Hrrmph," Dank rubbed the crack on the table, and it magically reformed as new. "But I still don't think he has sufficient qualifications."

"Be that as it may," Strop countered, "I trialled him during the Way of Moderation tournament, and found his motives and character to be well-suited. He only left the tournament on my personal recommendation to apply here."

"Right. Then YOU tell me how you propose to make this work?" Dank fixed Strop with a glare that implied that if he didn't like what he heard, Strop would suddenly have a lot more done to his hair than just a bleached mane and tail.

"Well, you could employ him in an on-the-job training position. That way he can work his way towards a certificate, and if it works out, you've done two things for the price of one!" Strop leaned forward and gave Dank his best colt-eyes look.

Dank was mildly disturbed. "Well, uh, fine. I'll think about it. Now if you excuse me," and with that he hopped off the stool and stumped towards the doors.

"Hey, wait, I had something else to ask you!" Strop started after him.

"Be quick, I'm a busy dwarf," Dank shot over his shoulder. He was walking so fast down the corridor that Strop actually had to jog to keep up with him.

"It's just that I need somebody to be on the panel for the elimination rounds of the Wa-"

"No." Dank's reply was as resolute as it was brief.

"But I didn't even finish my sen-"

"I'm not going to be around. I have business elsewhere, starting now." Dank stepped out of the front entrance of the main building of Armor Academy, put his fingers in his mouth and whistled. An instant later, a penicorn bounded up the drive, Dank leapt on, and whisked off in an arc of rainbow.

"Rats," Strop said. Looks like he'd have to go back to option A.

 

Posted Aug 19, '10 at 12:49am

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Round 8: The Round of 8

How many months had it been since the beginning of it all? One fine Summer morning, the paper rains came, heralding an era of opportunity, of competition, of glory and accolades. Who would have known the chaos and destruction it would bring? After all the preparations, the trials, the bruises and scrapes, the gender changes, the hospital stints, the interviews and hospital stints, the agonizing, now, on the cusp of Winter the following year, had the many hopeful dozens had finally been whittled down to the final eight. These eight carried with them great plans, expectations, and in some cases great mystery. Nobody had known that it would come to this point, and nobody could really say where it was to go.

Now the final eight stood on the stage of the Amphitheatre, and in front of them was Strop and Cenere, flanked by Moe and Flipski. Behind them, however, was the mind-boggling thing, for the semi-circular shelves of the Amphitheatre were packed with people. That ravening bloodthirsty mob who had flocked to the event upon hearing that this marked the beginning of the elimination rounds. Some of the victestants gulped and furtively glanced at each other. Together they had weathered the grualling challenge, but now, who among them was going to stay, and who would go?

It was up to them to shape their destiny from here on.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Strop blared through the soopahdoopahawesometasticmegamegafone. "These, are your final eight!" and the crowd roared, the waves of noise buffeting them back. "And now we shall see them face off against each other!"

In the background, Moe grated: "How barbaric. I hope you won't make them actually fight."

"However!" Strop held up his hand, "You must understand this is the Way of Moderation. There is a code, a code of conduct we must swear by, and it is this code that will determine the rules of the round! As moderators, one must be prepared to resolve conflict and confront villany without resorting to villany themselves! These eliminations will test these candidates' ability to do exactly that."

The victestants frowned to themselves. So what would it come down to then?

Strop pointed to Flipski, and from his headlight, Flipski projected an image of a list onto the curtain that covered the backstage. Carefully, slowly, Strop read the rules.

"The Rules!

1) The matches are one-on-one, and will happen one at a time, in random order.
2) There is no time limit.
3) The winner of the match is the one who makes the other competitor admit, verbally, that they have lost.
4) If a competitor cannot admit that they have lost because they have died, the other competitor is disqualified.
5) Any other rules of the match must also be agreed upon prior to commencement of the match. If a rule is not mentioned in this period, it is not a rule of the match.
6) No rules can be changed by either party once the match has commenced.
7) The final judges of the round will be Cenere and I. We will decide if the match has finished, and who the winner is.

Strop paused a moment to let that all sink in. Then he resumed with a flourish.

"And now, the moment you have all been waiting for... THE MATCHUPS!"

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And so it was decided. Who would win and progress to the next stage, and who would admit defeat? Motive, will, ability and diligence. All these things were now as instrumental to the Way of Moderation as they had always been.

Followed by Cen, Strop leapt behind a table situated onstage, and clapped his hands. "Alright, let's get cracking!"

In anticipation, the crowd went wild.

Frank-vs-Pixel

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It was steadily growing darker in the amusement park. People were clearing out for the fight that was about to go down between Frank and Pixie. Strop and Cenere were seated in the highest compartment of the ferris wheel, so as to view any aerial encounters. Lights began to shut off around the park; the only ones remaining formed a rough circle around the area in which the victestants were permitted.
"I guess that's our cue," said Frank. He was sitting on the counter of a shooting range, strapping himself into his portacopter.
"I guess so," replied Pixie, leaning against a post. From the direction of the ferris wheel, they heard the screech of a megaphone. The next moment, Strop's voice filled the arena.
"You may begin."
Frank slid off the counter and landed with a thud, and reached for a cord on the motor of his portacopter. It gave a sput or two before speeding up to a quiet roar. The propeller blades mounted atop the motor began to spin, and Frank was lifted to the tips of his toes. He pulled his goggles down over his eyes and flashed a wicked grin.
"You think you can keep up?" Frank challenged, before gripping the throttle and kicking off from the ground.
"I know I can," Pixie said to himself as he drew his cutlass and set off after the pirate. Moments later, both victestants were in the air, weaving in and out of the attractions, playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse. After trying to get Pixie off his tail, Frank led the chase toward the ferris wheel, accidentaly knocking his shoulder against Strop and Cenere's compartment. The pirate heard a shrill whinney before he was sent spinning out of control, and crashed onto the tracks of a roller coaster. Frank sat up, and noticed a bright light rushing towards him.
"Dammit, they left the rides on!" he said to himself before dropping off of the tracks and catching hold of a metal beam. Frank pulled himself up into a sitting position, and checked his portacopter for any damage. He noticed that one of the rods connecting the propellers to the engine was slightly crooked, and reached back to correct it. The rod came off, and Frank gave a sigh as he stared at it in his hand.
In his dispirited transe, Frank failed to notice the steady beat of wings, but he snapped out of it when he felt the tap on his shoulder.
"Found you," Pixie said, before kicking Frank in the back, sending him falling toward the ground. Just before Frank crashed, however, he felt himself suddenly stop, and was dropped the last ten feet to the ground. He looked up and saw Pixie hovering above him, smiling.
"What? It's no fun fighting a crippled opponent." Pixie slowly lowered himself to the ground, cutlass out by his side.
"Thanks," Frank said, before drawing his own sword.
"No problem."
"Oh, I don't know about that." And with that, the real fight began. The two victestants circled each other, both waiting for the first strike. Eventually, Pixie lashed out at Frank's side, but the pirate managed to parry the attack, and sent a counterattack toward Pixie's shoulder. Pixie raised his sword to block, and was knocked off ballance by the force of it. Frank moved closer, landing a blow square in the chest of his opponent with the butt of his cutlass, sending Pixie to the ground. Frank placed his boot on the wrist of Pixie's sword arm, and lowered the point of his own cutlass to Pixie's exposed neck.
"Do you admit defeat?" Frank said, just before his free leg was swept out from under him. "I'll take that as a no," he said, regaining his ballance in time to dodge a downward slice from Pixie's blade. They fought on, dodging, parrying, throwing increasingly messy blows, until Frank went for an opening in Pixie's side. Pixie moved his sword to deflect the attack, but Frank's move was a feint. The pirate spun, and brought his blade to a rest just before it reached Pixie's neck.
"Now..." Frank said through heavy breaths, "do you give?"
Pixie looked down at his own blade, sweat dripping down his chin onto the ground. He pushed Frank's sword aside, nodding his loss. Both the victestants fell to the ground, worn out from their fight.
"I haven't fought a skilled opponent in a long time, you know," Frank said, breaking the silence surrounding them.
Pixie chuckled, and through his own heavy breaths, replied, "You're not too bad yourself."
This rare moment of open respect from Frank having passed, the pirate fell onto his back and gazed at the night sky of Armorland. Some time later, Strop officially announced Frank's victory over the megaphone, and both victestants got up, shook hands, and left the amusement park.

Thoad-vs-Manta

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Thoad looked at manta, seeing that the match was now set up. Thoad was glad that he brought along a rifle, but figured that he shouldn't bring any ammo with him. He didn't want to mortally injure another contestant, after all. The air was dry and the weather was good today. Something told the young man that today there was going to be a lot of bloodshed.
  Manta walked towards Thoad, and Thoad did the same. Both of the "Victestants" were fairly serious, knowing that they were likely about to beat the living sh*t out of each other. "Say, Manta. How about we make this a little interesting?" Thoad asks Manta, a small smirk growing on his face.
  Manta looked skeptical, probably thinking that Thoad was looking for a bet. "You're not thinking of bettin' in the fight are you?" Manta said, knowing that (OOC: Likely) gambling AP was not liked with moderators. Thoad's face developed a large, happy smile.
  "No no no, Manta! I've been developing a fun little device I call the InsanoChamber. You see, what it does is it distinguishes all your worst fears and nightmares... AND THEN IT EXPLOITS THEM!" The last part of the sentence was incredibly happy and a little too eager to be fully sane.
  "Well how does it do that kind of stuff?" Manta asked, putting his webbed hand on his chin, thinking.
  "Well, for one thing it reads your mind by uh..." Thoad mumbled something incredibly low. Manta hadn't quite heard it, but it was along the lines of: powered by the remnants of 93 ghost accounts. "Well anyway, it'll whisper into your ear etc. in order to make your life as hard as physcially possible. The tests I've ran on winderness animals have told me it can cause insanity though. We could figure out a safe word if we feel like we're going to lose it." Thoad put his hand to his chin for a moment, and smiled. "How about... uncle."
  Manta had waited a couple of seconds, deep in thought. ZSo long as he knew when, he should be able to get through without going insane... "Sure." Thoad smiled. It was decided that the arena of choice would be the amipitheatre, on the stage area. Of course if one of them was knocked off it wouldn't be a penalty.
  The InsanoChamber had been brought in, covering a good amount of the Ampitheatre, and it had been programmed for when the word "Uncle" was said, it would turn off. The two victestants just had to make sure that they could remember the word.
  Thoad brought out his rifle, and checked if there was anything in the mag. Didn't look like there was anything there but a single airsoft bullet. "That might come in handy," Thoad thought. "Alright Manta, let's go at it then!" Thoad yelled to his fishy opponent. He produced a nod and came dashing towards Thoad.
  Thoad was hit with a large clap in both of his ears. As if a clap of thunder came from the back of his head. It made the young boy stagger and he was less able to prepare himself. He was able to move his head just a slim second before Manta threw a punch past his cheek.
  Cursing under his breathe, Thoad narrowly escaped a hard hit to the leg from Manta. "Sh*t man! Yer good!" Yelled Thoad, jumping back. Suddenly, Thoad noticed a white noise filling his ears. It was so high pitched, but still able to be heard. A headache came over him, his ears filling with the screech of what sounded like electronics. Thoad noticed Manta was having the same effect though, and decided to take his chance.
  Thoad used a hard slap to the left arm on manta in order to spin him around, and then he had produced a swift hit to Manta's kidney. As Manta yelped in pain, the boy clad in green stepped back, waiting for Manta to get his bearings. Then the whispers came.
  "You could never be a mod. So young, so frail... so immature," a faint and raspy voice came from behind Thoad. It was one of the sanity tricks the InsanoChamber had used. It was starting to exploit Thoad's worst fears, the things that he didn't want to hear. Thoad wanted to shout that it wasn't true, that it was possible for him to get to his goal, but he tried his best not to listen. There was a fight going on.
  Before Thoad could even realize it, he was being hammered on by Manta's scaly fists. A quick jab to the right cheek and a nice follow up to the gut from the fish-man. Thoad noticed a "Hail-Mary" (OOC: Terminology may be off, it's basically a super-powered hook to the face) about to come in. He ducked and ripped Manta's leg from off the ground. He then grabbed Manta by the leg and twirled him around. Throwing him off the stage, he was close to the end of the InsanoChamber.
  "Win this fight? You can't even draw correctly," the raspy voice called from behind again.
  "Shut up!" Thoad screamed, turning abruptly. He pulled out his rifle, loaded with an airsoft bullet. He grabbed the gun by the barrel and looked for a stagger from Manta. Finally, he was able to get a good hit on manta with the butt of his rifle. Thoad jumped back several times, making sure that there was plenty of space between the two victestants.
  Right when Thoad thought that he was able to get this done with, a nightmare hit him hard. Real hard. Though Thoad didn't actually know if Manta was encountering another nightmare, he suspected it to be true. Thoad found his representation of himself in a gray room with concrete walls and one window. It was incredibly dark, and someone was under the window. It felt like a vague memory. It was the interview.
  "Now tell me Thoad, why would such a good boy do something like that?" the Silohuette that was supposed to represent strop said.
  "Did what?" Thoad asked, outraged.
  "You threw it away, Thoad." Strop sounded sinister. He was acting extremely out of character.
  "Threw what away?!" Thoad had pretty much forgotten that this was an InsanoChamber nightmare, brought on from the sinister dome.
  "Your modhood, Thoad. You had it for a day. You blew it. It's gone, as will you. I just wanted to know why before I banned you. For good," Strop almost seemed to be sad at whatever it is that I'd done. "So tell me, why did you just... throw it all away?"
  Thoad finally remembered something, that word. That word that would make all the pain go away. All the fear and anger he had during the past 10-30 minutes, would go away. He remembered the word but didn't say it aloud "Uncle". Suddenly, the nightmare went away. Thoad saw manta on the other side of the field. He was mumbling and sprawled out among the floor.
  He went above Manta, and gave him a soft slap on the cheek, enough to wake up. "Did you give up yet? I don't think the InsanoChambers working anymore, and I didn't say the word." Manta simply looked at me, frowned, and sighed.
  "Yeah." Manta said, a look of sadness on his face. Thoad had a faint smile on his face.
  "That was a hell of a fight we had, huh?" The green-clad kid asked. "Beat the hell out of each other about as much as the InsanoChamber did to our brains, right?" Thoad had been a little too exhausted from everything, and helped Manta up. "No hard feelings, right?"

Round 8

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Crimson successfully persuaded Chill to fight him in a place that would give him the best advantage, the Wilderness. Of course its cut off from the rest of the forest leaving him access to none of the powerful objects that existed prior to this battle. Also he had to deal with it being winter which meant that the ground was most likely covered in snow. He looked over his profile of Chill that he created at the beginning of the competition. It seemed that he was some sort of cultist and apparently used something called majick. He seemed to be best with the element of water. It was likely that Crimson would have to make great use of his Programming Magic(formally known as Armor Magic). He knew that once something entered the Wilderness it was not necessarily an object unless it was able to react with the environment in some way. Thankfully for him his opponent was a very advanced object. One that would react with whatever is thrown at him, but of course Crimson also had to keep in mind that he was in the same vote. He could only do one thing at a time using this form of magic, but fortunately never got tired from using it, and once a spell is activated, it does not stop until told to do so, so long as there is a good while or for loop in it, but of course in a wrong one this could be disastrous, causing the world around him to slow down and eventually shut down. Once he was done looking over all of this information he went to the location that the battle was to take place in. He probably would never be as prepared as he would have wanted to be, but he had to make due with what he knew. He finally faced his opponent in battle. Things remained silent for a moment as neither of them made any movement. Chill was geared towards defense, and waited for Crimson to attack first. He knew that he had to make the first attack count, but what could he do? He pondered this for a moment, as he stood there out in the open. There were trees on either side of the small open field they stood at, if he could get to the ones behind him, he could use them as cover from his enemies ranged attacks, and formulate a better plan of attack from there, but needed some sort of distraction, and quickly. His blade was now an object, and could be recreated, and so he decided that seemed appropriate. He threw his blade at the enemy, immediately running in the opposite direction. He threw himself behind a tree barely missing a shot of cold ice shot at him by Chill who easily dodged the weak throw. Crimson had to think what to do from here. His enemy was retreating to the other side to gain his own cover, and if he tried to run across the open field, he would get butchered by Chills attacks. At the same time he realized that the snow around his feet was moving slightly. His enemy was controlling it. The control seemed to be weak because of the distance in between him and his enemy, but he had to move quickly or have his feet encapsulated with ice. He ran to another tree even further back dodging a single long ranged attack his enemy threw at him, by of course doing a barrel roll. He thought on his feet, and remembered that he was an object. A quick spell that created instance of him would do well as a distraction. He put it together, and saved the spell, but needed an event to activate their creation, one of the weaknesses of programming magic during battle. He thought of the first thing he could, to have a simple hand movement activating it(Note:This is basically the equivalent of a mouse click). Now that he compiled his spell, he was ready to go to battle. His feet were starting to get surrounded with ice again. He shook the snow off of his boots,and ran forward into the field, the patch of ice chasing him close behind. He activated the spell throwing instances of himself throughout the field. The one problem of course was that none of them were equipped with instances of his blade making them fairly weak in battle, but good enough to help distract his enemy...or at least he hoped. As they ran towards the enemy he shot them down one by one, all the while forcing Crimson to run straight towards him as he did not want to get caught by the ice chasing behind him. What he forgot was that as he got closer to Chill, his control over the ice got stronger, a foolish mistake. The ice grabbed a hold of his feet. He tripped, and his blade fell out of his hand, and he was trapped, with the ice around his feet slowly solidifying. Luckily he still had his hands and activated another 20 the attack Chill. They managed to reach him quick enough to force him to concentrate on them, enough time for Crimson to break free of the ice that had captured his feet before Chill activated an area effect attack that took them all out. Crimson crawled towards his blade shuffling backwards  trying to get back up after he grabbed it, but before he could it was too late. Chill took advantage of momentary weakness, blasting ice at him. He blocked with his blade in both hands...a bad move. His hands and the handle of his blade were both completed locked together with ice. If it weren't for his gloves he would probably would have needed to get them amputated, but regardless this made it impossible for him to activate his cloning spell, and also made his range of attack with his sword fairly limited as well. His only chance of winning at this point was to somehow strike Chill with his blade so as to activate the Crimson Blade collision with Chill event. A last resort enchantment, last resort because he doubted that he was going to be able to use it, but at this point it seemed that he had no choice but to try at least. He still had no chance of taking his enemy on directly and with his hand...not exactly able to be used to write a new spell, or activate most of his useful ones, he had very few options except for one dangerous spell he created for a game recently, his first game in fact. Orbs that would spawn at the top of the field at random, and would move straight towards the bottom of it, straight towards Crimson. He had very little time to think it over, so he activated the spell, by simply banging his foot against the floor. Chill didn't quite know what this meant of course, but who would. As he prepared to finish Crimson off, a orb flew past his ear. He looked behind him to see more coming towards him, one destroying a tree to his right. Crimson took this opportunity to stand back up and run towards Chill who somehow was a better multitasker then he had anticipated, shooting ice at Crimson, while dodging multiple orbs of death(something about that doesn't sound right, not too sure what though). The tree that Chill was hiding behind got quickly destroyed, as did many other around it. Every orb that didn't hit Chill could hit Crimson, and unfortunately up to that point meant all of them. He moved almost directional as he charged trying to dodge orbs without the ability to roll, he found, was not too easy(seeing as how rolling with a sword in his hands would probably not be too good of an idea of course). He of course couldn't dodge the orbs and his enemies spells forever. He took a few hits to the chest from his enemy, but nothing to heavy at first, it simply slowed him down. He pushed the attack, sprinting as best he could towards his foe, blade in hand. He was close, all he had to do was have Chill touch the blade. Chill hit him continuously, hitting his feet, his arms and even the bottom of Crimson's Blade(he made sure Chill did not hit the tip of it at the least), then he hit Crimsons shoulders, he could no longer move his arms, but he continued to charge towards Chill, who then struck his right leg with another ranged attack. He limped towards his foe, who was only but a few feet away, before Chill shot his other arm immobilizing him. He didn't expect to actually be able to strike Chill with a frontal attack, but that was not completely the point of his attack. While Chill attack him head on, he got distracted thankfully, and forgot about the orbs behind him. One hit him dead-on exploding, pushing him into Crimson's Blade activating the event. Chills speed was set to 0 and his health to 1 out of 100. He was immobilized and injured, and Crimson and his Blade both respawned, becoming unfrozen again. He knew such spells would only work in the Wilderness and that is why he convinced his opponent to fight here, but at the same time knew that any future opponents would probably not be so foolish as to try to fight him here again. He walked up to Chill and simply said
"Surrender and I will fix your wounds" Chill was in no position to argue and agreed, simply stating the words that would give Crimson his victory
"I have lost" Crimson struck him with his blade again activating a secondary event that would only activate if his health was set to 1, and Chill returned to normal. Crimson decided it would be best to simply leave Chill there and return to his Keep where it would be safe to wait for the next round...again.

