Dreadlords Death Lotto

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Kristen was quite glad that Perla and Kash knew what the strange game before them even was. She looked down at the crossing lines, the X's, the O's, and found herself baffled—she had not seen something of its like before, even if it was simple. And this marked the first time in the Academy that her noble birth and upbringing actually brought her some measure of embarrassment; my, she had received a quality education from a young age, a privilege not afforded to many, but here she was, perplexed at the sight of the game while Perla and Kash were both knowledgeable of it.

A humbling occasion, this! Caeso, she suspected, would be chafed, but here it was clearly that noble blood was not an advantage in all cases.

"I hope you are right," Kristen said to Kash after his elaboration following Perla's preamble. "I can only imagine what...erm...'safeguards' Proctor Ebersol might have set up should we choose the wrong spot in which to dig."

Kristen had found out one such safeguard earlier, hadn't she? The window and its searing retaliation against being the easy way out of her poisoned room.

Kristen went and fetched a shovel (a tiny bit of manure clinging to the tip of it) and brought it back. "I would be happy to risk the digging myself, but..." Sheepishly, she looked between Perla and Kash, "...which space is supposed to be the winning space again? Ha, ha...ha."

Pointing to it would be the best.

Perla Irven Kashif Al'Adonastra Everleigh Ebersol
Caeso would have been happy to apply any amount of force to get this over with more quickly. Sadly, it seemed the wretched fox was unsatisfied with anything in the kitchen.

Lumen offered a cup of coffee, and Caeso took her up on it. A small comfort at this dreadful hour and during this dreadful test, especially now that their venture had turned out to be for naught. "Yes, that would be splendid."

Zinnia called herself stupid for not getting, but Caeso disagreed immensely. Why should it be so that "so hungry he could eat a horse" was in fact the correct answer over any of the other possible interpretations one could derive from the letter? Was this, the dining hall, not the place every Initiate went after a long mission, returning to the Academy practically starving? He, Zinnia, and Lumen were all well within the realm of good sense to think it to be so. Yet this just showed how inane this whole exercise was, didn't it? Nothing of any true value would come of this, but what else could be expected of a would-be Proctor whose only qualification was the desperation of the Academy following disaster?

Caeso, after accepting the cup of coffee from Lumen, said with scornful resignation, "Then let us go and see what other arbitrary 'tests' have been set up to waste our valuable time."

Lumen Zinnia
Perla listened to Kash's theory, which made sense to her. She hadn't read the letter so she didn't know much about the original wording but the fellow initiate had already done that part of the work. The both of them held a stone in their hands, ready to dig.

"Should be the last box on the right, that unfilled space." Perla stated pointing to it for Kristen, "If it isn't there, we could always dig elsewhere."

She wondered if there would be consequences for just a minor bit of guessing... but guessing was never a bad thing. Plenty of discoveries in magic had been made through chance. She mildly wondered if the others had discovered something or if they had been lead to dead ends. And a part of her, a very small part, was excited for the next puzzle.

"I wonder what we will be facing next." She mumbled to herself.

Kristen Pirian Kashif Al'Adonastra Everleigh Ebersol
"Right," she tipped her cup of coffee with a little bit of chocolate syrup toward Zinnia. "To the stables then." She'd offer Zinnia and Caeso each their own mug to go as she took hers, tempted to slip in some sort of calming herb for Caeso. Too bad Zaire wasn't around. The fox following along. Lumen absently patted the construction's head as they headed back out of the kicked-down door from Caeso and back outside.

Back across the lawn, though her eyes more alert with the boost of caffeine.

"And I don't think you're stupid, Zinnia. That was the whole point of splitting up so we could tackle more places at once. We just happened to be wrong. Could've easily happened to the other group, too." A small shrug as she took another sip.

"I wonder where Aelita is by now..."
Last box on the right. The unfilled space. That was conspicuous enough, she supposed. And now that Perla had mentioned it, Kristen could see how the progression of this quaint game had went from left to right. Well...could mostly see it anyway.

Kristen planted the blade of the shovel into the dirt where instructed.

"Should this by chance go awry," Kristen said, "mayhap it would be best if you and Kashif were to give yourselves some distance?"

Delicately at first, her vigor stayed by the unpleasant memory of the exploding rune on the window, Kristen was slow to start. But then she started to dig, and dig, intent on finding whatever might be buried. Or finding out, through one way or another, that this was the precise wrong spot in which to do so.

