Springtide Rosalia 2021 - Rosalia #8) One Night to Live

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Description: "Sir Gallon, in consideration of a favor your father once did for mine, I offer you this opportunity. There is a weed growing in my garden. Victory over this wild Rose will see you rewarded with a flowering Azure Wolf's Bane. Thought by most to be extinct, consuming the petals of this rare specimen will afford you twenty-four hours of respite from your curse one night a year. Should you rob Lady Blackthorn of her life, steeping the petals in her dying blood will convert them into a Scarlet Wolf's Bane, thought to be a cure to your particular affliction... The choice is yours. -Rachel Alucard"

In the wee hours of the night, the Old Bernard Gardens sit in gloom. The grounds and interior of Castle Alucard share a tenuous relationship with temporal world at the best of times, its structure and layout maddeningly protean; the maze-like gardens may madden all the more, living and labyrinthine as they are. Thick foliage forms verdant passageways through the grounds, opening hither and thither into pockets of sanctuary, where red-crowned trees and immortal statues rest in copses overrun with low-lying greenery. Here and there, wrought iron fences provide some sense of order, and the sense that humanity once ruled here, though now all has been surrendered to nature.

Then again, what form does nature take in this supernatural environs?

A burgeoning shaft of moonlight penetrates the darkness above, creeping across the garden and filtering through the trees to pull the shadows back from a silhouette wandering entranced through one of the thorny corridors of the garden maze.


The young woman's rose-red lips purse as the moonlight washes over her pale skin, grey eyes shifting with casual curiousity beneath her black hair and the wooden tiara that she wears over it. She's dressed in a ruffled, short and shoulderless black affair, designed to appear floral and petal-like from the straps to the thighs, at which point the dress ends and a pair of sleek black tights begins. Her footwear is unusual; somewhere between a pair of greaves and high-heels that appear to each be formed of a single piece of natural brown wood.

"Perhaps this way," the woman decides aloud. The high pitch of her voice in combination with her posh accent gives her a sound somewhat like a well-to-do child.

Turning, the woman steps into the bramble-filled wall of the maze, ruffled dress and all.

When she emerges from the other side, she and her dress appear miraculously unscathed, the foliage reforming unharmed as if she'd never passed through it. Only a couple of already-dead leaves accompany her passage, falling from her hair. She's about to take another step forward when she stops and looks up.

"Oh, hallo, there~"

A large stalk looms overhead, a pink bell-shaped opening at its end, with something resembling a thin tongue hanging out. The plant leans back in response to the woman's address, stepping backward on three thick, root-like appendages.

"You must be Wendell," the pale, raven-haired girl says, reaching up to stroke the stalk of the curiously-mobile plant lightly with her bare fingertips. "I'm delighted to meet you."

Some sort of nectar starts to roll down the plant's extruding appendage, like drool down the tongue of an excited puppy.

Briar Rose leans up conspiratorially close to whisper to the plant.

"Now, be very still and quiet - I think someone's coming," she whispers, before both plant and girl meld into the living wall with a rustling of leaves.

'In consideration of a favor your father once did for mine'

That is how the letter began. The letter promising respite from his condition. The letter promising moreso a cure. A fascinating claim. A fantastical one. One that, nevertheless, bore a need to be researched. Once a man, now a Darkstalker, Jon Talbain had spoken to many of his kind in the recent months. The upheaval of a world and the recognition of beings perviously considered unknown had made for a strange existence. He had lived for years, decades even, hiding himself away in meditation and in training. He would control this existence. He would control this beast.

In that time he learned that the Man was as much a monster as the Wolf within. He had come to acknowledge his rage at the bandits that robbed him of his loved ones. Bandits he had eviscerated at the end of his own hands. Hands that become claws. He raged, and that rage had honed him. And now there are curious letters promising him that it would be rage that would cure him?

As a prospect, Talbain found it suspect.

And yet here he was, seemingly alone in an impossible garden maze. It was natural, and it was not. The scents were real perfumes that stung his nose and awashed his senses in a cacophony of smell that threatened to blind him in ways most humans would find impossible to understand. In many ways it was worse than the accursed geometry of an animate labyrinth. The Wolf snarled. The Man grudged impotently.

His paws are soft of the ground, but it's age and convenient withering at places robs a predator of a quiet approach. He knows this, even as he seeks this Rose. A metaphoric pun that the Wolf took no care of, though it was noisome to the Man. He knew there was blood to spill here. And he suspected this blood was seeking his in kind. The games of Darkstalkers were hardly different from those of Man. For all their different appearances, capriciousness was a shared conceit of both kines.

Gallon stops, something not flowering was there. Near him. He snorts. His eyes slip closed. He listens, his breath fading, slipping into the deep meditation of his martial practice. To hear what is hidden, to find the scent of flesh among flower.

Strangely, even that hint of humanity on the wind seems steeped in the natural fragrances of the garden maze as the wolfman stalks through it. There is an underlying scent, though, like grave dirt - something undisturbed for decades or longer, only recently exhumed. It's not entirely unique in the grounds of a vampire castle, but it at least grants some clue as to where the Lady Blackthorne that he is meant to be seeking may lurk.

