RetRollSpective – Hazers

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have appeared in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re going to take a look at the Hazers, a team that originated in the 2018 Marble League. Read on to find out how this team has stormed the competition!

The official Hazers logo, designed by Tim Ritz.

Perhaps the thing that makes the Hazers so unpredictable is their sheer mystery. It seems to many fans that their talent in competition appeared out of nowhere, and they’re right: journalists across Marblearth have been unable to get any leads on the Hazers’ origins for years. Although the team’s origin is estimated to be among the misty mountains near Mount Huaze, the team has consistently declined to share details about their home and how they became interested in marble sports. When interviewed, Smoggy sidelined the question, saying:

“Where we come from is not important. Who we are now and what we do here is what is important.”

Hazy, Smoggy, Foggy, Misty, and Cloudy entered the fray as the Hazers in the 2018 Marble League Draw. With an opaque, light-gray uniform, these athletes stood out instantly from all the other teams, but it remained to be seen how the novice team would hold up against series mainstays in Group A Qualifiers. The Hazers did not impress during the first event, only gaining two points towards the twenty they needed to qualify, but they scored strongly in the coming rounds. With six, eight, and eight points from the second to the fourth event, the Hazers earned the honor of being the highest-scoring rookie team to qualify for the 2018 Marble League.

The Hazers and Minty Maniacs, both future bronze medalists, face off “marble a marble” for the first time in the 2018 Marble League Qualifiers.

Needless to say, their success has caused much controversy. In an MSPN Blog post entitled Are certain Marble League teams using PEDs? a fan speculated:

“For the Hazers, their strong start has given them some unwanted scrutiny as to what is inside the middle of their marbles. Their Hazy color has caused many to believe that they could be adding weight to create an advantage” (Evonsion). 

Though further comments on the post discredited these rumors, discourse concerning the team’s potential use of PEDs has been rampant on sites like Reddit, where one fan claimed, “I’ve seen some various condemning photographs…that they are actually using weighted centers and that their signature ‘haze’ is the residue left from applying said weights to their midsections…”

Another fan speculated, “This picture could mean that the Hazers swap themselves out with other, heavier gray marbles before starting each event.”

Since neither the JMRC nor the JMA has made a statement on the Hazers using PEDs, it is important to disregard these conspiracies brought forward by fans. Furthermore, these allegations would not be brought against the Hazers if their performance in the 2018 Marble League was not strong. The team earned silver medals in the first and second events, putting them in the overall lead with 40 points. 

The Hazers debuted in the Marble League by earning a silver medal.

The Hazers followed these strong performances with a slate of sublime results. In the third and fourth events, the team finished in fourteenth place, scoring them only four points total and dropping them into fourth place overall. The Hazers, unfazed by this, rebounded in the fifth event, where Misty set a new Marble League record in Speed Skating with a time of 30.34 seconds. With this, the Hazers easily jumped to first place in the standings overall with 69 points, one gold, and two silvers strong. When asked about their new record, Misty seemed like they were in a daze:

“I just wanted to win, and I rolled as fast as I could. I could have fallen off the track, but I knew it was worth the risk. When I got to the bottom, my team just rushed at me and that’s when I realized. I started tearing up, and through my hazy vision I think they were too.”

Misty’s record-setting gold medal in Speed Skating was the beginning of a close fan following for the star athlete.

Unfortunately for the Hazers, their strong momentum throughout the first half of the 2018 Marble League dissipated after their gold medal. They did not podium again, and although they placed in the top half of most of the remaining events, the Hazers were stunted by two more fourteenth-place finishes in Team Pursuit and Snowboard Cross. That said, the lowest that the Hazers were at any point during the season was seventh, and at the end of the season, they finished in sixth overall with 111 points, making them the highest placing rookie team of the season. 

In the offseason, Foggy finished fifth in the 100 Meter Water Race, being the highest qualified rookie team to do so (the Gliding Glaciers finished in third) and the Hazers also participated in the Amazing Maze Marble Race, though they were eliminated in the initial heat. 

Irrespective of their performance in the Amazing Maze Marble Race, the Hazers stormed into the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers with force, getting two first-place finishes and earning first place in the overall standings. The qualifier rounds gave the team the opportunity it needed to prove to doubters that their first season’s success was not a fluke and that it would continue to challenge the more decorated veterans in competition, though their success hinged upon their performance in the proper 2019 Marble League in April.

Hazy started the season strongly for the team, reaching the finals in the Underwater Race and missing the podium in fourth place. Foggy followed their inaugural performance by placing on the podium in third place in the Funnel Race, and the team collectively earned a gold medal in Balancing to rise to second place in the standings, trailing the seemingly dominant Savage Speeders by just eight points.

Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.

Their strong momentum seemed to be fading in the Gravitrax Slalom when the team placed fifteenth. The 5 Meter Sprint momentarily proved that wrong with Smoggy’s silver medal, which placed the Hazers at the top of the standings. However, the Hazers continued to fall into a rut that seemed eerily similar to their second half of the 2018 season. Over the next three events, the team placed in the middle of the standings twice and last place once, dropping to fifth place overall with half of the season to go. It seemed possible that teams like the Crazy Cat’s Eyes could rise above the Hazers. The Raspberry Racers, previously in second, were nestled at the top of the standings, a position which they would eventually win.

“We saw something that we’d been waiting for years to happen. We can’t deny the talent of the older teams, but we newer teams had wanted a chance to shine for so long,” Foggy revealed. “2019 was the first year where none of the original sixteen teams made the podium, and it was a breath of fresh air. It made us feel worthy—vindicated—that not only were we part of the competition but that we had the honor to rise above athletes so decorated and experienced. Athletes that we’d always dreamed of being.”

