NFG Season One - Metro City R1 - Zarine vs Laurel

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Description: TOM: "And what better setting for this showdown than Metro City's premiere goth club? I bet Zarine will be picking up a few fans, if she really is a vampire."

Zarine sits in the small VIP section of Black No. 1. By small, it's one single table. It's VIP because she's sitting in it. She has a drink in front of her, but it doesn't look like it's been touched. Somehow, despite her pallor and milk white hair, she seems to meld with the shadows, watching the goings on in the club, listening to the heavy thudding bass and mournful wails that pass for singing.

She's early. Waiting on her opponent for her first showing in the NFG. Then again, can i really be said that she's early if she's here almost all of the time? There's a bit of a crowd stirring the fog from the machine, but the dance floor, usually cramped, is roped off. Reserved for the fight that's scheduled to happen.

Still, the music thuds, and the vampire's eyes almost seem to glow in the low light as she sits there, dressed in what surely can be described as a formal dress. The one that's short in the front but trails nearly to the floor in the back. She's apparently going to fight in heels too. Like a maniac. Her legs are crossed and she could be almost mistaken for a statue, as still as she sits, save for the movement of her eyes.

Noble being that she is, Zarine has arrived early. Her opponent, on the other hand--

T-30 minutes: Nothing.
T-20 minutes: Still nothing.
T-15 minutes: More nothing
T-7 minutes: Nothing, continued
T-3 minutes: Absolutely nothing
T-60 seconds: You'd think, but no

T+30 seconds: ?!?!?!?!?

It's getting well past the point of rudeness, isn't it?


It should be noted:

That Zarine's opponent has an excellent excuse:


Shrouded in darkness and flanked by warm bodies writhing in the fog, Laurel does a double take when last call is announced. Technically, it's 'last call for now'; there are preparations to be made that can't be impeded by drunken goths, and even as the announcement goes out, a mix of club staff and third party contractors are rushing vital set pieces onto the floor, setting up cordons, rigging lights, cameras...

Begrudgingly, the tall woman in violet mesh over a black, leather body harness featuring a thickly woven pentacle over the chest and tight, black velvet pants joins the rest of Black No. 1's rabble in finding somewhere else to be for the night.


"THIS IS GREAT," screams Laurel's new best friend, a young woman she has known for about two hours whose name she never managed to get thanks to volume issues, "I'M SO GLAD [UNINTELLIGIBLE] TOLD US ABOUT THIS PLACE."

"yyyYEAH!" Laurel agrees after just a moment spent thinking about it. 'This place' is another club several blocks away, currently being blessed by a local band and their thrashing, demonically distorted works. "I JUST HAVE TO BE OUT BY--"

Laurel blinks. Rapidly; one moment, [UNINTELLIGIBLE] and [UNINTELLIGIBLE] were /right there/, dancing beside her. The next...?

One of them, she can see got swept forward by the momentum of the crowd roiling around them; the other, she doesn't see at /all/ before a rowdy guy slams right into her, fully throwing off her concentration and demanding a response.


"Hey-- uh, just-- hey, you aren't... y'know," Laurel sputters, competing with [UNINTELLIGIBLE]'s bawling as it echoes around the graffiti-strewn ladies' room, "/alone/, just because some-- like, GUY decided he'd rather CHEAT than be decent-- I mean, so what if he DOES see you here? Just tell him to..."


"... JUST SAID you're-- he's-- /she/-- what the did /I/--" Laurel sputters, agape as she tries in vain to shake a thrown cocktail from herself.

"-- all I wanted to do was BLOW OF STEAM before my FIGHT, which is in, like, a COUPLE" the alcohol-spattered woman huffs, pulling her phone from her pocket, "of HOURS and NOW I"

Looking down at her phone, she sees the reminder telling her that her fight SHOULD be starting right...

"oh no--"

... about...



Black No. 1's slamming door mixes with screaming apology and brisk, heavy steps. Charging into the main area of the club, Laurel scrambles to zip a black jacket up over her clubwear with one hand; the other's frantically waving her phone and the QR Code on its screen, trying like hell to get herself checked in ASAP and make up for lost time.