As the werewolf delves deeper and further into the labyrinth on his hunt, the very life around him starts to appear more lively; freshly-bloomed flowers guide his path, though they may at the same time torment the Wolf with their fragrance. Sounds of vines creeping against stone and wood carry through the verdant passageways.

Whether inviting or infuriating, to a predator, it would surely smack of a trap.

"Here, doggie~"

Finally, that high, feminine sing-song comes sonorously through the night, drifting from just around a corner in the hedge.

There, lounging cross-legged atop a much-oversized toadstool, waits Lady Blackthorne - almost certainly, judging by the thorny tiara that she wears and the everblooming red rose tucked into it. She would present quite the enchanting and perhaps even innocent figure... if it weren't for the dozen bramble vines of varying lengths that hang from the crimson-leaved tree under which she sits, each carefully looped and tied at the end into a hangman's knot.

A dance of scents upon the air. Soft and and floral mixing with the subtle tang of flesh and blood. They play and mingle in curious ways. Gallon, Jon Talbain, follows the scent around. The cthonic stench of damp earth comes clearer with the growing closeness. But with that death comes forth the life within the loam. The vibrant colors grow, the intensity of the smell. The enticement of the prize within the passages.

It is a draw. It may be a 'trap', but Gallon is well aware of his capability, and his claws.

Claws dig deep in earth where Gallon stops. A sweet tone, high and ringing. Within the hedge and atop a fungus. The young woman in the finery. The liar's crown atop her head. A carefully saccharine thing. But in the world of Beasts, the brighter colors suggest toxins within.

And besides, Gallon is already familiar with a monster that wore the face of a tired young girl. He is not one to be fooled by the innocent. He crosses his arms, standing tall and looking up at the young woman even as he seems to look down upon her.

"You are Blackthorne?" he questions in his hard, accented voice. "You have been told to kill me, no doubt. What treasures has the host plied you with?"

There's a pleased smile on the dark-haired young lady's face at the mention of her familial name, and she gives a flourishing stretch, raising her dainty arms above her head.

"Yes, Lady Blackthorne," the girl confirms for Gallon's benefit before drawing a long breath that puffs up her chest proudly. "I was worried that everyone had forgot after I slept so long - especially the monsters. The lads at the castle didn't remember, so I had to make an example."

There's an eerie silence for a moment as the wind blows through the tree, bringing the hanging vines overhead to sway with grim portent.

"I think you're more clever than they were. Lady Alucard didn't mention a treasure to me, though -"

Lady Blackthorne tilts her head, giving Gallon an eerily innocent, yet penetrating look.

"- nor did she mention murdering. Has she offered you a bounty for trying to have me done, then?"

The curiously earthy-smelling noblewoman makes a tutting sound. All around the toadstool that she's seated on, little wildflowers start to rise up in rapid bloom.

"She did tell me I should defeat you, but I think of defeat in less distinct terms. Father's dungeons were always brimming with the defeated - and monsters, besides. He didn't just kill them; he played with them until they broke."

A smile creeps once more across Lady Blackthorne's rose-red lips.

"You look like fun to play with."

So this is the creature Gallon had been sent to kill. A creature, the beast thinks, because for all her personage she lacked the humanity he would have expected in others. The Gallon, Blackthorne was a predator, one of a different type, but one nonetheless. He had, on arrival, believed the missive to be offering a fool's test. A capricious ploy to a selfish nature. Dangle a cure for the affliction that is his lupine form but at the cost of some innocent's life. It would have been a simple thing to deny.

But this cloying creature was not so innocent. By her admissions in word, he suspected little of the worlds of waking and dreaming would be harmed in trimming this plant before its bloom.

Gallon's hand twitches, his shoulders roll forward. The Beast is eager to hunt. And the Man sees little reason to disallow its proclivities. "You and your words are tiresome," he snarls. "I have known better deceivers than yourself."

He points a sharp claw toward the noblewoman on the mushroom. "These games are tiresome. Now show me you are ready for me power!"

COMBATSYS: Gallon has started a fight here.

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Gallon           0/-------/------=|

The raven-haired lass tips her head forward and lets out an indignant huff, blowing a few dark strands away from her fair visage.

"If you're feeling weary, doggie, then perhaps I can help put you to sleep. First, we'll play, though; it's been such a long time since I had a nice, fluffy pet to play with, and my limbs could do with a good stretch~"

As she makes a show of stretching her arms out to her sides, there's a sickly organic squelching sound from behind her, and a pair of slick green bramble vines rise from her exposed shoulder blades, undulating in the air like tentacles. The two limbs latch onto a pair of low-hanging branches before lifting the unveiling monster off of the toadstool and up onto her wooden heels.

"Now, come here and give us a cuddle, sweet doggie!"

As she coos her imperative, her dainty fingers flex, stretching out her long, sharp nails - nails upon which the Wolf would perhaps be able to detect the tell-tale scent of nightshade.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose has joined the fight here.

