Disclaimer: I do not own or claim ownership of Guild Wars 2, its characters, nor its locales. Vini Yunio is my character and she is not to be copied. Note: this contains minor spoilers for The Shadows of Rata Sum, and the representation of Toypocalpyse is not completely accurate.

A Merry Wintersday for Vini

A Guild Wars 2 Short Story

by

Aegis Runestone

Vini strode down the streets of the massive Divinity's Reach; it was Wintersday in Tyria, and she was quite excited. Wearing her Sneakthief armor, hood (though, it was down), and weapons, she would have felt out of place, but she was an adventurer, and had heard some of the events during the festival were a little dangerous.

I've actually never participated in Wintersday before! she thought, grinning. I always too busy. Stopping at the statue of a human goddess on the Dwayna High Road in the Minister's area, she looked up and stared at it.

Same goddess that he worshiped. Vini shook her head, not wanting to think about him; she needed to enjoy herself instead. Yet, despite her feelings, she said a short prayer in her heart.

Snow fell from the sky, and Vini looked up to see a flying golem producing the magic. She smiled; nothing like asura technology to make a holiday better.

In fact, she knew the event was run by an asura named Tixx. Vini clasped her hands together and rubbed them; she had also heard he gave out presents for each person he or she visited. Well, it's only fitting that a Savant receives a present. It would be glitched if not.

Turning around, Vini was suddenly knocked off her feet when something hard, and cold smacked into her side. "Hey!" she exclaimed, looking up with a frown. "By the blasted Alchemy, how could—eh?"

A human child stared at her, biting his lip. He held a second snowball in his slightly shaky hand. "I'm... sorry, miss... asura? I mean I thought you wanted to play," he said, a sad frown on his face.

Vini sighed. "Don't concern yourself with it," she said, standing up. "Fine. I will play with you. But be warned: I facilitate a nasty snowball." She noted the boy's confused expression. "I mean 'pack.'"

"Oh! Okay!" he said. "Well, you're on!"

Vini grinned. Surely, she would be more agile than this—smack! His snowball hit her straight in the face. She heard the human progeny laugh.

Gah! How embarrassing! She growled and hurled her snowball at the boy. He tried to run out of the way, but he was hit squarely in the cheek. Vini gathered up more snow and rolled it up; she kept her eyes on the boy at all times.

He threw another snowball, but Vini dodged with expertise this time, and hurled hers while in mid-air. She saw the surprised expression on the boy's face as her snowball slammed into his face, and knocked him over.

"Youch! Okay! Okay! You win!" he exclaimed. He sat up, wiping the snow off his face.

Vini grinned. "Victory acquired!" she said triumphantly. The boy looked a little dazed and shook his head. He smiled.

"Want to go again?" he asked. "I betcha I can beat you this time!"

"Sorry." Vini shook her head. "It was jubilous, but it's requisite that I head to the festivities. Where are they being held? Do you know? … sorry," she repeated. "I meant: 'it was fun, but I need to go to the festival.'"

"Oh. Asura talk funny," the boy remarked. He received a flat look from her. "Well, it's at the Crown Pavilion. That's on the west side of Divinity's Reach! I heard Tixx is actually there, handing out presents for everyone! Well, only one for each person."

"Thank you," Vini said with a bow. She was about to give her usual farewell, but instead said, "see you later."

"Bye! Maybe we can have another snowball fight!" the boy said. He waved to Vini, and she waved back.

-S-

Vini had arrived at the Crown Pavilion, and took the staircase down. With a low whistle, she stared at the newly adorned area in awe. The rings outside the pit in the center were decorated with artificial gifts set on pedestals, plush toys (like in the shape of quaggens), other toys on the ground, piles of magical snow, and horizontal peppermint candies scattered throughout the area. Snowflakes hung from the crystallized ceiling, and they seemed to glow.

Vini recognized an asura gate in front of her, and an asura in red and green wearing goggles on his head. He was surrounded by people—humans, norns, asura, charr and even slyavri. To each one, the asura handed a gift with a sharp-toothy grin. "Happy Wintersday!" he kept saying.

The crowd slowly dispersed, save a group of happy asura, and Vini approached.

