The audience was rapt with attention as the two mages ran around the arena. Peepers, in partial spellarmor and wielding a shimmering sword, was attacking Tom in a determined and constant manner. On the other hand, Tom was in his normal coat and clothing while wielding something that barely resembled a sword. It was, for one thing, orange. And the hilt was leafy and somewhat green.
It would be ridiculous to say that Tom was swordfighting with a giant carrot, and so Jason just shook his head and maintained the barriers around the arena. So far, Nick’s roster of challenges for the chaos mage had been as scheduled. His own slot in the competition had gone empty although he’d have enjoyed a chance to show off as well. As good as his friends were, no one else could monitor and maintain defenses quite like he could.
Heh. No one else could repel attacks of this magnitude. He laughed a little and watched his two friends continue to fight.
The battle suddenly came to a close as Peepers and Tom seemed to slice through each other, crouched back to back on either side of the arena. The crowd grew quiet as Tom’s stance wavered, but the only effect was that his makeshift sword was sliced into thin, wavy slices. Peepers slid to one knee and the battle was declared over in Tom’s favor. The swordmage walked over slowly to the table of previous challengers as Tom stretched while chewing on one of the carrot slices.
Nick started to stand up, ready for his own shot at his fellow planeswalker when a loud shout came from the entry into the arena.
“I challenge!” a hooded figure called out. It walked towards Tom on the battlefield and took an impressive stance. Several muttering voices echoed from the audience and Leah leaned over.
“Uh… did you plan for this?” she asked quietly, and Nick shrugged.
“Hey, Judge, can he do that?” Tom called out, and Nick took a small paper football from his pocket. With a flick it went flying towards Tom, hitting him squarely in the forehead across the stadium. The chaos planeswalker opened the paper, rubbing his forehead, and the note simply read “I’ll Allow It, but Watch Yourself McCoy”. The other side read “Quit your Bitching”.
Tom stood there gawking at Nick’s response while the announcement was made. The hooded figure jumped to the stage from the surrounding area. The hood fell from his head revealing his bright red hair and beard it looked as if he had pasted his hair forward in a point.
“When did Adam sign up to challenge Tom?” Leah inquired of Nick who shrugged again.
“I may have suggested it twenty minutes ago.” Nick mused quietly.
“That’s mean.” Nick smirked at her response, and continued to watch the exchange on stage.
“I challenge you! To a CRAB BATTLE!” Adam declared as thirteen man-sized crabs were summoned to the field of battle. They were fully armored with weapons strapped to their backs. The largest one that hopped a lot looked as if it had a pair of jet-packs duct taped to it.
“I accept!” Tom shouted back as he rose into the sky atop of a giant crab the size of a small building. He smugly stood there with his arms crossed and his giant crab began trying to grab one of its smaller counterparts that scurried away. Most ran sideways except for one crab that ran forward into one of the giant crab’s legs.
The smaller crabs began firing their weapons at the monstrosity. It screeched as the miniature blue orbs splashed against its exoskeleton. Adam himself was cackling maniacally at the exchange as his minions continued to attack the underbelly of the giant.
A lone figure watched the battle unfold from the comfort of his chair. He could hear a prisoner in the background whimper in pain from his last test. The Images of the fight were intriguing to him. He even had to give a quiet malicious grin when Tom’s behemoth finally managed to grab a hold of the flying crab that had been pestering it. The crushing pincer attack was rather gruesome in its display. He honestly didn’t think Tom had it in him to be so brutal. The observer grabbed his beverage from the side contemplating the current events as he drank.
“I suppose I should make an appearance soon.” He commented to himself grinning widely, before wiping away the excess liquid in his mustache and beard.
The grueling fight at this point had gone on for several minutes as Adam’s Warrior crabs and Tom’s Titanic crab continued to face off. Finally, under the combined firepower of the crab army the gigantic crab fell and died, on top of the other crabs, completely crushing them in the process.
Zac picked up his microphone to declare the winner of the two that both raised their hands in victory.
“And the Winner is… Tom!” A confused and excited crowd cheered.
“What?!” Adam yelled indignantly looking at the judges’ booth. Taking the offered mic from Zac, Nick explained.
