Double Elimination: History of the Golden Valhalla Tournament

The following was taken from the official Tournament website on the third of May, 2234.

Of all the sport and entertainment available to citizens of the World Government Coalition, none have had quite the impact of the Golden Valhalla Tournament. A no-holds-barred showdown between the world’s greatest warriors for the ultimate reward, a wish from our glorious Goddess Marilyn Maia, the Tournament has grown to become more than a sport; rather, it has become a core part of our society’s identity.

The success of the Tournament can be traced largely to its core difference from other combat sports: the Tournament features few rules about what is and is not allowed in a fight. Unlike other sports, where you will see who is the best at punching, or who is the best at swordplay, or who is the best at wind magic, the Golden Valhalla Tournament shows who is the best at combat, period. The Tournament determines who is the best at a core human concept existing since time immemorial: combat.

In spite of its current greatness, the Tournament came from rather humble origins. The beginning of the Tournament can be traced back to 2176, when Tournament creator Jayanta Asturias attended the Assembly of 99, a yearly dinner where governmental officials, business executives, and entertainers are invited to meet with Marilyn Maia. At these events, each guest was given an opportunity to ask Maia a single question.

During the 2176 Assembly, similarly to Assemblies both before and after, a majority of the questions fell into predictable categories. Some members of the Assembly asked for guidance. Some asked for blessings. Some asked grand questions about the universe. Bolder assemblymen asked Maia to use her grand abilities for their own benefit. These requests were almost always met with apathy, with only the most selfless requests being answered.

At the 2176 Assembly, Jayanta Asturias, then just a popular sports announcer and journalist, asked Marilyn Maia a question no mortal had ever asked her before: How are you feeling? A hush fell over the room as Maia stared down Asturias. Asturias took a deep breath and continued speaking, saying It must be hard, taking care of the entire world.

Maia laughed. We all must take the hands we have been dealt, she said with a smile. She then asked her own question to Asturias, Would you like to have dinner sometime? Three days later, the man and the Goddess met for dinner and spent an entire night talking, starting a friendship that would last for the rest of Asturias’s life.

In the years following his meeting with the Goddess, Asturias’s intellect and natural charisma led to incredible fame and wealth. In 2189, Asturias used his fortune to create his own television network named Butterfly. Asturias, a lifetime fan of combat sports, began work on a live fighting tournament to air on his network. This tournament eventually became the Golden Valhalla Tournament.

For his humble First Tournament, Jayanta Asturias recruited sixteen men and women from various cities around the globe. The Tournament was held in the Chrysalis Gardens, a five thousand seat sporting arena in downtown City 49. It began on May 15th, 2191. The First Tournament took five days, with three matches occurring each day. Unlike later Tournaments, the First Tournament featured no loser’s bracket and had strict rules against killing. Although the early matches only gathered around four million viewers each, the First Tournament’s popularity skyrocketed on the fourth and fifth days, with the final match gathering fifty million live viewers.

The viewing public weren’t the only ones sucked in by the First Tournament; Marilyn Maia fell in love with the Tournament from its very first match. After the third day of the Tournament, Maia announced that she would use her vast magical abilities to grant a single wish for the Tournament’s winner, in recognition of the incredible heroism shown in battle.

Unfortunately, the First Tournament is primarily remembered nowadays for its disastrous final match. The final battle occurred between Regina Diefenbach, a mercenary with the ability to turn any object she touched into a bomb, and Gallus Silvano, an elderly man with a criminal record who used magic to create sharp swords out of light and temporarily boost his strength, speed, and stamina by entering a state called Sage Mode. Although code names were not used during the First Tournament, modern fans usually refer to Diefenbach and Silvano as Bombshell and Sage respectively. The battle between Sage and Bombshell went out of control, with the two fighters exiting the arena and battling in the stands. Twelve spectators died during the chaos. Ultimately, the battle ended with Silvano killing Diefenbach by stabbing her through the eye.

Two days following the fight, Marilyn Maia announced that she would not honor Silvano’s wish, on account of his numerous rule violations, including: exiting the arena during a match, endangering the lives of spectators, and killing his opponent. This decision was quite controversial both then and today. Silvano, who wanted to wish for eternal youth, spent several months appealing this decision. Ultimately, his appeals were denied. Since then, Silvano has disappeared from the public eye.