"I assume you're Tixx the Toymaker, am I correct?" she asked with her hands on her hips.

He looked at her and nodded. "And you're Vin Y—ah, pardon me, that's not in the proper spirit of Wintersday! Savant Vini?"

Vini smirked. "Indeed. That's my best title."

"Of course, of course," Tixx said, gesturing with his hand. "And what asura wouldn't want that title? Hmm?" He chuckled. "Now, I know exactly why you're here."

"Yes, I desire a Wintersday Gift among other things—such as participating in the festival," she said with a hint of excitement in her voice. She looked at Tixx eagerly.

"Unfortunately, I can't," Tixx said to Vini's shock. "You're on the naughty list. So, I cannot grant you a proper gift. That would be against the spirit of Wintersday!"

She frowned. "What do you mean 'naughty list?' I've been good for the past three years." She paused. "Well, two, actually."

Tixx cocked his head to one side and shook a finger. "Mmm... I don't think so. Didn't you have a 'bout' with that one male last month?"

Vini froze. "How did you know about that?" Then, she heard whispers behind her.

"Man-eater..." she heard. She looked and saw fearful asura families, pulling their progeny away from her. "St-stay away!" said one male. "You're a dangerous glitch."

Vini shook, gritting her teeth. "Now, now!" Tixx interrupted. Vini glanced, and saw his annoying smile again. "It's not polite to say that. We all know she has done Rata Sum many great services in the past. Still..." He looked at her. "I know a lot of things. I hear many things. That... 'bout' was not entirely secretive."

Blasted male must have spoken, Vini said, guilt wrapping around her heart. "All right! I know it happened, but I've changed... overall. … Please? I'm not a man-eater anymore."

Tixx placed his hand on his chin, still smiling. "Hm... how about this, Savant? I want to complete three tasks for me," he said, producing a gift wrapped in green wrapping paper and yellow ribbons. "First, there are many orphans in Divinity's Reach this year. I want you to find one and give this present to him or her. Now, you can't open it yourself, or something... dreadful might happen.

"Second, I want you to help the Ho-Ho-Tron on the west end of the pavilion with its delivery of gifts over to my workshop here. There have been reports of skritt coming and stealing gifts. Considering your own profession and reputation as an assassin, getting rid of them shouldn't be a difficult task. Though, one thing... no weapons. I don't like red snow. However, I'm sure others will help you out.

"Third, pick a Wintersday event of your choosing and be the best of the best in it.

"Do all these things, and I will remove you from the naughty list, and add you to the nice list." Tixx said. "Sound fair?"

"No weapons?" Vini asked, blinking. "How do I stop the skritt then?"

"Giving them a good kick ought to send them running. Since you're an adept shadowstepper, or so I've heard, you'll easily confront them before they have a chance to get close to the Dolyak."

"Fine. Sounds simple enough," Vini said with a nod. "Where are the orphans?"

"You'll have to find them yourself," Tixx said. Vini heard a snicker from the asura crowd, and the toymaker shot them a warning look (while still maintaining his smile). He looked back at her, and continued, "they love to hide."

"May I at least acquire a hint?"

"Look everywhere and anywhere."

Vini shot him a flat look. "Oh... thanks."

"Don't be so sour," Tixx remarked. "I am giving you a chance to get off the naughty list, Savant. And that's something I usually never do."

"Point taken," Vini said with a sigh. She extended her hand, and Tixx placed the present in it. "Very well, I'll take this gift to an orphan. It shouldn't be difficult to find his or her coordinates."

"That's the spirit!" Tixx said, jingling a bell in his hand. Vini blinked and wondered where it came from. "One last thing, what event do you want to participate in?"

She paused. "I... don't know," she said. "I need to examine each one before I make my pick."

"That's fine. Once you've chosen, come and find me," he said. He rang the bell again. "Now, off you go! I'm giving you exactly two hours."

"Wait, two hours?"

"It wouldn't be any fun without a time limit, would it?"

Vini nodded, and hurried up the steps from the Crown Pavilion, the whispers of "man-eater..." followed her. She grit her teeth, wishing she could punch every grown asura in the group. A few tears broke through her eyes. Damn it! I thought I was over this! They don't know...