~End

Suck it up

The scene was set. The adjudicator's table was situated to the side of the action. The final two victestants of the round squared off in their agreed meeting place, ready to match wits, power, and will.

Strop clapped his hands. "Okay, you may be- ... what is that?"

Leaning over the table, a pink blob was visible:

http://home.btconnect.com/hgi/nintendo-ds/kirby.jpg

Kirby (c) Nintendo. Kirby998 has adapted the character such that Kirby's appearance here is fan-based.

Strop scratched his head. "Hold up a minute guys."

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-5.jpg

"Uh oh," said strop.

http://i413.photobucket.com/albums/pp218/Kirby998_2008/cameo.jpg

This image was drawn by Kirby

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-6.jpg

The Bullman-vs-Leon McAcid
What a pity that Strop had to miss this match. It was the craziest, longest, most epic piece of action in the WoM thus far.

Part Eight: Reaching Out and Touching Leon

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Leon stared at his opponent.

"A bull man." Leon stated.

"The Bullman." The Bullman asserted.

"A Bullman or the Bullman?"

"The Bullman."

"The Bullman?"

"The Bullman." The Bullman responded.

"What is your name, anyway?" Leon asked with genuine curiosity.

"I'm the Bullman." The Bullman said simply.

"No." Leon said, pointing at the Bullman. "There can be only one Bullman. Who are you?"

"There can be only one." The Bullman agreed. Leon stepped back and melodramatically threw his arm to his side.

"Huh." Leon laughed. "I guess that makes you the Bullman, and him. . . Metal Bullman."

"Metal bull man?" The Bullman asked.

"Metal Bullman." Leon affirmed. "He has a name, too." The Bullman remained silent.

"I'm sure your momma didn't name you Bullman." Leon continued.

"She didn't." The Bullman replied.

"What is your name, then?" Leon demanded.

"Call me the Bullman." The Bullman repeated. Leon thought back to his conversation with Strop.

"Very well." he agreed. "Call me Leon. Or Gnollman. Or Bluebell. Doesn't matter." The Bullman nodded. Leon looked back at him. His hyena stood behind him, face poking out to look at the Bullman.

"How are we doing this then, Bullman?" Leon smirked.

"Surrender or discuss terms." The Bullman demanded, hoof-hand resting on his magical rubber ducky. Leon glanced at the bath toy, but he was more concerned with the Bullman's size.

"Discuss terms." Leon replied stiffly.

"You surrender or make me surrender." the Bullman explained, hand resting on his water cannon.

"Yeah, I mean, how do we decide who surrenders?" Leon countered.

"You will surrender because if you don't, we will fight, and I will win!" The Bullman proclaimed with confidence.

"No." Leon replied simply. "I'm not going to fight you." The Bullman was taken aback.

"Why not?" The Bullman asked, puffing up his chest.

"Because... yeah, that." Leon said. "You look pretty tough."

"You know when you're outmatched, so you won't fight?" The Bullman asked, genuinely intrigued.

"You've got it." Leon answered slyly. "How shall we decide this, then? You could just admit defeat." The Bullman considered Leon for a moment.

"I will concede if you beat me in a fight." The Bullman countered.

"If you want to start something, bring it, cow boy, but I don't want a fight, and neither should you." Leon exclaimed, pointing accusingly.

"It's the Bullman." The Bullman corrected, chest deflating slightly. He knew Leon was right. He couldn't start a fight with someone who didn't want to fight: That's not what heroes do.

"You aren't going to attack me, are you?" Leon goaded.

The Bullman folded his arms. "No." He said shortly. Leon smiled.

"If not a fight" the Bullman suggested "you look well-traveled."

"I am." Leon smiled knowingly "I have traveled to the far corners of my home continent, selling rare jewels and telling old stories. Sometimes even new stories. Have you heard about the time we were told to go into a cave by a five year old man? The man was secretly a demon, and-"

"I'm sure you've had many excellent adventures. Perhaps we should have some sort of competition. Who has the most exciting and heroic tale of exciting heroics?"

Leon cackled. "I like how you think, Bullman!" The mirth vanished from Leon's face. "No dice." The Bullman blinked. Leon had preempted his next idea.

"I bet I could out drink you!" The Bullman declared proudly.

"I bet you could too." Leon agreed. "You're a bigger drinker than me, I'm certain."

"A drinking contest it is!" The Bullman agreed.

"No thanks. You'll win." Leon answered more directly. The Bullman's ears drooped.

"How sharp of a shooter are you?" He asked.

"I can shoot the wings off a fly at ten paces." Leon lied immediately.

"Impressive." The Bullman nodded. "Maybe we should have a duel." Leon looked up at the sun. It was burning bright, in the middle of the sky.

"A duel at high noon." he mused. "Can't be a quick-draw duel. I'm slower to the bow than you are to your duck." The Bullman looked at his rubber ducky. "Maybe a different type of shootout. Time's a-wasting. Come on, we'll figure it out while we walk."

"Why walk?" The Bullman asked.

"Gives the illusion of progress. Come on!" Leon turned around and beckoned the Bullman. Together, they began to walk through Armor Games.

"The first one hit loses." The Bullman stated as they passed the Community Hall.

"Fair enough." Leon agreed. "But ricochets don't count, and no splash damage."

"Hits to the horn or hoof don't count either." The Bullman added. "What about a shot limit?"

"My quiver only holds twelve arrows as is. No limit is necessary." Leon explained. "I'll recover arrows if I can."

"Seems fair." The mountain of a man agreed as they walked between the Library and the Post Office.

"Where shall we fight?" The gnoll asked. "I suggest the forest. Nice amount of cover." Leon knew the forest would give him many places to hide, as his years of hunting had given him plenty of experience sneaking around, particularly in forests. The Bullman stopped in his tracks.

"Well, what do you thi- hey, what are you looking at?" Leon turned around to see that the Bullman had stopped. His gaze followed the Bullman's. Behind them stood the massive, partly constructed skeleton building, with hundreds of workers working on scaffolding, riding elevators, working cranes, or messing about with construction vehicles. Near the building was an open area, with some piled beams on carts, stacks of concrete tubes, and a few inanimate vehicles for cover. Separated from the open area by a deep but narrow ditch, with steep but climbable walls, leading to a pool of dirty water, was a staging area, with many trucks, trailers, and piles of raw materials.

"Excellent choice, Bullman." Leon said, walking towards the Construction Yard.

"Of course!" The Bullman followed.

The Bullman and Leon stood among the doodads of the open area as though they had a license. They were about fifty paces apart (forty-five paces for the Bullman) with the sun high above them and a convenient piece of cover close beside them. Leon fixed the Bullman with a glare. The Bullman snorted. Leon adopted a more aggressive posture, hands in front of him. The Bullman wiggled his fingers above his rubber ducky. Leon waited. The Bullman waited. Suddenly, Leon's hands darted toward his bow. The Bullman, quick as a flash, drew his rubber ducky and fired a blast of water. Leon leaped behind the pile of concrete tubes right beside him. As soon as the Bullman's jet of water subsided, Leon nocked an arrow and darted out of cover to fire at the Bullman. He missed. The Bullman turned his rubber ducky on him. Leon hid once again before the Bullman could fire water. Leon's hyena hid in a concrete tube as Leon nocked the next arrow. The Bullman fired some water over Leon's head and past the cover. Leon fired another arrow at the Bullman, but he didn't have much time to aim, so he missed again. The Bullman began lumbering toward Leon. That one looked around for another piece of cover.

"Alright boy!" Leon said in an excited voice. "Run for that truck over there! I'll meet you there in a minute, okay?" The hyena yipped with excitement and dashed for the truck. As Leon had hoped, the Bullman fired at the hyena, freeing Leon to make a dash to the truck. He slid behind one of its sets of wheels while the hyena hid behind another. The Bullman pressed up against a stack of iron beams and peaked out at the truck. Leon looked around. He knew he was faster than the Bullman, and that he stood a better chance at a longer distance. He eyed the partially constructed building. The height would also be beneficial with that in mind, he made a dash for a large roll of orange plastic closer to the building. The Bullman began to shoot water at the plastic in the hopes of disrupting Leon's flight. The gnoll braced himself against the roll to keep it from rolling over on him.

"Go!" Leon shouted, gesturing toward the building. The hyena ****ed its head. "Go!" Leon repeated. The hyena gave Leon a last lingering look before running off for the building. The Bullman relented his assault on Leon's roll, but he knew not to pursue the hyena, having learned that trick. Leon cursed silently and dashed for a trio of barrels. He peaked around them. The Bullman was still following him, but he was far enough behind that Leon felt safe running for the building. The Bullman raised his ducky and tried to aim at Leon, but he was unable to line up an accurate shot. Slightly disappointed, the Bullman lowered his rubber ducky. Leon, meanwhile, reached the ground level of the building. He ran under a wooden platform suspended by metal bars and onto a wooden ramp. The ramp led to another wooden platform, which in turn led to the third floor of the building. Leon raced onto the third floor past some confused workers and and looked back to see how his adversary was progressing. He was about eighty yards out and and three stories down, but he was bounding toward the wooden ramp at a respectable pace, his large steps partly making up for his natural slowness Leon aimed an arrow, but the Bullman vanished behind a bulldozer. Leon kept his bow trained on the hiding place. The Bullman stuck his head out from behind the bulldozer. Leon shot. The Bullman pulled his head back, denying Leon his victory. Leon turned and ran to the corner of the floor, near a small, additional, connected building only two stories tall. The roof of this building was featureless, save a ventilation unit and an empty metal drum. Leon looked around for the Bullman, pulling his hood further down to protect his eyes from the bright sun. The Bullman was nowhere to be seen. Leon tried to formulate a defense plan. A large stack of 2x4's near the edge would be usable cover, and a worker about fifteen feet away could be utilized as somewhat ineffective mobile cover. His possible routes of escape were the ramp he had used to enter, a jump to the two story building and an elevator on the opposite side of the floor. He started by hiding behind the two-by-fours. After a few minutes, Leon heard the Bullman's signature footfalls coming up the ramp and onto the third floor. He waited, bow at the ready. The Bullman stopped. By the sound of it, he was only thirty feet away.

"Have you seen a hyena man around?" The Bullman asked.

"Yes, he's crouched behind those two by fours over there." The worker replied. "Is he a friend of yours?" Leon's ears flattened and he bared his teeth. He jumped up with the intention of shooting the Bullman and then possibly the worker. The Bullman was quicker to fire, driving Leon back to cover before he could fire. The worker screamed and ran, coming within a few feet of Leon. Leon pounced on the worker, putting him in a choke hold to use him as a human shield. The Bullman raised his ducky after a moment's inhibition. Leon threw the worker at the Bullman and ran for the edge. He jumped off and onto the roof of the two story building, doing a roll to absorb the shock. The Bullman ran for the edge and unleashed a torrent of water. Leon ran desperately, the jet of water close behind him. Just as the spray was about to consume him, Leon jumped and grabbed the barrel, pulling it over and jumping in it simultaneously, so that the open end of the barrel faced away from the Bullman and Leon would be protected. He let out a shout as his body slammed into the roof and flattened his ears as the Bullman's water pounded against the barrel. He crawled deeper into the barrel and pulled his legs in so that he would be protected completely. The Bullman knew that following Leon would be the best way to get him, so he jumped and fell through the roof down to the ground level with an enormous crash, followed by many more slightly less enormous crashes. Leon slid out of his barrel and ran to the end of the roof. Looking down, he saw the entrence to the small building. Panting, Leon nocked an arrow. The Bullman stumbled through the door. Leon fired his arrow. Whether by accident or by design, the Bullman staggered to the side, avoiding the arrow. Before Leon could draw another, the Bullman slammed a fist into the concrete wall of the building. Either by accident or design, Leon lost his footing from the force. He whirled his right arm around trying to maintain balance on one foot, but he failed, falling forward off the roof and onto the Bullman. He landed on the Bullman's neck. Leon was hoping the impact would break it, but the Bullman was made of tougher stuff than Leon would have hoped. The Bullman began to walk forward, tossing his head from side to side. Leon grabbed onto his horn with one hand while attempting to sheath his bow with the other.

"Get off me you coward!" The Bullman commanded, staggering and bucking.

"Yee-haw!" Leon shouted. "Gitty up!" The Bullman snorted in annoyance. He grabbed Leon around the waist and threw him. His cape sustained a small tear from the Bullman's horn as he flew through the air. He slammed into the ground with a yelp and bounced a few feet in the air before landing prone. Leon pushed himself up and started running at full speed without looking back. He opened his mouth to take in lungs full of air as he sprinted along a small but paved road toward a huge ramp up to the partly constructed building. After covering about fifty yards, Leon turned around to look back. The Bullman, standing over a pile of ruble near the small building, held his rubber ducky above his head triumphantly. He caught sight of Leon and began his pursuit, firing spurts of water. Leon resumed his sprinting. He ran past a truck and swung around a pole to change direction onto the ramp. As he charged up the ramp, he realized that it did not lead directly to the building and that there was a ten foot gap between the ramp and the building. As he was about to turn around and attempt diplomacy, a crane picked up a trio of massive concrete tubes " suspended by ropes " lying between the ramp and the scaffolding. Seeing his opportunity, Leon jumped to the tubes.

"Hey, what's that guy doing?" A worker at the bottom of the ramp shouted as Leon climbed to the top pipe.

"Probably one of those urban climber guys." the site manager told him "Get down from there!" Just as tubes became level with the fourth level, the Bullman rounded the corner onto the ramp. Leon knew he only had a few seconds to act before the Bullman shot. He used this time to grab onto one of the two ropes supporting the trio. The Bullman squirted a blast of water at Leon. That one ducked the ducky and began to chew on the rope.

After a few seconds of vigorous gnawing, the rope broke. Sending the tubes falling to the ground and Leon leaping to the forth floor. Two of the tubes smashed into the ground, but one landed on the ramp, sliding and rolling down at an angle, end furthest down headed for the Bullman. The workers shouted and pointed, fearing for their lives. The Bullman acted quickly, grabbing the concrete tube. With great effort, he slid it to the side, away from the workers. They began to applaud as the tube smashed into a big rig. The Bullman began to pose and flex his muscles in front of the mass of broken concrete, twisted metal and flames that was once a big rig. The gaggle of workers cheered.

"Wow, uh, thanks for that, mister...?" the site manager said, walking up to the Bullman.

"I'm the Bullman." he replied.

"Nice work." the site manager said. "Thanks for saving our lives and all, but you probably didn't have to wreck that truck. Just saying." The Bullman's nose twitched. Everyone's a critic.

"Any idea who that climber guy was, Bullman?" a worker shouted.

