Art Round-up May 5, 2021

Sorry the site has been a bit dead, folks. Mr. Terzich has been a bit busy with things, but luckily he did recently win a picture of one of our beloved characters recently that we can show you. His buddy Jason Robinson, a professional comic artist, was holding a raffle after hitting a new subscription milestone on his YouTube channel and Malcolm won, despite being a mod on his channel (which should really have disqualified him if you ask me). Still, never look a gift horse in the mouth. This is how we get this magnificent picture of Laney Lin, back during the days she was part of the Professional Freelancers, you see below.

We will also take this time to pimp out Jason, who is a great artist working on an project independent horror comic anthology with writer Nasser Rabadi called Secret Comics Presents. Mr. Terzich has backed the project after having seen pages and speaking directly with Jason about it several times and can ensure you that any fan of the comic medium will enjoy it thoroughly. Give it a look if you can.

Laney Lin by Jason Robinson (@JRobinzson)

Remember to send us any fan art or the like of Ex Dynamis Chaos related images so we can re-host them and spread the love back to the artists.

Art Round-up January 6, 2021

Time for another Art Round-up, Which has sadly been most of the little content added to this site. Mr. Terzich apologizes for the content drought, but he’s been busy on moving some gears in the background and should really be drawing pages for the webcomic. Feel free to yell at him about it. This week we get this image because artist ΛMӨΣBΛ had said a while back that he’d do a picture of The Metal and finally worked it into his daily warm-up. We thank him for this gift that perfectly captures the playfulness of The Metal!

Crescent Kick by Amoeba (@amoebakanon)

Remember to send us any fan art or the like of Ex Dynamis Chaos related images so we can re-host them and spread the love back to the artists.

Art Round-up October 7, 2020

We haven’t had an Art Round-up in awhile, likely because updates have been slow this year. But hey, were here with another. This week we get this image because artist Jaden Bricker was looking for some art to practice inking on and Mr. Terzich was happy to oblige. He gave him plenty of images to choose from, but pencils for this recent model of Anon Keisura stood out and that was the one he wanted to do. Hope you enjoy this picture and consider giving Jaden’s stuff a look over on instagram.

Anon by Jaden Bricker

Remember to send us any fan art or the like of Ex Dynamis Chaos related images so we can re-host them and spread the love back to the artists.

Anna’s Task

It has been a couple of weeks since I had escorted Na to Carnaska and it will be within the hour that I am on the coastline of Elrid. I really didn’t want to make yet another trip to Fortna this time of year, but I had already made a promise to be here for this date and a promise is a promise. You know Anna, for someone who is supposed to be free as a bird you sure are running around that planet a lot for other people lately. Oh well, with port coming up I better get dressed.

Geh’shah is an interesting city spanning ten miles along the shore and another ten along the southern side of the Kalhardi Mountains. With the mountains being insurmountable to most caravans and the airspace north of them off-limits to foreigners, this port is the primary trading center between Kalhard and the rest of the continent. And because of the transit it also has the highest concentrated population of Yuzeima outside of Kalhard; they make up nearly forty percent of the city.

Of course, the sheer number of Yuzeima running around along the shoreline, in articles that could hardly even pass as swimwear, as I make my way toward the upper district never ceases to irk me. That could be me too dammit! I’ve collected so many luxurious bathing suits throughout my travels and any time I get to come to one of the only places on the planet where my exquisite taste could truly be appreciated she makes me wear a modest dress. And all to be a good example at that. As if I’m not going to change immediately once we are back on the ship. Whatever, I’ll keep humoring her. Especially considering she hasn’t heard the news yet.

I tap on the doorframe with the back of my hand, since they never kept the door shut anyway, and yell into the house, “Ahoy, is anyone home!?”

“Annacelia? Annacelia Maris Riknia, my baby, how are you doing!?” Before I could blink, a red-headed woman with a figure like my own and standing six feet and three inches tall wrapped herself around me and began nuzzling my cheek against hers as one does to a puppy. 

“I was fine mom,” I struggle to mumble out, “until you started suffocating me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she says as she releases me. “It’s just that you haven’t stopped by in months and I was beginning to worry. You know, sailing the seas isn’t nearly as safe as traversing the skies. There are a lot of monsters and dangerous people out there. And I mean far more dangerous than a pirate armada. Oh, is that a new dress? I love the lace on it.”

“Thanks,” I respond with an attitude, “I hate it.”

That was probably the wrong response. Now she’s rattling on about how it is important to dress in such a way that you treat yourself with respect so others do as well. Seriously, I already do. I have less respect for myself now while wearing something I normally wouldn’t than when I’m commanding a fleet of nearly one hundred ships in whatever pleases me. Besides, look at this hypocrite saying all this while wearing a revealing outfit herself. 

Yoko Keisura, my mother, was at one time the best airship pilot on the planet. It’s actually how my parents met since Sutel was in the need of someone with that exact expertise. She won’t talk about her life before they met, but they had some crazy escapades back in the rebellion. Now, she doesn’t even pilot anymore. The board thinks she’s “too wild” to be placed behind the helm of a passenger vessel. Mom seems more than content being a stewardess these days, just so she can stay close to the old life. She even got her twin sister into it as well ever since she moved over here. You should see these two identical women in their skimpy pink uniforms standing next to each other. Of course, I can tell them apart. I can always tell which one is my mom. But I can only imagine how the passengers react when they are on the same flight plan and they see one walk through one door just for the other to come in from the opposite side of the cabin. Thankfully, Aunt Suru isn’t around at the moment because I don’t have the patience for more tears than necessary at the moment. All I have to worry about is the twerp.

“Hey mom, where is DeciaZ?” I ask, trying to diffuse her rant.

“Last I checked he was out back training,” she answers. “Do you want me to call him in already? I figured you’d at least stay for supper before you guys headed out.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not planning on leaving until the morning,” I assure her. “My crew always likes a good night on the town with all the lovely ladies here. Keeps morale high. Don’t worry, I’ll go grab him. There is something I need to tell both of you and I’d rather get it done all at once sooner than later.”

Strolling into someone’s yard, even of my own family, brings out an uneasy feeling these days. I spend so much of my life on the ocean that any enclosure reminds me of the unpleasant memories of growing up on the ranch. It’s more of a garden than anything, barely smaller than their house, with no real walls and only shrubs and trees acting as a partition between them and their neighbors. It’s an uncomfortable feeling of being trapped. Too far attached to your own property to the point that you and generations of your family will live and die right here. I just can’t deal with that level of attachment. I regularly give away my ships down the chain of command just to get away from my old rooms. I’ll admit that I let some tears slip out when I heard of Sutel’s death, but nothing was more satisfying to me than knowing that old house burned down to the ground. It was only built the year I was born, yet it was still around for far too long if you ask me.

“Yeeeeeee-aaaaaah!” Something screaming dives out of a nearby tree and pegs me square in the shoulder. I try to respond, but it immediately slides into the bushes before I can snag it. It can’t weigh more than fifty pounds and this dirt impression on my dress appears to have tread marks like a shoe.

“DeciaZ, you little turd!” I irritably snarl. “I’m already in a bad enough mood wearing this Bob awful dress, so don’t add to it and come inside now.”

