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    COTY

    Svedka -- Year 212

    QOTY

    “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: Mazikeen v. Aquaria
    #1
    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.
    Mazikeen posts first unless otherwise agreed upon.

    SETTING: Normal Plains grounds. Mid-day.

    Mazikeen
    Gender: Female
    Body Type & Height: quarab with a splash of stockiness from mustang blood, 15hh
    Abilities: shapeshifting, immortality, fire aura

    v.

    Aquaria
    Gender: Female
    Body type and height: Azteca Hybrid. Light baroque build, 15.2hh
    Abilities: Nereid Shifting (scaled body, water manipulation), Fin Mane/Tail, Lays Eggs
    [Image: Leah.png]
    #2
    It is with no shortage of nerves that Mazikeen takes to the Plains under the midday sun. She had not shifted yet, not wanting to change into an animal that could vomit so that her nervousness did not manifest itself by bringing up the last thing she ate. She has no desire to see it again in reverse. Last night she dreamt she would have to fight the twisted demon-wolf that had attacked her in the forest and left her for dead, the scars of that encounter now healed and riddled across her body.

    It did not make for a restful night.

    However, any weariness caused by those nightmares is replaced with excitement that grows as she arrives, mixing with her nerves to create a flurry in her heart and stomach. The young mare is proud to be representing Hyaline and she hopes to perform well enough to make the family she has found in that kingdom proud of her in return.

    The mare who Maze finds herself facing is older than she is and looks to be a bit taller, stockier, and potentially stronger. Delicate in colour but not in build, though of course whether she’s experienced in battle isn’t something that Maze can read in the lines of the other’s face. She knows she’s supposed to take into account their differences, use it to come up with a plan, but at the same time where she’s thinking her own build makes her likely a little faster and more agile, she’s distracted by the fins that have taken place of a mane and tail on Aquaria's form. What is with all these fish horses lately? It’s bizarre seeing this one here in this relatively dry, lake-less area.

    A fish out of water.

    Maze smiles a little at that thought and then lunges into action. Instead of the next steps of her lope sounding with the clop of four hooves hitting the hard-packed, rocky ground, it is the softer thud of four large paws as a white and black Bengal tiger closes the gap between herself and her opponent. With this shift she has forfeited even more height and weight, increasing the differences between herself and the fish-mare, but there are benefits to being a tiger too - like the claws housed in her massive paws, eager to be tested against skin as Maze finds herself wondering whether there are any scales nestled among pearly-white hair.

    It is not randomly that she has chosen this form - the first shift of the battle is a small homage to Sochi and Breach.

    Aquaria is probably not going to just stand there and wait, but whatever she does Mazikeen adjusts her movements to, at first, approach as head-on as she can. There is no point in delaying the inevitable - they are here to fight so it is time to do just that.

    But as eager as she is to start this fight, she is also interested in avoiding a strike of the front hooves, so Mazikeen's agile tiger form shifts direction after a few steps and takes a path that curves out to her left before pivoting to face, hopefully, as square-on to Aquaria’s right side as she can manage. Once she’s about a body length away, that is when she leaps – muscular back legs pushing her forward as her long feline body completely leaves the ground and powerful forelimbs outstretch.

    She is aiming more to jump at the height of Aquaria's back rather than clear over it and to seek purchase in Aquaria’s right shoulder or withers with the claws on her right paw as her jump reaches its zenith. Depending on how Aquaria reacts, Mazikeen’s claws might catch, using the momentum of her leap to sink in and twist to create a connection point to pivot her across the finned mare’s back, potentially even dragging the claws across the withers as she drifts over before landing on the hard dirt on Aquaria’s left side in the mirror-image of where she had been before she had lept, only closer to the mare's body. The intention is to use those nearly four-inch claws to damage the deltoid or trapezius muscles, inhibiting the movement of Aquaria’s shoulder and neck or at least make it painful to move.

    Forward movement of her opponent could instead cause the claws to drag backwards, interrupting the jump and loosening whatever grip Mazikeen might have been able to get and keeping her on Aquaria’s right side but hopefully still enabling her to get some scratches along Aquaria’s abdomen or back. Even if her claws don’t find purchase anywhere, her tiger body is not insignificant even if it is smaller – and a collision fueled by her jump could cause bruises (likely on them both).

