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  • Beqanna

    version 22: awakening


    GHAUL -- Year 209


    "(souls are not meant to live more than once — death was not meant to be temporary, and she is so sure that every time her heart starts to beat again that irreversible damage is further inflicted)" -- Anonya, written by Colby

    [open quest]  [ROUND 2] i can feel the flames on my skin

    i can feel the flames on my lips; crimson blood on my skin


    Just fourteen.

    Somewhere unseen, halfway between this world and the next one, Starlace scoffs.

    This is hardly enough to build an army. They couldn’t even take over the Gates with this bunch.

    Perhaps she is being too hard on them. So many are from this new world, this soft world. They had faced a Reckoning, after all, and it is not their fault that their ancestors were too weak to challenge the gods.

    She circles them, wherever they are – on land or soaring through the air – and does so with an appraising eye. Some of them have promise. Maybe. There’s no way to tell without testing their mettle, the mare decides, and so she does just that.

    Between the pillars, an adult horse appears. It will be familiar to them, someone they harbor strong feelings for. Hate, love, vengeance. She doesn’t much care which it is, she just plucks from their minds someone with a hefty emotional bond. One hundred yards out, a glowing ring of red light appears, stretching upwards until the two horses are enclosed in an impenetrable dome. The dome casts an eerie light onto the midnight plains.

    Starlace watches, waiting.

    The horse attacks the quester with a bloodthirsty yell.

    Starlace smiles.



    • Your character is being attacked by someone they have strong feelings for. This can be an enemy, a friend, a spouse, a child, etc. This horse will have all of that horse’s current traits
    • The character cannot be reasoned with (though you may try) and will continue to viciously attack in whatever way they are able until you – or they – are incapacitated or dead (no deaths are permanent)
    • Neither character can escape the dome
    • Describe the ensuing battle in a post of no more than 1000 words – there should be a clear victor by the end
    • Failure to follow directions or to respond to a round risks temporary defects.
    Entries are due Jan. 15 by 12:59 PM CST

    this would be a fantastic place to put a future quote

    The sense of exhilaration is strong – he looks down at the lonely ground, and wonders what would happen if he flew away. Could he leave the dream, and maybe wake with the wings? The desire is so strong he doesn’t notice her, watching, but when he looks back down at the ground in consideration, it’s no longer empty. 

    Luath has healthy attachment to a few – there’s his mother, his twin, many of his half-siblings, his father’s current lover. He isn’t nearly as attached to them as he is to his father. With unchecked enthusiasm, he folds the wings in a way he’s watched his sire do a million times, dropping with another surprised yelp, and then scrambling to snap his wings open, arrest his descent and glide forward – and change direction suddenly again, to avoid the red light. As his hooves scrape the ground, the young stallion struggles to catch his balance, stay on his feet. The new wings are still a little awkwardly held out to the side; it isn’t instinctive yet to tuck them in. Grounded, he turns to Brennen. “Papa,” he begins, tilting his head, searching for an explanation, but all he can manage is a grin, lifting the wings a little to show them off.

    Luath doesn’t move quickly enough when the bay pegasus charges him, because he still doesn’t understand. Brennen himself had warned him, the dangers of these things, but children aren’t always listening.

    The impact lifts him off his feet, throwing him backwards, teeth scraping his neck. Appalled, confused, he struggles with takeoff, trying harder than before, and with the help of his momentum he gains the air before his father can slam him into the red light. Staring upward, he looks desperately for a crack but the dome is uninterrupted, and the rustle of feathers beneath him reminds him that his new wings won’t give him distance from his father. Luath skirts the roof, not liking the heat of it on his skin, and looks down. Gold eyes meet gold, but he doesn’t recognize the expression.

    Brennen’s wings are too large for the space. He’s not maneuverable enough. For a couple of breaths, they play a demented game of cat-and-mouse; he singes himself several times on the red light when he forgets how to turn, to stop, to rise and fall, but Brennen lands no more than bruises and scratches on his son. There’s a surge of hope in the red-and-blue boy’s chest as his father pulls away. He turns back already prepared with a sheepish apology. This was a reprimand, a reminder not to go running off chasing magic butterflies; Brennen will let them land now, the red light will go away, and it will be over. It’s no rougher than they’ve trained before, the General insisting his son be able to defend himself against creatures of land and sea and air. 

    But like the cat, the magician was doing little more than entertaining himself. This is not his father, and this is not a training game. Out of nowhere, a wind rises inside the dome, buffeting Luath off course and it slams him into the wall before he can figure out how to get out of its hold. His head is ringing, his left wing crushed between his body and the perimeter, and the boy falls. The ringing is like screaming (or maybe he’s screaming?) but he forces the wing open against his body’s protest, pain like fire rushing across his skin. But it serves its purpose – he slows enough to make his crash-landing painful, not incapacitating. Angry now, the adrenaline dulls the pain as he climbs to his feet. Left wing – dragging. Right fore – not quite weight bearing. Teeth still strangely dull, flat, not that that stops him from rising onto his hind limbs and snapping his jaws closed around whatever part of Brennen that he can reach as the magician swoops low, coming away with the sharp tang of blood in his mouth.

