Rating: Each chapter is individually rated. Adjust your decisions to read accordingly.
Round 1 - Ryalin
The harsh sound of her breathing cut through the stillness of the night like a razor blade. The torch she carried cast a flickering, orange glow, lending an almost ethereal quality to the surrounding jungle. She knew she wasn't on a trail but found herself not caring that she was lost. Her body felt numb. She no longer noticed the leaves whipping her face or the blisters on her feet.
It was a beautiful night. A crescent moon had risen over the plateau and millions of stars sparkled in the heavens like diamonds on a bed of black velvet. She didn't notice. Her brain was almost as numb as her body, overcome with shock and exhaustion.
Dewdrops showered her as she walked under a curtain of leaves and into a clearing, knowing instantly that she was not alone. Marguerite turned slowly, her fatigued sense of logic and frazzled nerves not quite able to stop the shriek of surprise and fear that cut through the absolute stillness of the night. The flickering light of the torch she carried just barely illuminated the beast towering above her, and even knowing what she did, she couldn't help but take a few steps away from the frozen creature. With its gaping mouth and razor sharp teeth bared, the t-rex stood in the small clearing in ghostly silence. Marguerite could almost hear the echoing remnants of the beast's final trumpet, abruptly silenced, as everything else had been so mysteriously silenced.
It was at that moment the adrenalin that had been sustaining her began to falter. Marguerite felt hot tears on her face, tears that she had been fighting since the moment her friends' voices had been inexplicably stilled, their motionless bodies caught in an almost perverse caricature of normal life trapped in a photograph. As the tears began to flow freely, she finally acknowledged the thought that had been haunting the edges of her awareness since every living thing on the plateau, both human and animal, had come to a sudden and inexplicable stop.
Why me? came the painful voice in her head. It was a sentiment she was familiar with, though she found the intensity of her current confusion and doubt almost crippling.
She needed Challenger. Never in the three years she had known the man had she so desperately wanted to hear his voice. His genius and overabundant self-confidence, though occasionally an annoyance, was what she very much needed. Though it pained her to admit it, she found herself ill equipped to even begin to understand what had happened to the inhabitants of the plateau, and, more importantly, what she could do to remedy the situation. Her first impulse had been to run, almost frantically, to the Zanga village in search of help or, at the very least, answers. What she found in the village had terrified her beyond reason. Her hopes for help crushed abruptly, Marguerite found herself wandering alone and aimlessly in a jungle of deafening silence, wondering for the first time, why in the world it was she, and she alone, who remained unfrozen.
Two days earlier