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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 TWO: Titanya v. Jamie [Update 10/22/2020]
    2 attacking posts each, 1 final defensive post – 5 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.
    Titanya posts first unless otherwise agreed upon.

    SETTING: Actively raining, muddy. Early morning, still mostly dark.

    Gender: Female
    Body Type & Height: 16.2 hh.  Baroque/Spanish build.
    Abilities: Density manipulation, Tiger shifting, Phoenix-type immortality


    Gender: Stallion
    Body Type & Height: Slim/lean, 16.2hh
    Abilities: Shadow Creature, Fog Manipulation, Ghost Whispering
    [Image: Leah.png]
    Hey jamie/savage & Titanya/Mirage, after some discussion amongst the officers since Casimira is dropping out, this will become Titanya v. Jamie. Since it accidentally got posted with old rules (5 days vs 3) but we didn't get this updated until today, you'll each have an extra day tacked on to your first round (so Titanya's first post will be due 6 days from the original post day, and Jamie's first post six days after that). Please let us know if this isn't clear (it's a little late here where I am typing) or you have concerns!
    The birds are still quiet and tucked in their nests when the call to arms comes this time.  The newness of the day does not bother Titanya.  She rises - more eager than other mornings, even – and readies herself for the vicious clash of another round.  Her injuries from the first battle are healed and she is well rested in preparation; she only regrets that she will not be left with any scars to show off once she returns to Ischia.  Scars do not make a woman, she knows, but they surely attract better company.  

    The rain that falls steadily across her black back does not bother her, either.  As she assesses the soggy Plains, she makes a mental note to be even more careful of the mud that will become slippery and slow her down.  Before, she had only had to worry about the rocks littering the ground.  This time, combined with the sludge, footwork will make or break the round.  The darkness of a wet, early morning helps to obscure her opponent in the expanse between them.  She can see him, just barely, as a slight sliver of tall black across the way.  His yellow, larger eyes are the most distinct feature she can make out in the gloom.  They are of a similar height, it seems, though she is likely stockier and maybe a bit less agile because of it.  Not that it matters, she will crush him either way.  Plus, she doesn’t plan on staying in her current shape much longer.

    Titanya moves towards Jamie at a trot, blinking more frequently to try to keep him dead ahead in her sights and the rain out of her vision.  After a few slippery strides of churning the mud up along her legs despite her slower pace, she shifts.  Tiger fur replaces horseflesh as she sinks down into the familiar feline form.  In this body, she hopes she will be more agile than as a horse in these less-than-ideal conditions.  With a lower center of gravity, she will likely be harder to topple over or lose her balance as well.  She certainly has better depth perception as a predator with her forward-facing eyes, and she uses her improved vision to try to more accurately calculate the lessening distance between herself and Jamie.

    She knows that the stallion is likely not remaining stationary as she approaches, so Titanya can only do her best to keep his yellow eyes in line with her own now-yellow gaze.  She is only confused by one thing: his scent, or lack thereof.  Prey should have a smell but Jamie does not.  When she thinks she is close enough and hopefully squarely ahead of him, Titanya springs forward from her powerful haunches (her back paws slipping marginally as they push off from the mud) and launches herself towards Jamie’s throat.  She gives into the animal instincts in this moment; the tiger knows this dance intimately between predator and prey, knows what to do to try to bring down the bigger creature.  Every twitching muscle becomes a secret spilled by the prey she now hunts, helping to inform her of any changes she should make in her trajectory towards the inky black horse.  There are raw lines of purposeful violence etched across her streamlined but increasingly waterlogged body as she arcs through the early dawn air. 

    She attempts to wrap her paws around the base of Jamie’s neck, attempts to dig into and hold onto his black flesh with her sharp claws.  Simultaneously, she tries to tilt her head sideways for better access to sink her predator’s canines into his neck below his jaw.  The jugular vein pumps blood back to his heart from his pretty little head, but if she can help it, Titanya would rather not have it make it back there at all.  She knows she can end the fight very quickly if she manages to sever such a vital vein.  A dark and murky part inside of her rivaling that of their very grim surroundings wants to see it happen, even.  She can imagine the torrent of red blood spraying and mixing with the rain and muck already making a mess of her coat.  She thinks it would be a fine victory cape to wear until she is cleansed and cleared for the next fight.  But another part of her, most of her, yearns for more give and take before they are consigned to lead civilized lives again.  Titanya doesn’t want the battle to end too quickly, after all.  She’s not made for society; she is made to be wild and unruly. 