"I was HERE, but then they CLOSED because they had to SET UP FOR SOME EVENT, so I LEFT and I went to this OTHER club," she rapidly explains, slowing her jaunt only when someone gives her an IR reader to wave her phone at, "and the girl I WENT WITH got REALLY DRUNK and started CRYING and then she THREW A DRINK AT ME and I TOTALLY FORGOT that the fight was HERE, and my phone didn't VIBRATE--"

There's a brief bout of fighting her way past the ropes before she manages to hit the dance floor, but eventually, she makes it-- and at no point does it impede her explanation.

"-- but I'm here NOW!" she declares upon making it near the center of the floor. "I'm-- ... just..."

... and hunching forward to plant her hands on her knees so she can catch her breath.

"... lemme..."

Zarine, outwardly, doesn't seem to mind the lateness. She is, after all, immortal. Undying. Timeless. Minutes mean nothing and even years are a trifle. That said, she does have things she could be doing rather than waiting. She could be hunting. She could be studying videos. She could be lording over a throng of humans who wish to worship her dark beauty and give her their blood willingly.

Sometimes it's good to be a monster.

The commotion makes her actually move her head, red eyes glimmering as she takes in Laurel. She draws a breath specifically to sigh and shake her head. Humans are strange creatures. She barely remembers her breathing days. Was she ever so ... flighty? So easily distracted? It doesn't matter. That was centuries ago, before she knew power. Now she just -misses- power.

She rises from her seat elegantly, moving towards the dance floor that is now a fighting arena. She almost seems to glide across the floor save the clicking of her heels on the wood. "Tardiness does not do your team credit. I forgive you." She extends a hand back towards where she came from, and a sheathed sword slings out of the darkness to slap into her palm. The hilt and crossguard aren't terribly fancy, if obviously well made. The blade seems to be long, but thin. A fencing weapon, but approaching four feet long in total. Her hand closes around the scabbard and her arm drops to her side.

"Catch your breath and we can begin."

COMBATSYS: Laurel has started a fight here.

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Laurel           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Zarine has joined the fight here.

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Laurel           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Zarine

Laurel just holds one hand up in response. After a beat, it turns into just her index finger.

Even hunched over, Laurel is not a small woman; at full height, she's just over 6', with a build tailor made for hockey. Or roller derby. Or football--

"... just..."

In theory, anyway.

With a final gulp of air, she scoops a handful of bangle-studded braids so she can flip them back as she straightens up; one small hop later and she's in something approximating a fighting stance.

A beat and a couple moments of frantically scrambling in the jacket later, and she's /actually/ ready, having drawn a dagger sheath from its depths. Holding it before her, she draws a deep breath and pulls slowly; rather than metal scraping against metal, there's a soft, wet sucking noise as pristine steel is gradually revealed, culminating in a soft, muffled *shnk!* once she's done pulling an entire sword free.

"Okay..." she exhales, buckling the sheath to her belt. "I think I-- oh!"

Padding towards Zarine, she offers a handshake with her free hand; whether the vampiress takes it or not, she doesn't linger long before retreating to her side--

-- and reaching into her jacket, again.

And rummaging, again.

This time at least, her attention's squarely on Zarine; even as she locates and draws out a cracked, weathered, discolored porcelain full face mask with eerily realistic facial features, her eyes are on Zarine.

And as she lifts the mask to her face and holds it fast against herself, a blood-red flare briefly flickers in those eyes.

COMBATSYS: Laurel focuses on her next action.

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Laurel           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Zarine

For all of her being, in relative terms, weak, Zarine is keenly observant and above all else an apex predator. She takes in Laurel. Her build, the feel of mystic power wafting from her. This will not be easy. She's deep in her own head until the disgusting sucking dound of her weapon being drawn pulls her out of it. Her head tilts slightly, white hair spilling over her shoulders. That is an artifact of power.

That is true danger to her.

When the other woman crosses the dance floor for a handshake, she looks a little taken aback. She engages in the gesture awkwardly, like she's never done it before (which she hasn't.) Her hand is cold, her flesh somehow soft, yet with the texture of marble. "Ah. Manners. I appreciate them from one so young."

Says the girl who looks twenty at best.

Her sword rings as she draws it, the scabbard being tossed away to clatter on the floor. She hefts it in a salute before bringing it parallel to the floor, the blade at eye level, the tip leveled at her opponent. As the mask settles on, Zarine waits a beat before she moves, calling on the power in her blood to move across the floor in the flicker between heartbeats. She opens with a thrust, the blade singing as it seeks Laurel's flesh. A testing strike, yet no less serious.