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Gallon           0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0       Briar Rose

A strong scent indeed. Potential poison. The Beast balks at the idea of risking things with claw and fang. But the Beast is not alone in Gallon's soul. The Man has means, and those are the means by which he moves.

A snapping motion, swift and purposeful. Without claw, he takes up the nunchaku tucked within the sash he wears about his waist. He knows the girl is taunting him, but his mind pays little heed so early in a contest. Gallon is old, he is experienced, he is not swayed by cloying words used with cruel intent.

A blur of fur and fury, the werewolf leaps for the woman and lashes outward with a flailing storm of strikes with the battering nunchaku. Fitting, he does think somewhere in the back of his mind, that a weapon derived from an old threshing instrument be used to bash and batter the plantlife.

COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Briar Rose with Million Flicker.

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Gallon           0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0       Briar Rose

The poisonous black-haired lady cants her head curiously as Gallon draws his nunchaku, the threat in her stance fading for a moment in favour of bemusement.

"What sort of peasant's tool is that? Are you some sort of farmer, wolfie boy?"

The taunting turns to cries of pain and surprise as the weapon batters her body, though, delicate as she may appear, Lady Blackthorne seems to be possessed of some manner of supernatural resilience. The vines looped around the branches retract, flailing angrily in the air.

"Hasn't your master taught you not to trample flowers, doggie?"

Twisting out of the assault, Briar Rose flexes her fingers, then snaps her hand back viciously in an attempt to deliver a backhand rake of her poisoned nails - a scarce scratch, if successful, but if injected, the temptress' toxins would prove painful indeed...

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose successfully hits Gallon with Poison Prick.
- Power hit! -

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Gallon           0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1       Briar Rose

A simple strike. Clawing with nails, terribly human things. Gallon reads the strike as untrained and lacking. Nothing to defend against, nothing to care for. The defense the beast throws up is lacking in planning and precision. A sloughing guard. Nothing that he could normally handle.

It proves to be a mistake.

The scratch does nothing so obvious at first, but soon the burning sensation courses through Gallon's veins. A pulse with each heartbeat. A throbbing stretch of poison that runs in his veins.

The werewolf skitters back. Not necessarily through shyness at the pain. The poison may be present, but the bloodline of a Makai noble flows through Talbain. What the poison burns, he is swiftly healing. And he knows the feeling of that itching stitch and the soothing numbness that follows.

Gallon is, at this moment, not one for banter. The words and nicknames are not things the Beast rises to, and so far they are too childish for the Man to feel compelled by. Rather he resolves to put to use a very physical approach. One that sees him surge forward once more, bouncing back swiftly with a heavy, gouging claw to cut down the Briar Rose.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose fails to interrupt Fierce Punch from Gallon with Bramble Burst.

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Gallon           0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1       Briar Rose

Lady Blackthorne holds her arm at length from her frame and wiggles her fingers to loose the fur and blood from her nails before retracting it. Her lips are curved into a self-pleased smile as her silver eyes regard Gallon.

"What's the matter, doggie? Have you lost your bark?"

The noxious nymph uses the vines protruding from her back to step backward through the hanging vines as Gallon skitters back, then surges toward her. She holds her left hand back as a dark green tone starts to creep along her skin from the tips of her fingers, her wooden heels digging into the earth as she draws energy from it... and then channels it back into it.

As she swings her hand upward, there's a quaking beneath the dirt, and a spiny green pillar bursts into life from below. Before she can complete the sorcerous evocation, though, Gallon is upon her, his claws carving gashes through the side of her chest as she twists with the heavy blow and cries out girlishly.

"Oh, look what you've done, doggie!" Briar Rose laments as she retreats and presents the bloodied side of her bosom to Gallon, showing the nasty-looking cuts as they seep a darker red than the fresh wounds should flow.

"You've ruined my dress!" Briar Rose whinges petulantly. "I'm going to have to kennel you for that!"

Gallon has struck. The tearing cut carries Gallon's lean form through to the garden ground. He hits fours and runs for the wall. He knows she's talking. He knows she's continuing on the same tack. But he knows he has made her bleed. Bleed something, but fluids are fluids.

A thumping in his head and chest. The blackened veins pulse deeper under his cobalt colored pelt. As it crawls further, the monstrous health of his kind begins to put repair to his body.

Gallon sets to pressuring his fanciful opponent. He bounds, bestial, hurtling for the labyrinth walls and caroms off of it. With a wild, ear-splitting howl, his whole form takes on a shimmering hue as he spirals down for Briar Rose, claws out, crashing down like a wild comet.

COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Briar Rose with Diving Beast Cannon.

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Gallon           0/-------/-======|=======\=------\1       Briar Rose

The pale Rose whirls around as Gallon bounds and leaps toward her from the strange angle using his animal agility, her grey eyes glowering at the diving darkstalker. As she sweeps her right hand up, the same viridescent hues start to quickly spread through it, and a large, leafy growth sprouts from the ground like a shield to defend her. The werewolf's claws slice right through the defensive foliage, though, tackling the thorny maiden to the mossy earth.

