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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 THREE: Gale v. Mazikeen
    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.
    Gale posts first unless otherwise agreed upon.

    SETTING: Actively snowing with snow sticking to the ground. Dusk.

    Gender: Male
    Body Type & Height: 16hh; medium/medium-heavy build - like a Welsh Cob
    Abilities: wings, spinal mane, self-healing, vision manipulation, faun horns, companion animal (Osprey)


    Gender: Female
    Body Type & Height: quarab with a splash of stockiness from mustang blood, 15hh
    Abilities: shapeshifting, immortality, fire aura
    [Image: Leah.png]
    Snowfall is a curiosity to the brindle pegasus, and he watches it fall in the dim light of the setting sun. These are the last still moments before the battle frenzy, and Gale does not let them pass unappreciated. He thinks of Islandres, and the family and friends he has there. His opponents have given him a better idea of abilities of the mainlanders, and Gale is more certain than ever that the protection for Islandres that comes with victory is a worthy prize.

    When the time comes, the navy horse is more than ready, and makes his way through the shallow snow to where his opponent stands. As white as the snow between them, at least she will stand out in the gathering darkness. The blue stallion makes note of her size and build and lack of visible traits as well. To have made it this far and be only what she appears?

    Gale is suspicious, and in the fading light that uncertainty quickly becomes an eagerness to finish this battle quickly.

    Though he had not held back in his previous battles (having healed breaks and bruises aplenty as proof), the winged horse begins this one without any of his earlier hesitation.

    The snow gives the earth beneath his hooves a false smoothness, but Gale does not trust the rocky earth with anything more than a trot. He moves directly toward her, head-on, his white wings folded at his sides.

    His magic reaches toward her as he draws closer, confidently familiar with the equine eye; he attempts to pull her sight away. He has experienced that sensation intimately, knows the exact shade of darkness that stolen sight is replaced by, but pushes away the memory with well-practiced ease. She is as able as any stranger to fend off his manipulation of her sight, but Gale knows he has the advantage of having her near enough to allow his magic to work at its full strength. Taking sight requires constant vigilance, and there too many fronts in a physical battle to give such attention to a single one. Because of this, Gale releases anything he still manages to hold when he is a few yards away

    Releases it, and gives instead the glorious red sunset that he had witnessed with Midsommar.

    Gale had stared directly at the sun that evening, his ever-healing eyes making the pain worth the splendid view. He has laid odds on Mazikeen’s inability to appreciate the same, hoping that the briefly shared image of a brilliant sunburst after the darkness will be enough to blind her at least long enough for him to complete his physical attack.

    That comes quickly, when he rears up in front of her, his navy hooves kicking out at her head; tender eyes and ears and nose. At the same time, the pegasus unfurls his white feathered wings, dropping his wing-wrists from where they normally protrude just in front of his body down to the snow-covered clay at his hooves, and then sweeping them back upward. He means to catch at least some of the fallen snow, a further obstruction to her vision, and as soon as his front hooves return to the earth he backs away as quickly as he can manage without stumbling, his wings still held wide to help with balance.
    I'd like to use my extension, please and thank you <3
    When Mazikeen stands in the falling snow, there is a near-frenzy to her excitement so that she feels like she might explode with it. That would certainly be one way to win the round. If her opponent were closer and she had the ability to channel her nerves into explosive force that wasn't emotional. She inhales a deep breath of the chilled air to calm herself, remembering winters with her parents and playing games to see how many different prints she could leave in the snow. It helps a little, but a single breath is not nearly enough to calm her. When her orange eyes land on her new opponent through the darkening snow, she feels a rush of eagerness.

    The blue and white stallion standing before her continues the trend of all her opponents being stockier than her. Was everyone outside of Hyaline being fed something different? Or was she paying attention to this information more now because she had to? He looks to be taller than her as well, close to how Tarian had been - and sporting a pair of wings just like that grey pain in the ass as well. She looks up into the dusk sky thick with falling snow and tries to remember if she has ever flown in the snow before.

    Her attention drops back down to the ground when she hears him move in the snow, and that is when Maze’s vision goes dark. She hisses with annoyance and tries to shake her head as if that will clear away the darkness but with no luck. At first, she thinks it is the plains itself playing a trick on them both but reprimands herself almost immediately for being so naive. This had to be the blue pegasus’ doing. Mazikeen wastes no more time and exchanges her equine eyes for canine - pulling from the now-familiar form of a wolf, thinking that a predator accustomed to hunting in the dark would be able to aid her with whatever nonsense was happening.

    After all, though the world around her is dark, she can hear the crunch of snow beneath Gale’s hooves and knows he is coming in close for the attack.