A turning point for the Hazers’ 2019 season.

The Hazers fought through the second half of the season to earn this honor, denying themselves a repeat of 2018. Foggy earned a bronze medal in Hurdles and the team earned its second gold medal in the Hubelino Maze, rising to second place and maintaining their position in the top five. The team earned a bronze medal in Rafting and a silver medal in Surfing with Hazy’s performance, becoming one of three teams able to win the 2019 Marble League. Although the Hazers finished in the middle of the pack in Collision, the Savage Speeders’ last-place finish doomed them from finishing the overall season on the podium and cemented the top three teams: the Raspberry Racers, Green Ducks, and Hazers—all three of which had a chance to take the championship.

In the end, the standings would remain consistent for the top five teams. The Hazers finished in third place with 184 points at the conclusion of the 2019 Marble League, prequalifying for the 2020 Marble League and ensuring their legacy in the tournament among the most celebrated teams and athletes in marble sports history.

Would the Hazers break the “third place curse” in the 2020 season?

The Hazers were taking a short break from preparing for the Friendly Round when they received an official letter from the JMRC inviting them to compete in the first season of Marbula One. The team accepted the invitation and was announced as the fourteenth team coming to the tournament on 04 December 2019. On the same day, the Hazers announced that they would be represented by Hazy, “Jetstream”, and Smoggy, “Smokebomb”, during the tournament. The team’s poster confirmed one of the team’s biggest mysteries: depicting their training grounds high up on a mountaintop, with Mount Huaze in the distance.

The official promotional poster for the Hazers in Marbula One, designed by Jack Ironhide.

Hazy made their debut as a Marbula One racer in the Savage Speedway Grand Prix Qualifiers on 15 February 2020, where they set a time of 29.34 seconds and qualified in ninth. During the race, Hazy took the lead during the eighth lap and remained in the top tier even after losing the lead, finishing in second place and earning the first silver medal of Marbula One.

Smoggy followed Hazy in a similar fashion, debuting in the O’raceway Grand Prix Qualifiers on 22 February 2020 and qualifying in second with a time of 30.37 seconds. Once the starting gate lifted the next day, Smoggy took the lead and held it until the third lap, when they lost it to Billy for the rest of the race. They finished the race in third place, not even half a second behind Rapidly. With two races done, the Hazers rose to the top of the standings, three points above the Green Ducks.

Smoggy’s first of a few Marbula One podium appearances.

The Hazers continued to remain a formidable force throughout the season, a constant for the championship. After qualifying in third at the Momotorway, Hazy earned a bronze medal, and after qualifying in fifth at the Hivedrive, Smoggy finished the race in fourth and set the fastest lap. The Hazers’ consistency rivaled that of the Savage Speeders until Greenstone, where Hazy, after qualifying in fifth, placed eleventh. The team’s lead narrowed to one point, and the next race did not help. Although Smoggy qualified in fifth at the Short Circuit, Smoggy in fact short-circuited themselves, placing eight and allowing Speedy—having earned a bronze medal—to edge ahead to first overall.

“I trust both of them to do what they need to do,” Coach Smokey explained in an interview prior to the Razzway. Hazy has had their fair share of great Marble League performances, and so has Smoggy. Need proof? Look at the first two events they ever competed in,” Smokey said, gesturing to two silver medals in a display case. “They will persevere.”

And persevere they did. Coach Smokey submitted Smoggy to appear for the second Grand Prix in a row at the Razzway Grand Prix Qualifiers on 28 March 2020. Their qualifying trial was the penultimate run, and they set a time of 28.79 seconds—just seven-hundredths of a second from pole position. Smoggy, positioned to do well during the race, ended up leading every lap except for the sixth lap, and earned a much-needed, if not deserved gold medal. The Hazers retook their lead in the standings, fourteen points ahead of the Savage Speeders.

Little Mighty, Stynth, and Fouc look on as the Razzway GP medalists take the podium.

This would have been a fantastic end to the Hazers’ Marbula One season, but to their detriment, one Grand Prix remained. Coach Smokey put in Hazy for their fourth and final race, as Smoggy had exhausted their four races. Hazy had a bad run during Qualifiers, qualifying in fifteenth, just behind Starry in fourteenth. Speedy, after a controversial early start, snagged pole position.

“It was an uphill battle, to say the least,” Hazy commented briefly.

“Would you mind saying more?” a reporter asked.

“Honestly, I would prefer not to.”

Hazy fought to the top ten and struggled into the top half of the standings, but could not maintain a position above eighth place. They finished the season there, earning four points but falling short of stopping the Savage Speeders. The Hazers finished in second overall, with Smoggy placing third in the Racer’s Championship.

The end of a prolific inaugural season for the Hazers, even if it ended in heartbreak.

The Prophecy

an addendum by Phoenix and Stynth

Just before the 2020 Marble League, a mysterious report was brought to the attention of The Rollout’s executive staff. A journalist by the name of Dr. Aleister Crolley had submitted an article claiming their discovery of a castle etched into the foothills of Mount Huaze, where they found an ancient prophecy that they had yet to make sense of. At the time, The Rollout discarded the report, finding its contents baseless and of little worth.

Crolley remained an avid sports fan despite their rejection by the premier magazine, they watched the 2020 Marble League from the general fan stands. They didn’t seem fazed when the Hazers finished third in the 2020 Marble League Friendly Round, but as soon as the team began struggling in the main tournament, with a string of mediocre performances leading to a dooming last-place finish in Block Pushing, Crolley became weirdly intrigued. The night before the Triathlon, they were caught trespassing in an Andromedome skybox with pages of their notes strewn across the floor, pinned to the walls, and hanging from the ceiling.