"/You/ are a very naughty dog," Briar chastises as she pushes herself up in an attempt to assert some dominance over the situation by forcing Gallon off with her body. "Now, roll over!"

The thorn-covered tendrils from her back dive down into the soil, anchoring her like a pair of roots as they grow longer and thicker. As they drink from the earth, the gashes covering Lady Blackthorne can be seen to flow a greener hue before they begin to clot up and seal, not as quickly as Gallon's might, but in a nevertheless unnatural (or hypernatural) manner. By now, the veins running to her discoloured hands are pulsing green.

"You know what the trouble with dogs is? No respect for nature!"

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blooms with natural power!

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Gallon           0/-------/-======|=======\=====--\1       Briar Rose

The rushing rage of a beast takes Gallon past Rose and landing on the far side, still low, muscles ready to burst forward like a spring under pressure. The werewolf grips the dirt under him, his yellow eyes settling on his opened prey. The wolf hunts through harrying. He cannot let up, and he cannot hold off. He has to continue to put the pressure on this girl.

Her own delay allows for the werewolf to shake off the last of the poisons that run through his body. The poisons fading from his system. "You know nothing of the fury of nature. You are a mockery of the wild. I am a part of it," he tells her, watching her soak the energies of the earth around her.

Like before, a wild howl splits the air because the wolf is pouncing again. Roaring forward, firing off like a bullet from a gun. His claws crossing in front of him as his rising slashing threatens to rip open his prey on the rise.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blocks Gallon's Rising Beast Cannon ES.

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Gallon           0/-------/-======|=======\=======\1       Briar Rose

This time, as Gallon roars forward, Briar fends his claws with a crossing of her own arms, delicate-looking wrists catching the sharp tips. The resulting scratches along them ooze green, the damage somehow seeming less harsh in spite of the maiden's soft appearance.

"And you know nothing of nature's beauty," Rose retorts as she recoils, throwing back her long, ebony hair as she lowers her arms to her sides, rising up ominously on the paired vines as the petal-like straps of her dress slide down her shoulders. Her head leans to one side with a contradictory air of cold detachment and anger in her eyes.

"Man or beast, always clawing and pissing and feeling superior!"

As the dress slinks down and more of the monstrous maiden's alabaster flesh is exposed, an enormous red rosebud starts to emerge from her bosom, rapidly blooming crimson.

Suddenly, Lady Blackthorne whips her arms wide and thrusts her chest forward. As she does, a wet, organic sound can be heard, and the rose's core violently expels a fusillade of thorns in rapid succession, each roughly a hand's length and thick as a finger at the base while needle-sharp at the tip - and, as Gallon may come learn, each tinged with a fast-acting dose of Lady Blackthorne's deadly toxin!

"Nature will be blooming from your carcass long after you're gone!"

It seems that her pistil operates in fully-automatic mode.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose successfully hits Gallon with Thorny Barrage.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~
# Disabling hit! #

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Gallon           1/------=/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

A barrage of thorns. A terrible torrent firing forth and filling the air with tiny toxic terrors. Gallon moves like lightning. He flows like water, but even that isn't enough for the shear potential of the lady's noble assault.

Needles jab and sting and burn. Gallon lurches left and right, drops to a knee, his claws dig deep into the ground. Gripping the garden's loam and tearing it out with a frightful howl.

It ends, and the Beast curls inside. The man is left to look through Talbain's yellowed eyea. He stares at that woman. His breathing slows to a steady, meditative flow. He grips upon his nunchaku and puts his focus into a simple form kata. Collecting, he sets his attention, and his enhanced lupine senses toward reading the field of combat. All the while, the Darkstalker blood in his veins draws closed the many wounds on his body, dropping the thorny spines to the ground. However, the pain and poison linger on.

COMBATSYS: Gallon focuses on his next action.

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Gallon           1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

With the stinging salvo released, the crimson blossom shrinks back into Briar Rose's bosom, pale skin sliding slickly together to hide the leaves and petals once more. The bramble-vines tethering her to the soil lower her down closer to Gallon, letting her step daintily closer. The howl of the beast washes over her, blowing through her hair, but she only smiles without flinching.

"Ohh, poor creature. So much struggling. If only you'd stop and enjoy this lovely garden."

There's something almost sincere in the oddly comforting tones of the woman, though doubtless her capricious cajoling would leave the wolfman wary even if he weren't devoting such intent to maintaining clarity. A pleasant, calming aroma wafts off of the black-haired maiden as she draws a hand full of some sort of purple powder up to her lips.

"Rest, sweet doggie~"

With a little puff from powerful lungs, the purple power spreads through the air in a thick, billowing cloud.

The fragrance of the cloud is beautiful, rose-like - but the faintest taste on the olfactory senses would warn of the hazard even if not guessed; a potent tingling would lead to a rapid fading of sensation and power in the affected extremities, a blissful call to collapse and sleep. A fighter's will might be able to mitigate or even overcome it, but failure would lead to an intense sense of intoxication...

COMBATSYS: Gallon interrupts Soporific Spores from Briar Rose with Dragon Cannon.