She raised her hood, and vanished into the crowds.

-S-

Vini had traveled all the way to Rurikton on the east side of Divinity's Reach. Checking every alleyway, nook, and cranny along the way had made her desperate. I've got to find an orphan! She had already spent thirty-one minutes looking for one. She sighed, and pulled the gift from her pouch. She looked at it.

Maybe... I could open it. No, that's wrong! The poor kid needs a gift. But who?

Then, her long ears picked up a sad, sniffling sound to her left. Her eyes darted around, but all she could see were commoners and nobles strutting around the district, not even paying attention to her. She saw children and adults alike having a snowball fight. And even a happy child opening up a Wintersday present.

Vini's heart fell, and she angrily stomped her foot. "It's just ludicrously not fair!" she exclaimed. She exhaled and looked around again. Still, she saw no one crying.

She slipped into an alleyway she hadn't explored, and there, she saw a girl in a corner, wimpering.

Vini's heart sank further, seeing the girl's grief, and then she approached her. "Are you all right?" she asked.

The girl jumped, and stared at Vini as if she were some sort of monster. Then, she noted the gift in the asura's hands. "You're here to make fun of me like everyone else, huh?! I don't like that!"

Vini frowned. "No, I'm not! You must be an orphan... correct?"

The girl nodded. "Yes, but go away! Leave me alone!"

"Why?"

"I don't like it when people open presents in front of me! Just because I don't have a mommy and a daddy..."

Vini smiled a little. "Well, be happy, because this gift is for you." She handed it over to the wide-eyed orphan. "Happy Wintersday!"

She started to cry again. "Thank you... thank you so much!" She gave Vini a hug and returned to her gift. Then, she paused. "What's your name?"

"Vini."

"Thank you, Vini! You have a Merry Wintersday, too!"

Vini smiled, and her heart felt warm. This just isn't about my present... is it? she thought to herself before waving good-bye to the orphan. The girl returned the gesture and then commenced to open her gift.

-S-

Returning to the Crown Pavilion, Vini sought out the Ho-Ho-Tron that Tixx had mentioned earlier. She ran around the fence and over to the west side where a small crowd stood around a Dolyak, which carried a pack filled with gifts and presents.

It wasn't difficult to pick the Ho-Ho-Tron from the crowd. "Thank—you—all—for—coming," it said. "And—thank—you—for—the—gold—and—silver—coin—donations."

Vini smiled. It was one of those cute, miniature, floating golems decorated in the spirit of Wintersday. It wore a red, festive hat on its head and held a jingling bell in its right stick of a hand. Not to mention the colorful lights which adorned the Ho-Ho-Tron.

As she approached, most of the crowd dispersed, save two. The golem turned to Vini. "Greetings," it said. "Are—you—here—to—render—assistance?"

"Salutations to you," she said with a nod. "And indeed, I am. What can I do to help?"

"Escorting—this—Dolyak—to—Tixx's—workshop," the Ho-Ho-Tron said. "In—previous—escorts—Skritt—have—appeared—and—stolen—many—gifts."

A norn, armed with a greatsword, waved his hand away. "Don't worry, little asura, we'll be able to protect this Dolyak from the skritt on our own. Go do something fun."

Vini frowned at him. "No, I'm required to assist," she said. "And I have no plans on backing down."

"Why are you required to help?" A slyvari asked, a confused expression passed over her face.

"I have my reasons," Vini answered. She turned to the Ho-Ho-Tron. "When do we leave?"

"Immediately," the golem responded. It rang a bell, and the pack Dolyak began to move. Vini fingered her daggers, but then recalled Tixx's words about spilling blood. Frowning, she pulled her hands away.

As the Dolyak walked across the powder-like snow, it was followed by the group behind it. The Dolyak, to Vini, seemed rather relaxed for something that had been harassed in the past.

She kept receiving mocking glances from the norn, and she glared at him. "What is your problem?!" she exclaimed.

"Those little legs of yours... there's no way you can give a skritt a proper kick!" He laughed. "Like I said, we can handle this on our own."

"Why you...!"

The slyvari jumped between the two. "Enough! We're all working together in this, correct?" she asked. "Then, there's no need to fight amongst ourselves."