Ouch! He flies out of a bush and punches me in my rear before zipping up a tree-like some sort of rodent. DeciaZ is my youngest brother and a bit of a trouble maker. Mom left Sutel when she was pregnant with him and as far as I know, the twins don’t know he exists or vice versa. I probably should have told them years ago. I should probably still tell them now. I honestly couldn’t care less about Sutel’s reasons for the secret if I tried, but mom’s wishes on the other hand I respect. Still, growing up without knowing his father isn’t an ideal situation for a young boy, especially a little prankster that scares away all of mom’s dates. Closest thing to a male role model he has is our cousin Anon, but I’m not even going to say that’s been a positive one. The guy gets in bar fights all the time and has even convinced the kid that a military career is a sound future. Why anyone would want to sign away their freedom to people that only have their own best interests in mind is well beyond me.

Thunk! Jumping out of a tree, DeciaZ uses my head as a springboard and flips back into the brush yet again. Okay, now I’m livid. As my other siblings would inform you, I have no patience for little monkeys. Focus girl, where is he coming from? A rustle at my four. Yeah, I got something for you little brother. I twirl around more swiftly than he expects and stare the brat dead-on as he leaps toward me.

“Tabashneh!” I shout at him while pointing. A hair-thin bolt so dark it appears bright shoots from my finger to his body and DeciaZ immediately loses all forward momentum plummeting to the ground.

“Agh, why can’t I move?” he cries out.

“Oh little brother, it’s because you now weigh twice that of what you did prior,” I cheekily respond.

“Wah- what!?” he asks, bursting out into tears.

“I understand that your undeveloped brain may have trouble comprehending this, but try to keep up,” I continue. “I cast a gravity spell on you; specifically one of the second rank. What that means is that I modified the attraction between you and the planet we are standing on two-fold, so instead of roughly twelve meters per second per second it is now around twenty-four. You might be limber and acrobatic, but your body isn’t developed enough to even attempt supporting twice that of what it normally handles.”

“I- I don’t know what you’re saying! Please just make it stop!” He screams while clearly in deep pain.

“Do you regret attacking your mighty and powerful sister, Anna?” I question already knowing the answer.

“Yes! I’m sorry!” DeciaZ wails almost incoherently.

“Fine. I’ll let you off the hook this time.” I say while snapping my fingers to release the spell. I begin to the door, but he is still lying there crying. I took it off, so get up already.

“Anna,” he yelps, “I don’t think I can move. Everything still hurts and my right arm is all wobbly.”

Dammit. I think I broke some of his bones. Why did I let my anger get the better of me, he’s only seven? It’s like a switch flips and I start enjoying the suffering of others. Even if they are family. And he needs to be ready for the academy soon. He can’t afford to wait for those bones to heal up. Mom is going to kill me… or worse. Death could actually be preferable. Come on, come on, think… Oh yeah, I still have time for that!

“Achoran!” And as I let out that word, a soft white glow surrounds DeciaZ. His crying stops right away and is replaced with the sounds of popping and cracking but in reverse. His bruises fade away, the seams on his clothes tighten back up, and his hair fluffs back to its normal shape.

“Wow, what did you do!?” He questions in complete awe.

“I used a reversion spell,” I reply while catching my breath. “I returned you to the state you were before I crushed you. Don’t get used to it. I can only revert back a few minutes or so and it takes a lot out of me. I’m pretty much tapped dry after that.”

“Thank you, Anna,” he meekly states with his head held low. “I’m sorry again for making you mad.”

I don’t want there to be more trouble than there already is so all I say is, “It’s okay, just don’t tell mom about this. Or else you may not have a big sister to make mad for much longer.”

He smiles and nods before running back inside. And that was the least stressful part of coming here. I can already tell. We still have to get through dinner and the bad news. Why is this my job? Why did I have to be born first?

Slowly, I stroll back through the garden to the threshold standing between me and my duty. Gulp. I’m trembling a little. I haven’t trembled at all in years and I’m in naval battles on a weekly basis. I’m caught off guard by a drop of cold sweat rolling down my back and accidentally bite my bottom lip in reaction. Dammit, I’m not good at this personal stuff. Why do people think I live out on the open seas? I didn’t even like Sutel, but I know she still has some feelings for him. They may have split, but you don’t have kids with someone three separate times if there wasn’t something there. I don’t even like dealing with my own emotions, let alone those of other people.

I step through the door and immediately she could tell something was wrong. It might be a funny look on my face. It could be that I’m sweating more than I realize. Whatever it is, my mother knows. It’s her job to know when something is up.

“What’s the matter, Anna? You look ill,” she says to me with a serious tone.

“Dad’s…” I mumble out, “dead.”

“What… did you just say,” she questions since I was not speaking clearly enough.

“Dad’s dead! He’s de-” I can’t finish my words. Suddenly, I feel my back slam into the nearest wall with a tight grip crushing my throat. It’s my mom. She’s still on the other side of the room, but her hand is stretched out toward and her eyes look empty. It must be her magic around my neck. 

“How did he die!? Who Killed him!?” She bellows

“I… I don’t know. I wasn’t there.” I respond while beginning to have trouble concentrating.

“Why weren’t you there!” She yells back without wasting a second.

“I was at sea for months!” She knows my life. She isn’t blaming me for this, is she? Sutel is the strongest person I’ve ever met and I’ve been all around the world several times in my time as a pirate. There is no circumstance where I’d be any help against whatever could kill him. I’d have wound dead, too.

“What of Rascal!? Nanoson!? What happened to them!?” Her voice keeps getting louder, almost impossibly. The neighbors would be throwing a fit if they weren’t already scared to death of her.

“They… they’re fine. Ras-cal is fixing the ranch.” It’d be easier to reply if I could breathe, but she is not a person that can be reasoned with when she gets like this.

“Fixing the ranch!?” She lets out in shock.

“It burnt down when dad died. Maybe in the fight… or after.” I don’t even know the details to tell her. I just have whatever Na told me.

“Where is your brother, Anna!? Why didn’t you bring him here!?” She’s grown so loud that DeciaZ has started crying and she hasn’t even noticed.

“He doesn’t even know you’re alive,” I squeeze out. “The plan was to go to Jagan.”

“You took him to that bastard’s house!?” Oh, now she’s really angry.

“Not exactly.” Why did I just say that? I should have lied. That flinging motion hits my body once again as I slam into the ceiling.

“I’ll ask again; where is your brother, Anna!?” If my vision wasn’t blurring, I’d swear her eyes were on fire.

“He’s in,” I start already anticipating the coming pain, “the rainforests of Carnashka.”

Slam. I’m sure I’m on the floor now. Gravity is starting to feel the right way in my head. The breathes are becoming shorter and longer in between.

“You left your little brother in a jungle!?” She whales frantically. “It’s bad enough you just allowed Makell to run off when he was five, but you lose Nanoson now, too!? Do you even give a single shit about anyone but yourself, Anncelia!?!?!?”

I’m pretty sure I’m going to die here. This may very well be the last straw. My mother loves me, I know she does. Still, she’s always had an uncontrollable temper and I’m certain part of her blames me for many of our family’s troubles. When I was born, Sutel became obsessed with me, spending all his time teaching me everything he could and forgetting to give her attention anymore. Then when she left, I was the de facto woman of the house. So when Makell ran away, it was my fault. When news came in that Sheereport was set aflame and she was certain from the report that Makell did it, by extension also my fault. When Nanoson had his episode that got our family’s business barred from trade with the Herminian Empire, that too was my irresponsibility as I split beforehand and didn’t prevent it. And now that Sutel is dead, it must also be my fault. Everything is my fault.

