Winner: Elmak of the Rangers.
Finalists: Salvador (Bard), Dunccan (Knight), Droxon (Thief).
"Best Junior" award won by Milenko and "Most Improved/Best Mid-Level" prize goes to Xion.
We have had some closely contested competitions in Avalon's five and a half centuries and the Ordination itself has turned on three or four occasions from one contender to the other during the final minute or two. The denouement of this excellent Sapphire Gem Quest must surely have taken the award for 'narrowest margin of victory' for Elmak, emerging with the sands from a three-way struggle in the final seconds of the final round against Dunccan and Droxon. Salvador would otherwise have gained his third divine gem; and for a Bard the singlemost empowering benefit (double-speed equilibrium regain; all equilibrium soft). But we get ahead of ourselves and the narrative must begin at the start.
Sebastian had announced and determined the format: sands-flag on the battleisle with four teams under predetermined captains, leaving the captains as much personal choice in their team-mates as possible. The BATTLEQUEST format has proven popular in the past because it is both inclusive and challenging in all facets of a person's Avalon combative ability; from intelligent LW to highest rank professional paradigm. So it proved once again.
Necessity forced us to split the Gem Quest into two sections: Sunday evening and Thursday night. Sunday's competition was well-fought between four nicely balanced teams and although Tempre, Xion and Droxon had cohesion and Tempre's well-prepared base served to give their team an unassailable lead (ensuring all four progressed to the Finale of Ten), it was a far closer tussle between the three remaining teams and by a narrow margin Dunccan's group suffered elimination along with members from Salvador's and Clara's teams. The full quota of thirty two competitors began the contest, late-comers had to be refused entry and by the end of a gruelling EIGHT hours the stage was set: ten remained.
The finale on Thursday evening involved nine of the top ten worthy competitors from Sunday plus Xion by dint of sheer quality performance in the absence of Serethipas who placed 6th. The Finale began with a succession of rounds pitting two teams against one another - aiming to remove one entirely by the fourth: Salvador captaining Dunccan, Belgarath, Xion and Milenko versus Elmak and Tempre captaining Clara and Droxon. Balance based on three "high/max" level plus one "mid-high" and one "LW-junior" on the former team pitted against four "high/max" level opponents.
It is sometimes the case in high-pressure situations like these quests where the pace is frenetic, one team holds themselves together and cooperates while another fractures into - typically - complaints and blunderbuss defeatism. It is sad but excusable in this ONE instance that the Battlequest was marred by the fragmenting of Elmak's team around two-thirds of the way to determining the finalists. Tempre and Clara quit the competition, Elmak and Droxon were therefore left without team-mates. As is often the case with contest low-points, however, the departure of the last remaining "uncommitted" led to a close fought, quality final series of rounds - to determine the four FINALISTS. The team of Elmak, Dunccan and Droxon were victorious by a narrow margin despite Salvador's superb maneouvre in the last seconds winning maximum "victory" points for his team in the last of the elimination rounds.
Great credit must go to Elmak, Dunccan and Droxon at this point. Their team had been victorious in points scored and they could have contested the sapphire gem without arguably Avalon's most successful never-Ordained gemquest competitor without any stain on their honour. But they did not. Unanimously was Salvador, who came 4th by score and performed to high standard through the whole Gem Quest, offered the fourth spot in the Grand Final. Two sands were used for this longer-than-usual contest between the four, all starting level on zero points. Rules were very simple: each sand, when held, was worth a point every 15 seconds it was held and 50 points would be won per sand, for whoever was holding it when the timer reached zero. The SAPPHIRE would be won by whoever garnered highest number of points. We had a worthy Grand Final: Thief, Bard, Ranger and Knight - four professions, four styles, all capable of winning.
There was never any doubting the sportsmanship of the competitors but the closeness of the contest could not have been predicted. The leader in points changed on twelve separate occasions and even in the last minutes ALL four could have thereotically won the gem. The incredible denouement was played out thus: Salvador, second place in points, went into the final minute holding one of the sands. Dunccan held the other but was behind Salvador in points, so both gaining the FIFTY for holding one of the sands meant Salvador was within seconds of taking an historical third gem quest victory. Wielding the powers of the DIVINE SAPPHIRE would have been a giant step towards Ordination victory in the hands of a magic-user of Salvador's competence.
But fate had ruled otherwise.
While Salvador clutched his sands and - understandably - kept one eye on the clock ticking down and the points tallied by his opponents, Droxon and Elmak were throwing everything they could against Dunccan whose defence was almost flawless. The final seconds were ticking away; Salvador imagining the impact of eternal half-equilibrium. Then Droxon made his last desperate move and wrested the sands from Dunccan as bear-form Elmak traded claw-strikes against Dunccan's indomitable lades. The outcome would have been unchanged. Droxon had similar points to Dunccan and his winning fifty would not have overhauled Salvador's victory. Perhaps only one other Avalon would have reacted to Droxon's manoeuvre with sufficient speed and purpose to make use of it: Elmak. React he did. In the blink of an eye his claws turned on Droxon. It might not have been enough but Dunccan finally gave a sword-thrust and Droxon fell. The sands fell free and while Dunccan was unbalanced from his strike, Elmak was not and he scooped them and ran for the forest.
Perhaps if there had been another minute the outcome would have been different; perhaps Elmak could have been caught; perhaps Droxon and Dunccan together might have overcome Elmak's defences; perhaps Salvador - knowing the one player with a higher points tally than his own now held a winning sands - may have been able to react. But there was no more time. Twenty seconds later, time ran out. The contest was over! Fifty points to Elmak, fifty points to Salvador. Elmak claimed victory by a smattering of points. In the tenth year of his Avalonian career, the Ranger paradigm had finally won a Divine Gem.
Let all four finalists be congratulated for a splendid contest but in the end, Elmak deservedly claimed victory and having come so close so many times in the past, few would begrudge him his moment of triumph. The divine sapphire presentation schedules Saturday January 18th at MIDNIGHT and all of the land is welcome to the prize-giving for the Gem Winner and those judged to have given suitably notable performances: Xion, Milenko, Belgarath, Salvador, Droxon and Dunccan in particular. Quality was reasonable throughout but grew as the competition advanced and expectations are high for the second Battlequest on Saturday January 25th. Details will be posted on the public and News bulletin board forums.
And minor categories, honourable mentions and for those who enjoy the stats and numbers and "most" lists:
Most Kills Made: Dunccan. Most Deaths-Kills Ratio Endured: Milenko.
Best Performance (in terms of kills vs bigger enemies): Xion.
Most Improved High-Level: Belgarath.
Top Ten Competitors: Tempre (Loremaster), Clara (Thief), Milenko (Necromancer), Belgarath (Sorcerer), Xion (Loremaster) plus the Four Finalists: Salvador (Bard), Dunccan (Knight), Droxon (Thief) and Elmak (Ranger and Gem Winner).
The SEDCOND BATTLEQUEST for a Divine Gem will be run by Ashvani scheduled for SATURDAY 25th JANUARY. Detailed will be posted weekend prior on the public and News BB.