Darkness. Such a deep lack of light, that one would be at fault to simply call it "pitch black". A darkness like none the nine occupants of the room had ever experienced, and unlike any they could ever imagine. But in an instant, the infinite void was replaced by an unfamiliar, alien environment. The room occupied by the contestants-to-be was large, open, and circular. The twisted architecture of the scene vaguely resembled an unholy gothic cathedral, bloodstains dispersed throughout the room. The floor consisted of two concentric circles, with a large ring around the outer edge missing. In the place of this outer ring there was simply a black pit, a dropoff which in this environment may very well have been endless.
Around the perimeter of the outer circle were arranged eight large pillars, stretching from the depths of the great pit to the black void which took the place of a visible ceiling. In these pillars were carved images of screaming faces, horrible, twisted visages of what could have once been any of a number of species. At least, one would hope they were simply carvings.
On each of these pillars, roughly three meters from the ground, a single figure was bound motionless, unable to do anything other than simply watch in horror. Eyes darted around, observing in shock the utterly alien inhabitants of the room bound to identical pillars, and, strangely enough, an unbound man standing in the inner circle inscribed in the ground. This tall, pale man wore a simple button-up shirt as well as a pair of raggedy jeans, and had long, black hair which largely obscured his face. And oddly enough, he appeared to be clutching a wooden stick. The man began to shout to no one in particular.
"Who dares to pull Zeta Chris away from his moment of triumph?! I thought I had finally found a worth adversary! One capable of pulling even the mighty ZETA CHRIS through the Multiverse! Even immobilize him! And then to have that being killed so effortlessly by another, and to be pulled away so quickly! It sickens me!"
Chris's stick quickly transformed into an impressive laser cannon, no doubt an extremely powerful weapon. "Perhaps this one is an even more worthy adversary! Nevertheless, I shall still destroy you! Show yourself, demon!"
No response. The man paced around, growing increasingly flustered and waving his weapon around impatiently. Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks. His apathetic, yet confident expression quickly turned to one of worry, which quickly gave way to fear, followed by pain. He collapsed to his knees, and began to yell, his tone and expression becoming more and more agonized by the second. After a very short time, Zeta Chris exploded into a massive shower of blood, drenching the room and its inhabitants as a dark figure appeared where the man had once stood.
The figure took on an approximation of a humanoid form, albeit with a multitude of eyes and quite a few arms as well. His empty, red eyes were widened with gleeful excitement, darting around quickly to observe his contestants. He immediately burst out in horrible laughter, grating at the ears (or equivalent structures) of all present. After a while, he ceased and for the first time addressed his contestants.
"Oh, sorry. Sorry! I completely forgot to introduce myself! I'm known by some as the Tormentor! Isn't it amazing how much blood one man can have inside of him? It's funny every time! But, I suppose you'd like to know why you're here! Well, it's quite simple! You're here to die!"
The Tormentor broke out in hideous laughter again, before stopping suddenly and continuing as if nothing had happened.
"Well, not quite. This is the Relentless Slaughter! It's one of a group of battles to the death that we in the business like to call the Grand Battles. But honestly, this is the only one worth watching! The others are boring tripe!" The Tormentor's eyes narrowed, and his vicious smile widened. "How lucky you are to be a part of it. Well!"
His expression immediately reverted to his normal insanity. "What you've got here is a very special Battle! The eight of you will be dropped into a location, milling around and fighting or making oh-so-precious friendships or just running away like little chickens until one of you bites it! Then, the seven of you that remain will be dropped into a new location, and this'll continue until only one of you is left! However, in this battle, those of you who die will meet a very, very bad end! ...By which I mean ETERNAL TORMENT! It'll be hilarious!"
"Oh, I know what you're thinking. 'Nooo, we won't play this game! We'll just be friends and we'll team up and escape!' Well, you can try if you like! I know you'll try, too. But one-by-one you'll all die no matter what you do. The last two of you alive will then end up finding their way to me and attempt to kill me - and yes, only two of you will be left when this happens - but one of you will die! That's just how it works! It'll be hilarious! I can hardly wait!"