    His kelpie traits might be gone, but you can’t remove three years of satisfaction at that taste, at the first sign of a successful hunt. Restraint gone, the boy growls, a feral sound, and lunges to snap at his opponent again, finding quite a bit of pleasure in the fact that flesh still rips under his jaw, even if he has to work harder at it. The pegasus is slower on the ground, his reflexes shoddy, and he seems to have forgotten about the red light himself. Luath’s third lunge drives them into it, and this time it’s Brennen who shrieks in pain and defiance. There’s blood smeared on both of them, and the boy presses his advantage and strikes out with both front feet, but everyone has a limit on fair play for fair play’s sake and as fast as he can strike, the magician is gone; he’s on the other side of the circle, and then he’s in the air.

    There is no fair play, when there’s magic.

    There’s water welling up from the dusty plain, contained by the red light. His new wings won’t hold him, and he’s stuck as it rises: knee deep, belly deep, soaking the ends of his mane and he’s swimming to keep his head above water. Where all his life he has been naturally buoyant, with a flick of the magician’s dark face Luath’s feet are mired in deep sand, and it hardens around his feet to prevent him from moving.

    Illogically he’s not afraid of drowning. He can’t summon fear of the water even as it reaches his jaw, closes behind his ears as he lifts his face. Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t know fear. That’s what got him into this situation, isn’t it? “Come and beat me yourself, you coward,” he snarls it just before the water closes over his head, making breathing and talking impossible, though his body still quivers with the attempts to thrash free, until he’s unconscious.

    An old soul with young eyes, a vintage heart, and a beautiful mind

    The pain finally subsides, the throbbing in her head dulled as the minutes melt away. Nothing else happens, not at first. Overhead, the sun glares at her and catches the gunmetal blue of her coat. Eyes that match her body look around in quiet wait, her mind wandering to reasons why she is here and why there are antlers twisting up from her skull.

    With a sigh, she steers away from the pillars and turns her attention toward the horizon.

    But it’s when she has her back turned and her guard down that the silence is broken and the solitude ripped from her.

    The thunderous footsteps are somehow familiar and it forces Cyprin to abruptly whip around. The figure halts, dust curling around his legs. ”Bronsonn,” she breathes with the birth of a smile on her lips, relief mounting at the sight of him until she notices the stoicism of his face and hollowness of his eyes. ”Bron…?” Her voice rises in question and her head tilts slightly to the side. Fear climbs her throat, choking her. He does not answer her, not verbally at least. A snort is the only response followed by a rear that cements the realization that this cannot be her twin, not truly. They care for one another, love each other.

    Bronsonn charges feverishly toward her, raising the dirt around him again. Cyprin doesn’t want this to be real, to see her brother seek to destroy her, but she cannot – will not – sit idle. Although sweet, she is not weak. They have the same passion in their blood, the same ferocity. Instinctively, Cyprin readies herself, her defense being only the antlers on her head. He isn’t so foolish to run straight into them, instead taking an opportunity to veer and kick out. His hooves make contact on the right side of her neck. It’s the first time she has ever been hit, and it startles her before the pain sinks in and throbs. A gasp of air catches in her throat when she stumbles to her left. Having the horns offsets her balance as well, but she regains it with dignity, staring at her sibling defiantly.

    Her heart wants to speak to him and ease the rage bursting in him, but he is too far gone. Fear grips her.
    Fight or flight.

    Cyprin faces Bronsonn again, but he is already rearing and lashing toward her, scraping her face with a flailing hoof. A scream escapes her then, an unintentional response as she staggers back again, but this time with fire in her eyes.

    She is prepared to retaliate and lunge toward him, but there is a deafening crack, then eerie pops. A growl. A hiss.

    ”No…” she murmurs to herself as Bronsonn shifts into his draconic form, punctuating the transition with a roar that trembles the entire dome. Flames flare from his mouth toward the open space above them, and Cyprin seizes the opportunity to flee to his backside. His tail whips, knocking her over effortlessly. Rivulets of blood wind down her right side when she finally stands, rocks having punctured her skin. There’s nothing she can do to defeat a dragon. Her only advantage is her agility and small size to weave, but there is nothing helping her in this dome.

    Bronsonn swerves to face her, and Cyprin simply kicks at his claw. It triggers a snarling response and a snap of his jaws, but there isn’t great success or luck. She could weave among his legs, but it would only drain her own energy. His name caresses her tongue, waiting to be heard, but it wouldn’t accomplish anything. Cyprin’s mouth opens, but nothing comes out, and so she closes it again just as his head snakes to tower above her.

    They spar, but it is greatly Cyprin attempting to dodge and gaining more scrapes and bruises while Bronsonn remains unscathed.

    It seems like hours, but perhaps it has only been minutes; nonetheless, exhaustion wracks through her. In Bronsonn’s primal aggression, he considers his twin a meal. She is done, he tells himself as he hovers above her with his neck arched like a serpent. Cyprin stares up, panting from having attempted multiple times to gouge him with her horns or kick. Her lungs scream from the exertion and her mind fumbles to react.

    Her body resigns to him, at a loss.

    ”I’m a dragon, too” just by blood, but nothing more. It doesn’t matter, but she doesn’t want to cower in the face of loss. She stands proudly, counting the seconds until her world turns black and she no longer experiences pain. Not even a goodbye or words of finality. Cyprin simply succumbs to fate. Her eyes drift shut as Bronsonn lunges forward, his mouths widely agape.

    But then she takes another breath.

    How? She should be dead?

    There is an ear shattering scream that makes her recoil, but she is stuck, her head unable to move.