“Since it was a crab battle only crabs were permitted for the actual fighting, and when one side loses all crabs they lose the fight. Since Tom still has one crab remaining he wins.”
“What crab?” In response to Adam’s demand Tom pulled out a small hermit crab barely larger than his thumb from his pocket.
“This was my second crab.” Adam’s jaw dropped and went ballistic with laughter. His amusement was almost crippling as he was escorted to his seat in the losers section.
“Alright Nick it’s your turn.” Maytee informs him as she sits down in Tom’s abandoned seat.” Nick gave a half-hearted shrug before responding.
“Meh I don’t feel like it.” He replied.
“Oh no, you’re not getting out of this one.” She informed him as she dragged her grudging friend out of his chair.
“But, But I’m judging. I can’t judge and compete at the same time. AND I won’t be able to judge afterward if I lose.” He tells her as she dragged him by his wrist to the stage.
“Oh don’t you worry I have a great new judge that is loads better than you at it already taking your place.”
“Really?” Nick craned his neck backward as looking at the judges table. Sitting on the table in his spot is for some reason a teddy bear holding a sign saying. Yes, now get over there. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“Nope.” She said with a simple push for him to get on the stage.
Once on the stage Nick let out a sigh. Tom knew there was no way Maytee would let him weasel his way out of this one.
“Alright what are we gonna do? Have an epic spell battle? Oh how about an awesome game of laser paddle ball? Or how about a match of extreme underwater basket weaving?”
“Nah, I’ll cut you a break we’re going to play a shell game. You have to find the real me in only three guesses, and hitting me in any form is considered a guess.”
“Uh huh wadda’ya mean? Suddenly Tom felt a great urge to let out a violent sneeze closing his eyes in the process. When he opened them there were hundreds of Nicks scattered around the theater. “What? Can he do that?”
Tom looked at the booth and even from here he could read the words on the Teddy bear sign. I’ll allow it, but watch yourself McCoy.
“Right, Teddy bear judge making the final call now… got it.” Tom immediately began digging throughout his pockets pulling out random items throws them about. In one instant a shoe that he threw away went flying into the head of a Nick behind him. It then disappeared with a loud poof of smoke.
“That’s one wrong guess.” All the Nicks declared to him at once.
“But I haven’t… right any hit counts.” Finally Tom pulled out an over sized magnifying glass and began examining them, one Nick at a time. After about three of them Tom let out a second violent sneeze from the dust caking the glass. The sneeze landed in the face of the latest examinee and he disappears.
“That’s two.” They echo harmoniously.
“Oh come on! Fine then, I guess I’ll make my guess.” Tom then suddenly disappeared from his spot, and reappeared in front of a Nick that was standing in a cluster that had been behind Tom originally. He grabbed Nick’s face, and slammed him into the ground with the sudden force of the blow. Silver chains then burst from Tom’s back skewering all of the fakes. “What the…?”
Tom began looking at the immensely surprised expression of Nick on the ground. When he let go of his defeated opponent, and the chains retracted at his will.
Before he could say anything more Zac declared Tom the winner. The Cheer was strangely muffled to Tom as he watched Nick wordlessly rise and walk away to the losers’ seats. Nick acted as if nothing had happened, but Tom knew something was wrong. His ability to absorb reacted and he didn’t know why.
Tom really didn’t have time to contemplate the meaning of this, before he found himself running for his life from a trigger happy Maytee, as she fired at him while flying after him in the jungle that they summoned. She had decided on a nice and simple jungle fight with the only rules being. Don’t leave the jungle, and first one to incapacitate the other wins.
A log exploded as he leaped over it. Even if he called it a match it felt more like her trying to take out her loss on him. Tom suddenly turned around and blocked several of the shots with his stone hands.
“Hey come on Maytee cool it. I know we have to make this interesting, but isn’t this a bit extreme?”
“Shut up!” Suddenly fire erupted from the wrists of her spell armor that took the shape of leopards and chased after him. They chased him for several yards before he jumped into a pond. He floated beneath the surface while the flaming cats circled from above. “Oh come on Tom you know you can’t stay down there forever.”
“Glurb blorb.” Tom responded underwater.
“What?” The flying mage asked flying only a few feet from the surface.
