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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: Leilan v. Yanhua
    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.
    Leilan posts first unless otherwise agreed upon.

    SETTING: Normal Plains grounds. Mid-day.

    Gender: Stallion
    Body Type & Height: Murgese type build, 16.3hh
    Abilities: Ice dragon shifting, darkness aura, ice scales, immortality, glowing tattoos
    Notes: Dragon traits include dragon vision and dragon ice. Ice scales are aesthetic, and will need a touch-up from the shifting trait if he wants to use them for defense.


    Gender: Stallion
    Body Type & Height: Athletic Trakhener build. 17 hh.
    Abilities: Empathic Echoes, Goat Mimicry (Goat horns, goat hooves, Goat beard and tufted tail), Intangibility, Glowing Markings, Immortality
    [Image: Leah.png]
    Lilli’s gonna kill me. The thought is clear, and the following thoughts it brings aren’t good, but I’ll fight him anyway. This is the Alliance, and I didn’t come here to not give it my all, and neither did Lilli’s sons. At least one of us will succeed.

    I am, in fact, more experienced than Yanhua, though that doesn’t automatically make me his better. Head lifted, stance proud for the moment (we’re still far away enough for that to be a safe move), I assess him from the distance, my dragon-eyes seeing him clearly. I know a few things about Nashua’s twin: enough to have a rough idea who I’m up against, but not enough to say I know him through and through. Yanhua is slightly taller than me and probably more maneuverable, and I should avoid those horns as well as the split hooves. I suppose I could try to divebomb him in my dragon shape, but I know his twin has given him too much practise with that over the years, for me to succeed now.

    Ground floor it is.

    Said floor is dry in summer, as the Plains have always been: I notice no difference from last I came here, years ago. I lower my head into a battle-ready position, protecting the more vulnerable veins in my neck. Even though thicker scales are already covering my skin, there are instincts I do not have the will nor the luxury to forget.

    I know he knows things about me, too. I have the ability to shift, or to adapt partially to the shape of a dragon. It is possibly expected of me to do so, to use all that I have - right now, I do not want to. I remember calling another dragon a literal hothead, and I don’t want to end up mindlessly raging around and destroying things.

    The clay is as red and thirsty for sweat and blood, the dried sawgrass still sharp, eager to do that little extra damage to those falling and sliding through. My hooves have more footage here than I’m used to on the Isle, a fact that I’ll have to take into account when turning. The sun is high, meaning neither of us should have any real advantage or disadvantage from it’s stance; small clouds throw as little of a shadow on the ground as possible.

    There will be no hiding today.

    Two things I know to be to my advantage: a well-trained battle instinct, and the sun. Perhaps the goat-like male should not be surprised that I do not hide a single thing about my overly available bling. I have waited to attack to make sure no cloudy shadows will obscure me: perhaps he’ll think it is hesitation, perhaps he’ll think I don’t want to hurt him. I don’t, in fact, but I know the faeries will heal him, whatever state we end up in.

    I snort and paw at the ground, testing its hardness as well as giving me something to channel my focus and tension towards. I cannot let adrenalin get the better of me.

    My sturdy legs pick up speed slightly faster than I’m used to, finding more grip on the Plains’ floor than I expected even after testing it, so I end up with a canter more than it is a trot. His manoeuvrability may grant Yanhua more than the average opportunity to evade me if he wants to, but I don’t have time to think it through.

    My body does not obviously change shape while I charge, only showing the protective dragon scales, beneath the pre-existing ice ones: a trait that I’ve had longer than my shifting ability, and so it sticks to me more often than not. It’s the same thing with the eyes, now fully focused and a wolf’s yellow, and of course the sharp teeth that have accompanied me for years. All other dragon parts are harder to summon for me, and so, I do not think I should use them right now if it can be avoided. I see no need to drain all my energy magically when I’m perfectly capable of fighting as a horse.

    My charge may be faster than intended at the start, but the early show of my jagged teeth is not. I flash them at Yanhua, long enough before I reach him, to see it coming: hoping that I won’t have to actually pierce skin or tear muscle. This biting move is only made to distract him: I want Yanhua to move away from me, because I want to hit him when he doesn’t expect me to.