"Yes." The Bullman replied. He would have loved to tell everyone of his ongoing battle against Leon, but he didn't have time. He had to stop the bad guy, because that's what heroes do. He lumbered back to the road and looked both ways before crossing. He would have to find Leon.

"You think that bull guy is going after that climber?" one construction worker asked.

"Yeah. The Bullman's a moderator, isn't he?" a second replied.

"I don't think so." said the first.

"Huh." The second grunted, nodding his head.

Meanwhile, Leon trotted along the sixth floor toward a set of precarious metal stairs. As he neared it, he heard a voice to his left.

"Stop!" Someone shouted. Leon turned around to see someone pointing at him, wearing a cowboy hat. Leon also noted the revolver holstered at the stranger's waist.

"I saw what you did back there, with those... tube-y things." The stranger accused.

"What are you, some kind of moderator?" Leon chuckled. The stranger smiled and attempted to draw his revolver while twirling it around a finger. The weapon flew out of the stranger's hands and clattered onto the floor beside Leon. That one picked it up with a smirk. The stranger groaned. Leon opened the revolver and shook the six shells out onto the ground.

"That's what you get for being needlessly showy, kid." Leon laughed, tossing the emptied weapon back. The irate stranger twirled the revolver a finger as it was holstered. The stranger then drew and holstered the revolver twice, twirling it each time. Leon chuckled. With a sound of annoyance, the stranger turned and ran for the stairs. Suddenly, Leon's hyena jumped onto the stairs from above. The stranger whipped around to see Leon walking up from behind.

"You caught me." The stranger said, hands in the air. Leon smiled and delivered a phoenix punch to the stranger's neck.

"My neck..." the stranger mumbled, falling to the floor unconscious.

"Good to see you again, boy." Leon cooed, patting his hyena on the head. The two of them then continued to ascend.

Soon, Leon and his companion found a semi-sturdy-ish vantage point near the top of the building. Leon glanced up at the sun [never look directly at the sun, kids! - ed]. It was still high in the sky. About an hour after noon.

"You're my spotter, boy." Leon declared, taking a seat. "Now we wait."

A few hours passed. The sun now hung low in the sky, casting long shadows and golden light everywhere. The Bullman had searched high and low for Leon, but he hadn't been able to find him. He even tried telling the staff to keep a look out for him, but no one seemed able to discover the elusive gnoll. The Bullman was standing in the open area of the construction yard, aware of his vulnerability but sure of his defensive capabilities. He noticed a cart on wheels. Perhaps Leon was hiding under it. He bent down to check. At that moment, Leon fired. The arrow, fired true, would have hit the Bullman's abdomen if not for the Bullman's looking under the cart. As it was, the arrow broke against a horn.

"Um..." Leon wondered out loud. Had he hit? The Bullman stood up and looked around. He was unaware of Leon's exact position, but the shot seemed to have come from the tower. The Bullman looked in that direction and pointedly pointed to his horn. Leon, hundreds of yards away, nodded, unknown to the Bullman, who was now heading for the tower.

"Look!" Leon shouted to his hyena, firing at the Bullman again. The Bullman saw an arrow shatter against the ground a few feet to his right. He picked up the pace, occasionally taking cover. Leon fired another arow, but the Bullman ducked behind a forklift. He looked around for more cover, but none seemed close enough to be safe. Another arrow came dangerously close to his nose.

"Bah!" Leon shouted. "Next shot." The Bullman had to do something fast. He needed the cover of the forklift, but he couldn't get it to follow him. It would just have to go in front, then: He began to push the forklift toward the tower, steadily picking up speed. An arrow flew through the body of the forklift, embedding itself in the seat. The Bullman abandon the forklift and ran into the tower before Leon could shoot again. He quickly ascended the stairs, reaching the sixth floor in a mere three minutes. He walked across the floor, to the next set of stairs. Lying near them, he saw a person in a cowboy hat. The person's eyes opened.

"Taking a nap?" The Bullman asked.

"No, I was- are you the Bullman?" The stranger asked, eyes wide open.

"The one and only." The Bullman remarked.

"Wow, I'm a big fan of yours." The stranger declared, getting up. "What brings you here?"

"Have you seen a hyena man?" The Bullman queried.

"Yeah, he punched me in the neck." The stranger answered, rubbing the spot Leon's punch had struck. "I think he went up."
"Thanks." The Bullman said, walking toward the stairs once more.

"Wait!" The stranger shouted. The Bullman turned back. "The elevator is faster." The Bullman followed the stranger to a small,caged elevator in the middle of the floor.

"Oh... you need a key to get in." The stranger realized with disappointment. Some might have needed a key, but the Bullman was not some: He casually punched the doors, denting them. He then pried the doors open using the opening he had created. He stooped a bit and stepped into the elevator.

"That was so cool!" the stranger whooped. The Bullman hit the up switch, causing the elevator to lurch and carry him slowly upward.

Leon skidded around a corner, hyena in tow, and onto an elevator. He flipped the switch to down, hoping to give the Bullman the slip. His elevator began descend rapidly. To his surprise, he discovered the Bullman was riding an elevator up in the elevator shaft right beside his. The two stared at one another for a brief moment before Leon passed out of sight. The Bullman flipped his switch to down. Leon hopped out of the elevator as soon as he got to the ground level and waited. The Bullman's elevator crashed into the ground. Seeing Leon, the Bullman prepared to fire his rubber ducky. Leon dodged to the right and punched at the Bullman, who ignored the blow. Leon slid in to deliver and elbow strike to the solar plexus. The Bullman grunted slightly as he ignored the blow and swung a huge arm at Leon. That one ducked and jumped toward the Bullman to bite him. The Bullman grabbed him with his right hand and punched him with his left, sending him bouncing across the pavement once again. The hyena jumped and distracted the Bullman faithfully, jumping and snapping. After a moment's inhibition, Leon ran for the ditch. He slid/fell down into the stream of orange water and began to scramble up the opposite side. He found himself in the staging area. The maze of crates, carts and trailers would be perfect: The Bullman wouldn't be able to use the cover as effectively as he. He hid in the back of a pickup truck and took to waiting once again.

The sun was setting when the Bullman arrived near Leon's hiding place. He was walking among the rows of materials, looking for Leon. He would occasionally look back over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't being followed. Leon silently cheered his hyena as he noticed a patch of fur missing on the Bullman's right shoulder. Leon climbed out of the pickup truck and began to sneak toward the Bullman, who was now heading for a tent. Leon followed quietly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his hyena trotting up to him.

"You okay?" he whispered. The hyena licked his face. Leon aimed for the Bullman, but his back disappeared into the tent. Leon followed.

"Okay, here's the plan." He said, standing near the enternce to the tent. "You go around and laugh to distract him. I'll come up from behind to finish him off. The hyena panted. "Got it? Go!" The hyena started to go around the tent. Leon smiled and began stalking through the tent. He rounded a corner (it was a big tent) and saw the exit, outside obscured by a tent flap. He stood by the exit and waited. Soon, he heard the laughter of a hyena. He jumped out of the exit and saw the Bullman, looking at the hyena in confusion. Leon fired. Less than fifty feet, unaware, unmoving, large target. Somehow, the arrow whizzed past the Bullman, less than an inch off target. The Bullman whipped around and soaked Leon with his rubber ducky. There was silence. The Bullman walked up to the dripping wet Leon.

"I have-" Leon started.

"I have lost." The Bullman declared quickly.

"What? I missed you!" Leon exclaimed. The Bullman showed Leon his arm. Leon's eyes widened as he saw a small cut.

"I grazed you." he corrected himself. "Does that really count?"

"A hit is a hit." The Bullman shrugged.

"Why are you telling me this?" Leon demanded. "I would have let you win! You could have let me believe I missed!"

"That's not what heroes do." The Bullman reasoned. Leon looked surprised. Then, he laughed.

"I guess you're right." Leon said, still chuckling. "Good match. You are a more than worthy opponent." Leon stuck his hand out. The Bullman looked down at it. Leon smiled and extended his hand even further.

"Good match." The Bullman agreed, shaking Leon's hand.

"Maybe I'll see you around." Leon said as he went to collect his hyena. The Bullman just waved as he walked off into the sunset.

The following was drawn by Cenere

http://i428.photobucket.com/albums/qq1/Cerene_Cerine/kirby1.jpg

http://i428.photobucket.com/albums/qq1/Cerene_Cerine/kirby2.jpg

http://i428.photobucket.com/albums/qq1/Cerene_Cerine/kirby3.jpg

http://i428.photobucket.com/albums/qq1/Cerene_Cerine/kkirby4.jpg

http://i428.photobucket.com/albums/qq1/Cerene_Cerine/kirby5.jpg

 

Posted Sep 8, '10 at 11:58am

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Pandering to the starstruck

The following segment was written by Ulimitedpower

"Please, make yourself comfortable" Ulimitedpower said.
Strop dumped himself into the nearest armchair, and felt a day's worries melt...
"Preferably, don't make yourself comfortable in my chair," he moaned.
Thus Strop had to retire to a sofa, which felt like no one had ever sat on it. Taking his time, he looked a bit at his surroundings. A sofa, an
armchair, a mahogany table, beige walls and ceiling, decorated only by two pictures in glass frames: An old sketch labeled 'Heliocentric Solar
System, 1549' and..

"I see your wandering eyes have stumbled upon my pride and joy."
"A fake The birth of Venus painting?" Strop inquired.
"Fake? Far from it! That's the first sketch Botticelli drew before making his true masterpiece. I found it at an antique
store years ago, and the dealer told me it has a value of 50 million pounds."
"How much did it cost you?" Strop had a suspicion about what Ulimitedpower was about to say next:
"100 dollars! Can you believe it? He was so nice!"
Strop had no comment to say about that.

"OK, can we begin with my problems? That's mainly why I'm here." The sooner this was done, the better.
"Very well, shoot away. But be warned, I might fall asleep," Finally, getting somewhere.

"So..." Strop began but was cut shot.
"First off, I want to make it clear with you: I'm an astronomer, not an astrologer. There's a major difference, OK?"
"What are the differences?"
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," Ulimited's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Now, although I shouldn't know this kind of stuff, I do know a fair bit about the Zodiac symbols."
"Might I ask why?" Strop wanted to know a bit more about this panda before they got into business.
"Because, uhm..." Ulimitedpower's eyes were somewhere far away, a billion years in the past. "Never mind, you don't want to know."

And so the fun began (For Ulimitedpower). He began asking millions of questions, starting with 'When were you born?' and then turning to more
extensive questions like 'How many siblings do you have?' and 'What is your first memory about?'. Finally, when Strop felt like he'd just wrote an autobiography about his entire life, it was over with a short "Alright, that's enough for one day."

"One day?" Strop has a bad feeling...
"Yeah, we're continuing tomorrow!" Ulimitedpower seemed very cheery, as if this was fun.
"Didn't I tell you enough already?" Strop felt his brain sizzling from the workout.
"Lets see what we've gotten already:

*You're an Aries*, meaning your element is fire. The planet Mars is your main planet, and your secret desire is to lead the way for others.
*You have 'some' siblings, suggesting that you're used to... uhm... dealing with other people's problems.
* Your first memory was the day you first remember, so that means you're either very stubborn or elusive
*You work your butt off for AG, so that proves your responsible. According to this big, dusty book I have that means..." Strop leaned over to look at it, but it was written in Latin**, and pretty messily too.

"Oh, you're life is pretty straightforward:

1. You will be greatly rewarded with a position of power ('Moderatorship' Strop checked off in his head)
2. You will not abuse it, because you're honest ('Duh')
3. You're decision on helping someone or not will affect them heavily ('What?')
4. You will take place in a search for someone of equal status ('WOM is the reason I'm here')
5. You will die eventually"

"Die?" Strop's hair stood on end.
"Oh don't worry, it says that for every symbol. And everyone must die one day, right? You look in shock, something wrong?"
"No nothing," murmured Strop.
"OK, continuing...

6. At some point you will be engulfed by a giant blob..."
"After I'm dead?" inquired Strop.
"Oh yeah, I forget to mention none of this is in chronological order. To the lucky number 7... uhm... Errrr..."
"What is it now!!!" this was going so slow and so little was being
accomplished that Strop tried the guilty-feeling technique. It didn't work.
"I can't read what it says... There's a big coffee spill... No, wait, it's chocolate... Only thing I can make out is 'It will get better before it gets worse'."
"That doesn't exactly help. Are you sure you can't read the rest?"
"No, and stop pestering me about it!" Ulimitedpower frowned at Strop, and closed the book, flinging dust and wisdom into the air.
"So I have to come tomorrow?" Strop was hoping to avoid another long, boring night with Ulimitedpower-the-astronomer-not-astrologer.
"Well, your answers to the questions are so unclear so I guess there's no point in asking anything else..."
"Yipeeee!" Strop did a dance of joy (in his head, duh) and jumped out of the chair.
"Wait a sec, we're not finished yet!"
Noooooooo... "What else do I have to answer?" Strop was super hoping that the panda was going to ask something weird again, like 'do ya lik applez or bananaz'.
"Answer? Oh, you don't have to answer anything, you just have to do me a favor," the fortune-teller said (I am not a fortune teller, dud).
Strop saw the story of Rumpelstiltskin in his head, and suddenly felt he'd done something very stupid. And the panda had that weird look...
"I want... (*Drumrolls*)" began Ulimitedpower, and then stopped for the suspense. He looked around, and looked thrice at the window to make sure no one was listening.

"An autograph."
"Err, what?" Was Strop hearing right?
"I want a sig-na-ture. Do you want me to spell it for you as well?"
"Uhm, no thanks. I was just kind of surprised you want something as dumb as that?"
"AS DUMB AS THAT???!!!" roared a black hole in front of Strop's very sensitive ears.
"You know, maybe I should just do it. Do you have any spare paper and a pen?"
As if one cue, a golden pen and some very thick, definitely expensive paper shot out of his hands and the panda almost bowed in front of Strop (Which was weird, because the bear was level with him). A quick flick and his wrist and the deed was done.

Or maybe not...

"What's this! You wrote something so sloppy I can't read it! Do the autograph again"

And now for a picture by Strop, inspired by the story...

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-11.png

Strop had hoped to get a little wink of sleep before having to go on a routine. Nuh-uh. After being forced to rewrite his signature five hundred times before the panda was pleased, he ALSO had to make perfect copies for future uses. At some point the fountain pen ran out and he had to write with one of those cheap things that spluttered and died while you watched. It was no surprise then when he shouted at a newbie after being asked 'Are you a zombie horse' and glared a user right down to his boots after he remarked about the clothe bandage around Strop's hand. Strop sincerely hoped he never, ever, ever, ever, ever had to meet that panda-dude again when he was in a signature-mania again.

* Strop never gives out his birthdate but Ulimited insisted, so... Strop might have lied >_> -Strop
** Strop can read some Latin, having had to study it for five years, but baulks at the notion.

They're Such Beautiful Shirts

http://i438.photobucket.com/albums/qq105/strawpony/Way%20Of%20Moderation/7-12.png

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('Dynamic' colours in the next 5 pages done by Cenere!)

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(lol Nill u mad -Strop)

And so it was that Nill learnt an important life lesson that frosty winter's day: If you dress like a tart, don't be surprised if people see you as one!

...

Judgment Day: Short Round

Leon

Strop found Leon sitting under a tree, absent-mindly patting his hyena.
"Leon McAcid?" He asked, as though there were other gnolls in Armor Games.
Leon nodded, still looking at a cloud rather than Strop.
"You beat the Bullman." Strop said. Leon was silent.
"Yeah, I did." He said at length.
"He must have been a difficult opponent in more ways than one." Strop added.
Leon looked at Strop. "That about sums it up." He said.
"Has your confrontation with the Bullman given you any new insights?" Strop asked finally.
"No." Leon answered after a moment's thought. Strop was inexplicably surprised: He hadn't expected a straight answer out of Leon.

---

Frank

"I'll just have the noodles, thanks." Frank sat at a counter, ordering dinner from a local oriental shop. He had just gotten here from the amusement park, where his match with Pixel had been held. And Frank had won, so he had deemed this little hole in his wallet an appropriate reward. As he was waiting for his meal, he heard a bell ring behind him, and turned back to see Strop ducking into the shop; the frame of the door was a tad lower here than at other places.
After waving to one of the customers seated in a booth to the left, he walked over to the bar and took a seat next to Frank.
"I'll have what he's having," the ninja pony said, pointing towards Frank. The cook nodded and left, probably taking care of business elsewhere in the kitchen.
"So, Strop," Frank said, "What brings you to this fine establishment?"
"Oh, just feeling a bit hungry is all. Congrats on the win, by the way. Though it's rather unfortunate that your portacopter was damaged... Sorry about that first time, also." Frank looked over to Strop, who, if it hadn't been for the mask, would have been sporting a sheepish grin.
"No worries. I can fix it. And thanks."
"I had a few other questons to ask as well, Frank."
"Fire away."
"Well, I was wondering... Why are you still in this tournament?" Strop looked at Frank expectantly, and the pirate returned the look with his own dull stare.
"I guess... I guess I just needed to get away from it all."
"From what exactly?" Again with the expectant look. Frank cast his eyes downward, searching the wood grains for an answer. Strop waited for a good five minutes, watching Frank observe the counter, until he decided to shake the pirate out of whatever he had gotten into.
"What?" Frank said. He looked weary, and his eyes were still rather distant, but there was something else in them. Something Strop knew he wasn't being told.
"You were telling me why you needed to get away from it all, Frank."
"Right... Well, I guess... It's lost it's appeal. Sailing around the seas, well, in my case skys... It's alright, but sometimes... Sometimes it isn't."
"Like...?"
"Well... It's wet work, even in the sky."
"Mm. And your motives? They're still quite unclear, and I'd like to know." Frank lowered his gaze, and Strop was prepared to shake him again, when he looked up at the ninja pony.
"I guess this is a way to... Liven up my life again. And so far, it's working." Strop waited for more, but Frank seemed content with his answer.
The cook brought two bowls of noodles to the counter. Frank picked up a fork, and began to eat, when he noticed the cook giving him a funny look.
"Oh, yeah... The fork. Can't use chopsticks all that well." The cook muttered something in Chinese, and walked back into the kitchen. Strop stood and began to leave, after pushing his bowl towards Frank.
"I think you deserve it," The ninja pony called back, before the door swung closed behing him.