Vision is fleeting, as is my consciousness, but faintly I hear a second voice pick up. It goes, “Stop! Stop it, Mommy!! Stop!!!” It was little DeciaZ, tugging on her sleeves to stop his mother from picking on his big sister. Eventually, his voice breaks through and her glazed over look faded from her face as she let go of my throat. 

“Oh, I’m sorry darling,” she softly says changing her demeanor immediately as she turns around to console him. “Did Mommy scare you?”

She doesn’t even bother to heal my wounds. That selfish bitch. Whatever, I’ll hold my tongue. After this last errand, I’m officially off the hook with her and have no reason to come back until I mentally get over what happened here today. For now, I’m skipping any more family time and going back to my ship for the night to eat and then sleep in my own bed. This family doesn’t deserve me anyway.

Overall, it’s a nice evening. The crisp coastal breeze pressing smoothly up against my cheeks is a much need relief from the nightmarish sauna my mother calls acceptable attire. That’s fine though. I may have had to wear this dress for our get together, but I had an eerie feeling I wouldn’t be able to bear the whole night. Just a few buttons and… damn that one’s always hard to reach. There, I’m free. This season’s swimwear, straight from Muron. I’m on one of the best beaches in the whole world, might as well enjoy my walk back to the boat. I’ll fold up and leave this outfit on a bench though. I may hate it, but the shop I stole it from had it priced at eight hundred Krela. That’s a couple weeks pay for some of these people. It’ll be my charity for the week.

It’s too bad I didn’t leave any sooner. It’s about an hour to midnight and the few other people strolling about are up on the streets, lit dimly by lamps, as the scuttle homely from their favorite bars. Meanwhile, down here on the beach there is only myself strutting barefoot through the sand. I was sorely hoping to meet a stud I could kidnap for the night. Even just running into someone going the same way to shoot the shit with would have been nice. Not a soul in sight.

“Anna!”

Wait. Did I just hear my name?

“Anna!”

Yes, that’s definitely my name. As if a rodent were saying it.

“Anna, wait up!” I turn and see him stumbling through the sand while dragging a chest I had gifted him for his birthday last year. I wasn’t around enough to make out it was my brother by his voice, but seeing the moonlight reflecting off his shining silver hair and ruby eyes is all anyone needs. I don’t even know where he gets that from. Mom’s got deep reddish colored hair with eyes that burn like the sun and the rest of us take after Sutel with crystal blue peepers and a head of hay. Maybe it has something to do with Sutel’s other side, but that would only explain the hair. Those eyes have always confused me.

DeciaZ approaches me while wearing a bizarre sailing outfit not too different from what our cousin Anon wears the infantry is being shipped from place to place on deployment. At least it is black and gold with green accents and not that tacky pattern Fair Trade Union forces our kin to fashion. DeciaZ probably doesn’t even know those are our family’s colors either. He’s just seen me wear them enough that he thinks they’re what cool people wear. I think he kind of looks like a dork to be honest, but he’s a kid so I can let it slide. 

“Squirt, what are you doing?” I ask him rather displeased.

“I um… I’m ready to go,” he says shifting his feet nervously. “See, I got all my stuff packed for school right here in that trunk you gave me. Mommy said I had to take the skull off of it if I wanted to bring it to school though. I hope that doesn’t make you mad.”

“I’m not mad,” I reply. Not at you anyway. But Mom knows these institutions and probably just doesn’t want you to get in trouble. There more pressing concerns. “We’re leaving tomorrow. Why aren’t you at home sleeping?”

“I’m scared Mommy will hurt me,” he said with the most earnest look he’s ever given me.

“That’s ridiculous, kiddo,” I try to assure him.

“But she hurt you really bad,” he snaps back.

“So, I’ve hurt you pretty bad,” I respond callously.

“Yeah, but you fixed me after,” he quivered.

He’s right though. I definitely got temper from my mother and it’s a part of me that I resent. It’s not even so much the damage it causes either that I mind, when the person deserves it. But how can I know if they deserve it if I’m not cool and collected? My kid brother though has never deserved anything so bad that I’ve administered to him and every time I’ve fixed him after. It’s usually just a scrape, a bruise, or a mild burn, but today was the worst I’ve ever done, yet I was sorry and made everything alright. Not once has my mother ever apologized for anything she’s ever done to me and she stopped damage control after I turned ten. I don’t know what it is that happened to her that made her this way, but I can’t let myself become like her. I can’t be trapped like that.

“Okay, boy,” I say to him softly. “My guest-chamber wasn’t going to be prepared for you until the morning, but my bed is big enough for the two of us. You better stay on your side though.”

I may be hitting the sack, but we might as well make the most of our time and head out tonight. Kelly doesn’t really sleep at night anyway and he is more than capable of navigating us out to course. I hope this kid can get to sleep with the wave rocking. Na didn’t seem to have any problem. Speaking of, I do feel a little guilty about what I did to him before now that Mom brought it up. I wonder how he’s doing.

Left to right: Yoko, Anna, DeciaZ

Book Start | Next Chapter

Realms and Relics

The is a story I’m making for the 100th Jump Tezuka Manga Contest, which is open internationally for the first time. Because I’ve been working this diligently, I haven’t been able to work on the webcomic or just about anything else for the site. Since the post will be publicly available on the site anyway and you can submitted any previously published, non-commercial work, I will uploaded pages to this gallery, for free reading, as I finish them. Because it is for a manga contest it is entirely in black and white and read from right to left. This is the (mostly) English version, but there is eventually be a Japanese translation as well. Hope you enjoy this wacky story.

Hope you enjoyed the read. Please consider sharing this story with someone else you think might enjoy it and possibly check out the rest of the website.

Ex Dynamis Chaos Fan-art Contest #2: “The Beach Episode”

Ahoy there! The last contest was a lot of fun and I, Malcolm Terzich, have decided that we’re gonna do this thing Quarterly. I think the easiest way to line that up for me is to have the deadlines on the Solstices and Equinoctes, which means this contest will be as tight as the previous (a bit under two months) to meat the Summer Solstice. That’s why this time around, to get that Summer feel even if most of us are still trapped at home, the theme of the contest is “beach”.

What does that mean, you may ask? Well, I’ve personally participated in tons of fan art contests in the past and they all become boring because it’s always just a “draw a character” and occasionally there will be a theme for the how to draw the character. I ain’t about that life and I’m not going to force you to be either. If you want to just draw an Ex Dynamis Chaos character in a swimsuit, that’s perfectly fine. I’m not tying your hands down. But the more creative you can be the better. You don’t even have to draw a character at all. You can enter any art that uses either locations, creatures, objects, symbols, motifs, or whatever from Ex Dynamis Chaos and make something that fits the theme “beach”. If you don’t want to draw a character it could be something like monsters attacking a beach or what you think a beach inside a Subspace Highway looks like. It can go in any direction you want. The updated rules will be as follows.

