At last!  We have arrived at the apex of the 101st Tournament of Souls!  For months artificers and necromancers have watched their creations battle it out in the ever changing environments of Caer Holineth.  Many incredible creatures have fallen in each round as we approached this, the final battle!

The winner of this match will be named the tournament Grand Champion, and will be able to reap the rewards that accompany the title for the entirety of the coming year; but this will be no easy fight.  Not only is this a winner take all fight between the twin Razor Fiends and the elementally charged Magma Serpent, but it is taking place on a battlefield that, from the name shown on the tournament brackets, we can only imagine is constantly shifting!  I can’t wait to see the tournament mages create this wondrous environment for this evening’s match!

The whole arena is filled to the limit, with every seat taken!  Every noble house is represented in the stands, along with hundreds of merchants and even more members of the empire’s peasantry!  Even the Emperor himself appears to be in attendance, seated in his place of honor!

While we wait for the tournament mages to weave together what can only be the most amazing terrain we’ve yet seen in any tournament to date, let’s talk about tonight’s combatants.  We’re all familiar with both sides of this conflict, but the question remains, have we seen everything they have to offer?  The Razor Fiends have proven to be potent constructs, but as amazing and beautiful as they are, I imagine they don’t have many more tricks up their sleeve that we haven’t already seen.  On the other hand, the Magma Serpent has shown new abilities with each battle, and I feel in my gut that it may still have more to offer, some trick or spell that it hasn’t used yet.  Only time will tell if my instincts, born from a half century of tournaments are correct.

The Battleground

The now familiar chanting begins to rise amidst the din of the audience, though unlike previous bouts, there seems to be no source to the sound.  Louder and louder it grows as people throughout Caer Holineth find their seats and settle themselves into silence, awaiting the wonders about to come into being before their very eyes.  On one end of the arena there is a flash of light, followed by several more scattered throughout the crowd!  Each flash leaves in its wake a chanting mage, hoods pulled over their faces and arms raised towards the arena floor.

Thunder echoes from a cloudless sky only seconds before lightning slashes down through the night, splitting into more than a dozen bolts as it descends through the oculus to strike all over the seating area!  These blasts too leave behind mages, though the robes of the newcomers are different, displaying the garb of city mages!  Never before have those wizards that have been entrusted with the operation of the city’s magical wards and effects been a part of a tournament, yet I see at least sixteen involved in tonight’s casting!  Already more than thirty wizards have appeared in the grand arena, each weaving their part of the battleground to come, yet intense bursts of flame from the aisle ways signal the coming of even more!  Flashes of light, bolts of lightning, blasts of flame, all heralding the arrival of some of the most powerful arcane casters the imperial capital has to offer!

The chants, once divided into several different incantations, come together to form a single harmony or such intensity that even I can feel its power.  A strange, silvery liquid is starting to appear in the arena’s center, growing like a puddle in a rainstorm.  Its sheen reflects the light of the moons into a rainbow of color as it covers the entirety of the floor.  Wait… it can’t be… I remember hearing about something like this when I was just a boy…

ice cave

Forms begin to emerge from the strange substance, forming first into the icy pillars of the frozen wastes, then shifting to reveal jets of steam from the reefs!  All at once the silvery material shifts to become the red-orange hue of burning magma!  It must be!  Illuria’s wizards have created a pool of liquid magic that covers the entirety of the battle area!  Even a drop of such a substance is rare beyond belief, so to conjure such an amount… well… it should be all but impossible!

A single large sphere rises from the pool like a perfect bubble, slowly melting away as it rises, and revealing the tournament master at last.  His voice tonight carries across the hushed crowd, steady and unyielding as the stone.

“Every one of you has born witness to one of the greatest magics our glorious Empire is capable of tonight.”

The chanting of the mages continues, seeming somewhat muted in comparison to the Master’s words.

“I promised you that tonight would be a battle that would never be forgotten did I not?”  He shouts his words as he continues, each syllable stirring the crowd ever more.  “Only here will you see the ever changing world of Limbo!  The powers of the very planes, realities of which many of you have never even thought to dream of, has been brought to this place, for this final battle!”

