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    Svedka -- Year 212


    “He only knows home in his dreams and even those dreams do not mimic large, centuries-old redwoods. Lio doesn't remember the last time he laid his head down and truly felt comfortable.” --Elio, written by Phaetra

    ROUND ONE: Brazen v. Kensley
    2 attacking posts each, 1 final defensive post – 3 days between posts.
    One 2-day extension per person if needed
    Attacks can be multiple things, i.e. Albert attempts to bite Rose's neck and then kicks at her knee. Counter-attacks and attacks are all counted as attacks.
    Complete dodges are allowed, but for the sake of realism, be careful when using these.
    Traits allowed.
    No editing posts.
    1,000 word limit.
    Brazen posts first unless otherwise agreed upon.

    SETTING: Normal Plains grounds. Mid-day.

    Gender: Female
    Body Type & Height: Lean, athletic, sturdy medium build, 15.3hh
    Abilities: Bone Armor, Stoneskin, Cape Buffalo Horns, Telepathic Bond, Phoenix-type immortality


    Gender: Stallion
    Height: 16hh, anglo-arab build
    Abilities: Undead, Shattering
    [Image: Leah.png]
    There is a thrill in the prospect of battle. Something that cannot be found in friendly sparring or the endless runs she takes to calm her mind. Stepping onto the plains is invigorating. For a moment, she pauses simply to take it all in - the dark clay and spiny grasses, the jagged stones strewn haphazardly, even the warmth of the summer air and faint scent of distant rain brought by the steely gray clouds overhead.

    Brazen meets her opponent with a slight smile, unable to quell her natural enthusiasm even as she studies him openly. She can imagine the picture she must make, white bone stained red by blood, both old and new, from where it pulls at her skin. Enough to understand that appearances can be wildly deceiving (his undoubtedly no less than hers).

    She has never been one to delay the inevitable. Having noted the location of several larger stones behind him, she makes her move from where she stands facing him, roughly ten feet away and slightly to the left. Haunches bunching, she surges forward, skin hardening to stone as she throws herself into the battle with no reservations. They are fairly evenly matched in build and height, but her heavily armored skin gives her an advantage in close range. What she loses in agility, she could make up for in bruising force.

    As simple and basic as such an attack may be, oftentimes simplicity is the best approach in her opinion. Collecting her hind legs beneath her, Brazen uses her forward momentum to throw the weight of her body towards Kensley's left shoulder and ribs (if he hadn’t already moved) at a sharply acute angle. She is under no illusion she could overpower him by sheer strength, but the bone protruding from her shoulders, ribs, and hips would be, at the very minimum, painful (especially when applied with the force she intended to hit Kensley with). Of course, her key advantage in close quarters is the wide sweep of her horns. Even without her deliberate use of them, the angle and curve are low enough that they could very easily catch flesh at close range.
    Kensley does not belong here. He is acutely aware of every weakness as he crosses the Plains, the hard earth sending shockwaves up his legs with every step. He has never been much of a fighter, but there is a storm surge in the cavern of his chest as he surveys the scene laid out before him: the hard-packed earth, the high-noon sun, thunderheads brewing in the distance. He had only briefly known peace when Anaxarete had frozen the still-feeling heart in his chest, saving him from the grief that he had carried with him for years. It had been an accident when Aela had unfrozen it, he knows, and the anger he can feel roiling in his gut has nothing to do with the child and everything to do with his own inadequacies. 

    His reasons for being here had been separate when he’d volunteered, but they have since twisted themselves into one shape. He could feel the anger festering in his rotted veins and the prospect of having his own magic bestowed upon him had been too tempting to ignore. He has never been the proud sort, but he’d rather fling himself into the depths of the sea than burden Anaxarete with his problems again. He is here because he has no other outlet for his anger and because his own magic would mean never having to ask Anaxarete for help again. 

    His opponent is formidable, certainly. They are roughly the same height, he can tell that from where he’s standing, and their builds are similar, too. He takes note of the bone protruding from her skin, the bloodstains against the pale white. He takes note of the horns, too. He has no apparent traits himself, nothing that will obviously protect him from bone or sharp-tipped horn. There is nothing to protect him save for the fact that he is already dead. He has not physically felt anything - neither pain nor pleasure - in years. He does not bleed and he does not draw breath. There is something else, too, something that lurks beneath the surface. He had denied it for a long time before he’d finally embraced it and learned how to wield the vicious power, but he will not use it unless he absolutely must.