Rules

  1. It has to be an easily recognized form of art. Not just to me, who is still fairly artsy despite not considering myself an artist, but to the audience.
  2. It needs to depict at least one aspect from Ex Dynamis Chaos that the audience can easily pick up on. As stated before, it can be a character, a creature, a location used in the stories, a machine or any other object, symbol, or motif that is used in the stories. If we can all tell the piece is related to EDK, go wild.
  3. This piece has to have been made specifically for this contest. We’ll have no way of knowing if it’s something you previously finished and never posted or if you had a WIP you just got around to completing, but no entree that has been published in any form prior to this post will be accepted. You may publish work for this contest anywhere you wish after you complete it, as that will show it was posted after this contest began.
  4. All entries must be PG-13. Obviously not everything EDK related even falls cleanly into this category, but because this is a community contest open to the public we want this to be a generally family appropriate competition. I’ll be fairly lenient, but use your best judgement please. No explicitly sexual content, though themes are okay. No uncensored nudity. Any gore shouldn’t be too visceral, cartoon gore is perfectly fine. If a good parent wouldn’t let their teenage child see your piece, submit something else.
  5. Collaborations are allowed, but the prize must be shared evenly amongst the team so it probably isn’t worth it. Sorry, just being honest. Your group must also have a name or an identifier, like a band does, since it will count as a single artist.
  6. Multiple submissions are allowed as well, but each artist (individual or group) may only win once. Entering multiple times does increase your odds of winning, but if more than one of your pieces place only the highest placement will count and it’ll skip to the next unique artist after that.
  7. All entrees must be submitted by Saturday, June 20th of this year [2020]. To submit, post your art or a link to it on Twitter tagging @exdynamischaos and the hashtag #EDKartcontest along with title and/or subject of the piece and the names of all contributors. If you would like to submit a larger resolution image and don’t wish to host it elsewhere to link, or include more information than would fit in a tweet, or just don’t wish to use Twitter, you can also send submissions to me via email at immadametal@gmail.com by the deadline. I’ll repost all off Twitter entree with credits using the EDK handle, as well as posting them in the discord as well.

Prizes

All entrees will be voted on by the public over a period of five days after the deadline. This may quickly become a popularity contest, but I ask you to absorb as many of the entrees as you can and search yourself for the one that speaks to you the most for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the most technical piece, the funniest, or the coolest subject. After votes are in, 1st through 3rd places will receives awards. All entrees will be included in credited posts on the site, but the three winners will have a blog post dedicated to them to say something about themselves or to plug their own projects if they wish.

Grand Prize

The grand prize winner will not only receive a full color commission of their choice, but you will become part of Ex Dynamis Chaos through an official 4 page short where you get to decide plot (which editorial supervision). But unlike last time, your short must fit the “beach” theme. It can either be an insert of yourself or an original character of your creation (also with editorial supervision) that does something adventurous and/or meets your favorite EDK characters. And because the character will exist in the world from that point forward, you may even see them in a cameo or two at a later point in time. It can even be the same character as before if you were a winner previously. Don’t worry if you aren’t much of a writer, I can help polish it up and the sequential art will be taken care of by me.

Second Place

The second place winner will receive a full color commission of their choice from myself. It does not have to be Ex Dynamis Chaos related (this also applies to the commission portion of the prizes for 1st and 3rd place). It does have to fit the same PG-13 requirements of this competition though. Since it is a community event, I have to be able to share the final product. The commission will be fairly high resolution, traditionally inked, and digitally colored. It can have some text or word art and can be treated as a single panel of a comic if desired. You may also decide if you want to fit a standard set of dimensions if you plan to use it for something: comic page, two-page spread, desktop wallpaper, phone wallpaper, etc. Just let me know which one you need.

Third Place

The same things as the second place prize except without any color. You get a traditionally inked commission of your choice. Aside from color, all the same rules apply as above.

Anyhow, I hope you choose to enter and enjoy the competition. Be sure to share this with your friends. The more the merrier. And if this you all like this, we’ll do more in the future!

Ex Dynamis Chaos Fan-Art Contest #1 Results!

Ahoy there, everybody! I’m so happy with the turn out for our first community contest. As few as it may seem, there were more than I was expecting and I hope we have even more going forward. To speed things up, immediately after this post I will be dropping the rules for the next contest. This way you’ll have as much time as possible to work an entry into your busy schedule. Until then, let’s announce our winners!

The Grand Prize Winner

Laney Lin by Bergmite (@Bergmiten)

The winner of the Grand Prize, a four page short of their design drawn by Malcolm Terzich as well a full colored commission, is the inspiring Bergmite with a wonderful illustration of pop-idol Laney Lin. Bergmite didn’t have much to say on it other than “Oh wow thank you!” You can follow for more art at these social media locations:

Twitter- https://twitter.com/bergmiten
Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/bergmite

Second Place

Yoko Keisura by John Dillard (@DillardDraws)

For the second place prize of just a full colored commission, we have the magnanimous John Dillard with his rendering of Yoko Keisura. He is currently working on a comic property of his owner called “the Buckler” and you can see more of his amazing art on his social media and him creating in action at this youtube channel.

Twitter- https://twitter.com/DillardDraws
Youtube- https://www.youtube.com/user/johndillard1

Third Place

Anna Riknia by Evan Ho Tep (@EvanHoTep)

And for our third and final prize, a black and white inked commission, goes to the mysterious Evan HoTep with his portrait of Anna Riknia. He’s on a mission to challenge yellow-bellied artists to an old-fashioned duel, including other contestant Rick Piper. You can follow his antics over at his twitter.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/EvanHoTep

That’s it for this contest until the prizes are fulfilled and posted. In the meantime, check out the details on the next contest or any of the other entertaining material littering this website!

Ex Dynamis Chaos Fan-art Contest #1 Entry Gallery

And that’s the deadline people! Thank you everyone who submitted entries, whether you made it in time or not. Even though late entries won’t be accepted for voting, we’ll still retweet them on Twitter and add them to the next Art Round-up after the contest concludes. Below is every entry available for the poll of which will be placed at the bottom of the post. It is okay if you already know who you plan to vote for, but please consider taking the time to appreciate each entrant’s hard work on your way down.

Entry #1
Yoko Keisura by John Dillard (@DillardDraws)
Entry #2
Anna Riknia, The Jewel, and Freyja by Rick Piper (@comics_cross)
Entry #3
The Jackrabbit, Trigger, and Purrcy by Rick Piper (@comics_cross)
Entry #4
Rascal Riknia, Zeba, and Tala Volkov by Rick Piper (@comics_cross)
Entry #5
The Metal by Rick Piper (@comics_cross)
Entry #6
Anna by Even Ho Tep (@EvanHoTep)
Entry #7
Laney Lin by Bergmite (@Bergmiten)
Entry #8
Freya by Brandon L. Robertson (@BAngelo1991)
Entry #9
Zeba by Synth (@synthpixel)

Well, that’s all of them folks. Maybe give them another once over to make sure you really soaked them all in before casting your vote. Okay, We’ll just assume you gave them enough thought. The link to the poll will be directly below. Please don’t share it around directly and use the link to this gallery instead. It’s not just help our metrics, be assured. It is to keep this as fair to all participants as possible since you have to scroll past the gallery to get to the poll. This poll will run up to the 30th of this month and results will be posted on the 1st of May. Thank you and vote honestly.

Click here for poll

Ex Dynamis Chaos – Act II

Previous Book

Terzich’s Note: So that the story can continue uninterrupted, I will be continuously posting chapters as they are finished. However, I want to keep the format consistent and will be posting this like it is one book. That means All of the Act II chapters will be added here instead of separate posts. I’ll be sure to notify everyone via social media when to check back to this page for new content.

