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.”

Ex Dynamis Chaos Fan-art Contest #1

Ahoy there, and welcome to EDK’s first ever fan-art competition! This is a community driven event with prizes from creator Malcolm Terzich for the first three places. All you have to do to enter is make some art of at least one character from Ex Dynamis Chaos. It doesn’t have to be an illustration, it doesn’t have to be in color, and doesn’t even have to be a picture. You could even make a sculpture or write a song as long as the subject is a character from the EDK universe. It just has to be some form of art. Actually, let’s get a bit specific on what can be entered:

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 character from Ex Dynamis Chaos. There are some people privy to characters not officially released in any capacity, so for this contest we are specifically limiting it to a character that appears anywhere on this site, even if only once, as of the deadline of the contest. There are no restrictions on additional characters of any sort, in or out of EDK, as long as the subject of the piece is clearly the established character.
  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. You 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, April 25th 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). 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. 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!

The Tall Man and His Door

I’ll have to admit to you before we even get started that it has been many years since all of this had occurred, but I’ll try to recall the details of the traumatizing event as best as I can. It happened when I was a kid, ten or eleven I think. I can’t be certain, but it was close enough to my birthday that either could be true and it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. The only reason I remember that was due to how chilled my bones were from the weather outside. There wasn’t snow or anything like that, just a wretched coursing freeze that would cause your vision to collapse inward from the periphery if you stayed out in it for too long. At least when you’re that small anyway. Looking back, I could probably go out in the same weather with nothing but a thick shirt as I am now, but adults have a way of dealing with things that kids haven’t quite obtained yet.

To make matters worse, neither parent was home and no one knew how to operate the thermostat. My mother had often been in and out of the hospital throughout my childhood and this so happened to be one of those times. For that night it was just myself, my younger brothers, and the man my father had left us with already passed out drunk on the living room sofa. He had been a friend of the family simply due to the nature that he happened to live across the street at the time and for any other reason was beyond me. I recall that we thought it was rad at the time whenever he watched us for the night because he would let go wild and ravage the pantry for whatever we wanted to eat for dinner, but of course, now I realize that he only did so to avoid having to prepare anything himself. His meal consisted of a bologna sandwich and enough beer that he wouldn’t wake until the morning came and he was relieved of his post.

With everyone else fast asleep, there I was shivering with a thick duvet wrapped around me as I worked on a story I was writing at the time. I was often awake at times no other sane person would choose. Over and over they told me that I’d grow out of my childhood insomnia, but that day has still yet to come. I always figured that if I was up I might as well be working on something, so I grabbed my dim little desk lamp and continued to fill the pages of yet my fifth composition notebook on this epic tale I had hoped would blow all the minds of my middle school mates. Sadly, I got so wrapped up in the creative process that I didn’t even notice what had been going on in the dark corners of the neighboring rooms until I heard the obnoxious slamming of a door down the hall.

More annoyed than perplexed, I left the comfort of my work to see what could possibly have caused that infuriating noise. I remember thinking to myself that it was probably just a ghost or an imp; something unpleasant that I wasn’t unfamiliar with. It couldn’t have been either of my brothers, that’s for sure. Both were much too small to slam a door at all, let alone that loudly. I’m not sure I could have back then either. I approached my youngest brother’s room and reached through the door, laying just slightly ajar to allow a modicum of light from the hall to filter in, to flip on the lights. Up and down I toggled the lever, but the ceiling lamp was unresponsive.

Nervously, I tiptoed through the doorway. I always had a problem with the dark, I think at least, in a relatable way. It wasn’t even so much as what could be in the spacious vacuum of potential danger that rests before me, but that no matter what could be there I may never know since I won’t be able to see it until it is too late. Fear isn’t the word I’d used to describe the feeling. Maybe reverence is more appropriate. One reveres the dark because while they may not know what lies in waiting for them they are fully aware of the gamble of proceeding forth. And taking that gamble, I hugged the wall until I ran into my brother’s bed. I swiftly lifted his blanket, but he was not underneath.

Just then, the light in the hall cut out startling me. It would have been difficult for him to reach the light switch, but I wouldn’t have put it past my brother to figure out how to use a large toy to cause mischief. I called out for him, but no answer. Edging my way back out into the hall I called out for my other brother, but still no answer. I could feel the rhythm of my chest increase in tempo as I made my way toward the living room to hopefully wake the only adult in the house.

Boom! Boom! Boom! I wasn’t even halfway down the hall and all the doors along it slam shut in a chain of thunderous claps. Without opening my eyes, I managed to sprint to the side of my sitter only tripping on the coffee table next to him. Try as I did, he was so inebriated that a full-grown man couldn’t have awoken him even without more creative measures void from the mind of a panicking child. Then, in the distance, I heard a click. When I looked back down the hall, I could see the faint light from my desk lamp bending around the corner. I reached beneath the couch cousin below my sitter’s snoring head and pulled out a combat knife far too large for a child my size to be wielding. It was my dad’s from when he was in the army. He liked to keep it there just in case any intruders decided to set their appetite on our lower-class domicile since he often opted to sleep on the sofa.