    She is not so much hoping to maim as she is hoping to cause some inconvenience, and belatedly Mazikeen wonders whether she could have chosen a less-intimidating first shape to reach that effect.

    Well, too late now. She tries not to overthink or give her nerves more attention than they deserve or they might distract her.

    Whatever happens, whichever side she ends up on and whether her claws were able to find their mark or not, the tiger lands on the rocky earth, weight shifting to her back legs in readiness to scramble out of the way as needed.
    #3
    She and Titanya had departed Ischia the day before, the golden sands falling from their feet as mainland soil took over. The tigeress would be fighting on her own terms, unaffiliated with the Island. Representing Ischia was Aquaria's task. Still, it helped to have someone to travel with. To muse about the upcoming event with, and to laugh about the foes they might meet. 

    At the darkly stained battleground, they parted ways. Others meandered the craggy plains, sweat and nerves tainting the dry air. The nereid paced, the chaotic energy infecting her even as the lots were drawn. The rules laid out. The combatants arranged just so in the dust bowl terrain. So much organization went into their bloody tournament, a fact that made her head shake in wonder.

    Situated in her arena, Aquaria sneezed once, the absolute lack of moisture making her nostrils irritated. It was another mare she'd been paired with. Mazikeen, she was called. A stranger to the mermare, in every way. Lithe and finely built, and as young as her older sons. She wondered idly if this girl was as ferocious as her boys. 

    The next moment answered her unspoken question, as things quickly began to move. She bounced lightly on her heels, waiting as the black and white girl loped towards her, making the first move. Mid-stride a rippling, familiar shift overtook her opponent. A change of shape that brought a smile to the sea woman's lips. 

    Tiger. 

    It was a shape she knew well. The one worn by the woman she'd come here with, and by her eldest son more often even than his horse-skin. One she had sparred with on hot sandy beaches and in thick jungle when Halcyon wanted to show off his new skills. She exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, ready when the striped figure barreled towards her. She could do this.

    She did in fact wait, and held her position as the tigeress neared. A game of Chicken that the feline mare broke to veer to her right. The time it took for Mazikeen to reel back to dash at her side was enough for Aquaria to pivot and swing her hindquarters a quarter turn counterclockwise so that she was facing her directly again, stumbling slightly on the uneven ground when the tiger leapt. One of the Mazikeen's claws snagged the edge of her membranous tail as it swung behind, tugging her rear end slightly before fin tore and freed her. She hissed, more in reaction to being touched than in any real pain. 

    The tiger's leap would likely have carried her just past Aquaria's previous position on her left side. She didn't like having an unfriendly cat to her back, but it did make for a clear cut action. She low-kicked quickly with both hind feet, hoping to land a strike on her opponent's left hip or flank as the tiger's momentum carried her away. 

    When her hind feet hit the ground again, she pushed off with them to leap away from the clawed woman, her hooves clattering on the hard packed clay. More instinctive than intentional, pearly white scales rolled across her body, covering her head to hoof in their thin protection. Better than bare skin, but not by much. 

    Three long paces brought her in a semi-circle to the right of where Mazikeen landed. Facing her opponent as fully on as possible was the most comfortable thing. She lunged forward, mouth open and hoping to catch the big cat's right foreleg or thick neck ruff in her own blunt teeth. 

    Some purchase that might give her a little control over where those slashing claws struck. She knew well enough from rough housing with her boys what sharp teeth and sharper claws felt like on her hide, and it was something to be avoided as long as possible.
    #4
    Mazikeen is baffled during the short time she is airborne after she has leapt because Aquaria turns to face her directly. That wouldn’t have been her first move as she would not have wanted to risk getting a full-grown tiger right in the face, but it appears to work because Maze somehow manages to miss most of the older mare and her claws only catch in the freaky fin tail instead.

    The sound of the membrane tearing before her claw is freed makes her gag.