    When her eyes open – when did she close them? – she is staring down Bronsonn’s throat. Above her is the roof of his mouth, deeply punctured by her horns. When he tries withdrawing, she presses further, deepening the gouges.

    Cyprin is unsure how deep her horns pierced into his skull, what they may have hit or destroyed. Flames begin to roll from her sibling’s maw, tearing into her skin until it halts only a second later. Their screams mingle together as she pulls herself from their predicament, stumbling and falling backward in pain.

    And then there is silence.

    Cyprin blinks away the tears as she watches the life slowly leave Bronsonn’s eyes.

    lior and nayl

    picture by Jiamin Zhu on pinterest

    935 words

    cold in the violence after the war
    hope is a fire to keep us warm

    It’s difficult to say how Brazen might respond if she knew she were being watched, her every action tallied. Another mark on a scorecard. Or, maybe it isn’t so difficult. After all, she had grown to adulthood beneath the long-reaching, watchful gaze of her own mother. Anyone who could claim Heartfire as a mother quickly grew accustomed to being watched.

    Perhaps that’s why she has to wonder when the other shoe might drop. She had grown up knowing power, even if she did not have much of it herself. And anyone who had the ability to drag someone here like this must have a reason to do so. What that reason is though, she can only guess.

    In a way, it’s almost anti-climactic, the horse simply appearing between the pillars she had just stepped back from. Of course, had she any idea what was coming, she might not have had that thought. But what abilities she’d had, even before they’d been stripped from her, had certainly not included a predilection towards insight or foresight.

    She blinks, the familiarity of the figure striking her immediately. Moments later, recognition.

    “Brinly?” she asks, the confusion quickly shifting into excitement. She should have known better, of course. But youth and naivete blind her. “Were you….”

    Her voice trails off as her gaze catches on the glowing red ring shrinking towards them. That ominous light stretches, reaching up until the pair are entirely encased in an eerie red dome. A tendril of dread begins to swell inside the hollow of her stomach. Frowning, she turns her troubled gaze back to her friend. She is washed in a haze of crimson. A light that seems to accentuate the beautiful lines of her face as they twist in a vicious expression, a shriek tearing from her lips as she charges Brazen.

    “Wait, Brinly,” she begins with an almost desperate mix confusion and foreboding as she contorts herself to avoid fiery skin. “WAIT!”

    Brinly doesn’t listen of course. But then, some part of Brazen had feared she wouldn’t. After several more swift spins to avoid Brinly and desperate pleas that fall on deaf ears, Brazen has had enough. With bared teeth and pinned ears, she meets her head on this time, her unprotected body crashing into Brinly, skin sizzling as she drives her backwards. Gritting through her teeth while trying to ignore the pain, she gasps This… isn’t… you.

    Then, as she falls back in the face of that gruesome heat, it clicks.

    It. Isn’t. Brinly.

    Abruptly, her expression shutters. Blue eyes lighting with the sudden anger kindling inside her, she narrows her gaze on the Brinly imposter. When she speaks again, her voice is low and controlled despite her rising emotion. “Who are you?”

    Though she had not truly expected an answer, the lack of one serves to bolster her furious resolve. And as Brinly charges once more, it is not the face of her friend she sees, but that of a deceitful enemy.

    Brazen waits, shifting, turning, ducking her shoulder as she side-steps to avoid the charge. It’s easy to ignore the pain of her burned skin. She has been ignoring pain for years. And as she leans into the momentum, turning until her hindquarters are aligned almost perpendicularly with Brinly, she lets loose a furious barrage of battering kicks. She doesn’t stop until her hocks and fetlocks burn, the white hair singed away, leaving her skin raw and exposed.

    This seems to do little to slow the imposter however. Despite favoring her battered quarter, she turns to face Brazen once more, the empty, bloodthirsty expression still on her face. With a sinking sensation deep in her gut, Brazen suddenly fears that this would not end until one of them lay dead on the ground.

    For all that her mind screams at her that this is not Brinly, her heart rebels. Even though she knows that this cannot be her friend, it is so clearly her face. The line she trembles upon now is much too narrow, and Brazen suspects there would be no returning once she crossed it.

    In the end, the choice is not made by her. As Brinly once again charges, Brazen’s world narrows. It’s a familiar sensation, that suppression of nearly all thought and emotion. She has striven to find it every time she runs until exhaustion forces her to stop. And as it settles over her now, leaving room only for action and instinct, she knows what must be done.

    Her breathing steady, she shifts, almost inviting Brinly to crash into her. In the moments before their skin meets, she drops her shoulder and ducks her head. Leaning into Brinly’s momentum, she watches almost dispassionately as the curling point of one of her new horns swings up with a jerk of her head before coming into contact with Brinly’s exposed neck.

    In the next moment, they collide, impossibly fiery skin meeting the rawness of her own. Pain explodes through her even as a sudden weight drags her down. With a sob, she collapses, everything she bundled aside moments earlier crashing through her with brutal mercilessness.

    It takes her a few tries to pull her horn from Brinly’s neck. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, the refrain a mantra in her mind and on her lips. She barely notices the blood that gushes across her neck and face, or the tears that track through, mingling almost poetically. Nor does she notice the impossible heat slowly leaching from Brinly’s body as it settles in death against Brazen’s ravaged skin.




    they promised that dreams can come true


    Her mother appears between the pillars as Ori remembers her, tall and proud, antlers carving into the sky. For a moment Ori wonders if her illusionism has been turned against her. It would not be hard, as it has always turned against her of its own accord. Does it matter though, if this is real or an illusion? It is not her mother before her, not really, or at least she doubts it. Her mother was long gone from Beqanna and certainly wouldn’t have bothered to seek Ori out. This is her mother and it is not her mother, all at once.