    I slow down when I reach him, feinting to his left with the threat of a sharp-toothed bite to the neck or shoulder area, but aiming to move parallel to him on his right side. If I miscalculate our movements and position, I may still end up raking teeth past his skin in a long cut, which I don’t intend to. If he makes a counter-movement, I’ll have to jerk my head back weirdly at the last second to avoid him hitting me and hope my shiny scales have blinded him enough to miss me. What I actually hope to achieve with all this, is that his head will be turned away from me due to the potential threat, so that I may avoid the reach of his horns while I pass by.

    I make a sliding stop parallel to and almost fully past him, then buck, aiming a kick towards his gaskin, or, if I would be so lucky, either the stifle joint or hock. These should normally carry his weight when rearing and turning: thus my attack may help me later on in this battle. If he has avoided me completely, I should be out of his immediate reach, for now… but nothing is certain in battle, so I stay on guard and keep him in my peripheral vision, ready to move.
    Two things I know I can make: pretty kids, and people mad.
    The morning of the first round dawned clear and bright, promising heat once the summer sun hit midday. Yan had kept himself isolated from the others gathering, those who (like himself) didn’t have the pleasure of quickly traveling from one side of the continent to the other, but he did eye them from afar while stretching and waiting his turn to be placed for competition.

    Some terrified him; others reflected a nervousness Yan was trying his best to combat. Mid-stretch his name rang out, and all that mental talk went straight to sh*t. Instead of a hot thirst for blood, cold sweat gathered in the creases of his girth when he came to stand at the far side of his arena. Relax, Yan commanded himself, pacing a few strides back-and-forth to study the landscape for irregularities or any sign of his opponent. Nothing seemed out of place: mostly clay flats with some sawgrass near the far edges of the ring. Not as daunting as he’d been expecting, but still somewhat unfamiliar. He’d have to be careful not to overstep and lose his balance; catching a rock to the heel or losing his footing would cost him in the wrong situation.

    In the midst of thinking, a winking light caught his eye. Yanhua’s head lifted and his ears flicked forward around the base of his horns. He crossed his forelegs and swiveled around to get a better look at the horse approaching.

    Hard to make out from the reflection of his metallic coat and glinting scales, Leilan kicked up dust from his pawing and lunged into a barreling attack. Yanhua saw he was a big, shining thing moving quickly in his direction across the flat plain, but he couldn’t see exactly what the bay roan was doing. Instinctually, Yanhua buckled down and lifted his forehand at the ready - collecting himself - doing his best to count those glinting strides and wait for the opportune moment. His marginal advantage of having the first defense meant waiting to strike out before meeting the Freyr on equal footing, head-to-horns.

    He saw the warning glint of Leilan’s teeth and sprung forward into a tight canter that lengthened with each stride until the moment before impact, when his heels dug into the rocky clay. Yanhua kept his eyes trained on Leilan, no matter how often he had to blink and look again, until spots gathered in his vision when he slid to a halt; just then, the stallion from Icicle Isle faked a left snap to Yanhua’s right side, and Yan took the bait by swinging his horns in a downward arc to counter - too late. Yan missed where Leilan’s hooves were actually going: the opposite direction, to Yan’s left side.

    He was lucky to have stopped when he did, that his hind legs compensated for the footing by bending underneath him so that when Leilan avoided the horns and kicked, Yan felt the walloping thwack hit near its mark but nowhere lower. An initial shock rippled out just above his gaskin, where the smooth muscles in Yan’s thigh connected to his hind left leg, causing him to tilt his hips and shift his weight to the ride side. Yan could feel the leg protest - he’d lost speed and agility that might’ve come in handy later.

    Leilan hadn’t kept running, so Yanhua decided to try and turn clockwise, keeping his rear-end as close to any more flying hooves as possible if the Freyr of Icicle Isle tried to use the moment and kick again. With his better hind leg and the momentum of a close turn behind it, Yanhua pivoted until he thought his right shoulder might be parallel to bay roan’s left flank or hip, then he sent a single, focused echo to Leilan the same moment his head dropped and his horns swung again, this time aiming lower and straight for the nearest side of Leilan’s underbelly - his left abdomen.