COMBATSYS: Zarine successfully hits Laurel with Black Planet.

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Laurel           0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0           Zarine


Steel rings through the air.

A subtle ripple runs along the edge of Laurel's sword.

"I'm-- /pretty/ sure we're, like, the s--"

Zarine just-- isn't /there/, all of a sudden. It feels awfully familiar-- and /frustrating/, to boot. Frowning beneath the mask, Laurel sucks in a deep breath--

-- and lunges forward, drawing her sword arm back even as Zarine's blade enters her shoulder. The plan had been to grit her way through the attack and use that sudden, explosive shift of momentum to repay the damage and then some; instead, her shoulder /burns/ with strange energy.

Her /body/ burns--

Her /blood/--...

Staggering back from Zarine with a shuddering gasp, Laurel hunches and grips the bleeding wound. Another quick, ragged breath fills her lungs; what comes out in the next beat is steady, slow-- measured. Her shoulders slack; her knees buckle, slightly.

Slowly, deeply, Laurel inhales--

-- and /bursts/ forward, leaping out of her sedated posture into a long, high arc; it terminates just above Zarine, who she intends to use for softening her heavy, boots-first landing.

COMBATSYS: Laurel successfully hits Zarine with Prey For Us.

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Laurel           0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0           Zarine

The blood that runs from Laurel's wound spirals up the blade of Zarine's sword in a double helix. It hits her hand and disappears, absorbed through the skin in some mystical blasphemy. She tilts her head slightly, giving a little smile. "I doubt we are the same age. We may look it, but I am six-hund--urk!"

Running her mouth when she should be fighting. It's how she got in this mess in the first place. Arrogance and overconfidence in her power. The dropkick sends the vampire stumbling and she nearly trips over the hem of her dress. There was an audible crack, like her ribs may have fractured, but when she straightens, she seems physically fine.

Her mystic reserves, however, will drain with every healed hit. It's unsustainable.

Straightening, she swings her sword up, drawing the blade along her delicate wrist. Blood pours from the wound, spiralling around her blade. It stays even as the wound closes. "As I was saying, I am six hundred years old. You humans are ....fireflies. Fleeting lives. No patience. And yet you accomplish so much. It is an interesting dichotomy."

Once more she moves, slightly slower this time, but still fast enough to make the back tail of her dress fan out. She swings the sword, and the blood, converted to raw magic, flings out in ribbons to cut and bind Laurel. To slow and constrain.

"I am sad I missed all of the advancement while I slept!"

COMBATSYS: Laurel blocks Zarine's Ribbons.

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Laurel           0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0           Zarine

"A vampire,"

she guesses, still hunched in a low crouch where she landed.


The uncertainty that laced Laurel's voice mere minutes ago is gone.

The energy, the brightness-- the eager need to be understood--


Subsumed by the steady, smoky surety winding through each deliberately spoken syllable.

"Pale. Pretty..."

Zarine's sword gets a flicking gesture as it's drawn across a pale wrist.

"... the blood..." she adds, slowly drawing upright-- straightening her spine so much that she almost seems to gain a couple inches.

"... that little hint of arrogance," has a twist of amusement, bare and strained-- as if allowing even /that/ much was a struggle.

She breathes in, slowly, as Zarine approaches once more. Her stance doesn't shift; she doesn't even raise her sword until the last second, when the vampire begins to swing. Stepping closer, Laurel raises her weapon to meet Zarine's-- ... blood-whip, forcing her to scramble backwards a few steps to compensate for the unexpected reach. Blood courses along the length of her weapon without quite touching steel until it's close enough to slice along her neck; before it has a chance to sink any deeper, to coil around her, Laurel manages to wrench the sanguine lash away with a carefully angled twist of her sword.

A deep breath in as she steadies on her feet.

A deep breath out as she storms forward, /stomping/ towards Zarine at high speeds more than anything else and filling the club with deep, resonant thuds. There's nothing artful, cunning, or particularly thought out about it: she fully intends to just-- walk /right up/ to the six hundred year old woman so she can try seizing her by the neck then hurling Zarine behind her in a swift, fluid motion. The wound in her shoulder keeps that arm tucked in tight until it's absolutely needed; the blood beginning to trail down her neck, however--

If anything, it's motivation.

COMBATSYS: Zarine blocks Laurel's Quick Throw.