    None of it matters though. Not the difference between her mother but not her mother, not the difference between reality and illusion. Kagerus charges, a bloodthirsty yell ripping from her throat. Ori is paralyized for a moment, watching as her mother comes to kill her. It almost doesn’t surprise her. Almost.

    Her shock fades and Ori runs, using the momentum to launch herself into the sky and away from Kagerus. The purpose of this was clear. The red dome that had formed around them has trapped them in. Kagerus is coming for her, the earth beneath her mother’s feet shifting up, up, up to meet Ori in the sky.

    They have to fight.

    All the anger Ori has felt over the years at her mother is gone now, vanished at the sight of her in the flesh. Real or not, it is her mother, a mother she’d hated because she’d missed her. They are emotions easy to confuse. Hatred hurts less than feeling abandoned, unwanted. The truth stuns her, the realization of it coming in a rush as the ground slams up to meet her. Ori hits the earth with a thud, tucking her wings back to her side as quickly as she can though the right one is crushed against the earth at an awkward angle. She scrambles to her feet, pain lancing through the wing as she tucks its against her.

    It doesn’t matter what she feels. This version of mother would kill her if Ori didn’t kill her mother. The choice hurts, but Ori doesn’t want to die, doesn’t want to fall here at the hands of someone who never really cared about her. She loves her mother, but not enough to give in. But what does Ori have in this fight? Wings, one bruised, and no magic or horns or fighting experience to speak of. Her mother has her powers, psychokinesis and dream manipulation. Only one will be useful in this fight, but it an unfair match indeed. If only she had her illusions.

    And then it dawns on her. Just because she doesn’t have her illusions doesn’t mean she has ceased to be a painter.

    Kagerus charges. With screaming effort and pain, Ori runs forward, launching herself up and over her mother at the last minute to avoid the antlers, kicking out in an attempt to hit her mother’s back as she flys over. Her hooves connect, but only barely, and she does little to her mother besides illicit a scream of rage. “Do you remember when I was very small?” she asks when the scream dies down, unsure if this mother would have her real mother’s memories, but it’s her only idea. Ori lands, turning around to stare down the barrel of a smoking gun. The land is receding back down, a rock hurtling at Ori dead on and she skitters to the right to avoid it. It hits her left side though, knocking the wind out of her and bruising a few ribs.
    ”We used to go down to the beach together early in the morning, before the sun rose. It would be dark like this.” She is thankful for the eerie red glow from the barrier, casting a light that, if she squinted right, felt almost like a sunrise. “We’d wait by the water for the sun to rise, standing in the waves to see who’s hooves could be buried in the black sand first.”

    Around her the world starts to change, her mother’s power creating what Ori describes. They stand on the black sand beaches of the Cove now, an ocean forming between them and the edge of the dome. The waves are not gentle though, they are large and threatening, crashing roughly against where Ori stands. “You’d stand with me,” Ori says again, trying to bring her mother closer. It works, though not in any loving way. With another bloodthirsty scream, Kagerus charges, antlers lowered. Ori runs, not away from the water but toward it, forcing her mother to follow, to chase. The wave grows larger, but her mother is too blind in her own charge to see what is happening.

    Ori launches herself into the air, wings screaming. She is too slow to get over the cresting wave and it catches her, throwing her back into the ocean. Her mother doesn’t realize what’s happening until the wave is breaking over her, claiming her as its own. Ori loses track of Kagerus as the wave throws her around, tossing her like seaweed, and then...and then the water is gone. Ori is left on the red dirt of the plains again, the feathers on her wings ripped and tattered around the edges, cuts oozing blood on her sides. Beside her is her mother’s body, neck bent at an awkward angle.

    There are no tears, though there is a pain that lances deeper than the wounds from the battle. She doesn’t try to figure it out, doesn’t give the feelings space to live. Not yet, not now. Instead she stands, walking away from the body, waiting, afraid of whatever might come next.

    but they forgot that nightmares are dreams too.

    Use of mild power playing is allowed; no injuries without permission



    The shadowmare watches as the dome appears around what she now understands to be an Arena.  She is at ease in this place, and the challenge before her is one she welcomes openly. Her attachments are few - and there were significantly more in her past than in her present.

    And then an opponent materializes. She recognizes the shape that appears between the pillars.  Cronus. Her eldest son. The heir that continued her legacy.  One of the few that had solidified a place in her heart.  Yet, she could see the bloodlust in his gaze. A smirk crawled across her lips in response. He would be a formidable foe.

    “Do your worst, Son,” she murmurs - an emotionless challenge to her chosen son.  But the flames have burst into light behind her eyes, and she allows the fire to consume her too.  Surrender, after so many decades of composure, feels incredible.

    She doesn’t break her gaze from her yellow-eyed son’s, and with no prompting - he charges.  Anaxarete shifts her wings at her sides reflexively. She judges the height between herself and the top of the dome, but remains grounded.  Cronus nears now, she can hear his breath coming in angry puffs. She readies herself.