    He knew Leilan had been subjected to empathic magic before, (with his mother Lilliana at least) so he had no real idea how it would affect his opponent or if it would affect him at all, but Yan hoped it would come as an unexpected surprise from him - and he hoped the remembered glimpse of a particular smiling, spotted black-and-white mare would be enough of a distraction to keep Leilan from moving too far away or avoiding the hit altogether. He didn’t know who the mare was, but he definitely knew Leilan and a few of the Freyr’s strong memories by now.

    Yan wanted to strike where the scales seemed weakest at best; at the least (if Leilan completely avoided) he wanted to force the Freyr closer to the edge of the arena where the sawgrass spurted up in dangerous clumps. Destrier in build, Leilan was most likely too stout for Yanhua to knock off balance, but if the isle King moved forward Yan’s blow could land in near the same spot he’d hit Yanhua earlier - his left gaskin. That might do the trick and unsteady him, even if the scales kept Leilan from deeper sores. If the Freyr backed up, then maybe Yan could lance him good in his left fore elbow, or the glinting point of his shoulder. The scales presented an obstacle anywhere besides Yanhua’s intended target, but the two large stallions were in close quarters - this might be Yan’s only shot at slowing Leilan down with a close-range attack.

    The goat-stallion rammed, then ducked his head and side-stepped to his left trying to avoid those teeth if they came down and raked at his face. He wanted to keep Leilan within reach and not sacrifice energy or his bad leg by putting distance between them, so he kept a trained eye on the other stallion’s movement and opened his magic to the possibility of receiving any strong emotional echoes from Leilan that might broadcast his next attack.
    In battle, it takes a level head to remain calm, to not lose oneself to emotion, heat, pain, or adrenalin. Yanhua does well in that regard, as I once taught both him and his brother. I like to think I do, too, but I know that the trap of losing myself is never far enough away. Still, there is a split-second between my feint and my real attack when I allow myself to be pleased about excellently executing the move. I remember tossing around with my brother Jesper, who had been that much lither than me as well: due to our bodily differences, my strength lies in close-ranged attacks, but with Yanhua I have to be extra careful. His added ram’s horns are a threat I cannot lose track of, similar to when I took on the sharp-toothed stallion from Taiga. In fact, I now have to cloak myself with dragon scales, not unlike my sparring partner Viserion once had.

    My calculated movement ends in the resistance in my legs that I previously anticipated, and so I land on my hind hooves and take a sideways and forwards step, while Yan takes a blow and moves away. I didn’t think I’d get a second chance to hit him, and I was right about it. The time it costs me to steady myself and move away allows the younger stallion to pivot in the meantime, using his good leg no doubt. We end up parallel, noses roughly in the same direction, so I try to continue the sideways movement to my right in an attempt to avoid an attack with horn or hoof. This brings me close to the sawgrass that I had noticed before charging. Closer than I like, I must say, but my legs are still covered in scales, and I honestly believe that a few cuts from the grass are preferable above any well-aimed blows from Yan.

    Then, something emanates from my young opponent, and everything fades to a single image: a memory I cannot shake.

    I see her, clear as day, smiling that knowing smile. She always stays in the back of my mind. Sometimes she appears in my darker dreams, but she’s never so vivid as now. In retrospect I could have pinpointed the source of the emotion-attached memory, but right now I’m struck as if with lightning.

    The memory is involuntarily followed up with a quick train of others: not necessarily in chronological order, but rather appearing as a connected string of emotions, passing by in a heartbeat which feels like a lifetime. A pair of sleeping girls at our feet on the Isle, a meeting in the Field with a bay and a grey, a stormy night in a cave in Nerine. They’re followed by the heated discussion in the Forest, and right when Yan kicks me in the stomach (I haven’t moved a hair), there is the sight of her leaving with the blue kelpie.

    Pain shoots through my body: mental and physical hurts collide somewhere in my soul, my heart. The farthest stashed away feelings now erupt from my chest to haunt me. Someone is screaming loudly in the distance: I’m a blur, a red haze, a beast. Yanhua has been smart enough to move his head away from me, but now I lift my claws and rake the sharp nails aimlessly towards him: the stallion who hurt me is the one I attack, for lack of a better target.