    If her three-inch long teeth find their mark, she hopes Jamie will lose enough blood to disorient him and make him weaker in any attacks he has planned for her.  If he has ducked to one side or the other, she thinks she may instead latch onto one shoulder or the other.  Any successful bites or blows with her claws here could shred his shoulder or pectoral muscles, making forward movement more difficult.  If he has reared, she could do serious damage to his chest or even rake open his belly, spilling guts along with his blood.  He is taller than her in their current forms, of course; her altered aim from below combined with her slight slip in the mud just before takeoff could have possibly made her miss her intended mark. 

    Wherever - and if - she has possibly hit, Titanya springs to her right and lands on the softened ground just after.  She curls back to her left with her front end to try to face her opponent and keep him in her sights.  It is harder in the rain and gloom, but her borrowed feline eyes are accustomed to such wet and low-lit environments and make it easier.  She rolls her shoulders, and it’s hard to tell if she’s merely loosening her muscles or goading him by asking him when the fight will actually begin.
    The shadow thing is most comfortable here in the darkness. He moves easily through it, untroubled by the rain, making his way to the Plains without any sense of trepidation. It would have been easy enough to summon a portal of shadow to deliver him to the battlefield, but he makes the journey on foot in order to stretch and warm up his muscles. All of the pain and stiffness from the prior round have dissipated in the time that has passed and he arrives renewed. 

    He surveys the terrain as he moves, the freakish yellow eyes absorbing the mud created by the driving rain and the boulders scattered across the battlefield. The rain will limit visibility, certainly, even if his large eyes have adapted to the darkness. The mud will make it more difficult to move with any amount of agility. It will be an all-out brawl, he knows, there will be nothing graceful about it. Alas, he is not here for the beauty of battle. He is here for the blood, just as his opponent is.

    He can barely make her out through the rain and only thanks to the sparse white splashed across her skin. They appear to be fairly equal in height, though her build seems slightly heavier from this distance. He knows that this likely won’t make a difference, the mud will make equals of them. He feels no pang of remorse upon seeing that she is female. Death had stolen his conscience and he has made no effort to get it back, preferring to live without it. There is no guilt in his desire to destroy her.

    He watches her approach through the driving rain and blinks those freakish eyes when she shifts easily from equine to feline. He recognizes the form as being something similar to the form his sister had worn, the predator, the massive, heavily muscled feline. He draws in a rattling breath with the understanding that they are not equals at all, she is the predator and he is her prey. Still, he feels no fear. He will not shrink or cower in the face of his opponent, no matter what form she takes. 

    She is correct in her assumption that he will not simply stay in one place and wait for his hunter. It is not difficult for her to align herself with him, though, because there are only so many places he can duck and weave to make a moving target. She watches his muscles for any indication of what he might do and he watches hers, too. He is momentarily distracted by the awe he feels to be in her presence, to watch the muscles bunch and coil beneath the surface of her skin. Such a fine specimen, he thinks, the feline. 

    It is because of this momentary distraction that he almost does not react in time. She lunges, seemingly going straight for his jugular, clearly hoping to kill him as quickly as possible. He is saved, perhaps, by how she slips ever so slightly upon takeoff. They are facing each other head-on when she leaps and he pushes into a half-rear, twisting himself to the right and summoning a portal of darkness. He’d used a portal in the last round, but it is the only hope he has to not take massive damage from the feline’s claws and impressive teeth. He throws himself into the portal just as the claws of one reaching paw catch the vulnerable flesh of his chest. The pain explodes in stars across his vision as he surges through the portal and emerges a few paces behind her. 

    He had used a similar tactic against his first opponent, but he hopes he will have better results with it this time. He has no scent and silent footsteps, even in the sloppy mud, and he hopes this will work to his advantage here. He knows that the predator often relies on these things when they hunt. The predator also has forward-facing eyes while the prey’s eyes are situated on the sides of their head and he hopes this will be an advantage as well. It’s unlikely that she will not swing her head around to try and track the movements of an opponent who has just disappeared, he knows, so he will have to act quickly. 

