Recently, a tournament of epic proportions took place in a top-secret location between a select handful of photographers in what would be the inaugural Fuji X Aus Battle Royale.
The tournament took place behind closed doors, but I was able to sneak into the grounds (amazing what a handful of NP-W126S batteries will get you!) and I was able to bring you the following un-redacted, behind-the-scenes battle report.
All images were taken with Fujifilm cameras and remain the copyright and property of their respective photographers. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely intentional. Names have been changed to expose the guilty.
I stood transfixed as they stepped onto the sands of the arena. Ten warriors entered but only one would walk away. Each bore scars from prior battles – every mark telling a story of the trials they had endured to get here. They eyed each other cautiously but no words were required. Only action.
Gideon Wyeth rode in on his gigantic spider-beast, its razor-sharp mandibles dripping with venom and clacking with anticipation. It fixed its eight shiny black eyes on its prey, a diminutive figure in the stands with a small black box in her hands.
Sally Kirsch, a non-combatant hired to photograph the battle, was hunched over her camera. She was trying to compose an establishing shot with the sun setting over the arena. She never saw Gideon and his arachnid mount sneaking behind her and quick as lightning, they pounced. It was over quickly as venom coursed through Sally’s convulsing body. First blood!
Seeing the merciless kill, the white cleric, Laura Mills, closed her eyes in prayer. Sending her thoughts upward, she summoned a divine angel to aid her in battle. The angel descended upon Gideon, her white robes fluttering in the wind. Pure beams of light shot out from her outstretched had and pierced both Gideon and his mount, banishing them from the battlefield.
Scanning the arena for her next opponent, Laura spied an elegantly dressed figure toting a YSL handbag. It was the famed alchemist Helen Yin. Spotting the angel that Laura had summoned, Helen retrieved an implement from the depths of her mysterious bag – the magical artefact known as the Nefarious Nanopresso. She began to brew a deadly concoction with the most irresistible aroma.
“Is that a single-origin espresso?” asked the angel, floating gently towards Helen. “Coming down to earth is such a drag and I’m dying for a coffee!”
With a sweet smile, Helen handed the potion to her. “Coffee up! Enjoy!” The angel greedily gulped down the delicious beverage and promptly began to dissolve into a green puddle of goo.
“Ugh, typical!” said Laura rolling her eyes. “It’s so hard to find good help around here! That’s it, I’m out!” Laura summoned a shimmering portal and promptly stepped into it.
“Wait! I made a double-shot just for you!” cried Helen as the portal winked out of existence.
On the other side of the arena two more warriors faced off. OuWen Yan busily rummaged around in a large sack he was carrying. He pulled out a small pumpkin and threw it at the dark summoner, Jawetha Nadaraja.
Jawetha nimbly rolled to one side as the pumpkin sailed over his head. As it hit the ground, it erupted into a pool of acid, fizzing and spitting. Jawetha’s eyes narrowed. There was more to his opponent than he first realised. Time to get serious.
Closing his eyes, Jawetha began to summon Astaroth, an arch-demon from the seventh level of hell. A dark bubbling pool appeared before his feet. Instead of a fearsome demon with wings and razor-sharp talons, a capricious young girl emerged holding a red-netted butterfly-catcher.
“Hi daddy! Wanna catch some butterflies with me?”
Jawetha face-palmed inwardly.
“Hi sweetie, what are you doing here? Can’t you see Daddy’s busy? Daddy has to work.”
“You always say that Daddy! I’m gonna tell Mommy!”
A look of fear passed over Jawetha’s face. “N-no baby! Don’t do that! Daddy will play with you! But shall we go somewhere else? There are no butterflies here.”
Pouty-faced, she nodded. Jawetha took his daughter’s tiny hand and stepped into the pool with her.
He smiled weakly at OuWen in resignation, “Family always comes first, right?” They descended into the pool together and faded from sight.
OuWen grinned. One down.
A figure in shining armour sat on a magnificent palomino steed and surveyed the scene before her. Davy Dixon, the valkyrie, set her sights on a lone figure sporting a blue turban and matching cape. Raising her spear, she roared a battle-cry and charged.
Joe Maurici turned to face Davy’s charge. Calmly, he reached into his cape and pulled out two shiny forks, the tines sharpened to needle-like points.
“Time to face the pointy might of the Blue Rajah!”
With blinding speed, he hurled them at Davy as she was almost upon him. Joe dived out of the way as she thundered past. He rolled to his feet and turned to see the steed turning around. Two shiny forks protruded from her right shoulder guard.