"WARNING!" The Ho-Ho-Tron rang. "Skritt!"

Sure enough, the rat-like creatures popped out of the ground. How did they get out of pure stone? Vini counted four.

"Quick! Steal it!" one shouted. Each of them were masked and carried a large pack on their shoulders. They rushed the alarmed Dolyak, their little feet scuffling across the snow.

Vini shadowstepped immediately to the first one, and spun upward, slamming her foot into the skritt's chest. It went flying into a statue and let out a howl of pain before falling limp on the snow.

One down...

Then, she heard a couple of yelps from behind her, and she rolled back, barely avoiding two skritt hurling through the air above her. The two hapless creatures smashed into the same statue, and fell unconscious.

"Got it!" the norn cried with a triumphant roar. The slyvari next to him appeared as if she had landed her boot firmly on the other skritt. "Now, that's a kick!"

Vini wanted to stab the norn, but then heard the golem cry out, "skritt—has—taken—a—gift! Restrain—it."

She was on her feet and shadowstepped to the remaining skritt, who had a present in its hands, trying to escape on the other side of the Dolyak. "Yeah, no," she said, appearing in front of it. She gave the creature a swift, spinning kick to the chest, and it slammed into the railing, dropping the gift.

"Plan failed! Plan failed!" the skritt exclaimed before burrowing into the snow.

"Hm... pretty good," the norn said. Vini spun. "I take back what I said; you've got a knack for this type of thing."

Vini smirked. "Thank you," she said before walking over to the present, which was wrapped in a beautiful white paper with lovely blue ribbons, and picking it up. She made her way to the Dolyak, and placed it in the pack (with assistance from the norn).

"Good job, the both of you!" The slyvari beamed.

"Thank—you—very—much," the Ho-Ho-Tron hummed. "Now—we—finish—the—journey—to—Tixx's—workshop." It rang a bell, and the Dolyak advanced once again.

-S-

After several skritt attacks, the Dolyak arrived safely at the asura gate that led to the workshop. Vini looked; the toymaker was nowhere to be found. She frowned sadly. What event do I choose? And what events are there? She had been hoping Tixx would be here to give some direction.

Vini turned to the norn and the slyvari, feeling embarrassed. "What... special events happen on Wintersday?" she asked. "This... is my first time."

"Hm... There are many events on Wintersday," the norn responded. He rubbed his chin. "One of the favorites among my family is Toypocalypse."

Vini blinked. "What is that?"

"There are five present Dolyaks in the middle of a large circular asura-like holding place. A large snowfield surrounds the area. The basic idea is to protect the Dolyaks from evil toys that are trying to harm them."

"... evil toys?"

"Well, according to Tixx, they are... uh.." the norn paused and looked at the slyvari. "I don't remember that asura word for it."

"I think it was 'malfunctioning,'" she answered.

"Oh! I see!" Vini said with a slight smile. "So, we're disassembling malfunctioning toys and preventing them from harming the Dolyaks?"

"Um... yes," the norn said, scratching his head. "Though, your weapons will vanish upon entering; don't worry, you get them back later, but during the event, you have to use the weapons they give you."

"You can also use any of the weapons—though some are better than others at this—to break down trees and small houses," the slyvari added. "Breaking those down will give you scraps or snow to make defenses with."

"Ah, I see," Vini repeated. She rubbed her chin. "That sounds very jubilious. Where do I go from here to find Toypocalypse?"

"Go back west of here and look for a gate that surrounded by tall candy canes and floating peppermints," the slyvari said, pointing in that direction. "Once there, you just enter the gate and the game should begin."

"Thank you very much, the both of you have been extremely helpful," Vini said with a short bow. "I will definitely attempt this Toypocaplyse. Farewell, and may all your theories be sound," she added, with a wave.

The two waved good-bye to her (though, the norn looked a little confused), and she turned, and ran westward.

It wasn't long before Vini saw the large candy canes, flanking a gate, and encircled about by floating peppermints. The gate was raised on a circular platform which was too high for even a norn to jump up to. Vini could climb the side with ease, but she assumed there was a more conventional way of reaching the dais.