Security footage from that night raised more questions than answers. 

“I swear! You have to listen to me…the prophecy I found is in a style of calligraphy I have yet to decipher, but it’s written in stanzas of three…do you know what this means?!” Crolley exclaimed as security marbles beamed their flashlights straight into the eyes of the investigator.

“It means something pretty close to expulsion if you don’t clear out of here in the next minute. With or without your journal entries.”

“Journal entries? Dear me, these are historical breakthroughs! And not just that…I think I’m finally about to uncover the truth behind the third-place curse!”

A collective sigh from the group of security marbles concluded the footage recorded that night. By some miracle, Crolley was permitted to enter the Andromedome the next day to see Foggy win the Triathlon in one of the most engaging finals of any Marble League event yet.

Foggy emerges from behind Stinger, Orangin, and Momo to stamp their authority and win the Hazers a Marble League gold.

“By glass!” exclaimed Dr. Crolley. “Foggy was absolutely incredible, and there was so much at stake! I know I’ve been a bit intense about those theories, but I have to get statistical for a second – Foggy’s odds would have been against them if the underwater section wasn’t there.”

Committee member Fouc, who had met Crolley as they were leaving the Andromedome the night before, disagreed. “Foggy knew the problem they had to conquer in order to win: their swimming couldn’t help if they crashed into a sand dune at the start. This ended up not being a problem at all before the final, as Foggy sprinted out of the gate to dodge any collisions, recording the only sub-31 second runs in those rounds.”

“Well, what about the final?”

“It seemed like a disaster at first,” admitted Fouc. “Foggy collided with every opponent of theirs out of the sand section, but as soon as they dove into the water, instinct took over. Seeing that Momo and Orangin in the front were only staring each other down, Foggy only got faster and faster. Then Foggy made a move of their own, pushing Orangin aside and rolling through an opening between them and Momo. You may have thought it was out of nowhere, but Foggy calculated that victory as well as the Hazers always have.”

Dr. Crolley was astounded. “Wow. Now that’s statistical. Here, take my card.”

Photo portrait of Dr. Aleister Crolley.

“It’s relieving, honestly, but our work is far from over. We’re not in a mood to get complacent,” said Hazy in a pre-event interview to the Mogul Race.  

During the semifinal, where Mo seemed to have taken advantage by overtaking Hazy, Hazy hit a straightaway, accelerating ahead of Mo and towards the finish line. Although Mo came close to catching up, Hazy was already more than a length ahead by the time they crossed the finish line, qualifying for the final.

Hazy had a less consistent edge over the finals, bumping up to second during the race thanks to an early collision from Swifty. They may have secured only a bronze if Minty Flav had not collided with Ocean from behind, but Hazy was able to stay a decisive length ahead in the end, securing another medal for the Hazers and lifting the team into sixth overall. 

Foggy’s podium moment following their victory in the Triathlon.

After the 5 Meter Sprint, where Smoggy placed fifth but broke the Yarble Yellers’ long-standing record, security marbles recall seeing Crolley in a state of despair. “We returned all of the investigator’s notes after Crolley vacated the skybox, but they refused them at first. They look like they’ve seen a ghost,” remarked one security guard.

“The ghost of their master’s thesis,” jested another. The two guards chuckled to themselves.

Even with a string of lower results in the next few events, the Hazers remained in the top half of the standings. They cemented their position there when they earned a bronze medal in the Team Aquathlon and fourth in Collision, rising to sixth overall. As Stynth remarked in their Podium Moments series:

“Despite their cloudy uniforms, the Hazers are a consistently strong team. They may not always score consistently, but the team knows how to pull together and play to their strengths, some of which are racing, overtaking, and water events.

All three of those elements were present in the Team Aquathlon, the newest adaptation of the Team Pursuit, and the Hazers did not disappoint. After they knocked out the championship contenders, Minty Maniacs, in the first heat, the Hazers faced and closely defeated the Racers in the quarterfinals. They fell to the Wisps in the semifinals, matching with Team Momo in the third-place match, and finished nearly two seconds ahead of them to earn the bronze in a victory reminiscent of their success in the Triathlon.

Yes, the Hazers can no longer win the 2020 Marble League, but they have fought hard against the third-place curse, as they currently stand in seventh overall. Is this the end of that curse?”

~from “Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 14”
Stynth looks to the Hazers as they take the right step of the podium alongside the Wisps and Speeders.

Following the Team Aquathlon, Crolley withdrew their report from consideration for The Rollout, writing an official letter to Stynth regarding their decision. The morning of the Marble Marathon, Stynth met Aleister Crolley for an early breakfast, where they discussed their experiences reporting and analyzing the stories and events surrounding sports.

Later that day, the Hazers rolled onto the arena and stopped to the left of Team Galactic, finishing sixth overall with 147 points. They tied the hosts in points but had the edge in medals earned, thanks to Foggy’s gold and the team’s Aquathlon bronze.

“I didn’t have it in me to finish the Marathon strongly,” lamented Hazy, who finished twelfth in the event. “But long story short, I survived.”

That night, the Hazers disappeared from Polaria, missing the coaches’ conference and athlete banquet to return home at once. Security marbles were surprised to see Crolley present at the banquet in lieu of following the Hazers to…whatever their transport was for returning home.

“In spite of my erratic conspiracies earlier this season,” noted Dr. Crolley, “I think it’s worth noting that the Hazers had some incredible moments this season. Their Triathlon performance will go down as one of the greatest moments in the League, if not all of marble sports, and their determination to push through when so many fans expected them to fail—even me—is astounding. I’ll have to restart my thesis when I get back to my home office.”