    Anaxarete is not stronger than her son, so she has to be smart.  In this instance, she will have to use his own momentum against him.  She feigned to the left before leaping to the right, dragging the claw at the tip of her wing down her son’s side. Cronus reacts accordingly, dragging his teeth down her hindquarters a she passes by.  The shadowmare grits her teeth as the bite draws blood.  The smell of blood is thick in the air. She relishes in it - especially here, of all places.

    Before Cronus can turn, she extends the thick black wings and is airborne - causing a great storm of dry sediment as she took to the air.  She doesn’t climb high - only high enough to stay out of reach of her son. She is careful to make sure she doesn’t come near the edge of the dome, circling back and gaining speed through the turn to line herself perpendicular to her son.  With no warning, she dives straight for Cronus’s barrel. Broken ribs weren’t fatal, but they hurt like a real bitch in battle.  She used her legs as a battering ram, pleased when the concussion of contact vibrated up into her core. The momentum was enough to knock Cronus off his feet. He bellowed with the impact, wincing as the bones beneath his flesh cracked.  Anaxarete’s feet again found earth as she whirled around to face him. But Cronus had already found his footing, the pain didn’t seem to register as he bolted towards his mother.

    She knew she didn’t have time to escape to the air, so she leapt into motion so as to lessen his accuracy by wearing away some of his momentum. She kept the wings tucked to her sides - knowing that the same attack wouldn’t work twice on her son. Instead, she kept the wings wrapped around her sides like a shield. Wings were useful, but not essential to battle...to survival.  Cronus reared up before her - poised to strike. Anaxarete saw her opportunity. She launched herself forward, directly into his right leg.  Her aim did not need to be precise, for all his weight was already on his hind legs.  He roared as she made contact, shifting and dropping her forelegs on the wing tucked against his side. 

    Bones snapped. The pain was instantaneous. But it was Cronus who crumpled to the ground.  Anaxarete’s right wing hung limply at her side - dragging along the dusty earth.  The stakes were even now - for this injury grounded her.  She gritted her teeth as the pain ripped through her - only mitigated by the adrenaline of battle.

    Cronus staggered to his feet, favoring his right hind to the point where he was almost non weight bearing, dragging his toe along the cracked earth. However the bloodlust had consumed him to the point where he refused to stop - refused to admit he was beaten.  His head snaked out - teeth bared.  It was foolish - driven by instinct and an unwillingness to back down.  He was going for her face, her neck, any part of her where his teeth could find purchase. Anaxarete screamed with pain as she tucked the broken wing to her side, pivoting on her front legs and kicking out with her hinds towards her son’s head.

    She felt the impact. She felt the collision with the earth as his body hit the bloodsoaked earth.  She looked down upon her son - his breathing coming in ragged gasps, blood streaming from his side and the corners of his mouth.

    Sentiment is difficult for the shadowmare, especially when one possesses a heart of ice and stone. “You fought well, Son. I’m proud of you,” she says, cooly, staring down at her his broken body. He says nothing in response, only a sick, gurgling sound escapes his lips. She turns then - leaving him to bleed out among the bloodstained plains, turning her back on his bloodstained body.

    She then turns her gaze skyward - looking for something, anything - before another twisted smile claimed her dark lips. “What now?” she asked the void, ignoring the sounds of pain and death coming from her child strewn across the ground behind her.

    - A N A X A R E T E -
    been there, done that
    image credit  
    here comes a candle to light you to bed
    here comes a chopper to chop off your head

    The mom she had been thinking about is suddenly standing before her. Ryatah is not as Ripley remembers her - she now has angelic adornments. Ripley does not focus on the changes, however, just on the face and the eyes - the parts she knows. And those parts make Ryatah, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing Ripley has ever seen. The first face she had ever known, the first voice she had ever heard. The first face she sees now, returned to her natural body, without the eyes of a hunter. The love that this dappled mare feels for her mother is strong, amplified more so in comparison to the pit of emptiness of before.

    This love doesn't bring joy. Ripley would slay herself right here and now to spare herself from this overwhelming feeling she doesn't have the ability to comprehend. All she knows is that it brings pain with it, brings sadness and loss over a life she did not get to live.

    Over the foals she did not embrace the way her mother embraced her.

    “Mom.” Comes the hoarse voice again, cracking under the weight of the emotions swelling within her.

    She doesn't have time to break, though. A ring forms around them and Ripley’s head snaps to watch, her heart pounding as the light rises up and connects until they are trapped within a dome. She's marveling at the strange sensation of her heart racing, whether from fear or anticipation she cannot possibly know, when she hears the bloodthirsty scream coming from where Ryatah had been standing.

    Brown eyes widen in surprise and confusion. This isn't the mare who raised her - Ryatah was no warrior. Neither of her parents were even close to being fighters. She wouldn't have even guessed that they knew how to fight. But she doesn't retreat, doesn't so much as stumble backwards, from the horrifying sight of her mom coming to attack her.

    It is not so horrifying when placed next to the nightmare she has lived through, after all. In the same moment that she knows that this cannot really be her mother, just a mutated duplicate here to torture her, she becomes aware that she cannot suppress the memories of her life and the instincts they have installed within her. They are already calculating what must happen next.

    Those great, white and gold wings unfurl and Ryatah beats at the air with them, not to take off but forward to land a devastating blow. Ripley moves, feeling the loss of her usual body. No knife tail to slice, no dual jaws to crack into those fragile bones and rip the appendage off of this false-mother’s body.