The First Tournament was, by most accounts, an absolute failure. Asturias’s credibility, wealth, and relationship with Maia all fell apart in the final moments of his Tournament. Still, Asturias saw something remarkable in the First Tournament and began work to create a new Tournament. With Maia’s approval, Asturias recruited 32 fighters for the Second Tournament, which began on June 6th, 2294.

In addition to having double the competitors of the First Tournament, the Second Tournament featured much stricter safety standards to protect live spectators. Interestingly, the Second Tournament changed the elimination rules from its predecessor; while the First Tournament allowed for matches to end via forfeit or countdown, the Second Tournament limited methods of elimination to solely include knockout. According to Jayanta Asturias, this change was made to allow fighters to fight for as long as physically possible, something they deserved the right to do, considering the stakes of each fight. This rule change was widely popular and appeared in all subsequent Tournaments. In an attempt to avoid repeating the debacle of the First Tournament, killing was permitted. Despite the rule change, no fighter dared kill another, making the Second Tournament the only Tournament with zero fatalities.

The Second Tournament’s winner was Shevaun Howard, aka Cobalt, a mutant liberation activist with blue skin and the ability to teleport. Cobalt’s controversial political beliefs made her a base-breaking fighter. Still, her determination and overwhelming power allowed her to win the Second Tournament, beating out runner-up Collider in the process. Cobalt used her wish to bring her husband Sindri, who had been murdered by anti-mutant terrorists while his wife was fighting in the Tournament. Unfortunately, Cobalt and Sindri were both killed four years later, during the early days of the Invasion.

The Third Tournament, beginning on July 1st, 2297, continued the success of the second tournament. The Third Tournament featured heavy competition from several powerful fighters, including Wyvern, Striker, and Zombie. Ultimately, the Third Tournament was won by Miro “Vulcan” Caiden, an engineer who fought using a suit of heavily armed power armor. Caiden used his wish to greatly increase his intelligence, becoming the smartest man in human history. After the Third Tournament, Vulcan’s small tech startup, Vulcan was acquired and expanded by EWC. Vulcan went on to become one of the chief inventors of technology for the World Government Coalition military and played a critical role in fending off the Invasion.

The Fourth Tournament was originally scheduled for June 23rd, 2200. Expectations were high, with many predicting that the Fourth Tournament would be the best one yet. Unfortunately, the world changed two months before the Tournament. On April 10th, 2200, a 400-meter long pillar of metal and glass crashed down in the center of City 32. The resulting shockwave killed thousands, but was only a precursor for what would come next. Panels on the side of the pillar slid open and released hundreds of hulking alien monsters.

After ten hours of fighting from the local police, WGC Military, and even Marilyn Maia herself, the threat was finally quelled. But, the battle was far from over. Analysis of the ship by Miro Caiden revealed that the pillar that crashed in City 32 was a mere scouting vessel, and that the rest of the fleet would be arriving in two short weeks. During the scramble to prepare for the Invasion, the Fourth Tournament was quietly canceled. Still, the preparations for the Fourth Tournament were of some use; all of the fighters scouted for the Tournament enlisted in the WGC military without a second thought. Delta Squad, a team led by several of the Tournament’s most anticipated fighters, including Redwing, Arcane, Justice, and Quicksand, played a pivotal role in several key battles and became a symbol of hope for the helpless citizens hiding in their bunkers. On December 17th, 2202, after two and a half years of fighting, the Invader mothership appeared in the sky above City 82. Marilyn Maia, using her vast magical abilities, tore a hole in the side of the mothership, allowing several members of Delta Squad to destroy the ship to put an end to the war once and for all.

When it was announced that the Fourth Tournament had been rescheduled for May 2204, many were skeptical. The world had just gone through the bloodiest war in human history, who would want to see more violence? Maia and Asturias pushed past these short-sighted critiques and gave us a spectacular event that honored those who risked their lives for our world. In doing so, they helped to bring a fractured world back together.

The Fourth Tournament began on May 17th, 2204. It was held at Valhalla Coliseum, an arena built by Vulcan on the small pacific island of Fitafita, and featured 32 fighters. The final match was fought between Metrophanes “Redwing” James and Jude “Patriot” Romilly, two members of Delta Squad. Redwing, out of loyalty to his friend and comrade, forfeited the final match, making Patriot the fourth Champion. Using his wish, Patriot helped to fix the lasting damage of the Invasion.