During the 2020 offseason, the Hazers began sponsoring a tourist excursion to their training grounds, which they entitled “Haze Getaways”. The trip was accessible from a variety of locations across Marblearth, starting in Om, Polaria, Skaigan, and Hunluen before branching out to other cities. Stynth detailed their “Haze Getaway” in their travel journal, writing:

As I checked out at the reception desk, the doors opened to my right, and in rolled Coach Smokey of the Hazers.

            “Tickets, please.” Coach Smokey ripped off my ticket stub, and I followed the rest of the tourists onto the bus. I was pleasantly surprised to find my fellow JMRC colleague, Spex, sitting towards the back, and I waved, taking my seat next to them.

            “I wasn’t sure if you were going or not, but I’m happy to see you!” I exclaimed. “Honestly, this makes me feel a lot better about wherever this tour is going to take us.”

“Is that you, Stynth?” said an all too familiar upbeat voice behind me. Dr. Aleister Crolley was seated in the back row, peering through the window in an attempt to recognize their surroundings. “My goodness! What an honor.” 

A tourist excursion to the middle of nowhere is honestly the last thing I expected the Hazers to invest in, but considering their record in Marbula One and the past three Marble Leagues, I suppose they’re trying to capitalize off of the hype. The tour, entitled “Haze Getaways”, travels throughout Marblearth and, somewhere along the way, stops at the Hazers’ training grounds that were featured in their Marbula One poster. During the entire bus ride, cell service is blocked from inside the bus, all of the windows are smoked out, and the driver doesn’t tell you where you’re going: only forward.

After nearly a day of travel, the windows cleared up, and there we were: towards the peak of a mountain with fog curling upwards from others in the range. The air was thin when our tour group left the bus, but we had made it to the fabled home of the Hazers.

Spex poses for a photoshoot with the Hazers at their home—in front of a green screen in our Haze Getaways tour bus. (Photo Credits: Phoenix)

Coach Smokey led the two of us away from the tour group, and we scaled the mountain further for some time. “It’s not often we see officials make the trip, so we really appreciate it,” Smokey said after some time, thanking us.

            “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Spex assured.

We reached the peak of the mountain after about an hour of hiking. There, we found them—the five members of the Hazers—meditating beneath the cherry blossoms.

            “Take a deep breath,” Hazy said, calmly. “Put down your notepad. Let go. Live.”

At a moment that felt like a lifetime, we breathed in and out together, seemingly at peace. But I opened my eyes a sliver at a crucial moment, hearing something move ever so slightly in front of me. It was Coach Smokey, who darted past me to descend the steep staircase we had just scaled.

When we got back to the bus an hour ago, Dr. Crolley was nowhere to be found. They weren’t even mentioned when Coach Smokey took attendance.

Illustrated by Betawolfs, I watched other Huazhens meditate on a cliff across from us when we reached the peak of the mountain.

Sometime later, the Hazers received an invite to Marbula One Season 2, one that they, as the runners-up in Season 1, were likely expecting. They submitted both Hazy and Smoggy to return as racers, and in early November, the Hazers and their fans were ready to support their team at the Minty Mania Grand Prix in Herbotamia. There, Smoggy claimed the first pole position of the season, earning one point, and placed twelfth in the race, earning another point. Thus, the Hazers started their second Marbula One season in eleventh with just two points.

The Hazers’ season trended downward from then on—Hazy only scored at the Aquamaring to close out the first third of the season, leaving their team in nineteenth overall with a paltry three points, ahead of only the Jungle Jumpers with one point. Skip earned that one point in a Grand Prix that the Hazers failed to qualify for, ending a perfect attendance streak that had lasted since the 2018 Marble League in JMR main tournament events. Hazy declined interviews following that qualifying performance at the O’raceway, disappearing into the fields of corn outside of the stadium.

At this point, another mysterious report for The Rollout, which desperately needed articles, appeared. After not hearing from the investigator for months, the mail team brought piles of manila folders up to the executive staff, which thoroughly reviewed Dr. Crolley’s claims of a breakthrough on what they claimed “The Prophecy” to be. A spokesmarble for the staff released a summary cross-examined and certified by Dr. Crolley that read:

The results from my findings tentatively indicate that this prophecy is directly connected to the Hazers…that it must have something to do with their inconsistencies. From my gatherings, I believe this to be some sort of a curse…and although I feel the third-place curse has been ruled out, the host’s curse remains quite plausible. Why do I say that this is a curse? Well, why else would the prophecy talk about “making a curse to stand the test of time”? That’s all I’ve been able to translate so far of this ancient calligraphy, but when I know more, you’ll be the first to know.

Intrigued, the staff invited Dr. Crolley to the Tumult Turnpike GP to discuss their study and the potential of a partnership. There, Hazy seemed like they were doomed to repeat another poor performance, as they qualified in eleventh.

“Why is Hazy doing another race after just showing up last week at the Aquamaring?? What, do they think they have any momentum from their one point?” a fan with an egregiously neon-green Limers jersey boasted from the stands.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s not smart to bet against the Hazers,” said Dr. Crolley calmly, hearing the fan rant from across the grandstands. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens here.”

When they started rolling in the race, Hazy remained largely unnoticed, save for a mention from Greg Woods of their speed in the 90-degree turn section in Sector 2, at Turns 5 and 6. There, Hazy overtook Sea with ease, rising to eighth in positions.