(The chef probably called Frank a gwei lo.)

---

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Thoad

  Thoad showed up at Strop's (OOC: Going out on a limb here...*) dojo just outside the tavern. It was a small dojo, just enough for maybe 3 people to hang out, conversate, or, what thoad was anticipating, spar.
  Walking in, Thoad saw Strop standing rather stoically. "Hi Stroppy! I'm so happy that we get to SPAR." Thoad was probably being somewhat overenthusiastic due to him looking up to strop in several ways. "So, you mentioned about wanting to spar in the InsanoChamber, right?" Thoad was taking his Klaus-in-Training stance and acted like a pedobear with an adorable face for a second.
  Strop hesitated, but ultimately he sighed and said yes to the pedobear face. Thoad made a small squeal of idiocy and melted to the floor, his mind seeing himself in the 3rd person and laughing his *ss off. Popping back up, thoad put his finger in the air and explained the InsanoChamber.
  The bulk of it was made of metal, with soundproof material insulating it so that no one on the outside (or the soundproof plexi-glass viewing chambers). It was powered by 98 remnants of ghosts. The speakers were inside and thoad doesn't know how it managed to read minds. It was by complete accident!
  Strop put his hand on his equine chin. It was a fun sight to see. Thoad ended up giggling a little before Strop preposed that he and Thoad sparred inside the chamber. "Remember strop, the InsanoChamber is pretty unstable and may cause insanity. To be safe, we'll set a safeword, what would you like it to be...?" Thoad didn't wait for an answer and just set the safeword to "I am attracted to sheep."
  So then, Strop began to teach Thoad about kicking, and overall made the boy a better fighter. Thoad listened carefully, and took note of everything that he possibly could. Then, the InsanoChamber started to feel a little... heavy. A screech crossed both of their ears, and something new happened. Something Thoad didn't anticipate. The screech ended up switching a form of mindset between the two. It altered the personallity of the two.
  Suddenly, Strop was klaus-ish and childish while Thoad was stoic and serious. They switched minds, in a way. Then a nightmare happened. Thoad fell back (as did Strop) and they began their terrible dreams. Thoad dreamt himself as strop, having their minds switched (OOC: DO YA GET IT? THEY SWITCHED MINDS. THEY SWITCHED. WANT TO MAKE THIS CLEAR HERE). He had a box of things in front of him, and a hooded figure was walking away with thor, into the gates of ArmorGames.
  "You've done it now, Strop." said the figure, a deep sounding voice.
  "Done what?" Said the ninja horse, one of his ears going floppy (OOC: not sure if that happens, but w/e) in questioning. The hooded figure didn't show any signs, pure apathetic emotionless slate of nothing.
  "Done what?" Strop had a snap to his voice, the what making a clicking sound at T.
  "Why did you leave us, strop?" the voices of armorgames called to strop. It was a scary, harmonious noise. As if a hundred organs played the same notes at the same time. Strop suddenly realized just what had actually happened. He quit AG.
  "Goodbye, Strop" said the voice. Then it all stopped, the nightmare ended and the minds were set back in place. Strop didn't say the safe-phrase, so that means.... "Hey strop, I guess I'm attracted to sheep. That would've gotten out of hand. My nightmare was baaad. Not to mention, I think this thing is starting to make things happen that I didn't know could." Thoad went to the side of the chamber and turned it off. "I think I'll deactivate it later. For good"

* Strop doesn't have his own dojo, but he certainly frequents the local gym, which has an area for sparring and a boxing ring etc., so assume this is where they are -Strop

---

Crimson

pertaining to that question about meeting Dank, here is the response from Crimsons point of view:

"Yes I have met him once or twice in the Armor Academy. but outside of that it is rare to see him. I believe we had a discussion about the best way to learn programming magic during one of those meetings. I have had more experience with some of the other mages in the Armor Lands including Krin, and Dan McNeely himself, as well as Con Artist a few times, but Dank has been a bit illusive. Some even believe that he has a secret hideout where he stashes all of his penicorns out in the wilderness, and to be honest I wouldn't doubt such rumors to be true"

---

Manta

"Alright! Who's next," Manta said with a dragging, slow slur in his voice.
   Manta was in the tavern, quite drunk himself, standing amongst many bruised and groaning villagers. "I-I know someone else wants to *hic* cha-allenge me!"
   A barfly who was hiding behind an overturned table called out right about then. "Hey, carp,obody challenged you in the first-"
   "Alright, newbie! Come *hic* c'mere!" Manta picked up a stool and tossed it at the poor, clueless drunkard.
   "Eep!" He pulled his neck back behind the table and dodged just as the stool crashed where his head was just a moment ago.     Manta approached him and threw aside the table, at which point he picked up the man by the collars of his shirt and threw him just like he had the table. The barfly grabbed his ribs and groaned in pain. " I am not a c- *hic* carp..."
   The fishman scanned the place once over. "That's right, evildo-ooers, I *hic* banned you all! You're all just b- *hic* banned," manta slurred. You could see the fire and disorientation in his eyes.
   One fool dared to try to reason with the fishman. "Dude, you lost the tourney, deal with it." A table launched at the man, just in time for him to get hit in the chest..
   "I don't need your pity! I don't need- you all need my pity! Do you know why you all ne-eed my pi- *hic* pity?" He paused, as if waiting for an answer. "Do you?!"
   " w-... why?"
   "Shut up!" Manta threw a bottle in the direction of the voice. "You all, you all need my pity because I-I'm not here to protect you from evildoers! Evildoers like... like yours-s, seeeelves! If I was a mod, you would all, all be safe and banned! But they turned me down! " Manta grabbed his temples and a pathetic groan emanated from deep in his throat. "Dad... I'm s... sorry..."
   Some of the broken men on the floor tried to belly crawl to the door of the tavern. Manta noticed through his drunken haze. "Oh, hell no! You'll stay, and you'll, er, you'll serve your ban!"
   They scrambled, on their stomachs, back to their hiding spots.
   Manta had no idea where he was or what was going on, obviously. Fortunately for him (and his convicts), Strop walked inside the tavern, clad in his ninja suit as always, after hearing complaints from other residents about a carp-like boy terrorizing the tavern.
   "Manta!"
   He spun around and looked at Strop. "Huhn? Horseman?"
  "Manta, you're too young for this!"
   "Hey, Strop, I... I turned 13, um, ffff... five years ago."
   "No, to be ruining yourself like this. You just turned 18. You'll have other chances to be a moderator."
   "Muh...  my dad would hate me..."
   "Is that what...? Well, I planned on asking if you were worried about following in your dad's footsteps. I can already see that's the issue." Strop set up two of the overturned barstools and motioned for manta to sit on one next to him.
   "Manta... I can tell you, your dad would be proud of you. Look how young you are, and how close you've already come to being a moderator."
   Manta looked up with sadness in his eyes, but said nothing.
   "This isn't your last chance, you know. If we ever need another moderator -and believe me, we do- you can try again then. And who knows, maybe you'll get the position that time."
   Manta looked down at his knees, and continued saying nothing.                                  "And besides... what would your mommy say if she knew you just gave up?" Strop said that with a smirk.
   At that, Manta straightened up and looked Strop in the eyes. "You're right... my mom would be disappointed. I... I know better than this..."
   "Okay. Feel better?"
   Manta flashed his signature half smile. "Yeah... I d- *hic* do!"
   "Good!" Strop stood up. "What do you say to a spar as soon as you're sobered up? We won't destroy anything, just a good old-fashioned fight."
   Manta stood up as well, shifting around on his balance. "Sounds a-a-alright... can I, um, uh, go home and *hic* sleep first?"
   "You're in no condition to drive home. Or for that matter, walk home. In fact, I don't trust you to be in public one more minute. I'll take you there. Get in the mod-mobile!" He put Manta's arm around his shoulder and carried him to the car.*
   "S... Strop?"
   "Yeah buddy?"
   "I love you..."
   "I know."
   They drove towards the lake. " You know, I'm gonna have to punish you eventually for beating up all those people and destroying the tavern."
   But Manta was already fast asleep (and snoring very loudly).
   Strop sighed. "Eh, I'll do it later."

* I've always wondered how this worked, seeing as Strop IS MODMOBILE lol -Strop

---

You're Still Not Listening To Meeeee...

by Cen

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Posted Sep 8, '10 at 2:08pm

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

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* lyrics are from AC/DC's Big Balls
** Cenere thinks that the broad guy in the frame under Crimson, that looks like he's got speedos on could pass for Freakenstein the Barbarian.

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* Awesome technicolour WIZARDRY by Cenere. Lines by Strop.

Round 9: The Biggest Ball Of Them All

And so eight became four. Or rather, nearly four hundred, for everybody who had made it through to the elimination rounds had been invited to a very special occasion. It was a ball, being held in honour of those brave souls who had endured the harsh (and erratic) tests of the Way of Moderation, to be held in none other than the most restricted of locations: Armor Castle itself.

"But have you gained the proper authorisation?" was the protest, voiced individually, by just about everybody to whom Strop had revealed the plan. Strop had invariably replied, "No, but Carlie's out-of-town, so there's nobody to get authorisation from!" After all, it was well known that when the cat was away, the mice did play, but who was to watch over horses?

The thing about house parties, or rather, balls, was that a handful of invites turns into several dozen which turns into about four hundred gatecrashers crashing over the drawbridge and through the wrought iron gate that was ordinarily the castle's final protection against rampagers and pillagers, the predicted result being something now infamously known as a Corey Worthington.

"Yeah no, seriously guys," Strop had replied to each moderator, "It'll be fun. And the more of us there are here, the less likely the place will get wrecked."

As the sun set, everybody had arrived in their Sunday best (or their usual bedraggled bits of rags and armour since most of them were heathens and most of the rest didn't know that you can wear your Sunday best on a day other than Sunday despite the fact that it was, in fact, a Sunday), and now had ascended the winding staircase to the middle floors, where the most gigantic ballroom, resplendent in all its chandeliered and heralded glory, lay before them. It seemed nearly the size of a football field, and with a ceiling a good four or five stories above the floor, the stone arches subtly built into the corners of the room seemed to bear the weight of the heavens (which wasn't too bad a guess, seeing as Strop's tower was situated somewhere directly above.)

In true medieval style, the tables were set out along the perimeter of the hall, and were rapidly filled. An eager anticipation buzzed through the hall and echoed all around. It was obvious, from all the empty space in the middle of this giant hall, that something great was going to happen. Well, at least they assumed so, because it would have been mighty strange to go to a medieval ball and expect nothing at all. But what was to come first? Some were hungry. Some were not. Others were merely heading to the Tavern when they got sidetracked. Was there to be food? Drink? Dancing and merriment and all that?

"Welcome, everybody!" A horsey voice rang through the hall with ear-shattering volume. It was Strop, holding the 'fone. "To the penultimate stage of the Way of Moderation Tournament Ball!" He cast his eyes around the various randoms, looking for at least the presence of those who ought to be there. "We have quite the thrilling program lined up tonight, which I shall reveal to you later, but first, without further ado, let us eat, drink and be merry!"

Strop clapped his hands and amidst a roar of approval, an army of chefs and waiters rushed onto the floor in formation. Within minutes, everybody was either tucking in, yelling at each other over the noise, or starting the fight they were supposed to be having in the Tavern.

"And now we wait," Strop said to nobody in particular (it was addressed to the mods, who were sitting beside him, and the four victestant guests of honour at the head of the hall, but Strop might as well have been mute for all the hubbub), before slipping Cen's earmuffs over his head and nibbling on a carrot.

The evening passed and soon the users took it upon themselves to migrate to the middle of the hall, start singing rowdily and dancing in various manners: around eggs, around swords, and of course, simply flailing about because they didn't know how to dance. Pretty soon, the recently polished floor of Klaus' refurbishment became chipped and littered with swords, poleaxes, upturned tables and even one of the giant chandeliers. In short, the hall started more to resemble Moe's obstacle course from The Steeplechase.

"STOP!" Strop bellowed. Everybody stopped, fearing that they had gone too far and were about to get evicted, all and one, via the business end of Strop's banhammer. Or Flipski's laser. Or Moe's mysterious brainwaves. Or erased by Zophia's paintbrush. But that was not what Strop had in mind.

"It is now time!" he announced dramatically. "Everybody back to your, er, what's left of the tables!" Everybody started shuffling to the perimeter- "Except you four," Strop motioned to the victestants, Frank, Crimson, Leon McAcid and Thoad. They froze.

"This is what everybody has been waiting for! The round of the final four! We'll hold it right here, and right now!" A gasp of shock rippled through the room, and then a mumbled consternation took over as everybody cast their eyes over the rather sorry state of the hall. They were going to hold it here, as it was now?"

"A moderator's work is often done in tough conditions, amidst the ruins of what once was ordered," Strop explained. "In the previous round we introduced the victestants to the notion of confrontation in varied environments, and so the theme shall continue! The difference," he paused dramatically, "Is that there will only be a single fight!"

Another gasp went up. Was it to be a battle royale? Teams? A tag event?

"And a fight it will be! Unlike last time, here, we are faced with the harsh reality that when all else fails, we must defend ourselves however we must with might and will! There will be two teams of two, and you will all fight, on this floor, until both team members of one team are knocked down or surrender. And here's the kicker... only the two team members of the surviving team will advance to the finals! Unlike the previous round, loss of consciousness will be deemed a loss, but as usual, the way of moderation is not to kill! Is this understood?"

Strop waited for the speculation to cease before he filled in the final pieces of the puzzle.

"Indeed, I haven't nominated the teams yet. This is because it will be up to the four victestants to organise themselves into their teams! Teamwork begins with selecting your partner, after all! But not only this, a combat situation is an urgent one, so I will give you only ONE MINUTE to choose, after which the fight will begin!" Strop procured an hourglass and slammed it on the table. "Your time starts NOW!"

The plan was all so clear now. In one minute, the four semi-finalists would become two against two, and by the end of the evening, it would be just two left in the running in the tournament. In this hallowed Armor Castle, they would clash in this hall turned battlefield, bombarded by the shouts and the chants of the four hundred, just as a moderator in such a situation would have to fight to uphold great justice while facing, and ignoring, the judgements of observers. This was even truer a test of their moderation capacities than ever before.

But there was no more time for reflection. The last of the sand grains ran through the glass, and the fight was on.

 

Posted Sep 8, '10 at 2:09pm

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

Part Nine: Between a Rock and a Leon

The joint entry between Xzeno and Crimsonblade

"I'm with Crimson!" Thoad proclaimed.

"Nope." Leon stated flatly.

"But..." Thoad started.

"No buts." Leon countered. "You're with Frank."

"Why do you make the rules?" Thoad demanded fairly.

"Crimson, you and I are the best fighters here, don't you agree?" Leon asked personablely.

"Agreed." Crimson affirmed.

"So we should team up." Leon concluded.

"You were my first choice as well." Crimson stated.

"That was easy." Leon echoed The Bullman.

"Uh, well, you have about forty-five seconds left." Strop said sheepishly. "No fighting until the time is up!" With that, the ninja jumped back to a safe distance.

The victestents, standing in an area relatively clear of debris, stood on there own sides of the clearing in teams, regarding one aother. Leon nocked an arrow, placing the string within the groove, but not drawing the bow. Thoad pointed his shotgun at Leon. That one growled. His hyena followed suit, snapping and jumping towards Thoad. Instantly, Leon secured his bow and arrow with one hand and caught the hyena by the scruff of the neck. He tossed the animal back a bit and shouted something in gnollish. The hyena bowed its head in silence. Leon turned to Thoad and made a sort of downward gesture with his open hand.

"Can we just..." he insinuated, returning his free hand to his bow, pointed down and away from anyone, but ready to be aimed and fired.

"Leon's got the right idea." said Frank, drawing, nocking and holding his bow in the same manner. With some reluctance, Thoad lowered his gun. All looked at the timer. About fifteen seconds remained.

Fourteen.

Thirteen.

Twelve.

Suddenly, Crimson drew his sword, running the dull edge along his back. He raised his other arm as well, mimicking the motion. He brought both arms down in a symmetrical fashion. A blob of misty energy erupted suddenly in his open hand. Leon glanced at the timer. Only a small amount of sand remained: About four seconds' worth.

Three.

Two.

The victestents, the final four, stood under a chandelier in a somewhat clear area, watching each other. Thoad, with his malicious grin and finger on the trigger, looked ready to fire at the drop of a pin. Leon stood fully erect, towering over the others. His hood was pulled over his head, but it did not hid his gleaming yellow eyes, glancing from Frank to Thoad and back again, or his mouth, contorted into something between a smile and a threat. His hold on his bow was relaxed, but controlled. Leon's hyena stood beside his master, teeth bared and ready to leap into the fray. Frank held his bow more firmly than Leon. He looked about, from person to purpose, analyzing. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he shifted his weight to the left. Crimsonblade stood still and silent, muscles tense, magic and blade ready. All watched out of the corners of their eyes as the last grains of sand ran through the glass.