    Her teeth snap towards the brim of the wing but, without her usual jaws, they fall short and she receives a glancing blow from those wings. It’s still enough to make her head spin and she makes a retaliation almost immediately - those large, solid horns moving to collide with the head of the false-mother, waiting for that satisfying crunching noise of breaking bones. But Ripley’s head moves through Ryatah’s. The white angel laughs at the confusion over her daughter’s face as she rears to strike again. The blow sends pain through Ripley’s body and she circles away for a moment.

    This girl who lived as a monster is no longer panicking. Her heartbeat has slowed and her breathing is steady. She has a hunter’s mind, and she’s already on the next step.

    So when Ryatah attacks again, Ripley’s hooves strike at her in the same moment that she feels the blows on her own body. This time, she feels the impact she has made. They begin matching blow-for-blow, each one Ripley takes she gives back before that intangibility can slip back into place. Although she can feel the impact this tactic is having on her own body, the scent of the false-mother's blood stirs her on. She might have been stripped from the monster's body, but it is not gone. She feels the frenzy stirring her the longer the fight drags out.

    There is no way for either of them to win the way they are going, fighting and biting as they are, they are tearing each other down in equal measure.

    Until, finally, she cannot take it any longer.

    Until the presence of blood has permeated Ripley's senses so thoroughly that she becomes ravenous. Her next strike comes quickly, and in such an unexpected fashion that the back-to-back blows land. First, she slams her thick ram's horse into Ryatah face. As the other mare's head spins and facial bones fracture, Ripley's head snakes forward and her teeth latch onto the fragile part of Ryatah's throat. Pupils dilated so far that her eyes nearly match those of her mom, Ripley is no longer seeing what is truly before her.

    For a heartbeat, they are both still.

    And then she tears with a savage jerk, the weight of her whole body behind the movement, and flesh and chunks of Ryatah's windpipe coming free with her mouth. Blood foams instantly as air leaks from the gash. Ryatah tries to inhale but the air leaks out instead of going into her lungs and they cannot expand. Back she stumbles until she collides with the red barrier and falls to the ground.

    This is when Ripley's heart rate finally begins to climb, when her own breathing shakes. In grief, not fury. What has she done?

    She lowers herself to the ground beside the gasping body of her mother and goes to drape her neck across that of Ryatah's. To sooth them both, to have one last embrace from her mom.

    When she does - Ripley's head smacks against the blood-soaked earth instead. She roars as she tries again and again, but it's not until the last bit of warmth, the last bit of comfort, has gone out of Ryatah's body that Ripley is finally able to touch her.

    ripley & nostromo

    Things were quiet for a moment following Aten’s newly acquired ‘blemish’, a slight buzz still ringing in his skull until the pain from the horn began to die down. Every so often, Aten would lower his head again and rub his head against his leg, doing his best to avoid actually rubbing the horn in case it would hurt. However this happened, Aten could not say, but he knew it had to do something with the voices he’d been hearing earlier.

    A voice that was suddenly returning with a vengeance. Only this one was angrier, and sounded familiar, unlike the ones from before. The stallion looked around in confusion before something began to sprout from the ground between the two pillars, a blend of shadows until they split and formed a solid object. And, to Aten’s surprise, this horse that appeared was frighteningly familiar.

    Standing before him, in his glory, was his sire. Almost a rather cliche appearance, but it was something that, even after all these years, Aten did not have the courage to face. The shadows of his sire haunted him not because of how the golden stallion was expected to be like him, but rather, another guilty sin lurking in his heart. He had promised his parents, his sire… he would take care of them…

    And to this day, he still had no idea where they were. Aten watched the horse for a moment, quietly, the two of them having a staring contest until something else changed. The horse’s skin started to shift in appearance, a display Aten also recognized since the gift was his to begin with. The horse’s fur changed so it reflected like the water in the light, indicating that diamond-hard scales had formed over it’s body, and it’s hooves began splitting apart to form the familiar sharp claws that Aten could almost feel the sensation of in his own hooves despite not being able to shift himself.

    The stallion’s nostrils flared, a thick cloud of smoke billowing out, lastly indicating he’d gained the most dangerous ability of the beast inside Aten. The golden one felt a chill run through his blood; being able to transform was one thing. Staring the beast down like this, it sent fear racing through him, and he took a step back, vaguely catching a flash of red from the corner of his eye.

    The stallion pawed at the ground before it finally spoke, it’s voice rough and hard like it’s throat had been filled with gravel and sand, “Failed… you… worthless…”

    Aten grew angered by those words, “No… no… it wasn’t my fault… I was just a weanling…”

    “Failed… worthless… you… betrayed them… forget…”

    Aten shook his head, “No… never… Mother and I… we were alone…”

    The stallion didn’t speak this time, but he let out a shrill call that slowly grew deeper until it resembled the dragon’s growl. Aten watched with a wary eye as the stallion began stepping closer, menacingly, one at a time, trying to instill fear in the golden stallion.

    Aten shook his head continuously, letting out a scream of rage as the other stallion charged. It went up on it’s back feet and began swiping at Aten, the golden stallion jumping to the side to avoid the dragon’s claws.

    “I was a foal! I never knew where they went! I tried to find them!” With each word that left his mouth, another swipe of the dragon’s claws came, and the more he went on, the closer they got to his softer flesh.