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Gallon           0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

The beat of the heart. The moment of anticipation. The clear braggadocio of his opponent. Lesser opponents would be cast aside for this. But the Lady Blackthorne is not one of those mere mortals with more confidence than sense.

Still, Jon Talbain does not rise to the goading of this woman. He knows what struggle is, and she has yet to push him toward limits. And he spores are becoming something his inhuman stamina is growing more accustomed toward.

The spores rain and settle, he can feel their toxic touch, but they do little to sap his strength. All the same, he knows his moment and he finishes his flourishing kata with a strong stance and a howl that brings with it a chorus of voices.

From seemingly beyond, a trio of spectral werewolves, disembodied jaws open and baring fang, race from the veil beyond and behind Gallon. This iridescent pack races through the air, the chi infused eddies roaring from behind blow and blast much of the spores from the garden as the pack hurtles to tear and rend the Lady of the Garden.

The midnight-haired maiden's silver eyes go from inviting to wide as the spectral werewolves roar through her crippling cloud.

"No! No, no, NO!"

Briar Rose thrashes and protests as the ghostly garou mob and maul at her, wounding and tearing at her dress and skin. By the time that she's fought them off, much of the fabric is red or ruined, and her long hair is a perfect mess. Glowering at Gallon as she rises back on her tendrils, she reaches up to rectify her skew-whiff crown.

"You're quite the monster, doggie. But, I didn't wrest myself from that bloody curse just to be put back in the crypt by some mangy hound!"

Strangely, the woman's accent - difficult to place already - seems to fluctuate between posh and peasant-like, stereotypes being what they are.

Closing her eyes and biting down on her lower lip, Lady Blackthorne takes on a look of pain and concentration - one that might be slightly comedic, in other lights - before, with another loud squelching, two more thorny vines erupt from her mid-back, slithering up to sling themselves around the branches of the trees overhead. The red in the leaves starts to darken and shrivel as Briar Rose's eyes open once more, a redness starting to seep into the grey of her irises. The four tentacle-like vines hold her aloft like the legs of a great, green spider.

"I intend to live, even if that means that other things have to die! That's nature!"

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose blooms with natural power!

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Gallon           0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

And so it seems that, once again, the truth of a person is shown through the struggles of conflict. From the huntress, to the earnest luchadore, to the Darkstalker in service to those that would kill them. Each one had been hidden behind one veneer or another only to be shown for who they truly are in the wake of conflict.

Except for the strange American in the top hat. He apparently had nothing to hide of himself.

In the wake of the pack's surge, Gallon finishes his flourish and once more slips his nunchaku into his sash-belt before dropping to his low and hunched posture. A roll of his neck to clear the tension and allow the poisons to be battled by the exceptional healing of his body. "So this is who you are," he remarks in a tone not accusatory, more a statement of fact than surprise. When he does judge, it's to say, "This drive is preferable to the prior showcase."

He lowers himself down and challenges, "Show me your will to survive. Challenge me!" And with that, he surges forward. Running low as a beast, he switches up with a very human rising heel palm to strike hard at the young woman's chin. Simple and trained, with little fanfare but his mastery of form.

COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Briar Rose with Aggressive Strike.

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Gallon           0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2       Briar Rose

The Lady of the Garden - a fitting title, even on this foreign soil - looms with her metaphorical teeth bared, her monstrous, verdurous form and murderous will to survive on display, cuts across her skin and outfit exposing flesh and curiously coloured life-blood.

"Very well!"

She sweeps her left arm up to defend her person as Gallon rises up with his lycan palm.

"If that's what you -"


"- mmph!"

The dryad-like damsel makes a muffled protesting sound as her mouth is forcibly shut, Gallon's blow slipping her guard and jerking her head back with the impact, likely made to bite her own tongue.

Snapping her head back forward as she lurches to balance herself with her viny extrusions, Briar Rose regards Gallon with cold fury.

"Alright, doggie! You've had your taste; now it's my turn!"

The lower pair of tentacle-like vines seem to stretch further, digging deeper into the soil, while the upper ones each swing domineeringly forward to the other side of Gallon, as if the great spider were stepping forward to leer over him, attempting to corner him backward. At the same time, a bed of thorns and roses spring up from the soil behind him. Then, with sudden violence, Briar herself lunges forward with the assistance of the appendages, hands extended, aiming to tackle Gallon onto the rose-bed and hold him down against the strange sensation combination of soft petals and pricking points.

Then, if successful, Lady Blackthorne would lean down, rose-red lips parting with seeming romantic intent amongst the seductive scent of flowers - though rather than any promised bliss, only the bitter taste of blood from where Briar bit her own tongue and the rush of burning, paralytic poison would accompany the amatory attempt.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose successfully hits Gallon with Bed of Roses.

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Gallon           0/-------/----===|>>>>>>-\-------\0       Briar Rose

Gallon threw himself into that strike. Putting his all into the blow. It served him well in striking his opponent, but with so much force put into his rushing onslaught, he left himself quite open when it came to keeping his guard up. He isn't ready for the vines as they slip and grip tightly. They pull and drag him to the ground, pulling him to the bed of thorns and dragging him tight.