    As she is landing, a low kick from Aquaria glances off of her left hip and Mazikeen echoes Aquaria’s hiss and knows she’ll still feel that bruise later. The impact causes her to stumble a little on her landing and make it not as clean as she would have hoped. Fortunately, her tiger’s paws are wide and manage the rock-strewn terrain well, so she does not completely lose her balance as she sends small clouds of dust up with her landing.

    She only needs to swing around a little bit around to find the mare who is circling back towards her anyway, which is great – gives her a chance not to move her bruised hip for a second. The now-scaled mare comes at Maze's right and her tiger tail flicks in anticipation behind her. She crouches low, thinking about how she can twist and strike upwards at Aquaria’s belly as the mare draws closer, but she barely gets a chance to move when the older mare snakes out with her mouth and grasps at the long, scruffy fur that protects Mazikeen's neck in this form. 

    “What the…?” Is all she manages to get out before something new happens and a thin aura of fire bursts to life around Mazikeen as an unconscious response to this development. The surprise of the fire means the tiger is unable to hold onto it for long at all, but hopefully it is enough to scorch Aquaria a little bit which would only serve her right. 

    In the same heartbeat that the fire disappears, if Aquaria did not release her bite in reaction to its arrival, Mazikeen twists to free herself from Aquaria’s dull teeth – some white and black hairs falling out as she does and leaving her with a bald spot that smarts. She is already shifting again in that same moment, white fur losing its stripes, her body doubling in size as the tigress turns into a Kodiak bear with bristling white fur and just the hint of a black marking on her snout. Mazikeen did never get the hang of changing her colour to suit the animals she was turning into, but the animal itself the important part. The bear is not a familiar shape to wear in the way others are, but she studied the large carnivores from the air when they lived in the Cove and a few smaller versions that could be spotted in Hyaline as well. She has pulled on the shape of one of the coastal ones now, beefing up her stature for a bit of an edge.

    Her earlier concerns about choosing intimidating shapes have been completely abandoned and her orange eyes blaze with irritation over being handled like some kitten to be grabbed by the scruff when they misbehave. She might be younger than Aquaria but she was not a child and certainly not Aquaria's child to reprimand.

    She roars in indignation (and in part just for the fun of roaring), pushing up from the ground as the shift completes and onto her hind legs, standing and swinging her large bear forelimbs upwards and to her right towards Aquaria as she does. Mazikeen is hoping to catch the mare’s face or neck if Aquaria does not scramble back fast enough in the few short seconds it took between bite to this strike. Either with the back of her right paw or the front of her left as they both hurdle to where Aquaria had been and she takes a single step to try to ensure a landing blow by maintaining a small distance between herself and her opponent if Aquaria was to move. Mazikeen has not practiced walking much on her hindlegs – having only done it once to make Daye laugh – so that step is a little wobbly and she does her best to ignore the complaint from the leg bruised by Aquaria’s hoof as it supports the weight of a bear. With a little luck, there will be enough force behind the blow to cause at least some dizziness and disorientation if none of the claws manage to catch on flesh.

    After her paws finish their swing Mazikeen immediately goes back to being on all fours and thudding back into the hard ground, completing the arc of the swing she started when she pushed off of it a moment ago. She turns to keep her bright orange eyes on Aquaria in anticipation of whatever will come next as one of her fuzzy bear ears flicks in something close to amusement.
    #5
    It seems that more time should have passed for the explosive way things have begun, but it has been mere moments. The seabound mare puffed a breath as the pair collided once again, grunting when the plush surface of Mazikeen's ruff ignited beneath her gripping teeth. 

    That was unexpected, and the sudden jerk of the tigeress beneath her left her with a mouthful of fluff and little else. The fine scales of her nose were singed by the brief contact, though they'd protected the skin underneath from the worst of the heat in the seconds it had existed. 

    Spitting long hairs from her tongue, Aquaria coughed in surprise when her opponent took the brief moment to shift again. Ah. More like Aodhán, then, with his ever changing anatomy, than her son with his dual forms. That was not a development Aquaria could be excited about. A tiger was something she'd grown adapted to. There was no saying she would feel the same about whatever shape came next. 

    Before her eyes, Mazikeen's body seemed to go liquid beneath the skin, swelling and bulging until a burly white she-bear had taken the tiger's place. Instinct, deep and ancient, pulled at the mare's mind for a moment before she remembered herself. Fear seemed rational when a towering bear was roaring in your face. It was a hesitation though, and one that cost her when the she-bear swung her thick limbs back round to face her. 