With a giggle, Thoad began to aim his shotgun at Leon. Crimson was too quick, however: He threw the blob of white mist at the zombie slayer. As it flew through the air, the blob morphed, becoming a perfect orb of clear glass. Thoad quickly adjusted his aim and fired on the orb. Leon ignored the explosion of glass and shot, calmly drawing his bow and firing the through the cloud of mist and shards of glass. The arrow would have struck Frank dead in the heart, so it may have been for the better for Leon that the pirate leaped to his left, firing an arrow as he did. Leon watched as the arrow found its mark, breaking the chain supporting the chandelier. Leon turned and ran to avoid the falling mass of glass, metal, and oil lamps. His hyena followed suit, diving for an upturned table. Crimsonblade darted off, tripping slightly over a chair. Thoad jumped and fell backwards out of the way. Frank, having been prepared for the event, did a side roll and ran to a round table, which he kicked over to serve as cover. Meanwhile, the chandelier hit the ground with explosive force, sending bits of glass and wood flying through the air. Leon swore and dived under a chair. He turned his head away as the shockwave knocked over tables, chairs, and other doodads. He looked at the now burning wreckage of the chandelier.

"Why would it explode?" Leon asked out-loud of no one. The manner of the explosion was fishy: It was a powerful explosion, but not a particularly fiery one, eliminating lamp oil as a possible cause. Leon chose to ignore it, as he found the idea of a chandelier packed with plastic explosives entirely keeping with what he knew of Armor Games. Instead, he focused his efforts on locating his opponents.

While Leon was looking for the opponents, Crimson used the chaos as an opportunity to finish a new spell he had been working on. Unfortunately for him, he was not given enough time to do so. As Leon spotted Thoad and Frank, they spotted Leon and Crimson, on opposite ends of the flaming chandelier. Thoad had his shotgun pointed directly at Crimson, while Leon and Frank had their bows pointed at one another...again. Crimson pulled his hands up, almost as if surrendering to Thoad, though of course this was not his intention. When he saw that Thoad was planning on standing his ground, he quickly decided to do away with this facade, putting his hands in a more threatening stance. Leon and Frank kept themselves ready to attack each other. Crimson imagined that Leon could probably take a hit from an arrow, but his enemy could probably dodge one. As for Thoad, Crimson knew he had to do something to deal with his shotgun. He had very few options when it came to long range projectiles, and the ones he could use were ineffective as they simply shattered against his enemy's shotgun, though they seemed to have been enough to deflect his bullets.

Crimson typically could be patient enough in waiting for something to happen, but knew that this time someone would have to be the first to pull the trigger. Unfortunately for him his opponent was the impatient type. Thoad's shotgun fired. With no time to think, Crimson ducked below cover. Shot grazed his hood, popping it off his head. He snatched it back on and blasted another orb at Thoad, who shot it in mid-air once again. Leon and Frank meanwhile were having their own firefight with each shooting at the other, some getting dodged, some getting deflected, and one that surprisingly got hit by the blast of the orb, set on fire and almost hit Frank in the leg. At this rate they were all bound to run out of ammo, while Crimson had an unlimited supply of magic at his disposal. Hoping that Thoad and Frank would not realize this, all he had to do was push the attack, and hope that nothing happened to Leon.

Leon slide behind an overturned barrel that presumably once contained root beer. Thoad was some forty yards away, crouched over a smashed, fish-shaped fountain, pistol gripped tightly in his hands. Frank was in hiding. Crimson stood on top of a table, magic and sword at the ready. After glancing around for Frank, he hurled a bolt of black and red matter at Thoad. The bolt smashed into the reminants of the fish fountain, sending bits of rock flying. They bounced harmlessly off Thoad's helmet while that one ducked further behind the rim of the fountain. Leon ran out from behind the barrel towards a crate. The crate had evidently contained some sort of remotely edible foodstuff, as it appeared to have been clumsily smashed open and completely emptied of its precious contents. The fact that this had happened before Leon arrived on the scene was further proof that it once contained the legendary decent party food. The oil lamp perched undisturbed on the intact corner of the crate attested to the surgical precision of the hunter-gatherer instincts of the AGers. At least that was how Leon interpreted the evidence.

As the gnoll slid behind the crate, Frank took aim at Crimson. The swordsman was focused on using his spells to keep Thoad from opening fire. Frank smirked slightly. He nocked an arrow and aimed, only to see Leon doing the same out of the corner of his eye. Frank fired his arrow at the leg of Crimson's table and turned to face Leon. The table leg shattered as the arrow hit, sending Crimson stumbling forward, spell faltering. Seeing an opportunity to fire unhindered by magic, Thoad popped out of cover and started to aim his pistol. Leon was too fast, however, instantly retraining his shot and firing on Thoad. The arrow met its mark, striking Thoad's helmet directly in the forehead. The wooden shaft shattered as Toad was knocked backward off his feet, helmet flying off his head. He hit the ground rather badly, smacking into the floor. He rolled over to clutch his head, now throbbing on all sides due to the arrow and his landing.

Frank nocked and fired a second arrow with remarkable haste. The second arrow also met its mark: The oil lamp on Leon's crate. Leon tossed his bow aside and preformed a backward roll, using his arms to spring into a standing position as he finished the roll, to avoid the burning oil; not that he was afraid of burning oil under normal circumstances, but president forced him to take a more extreme course of action. As he realized the lamp was not, in fact, going to explode, he quickly picked up his bow before it was consumed by the burning oil. He was aiming his bow at Frank when he noticed a painful sensation on his right leg. He looked down to see the end of his cape burning. With a shout, he started to flap about wildly in an attempt to pat it out, dancing away from the ever-advancing fire all the while. His hyena trotted up to see what was the matter.

"Kill! Main!" Leon commanded, pointing in Thoad's vague direction as he tripped over his cloak. The hyena ran off, jaws snapping.

Thoad's finger tips closed around the edge of his helmet. He exhaled with relief, having army-crawled across the floor to retrieve it. He looked over his shoulder as he secured the helmet on his head to see Leon's hyena running towards him at full speed. Thinking quickly, Thoad flipped the helmet off of his head and into the hyena's face. The animal whimpered as it was struck in the nose, but it barreled towards mostly undeterred. Thoad sat up to aim his pistol, but the hyena barreled into him, knocking him over. Thoad grunted as he slammed into the ground again. The hyena stood with its front paws just under the boys shoulders, snarling. It lunged for Thoad's throat, but the boy rolled quickly to the left. As he rolled, he pistol whipped the hyena in the side of the head. It let out a yelp before lunging for Thoad once more. Thoad pulled himself forward with his legs and thrust his pistol at the animal, lodging it just below its jaw. The hyena was confused momentarily. It jerked its head out of the way as Thoad pulled the trigger twice. The hyena jumped back in terror from the loud noise. Thoad paused only for a second to breath before aiming for the hyena again. The hyena launched back into action, knocking Thoad over with his paws. Thoad jammed his forearm into the hyena's neck and tried with all his might to hold it off. The hyena, trying to get a better angle to push against Thoad, inadvertently placed his paw on the zombie slayer's solar plexus. Thoad sputtered slightly as the beast crushed the wind out of him. In a desperate attempt to survive, he began pistol-whipping the hyena repeatedly in the side of the head. It effortlessly pushed his arm down and brought its face a half an inch from his. With a final smack, Thoad let his pistol fall to the floor. The hyena growled. Thoad sighed.

"I surren-" Thoad started, but the hyena snapped, lunging for his face. Thoad attemted to roll out of the way to safety, but the hyena caught him on the side of the face, producing two lacerations and a ragged puncture wound garnished with a cut. Thoad, thinking quickly, drew his crowbar and struck his attacker in the ribs with one clean motion. The hyena responded by sinking its teeth into Thoad's left shoulder and tossing him across the floor. Thoad landed on his back with a thud, clutching his shoulder in pain. The hyena moved in for the kill. Thoad threw his hands in front of him, brought his knee up to cover his body and turned his head away. The hyena reared on its back legs, easily pushing past his guard and battered him with its paws. Thoad shouted and swung his crowbar wildly. The hyena dodged the clumsy crowbar swings and struck Thoad across the face with a paw, leaving a few more lacerations. Thoad opened his eyes as the hyena focused on clawing and ripping at his chest and abdomen. Ignoring the pain for a moment, he swung his crowbar, hitting the hyena on the side of the head. The hyena yelped. Thoad seized the moment and hit him again. The hyena jumped off Thoad and began to growl. Thoad struggled to his feet. The hyena snapped its jaws and jumped at Thoad, but this time, Thoad was ready: Using both hands, he caught the hyena in the throat with his crowbar while dodging to the side. The hyena sailed past him, stumbling. It turned back to face him, coughing.

"Hey! That's enough!" shouted Leon from behind a broken table "We don't want to kill him!" With a final growl, the hyena ran away from Thoad and back to its master.

Thoad examined his injuries. Most of them appeared to be surface wounds. Even his shoulder wasn't particularly bad, though it was by far the worst. He would live he concluded as he ran to pick up his helmet and gun.

Crimson analyzed the situation once again. Thoad was, as far as he could tell, pacified at least for the moment by the hyena's vicious attack on him, so he did not seem to be much of a threat at this point, but Frank was still on the battlefield, and had the potential to defeat them if he was smart and agile enough. Crimson put away his sword as this battle turned out to be almost completely ranged, and he needed to free up his sword hand for more spell casting. Leon was still in a firefight with Frank, both were making a couple of decent hits, but most not hitting each other directly. An arrow shot by Leon hit one of the walls behind Frank exploding on contact for no reason that Crimson could think of. He thought about the chandelier and figured that the placed may have been set-up with traps by Strop, or built by a 4chan user. Regardless he knew that keeping the room intact was unlikely at this point, so there was no point in holding back. He summoned two explosive orbs rapid-fire at Frank hoping one would hit....neither did. Frank seemed to be good at dodging and attacking at the same time, shooting an arrow at Crimson as both orbs flew by him. Crimson ducked behind cover while Leon shot another arrow at Frank, scratching at his pant-leg. This was barely a distraction though as he was able able to dodge another round of orbs. Crimson got impatient at this point putting all of his focus on hitting Frank, leaving no attention to Thoad or his location in the current battle. Leon and Crimson both shot more projectiles at Frank, but with no true success having to dodge whatever Frank shot back. Luckily he knew Frank would run out of ammo eventually, and so all he had to do was continue to fire at him and provoke his enemy to use only ranged attacks. He got up to shoot another orb only to get an arrow fly straight towards his head. He quickly turned his head sideways getting his cheek cut open and his hood as well. He went back into cover, throwing off his hood from his head and covering the wound with his hand. Leon seemed to have been enough to keep Frank busy for the moment so he took the opportunity to adjust his code. Once he was done he stood back up from his cover to hopefully finish the fight. He placed both of his hands in the direction of Frank, shooting off multiple faster orbs at his opponent, littering the room with explosions of glass flack as he did so. Frank was not able to completely dodge this attack getting small scrapes across his body, with Thoad and Leon both getting caught in the mix. Crimson was confident that the battle would soon be theirs before he suddenly lost control of his body. The whole room started stuttering, moving in slow motion. Crimson realized what this was. It was a side effect of a low FPS rate. They were experiencing lag from too many objects having to be processed at the same time. Frank took advantage of this to basically teleport to the other side of the room in front of Crimson. They both pulled out their swords, and swung at each other in slow stuttered motions, before Leon ended the close quarters battle with an arrow. Frank was forced to move away from them in order to dodge it, leaving room for Crimson to shoot a few more orbs at him, which were able to push him back even further. Frank was forced to retreat. Crimson was able to cut Frank's quiver off his back during the attack, but knew that such an attack would be too risky to do again, because of its potential to lag the whole room somehow. Unfortunately this meant that since he updated an existing code, without thinking about holding on to the original that he would be out of one of his best ranged attacks. Even with that in mind Leon and Crimson had their opponents cornered.

Slowly, Leon drew his knife into the icepick grip. Crimson held his sword at the ready, other hand extended to compile when necessary. He and Leon exchanged glances. Using only this silent signal as a prompt, they began to advance slowly but steadily. Frank, who was standing on a table in front of a tasteful ice sculpture, inhaled as he brought his sword into a ready position.

"You go in, I'll shoot." Leon instructed, knowing that Crimson's ranged checking abilities were hindered. Crimson nodded and continued his advance. With some reluctance, Leon put away his knife and drew his bow, knowing that it was the best way to win. He nocked an arrow, aiming at Frank.

"Hey Crimson, you forget about me?" Thoad shouted from across the room. Crimson whipped his head around to see Thoad, standing, pistol at the ready, about to shoot. Reacting quickly, Crimson compiled a fiery spell, launching himself ten feet into the air and out of the bullet's path with a blast of fire. He hovered briefly, surrounded by a ring of fire, before diving towards Frank. The pirate, eyes wide, dived off the table and preformed a sideways roll, narrowly escaping the destruction that followed: Both hands on his sword, trail of fire behind him, Crimson smashed into the ice sculpture, destroying it and the table. A wave of fire extended about five feet out, scorching the ground.

"Loner's blessings, Crimson!" Leon shouted as droplets of melted sculpture fell around him. He pivoted rapidly and released his arrow at Thoad, who darted behind an overturned table.

Seeing Crimson's moment of weakness, Frank rushed in for the kill... or knock out, as the case may be. Crimson unflinchingly stood and faced his attacker. Sword arm hanging at his side, he raised his empty hand at Frank. Waves of blue energy emanated from his hand. As Frank ran into them, he shivered slightly, slowing down as they sent a chill down his spine. He felt no other ill effect as he swung his blade at Crimson. Crimson parried the blow easily, bringing his sword into a guard position. Frank, undeterred, made a stabbing motion towards Crimson's neck. Crimson blocked the blow by raising his sword. Frank quickly retracted his blade and made to take advantage of Crimson's opening by way of a thrust to the gut. Crimson turned away from Frank, preforming a wing-arm block aided by a plank of wood he magically created. Frank's sword stuck a quarter-inch into the wood. With some embarrassment, he yanked it free. Crimson spun around for another strike against Frank. Frank employed an upward block. Before Crimson had time to attack, Frank brought his sword down in a diagonal slash. Crimson hopped out of the way, blade above his head. Frank pulled his sword to his side, ready to stab. Crimson's eyes widened as Frank started his thrust. Just then, Leon grabbed Frank's sword arm from the side, twisting it upward. With his other arm, he threw Frank backward by the neck. Briefly, Leon's expression of cool determination met Frank's look of fiery defiance. Then Frank went sailing backward, flipping through the air. Had Leon executed the throw correctly, Frank's neck would have been snapped neatly while the flipping motion disguised the fact. As such, however, Leon deliberately preserved Frank's life, allowing the pirate to preform a back hand spring to a safe fighting position. Taking advantage of the brief respite, Crimson glanced at Thoad. Thoad had constructed a makeshift bunker out of a table and chairs. Crimson was impressed by Thoad's zombie fighting instincts, but underwhelmed by his short-sightedness: The swordsman created a bolt of crackling lightning in his hand and hurled it at Thoad. The bunker burst into flame as the bolt slammed into it, forcing Thoad to retreat. Leon watched as Thoad hid behind yet another table which was, as luck would have it, directly behind Frank, albeit about a hundred feet back. Leon smirked as he drew his knife with his right hand, flipping it around to an icepick grip. He began to run at Frank. As he closed in, Frank made a horizontal strike at Leon's chest. Leon shifted into a low stance, easily ducking under the blade. As he slid past Frank, he slashed at his side with his knife. Frank shouted as Leon produced a deep, upward-angled cut. As the gnoll returned to a standing position, he stabbed Frank in the back with a hammerfist. Frank took the blow with a dull grunt, focusing his attention on Crimson as Leon continued on towards Thoad. As he ran, he saw a man dressed in a white button-down shirt approaching him from the right.

"Hors d'vor, sir?" asked the man, offering Leon a plate of crab cakes. Reacting instantly, Leon knocked the tray away with his left hand, grabbing the boy's wrist. At the same time, he kicked the boy's leg out from under him and kneed him in the gut. The man was in an uncomfortable position, falling forward, supported by one leg and the arm that Leon was twisting behind his back. Meanwhile, Leon's right hand was in a guard position, protecting Leon's face and ready to stab the man in the neck with a snap of his elbow. Leon paused his fluid motion and took a breath, looking at the man. After a moment, he released his arm, allowing him to fall face first on the ground. Leon continued on, leaving the hors d'vor server uncharacteristically not stabbed. Thoad, misinterpreting Leon's relative gentleness as an act of brutality, pointed his gun at the running gnoll.

"Freeze!" He shouted. Leon continued running. "Freeze or I'll shoot!" Thoad demanded awkwardly, not used to nonlethal problem solving. This time, Leon responded by taking off towards the wall to join the throng of innocents huddled by what was left of their tables.

"Out the way, kid!" Leon shouted at a boy in a black shirt with flames, shoving him, despite the fact that the kid was in no way in the way and Leon had to dodge out of his way to push the kid in the first place. With that, Leon waded into the crowd, stooping to lower his profile.

Eyes glinting from under his hood, Leon peered intently at Thoad from a dark corner. Thoad had not lost sight of Leon, but he was hesitant to fire for fear of hitting someone else. What Leon need was a distraction. He stroked his hyena idly. He had considered sending his hyena to distract Thoad, but knew it would be shot before it could do damage, as Thoad had no incentive to let it live. The death of the hyena was, of course, undesirable. Leon knew that if he drew his bow, Thoad would no longer hesitate to fire. At a loss for what to do, Leon looked back at Crimson, hoping the swordsman was not in need of ranged support.

