Chapter 20:

The Top 5

Theodora Plays to Win (With Cheat Codes)

Madame Ginger dramatically emerged from the room with Opal in tow. Opal who had been wearing something akin to a purple sun dress, was now the picture of a flamboyant CEO. She was wearing a formfitting purple velvet suit with black pinstripes, and a cute purple head band with a heart accent. She still had the doily neck tie with the purple oval broach attached but everything else was strictly business. She marched uncomfortably behind Madame Ginger. She was clearly not totally on board with the whole situation, though the suit really did “suit” her. On someone else it might have looked like a kid playing dress-up but Opal had a mature and somewhat authoritative presence while wearing it. Katya was somewhat taken aback.

“You’re so adorable, Opal!” Everest ran at her and started playfully swinging her around in a fit of excitement. Madame Ginger stood by admiring her handiwork, “She is a cutie, I’ll give you that. If ya’ll had a few more clothing options around here I might have taken the entire rest of the day on her. She looks good ‘n just about everythin’, I’d say she’ll grow up to be quite the looker just like her sis.”

Madame Ginger’s eyes lazily moved over to Katya as she finished talking. “Now, I don’t believe I’ve seen this one around here before.” Everest put Opal down. The atmosphere became a bit more tense all of the sudden, in fact, it seemed as if Katya was surrounded. Madame Ginger to her right, Everest on the Left, and Bellamy was positioned behind her in case she ran.

“This is Katya.”

“I’m Katya. Don’t eat me. Uh, I’m staying with Everest and Opal…”

“Do I seem that scary, darlin’? You think I’ll do you some harm?”

“No, uh, uh, I’m just not used to- where I’m from there aren’t any, uh-“

“I’m friendly enough to hear you out before beatin’ you to a bloody pulp, so spit it out.”

“Madame! You’re scaring her, you’ll give her the wrong impression.” Everest chastised Madame Ginger who began to giggle in turn.

“I’m just messin’ of course, though I’ll be watchin’ you, make no mistake about that. You have Miss Opal and Miss Everest’s blessin’ so I won’t do nothin’ fer now. Jus watch your step ‘n no one’ll lay a finger on ya. Can’t say the same about other humans, twixt you and I. Ha ha ha!”

“Hey” Bellamy chirped at them bringing them all back to the present, “right! The passenger’s ‘ll be waitin’, we shoulda been gone some time ago.”

The tension completely drained and was replaced by a new wave of manic energy as Madame Ginger somehow managed to push all four of us out the door at the same time, Everest didn’t even have the chance to lock it, Katya was kind of worried about that due to her distrust of other people, but Madame assured her no one would even think of breaking in there.

They climbed a bunch of steps and zoomed through several large hallways and event areas, it was a lot to take in especially at the speed Madame Ginger was pushing them. She must have been a drill sergeant in her past life, there was no mercy. “Oh my! You’re tired, little one? Your feet hurt? Maybe you’re better off without them if they’re that much of a bother.” She threatened sweetly. Everyone seemed to be equally scared of her and kept a brisk pace.

They finally arrived at the top of the behemoth of a ship. They made it up the last set of stairs and found themselves back in the natural sunlight, their pilgrimage was at an end. It hadn’t actually taken that long, but there were a lot of friggen stairs and the hallways seemed to go on forever, and again Madame Ginger was a tyrant. All of this left Katya bangs sticking to her sweaty forehead, her legs burned like this was the first time they’d ever moved like that. She stood with her hands on her knees, gasping for air. Why would a body this fit have so much trouble? Maybe it was a physical response to a psychological one. In her past life she’d- well, she had a feeling that she wasn’t very active. In any case, her long journey was at it’s end. She righted her posture and looked onward. They were near the front of the ship, behind them was probably the bridge/captains quarters and in front of them appeared to be some sort drop off giving way to a crowd of what had to be over 5000. Opal looked at her sister for support as she moved toward the edge. The scene reminded her of a certain Disney movie. There was such an assortment of creatures it was hard to focus on just one. Opal sucked in a breath.



In an oasis about 80 miles to the west, on the border of regions two and five, near the Great Low Lands lake of the former country Lowa Siana, a group of humans set down their stuff. There were three in all; a strapping, spiky haired red-head, a beautiful sleepy eyed blond with her hair tied in an intricate French braid, and another red haired man, slightly younger and shorter than the first. They found themselves stepping out into a clearing and finding the large lake. They’d been wandering aimlessly for days until they heard the sound of rushing water and decided to follow the stream to it’s source.

“Woo! Thank god! I haven’t had a bath in forever.”

“It is indeed a well met occasion. And you do indeed smell like a wet Beast kin.”

“Do I smell bad?!? Brother! Tell me I don’t smell bad. Lady Lucy, please don’t come near me, I’d die of embarrassment.” The young red-head jumped back to his brother and began shoving his arm in his face.

“Will you stop that! You smell as bad as I do.”

“That bad! That bad! Oh, no! All this way. It can’t be!” He seemed on the verge of losing his mind. He quickly stripped off this clothes and dove into the water.

“What an absurd display, Rislan. Lord Aldan, may I have your ear for a moment?”