Tom burst from the water. His skin ablaze and boiling at the same time the power of the weird resonated within him. Both Leopards pounced at him, but he deflected them with a sudden explosion of water from a spell cast through time. His own sudden appearance startled his opponent throwing her off balance. The Izzet ‘walker then suddenly released the power of the weird and silver chain shot forth from his finger tips wrapping around her. Before they could go taut, she crashed into the water with a splash. Seconds later Tom found himself standing in the center of the stage with his friend tied in the new chains he acquired.
“Winner!” Zac announced from the booth. The crowd erupted with applause as he removed his chains from his defeated opponent. Offering a hand to a drenched Maytee, Tom helped her up. She was annoyed, but off the stage before he noticed the sudden silence of the crowd. He looked around confused.
Standing on the opposite end of the stage was a robed figure. His face was obscured in an unnatural shadow. Something about the figure gave an ominously familiar feeling about him. Tom fully turned to face him, his own face suddenly deathly serious.
“I hear you’ve been doing well in the challenges.” The familiar stranger spoke with a tinge of arrogance. In the back of Tom’s mind he kept hoping it wasn’t one of the people he thought it was. It was impossible for three of them. So maybe it was…
“Only as well as I expected Lee.” The figure gave a snort at his comment. He could feel the other person grinning at him, but it never felt friendly to him.
“Well I see you can still recognize an old friend.” Lee lowered the hood of his cloak. A few people who had known him and knew he was missing let out a gasp. He looked like the same old Lee Tom knew, but something was different. He was the same messy greasy person he always was, but his face seemed gaunter than he had ever seen it. Even after most of the people teleported here lost excess weight. And his eyes they seemed more menacing than they used too. They carried deep bags underneath them, as if he had been deprived of sleep for an extended period, but his eyes also seemed to pierce Tom giving a terrible chill through his spine. These weren’t the eyes of a friend. “I challenge you Tom. To a spell battle, if you can defeat me and the waves of minions I throw at you before sundown, you win.”
Tom was perplexed at this one. He looked back at Nick in the loser’s seating with a questioning glance.
“Can he do that?”
“What are you looking at me for? I’m not a judge.” Nick then pointed to the Bear with a sign reading. I’ll allow it, but watch yourself McCoy.
“Seriously? Can that bear say anything else?” Tom Looked back and the bear carried a new sign. Yes I can now quit you bitchin, and go you only have five minutes till sundown.
The fight began quickly, in Jason’s opinion. Lee had a dozen different goblins summoned to fight and his favorite scythe, before the weary Tom could even prepare his first spell. But he quickly corrected that as the swarmed around him he transformed his arms into wooden claws. That then morphed into some type of hammer tip. It looked him anyway that Tom was actually taking the fight seriously.
Jason felt his cell vibrate in his pocket. He grabbed it and and read the messed inside.
Logos: Whatever you do, and no matter what happens. Don’t drop the shield, and don’t let anyone interfere, even Maytee.
Yoshi: Okay why?
Logos: It’ll be too dangerous for the people watching. Tom’s in there, but Lee won’t hold back like the others. We have to keep collateral damage to a minimum.
There was a flash of light, and Jason’s attention was immediately brought back to the fight and the shield he was maintaining. Looking up he saw piles of crushed, burnt, and dismembered goblin bodies. He had to be on the third wave by now.
Back on stage Tom was literally a man on fire as he chased a retreating Lee. Lee’s left arm was singed from the surge of fire Tom had unleashed on him. He was protecting that side more now as a result of the injury.
“Fine you can deal with those, but I have better minions now. Take this!” He waved he palm, and multiple new creatures were summoned. These creatures also sent a chill down the Burning Tom’s spine, simply from the implications.
“Why are you controlling shifters?” Lee grinned back at Tom, but other than that gave no reply. These ones seemed new to Tom. They were headless green creature that had pincers for hands. They began rushing him and attacking without any fear for their own lives. They were like always relentless. Tom dodged several by slipping between the hulking monstrosities. The ends of his arms shifted to fireblades that used to sever limbs and other parts. He was feeling more exhausted than normal. He felt his strength ebbing away. The day’s events must have been catching up with him. He time to finish with a bang. He only had a couple minutes left before he would lose so he had to act fast. Tom began suspending one of his largest spells. He gradually added more and more power to it as he finished off the fourth wave of enemies.