Also, this follows the content of the novelized version of Act I and thus contains potentially confusing spoilers for those only reading the comic. Read ahead at your own risk.

Episode 13 – Point of View

“Holy shit, I wasn’t expecting it to explode,” hollered out a mid-toned, slightly rasp, feminine voice from within the smoke.

“Metal! Is that you in there!?”

“Who the hell else would it be? There was no one else stuffed in there with me.”

“It’s just…” Sentri let out as the smoke disappeared, “You don’t quite seem like you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

The Metal’s perception finally caught up with the rest of the world as the inner ear ringing caused by the blast settled down enough to hear the vocal change. The Metal looked down for a quick once over and realized -she- was quite different than before. Her hair was just a bit longer, features quite softer, and weight redistributed from evenly throughout to two places in particular. Her gi top was not designed to accommodate The Metal’s new assets, so she had to quickly put her weights back on just to keep them in place when moving about.

“Wow!”

“What?” Buck interjected

“I can hardly even tell I’m wearing these?”

“There’s no way, those things weigh a ton. I’ve felt them myself.”

“I kid you not, these weights feel light as a feather.”

“Get over here, you imbecile,” said Pitaya as he grabbed The Metal by the collar and whisked her over to a fancy station in the corner of the lab that was somehow still in working order. He sat The Metal on one of his many titanium folding chairs and stuck a lot of nodes upon various spots of her body.

“Well doc, is it dysentery? Am I not makin’ it to Oregon after all?”

“Can you ever be serious?” he asked rhetorically before going over the results. “Well shit… yeah, um, you’re apparently female down to the genetic level and your vitals are at peak performance. By Odin’s beard, how is that even possible?”

“Cool.”

Everyone turned and gave The Metal looks of confusion.

“What? Suddenly switching genders like magic isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s actually kind of interesting, to say the least. Besides, if it happened one way then there has got to be a way to get back. But in the meantime, we have a fight to finish.”

“No.”

“No?”

“My lab has been utterly trashed twice now and you suddenly became a girl. I don’t think I have enough fucks to give anymore. You have fun with your stupid tournament, I’m going to my room and dealing with all this in the morning. I’d be grateful if you all took your leave.”

He left through the main entrance, slamming the door behind him. From a distance, they could faintly hear Pitaya screaming, “WHAT!?!?!?!?” at the top of his lungs. Kavi split as well, without the ability to contain his laughter. The others were still crowded outside the torn up lab, discussing as they do.

“So…” Sentri murmured

“So… what?”

“What now?”

“The world keeps spinning. We keep to the schedule. The final round takes place on the Chinese New Year, so I have most of Winter to figure out how to change back. We’ll take the weekend off and get started.”

“Yo, you’re taking this rather well.”

“Eh, it’s not the first time I’ve been a woman, believe it or not. That said, be at my place Monday morning or I’ll make you regret it.”

This weekend was considerably dull compared to the last couple of weeks. Probably a nice change of pace for everyone except the lunatic they tend to follow around. Monday morning came and they all showed up. It was hard to tell just when The Metal was joking or not about this dilemma, so everyone nervously smiled and nodded at everything. Sentri even brought his family along. Always assuming for the worst with The Metal, he figured it would take much longer than she expected and it’d be best if his family just stayed at her place for the time being.  It’s not like she doesn’t have the room. No one really knows how The Metal managed to do it, or exactly how legal it was for that matter, but she somehow got her own dojo in the middle of town. It was the traditional kind that had a large house attached to the training hall, a bunkhouse for visitors, a garden with a pond, and a ten-foot wall around the entire property sealed off by a single oak gate. The Kidd, Sentri, and Buck found her in the same place The Metal was most days she wasn’t running around causing trouble: the training hall.

The Metal was wearing a traditional Chinese style uniform like the ones they wore on their way to Hong Kong. Luckily for her, almost all of her clothes were unisex anyway since The Metal insists on wearing some type of martial arts related outfit any chance it comes up. The floor of the hall was covered in metallic dust and shreds of dense fabric from custom heavy bags she tore up before they arrived.

“You seem lively at least, bro.”

“Despite some unforeseen side effects, the machine seems to have worked.  I feel stronger and more energized than ever.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re not letting it get you down much. So, where do we start?”

“Greece!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“There’s a gig there that might turn into a lead if we do a good enough job.”

“If?”

“It’s a start and beggars can’t be choosers.”

The group split up to separate rooms to unpack their bags just so the could repack them with the essentials: a week’s worth of clothes, falsified documents, Electromagnetic Psionic arms, concealable melee weapons, pocket-sized explosives, and of course fruit snacks. By noon, they were all gathered in the yard waiting for The Metal to inform the team on the travel plans.

She didn’t say a single word just standing there grinning with her hands in her pockets. Then, The Metal let out a snide laugh as she looked up into the sky. Everyone else cocked their heads up to see what was going on when from within a large cloud emerged a titanous machine covered in a strange alloy that looked like jet black gold. It was a big as a high school football stadium and shaped like some sort of boat with odd-looking cannons all along the deck. The thing appeared to suspiciously hover in the air without any blades, jets, or other known forms of propulsion, but it was almost as if you could see light slightly bending around several large disc-like structures scattered across the outer hull. It was an airship unlike any man had yet seen.

“Jesus Christ, what fresh hell is that!?”

“Remember when you asked what the Chrysanthemum was? Well, there she is. First of her kind, Dreadnaught Class Airship – Prototype 1.”

“I can’t believe you actually managed to make an airship that wasn’t just full of hot air.”

“Well, it wasn’t just me. Joe and I worked on this project together up until he dipped out with it. But we hashed things out after that trouble in Hong Kong. I agreed to let him continue to captain the ship since he already has a functioning crew and he’s agreed to fly me places whenever I need to travel a long distance.”

“Wait, bro… Joe has a crew?”

“Just wait.”

The ship held its position once it was only a hundred feet about the dojo and released what appeared to be a dingy roughly the size of a tank that hovered down to retrieve them. The vessel docked neatly into a storage bay at the bottom of the Chrysanthemum that was deserted aside from them. Knowing her way around, The Metal led the group to a shaft that bypassed the other decks straight to the bridge where Joe would be awaiting them. After climbing several stories and reaching the first sign of life since they entered this cold mechanical monstrosity, all but The Metal found themselves in a confused state of being both simultaneously surprised and yet not at all after seeing the crew.

Dressed in what could only be described as a sultry parody of a sailor’s uniform, the bridge was littered with Nekomimi operating the instruments, cleaning the floors, and scurrying around preparing a buffet table for their captain’s guests. There must have been at least twenty in the chamber with a couple of them in different, yet equally revealing, uniforms that made it clear which ones were the officers. The catgirls varied in all number of fur colors and builds, with the exception of anyone being the slightest overweight as Joe has always had a loathing disgust toward the obese. And just as the newcomers to the ship were distracted, the captain’s chair swiveled around revealing Joe smirking with a twisted satisfaction for the life he built here.

“Welcome to my ship, I hope you enjoy your stay amongst the classiest crew ever to fly the high skies.”

“Bro, You’re entire crew consists of catgirls?”

“Oh yeah, they’re all rescues.”