As I made my way back down the hall, the doors all remained shut. I’m still not sure if it would have been more or less stressful if the doors to the other rooms had opened back up, but it didn’t matter as I clung to the wall opposite of each one with the knife pointed at the furthest extent of my tiny reach as I passed. The blade shook wildly in my grasp. I’m certain it was a mix of its weight and my nerves. The hallway felt longer now than at any other time in my life. And for some reason, the closer I got back to my room the dimmer the light from my end table became. It felt dense and foggy. Not that I could see any sort of condensation in the air. No, it was almost as if there was this thick, invisible miasma cloaking the air around me and letting less light through than should otherwise be the case. Once in my room, the shroud was so heavy that all I could see was the faint glimmer of the bulb and the notebook I had been logging away at just beneath. Everything else was as if it became the darkness. I placed my hands down to feel the bed so I wouldn’t bump into it; then used it to make my way over to the only thing I could fully comprehend in this distortion of my normal reality. Just as I reach the lamp, it too goes dark.

Red. Beaming out of the gaping maw of my closet door was light so glaringly red that beneath its gaze no other colors or tones were recognizable. Alarmed, I swiftly leaped up into the top bunk of the bed, only to find that my other brother whom I left up there sound asleep was also missing. I peeked above the guardrail to see a narrow silhouette in the closet so tall that it was cut off by the top of the doorway. In a rather stiff and uncanny motion, an arm stretched out from the figure and grasp trimming or the threshold with its sickly yet still masculine fingers. Crouching down so it could fit through, the entity robotically hoisted its way into my room to reveal that it was actually a man of sorts.

Although it wasn’t the peak of the silhouette, his head still stood higher than the door frame itself. Atop sat a flimsy old top hat with a couple of holes in the brim that was so tall it bent in half and dragged across the ceiling as he walks. With each step, it made a sound against the sponging that went schiff… schiff… schiff. The man wore a dingy black suit, like you would expect to see on an undertaker, that hugged his slender form a bit too much as if it wasn’t quite tailored for him. In his left hand, he walked with a cane, but not with a limp and not in step with his stride which made his motion appear even more discordant. Beneath the hat, his thin, greasy, black hair squirmed down the sides of his weathered face like worms desperately escaping his head. His grin was slimy, filled with crooked teeth, and surrounded by a patchwork of stubble. And in the center of his ghostly pale face sat a narrow, slightly-hooked nose just beneath his solemn black eyes so dark I couldn’t make out with the pupil stopped and the iris began.

“Salutations, my new friend,” the tall man said to me whilst licking his chapped upper lip, “How might you be doing this fine evening we have here?”

Not knowing how to handle this situation, I cautiously scuttled back away from the guardrail toward the far corner of the room and remained silent. Not detoured in the slightest, his smile widened as he approached the bed. I have no doubt that… thing could have climbed up between the bunk and the ceiling, sprawled out like a spider, with little inconvenience. Instead, he chose to swing one over the railing and leaned against the bed casually.

“Aw, you don’t want to talk to me?” He asked with a contrived pout. “It’s alright, little boy. You can talk to me. I’m very friendly.”

I still chose to remain silent. He came off as a bad hypocrite and nothing sounded sincere. Displeased with my silence, the tall man reached into his coat and pulled out what appeared from that distance to be some kind of treat.

“How about this,” he said extending his just inches from where I sat. “If you give me your name, I’ll give you some candy. Sounds like a fair trade, right? Very friendly.”

“I was always told not to give my name strangers and you’re pretty strange,” I said, choosing to reply that time.

He chuckled for a second and responded with, “That fair, but where I’m from you are the strange one. If you won’t give me your name for candy, how about some shiny new rocks?” His fingers peeled back like old paint to clutch the treats. When his clutch released the candy has vanished and was replaced with tiny gemstones. “I know how much you like collecting these things and brought them just for you.”

I swallowed my own saliva hearing that. How could this monster whom I had never met know that I like collecting rocks? There was an assortment of ones I found around the city stored beneath the bottom bunk as we spoke, but only my brothers really knew about that. I panicked and start waving the knife in his direction and shouted, “I’m not buying what you’re selling, mister!”

As if disgusted, the tall man drifted back from the blade immediately. Once far enough away, he collected his composure, dusted off his coat, and began smiling again. His stance slowly cricked toward the closet down as he calmly stated, “I see we are done here, then. There is nothing I possess for which you would give me your name. I’ll take my leave.”

I can’t remember why I said it. Even then I wasn’t sure why these words escaped my mouth, but I muttered, “I want my brothers to be safe.”

Just before crossing the threshold, the creature stopped dead in his tracks. In the blink of an eye, he was back leaning on the guardrail just as before with a wild grimace. He took off his hat as if to show courtesy, revealing that the hair above it was matted and infested with small bugs.

“So, it seems we might come to an arrangement after all,” he snickered.

“What do you mean?” I asked with the knife still pointed at him.

“You see, both your brothers are back at my home,” the tall man replied.

