LO Round 2 Pg.6The morning sun gave way to the brilliant light of day. Life returned to the streets, filling every alley with sound and smell. What few clouds there were had long faded away, leaving the sky open from horizon to horizon.
In the swamps, however, this rebirth passed without fuss or fanfare. The competitors had long returned to the city, leaving behind little more than tracks and bloodstains. Some failed to return. Nature had claimed them.
One, though, defied nature.
Fragments of rough fibers danced in the shallow waters of a pond. Upon a mossy rock sat a creature of cloth, slouched and beaten. His left arm hung crookedly, drawing ripples in the water as it swung back and forth. Great tufts of fibers stuck out from his neck, soaked with water and mixed with a streak of dark blood.
It wasn't easy to kill something that was never quite alive to begin with.
Jeth rose shakily to his feet, stumbling his way towards the ruins. The swamps remained as quiet and still as ever, planting a seed of
LO Round 2 Pg.5A pair of low voices murmured from within a decaying tower in the depths of the city.
"I found him in the swamp."
"You should be."
"How did I survive, anyhow?"
"I don't like luck."
"Well, you can't avoid it."
The voices, of course, were of Tenebre and Sussurro. Tenebre's fall had left him nearly paralyzed and gravely fragile. He and his companion spent their time talking. The subject did not matter- simply talking was enough.
"Why do you care so much?" asked Sussurro.
"Because he is a potent force."
"Isn't everyone here like that?"
"Maybe. But it's just a feeling."
"You have a lot of those."
"They're good things to have."
Vulcan returned a short while later, passing but a block away from where the red dragon lay. It caught sight of him, although he did not yet notice. He scaled the steps of the clock tower with care, skipping over the crumbling ones and reaching across the gaps.
The zigzag-striped form of Echo waited at the pinnacle, wat
LO Round 2 Pg.4Jeth turned away and looked about for the mushrooms he was to procure. He noticed a patch of color beneath a mass of dark green ferns and decomposing leaves. It seemed promising, so he sloshed through the pond and clumsily brushed aside the foliage. As he had suspected, a cluster of bright red fungi grew in the moist earth. He stooped over and gathered a small fistful of the soft caps, clutching them tightly within his grasp. Vulcan remained soundly immobile as Jeth rose back upright.
"It's kind of funny," spoke Jeth as he walked. "For such an arrogant creature, you fell so easily."
"You don't-," sputtered Vulcan, "you don't- don't see."
"What's it, then? You're trying to play games, and I don't play games."
Vulcan turned his head and whimpered softly as Jeth approached, metal claws positioned to strike at the beast's exposed belly.
"You're done," smirked Jeth.
A terrible pain shot through his arm.
Vulcan, having grown tired of feigning helplessness, whipped his head around
LO Round 2 Pg.3Vulcan reached the fringes of the swamp just before midmorning. He panted from the exertion, crouching down in a patch of tall grasses to briefly rest. His foe had yet to reveal himself, so there was little to do but to advance onwards.
The swamp reeked of humidity and decay, squatting on the edge of the ruined city like blight on a dying crop. Its dark green tones melded into the overgrown city's foliage, making it difficult to determine exactly where the ruins ended and the marshes begin. Standing pools of water, ranging from mere inches to several feet deep, lay strewn across the dank landscape. Their murky depths concealed patches of viscous mud that snared hapless passerby.
Vulcan crept through the trees, brushing up against the low hanging vines as he went.
Despite the bright morning sun, the swamp remained cold, dark and gloomy. His eyes easily adjusted to compensate, although the occasional bolts of searing light that penetrated the soggy roof of leaves proved painful to behold
CC Round Four IntroductionThe rust haunts me.
Its deathly encore has failed, but the show must go on. The show always goes on. The actors can't stop the show. They can only prevent it from coming about once more. Yet they refuse to see the rust, for the show fascinates their minds with its gory splendor.
Peel away the facade, and all that remains is the street. The street down which the curs flee. The curs who stumble and fall to the ground. The ground that rends them to bone, flesh, and blood. The blood that courses through the gutters.
They see nothing of it until it consumes them.
Only by seeing the truth can they shield themselves from the implacable doom. Yet, to understand this truth, they must face the doom itself.
I faced it, once. I looked death in the eye-
-and I couldn't look away.
The abyss was terrifying, maddening, tortuous. I stared too deeply within, and it stared back into my soul. The others, too, can't look away. They don't understand the doom, and it draws them in like moths to a flam
LO Round 2 Pg.2Echo's disappearance broke the spell of intrigue her presence cast over the competitors, who filtered out from the aged clock tower with an anxious vigor.
Vulcan wound his way through the streets aimlessly, traversing their infinite depths with no more direction than a blind man in a forest. Uncertainty tingled on the tips of his frayed nerves. His flanks still throbbed painfully; the ache of his fall refused to be dispelled. The thought of the sickness did little to calm his newfound and utterly alien fear.
Maybe it's all a lie, he told himself. Just an attempt to pluck at someone's heartstrings.
He laughed softly.
Someone is going to have their heart plucked at this morning.
It took him some time for him to recall Echo's directive. He knew that the swamp was quite a ways out, so he made straight for the bog. The morning seemed eerily calm as he slunk through the long shadows. Night's departure had sent the deadly creatures of darkness away into the skeletal remai
LO Round 2 Pg.1The early hours of the young morning settled over the ruined city. Wisps of wind rushed between the buildings like fleeting whispers. A sense of anticipation hung in the air, as if an bolt of lightning had built up and was now ready to let fly a tremendous explosion of light and sound.
Seven creatures resided at the summit of the clock tower that overlooked the charred cityscape. Many appeared scratched and beaten, but they still bore looks of single-minded determination on their varied faces. Prominently standing in their midst was the black-furred Echo, who struggled to maintain the attention on the small assembly.
"Please, quiet, all of you," she spoke with her flowing voice. "I see that you've all made it up here again, as instructed. Well done."
A murmur of voices rose in assent.
"Unfortunately, we have a major problem. There is a disease spreading through the ruins, and my partner Doom is among the afflicted. It is a deadly infection, but there is a cure. There is a type of mushr