The Fifth Tournament, beginning on June 28th, 2207, doubled the number of fighters to 64, doubling the Tournament’s length in the process. Like the Fourth Tournament before it, the Fifth Tournament was won by a member of Delta Squad: Kulap “Quicksand” Trueman, a soldier with the ability to telekinetically manipulate sand. Quicksand was unable to fight in the Fourth Tournament due to injuries sustained during the Invasion. She used her wish to restore her damaged body. Quicksand spent the next ten years hunting down anti-government radicals in the Outlands, founding the elite group known as the SPARTAN Squadron. In 2217, she perished at the hands of an unknown opponent, presumed to be related to the terrorist organization Ragnarok.

The Sixth Tournament, beginning on July 1st, 2210, continued the trend of doubling the size of the Tournament and featured 128 unique fighters, the most of any Tournament before or since. Unfortunately, this led to the average fighter being much weaker and resulted in a Tournament that drug on for far too long. Although the Sixth Tournament featured a large number of fighters, discussions of the Sixth Tournament are almost exclusively centered around its controversial Champion: Adelais “Hellfire” Stendahl.

Hellfire possessed a versatile palette of powers, including enhanced strength, flight, near-immortality, and the ability to summon cursed black fire that created unhealable wounds. The source of Hellfire’s terrible strength was revealed at the end of the Sixth Tournament’s final match; in reality, Adelais Stendahl was a vessel possessed by Lucifer, one of the five Ancient Gods and older sibling of Marilyn Maia.

When Maia confronted Hellfire about this following the final match, Hellfire attempted to kill Maia. Maia survived, but sixteen spectators were killed by Hellfire’s flames. As punishment, Maia revoked Hellfire’s wish, and instead gave it to Jayanta Asturias, who used it to imprison Hellfire on a desolate island called Devil’s Rock. Hellfire stayed imprisoned on this island for the next twenty-three years.

The Seventh Tournament, by comparison, was far less noteworthy. Beginning on June 29th, 2213, the Seventh Tournament returned the number of fighters to 64, a decision kept in later Tournaments. Notable fighters of the Seventh Tournament include Lion, Matchstick, Lovecraft, and of course, Legion. Arastoo Rompaye, the orphaned son of a Federal Chancellor killed by Ragnarok terrorists, fought at the young age of seventeen under the name Legion. Using his ability to create duplicates of himself, Legion won both the hearts of the audience and the title of Seventh Champion.

Rather than using his wish for personal gain, Legion wished to become Marilyn Maia’s knight and protector. Honoring this wish, Maia amplified Legion’s duplication abilities and entrusted him with her personal collection of Magical Weapons. Legion was assigned to work as Maia’s personal bodyguard. In the years since his victory, Legion has become both chief General of the WGC Military and head of the SPARTAN Squadron.

Tragedy struck the final night of the Seventh Tournament, when Tournament creator and chief producer Jayanta Asturias was murdered by members of the terrorist organization Ragnarok. Marilyn Maia called for a national week of mourning, honoring the death of one of history’s greatest minds. He was sixty-eight years old. With Asturias’s death, the fate of the Tournament was left uncertain. Out of dedication to her fallen friend and to the people of her world, Marilyn Maia continued the Tournament, announcing that the Eight Tournament would begin on schedule in 2216.

Still, the question of who would host the Tournament remained. Hundreds of prospective hosts were personally interviewed by Marilyn Maia. Ultimately, she decided on Faustino Nash, a popular comedian and talk show host. Reception to Faust was mixed. But, to be fair, reception to any new host would have been similarly mixed.

Two months prior to the beginning of the Eighth Tournament, Marilyn Maia made a startling announcement. The Eighth Tournament would feature a new mechanic called the Redemption Bracket. After the ending of the Main Bracket, the Tournament would continue, with willing fighters joining a new bracket. Unlike the Main Bracket, the matches in this new bracket would only end when one of the two competing fighters fell in battle. According to Maia, this idea was originally pitched by Asturias during the planning of the Fourth Tournament, but was rejected by her due to fears of negative reception.

The response to this new bracket was controversial, with many critics writing the Tournament as barbaric and cruel. Maia assuaged these fears with her famous “What is cruelty” speech, given live from Fitafita as millions watched.

