Authors' Notes: We always finish what we begin, no matter how long it takes us. Spoiler warnings will be posted for inidividual rounds.
Round 1 - Zakiyah
Roxton struggled to keep his footing as the world howled around him in a blinding fury of white. The storm had come up out of nowhere. Just a short time ago, he, Marguerite, and Challenger had been pounding Challenger's "sample stakes" into the snow and ice. Marguerite had been muttering to herself about the folly of gathering ice samples, venting her irritation at being back above the snow line, and complaining bitterly how her safari jacket was just not sufficient to keep her warm. Challenger had been happily expounding his latest theory and explaining to the disgruntled Marguerite why this scientific effort was necessary. Everything had been fine, normal, and Roxton had found himself grinning despite the cold, enjoying the change from what they were all used to on the lower parts of the Plateau.
All at once the wind had come up with a banshee wail, shrouding them with stinging snow and ice. Roxton had barely managed to grab a hold of the other two before they were all blinded. At the moment, Roxton couldn't see or hear either of them through the whiteout conditions. Only the feel of Marguerite's hand in his, and the drag of Challenger's grip on his belt, told him they were both still with him. He fought his way forward, trying to ignore the way the wind and cold were rapidly sapping his strength, relying on memory rather than eyesight. If they could reach the edge of the clearing they'd been in, the trees would block some of the storm, and they might be able to see well enough to find shelter.
Abruptly Roxton's feet went out from under him, and he felt himself sliding helplessly downward. Marguerite's hand was ripped from his grasp. He shouted her name, but the storm swallowed his voice, and then the world whirled away.
Warmth. That was the first thing to imprint itself on Roxton's consciousness. He was warm. He was lying on something soft. He was very tired. His thoughts drifted aimlessly for a time, but something wouldn't let him relax completely, and so he slowly opened his eyes.
He was in a small, relatively dim room, lit only by a few candles and the glow of coals in a brazier set in one corner. Groggily he realized that he was lying in a bed, covered to the chin with thick, heavy blankets and animal furs. Waking a bit more, he realized someone had removed all of his clothes. There was also a source of radiant heat at his side; the heat of an unclothed body resting next to his own. He turned his head to see who it was, and was abruptly jolted wide awake. Challenger was lying next to him, his eyes closed and his face paler than usual. A dark-purple bruise marred the scientist's forehead.
"What the ?" Roxton muttered, instinctively trying to sit up. He failed. He felt incredibly weak and agonizingly sore. What happened? he wondered, trying to remember where he was and how he'd gotten here. His memory remained stubbornly blank on the subject. The last thing he could remember was the sudden storm Adrenaline flooded through his system, and with its assistance he did manage to sit up. Dizziness assailed him, but he fought it down. "Marguerite?" His eyes frantically searched the room, but there was no sign of the heiress. "Marguerite!" he called again, trying to sit up further. It was too much for his weakened body; he lost his balance and fell onto his side, unable to rise from the bed.
A sound at the other end of the room drew his attention. Slowly, the thick, dark wood door opened.