As the audience begins to realize the gravity of this truth, they begin to shout out in amazement at the sight before them.  Before long the entire crowd is on their feet, celebrating the power of the Empire, and reveling in the privilege of witnessing such a spectacular feat!

“While this alone may amaze, excite, and perhaps even terrify some of you, these powers are not what you came here to see!  You came to see the Razor Fiends and the Magma Serpent battle for the supreme title of Grand Champion!”

The ground quakes with the excitement of everyone in attendance.  The very walls of the arena tremble as feet stomp, voices raise, and hands clap in ecstatic agreement.  The western area of the arena floor shifts and grows, its silvery sheen changing as it forms itself into rocky walls of obsidian and granite.  The glow of magma can be seen amidst what can only be a section of the magma caverns!  At the far edge a small pool of the magic forms itself into a long, snake-like shape.  As its sheen solidifies the magma serpent within roars its greeting to the cheering crowd!

At the opposite side of the arena floor the liquid magic forms itself into the tall, vine-tangled trees of the jungle!  It appears almost identical to the previously seen battleground, with one notable exception: a small plateau rises from the easternmost edge of the terrain!  Silvery crystals gather atop it, moving of their own volition to form two beautiful forms.  In a burst of movement, they break free of their quicksilver chrysalis and stretch their wings, revealing the twin Razor Fiends!

“Tonight’s combatants need no introduction, but they have more than each other to worry about this evening.  They very ground on which they stand will change before your very eyes.  They must defeat the battleground itself on their way to claim victory!  Let the battle begin!”

The Battle Begins

Illusion fields flare into life as the magma serpent slithers into a nearby lava flow, swimming east through the liquefied rock.  Almost immediately the lava begins to freeze, turning melted stone into solid ice in an instant!  The serpent races down the flow, trying desperately to stay ahead of the freeze that follows only inches behind, and getting close with every passing second!  Out of the lava bursts the snake, pulling its tail from the flow only an instant before it freezes solid!

Across the battlefield the Razor Fiends launch themselves into the air, gliding above the trees as they search out their prey.  Tentacles from strange, sentient plants lash out into the air without warning, seeking to bring the glittering constructs crashing down to the jungle floor!  With uncanny grace both creatures manage to weave through the barrage, their sharp eyes turning earthward as their foe exits its hiding spot in the magma below.  One of the twins remains aloft, surrounding itself with reflections born of mirrored light, while the other descends, closing on its prey like an eagle diving towards a snake.

Only seconds before the sharp talons of the Fiend reach its opponent a pillar of solid ice bursts forth from underneath the serpent!  A half dozen other pillars erupt from the ground as the fiery construct is carried several dozen feet aloft, forcing the diamond creature to veer off to avoid crashing into the ice.  Amazingly, the lava snake maintains its balance on the already melting ice, and coils itself up, ready for the inevitable attack of its opponents.

The terrain below them begins to disintegrate!  Beginning from the eastern edge and moving like a living wave the entire battleground, everything but the pillars themselves, turns to sand and falls to the ground!  Small swirls of what I can only imagine to be quicksand can be seen scattered throughout the arena floor.

With incredible speed the Fiends descend upon the stranded construct, teeth and claws bared.  Yet the serpent is faster still, its head snapping out and locking onto the first of its opponents.  After a struggle, the Razor Fiend manages to free itself, diamonds falling from the serpent’s mouth as it does so.  Its twin swoops in, attempting to slice through the stony hide of its distracted enemy, but comes in too low, sliding on the slick ice and barely ducking below the lash of the serpent’s tail as it slides over the opposite edge of the pillar and spreads its wings to take flight once again with one less image masking its true location.

Water erupts from the swirling quick sand as coral forms throughout the arena, creating a mazelike battleground in just a few moments as it quickly fills with water!  Two of the pillars erupt in a blast of intense steam, and a red glow can be seen building within the others, including the pillar on which the serpent stands!