The Kidd, Sentri, and Buck all jerked their heads toward The Metal after he spoke of the crew as if they were pets.

“What? Joe and I literally rescued them… from practical slavery. Not every orphan that gets turned into a Nekomimi gets to work a nice job like package delivery or commentary for fights. Some have to do very dirty things. So when this airship project grew big enough that we needed a crew to operate it, I sneaked in and broke some of the girls loose. The genetic modifications actually help them learn new skills very quickly.”

“That and I have a thing for catgirls.”

The Metal shrugged and nodded to Joe’s statement while everyone else just shook their heads. It wasn’t a long trip from Dallas to Crete due to the speed the Chrysanthemum was able to obtain, but neither The Metal nor Joe the Short bothered to inform the others about that fact. At their leisurely pace, it took The Kidd, Sentri, and Buck about ten minutes to walk to the guest quarters. After only ten minutes of settling in and playing games, they heard Joe on the PA system saying, “This is your beloved and majestic captain speaking. We will be entering Greasy airspace in just five minutes. Please be in the drop bay by that time as we are only slowing to a hundred and twenty miles per hour and you don’t want to miss your stop!”

“Wait, Kidd… your brother is joking, right!?”

“Yeah, sure,” He replied while getting up and jolting toward the door. “The guy we all picked on for years is joking about kicking us out of a moving ship going over a hundred miles per hour.”

“But it’s Metal’s ship, too. He wouldn’t let him…”

Sentri and The Kidd stopped just long enough to send a stern and disappointed glare toward Buck before continuing down the hatch.

“Shit, you’re right. That asshole probably thinks this sounds fun.”

The guys shoot down a ladder and scurry to find their way through the winding corridors lined with cables and pipes. The Kidd darted through mostly fine, hollering to get the nekomimis working on the innards of the ship to move out of the way. Sentri trailed just behind him but had some trouble ducking around the pipes since this ship was constructed by two people that stand only five and a half feet tall who wouldn’t consider much the difficulty someone over six feet would have navigating the tighter maintenance tunnels. And slugging behind both of the was Buck, who had no issue with the size of the tunnels yet still found himself tripping and crashing into everything thanks to his klutzy nature. 

Entering the drop bay just within the given time frame, the guys spot a nekomimi crewmember standing by the open hatch with four parachutes hanging from her arms. They sprint over to her to grab their chutes and right before they get there she tosses them out the bay door. The stopped dead in their tracks, absolutely floored by the sheer gall of this action, when The Metal came up from behind them. Laughing like the mad man she is, The Metal spun around as she passed them, shouted “training never stops, boys”, and flipped backward out of the ship while saluting them.

 “No way,” Buck hollered to the others. “I’ll just sit this one out-”

Before he could finish what he was saying, Sentri kicked him through the hatch. They couldn’t hear it, but they were positive Buck was screaming, “Screw you!” The Kidd shot Sentri a bewildered look.

“We don’t have time for that right now. We have to catch those chutes.”

The two of them leaped out to the airship and narrowed themselves to try and catch up to the bags tumbling through the air. Unsurprised, they noticed The Metal was already scooping up one of the chutes just as they joined the dive. She slung the straps over her shoulders and extended her limbs out to catch as much air as possible to slow down. The others were quickly gaining on him and the other packs. It took Buck a bit to reorient himself in the air since he was so violently kicked out. Maybe a bit too long. The packs kept the same velocity as the ship after being thrown out with The Kidd and Sentri who dropped out at the same speed being able to line up with their targets. Buck, on the other hand, fumbled through the air at the speed of the airship minus Sentri kicking him in the opposite direction and was way too far off the path to catch up.

“Son of a bitch!”

She undid her top, which despite looking like a traditional silk kung fu saam was as heavily woven as her usual gi, and spread it out with her arms to increase her wind resistance. Hanging back, she caught up to Buck and took the chute off her back. 

“You’re welcome!” The Metal screamed at Buck as she put the pack onto him and pulled the cord before he had a chance to adjust. 

“I hate you!”

She rolled her eyes as Buck yielded away from her to safety. Everyone else already had a deployed parachute, but The Metal still needed to catch the last one. She saw it and tried using her sail-like top in different positions to glide toward it. The air whipped across her face pulling her hair tightly back as she dove as fast as she could to grab the bag. She reached her hands forward and just as The Metal grasped the straps in her fingers she realized that she had run out of time.

The others landed on a nearby beach and saw The Metal crash headfirst into the Aegean Sea. Quickly removing their chutes, they scurried to the water to see if she was alright. They began wading in and screaming for The Metal, but several meters off she rose out of the ocean as if she walked all the way to shore. She had her top off, fully displaying her normal training weights and a bikini top underneath, so could ring as much of the water out of it as possible.

“Jesus Christ, Metal! Are you okay?”

“Oh yeah,” she said before spitting out some water. “I’ll manage. This is just another reason why I always wear a swimsuit instead of normal underwear. Always gotta be prepared for the worst.” She then took off her pants to ring them out as well.

“So,” The Kidd asked, “What now?”

“Now,” The Metal replied, pulling her slightly dryer clothes back over her body, “We take a ride all the way across the island Chania where we’ll meet up with an old friend of ours. Luckily, one of us keeps a plethora of various currencies in their hammerspace”

It took them roughly two hours to make it from where they landed in Heraklion to their destination in Chania. They had to hoof it some of the way due to the construction of some large scaffolding covering in lights and draped with black curtains taking up the entire road in front of the hotel to which The Metal said they were heading. And that’s when it clicked for the rest of them. They couldn’t understand a word of Greek written on the two-story-tall promotional poster, but they the person on it and the only two words that mattered: Laney Lin.

Episode 14 – Feeling the Role

“Jesus Christ, you weren’t pulling my leg! How the hell does this happen to someone twice!?”

“It’s good to see you too, Laney.”

They found Laney Lin in her suite practicing her songs for the show in a couple of nights. She always arrived days in advance so she could acclimate to the local climate and run through her routine as much as possible. Keeping in line with her former sensei’s training, Laney treated every aspect of her life in the same way that she treats her martial arts. Lying all over her room were broken heels, ripped dresses, torn guitar strings, and cracked nails. Nothing was in its place. The bedding was scattered about. All the furniture had been pressed up against the walls. And somehow, the bathroom sink had been lodged into the ceiling. She had been practicing so hard that she was visibly sweating when they walked in.

She dropped her guitar immediately after recognizing that the small, blonde woman before was her old teacher and ran over. Without asking permission, Laney began inspecting The Metal’s form; poking and prodding to see if this was reality or a mere illusion. Though peeved, The Metal was being patient with his pupil’s curiosity up until the point that she cupped her breasts.

“Knock it off, Laney!” The Metal said smacking her in the back of the head.

“Yep, you’re definitely Metal,” she said rubbing the spot where she was struck. “This situation won’t do at all. I can’t marry someone with bigger breasts than me.”

The Metal smacked her in the head again even harder than last time.

“Jesus,” she said tending to the wound, “you’re never to anger over humor. This must be getting to you more than you let off.”

“Are you gonna help or should I just leave now?”

“I’m not gonna help you. You’re gonna help you.”

“Yo, this about that job you were talkin’ about, bro?”