    Aten’s guilt was building now, like a load of rocks piled on his back. How could he ever forget the promise he made to his sire, to his dam? Even as the youngest sibling, he promised he’d watch out for his brother and sisters, especially Silena, since he’d been with her following the Reckoning. He’d promised his sire and dam he’d care for his family when he was younger, as his other siblings had done, but when everything went to hell…

    And Aten honestly tried hard to find them, he really did. And how hard could it be to find out news of three horses who closely matched him appearance-wise? Really, the only differences they had were in markings.

    As Aten kept jumping out of reach, he was forced to confront his thoughts. What was he grappling with here? What did he feel guilty about? Did he even feel guilty anymore? His thoughts distracted him long enough that the dragon’s claws came down and swiped his shoulder, and Aten’s mind turned from reflective, to rage.

    Turning to meet the dragon, Aten fought back, the two stallions grappling for their lives. The other had an advantage given his claws, but Aten’s own skills were on par, hooves, claws, and breath of fire flying back and forth until they were left to face each other, panting, and, in Aten’s case, a bit bloodied. The other stallion was marked with bruises, while Aten had the shoulder injury, as well as a fresh one on his withers and right hindquarter.

    His eyes narrowed as he watched the other stallion, and, in this moment of silence, he noticed something. A familiar spark in his eyes… the marking on his forehead… memories flooded Aten’s brain, and as if the horn helped him come to the conclusion when it buzzed on his head again, he figured it out.

    The guilt was not stemmed toward his father, or himself… and one day he would face it. For now, he charged first this time, and watched as the stallion reared up. Aten ducked under and pushed up with his front legs, the fresh horn on his forehead burying itself in the stallion’s chest. He felt pain as he yanked it free, and watched wordlessly as the stallion collapsed before his body faded away into dust.

    Aten’s eyes teared as he thought fondly of his sire. He looked back at the boulders again, ready.

    He’d face it… one day…

    OOC: 1,000 words. Aten's battles are still mostly with his own demons, hence the focus on mental. Given more room though he is quite a capable physical fighter.
    “She set fire to all the things that held her back,
    and from the ashes she stepped into who she always was.”

    From behind her she hears footsteps, and when she spins to see who it might be she is at first flooded with relief at the sight of a familiar face. “Voro!” She exclaims with a smile, and though he does not return the gesture she is not surprised. The peryton was always so stoic, and she had grown accustomed to his ways. He was not so naturally inclined to vivid displays of emotion like she was.

    But she is surprised at the hellish cry that rips from his throat, and the flat, almost mechanical look to his eyes. Confusion flickers across her face, and she pauses midstep, when a cool tingle of apprehension jumps erratically up her spine.

    With his head lowered he charges at her head on, and though she scrambles to leap to the left, it is not enough to avoid him entirely. With a swing of his head as he passes, one of his antlers manages to snag her hip, and the dull but unforgiving point bruises to the bone. She can feel the sharp pain that shoots up her side, favoring her right hind leg for a few steps before turning to face him. Adrenaline surges through her, electric and alive, and her mind turns to static.

    She does not try to piece together why he is acting like this.
    She does not try to reason with him – if it’s even really him – but instead she feels some primal instinct click into place, one that told her to make it out of here alive at all costs.

    Something twists in her gut, white hot and relentless, and she realizes that it is fury. Maybe when she leaves here she will be surprised at how quickly she had labeled a friend as an enemy; maybe she will regret letting her anger get the best of her and never pausing to ask questions.

    She just knows that this time, when he comes at her again, she is ready, and this time, she does not leap out of the way.

    With her nose tucked she lunges forward, ears pinned flat and her vibrant eyes narrowed. The duo clash into each other at an angle, and this time she flings her own head sideways, just enough to let the tines of her great elk antlers make direct contact with the side of his face.

    Their dance continues like that, blow after blow, teeth snapping and antlers crashing. The white of her skin is smeared with blood, some marks from his antlers and others from the talons of his back feet. But he had not made it out unscathed. She was unforgiving in her attacks, landing powerful kicks when she could, but most often meeting him head on and letting her antlers do the work for her. She took advantage of each time he dared to take flight, targeting that soft underbelly.

    Both of them bloodied and bruised, they collide one last time.

    She had seen him lower his head, and she had done the same. Previously, she had made an effort to more or less dodge him, trying to set herself up for kicks and strikes. This time, she does not. This time, she matches the ferocity of his charge with one of her own, and the sound their antlers make when they crash is deafening. It sends a painful shock vibrating down her neck, but with a grit of her teeth she shoves forward. Their racks lock together, solid and unmoving,  and even though something in the back of her mind sounds a warning – that she is now trapped against him – she does not relent. Every muscle draws taut within her, fighting back the exhaustion, refusing to let him get enough traction to knock her over. She knows that whichever one of them gives out first will lose. And she knows that she will not let it be her.

    Time seems to stand still, the seconds dragging by like hours. She feels him begin to quiver, and with a sudden burst of strength she surges against him. It is enough to knock him off balance, and though she can feel him begin to go down she does not let up. She forces him to the ground, their antlers still fastened together, and the weight of his body plummeting downwards she fears will rip hers from her skull. Sweat glistens across her skin as she stands there, head lowered and sides heaving, her adrenaline refusing to wane even when she feels Voracious’ body suddenly go limp.

    Not dead, but just done.

    She twists her head and pulls, trying to release the antlers from each other, but it is useless. She has only seen this once before, in the depths of the wild forest; the decaying carcass of two bucks locked together in combat, but neither of them the victor.