“Yes, Lady Lucy” She beckoned him forward, she was dressed in extremely light, blue fabric with gold stars waving in the gentle breeze. She rested lazily on the ground, not particularly caring about getting her outfit dirty. Lord Aldan crouched down beside her and lowered his head.

Rislan scrubbed himself obsessively, he needed every inch of himself to be clean or he’d never be able to allow himself near the princess ever again. He stopped as he began to notice the water around him had begun to take on a darker, slightly reddish hue. It had gone completely silent. Something dropped into the water, it was small and floated lazily toward him. He focused on it, not quite sure what he was seeing. It passed by his arm. He could see what it was, but his mind wasn’t processing it. It was such a gruesome thing that he didn’t even want to think about it. It couldn’t be what he thought it was. Another plop and then another, and then another, each one louder than the next.

Rislan was frozen as he watched in horror as the things floated by him. One of them was stopped by his stomach. It stared at him. It’s expression frenzied with pain and fear. It’s red hair caught onto his fingers as he gingerly raised it out of the water. It was his brother’s head, his legs and toes bobbed by. Rislan’s face contorted into something similar to his deceased brother’s. He lowered the head to reveal the starlet princess standing tall on the bank ahead of him. She wore a sadistic shark-toothed smile, a streak of blood dotted the corner of her lips.

“Oooooh Rislaaaan, you dirty boy. I’ve got a surprise for you.” Several starved looking children stepped out of the woods behind her. “I guess it’s not a big surprise. Come on over, you handsome meatbag. I promise to savor every bite.”

Rislan was looked from side to side, that wasn’t Lady Lucy over there. Was she dead? No, we’re in region two that shouldn’t be possible, however he’d never seen such a brutal killing since the game began, people usually just disappeared and respawned somewhere nearby when killed. He looked at his brother’s head and began to hyperventilate. They were really close to the barrier, perhaps… he didn’t even want to think about it. His brother was a knight and he was a knight in training, he should have been equipped for this sort of situation, but he wasn’t ready to face monsters like this alone. He had to escape and find his brother, they’d figure out what happened to the princess and then make a plan.

Having gathered his resolve he dove under water and paddled with the current. After some time he reemerged and looked around, he’d been swimming with the current for about six minutes before running out of air. The riverbank was still in sight and he could still see Lady Lucy standing watching. He pulled himself out of the water and began to run into the forest on the opposite side. He ran through as fast as he could, he had a feeling if that thing wanted to catch up it probably could have; all he could do was run no matter how pointless he thought it was.

Rislan finally stopped after running for almost thirty minutes. Sweat poured out of every inch of his body. He couldn’t relax yet but he felt like he was out of danger, just a little farther and he might be able rest.

“Succulent.” The word echoed through the woods. Rislan spun his head around in alarm. He didn’t sense or see anyone nearby and yet that voice… He once again broke into a run. “You don’t have to run anymore. I’ll enjoy you just the way you are. Don’t you want me to be healthy, don’t you want me to survive. I’m the monster your kind made after all.” Rislan was frantic, it was like there was some kind of ghost dogging his heels. He couldn’t see it or prove it was there yet it’s voice was clear, so clear it was as if she were right beside him. “I Find it ever so lovely that you decided to marinate yourself. Yes, sweat and fear, it’s such a delicious combination. Your brother was so dry. Thinking about how you’ll taste… mmm, It makes me tremble!”

At those word the princess appeared in front of Rislan, teeth bared and ready to bite.



About 200 miles south of Lowa Siana in the former country of Jyorda, a lone barrel rolls into a sequestered town, hidden away among the hills at the foot of the Apelaidia Mountains. The residents peaked out of their windows at the odd sight. It seemed to be moving of it’s own volition.

A man in an ill-fitting beige patchwork suit nervously approached the barrel. The barrel stopped upon noticing his approach. It then stood up.

“Uh, hello.” Chief Lowen was not accustomed to the unexpected. He was a well read fellow with glasses and a mess of dark curly hair. He wasn’t a fighter, but he wasn’t weak either, one could consider him a jack-of-all trades, though he much preferred being by himself with a book. He’d founded this village three years ago with the help of people much more capable than himself, people who were not currently in the village. They’d gone hunting and wouldn’t be back for several hours. He eyed the barrel suspiciously but presented himself with a welcoming smile. There been no shortage of strange events since the start of the new era. Their reality had been rewritten and there was still much that was strange, and much they had yet to understand. It was best to approach every new encounter amicably, no matter how strange things appeared.

The barrel began to shake, Chief Lowen stopped about 20 feet from the barrel. It seemed normal enough in appearance, except for the silver coating. It shook some more. There must be someone inside the barrel, that’s the only thing that makes sense. “Hello, I am Chief Lowen Lowell, I welcome you to our humble village.” The barrel became still but didn’t respond. Lowen felt the immense awkwardness of the whole situation as his fellow citizens and subordinates watched in hushed silence. This might end up becoming a comedy sketch passed down to future generations depending on how things move forward.