"Nice bit of speed there from Hazy, down that front stretch..." ~Greg Woods

Eleven laps later, Hazy used that same front stretch as an opportunity to pass Mallard and Yellow Eye to enter the top four. Hazy lunged forward in the next lap, passing Starry in the banked turn, speeding past Limelime heading into Turn 5, and passing Bolt after Turn 6 to take the lead.

Then, a yellow flag was drawn, sending out a Safety Marble to push back the chicane in Turn 11 that had been coming loose throughout the entire race. Few overtakes occurred during the last lap, and that was exactly what Hazy needed to win the Tumult Turnpike GP.

“Looking back, Hazy made some transcendental overtaking on the third-to-last and second-to-last laps. And Hazy got the lead in the penultimate lap, and then of all things the Safety Marble came out on the final lap, so everyone slowed down and couldn’t really overtake each other,” Fouc explained to a group of fans following the race.

Little Mighty, former head of The Rollout, gazes above the Hazers as they claim the top step of the podium in Hunluen.

Smoggy followed their teammate’s performance with fourth in the Arctic Circuit Grand Prix, and the Hazers finished the first half of Season 2 in sixth overall.

“No need to start any rumors about a ‘runners-up curse’,” joked Coach Smokey. “We had a rough start, but now, we’re here to win.”

Shortly after the end of the first half of Season 2, the Marble League Winter Special was formally announced as an invitational with sixteen teams. Having placed sixth in the 2018 Marble League, the Hazers were ecstatic to announce that they would compete in the Winter Special. 

Rather than taking a backseat to train and rest ahead of the second half of Marbula One, Smoggy and Hazy elected to compete in the first two events, the Ice Dash and Snowboard Cross.

“I felt in my element after those last few [Marbula One] races, and if that could lead to success in the Winter Special, then I was going to go for it,” reflected Smoggy. “My instinct ended up being correct.”

In a tight photo-finish, Smoggy finished just behind Blue Eye in the Ice Dash, pulling off another incredible finish ahead of Momo to earn a silver. Although Hazy missed out on the showdown between Aqua and Bolt for first and second, they finished well ahead of Astron to earn a bronze, lifting the Hazers into first overall with three events to go.

Smoggy’s silver would become a critical juncture for the Hazers.

“This is why I ruled out the third-place curse,” a fan overheard Dr. Crolley muttering in the stands. “The Hazers are simply too good for any performance-based curse to defy them.”

The next few events didn’t go as well as the team hoped – Misty was unable to repeat their Speed Skating gold, finishing seventh, and the team placed eleventh in Bobsled. But they were still one of seven teams that could win the Winter Special by the final event, Ice Hockey, and the Hazers did everything they could to advance out of the heats, scoring eight goals against the Balls of Chaos’ four. 

Going up against Team Galactic in the quarterfinals, the Hazers swarmed to the defense in the first half, even knocking over their own goalie in the process to prevent their opponents from scoring. However, the Hazers themselves did not score, and in the second half, Team Galactic edged one ball bearing in over their opponents to advance.

Cloudy depended on their teammates to help block any incoming goals when they were knocked off of their pedestal.

Their results were still strong enough for sixth in Ice Hockey, and for the Hazers to claim third overall in the Marble League Winter Special with 59 points. Fans looked to Smoggy for a statement, who would have secured an overall victory for the team if they had beaten Blue Eye in the Ice Dash. The athlete disappeared without a trace following the closing ceremony, and the team took no interviews as well.

“It’s quite fascinating how close they were, and how they managed to get third again…is their predicament not the absence of doing well, but the constant of them doing well?” ruminated Dr. Crolley.

“The Hazers are trash in the moments that count,” answered a fan wearing a Limers jersey, the only visible one in the stands. “They’re fierce competitors who roll their boulders all the way to the top only for them to crush the Hazers on the way down.”

“That’s quite profound,” Dr. Crolley responded.

“Oh, I didn’t come up with that. The Dino did that one.” The fan laughed to themselves. “Heh. It’s funny because the Hazers suck at Block Pushing, too! No way they could roll boulders to the top of Mount Huaze, or wherever they’re from. Who cares, anyway?”

The above conversation was documented in an official request sent to the JMRC regarding the remaining Marbula One Grands Prix. Although sent anonymously, the Committee knew at once who had sent it—Dr. Crolley.

And they approved the request, confirming the Misty Mountain GP as the tenth Grand Prix of Season 2.

Following the midseason break, Smoggy reappeared to represent the Hazers at the Raceforest Grand Prix, failing to qualify in twentieth overall. This time, Smoggy took one interview, which asked if they were frustrated after coming so close in the Winter Special. 

Their response was simple and familiar. “That is in the past, and it is not important. Who we are now and what we do here is what is important.”

Hazy surged at the Momotorway, qualifying in seventh and finishing fifth. Building off of their teammate’s momentum, Smoggy effectively ended the Hazers’ midseason drag after qualifying in fourth and finishing third at the Palette Park Grand Prix. They took the third step of the podium with their Team Aquathlon contemporaries, the Savage Speeders and Midnight Wisps, who had battled back yet another tense photo-finish to come out on top.

Smoggy passed Tumult at the finish line to earn their third career Marbula One medal.

The Hazers collectively disappeared after the race wrapped up, following the formal announcement of their Misty Mountain Grand Prix as the next track. The JMRC, members of JMR Staff, and other officials were permitted to board specially-equipped Haze Getaway buses from Van Gotterdam a few days later to finalize and approve the course as ready for racing. Individuals went through a strict screening process being allowed to board each transport, verifying tickets, and preventing any suspicious activity that could compromise the Hazers’ mystery.