Crimson jumped up onto a long serving table, dodging food as he ran. Frank was close behind, running along the ground while trying in vain to aim his longbow. He was down to his last arrow and was aiming to stop Crimson... semi-permanently. Crimson took a wild leap through the air, landing on another long table. Frank spotted a chandelier hanging over the table, just above a cake shaped like a castle, adorned with golden frosting and dancing sprites, somehow untouched by the hungry masses. As Crimson ran towards the cake, Frank stopped, aimed and fired, bringing the chandelier crashing down, smashing the beautiful cake and forcing Crimson to skid to a halt. Frank charged Crimson, blade swinging, but Crimson was ready. He threw out his hand, palm out, quivering, sending a spring-shaped wave through the air with a horripilating sound. It struck Frank in the chest, causing him to shiver and and lose control of his sword for a moment. Just as quickly as he had thrown the palm, he pulled his hand back, formed a fist and threw a punch, sending a clod of earth flying at high velocity towards Frank. It struck Frank on the shoulder and exploded, sending chunks of hardened dirt flying. Crimson then made a leaping attack a Frank, swinging his namesake blade in a downward arc. Frank parried, recovering from Crimson's failed quivering palm. Crimson struck again, but Frank blocked it easily, returning the volley. Crimson blocked and dodged, but was soon pushed back by Frank's unrelenting assault. He created a wall of sparkling blue, halfway between water and energy. Frank did not let up: He bashed at the water block with a hacking motion, leaving glowing scars in its surface. Crimson was momentarily taken aback by this unexpected result. He would have to use more reliable code in the future. Suddenly, the shield broke, sending shards of rainbow water flying along with a few broken Jpegs. Without batting an eye, Frank continued with the same hacking motion, attempting to break Crimson as well. Crimson blocked the strike, bringing his sword up, then down, running it along his back, keeping Frank's arm extended. With his free hand, Crimson caught Frank's sword arm, bringing his own sword around his back, stopping just short of chopping Frank in half. Crimson glared at the pirate, letting him know he could have killed him. Frank's eyes betrayed some panic, but he quickly kneed Crimson twice, first in the crotch, then in the gut. Barely grunting, Crimson used his free hand to punch Frank square in the face. The pirate stumbled and fell backward. Crimson raised a hand, creating a cloud of yellow mist around his fingers. He then swung his sword in an arc, lifting one knee. The sword began its decent toward Frank, about to cleave him in-

"Hey you!" shouted a voice behind Leon. The gnoll whipped around with a start.

"Huh? What is it?" demanded Leon, straightening as he looked at his shouter .It was a boy, no older than sixteen, wearing a black button-down shirt with flames. The kid was holding a knife.

"Don't push me." The kid commanded, rather politely.

"Who are you?" Leon asked. "Oh!" Leon added, recognition flashing across his face. "I push who I want. Classy shirt, by the way."

"Blow me!" the kid quipped with equal class, swinging his knife at Leon. Leon struck the kid's arm rapidly, pulling the knife from his grip. He held on to his wrist, twisting his arm behind his back and clutching his shoulder with his other hand, creating s human shield.

"This is kinda bull." the kid observed. Leon ignored him and ran toward Thoad, protected by the person. His hyena followed him closely. Thoad considered the situation briefly before pointing his gun at Leon. He pulled the trigger quickly, firing two shots in rapid succession. The first grazed the human shield's shoulder, while the other struck him directly. Thoad continued to pull the trigger, but the gun was empty. He swore loudly. Seeing this, Leon tossed his screaming victim to the ground, still holding on to the knife. He resumed his running pace, looking at the knife he had acquired. He pushed a button on the side of the knife. The blade retracted. He pressed it again. The blade popped up.

"Switch blade." he said out loud, tossing the blade aside. Thoad hid under a table, changing magazines. Leon slowed to a walk as he neared the table, drawing his flail. He approached the table where Thoad was hiding, chuckling slightly. Thoad was struggling to reload his gun while Leon swung the flail over his head. He let it swing once to build momentum before bringing it crashing down with both hands. Thoad rolled out from under the table, firing over his shoulder as he scrambled for another table. His shots missed Leon, hitting the ceiling. Thoad skidded under another table, trying to formulate a plan. Leon stalked over to the table, signaling the hyena with his head. The hyena ran around to corner Thoad as Leon smashed the second table with a two-handed flail strike. Thoad rolled out once again, leaping at the hyena. He caught the surprised animal around the neck, jamming his arm into its mouth to hold it open. He swung his legs over its back, doing his best to hold it down. With his free hand, he pointed his gun at the hyena's head.

"Marley!" Leon shouted. "Let him go."

"No, [sexual intercourse] you!" Thoad shouted. "Freeze or your dog dies!"

"Chill out, man." Leon said calmly.

"No, you chill out!" Thoad responded lamely. Leon looked around. He was twenty feet from Thoad. He would not have time to reach him before he shot Marley. Had his bow been drawn, he would have been able to shoot Thoad. Leon cursed himself for fighting with his flail. His yellow eyes glinted as they darted around, trying to find a way to get Thoad before he could kill the hyena.

"Bite." Leon commanded. Marley snapped down with glee, crushing Thoad's forearm effortlessly. Thoad shouted in pain, but managed to hold on. Slowly, he began to squeeze the trigger. There was no way out. The hyena would die, then Leon would spread Thoad's brains across the wall. He had to spring into action immediately to avoid being shot himself. He sunk into a fighting stance, dropping his mace, ready to spring. Thoad was tearing up with pain. Leon could snap his neck before he could do more than kill the hyena. It was a flawless plan.

"I surrender." said Leon coolly, slowly raising his hands, open palms outward. Thoad breathed a sigh of relief, pulling his arm free from the now apathetic hyena and rolling onto his back. Leon walked over, concluded that Marley was unharmed and turned towards Thoad.

"You alright?" Leon asked, crouching down beside Thoad.

"No!" said Thoad, shocked that Leon would ask such a stupid question, despite his crushed bone.

"Will you be alright?" Leon asked, inspecting the arm.

"I'll- I'll be fine." Thoad grunted struggling to his feet with Leon's help.

"Good luck." Leon said.

"Thanks." said Thoad, looking around for Crimson.

"Thoad..."

"Yeah Leon?"

Leon slapped him on the back of the head. "Don't touch my dog."

Crimson was surprised by Leon's surrender, but more so by Thoad's determination to win. He had profiled both of them incorrectly up to this point seeing each of there personalities much differently beforehand. Thoad, while still injured even after the second attack by Leon and his hyena, seemed to be determined to attack, and Crimson could not underestimate him any longer. He was at the disadvantage going up against two formidable foes by himself, especially with one of his most reliable codes rendered useless by his own carelessness. He would have to fight in even more of an unorthodox manner then before. He thought of some of the codes he was working on, but before he could think clearly Frank was already prepared to attack him again. Crimson was able to hold a fair defense against Frank's sword fighting skills up till this point, but knew his own weaknesses and realized by this point that, in a head-to-head sword fight, he would lose against Frank. He needed to defend himself and formulate a plan. He blocked a few swings from Frank, deflecting one or two along the way. He had to create some distance. He reused his rocket spell to shoot back to his original position on the other side of the room. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Thoad pulling himself back together, and preparing to fire at him. His top priority at this point had to be removing Thoad from the battle, at least temporarily if he could. He thought about all of the codes he had in his library and which ones would work. Then he remembered one for a game he never got around to making past the first day, with a single animated GIF. Frank was closing in and Thoad was aiming his gun so he would have to be quick. He stabbed his sword into the ground, and searched through his scrolls for the right one as Frank closed in on him.

"I knew I should have organized these things better" Crimson thought to himself. He found the scroll only to have his shoulder grazed by a bullet, with Frank point blank in front of him. He used his orb spell to quickly push Frank back leaving him frozen in place afterwords, open to another shot from Thoad, but saving him from a swift defeat at Frank's blade. He ran back to the cover that was left over from their earlier stand-off, leaving his blade in the ground. He would need it to be there in order to use the spell properly. Frank had at this point recovered from the orb attack and was moving back towards Crimson again so he had very little time to pull this spell off. He pulled out his letter scroll and looked for the one that corresponded to the one he needed to activate the spell, E, because it fit with a WASD movement set-up in game. He pressed the letter, and the sword lit up acting as a beacon or way point to summon an old creation of his called Sasquatch, or at least that's what it appeared to be. The Sasquatch object was programmed to move towards whatever enemy was the most injured to take care of it first. This was fortunate for Crimson since that would be Thoad at this point. His observations told him at this point that programming objects would react to real life objects the same way as if they were real life objects, something he learned after being attacked with a ball revamped ball. Sasquatch ran towards Thoad as Frank moved in front of Crimsons sword near grabbing distance of it. Crimson used the rocket spell again shooting himself towards his blade, grabbing it out of the ground shooting head straight into Frank. He deflected Franks sword, pushing himself sideways awkwardly rolling into the ground, dropping his blade again. He scrambled towards it, grabbing it again only to have to turn around and deflect another one of Frank's attacks. He moved backwards deflecting attacks as he went, trying to think of a way to get space between him and Frank. He would have to disorient his opponent somehow. He deflected a thrusting move from Frank, and pulled out a scroll that played a generic metal song at max volume. Frank cover his ears for a second, allowing Crimson an opening. He shot himself towards the opposite wall passing by the Sasquatch object and Thoad who was predictably running away from it while shooting. Sasquatch was not unbeatable, but could take a bullet or two, and even then was not programmed to feel pain anyways. Crimson feet skidded across the ground as he landed again.

"I think I'm getting the hang of this spell" he said to himself quietly. He looked again at Thoad and the Sasquatch object smashing through everything on its way towards him adding

"It's a good thing I never added that attack code to him."

Leon was impressed. Crimson had lasted longer than Leon had expected.

"He's lasted longer than I expected." Leon said to Marley. The hyena acknowledged Leon's musing with a snort. Leon was also impressed by Thoad's tenacity, but he chose not to vocalize this thought. He prowled over to an intact chair and sat down, watching Crimson and his bizarre creation. He concluded that the Sasquatch, while large, was not a particularly powerful spirit, as it had not yet destroyed the relatively weak Thoad. Leon wondered why Crimson would summon such a weak spirit in the guise of a significant one: Such a cheap scare tactic seemed beneath Crimson. Then again, he was desperate. Among the other incorrect conclusions Leon had reached: He believed Sasquatch to be an earth spirit and he thought Crimson should have asked for his help casting spells. With these well-informed but entirely out of context musings, Leon resumed watching the battle.

Thoad turned around to face Crimson's Sasquatch. The hulking object lumbered towards him undeterred. With a shout, Thoad ran at it, jumping. He grabbed onto Sasquatch's right arm, holding on with is legs and one good hand. He grasped the fur tightly as he readjusted his legs for a better hold. Sasquatch, meanwhile, in an effort to get to Thoad, was walking in a wide circle, as Thoad was always to his left. Thoad took a deep breath and released his handhold. He fell back, hanging upside down from Sasquatch's arm by his legs. Ignoring the sensation of blood rushing to his head and the pain of his legs, he drew his pistol and took aim at Sasquatch's legs. He quickly fired five shots, two of which hit Sasquatch's right leg, one of which hitting Sasquatch's left leg. He felt the monster's gait change as it adjusted to its injured legs. With that, Thoad pulled himself up, grunting. With relief, Thoad wrapped his good arm around Sasquatch's arm, supporting himself.

"Interesting fight, huh?" said a voice from beside Leon. He turned to see a woman with long, dark green hair stand beside him. Her beautifully-shaped eyebrows were familiar to Leon, but he couldn't quite place her.

"Sparrow." he remarked.

"Oh, no, not me. I'm T-" she started.

"Smell like a sparrow to me." Leon cut her off suspiciously. The woman blushed.

"I'm sure you can guess why that might be the case." she giggled.

"Heh." Leon chuckled, turning his eyes back to Crimson.

"Gnolls have strong senses of smell, don't they?" The woman asked, even though they both knew the answer. As always, Leon ignored her attempts at friendly conversation.

Meanwhile, Frank and Crimson dueled furiously. Crimson was trying desperately to keep up with Frank's quick strikes. Fortunately for him, the pirate never went for the kill. Crimson employed his best moves, strongest attacks and most effective strategy, but one fact stood in his way: Frank had greater technical skill. He was always one step ahead of Crimson; his guard seemed impassable while he punished Crimson for every opening. Crimson paused for a moment to collect himself. Frank pressed the attack, striking at Crimson's left side. Crimson tried once more to employ his most basic " and most effective " block/strike combination. He blocked Frank's sword, running his own sword around his back as he moved in past Frank's over-extended sword. Frank, however, had been expecting that exact move. With his free hand, he delivered a punch to Crimson's chin, sending him reeling back. Frank followed up with a round kick aimed at Crimson's knee. Crimson pulled his leg up, avoiding the blow. Undeterred, Frank used the momentum of the round kick to deliver a spinning back kick with his other leg. That one struck Crimson in the solar plexus, sending him falling backward, gasping for air. With a final glance towards Crimson, Frank ran off to help Thoad.

"Should have killed him." Leon commentated.

"He'd be disqualified." the woman reminded him.

Leon turned towards her. "I meant Thoad." He chuckled. She shook her head, smiling.

Frank ran between Sasquatch's legs, slashing at the right one. The beast's limp became even more pronounced at its leg sustained further damage. Thoad, meanwhile, wrapped his legs around Sasquatch's neck, sitting on its shoulders. He pulled out his crowbar and set to work bashing Sasquatch's skull with the sharp end of the crowbar. The beast seemed to ignore the blows, but Thoad persisted. With great effort, he struck Sasquatch so hard that his crowbar stuck in its head. He attempted to pull it out, but it remained stuck firm. Crimson, meanwhile, stood up, clutching his chest and gasping for breath. He saw that Sasquatch was doing its job adequately and took a moment to catch his breath before rejoining the fray.

"How is she?" Leon asked the woman.

"Transcendent." she replied, grinning. Leon chuckled: Perhaps he hadn't asked the question he thought he had asked.

Frank ran back towards Sasquatch.

"Now!" He shouted, slashing at Sasquatch's other leg. Thoad was entirely unsure as to what Frank's plan was, but he took the exclamation to mean "stop faffing around with your crowbar and hit the **** thing", so he delivered a palm-heel strike to the back of Sasquatch's head, less because he thought a palm-heel strike was the appropriate attack and more because he knew that a palm-heel strike " unlike a punch " would make it look like he knew what he was doing. Regardless of the effectiveness of the particular attack, Sasquatch fell forward, collapsing on the ground. Thoad landed somewhat gracefully.

"You alright?" Frank asked.

"Couldn't be peachier!" Thoad replied, yanking his crowbar from the defunct Sasquatch's head. With that, the monster vanished.

"Now we just have to take down-" Frank started. His words died in his mouth as he and Thoad turned to see Crimson running towards them, sword ready, hurling orbs of black matter. The rubbery orbs bludgeoned Frank, who tried to slash them out of the air. As he recovered from the assault, Crimson swung his sword at him, full force. Frank dodged the attack and swung at Crimson, who parried just in time. He attacked with two horizontal slashes, forcing Frank to hop backwards. He was about to make another attack when Thoad struck him in the side with the flat part of his crowbar. Crimson whipped around, on hand pointed at Frank, shooting a jet of flame, sword hand swinging at Thoad. Thoad dodged under the sword and swung his crowbar at Crimson's knee. Crimson lifted his leg, dodging the attack. Once again, Crimson was attacked from behind: Frank slapped Crimson on the head to let him know he was there. As Crimson turned, Frank punched him in the face full force. Crimson threw up his guard, thinking Frank would attack with his sword. Frank instead punched Crimson in the chest. Crimson responded by hitting Frank with a backfist. Thoad used the opportunity to hit Crimson in the back with his crowbar. Crimson let out a shout of pain. Frank used the opportunity to punch Crimson in the face once again. Crimson recoiled, ducking. Thoad elbowed him in the face while Frank kneed him in the ribs. Crimson threw a few sweeping punches as Frank and Thoad continued the assault.

"Do you think Crimsonblade has a chance?" Leon asked suddenly.

"Crimsonblade? Is he the one with--" she started.

"The crimson blade, yeah." Leon finished impatiently. The woman looked over to see Frank holding Crimson's arms while Thoad close-punched him in the gut school-bully-style.

"It's looking grim." she observed dryly.

Somewhere between the punches to the abdomen and the kicks to face, Crimson realized that he had made a grave miscalculation: He had vastly overestimated is ability to take on both Frank and Thoad at once. Fortunately, he knew to look on the bright side of things: He had learned an important life lesson. Specifically, he learned that trying to fight Frank and Thoad at the same time resulted in him being beaten like a red-headed stepchild. He backed up, guarding his entire body to the best of his ability, making no effort to attack. He had a simple plan for victory: Escape, divide, ???, profit. To complete the first step of his plan, he would have to get a bit more aggressive. Thoad was the weakest link, so he knew he would have an easier time going through him. Without warning, Crimson sprung at Thoad, shouting and struck Thoad with a back-fist and a tiger paw, causing Thoad to recoil, turning his face away. Crimson followed up with an elephant punch to the gut and sternum, knocking the wind out of Thoad before turning to Frank. He swung his sword at Frank, who blocked. Crimson the delivered a front kick to Frank's pelvis. Seeing that his first blow was successful, Crimson quickly attempted another front kick with his other leg. Frank blocked it neatly with an outside twist kick and punched Crimson in the floating rib. Crimson quickly kicked at Frank's knee. Frank dodged Crimson's low kick only to see Crimson's sword swinging towards him. Before he could block it, Crimson released the sword, sending it flipping through the air, over Frank's head. Before Frank could respond, Crimson used his rocket spell. He flew through the air, leaving a trail of ghostly images of himself in he wake. He stopped rocketing as he caught his sword midair. He landed on one knee, catching himself with both hands. He bowed his head, hiding his bloodied face from Frank and Thoad. He began to look up slowly, drawing a scroll.

There was a puff of smoke. Leon whipped his head around to see the ninja pony trotting towards him.

"Is he bothering you, ma'am?" Strop asked the green-haired lass.

"Leon? No, he's been a perfect gentleman." she replied with a smile.

"Oh... then what is he doing?" Strop asked, not the least bit reassured by Leon's apparent innocence.

"We were commentating on the match." Leon informed him. "Crimson is doing better than I expected."

"Looks like he might have a fighting chance." Strop observed.

"I wouldn't go that far." Leon shot back.

"He needs to play his cards right." the woman added. Strop nodded. "By cards, I clearly mean spells." Leon nodded.