She ran around the platform, darting through some snowball fighters who were too busy to notice her, and found a staircase on the other side. Vini ascended to the top and found herself outside of the gate. Next to it, stood a toy charr, armed with a wooden sword. Vini expected it to talk to her, but it just stood there, silent.

With a shrug, Vini turned to the gate, and entered. Immediately, her vision went white, and then cleared.

She found herself standing on a platform with staircases on either side leading down to a large snowfield. The snowfield had trees and small, toy towns scattered all across. In the center was an asuran built circular area with several pillars holding up a metal roof. In the middle of this area were five Dolyaks, all carrying packs filled with Wintersday presents.

Already, Vini saw other 'players' of different races participating in the event. Some were breaking trees and towns even with massive candy canes. Others seemed to be scouting out the areas, holding toy rifles in their hands.

Those who broke down the towns and trees picked up wood scraps and balls of snow; they retreated to the center and used the pieces to build defenses. Ballistas, catapults, ice walls, and snowmen.

The word 'build' didn't describe properly how they erected the defenses, however. It seemed the players were putting the snow or scraps into the ground, and, as if by force of will, the snowmen, walls, ballistas, and catapults popped from the surface. Some of them even took scraps or snow to a respective defense and reinforced it through magical means (not of their own as far as Vini could tell).

Vini then heard eerie laughing coming from all sides. Snickering and giggling that would have been cute if it didn't sound so malevolent. The laughter made her shudder a little.

And that's when she saw the toys.

Armies of plush griffons, toy golems, wooden, charr soldiers, toy centaurs, and princess dolls charged toward the center. Even at this distance, Vini could see the tension in the faces of the other players as their enemies approached.

Those with the candy canes jumped into the fray, while those with the rifles aimed for a toy and then shot it with a single pop! Some toys fell in one strike from the rifle-wielding players, while other toys did not. The fighters with the candy canes took the brunt of the attacks, each toy using its own devices to harm them.

Vini did not see any blood, however.

The snowmen threw snowballs at the toys, while the ballistas and catapults launched their normal weaponry; at least normal for toy siege weapons.

I need to assist! Vini glanced around, and noticed toy weapons on the ground before her: rifles, pistols, and candy canes. She grabbed a rifle without thinking and jumped down onto the snow, and upon impact, she rolled forward.

It was cold and wet, but Vini didn't care. Instead, she ran toward the onslaught and picked out a princess doll. She aimed, and then let loose a shot. Struck, the doll fell to the ground lifeless (as if these malfunctioning toys had life).

A plush griffon stopped pounding on an ice wall blocking a Dolyak and rounded on Vini. She aimed, but the toy was too quick. With a swift backflip, Vini avoided the griffon's beak and talons. With a swift motion, Vini slammed the butt of the rifle into the griffon's face. It tore into the stuffing of the toy, and finished off that plush.

Good thing Pol taught me how to use a rifle, she thought, as she rushed toward the center. She ducked behind an ice wall, and then peered around it to see a line of toys charging her way. Vini aimed, and shot a wooden bullet with a loud pop! And it ripped and broke through several of them.

"Nice shot!" a human male said to her. He looked like a caster of somesort from what armor he wore. He was carrying a candy cane and immediately smacked a toy golem in the face. It broke into pieces with a diminishing hum.

"Thank you," Vini responded. She scanned the field, it seemed the others—a male slyvari, a male asura, a female norn, and a female charr—had cleared the rest of the toys there.

"Welcome to Toypocaplyse!" the human continued, smacking a plush griffon upside the head. "Personally, my favorite game in Wintersday."

Vini smiled a little, and then more laughter came from the corners of the snowfield. Vini she around, shuffling her feet as she turned. The sound came from everywhere and nowhere, and it was a little disturbing.

And then, it came: a large wave of toys—much larger than the previous one—and it descended upon the center. Vini heard the twangs of the ballistas firing their arrows, and of the catapults launching their snow boulders at the enemy.

Many of the toys fell quickly to the attacks of the siege weapons, but the others continued their assault. Vini shot down a line of toys with heir piercing weapon, and heard the voices of her enemies as they fell.

"A soldier does not fear defeat!"

"Error—detected—shutting—down..."