    Die! I want everyone to wither and hurt. Hurt like I have, hurt like I do and feel what I feel: if not mentally, then physically will do. I want all them out of this world and out of my mind, to never haunt my nights again. No amount of damage I can do is enough. I rear, though in my current shape I don’t get as high as a stallion of my size would. My knees are slightly different in dragon form, my weight more distributed towards the front of my body. I get halfway up, my half-spread wings giving me the balance I need: my tail is a counter-weight, a long snake of spikes and scales lashing about. My size makes up for the difference in height, and I slash randomly towards Yanhua’s face and neck area. I truly cannot think about where I’m aiming. He just needs to get out of my sight.

    It is with my front claws that I strike out, the roar of pain and anger still fuelling me: black eyes frantically trying to find my now smaller target. When I lock my gaze on him, I automatically snarl. My teeth are currently not the real threat: I land my forelimbs heavily on the Plains’ rocky clay, no longer bothered if a loose rock should find its way beneath them. My dragon claws keep me steadier than my horse hooves ever will.

    The ice in me finds its way forward almost as quickly as the shift itself had happened. My mouth opens slightly to let it go, and for one moment I think I’ll just ice him.

    No! This is one of my students. This is the Alliance! The black in my eyes makes way for my icy blue, but that unimaginable cold is already there in my throat and needs to be released. In a moment of clarity, I target the rocky floor between us, right in front of his hooves: creating an icy slide should he try to come for me again. He might slip, if he charges me.

    I didn’t want to lose control. I didn’t want to shift. I still do not want to kill him, buy it takes everything in me to stop raging, to step backwards into the sawgrass he had cornered me into. My draconic body doesn’t feel much of it now. Just in case he does come at me, I still have tooth and nail at the ready: I’m hissing at Yanhua in warning.
    Two things I know I can make: pretty kids, and people mad.
    High above them, the midday sun beat down on Yanhua with a merciless heat. He was sweating profusely, ducking his head to try and sweep out from under Leilan in case his sparring partner tried to bite him, but the shape-shifter changed form and had his claws at the ready instead. Yanhua sidestepped to his left, thinking shit! shit! while trying to get away from the deadly swipes. Those present a problem, he guessed, toes dancing for a few moments. The meaty deathclaws left a gust of wind in their wake every time Yan moved and his sparring partner took a strike.

    Taking a moment afterward to breathe and adjust his head, Yan tried to see if he’d inflicted any damage while opening up his powers - then immediately closed them off again, cringing. The hellscape of blurry red images echoing from Leilan were enough to give Yan a migraine, keeping connection open. He would be an idiot to do that again! Not after feeling the unfettered rage he'd just received from the Freyr. Damn, Yan felt his chest and right foreleg begin to sting, play time’s over.

    Leilan had given him a few cuts that were beginning to well up and bleed into the surrounding fur, but Yan knew that wouldn’t be the least of it. What he just emotionally read superseded pain. Leilan was more than pissed - he might actually kill him.

    For one split second Yanhua felt his hind legs start to buckle underneath the million thoughts screaming at him to run! run away! and he should’ve listened; by all accounts Yanhua should’ve kept putting distance between them, but something stopped him. Maybe it was the rage he’d just swallowed like a fat pill, or maybe it was the dance bordering on death, or maybe it was because Yanhua remembered the last time Leilan had been close to snapping on him, and how he’d wanted to kill the Freyr right then and there... Who knows? Whatever the reason, Yan’s legs locked. Adrenaline gave a surge of resistance, and every inbred instinct to fight suddenly kicked in.