The thorns dig their terrible poison into his hide. They scour him, and fight against the nature of his own unnatural energies. They burn, sear and boil his blood.

And then she brings her lips to his snout. The blood, and its poisons, tastes of fire and iron. It threatens to hold still, to paralyze, to keep the Jon Talbain still.

But there is more within the werewolf Gallon than humanity. The Beast can taste the poison, but more importantly, it tastes blood.

Gallon's pupils restrict to pinpricks. A growl builds in his throat. His body tenses, tightens, tears forward at the tendrils binding him. He thrashes with wild bite and claw. He savages for the close in Lady. She may be poison, but she has given an unnatural predator the taste of what it desires most.

COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Briar Rose with Combo Grapple.
- Power hit! -

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Gallon           0/-------/---====|>>>>>>-\-------\0       Briar Rose

Atop the beast, Briar Rose closes her eyes, seemingly oblivious to Gallon's monstrous nature as she asserts her own. It's an instinctive predatory act, largely untested, and experimentation does run in the Blackthorne family. It's expected that the wolf would be weakened by the poisonous attack, but how much so is perhaps overestimated, as the gently noxious murder-attempt suddenly becomes a violent frenzy.


Claws rip through Lady Blackthorne's already-damaged dress and tights, tearing both till either can only barely cling to her frame. Discoloured blood seeps from slash marks across her exposed skin. Even as it does, though, her flesh darkens, blood vessels turning purple and green as black, leafy growths start to sprout to preserve her modesty where her dress fails to do so. The garment falls away as she takes on the form of a hybrid between plant and woman, her supernatural form sustaining her in spite of what seem grievous injuries.

"You play too rough, doggie!"

Scrambling and rolling, the dryad-esque maiden tries to slip behind the beastman, attempting to hook her delicate-looking (but now almost woodenly solid) arm around Gallon's neck to try and choke him into submission.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose successfully hits Gallon with Choke Hold.
- Power hit! -

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Gallon           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0       Briar Rose

Tear, grip, rend. The aggression builds in Gallon, sending him slashing his way up and out of the woman's bed of roses. But he has become unfocused in his rage, surging forth and struggling wildly against the young Lady. And, successful as he may be, his violent loss of focus tears him past the woman, and exposing his back.

She finds purchase on the lanky lycanthrope, and with her solid arms she finds a tight grip against his windpipe. The force chokes the air from him, gasping, and cutting the snarls to a steady, chesty growl. Her weight isn't much, but it's enough to put a hold on him. And its enough to bring the rage of the Beast into pause.

The yellow eyes stare wildly, then dip, then calm. The Man asserts. Jon Talbain knows the clutch, the stiffened strength of the woody limb presses hard, but it's not impossible to handle. He worms a claw inside, he turns his neck just so, angling his blood supply to be free. Shallow breaths are better than no blood reaching the brain.

And as the Beast slips back, the Man reasserts. Close words, quiet ones, ask a simple question. "How much longer do you have?" He questions, curious and cunning, wondering if his growing ragged opponent is working on borrowed time. She seems to be growing desperate, and she had mentioned a curse. And Jon Talbain is a man who has learned to live with his ever growing lifespan that time is often something he has to his advantage. Poisoned touches aside.

COMBATSYS: Gallon gains composure.

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Gallon           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0       Briar Rose

The black-haired lady gives a disdainful sniff at Gallon's query. She senses that he's managed to find a way to sustain himself through her attempt to deliver him from her own arms to those of Morpheus. Still, she's suspicious - is he trying to goad her, or parley? Her silver eyes narrow.

"Why? Do I seem dozy to you, doggie?"

Since her chokehold is slipping anyway, she slides her arms down more comfortably to the werewolf's midsection.

"'Cause I'm not! I'm sharp as ever!"

The prickling tendrils on her back latch into the soil and lift her up briefly, before suddenly twisting ferociously, aiming to slam Gallon back onto the dirt with her once again in the dominant position!

"Now, play dead, or I'll make you!"

COMBATSYS: Gallon blocks Briar Rose's Grounding Throw.

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Gallon           0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0       Briar Rose

Stay alive, that's the matter of moments. The longer he can stay up, the better he will be, the more the rage of the Beast will build and sustain him. But he needs moments of mindfulness, time to recoup and to let the dark curse within him sustain him through the soporific assaults from Lady Blackthorne.

Getting her to taunt and talk has shifted, then from annoyance to strategy. If he keeps her pushing, he knows his body will work through the spores and poisons and come through the other side stronger for it. And all of it for the sake of a plant. A cure for his kind.

A cure he wonders if he so much as even needs. The question had been on his mind. With all he has seen, was it truly power if he has to resort to the strange missives making promises through an unknown father's deeds? Is it his strength that earns him humanity if he maims for it? Kills for it? Even if the target is one as unsympathetic as his current challenger?