"Frank's wounds might get the better of him." Leon added.

"Wishful thinking?" Strop half-asked half-guessed.

"He'll need medical attention." Leon pointed out.

"They all will." said the woman.

"I'll take everyone but Leon to Armor Hospital when this is over." Strop said defensively. Leon chuckled.

"Armor Hospital? I'm sure the doctors there will have them fixed up in no time." the woman mused. Strop and Leon burst into laughter, one more bitterly than the other.

Thoad and Frank ran towards Crimson, staying together. Crimson held the scroll with his left hand, right hand working to compile the script. Finally, he fired a small orb of white light out of his finger. It flew towards Frank, leaving a trail of glowing blue energy. The orb split into two ords, each traveling at forty-five degree angles. Those two orbs then split into four, then into eight, creating a cone of blue lines. The orbs then changed direction sharply, merging together again in the same fashion as they returned to their original trajectory. The orb/orbs had left trails of blue energy outlining the shape of a diamond, which was evidently purely aesthetic in nature, because the orb continued to fly towards Frank as though the splitting never happened. It struck Frank directly chest, sending him flying backward. As Crimson had hoped, Thoad continued to charge unabated. Instead of attacking with his crowbar, as Crimson anticipated, Thoad threw an iron broom sweep kick. Crimson hopped backwards, pulling his leg out of the way. Even more unexpected, Thoad followed up with a creeping dragon sweep kick. Crimson fell, catching himself before he slammed into the ground. Thoad struck Crimson in the rubs with the blunt part of his crowbar. Crimson let out a shout of pain as he collapsed onto the ground. Thoad kicked him in the ribs. Out of the corner of his eye, Crimson saw Frank running up to him, sheathing his sword. Crimson tried to get up, but Frank was too fast: He axe kicked Crimson, knocking him back down, face first. Crimson rolled over, trying to get a better angle. He tried to protect his face and body with his hands as his opponents accosted him, Thoad punching his face while Frank worked the body.

"Okay." said Strop. "Crimson's not looking good. I think I should call them off and take him to Armor Hospital."

"He's fine." Leon growled.

"Technically, he hasn't surrendered or been knocked out. You can't stop the fight yet." The green-haired woman added.

"Lady, I'm not sure he can surrender. Thoad's curb-stomping his face." Strop pointed out.

"You underestimate me, Strop." Leon said, grinning.

"Thoad, stop, he's had enough." Frank ordered. Thoad stomped on Crimson's face again.

"Stop!" Frank said more forcefully.

"Oh, stop. I thought you said 'stomp'." Thoad replied innocently. During the brief exchange, Crimson had stealthily drawn a new scroll, keeping it hidden from Frank and Thoad. Frank drew his sword, pointing it at Crimson's throat.

"You're beaten. Surrender." he commanded, knowing that Crimson was in no position to argue. Deliriously, he raised his left hand near his face. Frank continued to stare at him with grim determination. Crimson dropped his pretensions of deliriousness, face alert and focused. From his left hand, he fired a beam of sizzling, yellow-green energy. It hit Frank in the chest, sending him flying upward and backward. Crimson got up, sword at the ready, and fired a cloud of particle effects at Thoad. The cloud was harmless, but Thoad didn't know that: He fell backward, trying to shield his face. Crimson used the rocket spell again, closing the ten-foot gap between him and Thoad. Using the spell's momentum, he kneed Thoad in the face, sending him skidding back another two feet. Thoad sprung to his feet, crowbar swinging. Crimson dodged it and preceded to attack Thoad, always going for his injured side so that Thoad had greater difficulty blocking. In desperation, Thoad swung wildly at Crimson, giving the swordsman the chance he needed: Crimson blocked Thoad's strike and twisted around to the right, sinking, so that his back faced Thoad. Using the momentum of his block, he swung the blade around and stabbed at Thoad over his right shoulder. The stab hit Thoad in the abdomen, but Crimson pulled the otherwise lethal blow. Just as quickly, he whipped back around, unwinding his body with extreme speed. With his left hand, he grabbed Thoad's head, using the centrifugal force to slam the side of his head on an adjacent table. Crimson looked for Frank, ignoring Strop, who was running over to examine Thoad's unconscious body. Soon, Crimson caught sight of Frank, getting to his feet, with a circular burn mark on his chest.

Strop poofed back in beside Leon and the green-haired lady.

"Is Thoad safely at Armor Hospital?" the lady asked Strop.

"In a manner of speaking." he replied.

"It's looking like a close match after all." Leon said.

"Crimson's more beat up." the woman observed.

"And Frank seems to be the better fighter." Strop added. "But that was some fancy footwork. I didn't know Crimson had it in him."

"Crimson may have taken a beating, but Frank's been injured longer; he's lost a lot of blood." Leon growled. Strop too had noticed how much Frank's knife wounds had bled. "He's exhausted."

"So is Crimson, he's just more composed." Strop offered lamely.

"Frank still has technical skill." the lady said.

"You underestimate his fatigue." Leon responded. "At this point, Crimson may be able to match him in swordsmanship. And his magic is unaffected by his tiredness."

"Maybe you're right, McAcid." Strop said vaguely, considering Crimson's magical powers.

"It's a long shot." Leon admitted.

"We shall see." Strop stated.

Crimson saw out of the corner of his eye a group of people, but was too preoccupied with Frank to get a good look at who they were. He could tell Frank was starting to feel the effects of his wounds, but the adrenaline in his veins was losing it's effect as well. Frank lunged at him with his sword in front. Crimson deflected his attack only to have the sword redirected towards the side of his left leg, cutting it open instead of his chest. He used the rocket spell again, turning it into an almost predictable move by this point towards the wall to his right, slamming into the wall on impact. He knew if he didn't do something or more importantly create something soon that the battle would be lost. Frank started closing in on him again, though this time he was acting a bit more sluggish then before. He decided that the best solution at this point was to create as much distance as possible. He waited for Frank to got close enough before shooting himself upwards flipping upside down and landing his feet on the ceiling, which in turn only caused the cut on his leg to become strained and cut open even more. He tried to ignore the cut, and used the spell again to shoot him to the opposite end of the room, where he slammed his back against the wall again. This time Frank was on the other side of the room and was not able to close in on him quite as quickly as before, but he had to be sure he was given enough time so he pushed his sword into the ground directly in front of him, and pulled out his letter scroll again, pressing E multiple times to summon 3 Sasquatchs. The Sasquatchs only had one opponent this time who was by default the most injured. They all ran in a straight line towards him. Crimson looked to make sure his plan was working on to find that Frank, like everyone else in this fight thus far, went against his expectations, and did not fall for such a distraction again, instead trying to dodge them while running towards Crimson as if he was a goal in an American football game, and the Sasquatchs were his opponents who were trying to tackle him to the ground. Crimson pulled out his scrolls realizing that he had very little time at this point to put together anything new, so he looked through what he had, a rocket spell, fire, orbs that lagged the arena, that could also be dodged, a couple of other ridiculous spells that were fairly easy to dodge as well without trickery, and his Sasquatch object which would follow his enemy. He then realized what he could do, copying and pasting together a spell as fast as he could before compiling it together, hoping that the spell would not have a syntax error in it. Frank managed to outmaneuver the Sasquatch objects which were tailing on him from behind as they all ran towards Crimson. The compiling failed because of a syntax error. He quickly looked at the line with the error in it again.

"Of course I had to miss a semicolon of all things" he said sarcastically to no one in particular. He recompiled the code hoping at this point that no more errors would show up. The compiling completed just as Frank started closing the gap between them, with no more then 10-15 feet between them. Crimson put his right fist in front of him.

"Now try to dodge this you-" Crimson cut himself off realizing that this was not the time for him be witty. He opened his palm and out of it came what could only be described as an army of mini-Sasquatchs who ran towards Frank, though it would be more accurate to say that they didn't really run towards him, but instead FLEW LIKE SUPERME....err SUPERSASQUATCHS. Crimson quickly turned off his caps lock spell which some how also got activated somewhere in the whole process. He watch as Frank tried to run sideways out of the way only to have all of the Sasquatchs give chase, whether they be miniature and flying or the large running variant. The mini-Sasquatch's were acting as a hybrid of the the explosive orbs and regular Sasquatchs whose codes he had pasted together almost in a make shift fashion. He was originally shooting for heat seeking orbs, but this worked for him is well. The mini's caught up to Frank as he started to desperately swing at them, hitting one of them only to have it explode pushing him face first into the ground, scrambling to get back up, before they finally cornered him, with the mini-Sasquatchs exploding as they collided with him. Crimson made sure only to create a small amount between 5-10 so as to not cause too much harm to Frank, but Frank was still set on fire from the explosions and then smothered by the other 3 which thankfully put the flames out. Crimson made a quick spell to destroy all of the Sasquatchs that were left so that they wouldn't do any more damage, before slumping himself back up onto his feet. He limped towards with his good leg. When he reached Frank he decided that he would try to be witty again.

"I remember you said something to me before, I think it went something like this" he pulled his blade out and put it up against Frank's throat.
"You're beaten, Surren-" this time he was cut off by Strop who appeared out of nowhere in front of both of them, making it clear by his expression alone that the match had already been decided. Crimson sheathed his blade and tried to limp over to Leon for celebration before Strop grabbed him and Frank both, creating a smoke screen before all 3 of them disappeared.

 

Posted Nov 26, '10 at 10:03am

Strop

Strop

10,823 posts

Moderator

MASHed Up

Or in other words, Strop going to town with descriptions of doctorly stuff

Concussion. Full-thickness burns. Open fractures (including one liberally drenched in hyena spit). Deep oozing lacerations with bits of weapons and shrapnel sticking out of them. Broken noses, teeth, ribs, and God-knew-what-else. With all this it was little wonder that Strop had poofed everybody to the Armor Hospital as soon as the round had ended, wondering all the while whether he should have tightened the rules a little.

"What's the status on bed one?" Strop, this time clad in white-coat and stethoscope instead of his ninja gear, barked as he burst into the Intensive Care Unit (formerly the storage room next to the broom cupboard), which had, as one might guess, room for one bed.

"Still under, Nu- Doc- uhhh, Nur- I mean Doctor Strop," the on-duty nurse stammered. "Blood pressure and heart rate stabilised after the craniotomy."

"Good." Strop rubbed his forehead and stood still for a moment, sighing in relief. Head versus heavy oak table was never going to work out for the head, so when Thoad's pupils went funny and his vitals even funnier, Strop almost dropped a load in his pants, instead of doing what he should have done (and actually did), which was to cut Thoad's skull open and let the extradural haemorrhage drain. He hoped that Thoad hadn't acquired a brain injury to boot, but only time would tell, and until the brain swelling had gone down, he'd have to remember that the top of Thoad's cranium was currently being stored in the freezer, and that he'd have to autoclave it before he put it back where it belonged i.e. on Thoad's head. But for now, at least things were on a more even keel. He hoped Thoad wouldn't mind being shaven bald, or at least mind less than Manta did.

"In that case, if you could get the levels before his next dose of pen, gent & metro, that'd be great. I'll have to leave you to change the catheter, too."

"Yes, Doctor," said the nurse, and with that, Strop left and headed to the ward.

Among the several dozen guests present at the Big Ball who ended up in the hospital due to a range of mercifully minor complaints, were two of the remaining three victestants, one from each team. Neither of them were in much condition to talk, given one was unable to breathe properly due to cracked ribs and punctured lung (for which he got a tube in the chest), and the other was unable to breathe properly due to swelling from the burns all over his chest and neck (for which he got a tube down the throat). Also, the latter had almost dried up his entire emergency supply of O negative. But at least they were now well on the mend, and he could remove the tubes in the next two days or so. As for the other one who got off unharmed-

"Oof," Strop said as he walked directly into a wall of leather armor. Worn by that devil he was just speaking of, Leon McAcid. "Oh, it's you. Why are you still here?"

Leon, eye ****ed, looked at Strop cooly before rubbing it. "I have something in my eye."

Strop stared at Leon for a moment, before he remembered he was in benevolent-doctor and not capricious-moderator mode. "Take a seat over there," he motioned towards the procedure room. "I'll take a look in a moment."

Leon flashed his hyena teeth at Strop: "Please hurry," he simpered, "I'm in pain." Then he shuffled off to the room.

Strop scratched his head. That encounter had thrown his rhythm right off. The whole situation just made him uneasy: what was he going to do now with one finalist unharmed and the other needing at least four weeks to fully recover? At least, according to traditional wisdom, though he was quite aware that Crimson was adept with that magic stuff. Maybe he could write a script that would boost his recovery, but of course Strop had no knowledge (or aptitude) for that stuff, so he wouldn't know. But he knew he was starting to feel more subject to the vicissitudes of fate, a fate that had brought a murderous villain to the doorstep of moderation, poised to kick the door down. Was this how things were supposed to happen? Yet Strop could not deny that slowly, subtlely, characters were changing, perspectives being moulded. The tournament, it was shaping people and their stories. He couldn't shake the disturbing feeling that it was doing the same to him.

Finally Strop remembered what he was meant to do. "Nurse, can you remember where the flouriscene is kept?" he called out, before heading to the procedure room. He was painfully aware that he had mostly forgotten how to operate a slit-lamp, but he figured that it wouldn't matter anyway.

---

Part Nine and a Half: Doctor Pony and Mister Leon

Strop almost tripped over a dozing hyena as he entered the room. After taking a moment to regain his composure, he turned to the hyena man.
"You know, you shouldn't bring pets to the hospital." Strop said with a hint of indignation. "It's technically- what are you doing?" Leon was staring intently into a jar of faintly glowing blue liquid, which he held at eye level. Strop recoiled slightly as he saw the jar contained what appeared to be a hyena foot. He looked down to see that left Leon's foot was missing; only a cauterized stump remained. Leon swirled the foot around in the jar, staring at it intently. Strop stared equally intently. Leon, apparently unsatisfied with the result of the swirling furrowed his brow and swirled the foot around a few more times.
"Uh, Leon, what are you doing?" Strop repeated, a little louder.
"Cleaning." Leon replied curtly, focusing on the foot.
"Cleaning what, exactly?" Strop persisted. Leon put the jar down and looked at Strop.
"Is this some sort of a trick question?" he growled. "Here, help me with this." He extracted the foot gingerly with is thumb and forefinger. The blue liquid ran off the foot, leaving it completely dry in a matter of moments. Leon tapped it lightly on the lip of the jar, shaking loose the last drops liquid. At a loss for words, Strop consigned himself to making a nondescript sound of bewilderment. Seeing that Stop was not immediately rushing to his aid, Leon spoke up with more specific instructions:
"I need a bandage." he explained impatiently. Knowing better than to question Leon's medical knowledge or clear lack thereof, Strop produced a linen bandage. Leon placed his cauterized stump of a foot against the foot.
"Just bandage that on there real tight." Leon instructed. Strop carefully wrapped the point of connection between the foot and the leg with the bandage, tying it tightly. He removed his his hands, hoping that he had tied it well enough that the foot did not fall off immediately. Leon test his newly reattached foot by rotating his ankle. The joint cracked loudly as he stretched it. After a few more rotations and stretches, Leon's foot was once again capable of a full range of motion without audible cracking.
"Thanks, doc." Leon said sincerely, screwing a lid onto the jar.
"That was surreal." Strop observed. Leon shrugged.
"What's up with that foot, anyway?" Stop asked after a moment, wishing he could better articulate his question. Leon smirked.
"I carry through on my threats." he answered, chuckling. Strop ****ed an eyebrow, but Leon offered no further explanation.
"So Leon, you said you had something in your eye?" he asked, leaving well enough alone. Leon displayed an expression of bewilderment.
"Uh, yes. My eye. Hurts. Or something." Leon asserted.
"Right." Strop confirmed. "Well, place your chin here." Strop showed Leon the slit lamp. Leon was unimpressed.
"How?" he asked simply.
"You place your chin here. You'll have to squeeze." Strop instructed. After a few moments of awkward struggling, Leon managed to get his face into the space, chin jammed into the strap.
"Like thi- ow, what the-" Leon swore angrily as the light shined into his eye. "What are you doing to me?"
"Checking your eye." Strop answered. Leon remained slilent.
"Leon..." Strop said after a few moments.
"What?" Leon asked.
"Open your eyes." Strop instructed. Leon thought for a moment.
"No." he offered feebly.
"I need to examine your eye." Strop said.
"Can you not?" Leon asked.
"If you said you had something in your eye, you have something in your eye! Now let me examine it." the doctor commanded. Leon opened his eye with no further comment. "Thank you." Strop began to look at Leon's eye, his muzzle barely an inch from Leon's; he could feel the gnolls breath on his nostrils. Leon licked his lips. Strop cleared his throat and began to turn his head slightly to the side, trying to increase the distance between himself and Leon.
"So, uh, Leon. You won the last round." Strop said awkwardly. Leon was silent. "How are you feeling about that?" Strop pressed.
"Surprised, although things were as I expected." Leon snickered.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked absentmindedly, focusing on the lamp.
"Exactly what I said." Leon asserted.
"If I may say so, your response to the Mexican standoff with Thoad was interesting. Why did you surrender?" Strop added, attempting to get more out of Leon.
"Because I was no longer necessary. I considered Thoad incapacitated and Frank on the ropes. I knew Crimson could beat Frank if he let him bleed long enough." Leon answered analytically.
"Your hyena, Marley was it?" Strop asked rhetorically.
"Yeah, Marley." Leon cut in. The hyena jumped to its feet before realizing it hadn't been summoned.
"Still alive, I see." Strop eyed the hyena. "Why the break from your usual trend?"
"I didn't want to lose him unnecessarily." Leon stated quickly. "I told you, I thought Crimson would be fine on his own." Strop nodded and resumed the eye exam for a few minutes.
"Who was that woman you were speaking to after you surrendered?" he asked thoughtfully.
"Sparrow's lover. She's alright. A little high-strung, though. Makes a big deal over things that don't really matter." Leon replied. "Never could see past her own nose."
"That's... interesting." Strop concluded.
"Clingy, too. I don't know how Sparrow deals with it." Leon growled. "I guess she needs the attention."
"Wait, who's Sparrow?" Strop asked.
"An old friend." Leon left it at that.
"Where did she come from, anyway?" Strop asked.
"You know," Leon mused more to himself than Strop "that was never adequately explained." Strop smiled.
"On that note, where are you from?" he asked.
"I'm from-" Leon began.
"No, I mean, who are you. We've gone in circles talking about this before, but who are you? What are you, why are you here? I was hoping to gain some kind of insight into your motives up to this point but I'm not sure what I have now. And that's an issue going into this final round." Strop spoke quickly.
"You ask a lot of questions." Leon observed. Strop nodded.
"I'm Leon McAcid. Archer, jeweler, traveler. I'm here because I have something in my eye."
"I mean here in Armor Games." Strop pointed out. "In this tournament."
"I heard about the tournament. I had nothing better to do." Leon laughed. "I figured it's what happens next."
"What happens next?" Strop questioned.
"I don't know." Leon assured him.
"No, what do you mean it's what happens next?" Strop restated.
"I mean it's the next event in my life. The next piece of my journey." Leon stated. "I don't know why I'm here, in Armor Games, but here I am. This tournament seems like what happens."
"Let me get this straight:" Strop started "You believe you should compete to become a moderator, not because you want to, but because you think... that's what's supposed to happen next?"
"Supposed to?" Leon laughed "If things were as they were supposed to be, I'd still be in Malaria and Bullman would be a moderator by now. Nothing happens for a reason, Strop."
"So then what is your motive?" Strop asked.
"I'm here because I am. I'm doing this because it's next. It's next because something always is." Leon explained. "Is that good enough for you?"
"No, not really, to be honest."  Strop readjusted his position to better see into Leon's eye.
"What do you want?" Leon demanded.
"Why do you want to be a mod?" Strop reiterated.
"I don't. It's just the result of a series of events to which I have no objection." Leon stated.
"What would you do as a moderator?" Strop pursued the line of questioning.
"Same thing I always do: Go to the Tavern, get sloppy drunk and start a fight." Leon tried to cackle like a hyena, but the slit lamp restricted his movement; all he managed was a feeble giggle.
"You realize that, as a moderator, you would have different obligations and responsibilities." Strop said coldly.
"We'll see how it goes." Leon said seriously.
"So, if I were to eject you from this tournament, then how would you respond?" Strop asked weightily. Leon thought for a moment, lips moving slightly as he chose his words.
"Have you ever gotten into a fight in school?" Leon asked.
"I-" Strop started.
"Like, with a big, tough dude who would just beat the crap out of you? But you're so mad you just want to get one punch in, consequences be ****ed?" Leon continued.
"Well I can't say-" Strop thought he was supposed to answer.
"And then the dude just lays you out, beats you up in front of everyone, but you're like: 'I still broke your nose, so I don't care!'?" With that Leon pointed his front two fingers at his own eyes and brought them slowly around to face Strop's eyes. Leon bared his teeth as Strop blinked in understanding.
"You're remarkably anti-authoritarian for such a go-with-the-flow attitude." Strop observed. Leon rolled his eyes.
"Authority, flow, direction whatever." Leon shrugged. "This place is like United Utopia. Every thing is so neatly laid out."
"What do you mean?" Strop asked, doubting he would get a straight answer.
"I mean that you wake up where you sleep." Leon stated.
"Is it common for you to wake up in an unfamiliar place?" Strop asked, a little confused.
"Don't be ridiculous." Leon laughed. His face became serious. "I mean everything is so predictable. There is no flow. Only direction. It's all the same day. All the same Bull." Strop took a moment to consider Leon's words.
"But, hey, that's okay." Leon chuckled.
"What exactly did you do with yourself before you came here?" Strop asked. "Something tells me you weren't just a simple jewelry merchant."
"Same thing I do now, but with Ed." Leon shrugged. Strop thought about what that entailed for a minute.
"You don't like talking about your past, do you?" he asked finally.
"It's not the past I mind." Leon corrected. "I just don't like talking about my time in the military."
"Well, you're done. There's nothing in your eye." Strop helped Leon pull his face away from the slit lamp. Leon stood up.
"Thanks, Strop." he said. "Heel!" Marley jumped up and followed Leon to the door. Leon opened the door and stepped across the threshold.
"Wait!" Strop called. Leon stopped. "What did you do before the military?" Strop asked.
"Not much." Leon replied.
"Well where did you grow up?" Strop blurted.
"I told you." Leon said quickly. "I don't like talking about my time in the military." With that, Leon walked out, hyena in tow.