It was a little disturbing, but she figured it was part of Tixx's magic. "Here they come again!" the slyvari announced.

Vini looked, and saw yet another wave of toys coming from the east. They were fast, and the defenses on the eastern side were not as strong as the northern or western side. She raised her rifle to eye level and shot a few toys down.

Meanwhile, the human, the charr, and the slyvari rushed in with their candy canes, bringing down dozens of malfunctioning toys while taking vicious blows from their enemies.

With the assistance of the norn, the asura, and Vini herself, the group was able to clear the eastern side quickly.

And this repeated, wave after wave of toys charging from randomized directions descended upon the Dolyak camp. And again, and again, Vini and the others pushed them back. Though, at the cost of many walls and weapons after each wave.

Vini found herself sweating bullets, and yet grinning at the same time. There was something satisfying about implanting a wooden bullet in a toy's head, face, or body with the sound of a loud pop!

Then, after a couple more waves, the attacks stopped.

Vini lowered her weapon. "What happened?" she asked. "Aren't there going to be more?"

The group gathered, and there was an eerie silence over the battlefield. No laughter, either. Vini shivered. What was coming next?

"It's going to arrive soon," the charr said.

"What's arriving?" Vini asked.

"Toxx," the human said with a grim voice. "It always attacks after a long raid of toys. Fortunately, this is the last round of the game, and we haven't lost any Dolyaks yet."

"We best build our strongest defenses, then," the slyvari said with a nod.

"You scared?" the charr said, a taunting grin on her face.

"Why would I be afraid?" the slyvari asked, sounding offended. "It's just a game."

"Come, there's no time for teasing," the norn spoke. "Let's all gather as many resources as we can.

"Indeed," the asura said. He looked at Vini. "Are you with me?"

"Of course!" Vini responded. "I'm looking forward to pounding Toxx into the ground."

"Good. Say... aren't you...?"

"The greatest asura mind in all the world? Why, yes!" she said with a grin.

"Actually, I think you're Vini Yunio," the asura said, bluntly.

Vini gave him a flat stare. "Shut up," she growled. "I don't go by that name! I don't have a surname, understood?"

"Stop!" the human said, jumping in front of the two asura. "Come, you need to help, not fight." The male asura and Vini exchanged glances and then nodded to the human.

And they gathered their resources. The three with the candy canes used their weapons to break down the small towns and trees while Vini, and the other riflemen collected the snow and scraps that remained from the ground.

They built walls, more ballistas, and more catapults. "Use the snow only for the walls!" the charr ordered. "The ballistas and catapults should be enough to counter Toxx."

After a minute, the norn stopped. "Wait..." She picked up her rifle and shuffled behind a wall. "Do you hear that?"

Vini listened. She heard the familiar stomping of a golem coming in their direction. And then, she saw a massive red golem in the distance. She nearly dropped her rifle. "That's Toxx?!"

"Yes... normally, it's a lot smaller," the human explained. "But... in this game... Go!" He rushed the golem with the charr and the slyvari alongside with a battle cry.

The golem fought like any other golem Vini had seen, except it shot chilling ice shards from its hands instead of energy bolts.

She aimed and shot. The bullet struck Toxx's arm, but it didn't even daze the golem. A couple of loud pops sounded around her as her allies shot Toxx. Again, the bullets seem to do nothing.

The golem grabbed the human by the arm, and threw him toward the middle pillar. He let out a scream as he soared through the air and then slammed into the middle pillar, knocking a Dolyak over in the process, and fell limp. His cane clattered onto the ground.

"Damn," said the norn. "Is that golem stronger than last time?"

"Don't converse! Keeping shooting!" the asura ordered. Vini aimed and shot Toxx again; it just didn't seem to be doing anything to the golem.

The charr was pummeling the golem with her candy cane while shifting around the golem and evading its attacks. The slyvari planted his cane firmly in the golem's shoulder and then ripped his weapon out. Vini saw a spark from that location, and aimed for it.

A loud pop! and the bullet soared through the air. Vini saw it hit the arm, and it began to malfunction. So, the rifles are effective!

The golem, possibly angered, grabbed the charr by the throat with its good arm and then slammed her repeatedly into the ground before she fell unconscious. Two down.