“Yeah, Laney posted it directly in the group chat… that she is still in for some reason. But it wasn’t really clear what you wanted. You just went on and on about how you couldn’t get it yourself.”

“About that…”

Laney was never good at telling stories. She had a tendency to start much further back than what is helpful and rattle on about every single detail whether it is important to know or not. Laney had heard wind of an artifact hidden in the labyrinth that can alter parts of reality. Of course, she wants it to become stronger but it may also be useful in helping The Metal return back to her original form. She’d go get it herself, but she has a show to perform and she was always horrible with directions, to be honest. Laney would likely be trapped in that labyrinth for days before she finally got fed up and started destroying the place.

“I have to say, Laney, I’m disappointed that you’d resort to seeking power this way.”

“But, Sensei, training is so hard and I never catch up!”

“It’s not about catching up!” The Metal said smacking Laney in the back of the head. “It’s about getting better than you were yesterday.” Not wanting to waste any more time, the group turned for the door and almost left when The Metal stopped in her tracks to ask, “Well Laney, are you gonna tell us where to find the labyrinth?”

There was a moment of unsettling silence before her response. “Yeah,” she smirked and giggle out, “on a singular condition.”

“That ungrateful… see if I ever take in a kid off the streets again.”

Even after hiking roughly eighty-five miles, stopping at two different hotels for rest, and eating several meals, the others still found themselves occasionally giggle at The Metal as she popped off into miniature tantrums mumbling under her breath. Heels clacking down the street, the only way that spiteful woman would tell The Metal where the entrance to the Knossos Labyrinth was located was if she one of the many outfits Laney brought with her the entire time. From the walk to Sylamos all the way until they brought the artifact back. In fact, Laney went to town on everything from the make-up to the accessories dolling her up like a modern Grecian Goddess. Toga dress and all. Not only was it difficult enough to walk while there were still roads, but it also became a nightmare once they had to tread off the path to climb to the entrance.

You see, the Labyrinth of King Minos was much larger than anyone but the creator, Daedelus, himself knew. Although the only entrance known to Minos laid beneath the palace in Knossos, the winding structure spun many in each direction deep below the island’s surface. Due to cave-ins over the centuries, almost no one is aware of this. They believe the disconnected cave beneath the palace and many others like it scattered about merely inspired the myth. And that’s precisely what the powers that be would like them to believe. The Labyrinth was such an ingenious structure that after Theseus defeated Minotauros and people stopped getting thrown down there, the Gods began using it to store stuff they didn’t want anyone to find. They mostly sent Hermes down there when needed, since he was the best navigator literally anyone knew. The place was so confusing and entropically silent that even competing pantheons couldn’t traverse it and eventually quit trying.

“Bro, I thought there was only one entrance to this joint. Why are we out in the middle of the countryside and not at that rich dude’s castle?”

“Blame Daedelus.”

“Pardon?” Sentri whipped out.

“As you likely know, Daedalus was a caring man. Maybe too caring for his own good. When designing the structure, he felt pity for anything, man, beast, or whatever, that might be imprisoned within. So, without telling anyone about it, he built in a backdoor.”

“A backdoor… to a giant labyrinth no one can navigate?”

“It wasn’t a great solution, but the only one someone in his position could take at the time. Now, this door is the only one the few beings that run through here can use. I was aware it existed, but I had no idea where it would be until Laney hunted down the information for me.”

“How on Earth did you trust she would even know where to look?” questioned Buck.

“Oh, that’s easy,” she said feeling around on a natural-looking stone wall. “I did a little manipulating and pushed her in the right direction. I don’t even think she’s realized I was the one that pulled the strings to get her production company to hold a concert here in the first place.”

Buck was floored to hear this information. He didn’t believe it past The Metal, but he was still surprised all the same. And just like that, a segment of the stone clicked in and a doorway emerged from its surface. One after the other, the four miscreants made their descent down a dark stairway until they came to a drop at the end. The Metal crouched and felt the lip of the platform, finding narrow cracks spaces like rungs in a ladder carved into the wall. Much too thin for the monstrous hands and hooves of Minotauros to use, but not for most humans. That is if they are properly dressed for the occasion.

“Damn…”

“What is it now?”

“There is a ladder carved into the wall, but there is no way these heels will fit with how thick the bases are.”

“Then take them off. We’re like a hundred miles away and in the actual Labyrinth. It’s not like Laney will know.”

“I know you never got into the martial arts as deep as the rest of us, Sentri, but Laney is still my disciple regardless of whether she abandoned us or not. As her sensei, I’m only as good as my word. Besides,” she said letting out a hefty sigh, “she probably has something on this ensemble bugged.”

The other three all smacked their foreheads in near unison.

“Welp, guess it’s good I’m not wearing my weights due to this stupid deal.”

The Metal then slid off the edge, spinning around and gripping the stone slits on her way down. She attempted to climb down swiftly using only her upper body strength, but after only a few rungs the others heard a scream, followed by some distant swearing, and eventually a loud thump. Worried, the others followed down the ladder as quickly and cautiously as they could. It took several minutes to creep down the fifty-foot rockface and at the bottom, they saw The Metal massaging her sore body after having fallen buttocks first into the stone floor.

“What happened, yo?”

“You know, the thing is, you never realize how difficult climbing can be until you forget that you have tits.”

She got back to her feet and they journeyed into the labyrinth. Every wall intentionally looked exactly the same as the last to be as confusing as possible. They wandered from one corridor to the next for hours, but at no point did they feel lost. It’s never made any sense to them, but everyone has grown comfortable with the fact that The Metal’s gut has already led exactly where they were heading. Even at times when the words coming out of The Metal’s mouth indicated he had no idea about their location at all. It’s just about the weirdest ability a person could have, but an unbelievably handy one.

Around three hours in, the group stopped for lunch. Out from her hammerspace, The Metal pulled out an entire picnic full of submarine sandwiches, bags of chips, packaged fruit slices, and cans of soda-pop. Though, she had to quickly double-check that what she was handing them were actually sodas. If sharing a meal in the middle of a cross-section of a massive maze in a foreign country on the opposite side of the planet wasn’t a unique enough experience for them, it got a lot weirder when they heard footsteps echoing down the cold and stony halls many yards away from them. Confused, they stalled in the midst of their respective bites to peer over toward the sound. They weren’t too concerned at first. What could it have possibly, another human that followed them in? Thanks to Theseus, they didn’t need to worry about Minotaurus even if it could live that long. And it was a man, but not one they were prepared for.

Rounding the corner was an incredibly built man standing approximately six and a half feet tall. He was more muscular than an athlete, but it was still yet more practical, unlike a bodybuilder. Atop his torso was finely tanned, lionskin pelt fashioned into a vested tunic that draped almost as far down as his knees. Aside from the belt keeping it tight to his body, that was all he wore. His skin was nearly as pale as half the people in this room and unfitting of a man from this area. They couldn’t really make out his face very well as much of it was obscured by thick, curly, dark, dirty blonde hair sprouting from both his crown and jaw. All that was visible was his rather large nose and eyes like crashing waves in the dead of night. The man seemed as surprised to be running into anyone else in here as they were, but then he got a good look at the woman in the back.

“You!” he barked as he pointed at The Metal, still in mid-bite of her sandwich.

“Me!?” She barely got out with her mouth full.

“Metal, what the hell did you do this time?”

She simply shrugged at the question.