    Changing her eyes out does not affect everything that plays a part in vision, like her equine brain, and so not all of the darkness lifts; it just lessens the effectiveness of the manipulation. The world is not black for her anymore, just a darker shade than what it should be - as though they were further along into the night. It is just enough of an edge so that when the vision changes into a blinding sunset, it is not as overpowering as it would have been. Still uncomfortable and still annoying, of course, and Mazikeen hisses again and grumbles something vulgar just for good measure.

    With her wolf eyes burning, Mazikeen sees his silhouette more than she sees details but that is all she needs. Mazikeen rises into a rear to match Gale’s less than a heartbeat after his hooves leave the earth. Even though she rears more or less to avoid being kicked in the face, she strikes out with her hooves for good measure as she does while also calling on her fire aura to blaze around her. One of his hooves strikes her right shoulder that becomes an easy target as she rises. Frustration blooms in the young mare’s mind, and she worries that the deep bruise she feels growing there will impede her movements for the rest of this round. She attempts to console herself with the idea that at least he had not struck her skull.

    Still, she hopes either her forelegs will land a strike, or he will come in contact with the thin later of fire as it blazes and earn himself a burn. If it's on his legs, perhaps her own impeded movement will be reflected in him and they will be on even (painful) footing.

    The light of the fire helps ease the remaining effects of her vision being tampered with as the world around her lights up. It sizzles with contact from the snow he tosses up with his wings. Mazikeen expands the wolf-shift to the rest of her head so that when, or if, Gale looks through the fire, he will see a grinning wolf’s head.

    When her hooves are back on the ground, Mazikeen releases the partial shift and the blaze of fire goes out - but that smile remains. She flicks her tail behind her as if to say, 'what else you got?'.
    using my extension please!
    The flap of his broad wings, meant only to fling snow toward his opponent, saves Gale from worse burns as the fire surrounds the orange-eyed mare and is buffeted away by their wind. It seems his regenerative healing (which so often chooses to ignore less-than-life threatening wounds) recalls the sear of heat and fire better even than Gale does, rapidly healing the worst of the damage. By the time his front hooves return to the earth from his rear, the heaviest burns along his legs have already become shiny with scar tissue. Gale’s left foreleg – the one he’d felt strike a single blow somewhere on his foe’s right shoulder – had received the worst of the flames as a result of its proximity to Mazikeen’s body.

    His body still feels uncomfortably warm as he backs away with his wings flared, and the stallion catalogues his injuries as he attempts to put distance between them. She had landed a few strikes of her own, it seems, and he’d overlooked them in the blaze of fire. A bruise where she’d kneed him on the breast, and a long shallow hoof-scrape stretching back toward his left elbow, where discolored blood pools beneath the surface. They are not anything serious, he knows, because they still hurt. Only the burns have been rendered painless by his magic (though he can tell from the tension of the healed skin that they are tender and fragile still, as new skin tends to be).

    Gale stops backing away from the wolf-headed mare only when a dozen paces lay between them, enough distance for him to react to her attack.

    It never comes.

    The snow continues to fall, the light to bleed away, his heart to beat rapidly in his chest.

    So, he thinks as he watches her flicking tail, she has chosen a defensive strategy.

    There’s value in that, the stallion knows, but that knowledge makes her lack of participation no less frustrating for the blue stallion. He’d wanted this battle to be a quick one, and instead the Fates gave him an opponent who wants to play the granite cliff to Gale’s beating wave. A wolf-headed cliff, at that, though Gale now suspects that the ability to shift her body into that of a save-toothed predator would explain her progression in the Alliance. He does not look forward to the damage that those teeth could do during this battle, but fear has never held him back before, and he determines that it will not do so now.

    The black shores of the home he fights for had once been enormous volcanos that dwarfed the granite peaks of Hyaline, the stallion reminds himself, but the waves of Islandres had beaten them to sand.
    Gale of Islandres resettles his hooves in the gathering snow, and prepares to do the same.

    His soot-stained wings spread wide, beating heavily for balance as he rushes toward her on uneven footing. A canter is a manic pace on this ground, and Gale stumbles twice even in the ten yards that separate them. He needs speed for take-off, and the stone-scrapes on his pasterns do not matter in the air, though the second stumble rips open the still fragile skin of his scared right fetlock, and he leaves flecks of blood in the snow as he runs headlong toward the white mare. The rapid pumping of his wings grows faster still, and he launches himself into the air with a leap, propelled up and forward by his muscular hindquarters as well as his wings, just moments before he’d have crashed head-first Mazikeen. At the same time, he sends the image of the sunset a second time, hoping the that burning brightness of it will force her eyes closed for the few seconds he needs if he’s to avoid being gutted by wolf-teeth.

    His forelegs should just clear her head if she has made the poor choice to remain still.