Fearless amidst the chaos, the Magma Serpent unleashes a blast of scalding hot steam from its jaws, spraying up into the sky at its attackers, but scoring little more than a glancing blow on one of them.  In return both Razor Fiends slice down through the air to attack.  A flurry of claws and teeth sends stone and magma flying away, trailing smoke as they sail through the air, until the battleground itself responds to with a fury.

All of the remaining pillars burst into a jet of steam and intense heat, sending melting pieces of ice soaring into the stands!  All three combatants are caught in the eruption, and though the serpent takes little damage, the effect on the Fiends is obvious, as diamond chips fall from their hides.  In response the flying constructs rise high above the arena floor, even as the serpent plunges into the rising water with, the water around it boiling as it descends to the floor, fully submerged.

For a moment the terrain remains steady, the water level steadily rising.  Our combatants too, wait for the next shift as the serpent coils itself in preparation and the Fiends hover high above, poising for a devastating dive.  A moment later the water disappears completely!  The growing coral turns to sand once again and covers the arena floor.  The opportunity they’ve been waiting for has arrived, and the Razor Fiends descend with a vengeance, streaking down towards their prey, and into another blast of the serpent’s breath weapon!

The leading Fiend crumbles, the magic animating its form utterly disrupted by the power of the serpent’s breath, but its angle had been perfect, and still it descends!  The full force of the Fiend’s weight, amplified by the momentum of the dive slams down onto the Magma Serpent, burying it in a pile of diamond and sand!

But still the creature lives!  It surges from the debris, sending rubble flying in every direction as it moves through the sand of the battleground’s current incarnation, only to be met by the second of the descending Fiends.  Teeth bit down, trying in vain to penetrate the snake’s stone hide.  Claws slash, tearing at the rock, but leaving little lasting damage in their wake.

In an attempt to escape the onslaught the serpentine construct dives into a nearby sand dune, burying itself and disappearing from site.  Having temporarily lost its prey, the remaining diamond creature returns to the skies, knowing that its enemy cannot harm it from the ground… yet the arena itself seems to have other ideas.

Across the battlefield, large sections of ground are breaking free from the arena floor and rising into the air!  There are three, now four such islands, each roughly twenty feet in diameter with sand running off of every edge!  The mages have truly outdone themselves tonight!

The Magma Serpent is revealed as the sand flows over the side, coiled up once again and ready to receive an attack from its opponent, though it is nowhere to be seen… In a rush of movement the remaining Fiend swoops up the opposite side of the island and attacks the serpent from behind!  Its jaws clamp down and rip off a chunk of stone from the creature’s hardened hide before launching itself back into the air, trying to get clear before the counter-attack comes.

Yet the serpent is quick at adapting, and turns towards the fleeing construct, coiling up and launching itself through the air towards its attacker!  Its body wraps around the winged creature as it bites down on its head, damaging a wing and carrying it to another nearby island, floating scores of feet above the ground!

Struggling against the tightening coils of the snake that has entrapped it, the Razor Fiend opens its mouth wide, and bites down hard on the neck of its opponent, grinding its teeth against the stone, even as the lava within the construct begins to flow out!  After a moment, the serpent collapses into a heap of rubble, lava seeping out from every opening, smoke rising from its remains.

Thunderous applause shakes the stadium as the crowd leaps to its feet!  Celebration mixes with cries of outrage at the victory of Alchemy and the Razor Fiends!  I can’t believe it!  The odds were against the twin Fiends, but they managed to pull out a victory, quite literally from the jaws of defeat; and amidst the ever shifting battlefield as well!  Simply incredible!

Wait… the Magma Serpent… its reforming!  Shouts from the audience voice accusations of cheating and cries of surprise!  Realizing something is wrong, the winged Fiend turns and, seeing the rising snake it takes off into the air once more.

Apparently, the action isn’t over yet, and the battlefield is responding once again!  One of the islands disintegrated into a rain of silvery liquid!  There’s no telling how long the others will hold together before the terrain shifts again!