    He hopes that she will not have begun to seek him out by the time he tries to strike, attempting to line himself up along her left side so that he might sink his sharp teeth into the scruff of her neck. He suspects that a bite there will not cause much damage, regardless of how sharp his teeth are, but he tries to bite her there in an effort to neutralize the threat of her teeth when he strikes. He does not trust himself to try and rear in the mud in such close quarters, acutely aware of how easy it would be for her to knock him off-balance if he tried, so he only strikes out with his right forehoof. Since she is much shorter than he is in her feline form, he hopes to strike her in the spine or the ribs. The power of his strike is diminished slightly by the flesh torn open across his chest (the wound is not deep enough that he might bleed to death, but it is enough to smart terribly and it is likely adrenaline alone that allows him to continue to fight), but he hopes that there might be enough force in it to deeply bruise her spine or elicit pain in her ribs sharp enough to steal her breath or slow her down. Should she skitter backward or forwards, he can only hope to strike one of the large muscle groups in her hip or shoulder. Should she scramble out of his reach entirely, he can only hope to have time to prepare himself for a counter-attack.
    Titanya feels the pleasing snag of her claws in skin as one paw connects with her rising target.  A rush of adrenaline pulses through her veins, quickening her heart rate, when she thinks the taste of blood will next fill her mouth.  In mid-leap, however, her sharp canines close on humid air instead of horseflesh.  Jamie twists to his right and disappears completely into the darkness as if swallowed whole.  What the fuck?  The tiger falls back to her right towards the soggy ground, her paws squelching in the thickening mud.  She is unaware of the danger that pops back into existence just behind her.  

    Several things seem to happen almost concurrently in the next few seconds.  Titanya growls in frustration at losing her opponent to some foul trick while also instinctively ramping up her own defenses.  With the ease and speed that comes with a lifetime of usage, the mare-turned-tiger increases the density of her skin.  She makes it like platinum: dense but malleable, strong but supple.  As her oldest gift, it hopefully takes her as little time to complete the transformation as it takes Jamie to create and traverse his portals.  Although she is distracted by her missing quarry and perhaps isn’t as thorough as she typically is.  At the same time, she cranes her neck to the left and right to try to see where he has gone (knowing she is unable to rely on trailing his scent, since he seems to have lost it somewhere along the way).  Instead, he finds her first.

    Sharp teeth scrape along the base of her striped neck as Jamie moves up on her left side but slightly behind her left shoulder.  She feels the bite connect in a distant way thanks to her denser body that protects her from the worst of it.  But it still smarts, and she finds herself suddenly annoyed, both by his unexpected reappearance and the soreness above her shoulder blades.  Titanya whips her long tiger tail from side to side several times in rapid succession in true cat-like fashion.  She hopes the supernaturally-dense appendage works like a switch to beat against Jamie’s right side or even his belly.  She wouldn’t mind a broken rib or two to impair his breathing or even serious bruising to take the fun out of fighting for him.  If he has leaned forward and down to bite her, she thinks she could theoretically knock him sideways or over, if his tipped balance is precarious already.  At the very least, she hopes he cracks a tooth or two on her thickened skin.  Pain anywhere on the body can be a distraction, and a preoccupied opponent is easier to capitalize on. 

    The stallion gives away his location with his first attack, so Titanya is more prepared when the second one comes.  He lashes out with his right front leg just as she bounds to her own right to try to put a little space between them.  She doesn’t get quite the distance she wants due to her own increased density and the trade-off of lessened mobility it provides her.  Jamie’s hoof connects with the top of her feline left hip and the blow produces a yowl of pain that is muffled in the relentless rain.  She’s not as thickly muscled in her current form as a tiger, and even with her more closely-packed molecules, it still rattles her and sends a shockwave of pain down her left rear leg from the point of contact. 

    She tries to maintain a position forty-five degrees ahead and off of Jamie’s right shoulder for just a moment longer, turning her face back to the left to keep an eye on him lest he disappear again.  Titanya sheds her own increased density and tries to concentrate it instead on the ground underneath her opponent.  The rain continues to fall in sheets and the pre-dawn black still presses in on the two fighters.  The mud is thick, but she wants it thicker.  She attempts to increase the density of the soaked earth until it is as dense as mercury.

    Since mercury is dense but still a liquid, objects less dense will float on top of it.  Combined with the rainwater still falling, she hopes the ground will become extremely slippery.  The upward pressure exerted on Jamie by the hopefully denser mud should also help make him more unstable and make putting his feet down a challenge while in motion.  If even marginally successful, she hopes he will slip and slide around and maybe fall into the muck, giving her an easier target to aim for.  Forget having silent footsteps, there would be nothing quiet about that tumble!  With him prone in the mud, she could make quick work of him. 