“Umm, may please ask that you exit the barrel so that we may talk face to face.” Lowen was never much of a people person but he never outwardly or inwardly shunned them, he just wasn’t a conversationalist. His father was a Navadah nobleman, so Lowen grew up in relative stability and attained an upper crust education without much effort. Booksmarts was where he excelled and he vowed to put that to work when it came time to take over his father’s work, however fate in the form of the Great Displacement and The Game took his unchanging everyday and tore it shreds. All his plans for the future were dismantled in moments.

As time went on he realized that he wasn’t alone in this predicament. A great many other people had been dropped, same as him, into an unfamiliar environment, and upon realizing that a new vision of the future began to form. Shared trauma was a good a bonding method as any. He began talking with people, both weak and strong alike, people who had bright futures and immense talent that were made aimless by the change in circumstance. A lot of people were broken by the paradigm shift and couldn’t fathom the amount of effort it would take to regain their lives, so Lowen told them there was another way. They could start over right here, and they did. Now, he was in charge of a village of 111.

The lid of the barrel was flung open. It wasn’t a large barrel, but it wasn’t small either. There could be an adult in there as easily as a child. Lowen cautiously stepped forward. He could now see that there was nothing inside the barrel. What an incredibly curious object. The lid closed before he could get a closer look. It shook some more then opened. The barrel was no longer empty, instead it was filled with the twisted bodies of the hunters who’d left the village. They disappeared before his eyes. He stepped backwards.

“It’s a player! Arm up! Open fire!” He ran through the village. People began running around grabbing guns and other makeshift weapons. The barrel began to shake, then opened and other slightly smaller barrels jumped out and began rolling around the village. Explosions followed suit. A great fire broke out. Lowell saw the main barrel swallow a person, twisting their entire skeleton to fit inside, killing them in the process. The village went from peaceful to pieces in a matter of minutes. Everything that his people had built over the last three years was gone and they’d have to start a new.

This player could have settled with the people, but it maliciously sought out and destroyed our home. When did this world become so bleak? Lowen sank to his knees. It was going to rain soon, the fires would be put out, but it would be a long time before the damage would truly be repaired.



About 500 miles north of Jyorda, at the southern edge of Awa, bordering Owa, lies a somewhat fragile ecosystem. This is where the great Shiazara Desert ends and turns into wetlands. It’s full of sweltering swamps, and poison bogs, and large mud traps. The wildlife here is equally troublesome, becoming even deadlier after the start of the Game Era.

A lone girl dressed like a 1920’s flapper soaks her toes in the swamp as if she would a public pool. She hums a gloomy tune while smiling to herself. She doesn’t seem to notice a disturbance in the water. It swims toward her gaining momentum.

In the distance a slightly older girl clashes with a group of young men.

“We’re just trying to get to the other side of this swamp! Why…won’t you…let…us…pass!”

The girl fight with an ornate white dagger which stands in contrast to her hair which swirls around her like a black hole, and her shining bedazzled black dress. “My sister and I have decided to live here, and we don’t humor trespassers.”

“One of our party is injured.”

“Then kill him. You’re only making him suffer.”

“That’s easy for you to say!” One of the man’s party member’s spoke up.

“We’re part of the One-Lifers Guild. We believe that when you’re killed the person you return as it’s not actually yourself. We aim to go our entire lives without a single death.” The party cheers.

“I don’t get it.” She says deadpan.

“Are you stupid?”

“My sister says I’m not the brightest jewel in the crown, but I was about to ask you the same thing. Are you stupid? The Gods have granted us invincibility and tools that give us power rivaling that of the great royal mages, or even the Sacred Guardians and you fools want to throw it aside. Incompossible. You don’t deserve the life you’ve been granted!” She grips the knife in her gloved hands and kicks off the ground, majestic black wings spread out from her back.

“DARKSTAR COMET” black energy envelops the woman as she plunges back to the ground as a blur of black vapor, taking out six of the seven members of the party. They disappear. The seventh was the injured one. He cowers up against a tree.

“Allow me to ease your suffering. SHADOW OF GRIEF.” Her hand disappears. The man’s body darkens and then convulses. His head turns purple and his eyeballs explode from their sockets. Her hand returns and she claps them together while offering a prayer.

She returns to her sister who is still smiling and kicking her feet across the surface of the water. The only difference is a large pile of bones from an assortment of large, unidentifiable creatures. “I think the word you were looking for was, “Unconscionable” but whatevs, you were still a real bearcat out there beatin up those blue noses. Real swell work out there.” She gave a carefree laugh.

“You give me too much praise, sister.”

“We don’t gotta get a wiggle on anytime soon. You were right, let’s settle right here. It’s the cat’s meow! We’ll be perfectly safe here.”

Just as she says that a Venus fly trap looking plant turns about and opens it jaws, only to be sliced off by Deliverance. Mia keeps on giggling. “This is gonna be great!”


“And fifth on the rankings we have our very own Bellamy Stone.”

There was quite a bit of clapping as Bellamy stepped forward. The ceremony started with something called the Regional Leaderboards. Opal listed four weird sounding names and then Bellamy’s. Bellamy’s speed and Everest’s power were incredible, so what must the other four ranked above them have been like…?