"...Well, I suppose that before I drop you into this, I should at least have the courtesy to introduce you to each other. Well, let's begin!"
The Tormentor, ignoring gravity entirely, shot up to one of the pillars and floated next to a large, colorful, cartoonish armadillo, who was oddly enough wearing pants. "This here is Rollo! You may be wondering, 'why is he so colorful?!' Well, I managed to rip him straight from a very popular children's cartoon! That's right, I pulled an innocent children's character into a sick, twisted battle to the death! It's funny! This guy should be rather competitive, too. You know those 'physics' in cartoons, where no one actually dies and violence is purely comic relief? It still applies here! Hit him with a comically oversized hammer and he'll turn into an accordian rather than chunky salsa! And don't underestimate him, because he carries quite a few interesting tools with him, and is also a fairly good chef. Except when he's not! He's pretty scared of soccer players, and understandably so! Also ghosts, but that's a pretty standard one."
With this, several monstrous, ghostly apparitions materialized around Rollo, drawing ever closer to him before disappearing entirely. Also, one of them was a soccer player for some reason. Rollo looked fairly mortified after this seemingly mild experience, however. The Tormentor quickly sprang over to the next pillar, occupied by a strange-looking figure that might have once been human. His limbs were horribly stretched and distorted, and his face was fixed in a large grin.
"Check this guy out! This here is Gannet! All in all he's a pretty nice guy, really. Although he might be a little crazy, he's definitely friendly! He doesn't want to hurt you or anything. Go ahead, give him a big hug!"
The Tormentor quickly gained a labcoat and a large, sinister hypodermic needle. "He's always been afraid of doctors, but that's a perfectly normal thing. After all, who'd want to take the risk of malpractice?" The Tormentor stabbed the needle into Gannet's arm at an angle which definitely wasn't normal. He swiftly pulled it out and made no effort to stop the copious bleeding. He lost the doctor getup and moved on to the next pillar, occupied by a rather normal-looking teenager, only odd because of his entirely-black eyes and the claws in place of his hands.
"This here's Samael Corson! Look at this guy! Believe it or not, he was actually a demon once! Something that's almost respectable, reduced to this fleshbag! It just about brings me to tears every time! Apparently, this all happened because he took the blame for another demon's failures. And apparently, demons reward cheating and chaos amongst themselves, because Satan went ahead and punished him! Well, he still has quite a few demon powers in spite of this. But most of them pale in face of his ability to... get this... control fruit! Bahahahahahahaha! I can't stop laughing! He's just so pathetic! He's also afraid that deep down, his friendly behavior is just a facade and he really is evil after all. And let me tell you something, folks. He is! It's true! You can't have good demons! It's just an oxymoron! So stay away from this guy, he could kill you at any moment!
The Tormentor sauntered over to pillar four, upon which was suspended a large triped, possessing 3 arms and a multitude of weapons.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Vulm'mram'Vuul! Sorry, I don't think you caught that. Vulm'mram'Vuul! Rolls right off the tongue! This guy is a Battlecleric of the Alvum Imperium, a decent standing in their caste system. Believe it or not, the Alvum more-or-less look up to their superiors as gods! The more power they have, the more godly they are! Look at him, he's probably bowing down to me in his mind already! And why shouldn't he?" The Tormentor's expression took a turn for the cruel. "I am a god. Well, this guy'll definitely be a formidable opponent. He also has a very interesting manner of speech! It even doubles as a weapon! He fears not having a place in the hierarchy. And guess what, Vully! You're not in the castes anymore! Odds are you're going to meet a horrible undying fate, presided over by yours truly! No more authority to look up to! Sayonara! Well, unless he decides to look up to me. It's kind of cute, really."
The next pillar held a rather young girl with flowing red hair, wearing a large dress and looking overall distraught.