    Leilan half-reared somewhere to Yan’s right side, using his wings to keep balanced despite how relatively close they might be. Yan guessed there could be an opportunity, possibly an opening, if he could do his best to try and dodge the claws while he took a second horn strike at Leilan’s closest open wing. Instead of stepping backwards, Yanhua stepped towards the dragon-shifter again and lowered his nose to the ground - making sure the pointy ends of his ram’s horns were angled up - then did his best to rake the underside of Leilan’s non-feathery appendage with the bony prongs. Could he tear into the beast the same way Leilan seemed to want to tear into him? If he was a lucky shot maybe the dragon would be grounded, but those damn claws! Yan couldn’t see (or be sure of) the success behind his stunt…

    He hadn’t blocked, only countered. The paw swipes had been random, but Yanhua had focused on trying to nail Leilan’s half-spread wing. Seemed inevitable that being so close and in such a precarious situation meant getting his head knocked around, which forced Yan to stumble away. The sight in one of his eyes went blurry and dark; he blinked as part of his vision filled with blood, and tried to not think about how gross his face might look. The lid on the bad eye was still shutting, sort of. It would work until it swelled closed. The other, better eye could just make out the black expression haunting Leilan’s face and Yan readied himself to dodge. They were poised near one another still, weren’t they? Since the last attack it was hard for Yan to gauge distance. He heard a threatening snarl and saw the spray of winter’s breath following it, following him right before Leilan changed his mind, and felt his left hind leg protest a few more backward steps to avoid the blast. The terrain beneath his hooves froze instantly, coating Yan’s upper forelegs in frost. (An oddly cool balm over the shallow cuts from earlier swipes.)

    Still - Leilan could’ve iced him!

    The bastard! Yan snorted, trying to catch his breath and asses what part of his body hurt the most, while the Freyr backed into the sawgrass. Slick ice separated them, and Leilan made it clear to Yan he wasn’t moving closer. Was he tired? Yanhua decided the worst feeling was coming from the open air on his raw face. He couldn’t gallop over the ice… perhaps he could leap it? He might be left limping afterwards, but he wouldn’t back down - not now, not ever. He was leggy, tall - on his very best day he could easily clear a fourteen-foot gap. On his worst day, like today? Yan figured he had a less-than-average scope. If the sheet of treacherous ice was maybe 10 feet in width or less, he might be able to flying-ram Leilan with a frontal attack.

    It wouldn’t be very powerful. Leilan would probably see it coming, and Yanhua prayed silently that the Freyr would have to take a break between mighty blasts. One more good step back and then Yan launched forward, striding painfully, and leapt with his forelegs tucked.

    It was more a message than any real threat, but the way his horns curved wicked in the light made it seem otherwise. Yan aimed for a frontal assault on Leilan’s leftmost side, trying to stay head-on with the other stallion, and in the back of his mind he kept a last arsenal - intangibility -  at the ready for his final defense.
    In my rage I notice little, and my aim is really, really bad. Actually, I have noticed very little at all in this battle, because of the adrenalin coursing through my body, and because of the emotions I got battered with so soon. I don’t even know if I hit Yanhua at all with my claws when I flail them at him: but really, all I want him to do is back up and move away, and I succeed partially in that. I want him to get out of my sight, before I do something he and I may both regret.

    It says something about his courage that he doesn’t move away, but in fact moves in to close the distance. My blind spot that he reaches for is relatively safe for him, though he passes by me too closely for me to completely miss him. Yanhua then attacks a part of me I never was aware of being so sensitive, though thankfully, my size, in combination with the backwards curve of his horns, protects me from real damage.

    Yanhua attacks the inside, or underside, of my leathery silver-white wing with a goat leap. The appendage flails and jerks back to my body in response to the unwanted contact nearly instantly. A relatively small, but now very stinging area is grazed (it feels like an abrasion, and I think that it probably is), so that I instinctively avoid further contact by folding back the wing while I come back down. I suspect my left wing will always carry this mark, due to it having relatively little skin at all, but other than the small, dual line he had raked across me becoming a thin scar, I don’t think there will be lasting damage. It is currently sensitive though, and if his objective was to keep me grounded, I certainly am.

    I suppose he couldn’t have known that I never planned to take off, or that I never planned to shift in the first place.

    My second attack (the one directed at the ground) is more effective at keeping my goat-like attacker at bay. Yet, when I back up with a hiss, I stand still long enough for the heat and pain of our battle to catch up to me. I’m just so tired, and just now realize what the emotional, sudden shift has done to me. Still, I see the younger stallion moving, and he makes the daring move to leap towards me.