Not waiting to find out what form the arena will take next, the Razor Fiend, its body crumbling and one wing damaged, soars in, its teeth and claws tearing at the reformed serpent with abandon, leaving smoking rivets in the stone where acid from its attacks falls!  Before the snake can respond it pushes off of the serpentine body and takes to the sky once more.

A third blast of steam is unleashed from the fiery snake as the winged beast pushes away, only its agility, and no small bit of luck, prevents it from total destruction!  The Razor Fiend spins in the air, swooping around the cone of steam and turning to face its opponent, hovering in the air… waiting.

Another island transforms into liquid magic as the two competitors each wait for the other to act first.  It’s obvious that the rebuilt serpent, much more ragged than its previous incarnation, can’t survive the sixty foot fall to the ground, so it MUST act.  And it does, launching itself through the air once more in hopes of grappling with its enemy and sending it spiraling to the ground to its death!

Ready for just such an assault, the winged Fiend deftly dodges and clamps its claws around the narrow body of the attacking construct and clamping them down so tight that drops of magma fall from the innards of the serpent’s form!  Without a moment’s hesitation the winged creature dives headlong for the ground, slicing through the air with all the speed it can must, and holding the writhing serpent before it.

Both creations slam into the ground with such force that the ground can be felt shaking even at this distance!  Cracks can be seen in the very bedrock of the arena floor as the dust from the impact clears.  Only one walks away from a maneuver like that.  Climbing out of the impact crater comes the sparkling form of the last survivor in this year’s tournament.  One wing is shattered into nothingness alongside its left foreleg.  Cracks can be seen riddling its entire body and the magic holding it together has weakened almost to its breaking point.

The whole of the arena waits in silence to see if the serpent will rise up again.  After several moments pass the whole of the stadium erupts in deafening cheers!  The Tournament Master appears, signaling the true end to the final battle.


“Did I not tell you that this would be a battle that would be remembered!?!”  His words thunder over the cheers of the audience as their exuberance builds ever greater.  “The Razor Fiends have triumphed in a match unlike any other the tournament has ever seen!  They have defeated the Magma Serpent, and the living mind of the battleground itself to claim the title of Grand Champion!”

He pauses a moment, absorbing the exhilarating intensity generated by those gathered within the arena.

“In just a few days’ time, we will be holding the closing ceremonies for the 101st Tournament of Souls.  It is there that the Emperor himself has chosen to bestow upon our victor the title his creations have fought so valiantly to attain!  Citizen Alchemy, you have my congratulations on your victory.”  He turns back to the crowd, sweeping his arms open to address them all.  “The battles have ended, but the celebrations have only begun!  This is a night that will live on in the memory of our city for centuries to come!  Enjoy your celebrations!”

As his final words are spoken, the entirety of the magical battleground, and the Tournament Master himself, dissolve into a pool of liquid silver.  One by one the mages lower their arms and the pool recedes, disappearing into nothingness in a matter of minutes.


2 Responses so far.

  1. preston purnell says:

    Celebrating with the citizens Alchemy gives one more child a great hug, he turns to the see if lady ignatia is with in sight. With a grand smile ipon his face he draws from his ever present cigar and congratulates first the mages on their impressive work on the battlefields and then offers a congratulatory nod toward ignatia and her shattered serpent. Well done lady he says, but i do belive my fossils have risen to the ocasion. Alchemy then turns to the crowd. With a flurishing bow and sweeping his hat before him he says thank you all for your support for your cheering im sure pushed the fiends to their limits. In return i offer a round of the finest ale and a meal from the finest inns. Let this be our first of many celebrations. With a grin alchemy turns to spot ignatia again. And lady do join, i think we could devise a many of grand creations if we were to put our heads together. Once again i thank you all for your support and thank you all for allowing us to participate in such a grand event.

  2. GrandLordThoth says:

    Taking a stand he claps vigorously “What a show!”

Leave a Reply