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Laurel           0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0           Zarine

Laurel veritably towers over Zarine. Where the vampire is quick and mystically potent, Laurel is -big-. She has reach with that sword and her arms and legs. For the petite Zarine, she must use her speed and size to her advantage. As the masked woman comes for her, (comparatively) massive hand swinging out, the vampire jukes when she should have ducked. Or backdashed. Laurel's grip is mighty, and before she can try to escape, she's thrown.

Luckily for her, the vampire manages to twist herself in midair so she can brace for the impact. It doesn't look cool, but it hurts far less when she slams into the wall, rattling a nearby framed Bauhaus poster. She slides to the ground, loose on her feet, drawing a needless breath.

"I've been working on the arrogance," she says with a shake of her head. "It's not working. Most humans are so...flighty and fragile."

She extends her free hand towards the corner where she was sitting. The glass hurtles through the air to her hand. She upends it into her mouth, rivulets of thick red liquid tracing down her chin as she just takes a moment to refuel herself.

"You are at least not fragile. A worthy test of my power."

COMBATSYS: Zarine gains composure.

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Laurel           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0           Zarine

Laurel just watches the glass fly. Her head even turns to track it; Zarine gets stares until the glass is empty, the taller woman's gaze tipping subtly from the glass to Zarine and back again the whole time.

Wordlessly, she trudges towards one end of the dance floor-- towards the bar, cordoned off by a rope she thinks nothing of just.

/Walking at/ it. Stretching it, testing its bounds and threatening to topple the stanchions securing it until it finally /snaps/, allowing the posts to rattle and wobble back into place, gradually. She reaches across the bar, paying the tender no heed; a few moments of rummaging later, she's reeling a soda gun over the bar and drawing back.

"Don't," she finally utters, resonant and resolute. Pushing her fingertips against the bottom of her mask, she nudges it up juuuust enough to let her fire a stream of cola into her mouth as she tips her head back.

"Work on it," she adds a beat later, glancing over her shoulder briefly before tipping her head again. The cola starts, stops, and then is replaced with a multicolored stream as Laurel works out that mixed soft drinks are on the menu.

"... if you're arrogant," comes after she eventually tosses the gun aside and swipes her free hand across her mouth, "then you're arrogant."

Trailing upwards, her fingers pause when they meet a thin, glistening stream; cold sparkles arc through the air when she flicks it away.

"Just be it," she concludes while slipping her mask back into place.

COMBATSYS: Laurel gains composure.

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Laurel           0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0           Zarine

This is certainly a very interesting fight. Far more talking than she would have suspected. Then again, given what she can sense about Laurel, they are somewhat alike in some ways. They both have dark powers. They both, if pressed can become things that inspire terror in others. Deep within both women lies a monster raging to get free.

"You are a very interesting woman. I am glad to fight you. But enough talk."

She tosses the empty glass aside negligently. It shatters into a million pieces, and she hefts her blade once more. Red eyes narrow, and tangible power begins to thrum through the blade and her. Light dims around her as she works whatever vampire magic she has at her disposal. She takes one step forwards and explodes into a swarm of tiny, angry bats.

The small creatures move like liquid, pouring and spiralling through the air, writhing around each other in a screeching fury. They coalesce, and Zarine reforms, lashing out with her magicked blade, the steel humming as it's surrounded by a red miasma.

COMBATSYS: Zarine successfully hits Laurel with Sunless.

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Laurel           1/---====/=======|====---\-------\0           Zarine

"Fine with me," the masked woman agrees.

There's been far more talking than the scream in Laurel's soul is /comfortable/ with. Every word's an effort; every glimmer of emotion, clawed from the the bleeding heart of the monster wound around her. Laurel's a talker; Laurel's an extrovert.

And Laurel's only nominally here, right now.

Example: rather than try to run, or duck, or roll, or even bat her way through the biting swarm flocking around her, she takes a step from the bar and plants herself, arms slightly spread; hands clenching tight as a refracted Zarine comes within inches of her, only to become whole once more and cut a long, ragged swath along the taller woman's stomach. The magic alloying her blade sends Laurel staggering back against the bar, where she briefly jolts upright before rolling away along its edge; other than a low, resounding groan, she is silent as blood begins seeping through her jacket.

Silent, even when she pushes herself off of the bar to charge towards Zarine's center. Initially, she looks poised to go for something like a double-leg takedown-- a ground and pound, perhaps? But no:

That would be too technical for the moment.