    Or rather, they would clear her head if he did not lash out, aiming with his front left hoof for whatever bit of her he might reach as he passes over her topline. Her head, neck, and back all seemed reasonable targets when he planned this assault, though with his bleeding right foreleg tucked up beside his chest to prevent further damage, he can give only half the strikes he’d intended. His speed has all but guaranteed that the amount of time she is in range of his front hooves lasts only milliseconds, so he continues with his rear feet when she is in range, and if he misses her entirely with that, he can only hope that he is more successful with the second half of the attack

    Still above her, and ideally facing the opposite way, Gale stops flying for just a moment.

    Gravity brings him down hard, and he kicks out with both hindlegs, hoping the added weight of his descent will add enough power to his kick to send her reeling. The brindle’s desired target is the thick, meaty flesh of her hindquarters, but he would not lament a miscalculation that instead made her legs or even that irritating flicking tail a target instead. Maybe she’ll have shifted into a wolf, he thinks as his frantic wingbeats resume, a kick like that should send a wolf ears-over-tail.

    Those rapid wingbeats save him from a bone-breaking landing as his forelegs touch the earth again, followed a heartbeat later by his hindlegs. He takes several stumbling strides as he lands, unexpectedly hampered by where she’d bruised his chest earlier, and clearly favoring his right leg. When he slows enough to regain his balance, he pivots left to face her. He tests the strength of his bleeding leg, gingerly at first, and finds that despite the pain that comes from having healed skin shredded by sharp stone, the damage is only at the surface. Still, he is not eager to run again, and so he waits in the falling snow for whatever comes next.
    An easy way to inspire jealousy in this mare? Being able to heal yourself in a fight. Damn, that is cool. She watches as burns turn to scar tissue before her eyes. It doesn't even make her angry - she just wants that ability for herself. This feeling is tempered slightly by noticing not all of Gale’s injuries are magically wiped clean. Or maybe she's just so good at attacking she bypassed that magic? That sounds more like it, and she happily takes credit for the flecks of blood that look black against the snow as Gale makes his next move.

    Mazikeen had already released her wolf’s head earlier, even before she had flicked her tail and made it clear she wasn’t going to waste energy following her counter-attacks with another. She wasn’t (entirely) a savage animal. So there is no risk of the wolf’s teeth as she stands there in wait.

    He stumbles as he closes the gap between them, and there's an annoying corner of her heart that clenches a little. She quickly dismisses such a stupid reaction - it has no place here. Her body becomes tense with excitement as he beats his wings and surges towards her. She doesn’t move much except to angle her body slightly to her right, presenting her left, uninjured side. Mazikeen wants to both conserve her energy and avoid moving her bruised shoulder as much as possible. When the sunset again flashes before her vision in place of the dusky snowscape, Mazikeen’s annoyed hiss comes out of a large, flat, whiskered face as the white mare shifts completely - this time turning into a beastly walrus. This shape is shorter than her horse-self when flat on the ground, so the first part of Gale’s attack literally goes over her head as she widens and shrinks. Her heavy body sinks through the snow and meets the hard-packed earth underneath with a solid thud.

    Carrying her usual theme for the shapes she takes, as a walrus Mazikeen is wonderfully ugly in white skin with a splash of black upon her face and flippers. She hopes this significant contrast to the wolf head trick she had pulled moments ago will be a surprise for her opponent.

    Her grinning orange eyes are up, watching and wary, remembering how Tarian had attacked from above. Surely enough, Gale stalls his flight as he moves over her and uses gravity to aid him in his descent. Mazikeen rises her bulk to meet him - heaving her gigantic upper body with the intent to knock it into the relatively thin horse legs of Gale to throw him off balance as he kicks out at her. His hooves collide with the skin on the left side of her colossal neck as she rises upwards, but the thick blubber of this form shelters her from significant damage. Though she does not try to get him with her tusks, her head is still turned up to him and one of his rear hooves collides with her left tusk. It cracks upon impact. Luckily this species is accustomed to fighting with their faces, so she does not feel the reverberations echo through her head. She gives her head an experimental shake, and the lower half of the large tooth flies off and disappears into the accumulating snow.


    Aside from that single word, she abandons all other thoughts of the piece of her which will rest in the plains among the rocks, dirt, and blood.

    Back to the matter at hand. The walrus form was good for defence - now she needs more. She had waited for him to attack her last time, and perhaps he might not expect her to shift to the offensive now. From the granite cliff to the avalanche. Mazikeen is already shifting again when Gale lands - shrinking in size until she is a thick-furred snow leopard. She surges through the snow to keep the distance between them as short as she can, feline pupils dilated to see more easily in the growing darkness. Although her wide, furred paws make her movement easy, her shoulder gives out when she lands on it with a purposeful stride. The leopard nearly buckles to the ground but manages to remain up thanks to the thick tail behind her aiding her balance. Her head swims with the combination of the pain, dizziness, and hunger she feels as she devours her energy stores going from one shape to the next. With one canine half as short as the other, her sharp teeth are gritted against the anger these weaknesses cause to rise within her. She will not allow herself to falter again. Not while she fights for Hyaline.