    The double impact of heavy paws was dizzying, long claws leaving three blood red tracks beneath her right eye. They weren't terribly deep, but they ached immediately. Aquaria fell hard, knees colliding with the packed clay with enough force to bloody them, a grunt of pain exhaled. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of some of the wooziness before anything else happened. 

    An echoing thud landed beside her as the bear dropped back to all fours, orange eyes fixed on her as she stumbled back to her feet. Red beaded along the scales of her knees and her cheek, stinging viciously when she barreled forward again with as much force as she could muster over the minute distance. 

    This time it was with her whole body that the white mare lunged with, her shoulder angled to collide with the bear's chest, head and neck curved away from where she thought they might collide. If she landed it successfully, she hoped the weight she'd put behind the blow would be enough to knock the ursine figure off her feet. That the weakness from her earlier strike to the girl's left hip might be enough to make that leg buckle if she backed up too quickly. 

    Her left foreleg swung out mid-stride, aiming for the bear's right shoulder or the thickly padded ribs beyond it. She was taller again, now that Mazikeen was on all four feet, but she had seen how quickly that dynamic could change. 

    Besides, there was now the matter that Mazikeen may now outweigh her, and was built far more sturdily. Nothing was going to change the fact that she would be feeling this for several days to come, so she may as well lean in to the bruises.
    #6
    There is some satisfaction in seeing the three red tracks beneath Aquaria’s eye as the fish-mare collapses from the impact of being hit in the face with a couple of paws - Mazikeen’s smile twitches a little at the sight. But with that satisfaction, there is also an inconvenient needling of guilt in the pit of her stomach too - which is annoying and out of place. They are supposed to be drawing blood on each other! They’re supposed to get hurt! Mazikeen already knows from experience that she won’t die from her wounds and from the look of it Aquaria hardly will either - no matter that she's had a tiger and a bear thrown at her in the last handful of minutes.

    “That’s a good look for you.” Mazikeen comments as her opponent stands back up and she means the words - if the markings scar it’ll add a little edge to the soft-pearl mare. She doesn’t get much more time for witty comments, however, as Aquaria lunges towards her. The young bear-mare feels the excitement of this whole affair electrifying the air between them.

    Mazikeen considers shifting into something small, but it is already taxing her energy keeping this large shape going (and gods was she hungry now, with a bear-sized stomach to fill too - oh, maybe it was hunger and not guilt in her stomach then), and she didn’t really feel like risking collapsing at the very end of a battle. She’s quick about her shifts - they barely take a blink of an eye - a testament to how much she’s practiced since she first discovered she could wear the skin of other animals. Being raised by a pack of shifters has had its advantages, too, no doubt.

    She does not shift and she does not back away. Instead, Mazikeen braces herself, taking a wide, sturdy stance as her orange eyes remain focused on Aquaria. The bear and horse weigh nearly equal amounts and Mazikeen turns her head away from the point of impact as well, angling her body just slightly to the right so that when the impact does come, it does not hit directly on her chest but on her meaty, fur and fat covered left shoulder. Being hit by a horse is no light feat even as a bear, and Mazikeen’s back leg thrums with pain and her left shoulder blossoms with a new, significant bruise as she tries to hold her stance.

    Instead of knocking her clean over, Mazikeen gives in to the demands from her back leg and sits with a healthy thud onto the hard-packed earth. She teeters back just for a second but regains her balance and then stays where she is with her front paws draped casually in her lap. While she’s sitting, Aquaria strikes again - this time with her left foreleg. There is not much room between them, what with their bodies just having been pressed intimately close. Although Mazikeen makes some space between them as she sits back, the hoof of Aquaria’s leg still doesn’t have enough clearance to deliver more than a glancing blow on Mazikeen’s bear-chest.

    In the aftermath, sitting now, a dazed and delighted smile spreads like wildfire through Mazikeen’s orange eyes. “That was fun!” Aquaria was still a bitch for treating her like a child, but it was fun.
    #7
    Winner: Mazikeen




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