    The mare wastes no time and his own muscles bunch and coil in anticipation as she approaches. He watches as her skin turns to stone and he knows that he is physically outmatched. He has a split second to decide how he will absorb her first attack because he knows that he will not have enough time to dodge it altogether. He could stay where he is, facing her, and let her attack land along his left shoulder and ribcage as she intends, but that would mean leaving his face vulnerable to her swinging horns and he has no desire to lose an eye. The surest way to eliminate the threat of her horns is to pivot on his hindquarters a half-turn away from her so they are perpendicular when she hurls herself at him. So he does, revealing his left side to her and leaves his muscles loose to absorb the impact of her chest against his ribcage. It surely would have kicked the air out of him if he still breathed but he doesn’t. He can feel the ribs bend under the force of the impact but there is no pain associated with it. It does, however, knock him cleanly off-balance. It sends him stumbling sideways away from her. 

    They kick up a lot of dust as they scuffle. It clings to them both as he stumbles sideways, hoping that he will throw her off-balance by not bracing against the impact. He hopes that she will hit her knees (he almost had, but righted himself at the very last second) or, at the very least, be momentarily distracted by the effort it takes to stay upright if she does lose her balance. 

    He pivots around to face her as soon as he regains his own balance and throws himself into a rear. He knows that he will not be able to inflict much damage against her stone-thick skin and will have to compensate by using brute force in other ways. He strikes out with his front feet, hoping to strike her in the head. Despite the anger roiling in his chest, he doesn’t want to truly mortally wound her, just knock her momentarily senseless if he’s lucky. Doing so would almost certainly disable her for at least a few moments, he thinks, give him time to formulate another attack. 

    There are plenty of ways for her to avoid taking a blow to the head, though. If she turns her head in either direction, he hopes he can at least strike her neck and strike it with enough force that it might bruise the muscles beneath the stoneskin and make it difficult to move her head quickly. If she jerks her head back, there is some chance that he will strike the underside of her throat with enough force to knock her breathless. He tries to be careful to steer clear of the sharp points of her horns, too, but there is only so much he can do to avoid them as he strikes and then tries to hurl himself out of their reach.
    She is not here for magic. Truthfully, she’s not certain what she would do if she did, by some miracle, make it through. She hadn’t thought that far ahead.

    She had come because she had been made for one thing. Because for the first time in her life, she could finally prove her own worth. She may not be as clever as her mother or as fearsome as her father, but she can do this. She can fight.

    Kensley shifts to the right but makes no effort to avoid the collision. Brazen crashes into him with the full force of her weight. He stumbles sideways, and she stumbles with him. The situation is a familiar one (the frequency with which she had collided and subsequently gone tumbling with an opponent might have been embarrassing if most of the memories had not been happy and playful ones). Though her feet fumble over the uneven terrain, her already collected hindquarters aid her as she quickly throws her weight back to avoid going head-over-heels.

    The abrupt slide as she nearly sits on her haunches sends dust billowing around them. Were her skin not currently stone, the rocky ground would have left her fetlocks scraped and bleeding. Luckily, she is protected and able to quickly re-orient herself.

    The way he swiftly pivots despite the bruising force she had hit him with is disconcerting. One thing made immediately clear is that disabling him will be much more difficult than she had anticipated.

    She is given little time to analyze the situation. As he rears to strike at her, she makes a split-second decision to drive into the attack rather than avoid it. It’s undoubtedly foolish. Even with the bone masking her face and skin hardened to stone, a hard blow to her head could still rattle her brain well enough. But safety is not her primary motivation.

    No, she has seen an opportunity and is keen to take it. With his weight precariously balanced on two limbs, Brazen could potentially knock Kensley entirely off balance. Pushing forward from her tucked hind limbs, she drives into him, head ducking. His hooves thud against her heavily armored poll and along the vertebrae erupting from her crest. Stars dance briefly across her vision, but she has already committed herself. Her forward momentum could not be so easily abandoned.

    Her head jerks almost instinctively, the upward sweep of her horns swinging dangerously. Initially she had hopes of catching his vulnerable underbelly, but it’s an undeniable long-shot. Still, if luck is on her side, she might catch a limb in the crook of her horn. And if she is able to trip him up and he falls with enough force, his weight could cause a limb to break. If he is truly as immune to pain as she imagines, incapacitating him would prove much more difficult, but a three-legged horse would struggle to fight regardless of pain threshold (of course, she had failed to consider her own vulnerability if she caught the full force of his weight with her head. Unfortunately, split-second decisions often do not correlate to smart decisions).

    At this point however, rational thought has been replaced by a faint sense of vertigo. With her temporary incoherence, fate would play a vital role in her success or failure from here. Still, Brazen had done her best to give Fate all the tools she needs for success.
    i'm going to have to use my extension -- please, thank you, sorry!!
    He does not see his inability to feel pain as an advantage. How long has he mourned for the things that had marked him as something living rather than something that had barely been scraped out of the Afterlife? He has grieved for the pain, the breath, and all of the other things he’d lost to death for years. In his eyes, his inability to feel pain is a detriment. (Perhaps he hopes, too, that his own magic might somehow help to restore him to the stallion he’d been before, the stallion with a pulse.) 