    I think that he won’t quite make it, but there’s nothing I can do about it either way. If he lands on the ice, he has his split hooves to steady him, and that might just be enough for him to slide over to me for the last few feet to ram me. The downside of him missing me like that would be him sliding right into the sharp-bladed grass patch.

    I cannot back up much more, and so I don’t. In my dragon form I’ve moved to the edge of the arena in just a few strides.

    I turn to face him, but while I do so I notice I can’t keep up the dragon shape much longer. I already felt the magic draining me, and now I have mere milliseconds to shift back to a horse and get away. I don’t think I can do both simultaneously without fault, so after my shift (which, due to the size difference, gives Yan a few feet more to cover) I sidestep through the sawgrass in hopes of Yanhua passing by me, just in case he should in fact have reached me. This move gives me a few cuts on my lower legs, as well as grassy leaves getting tangled up in my fetlocks and lower tail. Still, that is by far preferable above getting those goat horns rammed into me a second time. My belly still hurts from that move, or perhaps I only feel how bad it is now that I am a horse again.

    Had I not been so tired and magic-spent, I might have chosen to literally face his horns with my own. I was always told I had a thick skull, and it would be interesting to see us match. Right now, our battle has to end, and I’ve spent a lot of magic on the shifts and the ice breath already: too much to come up with a more active defense than this dodge.

    I secretly hope Yanhua has learned not to leap onto any ice-slides into sawgrass patches in the future, but honestly, my anger and battle-readiness have already crumbled to nothing. A dull feeling overcomes me, and all I can do is wait for this battle to be over. While I hope we’ll survive our battle emotionally, I’m not sure if I’m able to forgive him for the assault on my mind just yet.
    Two things I know I can make: pretty kids, and people mad.
    Yan expected Leilan to claw at him again, or do something in retaliation that would prove his hissing hadn’t just been for sound effects. He’d had the power of intangibility ready at the back of his mind, a mental finger hovering over the switch he’d only briefly learned how to turn ‘on’ and ‘off’ in the past couple of years as a last defense, but the dragon shifter made the whole ordeal into an unnecessary one by stepping aside in anticipation of Yanhua landing short - and land short he did.

    Yan arced and thudded down on the last tiny stretch of icy terrain, confident as his forehand braced the impact at first, then less so when his hind legs couldn’t work together in order to keep the momentum going. As he’d expected, Yanhua’s left hind buckled immediately under the pressure and he lost control from the hind, sliding sideways into the sawgrass as his forehooves scrambled to try and stop.

    If they’d been head-on at the beginning of this last-hurrah attack, now they probably looked like a rough ‘L’ from an aerial viewpoint. Yan seemed to be the horizontal line and Leilan the vertical one, a much wiser and more calm vertical line than moments ago when their battle had been at its climax. On the other hoof, Yanhua had finally come to stop in the thicket of sawgrass and found himself a little cut up from the scuffle, only too happy that he hadn’t slid further or leapt higher. He stood, panting, trying to make out the shape of Leilan with his one good eye, and let the intangibility go for just a moment. He’d save the burst of power for when he had to move again and untangle himself from this mess.

    With his left hind bent uselessly behind him, Yahua tucked the offending leg underneath the shadow of his belly where it would stay propped for the meantime. The goaticorn was drenched in sweat and covered by a mixture of whitish-red lather, blowing and flicking his ears with residual adrenaline that drained the longer he stood still. Every vein from chin to chest stood out like shining cords of copper wire under his skin, branching out over his legs and popping up on his underbelly from the strain of so much hard work. He was almost entirely spent from the battle, and had very little left to consider now that his face was truly aching. Both he and Leilan had fought well: one of them wouldn’t fight anymore.

    At a loss for words, Yanhua made out what he assumed was Leilan’s broad, shining shoulder and nodded his head once towards it in a silent ‘huzzah’. He was still teeming with residual anger if nothing else, and feared that if he opened his mouth something unpleasant would come out, so he opted for sportsmanlike conduct and then waited for a signal so he could flip ‘on’ his gift and try to hobble out of the sawgrass. Alliance Round One: complete. His budding relationship with the King of the North, father to his half-siblings and mentor to his older twin brother? Questionable.

    Good riddance, Yanhua thought when the signal finally came.
    Winner: Yanhua

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