Few marbles tried to board without receiving an invitation, but Dr. Aleister Crolley was one of them – and even with the support of Committee members Fouc and Stynth, the investigator had no choice but to reach the Misty Mountain GP on their own. Unable to join a fan caravan to the unspecified location (which had the same measures of security as the local Haze Getaway buses), Crolley joined other general fans on a trek sponsored by the Hazers known as the “Hazy Hike”. Starting at the foothills of Mount Huaze, the hike would be led by native Huazhens through the thick mist of the valley, concluding at the location of the course.

Crolley expected the hike to be extremely unpopular, but despite the fog being thick enough to only see five lengths ahead, hundreds of marbles were present when the hike was scheduled to begin. Crolley handed in their waiver form to the Huazhen official as they sulked to the back of the line, where they suddenly perked up.

“By glass! You’re Greg Woods, aren’t you?”

Woods turned around to face the investigator. “Hey there! Good to see a familiar face on this road. Are you ready?”

“About as ready as I’ll ever be, now!” Crolley pulled out their compass, only for the needle to be frozen no matter which direction they spun in. “Although I have to ask…is this a security measure, too?”

“I never thought of using a compass here. Hmm. Perhaps we’re in the midst of a geomagnetic anomaly…one that spans this entire region.”

The Hazy Hike concluded amid a rocky plain, where an all too familiar red-and-white tower had been constructed for officials to oversee the Misty Mountain GP. The mist was lighter around the plain, allowing fans in the stands to see the course in front of them, but not quite the entire course.

The red-and-white tower seen at the top right corner of this panorama marked the end of the Hazy Hike for the tourists who’d braved the journey.

“I heard rumors about the Hazers supposedly taking part in mystic rituals around this place,” noted one fan who had braved the hike. “I asked them, they just looked at me with a look of sheer confusion and pity. Smoggy broke the silence: ‘What?’ Coach Smokey was more solemn: ‘Stereotypes are hurtful.’ I realized that this was a stupid question.”

The reward for completing the hike was an opportunity for fans to meet the team, which the team offered for the first time in franchise history. Fan caravans and Haze Getaway buses pulled into the plain as the meet-and-greet concluded, and security officials carefully escorted fans into the grandstands, making sure everyone was accounted for.

“Shrouded in mist, and up until recently, shrouded in secrecy, but the Hazers welcome Marbula One to Misty Mountain where they pull back the curtain on this sled-shaped racetrack. The road to get here, though, not so much,” Greg Woods commented. ”That was covered in fog, several marbles got lost, and I still don’t entirely know where we are.”

Of course, one of those marbles that had gotten lost was Dr. Crolley, who Woods noted had disappeared what seemed like within the first hour of the hike. As Hazy qualified in sixteenth, barely ahead of Razzy, security officials brought Dr. Crolley behind the grandstands to be investigated. Security footage, which was curiously devoid of haze, captured the moment to be reviewed by the JMRC following Qualifiers.

“What are you hiding??? I can’t think of a better reason why so many of you were posted in Huazhen Castle…you must know something I don’t! But I’ll tell you! The host’s curse will strike tomorrow against Hazy…and they’ll place dead last! The prophecy has claimed it to be so!”

That night, it was reported that Stynth visited Dr. Crolley in isolation, and left looking rather distraught. But nothing would be as distressing as the events of the race the next day…events that would throw Jelle’s Marble Runs as we knew it into peril.

The safety marble missed Bumble and Clutter with a turn as smooth as…margarine.

Despite testing well in individual runs, Turn 6 of the course was too brutal of a turn during the race, causing Bumble to get stranded on the course in Lap 9 after running too close to Cerulean and into the outer curve. The chaos that ensued was ironic: as the Safety Marble lane was lifted, Clutter followed, having gotten stuck there on Lap 7. The Safety Marble grazed Bumble, but Clutter made the same mistake as Bumble, as they ran too hard into the Safety Marble, then the outer curve, and with their momentum arrested, came to a stop next to Bumble. 

“I’m furious that I got stuck there, yes. But I’m more furious at myself for allowing myself to get stuck there. I was too aggressive on the turn, and it didn’t pay off,” Bumble said after the race.

“I guess I was too aggressive heading out of the conveyor belt,” mused Clutter. “I never thought you could get stuck so easily in the safety lane. I’m curious as to why the race officials didn’t raise yellow and red flags sooner. Were they asking for chaos?”

Four attempts were given to the Safety Marble to free Bumble and Clutter, but they were unable to do so before the officials hastily drew a red flag, ruling that the race would be restarted using the most recent positions. At this point, Hazy was eighth in the race order, having clawed up four positions naturally since the start of the race and owing two more to the earlier disasters at Turn 6.

The restarted race order, featuring Hazy in the middle.

“It always feels out of reach when I have a bad starting position,” admitted Hazy in a post-race interview. “But this felt different than any time it’s felt before. It felt like I had an opportunity given to me by destiny.”

Hazy entered the top five quickly enough, and by Lap 16, rode the jetstream of a draft behind Rapidly into the lead. They would trade that lead with Rapidly for the rest of the race, but in the end, Hazy would finish in lockstep with Mallard and Rapidly trailing them to win their home Grand Prix, the first athlete to do so in Marbula One history.

Far behind them, Clementin became the third athlete to get trapped at Turn 6, and thus, the third athlete to get lost in the mist at the Misty Mountain GP.

In addition to their victory at home, Hazy became the second Marbula One athlete to win a Grand Prix from the furthest starting position, the first being Wospy at Palette Park.