    Manipulating density while simultaneously being a tiger drains her energy, however.  She turns all the way back to her left, bunches her hindquarters (wincing and less collected due to her injured left hip), and leaps crookedly through the rain towards the yellow-eyed male wherever he has gone.  While jumping, she relinquishes hold on her tiger form, gaining height and hopefully power as a horse again.  Titanya prays Jamie is distracted by his own ripped skin or her attempted terrain alteration as she tucks her knees and aims for his chest.  She tries to drive her knees into the already injured area around his pectoral muscles.  If he has turned one way or the other, left or right, perhaps she will collide with one shoulder or the other.  Any of these successful hits could limit his forward motion in his next attack.  If he has leapt forward himself, she might hit his ribs or his right hip at her attempted forty-five degree angle approach.  The black sabino is exhausted and knows her attack is weakened by the decreased flexibility of her bitten neck and the hammer-like pain in her left hip.  She may have missed entirely, too.  Jamie is nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding gloom besides his creepy eyes.
    The shadow thing had been a fool to think that his opponent’s magic might be limited to her ability to transform into a feline. He succeeds in sinking his teeth into her flesh, but the flesh is much denser than he had anticipated. A jolt of pain steals up into the root of one of the teeth, the enamel cracking against the flesh, and he winces hard against it. He does not have time to dwell on the pain that shoots up through the nerve in his cracked tooth, though, because he is soon struck by the club of her tail. The length of her tail and the angle at which he faces save his ribcage from the brunt of the blow. Instead of striking him in the side, her tail wraps around the backs of his legs and strikes him across the back and broadside of his left gaskin.

    Perhaps there is some masochism in it, his willingness to subject himself to pain. He had not been willing to allow her to immediately kill him, but he welcomes the punishing blows she doles out. The pain makes his head swim but there is some sick satisfaction in this that reminds him of the euphoria he’d felt in the Afterlife when the dozens of shadow creatures had torn him from limb to limb. He had not wanted to die (in fact, he had already been dead), but he had wanted to be destroyed. He had entered the Plains wanting to destroy, but now that he has gotten a taste of pain, he wants to be destroyed, too.

    She lurches away from him and he takes this split second to take stock of his injuries. The pulsing, bleeding wound splashed across his narrow chest, the throbbing pain in his tooth, and the blossoming bruise on his left gaskin. His next attack will have to depend on his ability to fight through pain, he thinks. It will be a struggle, certainly, but he had spent the first four years of his life crippled by pain and had developed a kind of gift in dealing with the agony of it all.

    He had not expected his opponent to be able to manipulate the density of the mud beneath his feet and he balks as it begins to pull at his feet. He does not allow himself to be consumed by panic, though his first instinct is to flee like he might somehow outrun the pull of it. He sucks in a sharp, rattling breath and realizes that he has only one option.

    He makes no effort to attack while she is distracted with her manipulation of the terrain beneath his feet. The mud continues to thicken and the driving rain pools around his ankles. He will not be able to move far from where he stands without risking a fall, he knows, but his opponent doesn’t need to know that. As she channels her energy into the mud, he channels his energy into the fog. In this half-light and the limited visibility of the driving rain, the fog makes it even more difficult to see. He draws it around him in thick waves, a semi-dense shield. Titanya will be able to make her way through it, but he hopes that it will disorient her.

    Just as he has adapted to the darkness, he has adapted to the fog. He cannot see through it any better than anyone else can, but he has learned how to sense where other figures might be. The fog is his longest and most faithful companion and the disturbances in the semi-dense shield ripple outward when she leaps. It is because of this alone that he can gauge her positioning almost as if he could plainly see her. His nerves bristle with adrenaline and anticipation and he summons all of his leftover strength and energy to throw himself out of her path.

    His chest and bruised gaskin both scream out in protest as he leaps, the fog dissipating slightly as he calls upon as much energy as he can to keep from slipping too much in the mud. His hind hooves shift in the slick puddles of rain and the thick mud, slowing him down slightly, as he jumps forward and to the left in an effort to avoid her attack altogether.

    He is surprised when equine knees collide with his right hindquarter rather than the thick forelegs of a feline. She strikes him with enough force that she knocks his hindquarters out from beneath him and swings them around to his left so that he’s almost facing her by the time he comes to a rest. He scrambles fiercely with his front feet, slipping and sliding in the mud until his hooves catch on the solid surface of a large boulder and he regains some stability. His wounded chest throbs and his hindquarters ache with bone-deep bruises as he establishes his footing. Without pausing, he coils his aching hindquarters up under him and uses whatever power he can get out of them to hurl himself at her.