Perla Irven Kashif Al'Adonastra Everleigh Ebersol
Once Kristen dung out at least four-inches into the ground, a violet, ephemeral snake shot up from seemingly nowhere. It looked as if it were flying towards Kristen’s face, it’s mouth parted wide and inch-long fangs waiting to pierce through skin.

Instead, it poofed into a dull violet haze, wrapping around Kristen’s face until she breathed it in. Perla, due to being in such close range, was also subjected to the poison.

Kristen would be sensitive to sound and light, even at normal volumes. A headache would slowly begin to build its way up to her forehead.

For Perla, it seemed the poison had affected differently, causing her to pass out and be out of the game.

Kristen Pirian Kashif Al'Adonastra Perla Irven Zinnia Caeso Diemut Aelita Kor Lumen
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Right. Right, that was the point of splitting up, wasn't it? To cover more ground, to ensure someone passed this little trial. Even still, she could feel that drive to succeed welling up within her. Especially given present company.

Zinnia took the proffered coffee graciously and downed a hearty gulp of it. The caffeine worked quickly, the tingling sensation it wrought on her body driving her enthusiasm to even greater heights. She'd have to be careful about that.

"Th-thank you, Lumen." She murmured with a smile, both for the drink and the encouragement. Maybe Zinnia really could trust Lumen...maybe they'd be faster friends than just sisters among the initiates. Zinnia would've liked that. Zinnia took another decisive gulp of her coffee.

"It w-won't be a waste if we w-win, Caeso. Let's get m-moving!" She insisted, a bit more confident than usual, then made for the exit that would put them nearest the stables. They had some catching up to do.
Kristen immediately dropped the shovel and stumbled back, first thinking that she was under attack by a wild animal at the sudden sight of the snake, and then in a panic as she breathed in the violet gas. A horse in its stall behind her whinnied, and she nearly jumped at the sound—Blessed Aionus was it loud!

Coughing didn't help. It was already too late.

Kristen, nevertheless, still waved her hands in front of her face. "What was that? I thought this was the correct place in which to dig!"

Kashif Al'Adonastra Lumen Zinnia
Win, Zinnia said.

But perhaps the terminology was right. This did have more the essence of a game rather than a standard test. Yet even so, he disagreed. What triumph was there even for the 'winners'? For all they will have won is this inane game, and no closer to mastery of their talents and their purpose as a Dreadlord will they have come. His sleep was more valuable than this.

Caeso kept this thoughts to himself, and followed in the wake of the two girls.

* * * * *​

By the time they reached the Stables, Caeso had finished all of that coffee.

They were also just in time to see Kristen eat a face-full of poison.

Caeso stopped by the entrance, turned toward Zinnia and particularly Lumen and said flatly (and perhaps a little at the expense of Kristen's misfortune for the sake of dry humor), "Seems we weren't wrong in choosing the dining hall first."

Lumen Zinnia Kashif Al'Adonastra
"Caeso," Lumen admonished quietly, wishing there was something she could do for Kristen and Perla. But she was no healer. She saw Perla still breathed. That was good. They weren't letting Proctors kill students again.

Her fox avatar trotted over to where the others were, yipped and pawed the ground and disappeared.

"Definitely the right place," Lu muttered as if it wasn't already obvious, She set her empty coffee mug on one of the barrels of hay and walked over to study the note. A glance to the apparantly wrong spot the others were digging in.

"So it seems we should dig where one should've won...on second thought," Lu turned back to Caeso. "Can you just use your power to lift the dirt everywhere? Why waste our time? I think we can stay a safe distance away from the booby traps using your magic."

It was a gamble.
For all the trouble Zinnia had in her daily life, she was thankful not to have the rotten streak of misfortune that Kristen Pirian carried with her. It like she was walking proof that noble blood did not equate to superiority. Part of Zinnia felt some sympathy for her as she tumbled backwards, hacking all the way; however, another more dominant part of her had to stifle laughter at Caeso's comment, in spite of Lumen's scolding.

As Perla crumpled to the ground, out like a light, Zinnia actually marked herself thankful that she and her group had detoured through the mess hall. They had a boost of energy on their side, as well as Lumen's quick thinking and Caeso's undeniable might. Hopefully Zinnia could hold on to their alliance as long as she could. With the limited scope of her own abilities she doubted she could meet their pace on her own.

