I finally received an invite to The Lotus Lantern.
For the uninitiated, let me give you the skinny on this location: The Lotus Lantern is a high-stakes, incredibly illegal, shifting gambling house. In order to avoid the constabulary, it moves constantly through different neighborhoods. Apparently, they were tagged in every other neighborhood this evening and couldn’t find a place to go, so they ended up here in the Undersling. Generally, they have to put a lot of effort into making sure events like these don’t get busted, so they wouldn’t dream of inviting journalists — but given the current venue they had a more open invitation list, allowing yours truly to attend.
I took a seat right down in the front row. I spoke to *[REDACTED]*, the proprietor. He wanted to make sure that they got some publicity; no better way to do that than to invite yours truly, top reporter for the Notion, onsite. I settled down into my giant mushroom seat — a fitting design, as the arena is covered in a layered pattern, like the underside of a mushroom. Pale white railings almost the hue of marble walls waist high are between us and the fighting floor, which is covered in a light layer of dirt and sand. The smells of old sweat, blood, and my aged whiskey from the Green fill my senses, so I light up a cigar with my other hand to add to the ambiance and settle in.
Our combatants came out, numbering about ten. One has a fey appearance and is announced as Astrid Swent; I’ve heard of them before. They are covered in flowers and moss and have an unassuming appearance. Unassuming vislae? I shrug and shake my head when bets are requested.
Next a fluid being enters the arena. I squint at their graceful movements and ponder whether this is… yes!… yes it is! An Elderbrin has entered the contest! Immediately I flag for the tall thin woman taking bets — I don’t need to see the rest. I get ready to place my orbs and I watch the Elderbrin. Their eyes flick to the side, they flick up to the ceiling, and then they grab some of the moss growing on the side. They need to get their head in the game for this fight if they want to win. I change my mind, and flick my arm away, earning a groan from the bookie.
And here we have an amorphous blob floating into the arena. Who lets a lacuna into a fight? I really start to doubt whether I should be betting on this or not. These rifts in time get an unfair advantage with their intelligence but I’ve never seen one actually fight before! This is going to get really interesting.
Many more entrants are announced, too many to list, and then a pause comes over the crowd. The tension is palpable and one more entrant arrives. I can’t get a good view at first over the hulking figure in front of me, so I stand on my hind legs looking over Urlosk — wait, is that a Hart? Kitty Hart has entered the arena! Well, okay… if it’s going to be any of them it would be her. I go to the Grand Jubilee sometimes; their porridge is terrible but for my money Moxie makes the best drinks in Fartown. There aren’t many reasons to go there with all those vislae, but when I do I stop in I chat with Moxie. That’s my bet, no one is going to take down a Hart, even the black sheep of the family. I’m all in.
A bugle call starts the fight. There are ten combatants in the ring and chaos ensues. Urlosk is taken out quickly; he really needs a new shtick. The hammer hands were great but since he lost to that skinny vislae Seru the Fearless, everyone has realized he’s a one trick pony. Kitty Hart stays in the back and summons a demon. The demon is a large black monstrosity with oozy amorphous growths coming out of it. In response, another vislae casts a spell and rocks spurt from every part of his body… but it’s taking too long! The demon swings one of his tree trunk arms! The defensive spell has not formed yet, and the countering vislae is ripped apart!
In an odd turn of events, it looks like Kitty has teamed up with Astrid Swent. Kitty is casting summons left and right: demons and imps flying through the air and summoning fire. Meanwhile Astrid, standing back to back with her, is slowly taking over the ring with green growths. Mushrooms grow on the fungi, a dandelion pops out of my whiskey and my cigar is no longer dry but the tobacco leaves are green. This makes the battlefield difficult for the Elderbrin and the Lacuna who have been staring at each other for awhile now. The Elderbin makes a move and then falls to the ground, quickly followed by the Lacuna, who succumbs to the plants that have grown up their legs.
Kitty yells something at the latest demon that has entered the ring, a hulking demon with an ape face. The demon turns and lopes towards Astrid. You can’t turn your back on a Hart! This Ape demon is going to destroy Astrid! Astrid, with a deft move belying their slow approach so far, draws an enormous glowing symbol in the air. At this symbol, the ape demon stops dead in its tracks which causes dirt and sand to fly in the air, covering my new waistcoat and spraying into my whiskey glass. It turns and rushes towards Kitty, swinging it’s hulking arm and knocking Kitty backward against the wall, then slumps to the dirt, clearly out of the fight.
And there stands Astrid alone in the middle of the ring. I drop my orbs in the too-smug bookie’s bag and toss my cigar on the ground since it can’t hold a light anymore. I take a sip from my whiskey (the dandelion actually helps a bit!) and cross my other arms behind my head, letting everything I just witnessed pass through my mind, beaming at Astrid as they bask in the adulation of the crowd.