Round one of the author gladiatorial challenge went to Brian, as he turned a battle with a barbed devil into an existential discussion of shoes. But Declan turned in a fantastic entry as well, so both contestants move along to stage two!
The crowd erupts as our hero stands over the fallen corpse of the barbed devil. Weary and wary, she pauses to catch her breath. The Gamelord oozes dark mirth as he joins in with lazy applause of his own. Clearly he has more planned for her. Suddenly the torches go out. A moment later, the stars themselves go dark. As the applause fades to silence, so does our hero’s vision.
She awakens some time later. She isn’t sure how long it’s been, but she’s feeling strangely refreshed. Her small cell features no windows and no obvious light fixtures. There is but a single, simple door, but it closes tight with no cracks. Even so, the room is strangely well lit. She rises from the hard bed and gathers her belongings. Testing at the door, she finds that it opens easily.
She steps out of the room into a sewer of sorts. At least, that’s what it smells like. The same strange, pale ambient light fills the corridors. Water and muck line the floors. Still, it beats staying in a cage. The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape. She steps out into the catacombs.
She hears the dark laughter of the Gamelord, but she can’t place the source. Then, across the hallway, she sees it. The gelatinous cube approaches. Ten feet to a side, green in tint, it moves toward her, slowly and silently. Bones and remains are visible through the translucent gel, as well as strange objects: a tennis racket; a pair of running shoes; a stop sign. The creature closes in, blocking our hero’s only escape.
Our second challenge is a Gelatinous Cube.
One of the dungeon’s most unusual and specialized predators, gelatinous cubes spend their existence mindlessly roaming dungeon halls and dark caverns, swallowing up organic material such as plants, refuse, carrion, and even living creatures. Materials the cube cannot digest, such as metal and stone, can eventually fill up the creature’s mass with such detritus, and at times the creature may excrete some of this material out of its body. Often the treasure and possessions of past victims remain inside the gelatinous cube, leaving a ghostly impression of their material remains.
As before, both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.
If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer and Declan Finn’s Honor at Stake are both well worth the purchase.
Mr. Finn gets points for lots of guns and explosions, as well as having a heroine who leaps around more than Yoda on crack. He gets bonus points for having a vampire use holy water as a weapon. Very creative. And the throwaway line about dating Gary Gygax was priceless.
Mr. Niemeier scores for the battle of the telepathic minds, as well as liquid fire. You can’t go wrong with liquid fire. Plus, bonus points for a character who has River Tam level grasps on sanity.
The winner of round 1? This one was hard to judge. Both entries literally made me laugh out loud from the awesome. It’s going to have to go to Brian for transforming a gladiatorial cage match into an existentialist discussion of shoes.
Tomorrow we announce the challenge for round two!
A while back I posted about open submissions for Silver Empire‘s next major project, Lyonesse. Now that I’ve finished up a few other projects (including publishing Silver Empire’s first novel and merging two dojos together), we’re ramping up Lyonesse to full production.
If you sent us a submission for Lyonesse, we probably got it. I will be sending out responses over the next two weeks. If we accepted your submission, you will be getting an NDA agreement. Sign it and we’ll be letting you in on what we’re actually up to. If we didn’t accept your submission, I will let you know. If you haven’t heard back from me by Monday, September 12, then I probably didn’t get your submission and you should try sending it again.
We are still looking for submissions! We’ve had some great ones, but we need more. This is a pretty large project, and it will also be ongoing. So if you have them, send them over. You can find the official submission guidelines here.
What is Lyonesse?
We’re still not quite ready to lay it all out. But here are a few things I can tell you. Lyonesse is not a magazine, and bears only the thinnest resemblance to that model. Neither is it a retread of the magazine concept, shoehorned onto the web. Lyonesse is conceived with the digital age in mind, and is built for the internet era. Lyonesse will be very price competitive – you’ll be getting a lot out of your entertainment dollars. Yet even so, Lyonesse is very author friendly. We’re here to support your favorite authors, not exploit them. There will be no print edition of Lyonesse itself. Dead trees are so twentieth century. There will, however, be semi-annual roundups into traditional anthologies that will be available on Amazon, and may be available in print.
Look for more information throughout the month of September. And if we stay on track, look for our Kickstarter project to launch in early October. Stay tuned – this is about to get exciting!
Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry ran earlier this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.
The Barbed Devil charges with a mighty Infernal oath to bring this chaotic aberration to heel.
In the cool of the night, the devil’s heat shines as bright as day to Astlin’s fiery eyes. She’s not sure what to make of the onrushing foe until the image of a man’s face painted on a broken shield lying half-buried in the sand speaks to her with the voice of a derelict whose mind she consumed years ago.
“He doesn’t believe in your shoes.”
Hearing that the devil doubts her shoes’ existence deeply perturbs Astlin. It’s not as if they aren’t right there on her feet for everyone to see.
Wait. Are they?