Questions though they are, they are for another time. In the beat of the moment, Gallon must continue to survive. He opts to roll with the woman, to use her weight to guide himself. He spills over the ground and in that passing he sloughs off the gripping woman, breaking through her grasp and rising to all fours. He surges for the walls of the garden again, and with all his momentum, leaps for the wall and bounds off of it, bouncing like ball back down toward that Poison Rose with a half-howled kiai and a targeted dropping kick.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose just-defends Gallon's Diving Kick!

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Gallon           0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0       Briar Rose

As Gallon comes careening off of the garden walls again toward the ravaged Rose, a shadowy figure suddenly lumbers into frame, lean stalk rising up from the foliage to regard the descending wolf with tongue-like appendage hanging from its mouth.

It's Wendell!

The curiously mobile tripedal plant stands its ground, preparing to sacrifice itself for Lady Blackthorne as the werewolf dive-kicks toward them.

"Wendell! You silly flower! Stop that!"

One of the vines on Briar's back whips out as she leans and twists her leaf-clothed body, catching the brave plant around its stem and hoisting it out of the way. At the same time, the Lady raises a hand up, conjuring a shrubbery of her own from her palm with a gleam of verdant energy, and the wolf's paw (or foot) crashes into the newborn foliage, exploding it into a pile of leaves that fall to the ground. The two lower tentacles on Briar's back start to sweep up the fresh plant matter as their mistress rises to her feet and edges back from Gallon. Meanwhile, Wendell is deposited safely to one side of the bountiful battlefield.

"Let's not play silly games, Wendell! You nearly hurt yourself!"

Chastising as she may be, Briar Rose clearly has a much softer feeling toward the silent, yet seemingly intelligent (after a fashion) plant.

"Now, let your nanny deal with this naughty doggie, and we'll find another game to play!"

Though she addresses Wendell, Briar Rose's silvery eyes settle on Gallon as she speaks. Her much-disrobed flesh starts to ripple as poison spines sprout up across her body, and, rising on her lashing vines, she starts to flip end over end, winding faster and faster - until they suddenly rip free of the soil and spin with her as she rolls forward, aiming to crash as a spinning, spiny mass into Gallon!

COMBATSYS: Gallon interrupts Bramble Roll from Briar Rose with Climb Razor.

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Gallon           1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\0       Briar Rose

Crashing into plants. It probably should have been expected. But the sacrificial plant, that was not. Moreover, that she did seem to go out of her way to save that plant the trouble of being battered into pulp is not going unnoticed.

The wolf rises from the leaves, shaking the matter from his fur. His ears twitchatwitch and direct when the woman addresses her plant. His eyes narrow, a low growl settles in his throat. The survivor seemed to have been subsumed by the saccharine role again. He wished he could be more disdainful, but the exhaustion of the fight was pulling deep at him. He would survive much, but it was growing worrisome.

He needed to keep ahead. To stay alive just a moment longer. To pull through and allow his body to heal.

Down he settles, given the moment to collect himself while Blackthorne tends to her plants. He can read the signs of her approach. There it is! The rolling sphere of briars and brambles that careens toward him has a single solution that he can see. And one that he puts into practice. Down he flattens himself, growl in his throat. And as she rolls and roils toward him he turns upward with a raging howl that pierces the air and shakes the trees. A flipping, backward rolling, kick connects hard, casting aside the rolling thorn coated spheres like so many soccer balls.

If it weren't for the fact that she's one of those rare Brits to not be familiar with soccer - due, largely, to being one of those even rarer Brits to be too old to remember it being invented, having slept through the whole of the Victorian era - even Briar Rose might appreciate the circumstances of her defeat.

As it is, she simply lets out a pained cry as she's kicked up and over the wolf like a wayward conker, gathering leaves and dirt as she hurtles out of control to crash into a tree trunk. She unfurls, nearly-defoliated, the discoloration in her veins and flesh starting to recede as her pale, battered and bloodied form slumps against the roots. The spines retreat into her skin as she turns her glazing eyes dazedly toward Gallon.

A spiteful look fills them.

"Come, doggie... you've... won your prize," she gasps out as blood drips from her brow. "Come here, and..."

Suddenly, one of the vines which has been strewn between Gallon and Briar since she was kicked over him snaps to momentary life, lashing out to try and catch him around the leg.


If the weakened, wilting bramble manages to snag the werewolf, he'll find himself flung hard into one of the overhanging branches of the tree that Lady Blackthorne has collapsed under, before she fades.

COMBATSYS: Briar Rose can no longer fight.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Gallon           1/-----==/=======|

COMBATSYS: Gallon blocks Briar Rose's Bramble Slam.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Gallon           1/----===/=======|

Landing amid the dying grasses, worn and withered by the suction of life by the deadly nightshade that is, or was Lady Blackthorne, Gallon stands once more and this time truly triumphant. His chest rises and falls in great heaves. The air is thick with sweat, blood and poisons. But knows he has overcome the danger. He has surpassed this threat, and this challenge, and he has won his prize.

A final ploy, this violent bramble scratches and whips for Gallon's ankle. He responds with a quick and decisive pull, and a final stomp to snap the thorns. It hurts but a moment of pain within the greater moment of glory. "The world would not miss a creature like yourself," he muses as he looks to the fallen and collapsed Lady Blackthorne.