    The stone-skinned mare does not fall as he’d hoped that she might, but it does little to deter him. He sees no weakness in her skin or her bones and his only hope is that there is some hidden weakness around her head. He feels some flicker of doubt when she seems keen to absorb his attack rather than flee from it when he rears and begins to strike, though. 

    He does not try to avoid her second charge the same way he had made no attempt to throw himself out of her reach when she’d charged at him initially. He knows that it would mean compromising the impact of his own hooves should he try to come down out of his rear in order to protect himself from her charge. He knows, too, that time is limited and every attack counts, so he commits to this one with everything he has.  

    He finds that he prefers this style of fighting, the straightforwardness of it, neither he nor his opponent trying to avoid the other. Neither of them tries to flee, embracing the violence of it instead, understanding that you must take damage in order to inflict it. This is why he does not try to twist away from her as she drives her weight into him, knocking him easily off-balance. There is no way for him to right himself with how fiercely she charges into him, her forehead driving hard against the underside of his belly. 

    If he had merely tucked his legs up under his chest as he’d begun to fall, perhaps he could have avoided any real damage. Alas, he goes on striking as he falls and she rears back her great, horned head. He feels a sharp point puncture his right foreleg just behind his cannon bone. There is no pain, of course, he feels it like a rumor, but her horn catches him behind his cannon bone and tears easily through the tendons and ligaments in his leg. 

    He lands hard on his back, keeping his neck bent to avoid striking his head on the hard-packed earth, and the dust they have kicked up makes his eyes water. It is the body’s primal reaction to irritants, even if they do not actually irritate him. He grunts, though there is no air to knock out of him. He rolls onto his side and tries to scramble to his feet. It is only then, as the right foreleg buckles under his weight, that he assesses the damage she has done to it. 

    His reaction is visceral, something dredged out of the darkest corner of his being. He lets out a strangled cry, frustration and anger mounting in his chest. He says nothing, just grits his teeth and swings his head around to land her in his sights. He makes no further effort to scramble to his feet, but he knows that he has only seconds before she tries to capitalize on his vulnerable position. He grits his teeth harder and narrows his eyes at her horns, the things that had shredded the tendons in his leg. The magic has always worked best when born from anger, he knows, and he lets out another strangled sound as he wills the horns to shatter. He channels all of his energy into it, not wanting to kill her the way he’d killed the tiger who’d taken his sister’s life, only wanting to destroy the horns that had tried to destroy him.
    Where he fights from a position of rage, she fights from purpose.

    Everything she is and has ever been, she pours into battle. For her, this is all she will ever have. Her body had been designed for war. Perhaps the choice had not been hers originally, but she had accepted it whole-heartedly. She had accepted that, one day, the very thing that made her into a warrior would also kill her. And if she must eventually succumb to her own body, the very least she could do was ensure it would have a true purpose first.

    So she does not hold her punches, nor does she expect him to.

    There is a moment of triumph as he begins to tumble, but when his leg catches the tip of her horn, her head jerks with the force of his fall. It’s difficult to brace against it, especially with such a recent conk to the head, but fortunately for her (less so for him), his tendon gives way first. There is a moment of regret (she has nothing against him - would not have chosen to cause him harm had they not been paired in this fight), but it does not last.

    As she steadies herself and begins to retreat, her goal accomplished, his enraged and frustrated cry heralds his retaliation. The sound of splintering is her first warning that he had some talent beyond the physical. Pivoting, she attempts to scramble quickly away, tripping over the uneven ground in her haste, but it is already too late. The horn nearest to him shatters almost completely, the one farther away only partially. They burst apart, splinters flying in a dangerous spray of shrapnel as she squeezes her eyes closed against it. Moments later, the pain hits almost as quickly as the blood that begins to pulse from her shredded horns.

    Grunting against the pain, she continues to retreat. Though she is no stranger to it, this is an entirely new kind of agony - the shock of which causes her hold on her stoneskin to loosen until it fades into flesh. She had never considered her horns much after receiving them, but today it is made abundantly clear they are more her flesh than she had ever imagined. The jagged end of the bone running through the core of her horns now lay exposed as blood streams freely, coating her head and neck in a gruesome display.

    When, finally, she stumbles to a halt, she turns to face her now distant opponent, breathing heavily (not from exertion, but rather the adrenaline that had burst through her veins in that haring moment). Her blue eyes stare from a mask of red as she tries to resist the shock that would soon begin to settle in response to such trauma.
    Winner: Kensley

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