    Desperation claws inside of her chest, and almost frantically she strikes with her front legs. She doesn’t care if she accidentally lands a blow to his face, though it is not her intention. Her mark is meant to land on the tines of the antlers – either of theirs – to break off the ones that bound the two of them together.

    She succeeds, but it is not pretty. Blood pours from Voro’s face where her hooves had struck, breaking off nearly the top of his left antler and several of the tines on right, along with some of her own. But they are free, and she stumbles back, gasping and exhausted. Her muscles begin to tremble with the fatigue she had not been allowing herself to feel, and with mangled antlers perched upon her head like a broken crown she stares at her defeated opponent, silent and frigid.


    Idk how to do battle posts in a quest setting so here you go.

    hangman hooded, softly swinging; don't close the coffin yet, I'm alive

    Atrox knows who it will be before he ever sees him.

    In that way, he supposes he does have a strange kind of paternal bond. Atrox has never been the kind to be particularly fatherly to his children—there are too many, after all, for him to care about them all—but he has certainly kept tabs on the ones he had with Twinge. The ones that felt like part of a family. The ones that dwindled slowly and then all at once, until there was only one: the golden child of the Amazons.

    Magnus had always been his largest source of pride and his biggest frustration. The son who looked so much like his mother, who had all of his father’s grit—who rose up the ranks of the Chamber to prominence and then abandoned it to lead the army of the Gates. The one with the kind of ambition and bloodthirst to turn the tides of war who hobbled himself so that he could be more appealing.

    And yet—and yet. Despite that bitter disappointment, Atrox had always found himself proud of the boy and the man he had become. Stubbornly clinging to his ideals and clawing his way back from death.

    Proud enough that he had hung around Tephra to keep an eye out for him.

    Proud enough to fight on what seemed like the losing side of a war for him.

    Proud enough for Beqanna to know that losing Magnus’ memory of him was the last for him to lose.

    So, yes, he knows exactly who it will be before his eyes focus and he sees the golden stallion striding forward, the dome closing decisively behind him. There is no recognition in the other’s eyes and Atrox swallows the sudden rush of pain because of it—ignoring the keen edge of it. There is only a blind kind of agony and when Magnus rushes forward, glowing and valiant, Atrox can only rush forward to meet him.

    They clash and it is brutal more than strategic. Both are brawlers, both have long since come to live for the thrill of battle, and they come together in a rush of dirt and blood and cries. In the world where they come from, they would be evenly matched. In many ways, Atrox would have the upper hand.

    (After all, he was a predator and he commanded the souls of the dead whenever he wished it.

    Magnus was strong and immortal—but only that.)

    But here? Here Atrox was stripped of his gifts of war and left to battle a stallion who came without any reservations, without any ties—as bright and brilliant as the sun. The pair square off and Atrox studies him quickly, his yellow eyes flashing to him, but Magnus is unrelenting. The space in between the attacks is but a breath before he is charging again. Atrox’s opponent, his son, rears and strikes out with his front legs. Atrox rises to meet him until limbs tangle and he feels the hooves scrape down his shoulders.

    Atrox has but one advantage, and he knows it.

    Knows it every time he swings his abnormally heavy head, feeling the weight of it.

    But for all the lives that he has taken without blinking, for all of the wars he has fought with nothing but joy in his heart, he finds that he cannot wield it. He hesitates—fighting on the defensive. Magnus reaches out and snaps his jaws, closing on an ear and pulling hard. Atrox grits his teeth and is thankful when the flesh doesn’t give, grateful that the buckskin releases it quickly and lands heavily in front of him.

    For the first time in his life, Atrox feels his mind whirling with possibilities—but none of them are how to defeat Magnus. They are all about how to get out of this, to escape, to leave his son in tact. He misses that Magnus spins around until the last second and it is by instinct alone that he adjusts his weight, balancing over his hindquarters and throwing himself to the side just as Magnus rockets forward and kicks back.

    Magnus’ hooves collide with Atrox’s chest and the stallion feels the wind leave him. Feels the bruises form, blood pooling under the flesh, the hide scraped raw. He glances up and sees Magnus come down hard, not bothering to jump away but pivoting instead to come back for another close-quarter brawl.

    Something clicks in Atrox then.

    It happens in slow motion.

    Whatever he feels for Magnus—frustration, pride, love—forms into a stone that settles into his chest and he buries it deep. Atrox settles his weight and swings his neck as if to protect it until Magnus makes the turn, his heavy body coming back for the kind of physical collision they both love—brutal and battering.

    Just as Magnus finishes the turn to be nearly parallel with his sire, too close to stop himself,  Atrox swings his head back. He doesn’t hesitate now—dropping his head and angling upward into the dappled chest.

    He feels the way the horn slides into the flesh.

    Feels the way that it skewers his golden son, the ivory tip sliding into the very place where Atrox’s chest was empty. Where its very emptiness now stood as a counterweight for the memories lost.

    The impact sends an instant ache spreading down Atrox’s neck from the collision, the kind of pain that leaves you breathless—but not nearly as breathless as the knowledge that he had been successful.

    He swallows when the dust settles, when Magnus slowly slumps to the ground, falling away.

    He shakes himself free of the corpse and glances up, stone-faced, blood-streaked, and still.

    [Image: atrox.png]

    now be defiant, the lion, give them the fight that will open their eyes


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