“Playing dumb, are we? It might have been five hundred and forty-seven years since we last crossed paths, but don’t think I forgot about you stranding me in the middle of a place that shouldn’t exist!”

“You know, this time I believe. That guy sounds more nuts than you usually do.”

Still with his arm extended toward them, the man cupped his hand as brilliant lights swarmed into it like water down a drain. Once condensed within his palm, the energy sprang forth to form a xiphos in his grip. He juggled the sword once to catch it by the blade, then lobbed it with the speed of a ballistic missile at The Metal. Wide-eyed and heart pounding, she narrowly avoided her head being split in twine. The blade continued to travel twelve feet into the nearest wall, which erupted into an explosion of stone and dust from the sheer projectile force. Everyone was physically rattled by both the consecutive sonic booms caused by the sword’s flight and the collateral damage following its landing. Then, light gleamed out from the rubble where the xiphos had stopped and funneled back on a path to the goliath’s hand. 

Not waiting for him to do it again, The Metal once again accessed her hammerspace and pulled out a silver-colored can. As she shook it up, the other realized what was going on and each immediately pulled out something akin to a gas mask. She didn’t even pull the pin. The can was hurled at the large man just in time for it to be pierced by the newly formed blade. In flash, noxious fumes spewed in all directions and consumed the halls for a quarter-mile radius. If the pressure zone that it created alone didn’t make a person’s organs churn, inhaling the vapors would. Seconds later, the four of them plunged out of the smoke while outpacing its dissipation through the rest of the Labyrinth. 

“It’s been a while, but that’s basically tear gas, right!?” Sentri asked loudly through his mask.

“If you managed to crank it up a hundredfold… yeah, more or less.”

“Do you think that’ll do the trick? Who the hell was that anyway?”

“If I were to go on a hunch, I’d say that was Herakles just from the lion skin tunic alone. So, probably not.”

“Herakles!? The demigod?”

“Yo, didn’t he die?”

“Eh, a lot gets changed in stories from one retelling to the next. Metaphorically, he might have died to separate his human half from his godly side, but there really is no such thing as a demigod. You’re either a normal person or not. Given that he is the son of Zeus, I think it just meant he stopped living the life he was born to and joined the rest of his family.”

“I’d call bullshit on that, but it makes just about as much sense as anything else has today.”

Looking back to see if he was following them, The Metal misstepped in her horrendous footwear and went tumbling forward through a nearby wall. The others popped in to see if she was alright and found what looked to be a shrine. I was a secret chamber decked wall to wall with murals, statues, and potentially priceless artifacts. The entire thing was gilded and in the back was exactly what they were looking for. The Metal sprang to her feet and snatched a crummy-looking sack off a pedestal and raised it above her head as if this moment was her victory.

“Ahahahaha! I told you guys, I always end up exactly where I’m trying to get to.”

“Ummm…. Metal,” Buck said cautiously, “I think I know why Hercules wants to kill you.”

Coincidentally, behind her happened to be a statue of the Goddess Hera reaching out with one hand on her hip and the other reaching toward the heavens in a pose not dissimilar to the one The Metal was striking. Due to Laney’s area-specific fashion choices, the outfit was that different either.

“Jesus! Aside from the amount of hair she has, you are practically the spitting image.”

“Yo, isn’t she the one that actively fucked with the guy his entire human life?”

“You’re damn right she is!” Heracles explained while bargaining in on them. The Metal hurried to shove the bag into her hammerspace and was promptly tackled by the son of Zeus. She reacted by giving him a left hook into his grizzly beard, but he was not even phased. In fact, he was mildly confused by it. Only for a brief moment though, as The Metal panicked and planted her heel directly into the warrior’s scrotum. She may not be Grecian God like her opponent, but the force of a freight train crashing into your gonads is enough to catch nearly anyone by surprise.

She took the opportunity to toss the lug off of her and dart out the whole she originally fell in through. The others just stood to the side because they were going to stand in the way of the great Herakles. That sounded like a death sentence. At best, maybe they could tail them and find the way out of here in case The Metal actually survives. Oddly, Herakles paused to give the Kidd a strange look of bewilderment before pursuing the one he thought to be Hera.

“You can’t run from me forever, Hera!” echoed down the corridors

“Listen, bud! I ain’t your auntie!”

She dug over and over into her hammerspace looking for something that might be helpful, tossing aside lots of pointless junk she had been unintentionally collecting over the years. Pamphlets, a decade’s worth of encyclopedias, old cell phones, a jar of fire ants, et cetera. She had just tossed in the air a set of trading cards from a game she designed and it instantly burst into confetti when an arrow fired by Herakles soared through it. Despite the particulates scattered through the air behind her, the second arrow did not miss. It wasn’t a direct shot, but even clipping The Metal’s shoulder was enough to spin her around and knock her against the wall. The draw weight of that bow must have been well over a ton. Her arm was torn wide open and blood flowed all around. Herakles didn’t even pay it any mind as he approached his target and gripped her by the throat.

“Finally. After all these millennia, you are mine… is that blood?” Herakles questioned after finally noticing. He dipped his fingers into the crimson pool and tasted a sample. “Sídēros. Yes, that’s definitely not Ichor. You’re not Hera, are you?”

“I’m fairly certain that I already made that clear.”

“My apologies. No one comes down here except those from Olympus. So when I saw someone with the seemingly unmistakable visage of my aunt, you must understand how certain I was in my pursuit.”

“I’d say I don’t blame you, but I’m never that certain about anything anymore. Why’d you come down here in the first place, anyway?”

“To find you. Or, more so, who I thought you were. We heard a rumor that Hera and Poseidon were spotted wandering around Crete, so I came down. Normally, Hermes is the one who navigates these halls, but he wasn’t sure he could handle himself around them. Not that it was a problem anyway. Turned out they just mistook you and that chubbier fella, whom I assume to be your brother, for them.”

“Why would that be a problem? I’d think they’d be free to wander around here like anyone else.”

“Do the mortals here not know? The original six Olympians, my father among them, have been missing for a couple millennia now. They just left one day and the cosmos has been a chaotic, territorial battleground between the different godly factions since. Athena is at her wit’s end handling the reigns. My goal was to bring them back, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to Hera after all she put me through.”

“Times like this, I’m glad I live in a protected neutral zone. Anyhow, I guess I should give this back,” she said while retrieving the tattered bag from her storage.

“Nah, keep it. Anything truly valuable we’d keep back in Olympus. Everything down here is just useless crap that holds nostalgia value to some of us. We just set this up to bait in other gods and fuck with them as they get lost in this maze. Consider it compensation for all,” he paused, waving his hands around the arrow wound, “… this.”

Herakles’ brow frilled as if he had a realization. He then spat in his hand, rubbed them together until oven-like heat crept off them, and then slapped The Metal’s wound. She screamed for just a second but by the time the large man’s hand was removed, the wound had vanished as if it was never there. 

“Hey! Thanks, Herakles.”

“Oh please, don’t call me that. I only started using that name originally to insult Hera and it sadly stuck. Can you believe people actually think I like being called that? My friends call me Al.” He stood up and began strolling off into the other direction, before turning back around and saying, “You know, it’s so easy to get lost in here that even I have a hard time finding my way out. I was just gonna call on Hermes to pick me up, is there anywhere you want us to drop you and your party off?”

“Actually, Al, there is.”