Although the mood on the podium was celebratory, officials clashed over the track design, final approval, and rulings made during the race in the coming weeks. The final two Grands Prix were delayed following a strike from construction companies, the Jelle’s Marble Runs Committee unanimously disbanded due to continued unresolved concerns, and Dr. Crolley broke out of containment while JMR Staff were en route to Knikkegen. A few days after their escape, Dr. Crolley self-published a comprehensive collection of their notes and hypotheses surrounding “the prophecy of Huazhen Castle”. 

After nearly a year of leaving Crolley’s speculations unanswered, Hazers manager Shade responded to the claim in a rare official statement:

On 25 March 2021, Dr. Aleister Crolley was discovered on the private property of Huazhen Castle looking for what they claimed to be a “prophecy” about our team, the Hazers. This claim is inaccurate, for they unknowingly stole a secret Huazhen soup recipe, a course that we’ve made to stand the test of time…and the contents of which we will not reveal in this statement. We will be pursuing action against Dr. Crolley for trespassing in an attempt to steal a tradition that is exclusively ours.

Reports surfaced in the following weeks of a settlement between the two parties, which the Hazers confirmed in a second, even more rare official statement.

Almost one month after their Misty Mountain Grand Prix, the Hazers returned to race at the Savage Speedway GP in Accellaise, with Smoggy qualifying in fifteenth. Like their teammate in the previous race, Smoggy was able to vastly improve on their starting position, finishing fifth. With one Grand Prix to go, the Hazers were second in the overall standings with 107 points. They would finish their season at the Midnight Bay Circuit in Helarve, where they had famously choked away a championship in Season 1.

“That won’t happen again,” Hazy promised after qualifying in twelfth. “We’ve nearly clinched the podium, and this time, it won’t be an uphill battle to keep it.”

Despite their battle for the lead at the Misty Mountain GP, Hazy sorely underestimated Rapidly, who bolted ahead from their starting position in tenth to eventually take the lead and fastest lap. Behind them in last, Mallard rose ten spots throughout the race to finish in sixth, earning ten points to finish the season with 115 points.

Hazy was wrong. They finished fourteenth, meaning the Hazers would finish off the podium in fourth overall. Hazy finished eighth in the Racer’s Championship, and Smoggy finished thirteenth, to conclude a successful Marbula One season, albeit crushing at its end.

Hazy crosses the finish line in a blur.

In the short offseason between Marbula One and the 2021 Marble League, the Hazers had little planned but training…until they received a special recommendation to compete in a new competition.

“Came somewhat as a surprise to us,” Coach Smokey admitted, on one evening leading up to the event. 

The Cranthym Challenges comprised a new tournament that featured a mix between sports and puzzles, a unique competition compared to many that came before it. The Hazers team had been invited by the Balls of Chaos, who they later found out had also informed other high performing Marble League teams such as the Savage Speeders and O’rangers. Attending were also Pinkies, Kobalts, Green Ducks, and a number of teams that the Hazers were seemingly unfamiliar with.

The Hazers, thankful for this interesting-sounding break from the usual training, took up the recommendation immediately and in late March, joined their fellow marble teams at the opening of the Cranthym Challenges.

The Hazers and their manager, Shade, personally accept the Balls of Chaos’ invitation to compete in the Cranthym Challenges. (Photo Credit: Phoenix)

“I’m quite excited actually. And I think the rest of the team are, also,” Smoggy told the sole reporter who had traveled from the Hazers’ hometown to watch the Challenges. This wasn’t unusual, the entire competition seemed to be on the low down, even from the busier high reputation teams like Green Ducks who had hurried over from their Golden Egg Circuit in order to participate.

“We actually know a fair few of the teams here,” Hazy added, grinning. “Of course we know the teams who compete in the Marble League and Marbula One, but there’s also the Guild of Wit and the Magusi, who many years ago we used to be decently friendly with.”

Despite the friendships in the Challenges, the competition was fierce as each team was to be pushed to the limits with their mental strength and teamwork. The competition was made up of ten different challenges, where the team that ended with the most points at the end would be awarded the Cranthym Crown. 

The first challenge that the teams had to compete in was a maze, and as if by a stroke of luck, the Hazers began the new experience with a success. Navigating the maze as a team in the fastest time, they won the first-ever Cranthym Challenge, earning themselves ten points. Their fellow teams, Guild of Wit and Magusi had done less well, being placed seventh and tenth respectively. Team Strix, a new team the Hazers were unfamiliar with, achieved silver and the O’rangers won bronze.

The Hazers proceeded to perform fairly averagely, with ninth in the second challenge, a second place in a challenge that involved navigating with a map to locate a hidden item, a sixth-place, and then another ninth place following that.

“We’ve been doing alright, but we could definitely do better. It’s a lot harder than you’d imagine, it’s nothing like the Marble League. Of course, there are some skills that transfer, but these Challenges are really testing us. I’m sure it’s going to massively help our performance in the Marble League later,” Hazy confided with the reporter after the fifth challenge.

Despite Hazy’s hopes of improving, the team continued with their fairly average results. They achieved an eighth place, followed by a fifth that was partially due to Misty unintentionally stumbling across a key very early on. A particularly difficult challenge that required looking into a mirror that had no reflections of the teams, only to realize it was not a mirror, after all, left the team with an eleventh place position, and the first result that yielded them no points.

“Ironically, in terms of points we are doing quite well,” Foggy stated to the team, with the reporter nearby. They turned to explain. “Of course as in each event every team achieves a place, up to sixteenth, but only those up to tenth actually achieve any points. And unlike the Marble League, there is no special point bundle for whoever comes first. Cranthym Challenges really relies on consistency and consistently good finishes.”

“We’re on 37 points, right? That puts us provisionally third, tied with Whizlers. Guild of Wit, our old friends are currently in first, and Balls of Chaos are in second. But we’ve still got two events to go, so it could be anyone’s game, really,” Hazy confirmed.