What does it mean, to be cruel? I have been called cruel many times over the years. I ended war and brought peace and prosperity to this world, I have cured diseases and stopped armageddon, I have dedicated myself to others, yet they call me cruel. When I united the world, they called me cruel. When I fought off the evil that was the Priests of the Damned, they called me cruel. When I created the Golden Valhalla Tournament, they called me cruel. Again and again, they have called my kindness cruelty.

This is not a critique of my results, for the greatness of my deeds is plain to see. Rather, it is a critique of my methods. There are those out there who have not faced strife who look down upon me with contempt for my willingness to do what is necessary. Those who wish for me to limit my power and do nothing to stop the festering evil threatening to destroy the world that I have built, out of reverence for the monsters that wish to burn our cities to the ground. These people would rather I sit back and watch as a terrorist guns down a hundred innocent souls, for it would be cruel for me to interfere.

I do not care for these people. They are not just foolish, but arrogant, treating themselves as saints for their willingness to judge others. I do not let the concerns of these people dictate my actions.

Once again, these people have turned their crosshairs on me and called me cruel. Cruel for offering salvation to those willing to give everything for it, cruel for giving my fighters the opportunity to seek their dreams, cruel for honoring the wishes and legacy of a departed friend. The critics are not brave enough to step foot in my arena. No, they are academics and activists, people who have lived lives dedicated not to work, but to criticizing those who have strived to improve society. They do not understand the importance of the Tournament. They do not care about those who fight to cure diseases or to revive fallen loved ones. They see our Champions and call them barbarians.

If someone is willing to die for their dreams, is it not right to give them a chance to fight? Is it not moral to allow people to decide for themselves when they have had enough? This Redemption Bracket is not something that people are forced to compete in; entry into the second bracket is completely voluntary.

So again, I ask, what is cruelty? Is it cruel, to allow people to chase their dreams? Or is it cruel to strip that choice away, to deprive others of their freedom for the sake of our own moral compasses? The answer, I pray, is obvious.

The Eight Tournament began on June 30th, 2216, and began a new era for the Tournament. The setting was switched from the arena atop Fitafita to a massive flying stadium floating by the island, designed by Miro Caiden. Ten fighters ultimately signed up for the Redemption Bracket. When the dust cleared, the last fighter standing was Nitya “Phantom” Babineaux, a cat-burglar with the ability to alter her body’s density, allowing her to increase her physical strength and turn intangible to phase through attacks. Babineaux wished for wealth and became the second richest person alive in an instant. Babineaux continued working as a thief for several years before switching to a career in politics. In 2229, she was elected to the position of Federal Chancellor of the WGC, a position she still holds.

Although the Eighth Tournament was mostly a success, with praise thrown towards the new arena, ruleset, and spectacular fights, Faustino Nash’s role as announcer received criticism. Most of said criticism was aimed at his absence of combat knowledge, leading to the fights having the in-depth, insightful commentary of Jayanta Asturias. Starting with the Ninth Tournament, Seventh Champion Arastoo Van Rompaye was given the role of co-host. The dynamic between Faust and Legion brought back many fans who left following Asturias’s death, and finalized the format of the Golden Valhalla Tournament.

The Ninth Tournament, starting on July 1st, 2219, continued the success of the Eight Tournament. Its Champion was Herman Wayne, aka Pharaoh, an engineer and protege of Vulcan who fought using a tank-like suit of armor. He personally requested for his wish to be kept a secret. The Ninth Tournament featured no major problems, but faltered in the ratings for unknown reasons.

The Tenth Tournament, beginning June 28th, 2222, was marred by a scandal regarding the identity of its Champion. Benesh Monet and Sigal Monet, a pair of twin mages who disguised themselves as a single fighter called Gemini. This blatant destruction of Tournament rules, covered up and abetted by Tournament executives close to the Monets, infuriated Maia, who stripped the Monets of their win and removed the executives responsible from their power. Following the Tenth Tournament, Marilyn Maia significantly slimmed the size of the Tournament staff, leaving major decisions in the hands of herself, Faust, Legion, and Vulcan, to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future.