“Then bring them back here!” I shouted without hesitation.

“No can do, little man. I only do favors for my friends. But if you were to give me your name and I gave you mine, I’m sure we could work something out,” He said in a most untrustworthy tone.

“All I have to do is tell you my name and you’ll bring them back?” I questioned suspiciously.

“Mhmmm, how about it?” He asked right back.

I retracted the knife back to my chest and thought it over for a couple of seconds. I knew that I had no reason to trust if this man even had my brothers, but both of them were missing and with the paranormality of all this I doubt they could have escaped him if they tried. I may have just been lucky that he’s seemed to be afraid of the knife. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to tell him. I took a deep breath and could see every single one of his teeth for how wide his smile grew.

“Don’t even think about giving that liar your name,” interrupted a rough yet girlish voice. “It’s not just an exchange of pleasantries. He already knows your name. Giving it to him is how he gets you since as a kid that’s all you really have to give away.”

There on my dresser sat a young girl just about my age and size in pigtails and pajamas. She had a cocky air about her without an ounce of fear toward this creature looming over her at roughly twice her height. I couldn’t really place why, but it felt like I had known this girl for a really long time. Maybe I had. Everything was getting fuzzy in that red light and all I could recall was who I was as well as my missing brothers.

The tall man broke character and for a second set of eyelids opened up to reveal that beneath those fake, drawn-on black irises were glowing red eyes that matched the light gleaming behind him in the closet. He wrenched his body over to her and angrily screamed, “You mind your own business, you realmless urchin! This is between me and the boy.”

“If it involves this boy, it is my business,” she laughed “Besides, you don’t scare me. You have no real power in this realm, you glorified scarecrow.”

The tall man raised his cane like he was about to strike the girl, but recomposed himself yet again instead. He swiveled back to me and said, “Fine. If we can’t make a deal then I’ll leave with just your brothers in my possession.”

“No, wait!” I hollered possibly too quickly. “You need to give them back!”

“I don’t need to do anything,” he retorted. ” Your parents gave them their names and then they gave them to me. By the rules of my land, they belong to me now. Of course, maybe we could shake on a deal and I could trade two for two. Both of you are far more interesting than those snot-nosed brats anyway.”

“Ha! I’m not giving you my name for anything in the whole universe,” scoffed the girl.

“No dice, then,” he replied.

Then I blurted out, “What if I went and got them myself?”

The pigtail girl shook her head rapidly side to side with utter disagreement with this plan, but the tall man seemed delighted by the notion.

“I control this gateway here, you see,” he stated in a bow, gesturing to the closet. “I’m not just going to let some kid waltz right into my home and take what is mine. Even to do that, you’ll have to give me something I want.”

In a possibly foolish act, I jumped off the top bunk and landed between the tall man and the closet door. He reached to push me out of the way but stopped when he saw I was still holding the knife. Reflexively, he pulled back toward the nightstand where I had worked previously.

“How about your life; is that worth it to you?” I said in rage. The girl was giddy and wide-eyed trying to figure out where this was going.

“You’ve put us in a tight spot, lad,” he said in a more serious tone. “If can’t get past you and your fancy little plaything, then I can’t get home. But likewise, if I were to perish the gateway to my realm will close on its own. The only way I can see about solving a dilemma like this is to make a wager.”

“Don’t make bets with devils,” the girl cautioned. “It never ends well.”

“What kind of wager; what are the terms?” I nervously asked as the girl grasped her face in disappointment.

The tall man’s boney fingers curled across and stroked his chin as he pondered what the bet should be, though he probably already had it in mind from the start. He raised up just one finger to display that the terms had come to him and spoke, “I shall be gracious enough to allow you entry into my realm, but you must traverse it to my home yourself. Should you manage to reach your brothers, to simply touch the littlest piece of them, then I will not only allow all of you to return home, but I will escort you there myself.”

“What’s the catch?” queried the girl.

“Unfortunately for you, the road is not an easy one,” the tall man replied. Especially for someone of your size. There will be many things that will wish to see your demise. Should you fall in my realm, your soul will be mine.”

“I don’t really like those terms,” I said while lowering my knife just ever so slightly, “but deal.”

“Then we must shake on it,” he said slyly.

I reached over with my weaker hand so I could keep the knife in a fairly defensive position and he reached over with his in turn. And just as we went to shake, I felt another hand clasping mine. It was the girl’s.

“You want in on this too, pigtails?” he chuckled.

“Not really,” she groaned. “But if he’s really committed to doing this, I guess I’m going, too.”

“What is it to you if he does?” the tall man curiously questioned.

“Now, that is actually no business of yours,” she replied.

The hands went, then the hands went down. Again the hands went up, then the hands went down. Thrice the hands went up, but on the third time that they went down red light behind them cut out. I heard a hollowing tap on the floor, despite the room being lined with carpet, and this time a pale cyan light shone in from the closet.

“There’s your door, children,” the tall man whispered between them menacingly. “Just cross that threshold and your challenge will begin.”

And of course, that’s exactly what we did.