He stalks toward her, he has already tasted her blood, and she is no longer moving. Unnatural, inhuman, a mocking creature that was so overtly noisome that he finds it near suspicious. His claws are sharp and ready. And he looks down upon her.

The clause was simple. To spill her life's blood and cure his condition. However, it is not unknown to him that the self same condition is what allowed him this victory. This was no simple challenge as young hunters, or a foolish fop. Was he so reliant upon his nature now that to lose it would mean to lose the strength he spoke of?

Gallon's head raises, he ponders. Was this something earned? A victory? To feel human for a day out of the year? Was the offer of more a trick? Some morality play put forth by the cruel and judgmental?

Gallon looks down at the woman. He growls to himself. "Know that I should have torn your throat," he tells the fallen form. "And should I see you again, I will do so."

COMBATSYS: Gallon has ended the fight here.

Other than leaves falling back to the ground, scattered by the frantic conflict, the Old Bernard Gardens have become eerily still in the aftermath. It is as if it too waits to see what decision will be made by the victorious wolf. A life is in his hands, claws damp with tainted blood.

But what of the matter of the promised reward?

There is a disturbance behind Gallon, a shifting of shadow and then a faint, azure glow illuminating the remnants of the battlefield. Turning, he would find a single green stalk with scant few leaves along its length. At the top of the stalk, several blossoms connected by slender branches, the petals of each glowing with that faint blue light.

His senses would detect another arrival off to the side behind him, the scent of cloying roses and an almost concealed stench of death.

"I found it in my father's old greenhouse." The girl's voice belongs to Rachel Alucard, the hostess of this entire macabre event. Throughout the night, she has not been seen by anyone. Yet now she chooses to appear? She stands on the trampled grounds, dressed in black and white laced Gothic layers, a black canopied parasol resting against her left shoulder.

She regards him through half-lidded, crimson eyes, glancing at him up and down briefly before her focus settles on the visage of the werewolf. "I cannot rule out the possibility that he was growing it for you. My father's foresight was..." She closes her eyes briefly, a faint smile at her lips that melts away a moment later. Golden lashes part as the Alucard heiress settles her focus once more on Gallon. "Well, enough of that. I must confess I would not have minded parting with it without all this..." Rachel lifts her right hand to wave it vaguely. "Fuss. But the law of this castle is that nothing can be taken for free. You have earned it."

Eye's flick toward the glowing blossom. The natural flower is well known for its strong poison. But this arcane infused specimen...?

"It will do as I promised. No more than once a year, eating a petal will force the curse into remission... but only for twenty four hours and not a second longer."

The vampire girl glances toward Lady Blackthorne then before her attention shifts back to Gallon.

"A life for a life. It's not too late. Now that cure is within your reach, will you still stay your hand?"

A flick of the ear. Gallon's head lifts. His nostrils flair. Someone else is here and the reek of deception is upon them; covering the dead and rot with sweetened roses. Certainly, the one who would offer reward. Or perhaps a second, unconsidered challenge.

The wolfman turns and looks back at the well-appointed girl. Another one in layers upon layers at odds with the stripped-to-the-waist fashion of Gallon. He inclines his head toward her, and his yellow eyes narrow as he considers what her next move may be. But when it is nothing but to offer a gesture to the blossom for which this whole venture was taken, Gallon lowers his defenses.

He steps toward the bloom, and he considers it, a claw at his chin. A long scratch. A nod. "I will surpass this curse," he says, looking over to his host, "On my strength. I will pass the limits of it, and myself. Not through a flower tainted with poison blood."

He huffs and looks over to the fallen Blackthorn. "She is weaker than myself. I could gut her easily, but what strength would that prove? To give into the bloodlust that is the curse? How would that prove me stronger? So no, I will not be your harvestman. The petal alone will suffice. A taste of what I lost will be my hope."

The young lady of House Alucard watches Gallon confirm his hardened resolve, his decision stands firm. "Then," the pale child replies, pivoting slightly to glance toward Wendell the Helpful Plant before looking back sidelong toward Gallon.

"Allow me to convey Wendell's gratitude for your mercy. It seems he has a desire to abide by that curious woman and will be returning to her keep with her."

Rachel turns to face the most unlikely of monks once again, chin lifted slightly to look at him fully, eyes more open now. "A pity though. The results of consuming a Scarlet Wolf's Bane are admittedly theoretical at best. I was so curious as to what might happen." The smile that plays at her lips leaves it unclear just how serious she was about the unknown risks. Then again, the note only said it was /thought/ to be a cure...

"I commend your determination. If only more could demonstrate the like of it." She seems lost in thought for a moment, eyes distant, losing their focus, before she blinks and nods once.

"Very well. Safe travels, son of House Kreutz."

And with that, a gust blows past the girl from out of the stillness of the garden and her form scatters as if dust before a breeze. Gone too are the forms of the mysterious Briar Rose and Wendell the Helpful Plant, leaving Gallon alone with his prize.

Log created on 10:11:23 06/01/2021 by Gallon, and last modified on 01:04:01 06/07/2021.