The Eleventh Tournament, first airing on July 1st, 2225, continued the ratings drop beginning with the Ninth Tournament and exacerbated by the Tenth Tournament. At the time, Marilyn Maia considered ending the Tournament. However, a series of steller final matches, including a heartbreaking battle between star-crossed lovers Vigdis “Maelstrom” Underhill and Iustinus “Rebar” Reilly, saved the Tournament.

Maelstrom, with her ability to control the weather, ultimately won the Tournament, becoming the Eleventh Champion. Using her wish, she brought Rebar back from the dead. Following the Tournament, Maelstrom was tasked with using her abilities to manage the Coalition’s farms. Tragically, Maelstrom passed away in November 2233. The circumstances of her death are currently under investigation.

Although the Twelfth Tournament, starting May 30th, 2228, featured a variety of exciting matches, it has become overshadowed in the public zeitgeist by an infamous match occurring in the fifth round of its redemption bracket. A fifteen-year-old fighter by the name of Swiss, then the youngest person to ever fight in the Tournament, died a painful death as millions watched. Swiss, who had been fighting to cure his sister of a fatal illness, became a martyr for critics of the Tournament. It should be noted that Swiss was not the first, nor the last fighter to die in the Tournament, making the public outcry of his death somewhat hypocritical.

Swiss’s final opponent, Helena “Wanderer” Pasternak, ultimately won the Twelfth Tournament. Wanderer, a centuries-old mutant with the ability to heal from any wound, used her wish to modify her mutation, giving her the power to heal others in an instant. Wanderer joined the Tournament Staff as their chief medical officer for the Thirteenth Tournament.

The Thirteenth Tournament, beginning June 28th, 2231, initially drew in poor ratings due to a boycott inspired by the Twelfth Tournament. Despite this, the Thirteenth Tournament ended with the highest ratings in Tournament history. The Tournament’s revitalization can be traced to a single man: Seong-Su Schuyler, aka Dreadnought.

Dreadnought, a cybernetically enhanced warrior equipped with super strength, energy blasts, rocket punches, and near invincibility, took the world by storm through his raw power and endless charisma. Dreadnought’s mentor, Fourth Tournament runner-up Redwing, finally achieved victory when Dreadnought handily won the Thirteenth Tournament, winning each match without allowing his opponents to score a single blow.

Instead of using his wish for personal gain, like some Champions, Dreadnought requested that he be placed in charge of the rules for upcoming Tournaments. With his new position, Dreadnought rewrote the entire Tournament rulebook to ensure more exciting matches. Most notably, he removed the rule preventing former Champions from fighting again.

Over the past forty-three years, the people of this world have had the privilege of witnessing thirteen unique Tournaments and close to nine hundred different matches. The Fourteenth Tournament is set to begin on June 28th, 2234, and should end sometime in September. Although we cannot say for certain how the Tournament will go, the Tournament Staff has announced several of the fighters. Judging from the standout candidates chosen, the Fourteenth Tournament is sure to be an absolute knockout.

Notable upcoming fighters include Ramses, an android co-built by Vulcan and Pharaoh to be the ultimate killing machine; Harta Ximeno, the son of two Delta Squad mages widely thought to be the greatest wizard alive; Gwynn Galo, a former apprentice of Pharaoh’s fighting to prove that he can outfight any android; rock star Brunhild Eliot; several captured Ragnarok terrorists, including unofficial leader Woodsman; the last living Invader, who was captured back in December; boxer Ronalda Hendricks; famed supervillain Edison Vile; EWC CEO Alexis Hanigan; and dozens more.

The most notable fighters, however, are familiar ones. After removing the restriction on former Champions, Dreadnought announced that he would return to the Tournament to defend his title. In preparation for the Tournament, Dreadnought traveled to Devil’s Rock and killed Hellfire in a duel, his greatest victory yet. Vulcan, Legion, Phantom, Pharaoh, and Wanderer all declined to face Dreadnought in the Fourteenth Tournament. But, one former Champion accepted the challenge: First Champion Gallus Sage Silvano. The Fourteenth Tournament will feature the First Champion, the most recent Champion, and sixty-two other warriors vying for the ultimate prize: a single wish, granted by Marilyn Maia.

Sage. Cobalt. Vulcan. Patriot. Quicksand. Hellfire. Legion. Phantom. Pharaoh. Gemini. Maelstrom. Wanderer. Dreadnought. Thirteen Tournaments, thirteen Champions. Who will be next?

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