    With all of his energy and attention channeled into keeping his footing, the fog dissipates completely. He hopes that they are still close enough that he will not have to travel far to reach her. The power in his attack is diminished by the footing and the pain in his hindquarters, but he tries to slam his right shoulder into her right side, hoping that she is struggling to keep her footing just as he is so he might knock her down. He strikes with his mouth, too, hoping to sink his teeth into her flesh again. The nerve in his cracked tooth still throbs, but he fights through the pain, hungry for the taste of anything he might be able to sink his teeth into. There is neither rhyme nor reason to this frenzied attack, he just wants to make her bleed.
    Just before she leaps, she realizes that it is suddenly much harder to see her target.  The morning darkness has a new quality to it that hadn’t been present only a moment before.  Everything in her vision is not just wet and dim, it is also hazy, as if a thickening fog has rolled into the Plains at warp-speed from the ocean.  Maybe the fairies think it is too easy with the visibility so high on this bright, sunny day, she thinks dryly.  She knows it most likely originates from her tricky opponent who is perhaps not yet done showing off what he is capable of.  It is too late to try another tactic, however, and she is committed to her jumping attack.  

    As she flies towards where she believes Jamie remains, Titanya feels the fog pressing in the air all around her.  It is certainly disorienting.  Combined with the still-falling rain and the apparent refusal of the sun to grace them with its presence, she feels almost suffocated.  Even for a mare that spends a lot of time in dense jungles as a tiger, it’s a bit much.  She thinks, too, that the fog might be slowing down her approach.  It lights a spark of anger in her belly, this intangible enemy that she cannot hope to fight with either sharp canines or blunt hooves.  It is only the prevailing need for brutality that drives her and keeps her focus away from the smothering air.

    Still, she finds some level of success despite the odds when she feels her knees connect with part of the black stallion.  It’s hard to see at first which part of him she hits, but as she strains her eyes against the foggy haze, she realizes it is his right hindquarter.  Good, she muses silently, I’ve injured the front half and am now maybe taking out the engine. But she doesn’t have time to celebrate the hit.  Jamie is knocked askew and scrambles to regain his footing and balance.  She wants to press her advantage in that brief window of time where he is so vulnerable, but she has made that difficult for herself.

    Titanya feels her own handiwork beneath her.  The thick, slippery mud she has attempted to manipulate becomes a snare for her, too.  The difference is, perhaps, that she has anticipated and prepared for it.  She slides a little after the attack when her knees relax and she comes down to the ground again.  At the same time and while Jamie rights himself, the sabino mare relinquishes any remaining hold she might have on the ground below her.  Over the course of the battle, shifting and trying to manipulate the density of both herself and the earth has left her weary.  She wants the remaining fight to be solely between her and her opponent, no tricks or traits used on her end.  She wants to remember the power and savagery built into the code of her own body by nature itself.  She wants to feel pain firing across her synapses and the give and release of her muscles and sinew.  She wants to end this as she began it, as a simple horse with complicated desire for violence that never seems sated.

    The fog disappears but the rain persists.  She blinks it out of her eyes as she realizes that all the scrambling in the mud has left the two fighters nearly face to face.  She knows that all that scrambling will not have been in vain on his part and readies for the onslaught of his final attack.  There is no time to make a break to her left and no solid footing beneath her, either.  She has let go of any attempted manipulation of increasing the mud’s density, but the mud stubbornly remains anyway as the rain steadily falls. She raises her lip in a defiant snarl.  Titanya leans her weight to her left side, hoping Jamie’s feet will have trouble successfully reaching her in the muck since it is too late to completely avoid his attack.  She turns her head to the left, too, to try to prevent any damage to her face or eyes.  Her left hip pounded by Jamie’s hoof screams at her and quivers in pain at the abuse of holding her up.  She hopes it doesn’t collapse beneath her.

    The stallion is on her too quickly for that to happen, though there is nothing subtle about his approach.  He batters her right side with his right shoulder.  They are of basically the same height, and his hit catches her in the ribs, completely knocking the wind out of her.  She wheezes and the sound is not quite swallowed up by the patter of rain.  At the same time, she feels his supernaturally-sharp teeth bite into her loin, and she tosses her head at the whiteout of pain that flashes across her vision.  She instinctually sucks in a breath which only compounds the aching of her right ribs.  Fortunately, the area is heavily-muscled, but the pain threatens to send her to her knees.  Jamie pushes her laterally in the mud with his motion against her.  Her feet cross over one another, attempting a stumbling counterbalance, though she wobbles severely when she trips over a rock.  If he had hit her in the shoulder or hindquarter, he may have knocked her completely over.  Only the centralized hit and her heftier frame against his slighter build allow her to remain upright.  She considers herself lucky, even as she’s tenderly breathing through the two-fold attack. 

    Titanya flicks her water-logged tail against her hocks in annoyance that the battle is over.  She raises her head to meet Jamie’s eyes in acknowledgement of the grim shit that they had just inflicted on each other, but winces at the pain his teeth had caused in her neck.  She starts to grin, anyway.
    Winner: Jamie

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