"Say hello to Dorin! She was part of what would have made for a very interesting story in itself, being selected as her generation's honorary sacrifice! She even met a god at one point! Well, she was falling into the sacrificial pit when I scooped her up and brought her here instead. That's right, Dorin. The sacrifice was a failure! You're still very much alive! You failed! Faiiiilllled! What's the point of still living, Dorin? Your society's probably falling into disarray because of me! I've probably destroyed everything you ever stood for, invalidated your entire life! ...Well, anyway, she's now more-or-less a catalyst for the gods as well as other beings, all of which she can bring into the world, at extreme pain to herself. Should be interesting!"
Pillar six held a rather ordinary-looking man, wearing a black leather coat and overall looking like he came from centuries ago. A multitude of vials were held in various pockets on his coat, and several other odds and ends were carried as well.
"Here's Lieutenant Matthew Zimmer! He's a pretty great guy, really! He took part in an interplanetary religious war, and is himself intensely religious. That'll certainly help him here! He has much prowess in the field of alchemy, and has perfected several materials which will definitely give him an edge in the battle to come. But more than any of this, his best successes are in his failures! Once when he was serving as a field messenger, he left a fire burning as he ran off to deliver some papers or something, no one really cares. This fire spead rapidly, and he ended up killing huge amounts of his enemies! Just a simple coincidence? Nope! Small things he does like that often inadvertently lead to successes! He's afraid of losing his religion more than anything, though. And in this contest? I'll give him an hour before he breaks down! It'll be really funny, believe me!"
On the second-to-last pillar was a normal-looking young man in his boxer shorts. Well, normal-looking besides the massive robotic arm and the mechanical legs.
"Martin Holden! Now let me just tell you, this guy's a robot! Well, he started out as human, but uploaded his mind into this thing later. Personally I think he'd have been better the old way, robots don't bleed nearly as nicely as humans! He got this conversion after being drafted for war, as you can tell from the bigass gun of a left arm he has! But wait, there's more! The conversion process didn't actually go very well at all, and he was left malfunctioning! How is he malfunctioning, you might ask? Well, I can't just tell you everything! You'll find out for yourself! He's scared of a whole lot of things, and I'm certain after all those horror stories that he's absolutely mortified of me! This'll be fun to watch!"
The final contestant was more-or-less a human-sized spider, exotic markings covering its body. On its back were membranous, wing-like flaps, though these were less than apparent when stuck to a pillar.
"Last and quite possibly least, this is Ke! Yes, only two letters. Don't want to make it too hard for you guys to remember it! She's an Arachnid Remembrancer, or, in normal terms, she's a big spider that likes to tell stories! I can tell you, if she survives, this'll make one hell of a story! ...Heh. Hell. It's funny because it's literal. She's also extremely light, enough that she can flat-out fly! The hooks on her feet keep her on the ground most of the time, though, so not to worry! Many people have tried to hold her captive because of her appearance, to keep her for themselves. She's honestly pretty afraid of captivity. And that's what she is right now! A captive! Oh, the hilarity! I don't even have to try to incite her fears!"
The Tormentor floated back down to the central circle, replanting his feet on the ground. "And there you have it, folks! Eight contestants, seven rounds, and a bad end for all but one! Now, then, it's time for the first round! And since I'm a caring Tormentor, I'll even include a bonus for this round! Whoever dies here just dies! You can go right on to your afterlife or whatever it is you usually do when you die! No strings attached! Now then, it's time to go... to the Canvas!" The Tormentor whipped out a seemingly ordinary-looking drawing tablet.
"And I'd like to think I'm quite the artist!"
With this, eight arms erupted from the Tormentor's back, each hand gripping a black sword made from the same material as the grandmaster himself. Slowly, the arms snaked their way up to each of the eight pillars, and, after waiting a moment to add to the effect, the Tormentor stabbed the contestants straight through their hearts. Everything faded away for a moment, before the eight awoke in an entirely blank field, a fantasyesque dungeon being drawn around them.