Vini saw the slyvari duck one of the Toxx's swinging attacks. Then, he jumped up to pound the golem in the head when a large bubble formed around it, knocking the slyvari back onto the ground. He slammed into the snow with such force that the cane fell from his hands and skid across the snow toward the center ring.

The slyvari scrambled to his feet, only to grabbed around the waist by the golem.

Vini was about to fire when the male asura stopped her. "When that shield is up, it reflects attacks! Do you want a bullet implanted in your skull?" he asked. Vini shook her head. "Then, don't fire until its down."

"But... the slyvari!"

"Don't worry, no one dies in this game," he assured her. "If people terminated here, no one would play it. Look behind you."

Vini glanced and saw that the human's body had vanished.

"Every time someone falls, they reappear outside. Unfortunately, in the final round, they aren't allowed to return until Toxx is defeated."

"Great," Vini said with a groan. "So, for every person we lose, we become weaker."

"Correct."

Then, there was a scream from the slyvari. Vini gasped and shot her eyes over to Toxx to see the golem hurl its hapless enemy into one of their defenses. Vini thought she heard a sickening crack as the slyvari's body connected with the ice wall just in front of her, the asura, and the norn. The wall shuddered and cracked. Another one down. Fortunately, Toxx's shield was down, and Vini and her fellow asura commenced another round of bullets on the golem.

"Here! You keep shooting! We have to keep that golem from the Dolyaks at all costs!" the norn exclaimed. She picked up a nearby cane and rushed Toxx. Vini and the male asura kept their fire up, and then ducked behind the wall.

"Since when did you learn how to use a rifle?" the asura asked Vini. "I thought you were an assassin?"

"I said stop talking!" she growled at him again.

There was a yell and the norn flew over the walls and the heads of the two asura, slamming into the same pillar. She wasn't unconscious like the human had been, but she was definitely looking weak.

She coughed. "Ugh... keep shooting!"

"But...!" the male asura protested.

"Get back!" Vini shouted, grabbing the asura by the arm and rolling back. Toxx was spinning its arms, breaking through the defenses like a sword through paper. Walls cracked, ballistas broke down, catapults shattered.

Toxx was now in the center. It turned its attention to the helpless Dolyaks and began to punch the poor pack creatures.

The norn stood, grabbing her candy cane and whacked it into Toxx's back. The golem spun and shot rapid chilling bolts into the norn's stomach. She let out a cry of pain and fell to the ground, skidding outside the center ring like a rag doll. Then, Toxx turned on the two asura.

The male's ears fell, and he dropped his rifle without a word. He ran around the center and fled for the gate.

"You coward!" Vini screamed at him. She glanced back at Toxx just in time to see him launch a fist at her. A direct hit, she was sent flying into the snowfields near where the charr had fallen.

It felt like she was bleeding heavily. Gasping, Vini picked up her rifle and aimed it only to find that the barrel was shattered.

Toxx advanced on her.

Vini snatched the candy cane from the ground and licked her lips. I'm not going to fail! She looked at the candy cane, and then snapped it in half with her leg.

Toxx advanced on her.

She broke off the curved end, and held the two pieces like daggers. "Come on, you malfunctioning piece of metallic garbage!" Vini threatened. "I'll dissemble you!"

Toxx launched another fist, but this time Vini was ready. She jumped over the attack and flipped through the air. She landed on Toxx's head and began stabbing its shoulders repeatedly with her candy cane daggers.

The crimson golem's arms released sparks and it struggled to grasp Vini and pull her off. The golem started spinning rapidly, trying to knock her off. Vini dropped a dagger and grabbed a damaged part of its arm, and held on with all her strength.

When it stopped spinning, the golem tried to grapple her again, and failed miserably. However, it jumped in the air and stomped, causing Vini to drop her other dagger.

Dammit! What could she do? Wait... I remember when I first worked with a golem... She recalled being frustrated with the golem, and just yanked a random part out of it (which she referred to as a 'thing'), and it collapsed.

Toxx shook, still trying to knock its foe off. Vini desperately hung on, and then, when Toxx stabilized, took a risk, and reach into one of its damaged arms for a disc of somesort.