    Mazikeen launches herself at the blue stallion, hoping to catch him on his weaker right side. She is smaller than him in this form but incredibly agile. The snow leopard is familiar to her more than anything else.

    This is her mother’s favourite shape. And it is the first one Mazikeen ever pulled on.

    She hopes to collide with Gale before he can completely steady himself on the ground, but even if she is not fast enough due to the stumble, it will not change her attack. Her claws are unsheathed as she leaps with forelimbs outstretched, attempting to make contact with and tear at his neck or shoulder. She's wary of those large wings, especially in this lighter form, but they also provide her with more joints to damage with claws. She attempts to bite whatever she can reach with jagged canines and stops after one bite; even if her mouth closes on nothing but itself, the broken tooth is too painful.

    She is approximately a tenth of the size of him now - hopefully just small enough to find her mark and be difficult to reach with any limbs - and her thick fur should protect her from bites if he turns his head before she can drop away.
    Just before he leaps over her, Mazikeen turns her upper body just a bit to Gale’s left, protecting her already injured right side by presenting the other. His striking right hoof finds nothing at all, and Gale assumes that he has leapt too high. The brindle stallion’s visual powers do not alter his own physical capabilities, and the white-mare-now-walrus is below him, completely out of sight. Were it not for Erne, observing silently from a large, snow-covered boulder, Gale would not have been aware of the shift at all.

    As it is, the only thing that Gale’s companion is able to tell him before Mazikeen attacks is: Real Big Seal, which is absolutely no help at all.

    His left hind hoof connects with something hard, but the satisfaction of a strike is muffled by the heavy blow that slams his hind legs together and swings his lower body hard to his right. His wings falter but hold his weight until he can land and rebalance his weight on his four hooved limbs. During those several stumbling strides away, he staggers to keep his balance. The inside of his left hind leg is sore from being knocked into by his right leg. The bruising there has developed rapidly (though invisibly beneath his navy hide), too rapidly to be natural, and it fades with speed as well, healing the brindled stallion just enough that he can catch his weight on his hind end without collapsing.

    Erne keens a second warning, the osprey’s shrill cry carried on the wind as well as the intangible connection with Gale, but he is still catching his balance when the snow leopard sinks her claws into his right side and has no time respond.

    The desire to drop to that side - to crush the smaller cat with the weight of his body – rises the moment he sees her leaping toward him. But the battle is ended now, an innate knowledge in some unspeakable part of him that he cannot attempt to wound her a third time.

    So instead, the beginning of what would have been: ‘turning to his left to face where she’d been as a Big Seal’, becomes instead the only thing that saves him from having his neck lacerated by feline claws. His shoulder is struck instead, one clawed paw tearing striped flesh, the other striking just below the feathers at the end of his now-folded wing. There is little flesh in his wing to damage and the feathers protect his side, but two of Mazikeen’s claws catch just where his basal and terminal phalanxes meet, and blood adds ruby stains to the pinion feathers of his soot-blacked wings as she falls away, and the very tip of his wings dangles uselessly, effectively clipped by the strike and the feathers that her single bite had torn from his wings. He will not know he cannot fly until he tries, having never been injured in such a way before, all he knows is that it hurts much more than he thinks a wound that size should. 

    The snow leopard’s paw that had sunk into his shoulder draws a more impressive amount of blood, striking the meaty flesh of his shoulder. The deepest of the stabbing wounds heals immediately while the other four bleed freely, so when Gale had squealed in pain at the impact, there was a note of fury at the end as well - why will his damn magic not work when he needs it to?

    As the snow continues to fall, Gale weighs his injured limbs against his inability to crush his opponent with a third round of attacks. Could he have done better, given another round? He had not questioned himself like this after his first two battles, he peers through the darkness at Mazikeen from Erne’s yellow eyes (his own unable to see much with night having fallen during their battle).

    “We should finish this sometime,” he says between labored breaths. “You’re better than the other two, but I think I could’ve had you with another round.” He says this even knowing now that her shifting does not seem limited to a single wolf-shape as he’d first assumed, and even exhaustion and heavy bleeding cannot dampen down his innate curiosity.  “Is there anything you can’t shift to? Is it harder to try a new shape than one you know?” It is harder for him to magic those he does not know, so Gale theorizes that new things would be more difficult for all types of magic.

    In the next battle he will be prepared for such things, he thinks… the next battle. 

    The sudden realization that another battle is imminent regardless of the outcome of this one is a sobering one, and the third question he’d meant to ask goes unvoiced. Instead, he stretches his right wing very gingerly, and reminds himself that what he cannot heal himself, the magic of the alliance will mend instead.
    Winner: Gale

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