And so the battle was on. A complicated challenge that necessitated both creativity and logic while thinking outside the box earned the Hazers a gold, almost ensuring them a decent finish. While what they had said before still stood, it was anyone’s game, they were definitely doing well and that was something they could feel proud of, however the last challenge went. Their other fellow team, Magusi achieved the silver in this penultimate challenge, while the Green Ducks took the bronze.

“And so, it all comes down to this…” an unidentified voice boomed down on the voices as they huddled together in the cold rain at the edge of an expansive forest that they could barely see into. “Make your way in, complete the puzzles, and they will lead you to victory…” The teams shivered, unsure of what to think of this seemingly dangerous task. Even Tumult, of the Balls of Chaos could be seen frowning into the darkness. Smoggy, however, grinned. They turned to Hazy and whispered; “we’ve got this. It’s just fog to begin with, we’re used to that. Then it’s the puzzles. We’ve got this.” And they were off.

The Hazers enjoy the flora of Panda Park. (Photo Credit: Phoenix)

It was a number of hours later when the first team emerged, triumphant. It was the Whizlers, who had been provisionally second with the Balls of Chaos, and upon realizing they were the first out, were joyous in the chance they had of winning. All they needed was for the Hazers to be fifth or more. The Whizlers were closely followed by Team Strix, a team who looked both like they had thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of the puzzles within the dark forest, and like they were glad to now be out. Some time passed before the Amber Skies hurried out, with the O’rangers right on their tail, disappointed to have just missed out on bronze. The Whizlers broke into cheers while congratulating those other teams who had navigated their way out. Finally, the Hazers emerged, with a smile, even as they saw that the Whizlers had just beaten them.

“Honestly, they deserve it. This was their third gold and to be honest, they’d been doing just as well as us all throughout,” a relieved but soaked Misty admitted. 

Gradually, the rest of the teams emerged from the forest, sharing stories on the particular puzzles they had struggled with, and any mishaps that they felt hindered them. The Green Ducks, followed by the Balls of Chaos. Cereballums, Pinkies, and then P-rolldigies took up the remaining points earning positions. As the sky began to darken and the air became more bitter with the teams starting to wrap up warmer while being handed out hot chocolates, the remaining teams started to appear and join their fellow competitors. It had reached the time in which the teams were to head back to the Cranthym Hall, and only one team, Guild of Wit, was remaining in the forest. The successful teams headed back to the warmth of the hall and positioned themselves on chairs together in front of the stage, awaiting the Awards Ceremony and closing of the unforgettable Challenges.

The Hazers sat by the Balls of Chaos and Team Strix, both teams who had done well in the Challenges.

“That last challenge was a bit unexpected,” Anarchy of the Balls of Chaos said to Hazy. “We actually really enjoyed it though. The thrill of potential danger. But danger that can be avoided by working together. Honestly, I wonder if something could be done…” they trailed off, as the captain of Team Strix leaned over, laughing in agreement. “Count us in, we…” They stopped suddenly, looking out at the door where the Guild of Wit had suddenly appeared, wrapped up in blankets but looking cheerful. The captain, Witley, grinned at the Hazers, who had all taken a huge sigh of relief at the arrival of their friends.

The awards ceremony following the Cranthym Challenges, depicted by Phoenix.

An elderly marble appeared and rolled to center stage.

“It has been so great to have you all here. Every single one of you has proved that with quick thinking, teamwork, and logic, even the hardest problems can be overcome. While I hope you take this knowledge with you where you go in life, the awarding of the Cranthym Crown is yet to occur.”

As expected, the Whizlers had achieved 54 points in total, which gave them first position. The team rolled up onto the stage and claimed their prizes. A spectacular crown, as well as a large trophy. The Captain of the team remained on stage while the rest of the team headed back to their seats. The Hazers, through all their hard work and dedication, had placed second. Full of pride and happiness, the team made their way up to the stage where they were presented with flowers. Team Strix, the third-place team took the place as the team headed back to their seats leaving Hazy behind. The Balls of Chaos had come third, and the Green Ducks, fifth. Their friends, Guild of Wit, despite having been disqualified from the final Challenge due to having had to be rescued after a mistake caused injury to a member, still managed to finish sixth.

The final standings of the Cranthym Challenges. Table designed by Stynth.

“Are we proud? We are absolutely proud,” Hazy told the reporter just before they were due to return home. “Far beyond showing the talent of our team, we have all learnt a valuable lesson in the use of intellect, logic and teamwork in order to persevere.”

“And it’s been a great experience. Has been wonderful getting to participate as well as seeing some friends, both old and current! We’d not seen Guild of Wit and Magusi for a while. Oh, and Witley, their captain, has confirmed that Wittham is doing alright. You know, the one that got injured in the forest,” Misty piped up.

And with that, the team left, ready to return to their usual training for the upcoming Marble League. In the middle of May, Smoggy traveled alone to Felynia to represent the Hazers in the 2021 Marble League Practice Race, held at the legendary Cat’s Dunes outside of the city. There, they placed eleventh, and returned the next day to…wherever they’re from.

Smoggy, pictured after finishing in the Practice Race, meditates by the Iris Oasis. (Photo Credit: Phoenix)

In RetRollSpective, the high performances of the Hazers put the team in a very good position for the first half of the 2018 Marble League, secured their spot in sixth place despite an overcast second half, and carried through the 2019 Marble League to a podium finish. The Hazers had a remarkable rookie season, becoming famous in the marblebase, an even better second season, and a successful debut in Marbula One. Best of luck to the Hazers in the near future, keep on rolling!

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