She found it, and then with all her remaining might, ripped it out of Toxx.

A loud siren sounded across the snowfield. Toxx's vocal functions were broken as the golem made crackling noises, as if attempting to announce the damage. It stumbled, and then fell over, slamming Vini into the ground.

The last thing she saw before falling into darkness was Toxx crumbling into the snow, no longer functioning. With a final smile, Vini welcomed the darkness's embrace and slept.

-S-

"Hey! Hey, Vini! Wake up!"

Vini felt herself being shaken by a pair of arms. Her eyes popped open and she saw the human she had been fighting with smiling at her. "Good job! You saved the Dolyaks!" he exclaimed.

"Ha! Leave it to an asura to break down a golem!" she heard the female charr say with a loud laugh.

Vini stood up. She expected to be in pain, but she felt healthy, as if she had never been hurt by Toxx. She smiled herself. "That was fun!"

"Very clever of you to break a candy cane down into dagger-like weapons," said a male voice next to her. She looked, and saw the asura who had ran away.

"Thank you, but... you!" she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. "Why did you run?!"

"Now, now, calm down, Savant," said a familiar voice. Vini looked and then dropped the asura. There, she saw Tixx. "Don't be violent. That's a naughty thing to do."

Vini bit her lip. "S-sorry. It's just..."

"Yes, yes," Tixx said waving a finger. "He ran. A very cowardly thing to do. I should confiscate his gift, but he already opened it." The toymaker shrugged. "Regardless, I saw the score, Savant. You had the highest of all the players. And I must agree, that was extremely clever of you to make a candy cane into weapons you were familiar with. Bravo." He clapped.

"Thank you," Vini repeated. "I am a genius after all," she added with a smug grin.

"You also knew about Toxx's internal disc drive," Tixx continued. "Very good! I heard you had fooled with golems before, but ripping it out of Toxx was impressive indeed. You definitely deserve such a title."

Vini's grin widened, and she giggled slightly.

"Now," Tixx said, raising a finger. "You've completed your three tasks, and I'll overlook the threats against your asura friend here, and I'll give you as promised." He produced a white present wrapped with pink ribbons. "Merry Wintersday to you, Savant Vini."

She accepted the present with a wide smile. "Oh... thank you!" She wanted to open it, but then paused. Pol... "Wait, what about my brother? Did he receive a present?"

"Of course!" Tixx said with a beaming smile. "He came to me while you were participating in Toypocalpyse. Your dear brother also inquired if you had received one. I informed him of your situation, and he said he would open his with you. He returned to Rata Sum after that, and is awaiting your arrival." Tixx cocked his head. "You have a very kind brother."

Vini nodded, rubbing one of her eyes. "Yes, he is; absolutely the best little brother in all of Tyria!" she said. "Then, I'll go open mine with him."

"Very good," Tixx said with a nod.

"Hey." The female charr placed her claw on Vini's shoulder. "Merry Wintersday."

"Yes!" the norn exclaimed. And together her allies said: "Happy Wintersday to you!"

"And to all of you as well," Vini responded, still smiling. She looked around. "I think I'll go for another round of Toypocalpyse when I come back; and possibly bring Pol, too."

"As you wish," Tixx said. "Now, if you excuse me, I have to return to my workshop. I need to fix Toxx up for the next game. Farewell, Savant!" He waved at her, and then vanished into the snow.

Vini waved back, and then turned to her new friends. "Be safe, and may all your theories be sound."

"You, too!"

And with that, Vini ran off to the Lion's Arch asura gate.

-S-

When she returned to Rata Sum, she found Pol waiting for her at their house.

"Sister! I'm so glad to see you!" he said, hugging her. Vini accepted the embrace and then kissed her brother on the cheek. "You did it! You got a Wintersday gift from Tixx!"

"Indeed, I did." Vini beamed at him. "Come on, let's open our presents together."

"That sounds like a great idea," he said.

They walked over to their Wintersday tree and sat down before it. They exchanged smiles, and then went to unwrapping their presents. Indeed, it was a Happy Wintersday for the both of them; especially Vini.

Happy Wintersday, fellow Tyrians.

THE END