She looks down at the toes of her black, sturdy boots. Yes. This guy must be crazy.
The Barbed Devil’s charge has carried him halfway across the arena. Sand sprays and bones crunch under his spiny feet.
He’s not wearing any shoes. Is that why he doesn’t believe in hers? Because he’s never worn them?
Astlin decides that the best way to prove her shoes’ existence is for the devil to try them on. She bends down to undo the complex series of buckles and fasteners that connect her boots to her armor.
No sooner are Astlin’s boots detached from her leggings than the Barbed Devil knocks her right out of them. The force of the impact surprises her, and she topples onto the sand under her shoe-doubting foe.
The devil furiously rakes Astlin with his razor-sharp claws. Most of the attacks fail to pierce her strong leather armor and stronger brass skin, but some of the barbs scratch her still human face, drawing molten brass blood.
Being infused with positive energy, the Worked liquid metal irritates the devil, making him rear back. Astlin uses the distraction to roll out from under him. In her hurry to stand, she slips and falls prone on the soft arena floor. She sees her boots lying nearby and crawls toward them.
The fingers of Astlin’s outstretched hand are about to brush against her boots when a glowing cage of pure energy surrounds her. The devil’s deep, mocking laughter cuts her as no blade can.
Anger stokes the Fire in Astlin’s soul. She lunges forward, and her transessed body’s resistance to Workings shatters the glowing cage. She seizes the boots, and the diabolical laughter stops.
The devil is on her back in an instant, pressing her face into the sand with inhuman strength. Enraged beyond words, its telepathic curses flood her mind.
This guy’s a telepath, too? Wow! This whole time Astlin thought she was the only one. Eager to show off her skill with the power they share, Astlin projects all of her thoughts and memories into the devil’s mind. He tries to resist for some reason, but it turns out that he’s not nearly as good at this as she is.
The devil doesn’t seem to like Astlin sharing her mind with him as much as she thought he would. He screams, throws himself off her, and keeps screaming while rolling around in the sand.
Astlin gleans from their telepathic bond that this guy comes from hell. She’s surprised and a little disappointed to learn that nothing he’s seen there is as bad as what happened to her.
Oh well. Serves him right for interrupting her.
What was she doing again?
Oh yeah. Shoes.
Astlin sits down on the devil’s back. He struggles but can’t do much more than writhe under the weight of what’s basically a living brass statue. She takes her boots in one hand.
You’re supposed to start with the dominant foot. Is this guy right-handed? Probably a safe bet. She grabs his right ankle. Sharp spines cover that, too, but her gloves are up to the job.
Her first attempt to put the shoe on the devil’s foot reveals a problem. Astlin’s feet are way smaller than this guy’s. She snaps off spines, and the devil howls. Still won’t fit. This is gonna take something more drastic.
Having his foot crushed down to half size drives all reason from the devil’s mind. His spear-like tail stabs out and impales Astlin through her right eye.
Astlin’s scream joins the devil’s in a nightmarish chorus. In a spasm of pain, she accidentally rips his foot from his ankle. Positively charged molten brass eats through the tip of his tail, leaving a cauterized stump behind.
In her agonized fury, Astlin jumps up. All of her weight comes crashing down on the devil’s head, squashing it like a melon. Black blood sizzles on her brass feet as she squishes grey matter between her toes. The stench of a burned corpse rises on the night air.
The devil’s barbs rattle like dry, bare brush in the wind; then go still.
Molten metal drips from Astlin’s eye socket onto the sand, where it cools into shiny amber drops. She steps off the devil’s dead body and lets its blood and brains burn off her feet before donning her boots again.
A single question haunts the souldancer: do her shoes really exist? Now she may never know.
Declan Finn is the author of the Pius Man Trilogy as well as the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stake. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Brian’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.
Amanda Colt walked into the arena, and all she could think was What the hell am I doing here?
Her eyes narrowed as she looked over the battlefield, and cataloged what she could – piece of sword, piece of armor, piece of lance, piece of … person.
When I am done here, I need to eat someone. Preferably whoever’s in charge. Can’t kill the author. He has to finish writing the book. Stupid Dragon Award…
On the other side of the arena came the hell beast, and did a quick inventory: four knives, holy water, enough phials to make things interesting, two calf holsters, and a sword. She knew her opening move, since the creature had only four areas of attack. She could see three, and adjust. But there were two obvious opening moves for the creature in front of her.
The creature broke lose. At the speed of an eye blink, Amanda drew her sword, thrusting it behind her, into thin air. When the barbed devil teleported behind her, it materialized around the sword.
The displaced air made a sound like bampf, and Amanda threw herself forward, pulling the sword out as she leaped.
“Ha!” she cried as she spun to face the seven foot demon. “I dated Gary Gygax … in … the … oh darn.”
The devil looked like a gamma-irradiated porcupine; and while she concluded correctly that its teleportation ability would bring it behind her (or above, that was an option), she probably just pissed it off.