"T-that could work, though Ms. Ebersol's sn-snakes seem to h-have a bit of a m-mind...if we b-break all the wrong sp-spots at once, they might all come r-rushing at us." Zinnia pondered aloud, taking a moment to examine the hint and the puzzle itself. "The other option w-would be to t-try our own hands at solving it. I-I'm not sure what the l-logic was behind d-digging up the middle r-right square on the l-last puzzle, b-but Ms. Ebers-sol's puzzles don't s-seem to always make perfect s-sense. My th-thought would have been t-top middle, but who knows if sh-she intended for the th-third or fourth drawing to be c-correct?"

Zinnia glanced to Caeso. "Wh-what do you think? Uprooting everything w-would certainly be less of a, um...'w-waste of time'..."
While Kristen was beset with a coughing fit, and therefore couldn't add her say, Caeso took Lumen's counsel as the most efficient move. And what of the threat of this so-called Proctor's paltry poison snakes? Were they not all well-equipped to defeat such meager conjurations, especially if they knew (thank you for your contribution, Pirian) they were coming?

"My vote is certainly to uproot this entire vapid assembly and be done with it." He crossed his arms, and singled out Zinnia with a hard glance. "Unless you want to try your guess, play into the asinine logic of Proctor Ebersol, and see how you are rewarded for your efforts. Then go ahead."

He expected a vigorous and wise "no" from his fellow Initiate on the matter. All would be for the better, and then this riddle could be obliterated like the rubbish it was.

"I..." Zinnia hesitated. It seemed that Caeso was confident in uprooting everything at once, and he did have a point about their newest, youngest proctor's logic not being the most consistent thing in the world thus far. More than that, however, Zinnia really didn't want to embarrass herself like Kristen just had.

Not in front of him, anyways.

Her cheeks reddened.
"N-no, you're right. Show 'em who's b-boss, Caeso, wipe the wh-hole thing out!" She encouraged him with a grin. Besides, if years of training had taught her anything it was that sometimes Dreadlords needed to think outside the box. Or just, you know, destroy the box entirely. Surely this wouldn't backfire.
Kristen certainly didn't have a solution of her own to offer. And what would it have been if she did, lacking knowledge of the quaint game as it was? Little more than a random guess, that was what.

Her eyes and ears were especially sensitive after having been poisoned, but when Caeso dropped a heavy hand on her shoulder and her whole body rocked, she thought she might have been a little weak in the knees as well. Or maybe that was just his strength?

Anyway, he started herding her along with the others. All the while she rubbed at her face, swallowed, coughed, and felt increasingly miserable.

Lumen Zinnia Everleigh Ebersol
"Then that settles it," Caeso said. This "test" perfectly befit the cavernous vacancy of the mind which spawned it, for where on Arethil would something like this even be remotely relevant? He was glad to have done with it—sooner rather than later.

"To the far door of the stables," Caeso said. And as he passed Kristen he plopped a hand down on her shoulder and guided her along, "That includes you, Pirian."

At the far door, the markings of the puzzle on the ground were only just visible from the distance and the angle. Perfect. "Lumen. Zinnia." He jerked a thumb at Kristen. "We know what to expect. Best we all be ready to counter."

And then, on the count of three...

"One. Two..."

Caeso conjured a dense pocket of pure Force above the puzzle in the stable, the air itself violently distorting as his magic came to be—a technique he called the "Hammerblow" to crush unsuspecting opponents. He dropped the hammer down, the pocket of Force shooting downward and impacting the ground with a reverberating BOOM.

Lumen Zinnia Everleigh Ebersol
Everleigh could feel a drain on her magic. A serious drain. She would have liked to say that she trusted these initiates to think a little more, but that was the point of the game, wasn’t it? To get them to actually think, and think quickly. So she couldn’t blame them for trying out different things, or trying to take shortcuts.

But just like real life, every action held a consequence. Sometimes you got a good consequences, other times it was a bad consequence. Regardless of the outcome, dreadlords had to stick by their decisions.

Mana potion.” She said, holding out a hand. Her face was pale, and currently she felt out of breath despite having been sitting down for awhile now. Her heart wouldn’t stop pounding and now she had a needling headache behind her eyes. A soreness in her bones, deep within that made her feel cold as if she were naked in snow. All she wanted to do was close her eyes, but before she could convince herself it would be okay to do so, she felt the mana potion in her hand. Everleigh uncorked it and gulped it down, hardly tasting the bitter and metallic taste.