---

Truth and Consequence

It was only when Strop had walked out of the room, shed his doctorly apparel, and poofed back into his room that his hands started shaking.

At first, he wondered whether it was from the sheer exhaustion from the previous night. After all, he hadn't slept since the morning of that crazy semi-final round, and had spent all night getting the three injured victestants to a stable condition. In a single brief moment, he wondered in what kind of state of disrepair the castle hall would be in.

No matter, there was something far more pressing, more terrifying even, to consider. This Way of Moderation tournament. While it was fun and games (at least to him) for the most part, as things drew closer and closer to that point of no return, it was clear that things were getting away from him. That was to say, Leon McAcid, that unknown entity, seemed to loom large and unpredictable over the future of ArmorGames itself. Who would have thought that something like him would so closely resemble something like Strop, and yet be so different?

"What are your motives?" Strop had hoped, prayed even, that he was simply like the rest, those who wanted to achieve something and to do something, those he could safely say were not of the Way of Moderation. Yet he had forgotten to consider what might happen were somebody to simply walk in and take the future as it came, as he had always secretly hoped would happen but never expected from any of the candidates. Worse, he had forgotten to consider what might happen if that were the case... and that Zen-like nihilism were to be coupled with a predilection for wanton destruction. What was good, or evil? Could it be any different from what he had been doing, destroying parts of the city in vast swathes of collateral damage in a quest that quite possibly had no meaningful result?

Strop wondered why he had not thought of this angle before, yet it seemed so familiar to him. As if somebody else had been telling him all along... but he couldn't quite place it. All he knew was that somewhere in there, was the reason his hands were shaking so. Holding the weight of the expectations of a city's people in them, it was little wonder they could not be steady at the prospect of being obligated to induct a villain to authority.

Wait, this was surely too hasty. After all, Leon was hardly the most villanous of the lineup of moderators. The capricious Devoidless, for example, what of his burninating ways? How was it that they were somehow able to be mediated to something acceptable?

This too was too hasty, seeing as Crimson, as incapacitated as he was now, was still in the finals. There was still hope yet, for Crimson was diligent and of everybody the one who would always prepare... Strop frowned at himself for his lack of perspective. At the very least, he could practice what he preached and deal with things as they came, as opposed to get in a flap about that which had not happened yet. Strop flopped back on his bed, too tired to even drag the doona over him. Yes, that's how he'd approach the coming days.

Just then an envelope bearing a wax seal fluttered through the window and landed on his nose. He picked it off and tore it open.

"You are hereby summoned to the Armor City Courts of Great Justice to stand trial for the attempted murder of the user Chill-"

Alas, he had spoken too soon again.

---

Fandens for en dag

Alternative title: des pas sur la neige

"Cen?" Zophia stopped in front of him, starring worried at the cold and slightly snow covered form sitting on a bench. "Are you okay?"

"She left..." He mumbled hoarsely without looking up at her, or looking at her at all.

She frowned, took his icy hands and pulled him up, nudging and mumbling soothing words as she lead him to her home.

---

The Craglands

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"What are you doing here?"

The craggy voice resounded from deep within a craggy rock, deep within some godforsaken mountain range that wouldn't have done badly to be named the Badlands, were it even on any kind of map.

"What kind of question is that." It wasn't phrased as a question, for Dank was in no mood for idle chit-chat. He banged his giant hammer (the only genuine hammer of the Moderator's Banhammer series) on the walls of the rock, and a great ringing echoed interminably into the darkness. "Come on, get your sorry thirty-ton butt out of there."

"Could you stop that, I'm getting a headache." There was a distinctly sulky tone to the craggy voice.

"No," Dank grunted. "I'll do it again and again until you come out of there. And if you don't come out, I'll put aside my dwarfish pride just to cast a flood and wash you out, then cast earth and fill that hole of yours so full with mud you'll never ever live there again." And with that, he raised his hammer to strike-

A giant plume of flame issued forth from the crag, almost incinerating Dank had he not been blown out of the way by the rush of expanding air that preceeded it. Beating at his burning beard, he scrambled to his feet uttering a few choice curses just in time to face the great black horned dragon, Devoidless the Ancient. Devoidless stretched his wings, then coughed a few times.

"Sorry," he grated. "I had to blow away the cobwebs."

"Like hell you did, you ingrate," Dank snapped. "Anyway, you need to come back to-"

"I don't want to hear about it," Devoidless cut him off, reaching somewhere inside the darkness and pulling out his ban-battleaxe. "You know that legend of nobody ever finding my lair and making it back alive?"

Dank put his hands on his hips. "Are you trying to make me go away by intimidating me?"

"No, but you ought to know that legend is true..." Devoidless hefted his axe and licked the chipped edge with some flames, before "...because nobody has ever made it here before. How on earth did you get through the pass?"

Dank mumbled something incomprehensible.

"You know," Devoidless scraped his claw along his many very sharp teeth, "being Ancient, I am hard of hearing."

"Mmmblmbml." Dank muttered, barely any louder.

Devoidless leaned right over, so his head was level with Dank. "What was that?"

"MY PENICORN. IT GOES ANYWHERE." Dank shouted, simultaneously going red.

"There now, that wasn't so hard was it?" Devoidless chuffed smugly ("***hole," Dank muttered). "Though it doesn't answer the question as to how you knew to come here..."

"Oh, that." Dank shrugged. "Somebody broke into your vault in AG, so we all know where you live now. Thought you might want to know."

There was a moment of silence.

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?" Devoidless roared, splitting the heavens with his fury. "I'LL KILL HER, THAT WITCH!" In the throes of wrath he raised his axe and swung it down with all his might. Right into Dank's head.

The axe made a notch in Dank's helmet, and lodged there. Dank didn't bat an eyelid.

"Also, we had to de-mod you, obviously. Security reasons, but it sounds like you already know who the culprit is." Dank explained. Devoidless fumed, then, strangely, tragically, his shoulders sagged and he shrunk a few sizes.

"Right." He said simply. "I see." He turned and slunk back into the craggy rock.

"Hey, what are you doing? Get back here!"

"Let me know when my status is restored. I'll be right here," a significantly subdued craggy voice slipped out from the rock.

Dank ripped the axe from his helmet and flung it in after Devoidless. "You can't do this! What's wrong with you! Why do you keep running away?"

There was a pause. "At first there were two reasons why I left, but now clearly there is a third. I'll come back when this all blows over." There was a cough, which echoed away into the darkness, a few scrapes, and then nothing.

---

Meanwhile, somewhere in the City of ArmorGames

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Memories

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It's Nothing

There finally came a time when one had to sit down and deal with the inevitable. Well, many things in life are inevitable, but some are more inevitable than others. A certain intellect once claimed it was death and taxes. With taxes came paperwork. Such was the nature of the civilised world, from which intellects could spout their many wisdoms and wisecracks.

But wisecracks could never detract from the mountain of paperwork that Strop had set himself up for. Even if he was able to turf most of the real mule work to his trusty inter- assistant Cen, who, despite absences, was still somehow dutifully churning it all out, he still had to sign off on every last sheet as the co-ordinator of the tournament. As the damages rose and so did the number of irate complaints not pertaining to any of the moderator duties, it was so very easy to take each cardboard box of files and claims and shove them to the dark corner of some storeroom labelled "to be fixed in the next version." Speaking of which, he wondered where Kingryan could have gone to after he had given him his latest assignment...

...in Kingryan's absence, Strop had temporarily claimed his office, specifically the desk near the front entrance of the library. And so that was where he sat this day, sipping his carrot soup in his custom mug, upon which was emblazoned the aphorism: "Don't be a whiner, be a winner!" and on the other side, Have a WHINNEY day!" Strop didn't know what he had meant by that, but... well, it had seemed like a good idea at the time.

Just then, a shadow fell across his face. He looked up, and saw a silhouette. Obviously, since the shadow was falling across his face, it stood to reason that the light was coming from the door and thus in the relatively dim room, he could not properly discern the features of that which was eclipsing the doorlight, but he felt it relatively safe to assume that it was his trusty in-

"Hi Cen, glad you could make it!" he grinned under his ninja mask. "Got the paperwork?"

Wordlessly, the silhouette dumped yet another cardboard box filled with sheets of paper on the table.

"Uh, thanks... actually, if you could just dump it in the corner over there..." Strop vaguely gestured to the shelves, over which he had plastered a makeshift sign: "TO BE FIXED IN THE NEXT VERSION."

Wordlessly, the silhouette turned around, shuffled to the shelves, dumped the box there, and shuffled back.

"Ah good, thank you for that Cen, we're not going to be doing anything until nex- woah, Cen, what the hell happened to your face?"

Now that Cen was out of the direct light, Strop could not only tell that it was Cen, but that his face looked somewhat the worse for wear. Since Cen didn't even move, he jumped up to take a look, but it was already obvious from far off that Cen was sporting a rather spectacular black eye. Strop fussed over it, racking his brain and immediately wondering just how neglectful he had been of his trusty in- ... he really needed to stop calling Cen that.

"That wasn't there last time I saw you, right? I didn't do this, did I?" Cen didn't say a word, let alone reach up and strangle Strop, so Strop meant that to mean no. "How did you get it anyway?"

Cen merely shrugged.

Strop sighed and shook his head, racking his brains for what to do next in the complete absence of history. "Does it... hurt?"

Cen shrugged again. "...dunno."

Strop rubbed his ears. Cen being Cen, he knew that something was probably wrong but that it would probably take several hours of sustained interrogation to achieve an equivocal confession probably engineered to get Strop to bugger off and leave him alone. At another time, Strop told himself, he would probably have not buggered off and made Cen apply an ice pack with rest every fifteen minutes, if he even knew how old the black eye was, but of course it was so spectacular that it could have been anywhere from an hour to three days and he wouldn't have been able to reliably tell... at another time, maybe, but the sun was setting, he had his duties to attend to, the patients to manage, his assignments to write, all ironically compounded by the fact that now just about every other mod was away... and if the result was going to be the same, anyway...

"Okay Cen, you should go on home... take the next few days off, and the swelling will go down. Take care of yourself okay?"

"Mmk," came the reply, at least Strop assumed it was that because it sounded more like an "mmblml." And then Cen was gone.

Strop sat back in his chair, and started scrawling over the forms he was already going through. Then he stopped. It was like an itch had started in the back of his head, and there was no way he couldn't scratch it... if only he knew how. Who else would know what was going on with Cen? Strop knew full well he couldn't ask Sai, that girl was about as discreet as the soopadoopahawesometasticmegamegafone ("wannabe ninja? Hmph!"). And chances were that she was wrapped around Cen's neck simpering over his black eye... if she wasn't the one who gave him that black eye...

...In which case Strop knew of one other person who might be able to provide insight, except, of course, she preferred to be referred to as a critter, and whether this critter would even speak to Strop given the circumstances...

It was worth a shot.

---

Cenere the Cheerless

"Stropling, it's three in the morning."

"I know, I figured you'd be up at this time."

"I wasn't, but I am now."

"Oh."

Strop's consult with Zophia had gotten off to a flying start. Standing ankle deep in snow and blowing clouds of steam in the damp cold, Strop huddled at the front door of Zophia's residence, and Zophia, dressed in her jammies and blearily rubbing the hair out of (or maybe into, she wasn't really with it) her eyes, huddled on the other side of the threshold.

"I'd invite you inside, but... well, the inside isn't really visitor-friendly at the moment," Zophia snuck a backward glance before arranging herself in the doorframe to try and hide as much of the interior as possible. "What do you want anyway?"

"Uhh." Strop was there now, he might as well have gone ahead, so he did: "Actually it's about Cen."

Immediately, Zophia became more alert, her eyes narrowing slightly. "...what about Cen?"

Strop tugged at his scarf; he could only imagine what scenarios Zophia was thinking of and what she was thinking to do to him now, so he hastened to explain. "Well, I saw him today and he... well he had this massive black eye, and I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with me." Zophia glared at him. "No, really! He was away for a while and he was perfectly fine then!" Strop shuffled a bit in the snow and looked down. "Would you know what happened?"

Zophia studied Strop for a moment. The silly pony was so busy gallivanting about doing his own thing, that she had often been the one to pick up the pieces of Cen that had invariably fallen off while he was being battered about fulfilling promises that she couldn't fathom. But this, this was a first, and strangely enough, it only reinforced her own gut feeling on the matter.

"Hmm... well, I found him like that... in the snow, sitting by himself, and all he would say was... 'she left'."

A ray of ice ran Strop through. Cen may have been a bit on the wimp side, but the little firebrand must have been quite mad to be able to give him such a shiner. And Strop had absolutely no idea how Cen would have been able to get Sai mad enough to do that, but then again Sai was quite mad in herself anyway. In a good way, except maybe when she might do something like punch Cen in the face...

Evidently Zophia was probably thinking the same thing, because she was sporting the same worried look as Strop. "Do you think he meant...?"

"Yeah." Strop nodded. "It seems that way. He's probably going to feel pretty down... would you know what would cheer him up?"

"Cheer... Cen up?" Zophia opened her mouth to state the obvious, but then stopped. Here was Strop, longtime ruthless tormenter of Cen. And Strop was standing in front of her asking for her expert advice in an area where he clearly had no knowledge. She stifled the smile spreading inside her, her tail nearly kinking from the effort.

"There's one thing I know of," she said.

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