The devil threw itself after Amanda with full blitzkrieg speed, as she backpedaled just as fast. Her sword flicked out, trying to discourage it from engaging with her, but she knew that if she got close enough to hurt it, her day was going to really suck.
She reached behind her, grabbing the first of the phials, and grimaced. This thing was fast enough to dodge most of what she threw at it. This was going to hurt.
Amanda thrust forward with the sword, and the devil knocked it aside with one claw, and grabbed Amanda’s sword arm with the other. The demonic barbs ribbed into muscle and bone, and she cried out. She went limp as the demon hoisted her by the arm, and grinned down at her.
She decided she was high enough as the devil poised its claws to eviscerate her. Then she smashed the 100 ml phial of holy water into its maw.
The glass shattered, splashing the devil. At the speed she threw it, shattered glass made little cuts in the skin, which didn’t react well to the holy water on the open wounds. There was a sizzling, crackling sound, and she expected to smell something like sulfur, but she didn’t get a chance. The devil roared in pain, but didn’t let go of Amanda’s arm, throwing her around like a rag doll. It slammed her against the ground once or twice, and she expected it to say “Puny vampire.”
Amanda started to turn to mist, starting with the captured arm. The sleeve tore, and she lost her sword, but she was free.
She was hurled a hundred feet across the arena, but she was free.
She groaned as she pushed herself to her feet. She had bounced over several broken weapons, including several spears that had left splinters in her back. But she had bigger problems. It was starting to shake off the last attack like it was just annoyed.
Amanda reached and slit the sides of her jeans with her fingernails. She needed quick access to her calf holsters. Given how far away it was, it had two options. She dropped to one knee, feeling the ground while keeping an eye on the devil. She found a piece of old armor, and the hilt of a sword.
It turned and glared at her, and she was certain it wasn’t going to transport again.
She leaped to one side and hurled both the ancient weapon and armor, just a split second before the scorching ray lashed out and laid waste to the area she’d been. The armor piece hit like a discus and the broken blade jabbed it in the arm, but that just made it blink. Less a matter of pain, and more like “Where did this come from?”
She hurled any discarded detritus on the ground – partial spear, a ribcage. The devil just lashed out again. She dove out of the way, but it still caught her on the side. It blasted her across the field, and she deliberately rolled to put out the blaze before she made an ash out of herself.
Amanda grabbed the H&K-PDW in her left calf holster, yanking it out, and spraying it right at the devil. It flinched, like multiple bees were stabbing into it.
She didn’t empty the magazine before she reloaded. She reached down, grabbed the next PDW. Knowing it had to close with her, she leaped straight up into the air, 20 feet off the ground, before it bampfed.
The beast bampfed right underneath her, only six feet off the ground, attempting to attack her above her previous position. She pointed her left gun straight down, blasting down into devil’s skull. She landed on it, feet first, plowing it into the ground.
It bounced back. It’s right hand burst into flame. She dropped her empty left gun and grabbed its wrist. The tail lashed out and wrapped around her waist, slowly crushing and cutting into her. The left hand slashed down, overhanded. Amanda blocked it with her right forearm.
The devil looked at her, and tried to burrow into her mind.
She glared. “I … am … vampire!”
She rotated her arm, making the attack slide down her right side. She jammed the PDW into the devil’s mouth, and held down the trigger. Thirty rounds of armor piercing bullets punched through the back of the devil’s mouth, and out its head.
The devil’s fire went out, and the muscles relaxed as it fell over. Amanda dropped to her knees, exhausted. “I need more blood if I do this again.”
The nominees have been announced for the first annual Dragon Awards! You can hop over to the page and see the full list for yourself, but I’d like to call out my friends John C. Wright, Declan Finn, and Brian Niemeier on their nominations!
However, this does lead me to a serious conundrum. My friends Declan and Brian received nominations in the same category! Whom to vote for?
There is only one solution – an author gladiator contest!
Here’s how it works:
Each author picks a character of his choice from his nominated work. That character enters the arena, prepared to do battle with whatever creature I (as the GM) throw at them. Each character will face the same creatures. The author must write out his character’s response in 1000 words or less. The submission must show the final exchange of blows – but it must also leave off the results of that exchange. That is for the GM to decide. There is no time limit, except that if the authors wish to encourage fans to vote for them for the Dragon Awards… well, they only have until voting closes for that.
I will announce the creature here for each round. Each author will then e-mail me their submission (at their own pace), and it will face the judgment of the GM. I will judge entries based on creativity, over-the-topness (a plus, not a negative!), plausibility (only a minor part of the total score), and sheer awesomeness. We shall go best two out of three – so if there is a clear winner after round two, we won’t have a third. But I, for one, will be awfully disappointed if we have a clear winner after two rounds.
The authors shall own all rights to the submitted works except for granting me the right to post them here on this blog.
Let the games begin!