She felt slightly better.

Caeso unleashed his hammer blow and the force shook everything in the area of this trial— even the stable walls shook from Caeso’s impressive might. The walls of hale bales reverberated, and while everything on the ground flew upwards, the stone ‘X’ at the beginning of the trial broke to pieces, revealing that it was hollow all along.

A key came out of it, and from a certain square that the initiates hadn’t picked, a small wooden box revealed itself.

Caeso’s might had worked in that it showed them all the pieces that they needed.

From every wrong square, a snake made of poison did spring out and would have jumped at Caeso, but because of the force, they were were blown away and left only a purple mist. A hale bale fell over.

A whizz and a snap could be heard, a nearly invisibly wire breaking. All along the maze, whether it was the walls created by the hay bales or underneath their feet was a crisscrossing web of these wires. They glowed and flashed a bright blue, and a electrical hum could be heard. Anyone in the maze would be shocked, and continued getting shocked until they were out of the maze completely.

Something Everleigh decided to steal from Vance after her painful experience in War Games. Although this spell nowhere near as potent at Vance’s electricity (the initiates were lucky in that regard.) Despite being less painful than what Everleigh experienced with Vance, the air hummed with this electrical charge and would shock any bare skin exposed to the air.

Not enough to scar, but enough to sting every nerve it could.

And there, a good amount of distance from Caeso, and especially the other initiates, laid the key and box.

Caeso Diemut Kristen Pirian Lumen Kashif Al'Adonastra Zinnia
Back at the statue, the BOOM from Caeso’s actions managed to reach Aelita’s ears.

Turning her head toward the direction of the maze, Aelita asked aloud, “What was that?

Regardless of Kor’s response, Aelita would stop her exercise and head over to the stables with her fox. She would wait at the entrance of the electrified maze.

Shield was up and helped to protect anyone close to her from any residual raining debris. When the dust began to settle and the air began to clear her shield arm lowered. Squinting gaze looked at where the tic-tac-toe pattern had been. A metallic glint caught her eye.

She only saw the key.

Just as the ground lit up beneath her feet as well as the hay bales and walls around them.


"OWW! OF ALL THINGS!" Pain lanced across her face as she took a step forward, then another, seeing if there was a way to walk in the small spaces between wires as her muscles seized up from the shocks.

"I saw a key," she grunted, forging forward, one painful step at a time.
One sizable explosion later the entire puzzle was pulled up by the roots. The violet, serpentine constructs that Everleigh was so fond of producing were all quite handily destroyed, and that same metallic glint that caught Lumen's eye caught Zinnia's as well.

Unfortunately there was another obstacle in the way now: a labyrinth of electrically charged wires, apparently. One that the group was now caught in. Zinnia smiled knowingly, the caffeine coursing through her inspiring a boost of confidence on top of the telltale rush of energy.

"I s-saw it too, f-fall back as s-safely as you can; I've g-got this!" She announced to both her and Caeso. What an absolutely perfect opportunity this was to show off for once.

While there was no discernable visual change, Zinnia focused and activated the core aspect of her magic that made the whole process tick: the "battery." As a matter of fact, lightning was usually very hard to come by and she'd had to expend a fair bit of what she had stored when she charged a few of her mortars back in Pernach. Not only would she be able to retrieve the key here, she'd be filling up her elemental battery as well!

Zinnia charged directly forward into the maze. What should have been jaw-clenching pain was instead reduced to a mildly uncomfortable tickle as the arcing electricity made contact with her skin. Even as the arcing, blue bolts danced along her skin they were being harmlessly absorbed into her. It only took a minute to find the box and key, which Zinnia snatched up before making her way back to the exterior of the maze of wires.

"See? N-no problem!" She beamed to her allies, a bit of residual electricity dancing along one of her eyebrows and down onto her nose. Zinnia sneezed as it did, and the little bolt discharged itself into the night air. She then began to pop the box open. "Let's s-see what's n-next."
Caeso certainly had not been expecting the danger to, instead of erupting from the site of the puzzle, come down all around them like a trap for an animal which had taken the bait.