Davy pulled the fork from her shoulder, curiously examining it. “A fork?”
Joe relaxed slightly, “Yes?”
“That’s your… thing? You throw forks at people?”
“Well… my first choice was a spoon, but I felt it lacked certain penetrative qualities.”
Davy glowered. “You could have used something more suited to battle to throw – knives, axes, darts, even stones!” She tossed the forks back at him. “Frankly, I’m a little insulted.”
“Suited to battle?” Joe picked up the forks, cleaned them off carefully before placing them back in the folds of his cape. “I’m here because I got an invitation to dinner!”
Davy looked quizzically at Joe.
Joe pulled out a piece of parchment. “Look, here’s the invite. It even mentions something about a pasta main course. I don’t know about you but eating pasta with spoons, axes, knives or that massive spear of yours is a surefire way of getting pasta sauce all over your shiny armour.”
Davy looked sheepishly at Joe. “Well, I did spend a long time polishing my armor…” She eyed her spear wistfully, “… and I would love a comforting bowl of pasta…”
“Tell you what,” said Joe. “You’ve got a horse and I’ve got two forks. I’m buggered from all that action, so if you give me a ride to the dining hall, I’ll let you use my second fork and we’ll stuff ourselves silly full of pasta. Deal?”
Davy broke into a wide smile. “Deal! Mount up and let’s get going. By the way, what do these numbers on the forks mean?”
All his life, Matt Smith had wanted to be a bard. He had the gift for music but not the coin to learn from the maestros at the academy, so he stole his uncle’s lute and took to the road. That road led to many adventures and finally to this one where he now stood before the beastmaster, Jp Magpayo.
Jp stood with his ferocious hellhound, Tauri. Jp had promised Tauri her favourite treats and lots of cuddles after the battle so Tauri was looking to make quick work of Matt and his instrument.
Clenching his fist, Jp growled, “Tauri! Double tornado attack! Go!”
Tauri launched herself at Matt. Instantly, Matt’s practised fingers began to play a soothing melody. Tauri’s sensitive ears pricked up and she stopped in her tracks, yawning. Matt continued to play and Tauri promptly curled up and went to sleep.
Jp hung his head. “Tauri! No! Bad dog!”
“Ok, you know I can’t stay mad at you.” Sitting beside her, he began to stroke her furry head. “And you’re so cute when you’re sleeping!”
Jp looked up at Matt. “Okay, you win.”
Matt sighed in relief. “Thank goodness that worked. I’m actually a pacifist and I’m terrified of dogs.”
“Yeah she’s got a pretty mean bite. Once she gets your ankles, it’s all over.”
“No it’s not that,” replied Matt. “I’m allergic to dogs.”
OuWen noticed that the various battles in the arena were grinding quickly to a halt. The warrior with the lute was watching the bare-chested beastmaster pet his sleeping dog. The valkyrie was riding off with the blue-caped character. And there was no sign of the spider-rider or the white cleric. Only the immaculately dressed alchemist remained. She stood, eyeing him from a safe distance.
“How’s the coffee today?”
“It’s to die for,” replied Helen. “Want a cup?”
OuWen shook his head. “I’m taking a break from caffeine at the moment. Sometimes my hands shake so much even the IBIS on my X-T3 can’t help.”
“You could use a gimbal. EOFY sales should be just round the corner. Alternatively I make a mean decaf soy latte.”
“Maybe.” OuWen reached into his bag and pulled out a pumpkin. “Shall we do this?”
Helen shrugged. “I don’t know if I could be bothered. Frankly I’d rather be sitting at a cafe journalling and doing my nails.” Helen studied the nails on her right hand, nodding. “Yes, definitely needs a change of colour.”
OuWen scratched his bearded chin. “Do you like pumpkin?”
“I’m a bit of a pumpkin connoisseur and I’ve got the best organic pumpkins with me and you’re welcome to have one – of the non-exploding variety of course. I even have a keto-friendly pumpkin soup recipe to go with it.”
Helen arched an eyebrow. “That does sound more appealing than having to fight you and getting my outfit all dirty and torn up…” Helen bit her lip as she thought about it. “Okay screw it, I’m sold.”
OuWen broke into a wide smile. “Excellent!” He handed over a tasty-looking pumpkin to Helen. “Don’t forget to roast the pumpkin in the oven before blending it. It brings out the nuttiness.”
“Thanks! I’ll do that!” said Helen as she walked away with her delicious prize. “I’ve got a whole series of Instagram shots planned already. Maybe even a tryptich…”
OuWen waved her off as he turned his mind towards how he would spend the champion’s prize…