“Heh, it looks like even those aren’t enough to slow you. Then fight these, my ultimate creations!” He raised his hands and summoned what was probably supposed to be his last wave. with a blinding flash of light more goblins appeared, but they were different from before. Some had oversized limbs from what looked like shifters replacing normal limbs. Many far to large for the small frames of the goblins. “Attack!”
Not wanting to anger their master they tried to move from their spots, but simply couldn’t manage the weight. One with both its arms replaced fell over with a whimper of pain. It was almost a comedic sight if it wasn’t so horrible. Tom continued to add more power to his spell, as he put the goblins out of their misery.
“Lee, what the hell?” Tom yelled at him as he flung the last one into the air and split it into two killing it instantly. He was floating in midair now his own spell prepared to fire. The Chaos mage looked down at the Minion Master. Then realizing it for the first time Lee fired upon is former friend with a ray easily half the size to the ring they had been fighting on. With nowhere to run and no spells prepared to protect him Tom fired back out of sheer reflex. “Lunaassault!”
A barrage of thousands of Silver beams impacted with the giant laser.
There was a flash and an explosion as the two spells collided creating a resounding effect. Jason was barely holding to barrier protecting the spectators in check when Lee fired. Now he was forced to contain both spell. He felt the barrier and the circles of protection begin to rupture. He put everything into it his own consciousness began to fade. The thought occurred that containing it might kill him, but not definitely will.
Then without warning the scene before him disappeared, he found himself standing in the bustling streets of a city. People ignored his presence as they passed him by. He then looked up seeing a guild symbol he recognized.
“Orsov?” Then he flashed back not wanting to stay here. He felt the presence of the barrier he maintained again. The defense mage held onto it has he harnessed the barrier again with new vigor, and held till the end.
Inside the arena Tom’s Lunaassault kept growing as each beam combined with new ones that were continuously being fired from the spell. He had put everything into this last attack. Finally in the center of the two spells colliding Tom could see his own burying into it creating a hole, until it ate all the way through, and hit an unaware Lee at the bottom. Lee was only just off from taking the hit square on, but instead and hit the already injured left arm and atomizing it, leaving nothing but a smoldering stump. He yelled in pain from the attack, and disappeared from the area before anyone could reach him leaving his signature weapon on the ground. The sun had fully fallen giving Tom the final victory as Jason contained the two spells and fired them upward into the sky. Letting them dissipate harmlessly.
Stunned people began to clap and cheer for the surprisingly victorious Tom. Friends of his began rushing to the stage to talk to him. His apprentice Zach gave him a shoulder to lean on as the others approached.
“By the way Maytee what the hell you know I was supposed to struggle a little and then pull off a win why the pyrotechnics?” She looked confused at him for a moment before responding.
“What are you talking about I made you earn your win like you were supposed too?” Tom gave a disgruntled look at Nick.
“Hey it’s not my fault she didn’t get the memo.”
“Memo? What memo?”
“The games were rigged. The whole thing was just a PR stunt to improve moral.”
“What!?” Maytee punched Nick in the arm.
“And I’m guessing you never actually wrote any rules.”
“Take a look.” Nick opened the largest book labeled S-Rank Rules. Inside the books turned out to be hollow with a blueberry muffin on the inside.
“So that’s where that went.” Tom grabbed his muffin and began eating it.
“How’d that get in there?”
“Hey guys take a look at this.” Chebon yelled over at them holding Lee’s discarded scythe. His normally unconcerned face was contorted with barely contained rage. “This is the scythe that the death guy was using when I escaped his prison.”
“You sure?” Maytee asked him now deathly serious too.
“Yeah he must have found it again after I got away with it. There were also goblin prisoners in his lair while I there.”
“That’s not good.” Tom said as he slipped away into unconsciousness. Zach struggled before Jason gave him a hand.”
“Better take him to Sandra. Then we can talk about this.” Jason muttered as they dragged the limp Tom away from the coliseum back to the main campus. Where he can rest all he needs.