"Out! Out!" Was all he managed to say. He was able to make a token gesture for grabbing at Kristen and Lumen (Zinnia, as had been readily witnesses in countless spars throughout the years, needed no such help for a hazard like this). But Caeso scarcely had one hand on Kristen's shoulder, his other decidedly short from the trudging Lumen, before the pain and convulsions of the crackling lightning gave him no other choice but to spasm and quiver. It was all he could do to turn himself around, to stagger in jerky, unsteady steps through the hay bales and eventually out from the stables entirely, whereupon he collapsed to his hands and knees, that great amount of exposed flesh sizzling and steaming still from the agonizing magic which had so assailed it.

Lumen Zinnia Everleigh Ebersol
Kristen had absolutely no idea how she made it out.

She remembered the whizz and the snap. She remembered Lumen shouting. She remembered Caeso's hand briefly on her shoulder and all else was a blur until, at last, her body wasn't covered in trembling agony and the bare chill of the night replaced the hair-raising static atmosphere of the electrified stables. Her night gown was scorched in several spots.

Kristen convulsed like a recently risen zombie. Took a few awkward steps. Replied to Zinnia, "Th-that's...n-n-n-nice."

And then fell flat on her face. Still convulsing.

Lumen Zinnia Everleigh Ebersol
When the key would be used to unlock the box, and when it was opened, there would be a few things inside. Crudely made wooden tokens from cheap, flimsy wood were the first things to be seen. Underneath these tokens was a piece of paper, neatly folded.

In Everleigh’s neat handwriting, it read:

Good job on completing all the puzzles up to this point, hopefully you’re the first to get this note. There’s twenty tokens in this box, but don’t hand them around just yet. The next trial is in front of the two weapon storage houses near the quad, you all should be familiar with them by now. The instructions for that trial will be found there.

Are the puzzles too easy? Too hard? Do you need a hint? There’s twenty coins in this box. Just like in real life, money is a useful tool. You can either share them amongst your friends, take them all for yourself or give them all away. The more tokens you have, the easier the trials will be. One of the last trials will utilize these tokens, so choose wisely.

Might I just add, if you’re all in groups and you’re the first group to complete this trial (I’m sure there’s a few initiates playing in the kitchens right now) then maybe you should toss this note away? Gives you better chances of winning if no one is right behind you.

Lumen Zinnia Caeso Diemut Kristen Pirian Aelita
Only once Lumen was sure Zinnia needed no help did she finally make the painful turn back. If anything, it looked like the maze's electrical field needed protection from Zinnia. And she might be losing it or her skin was already becoming too numb the further it was shocked but she could swear the shocks felt less as Zinnia forged ahead.

No yelps of pain left her mouth even though nothing hid the expression on her face as she collapsed outside the lines of the maze next to Caeso and Kristen. Blonde hair was wild and sticking nearly straight up. Her back was pressed to the grass, her gaze looking at the stary sky above them. Muscles twitching painfully beneath her skin from residual effects.

Still she managed to Kristen and Caeso.

"Are. You. Two. Okay?"

Head lifted, neck craning as Zinnia joined them, the only one of them looking better than before.

"You. Saved. The. Day. Zin, good job." Head lolled back against the earth as her eyes closed for a moment.
Eventually, Aelita found the entrance to the maze.

Most likely, her lovely fox companion would have completed its mission and dissipated as well.

Standing at the entrance, she saw the fellow Initiates emerge from the entrance. Frizzled hair. A delirious looking Kristen collapsing to the ground. Lumen looking worse for wear. Caeso, the most physically built Initiate present, exhausted.

Focusing on Kristen over Zinnia unboxing Evie’s latest surprise, Aelita rushed toward her peer.

What happened!?” Aelita yelled as she knelt down and started shaking Kristen.
"I'll be fine...merely...give me a minute," said Caeso to Lumen, all the muscles throughout his body still undergoing secondary spasms and painful echoing convulsions as the moment dragged on.

He didn't even know when or from where Aelita had come, but by the time the scene was marked by her presence Caeso was able to make his first earnest attempt at standing up. His leg wobbled when he planted his foot on the ground and shifted weight onto it, but eventually he overcame it and came to stand fully. He clenched his teeth for a moment and then relaxed. Catching a glance of Lumen's wild hair, he, almost by second nature, brought a hand up to smooth out his own hair and correct any catastrophes the lightning may have caused.

He let Kristen answer Aelita. Instead, Caeso went to Zinnia and looked at the note from the box once she had it out. "Well, let us see what new misery and fresh horror awaits."

Lumen Zinnia Aelita Everleigh Ebersol