Instead, she surges upright at the last moment, intent on seizing the vampiress by the throat so she can haul the other woman into the air, /SLAM/ her to her back, and pin her without releasing her throat. This close, one can readily make out the glistening streaks slowly trickling from the mask's eye holes, down its chipped, cracked cheeks.

This close, one can almost /hear/ the distant, ethereal wailing of the damned writhing through the air in time with those tears' sparklings.

And - if Laurel is able to seize and pin Zarine - the vampire will even be treated to a meeting with one of those lost souls when a tear falls from the mask and expands near-instantaneously into a writhing, moaning phantom made of spectral claws and regret.

COMBATSYS: Zarine blocks Laurel's World Is Hell EX.

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Laurel           1/---====/=======|=====--\-------\0           Zarine

Zarine is not a psychic, but she can tell based on body language, and the shift in Laurel's tone and talkativeness from her arrival, that something has changed. There's a monster in there crawling out. It's intriguing and, well, exhilarating. She becomes fixated enough that the larger woman can blitz and give her the choke slam. Whatever air she holds in her lungs rushes out in a wheeze as she stares up at the pitiless mask. At the tears falling from the eyes of it. She can feel the bleak power bubbling up as the phantom claws its way free.

"What -are- you?"

As the terrible claws come for her, the vampire's body collapses inward. It's not bats this time, but a thick, silvery mist. It whirls out of Laurel's grip, reforming into Zarine some steps away. She attempts to capitalize on her escape by lunging quickly, her blade moving in a blur as she takes one, two, three swipes at Laurel's shoulders and the back of her neck.

"You bleed like a human, but something -else- is in there with you. -Fascinating-."

COMBATSYS: Laurel blocks Zarine's Charged Combo.

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Laurel           1/-======/=======|======-\-------\0           Zarine

Ancient, refined power gazes up at its raw, bleak sibling. The eyes are the only hint that there's someone alive behind the mask, and even that's debatable: they /move/, tracking across Zarine's face; they dilate in the breathless moment where the phantom's weaving itself from a mixture of chi and gloom, poised to rip and tear at Zarine.

But there's nothing behind them but a restrained echo of boiling rage, as if everything else has been burned away or fashioned into psychic chains.

"Enough talk."

Laurel's reiteration of vampiric drama is punctuated by said vampire flowing through her fingers and surrounding her with silver mist. Suddenly robbed of her victim, the larger woman jerks upright and whips her head around, trying to spot some sign of Zarine amidst roiling silver; it's only when the lunging vampiress is within inches of her that she spots the other woman, and by then it's too late to do more than shove her sword at Zarine's to parry. Once; twice--

-- and the third is the charm, grinding along Laurel's weapon until there's another thin slice across her neck. An enraged howl distorts the air as she lunges in turn, gripping her hilt in both hands as she tries to drive her weapon into Zarine's gut and carry the momentum forward to lift her from her feet briefly, then cast her away with a vicious thrusting motion.

COMBATSYS: Zarine endures Laurel's Armed Combo.

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Laurel           1/--=====/=======|=======\=------\1           Zarine

Zarine strikes, but it's not quite what she'd hoped for. She's gassed. Tired. An immortal being should not be tired, and yet, here she is. She can feel the power leaving her. Her speed and strength are not what they should be. Her instincts are dulled and it is -infuriating-. Her strike hits, but not as hard as she would like. The frustration of it makes her sloppy. Slows her reactions. Her parries are sloppy as Laurel rounds on her in a fury. Steel meets steel and Zarine is forced back one step. Then another. One blow knocks the blade from her hand, sending it sailing to thud into the wooden wall. The next runs her through.

The raw, inhuman -might- of whatever is driving Laurel hurls Zarine's slight frame across the room. She crashes into a table, blasting it to pieces. She slumps, boneless in the wreckage for a moment, the gaping wound in her torso not bleeding at all. She's still, corpselike. She could be dead or just unconscious.

She's not.

Without warning, she explodes out of the rubble. Her eyes glow an unearthly red and her delicate fingers have lengthened into jagged claws. Her normally pretty, if doll-like face has gone gaunt, the skin tight like a dessicated corpse, her jaw gaping wide with her fangs extended. She flickers across the room, a streak of black, red, and ghostly white.

Her arms rake in wide, but brutal slashes, trying to break past Laurel's guard before she can lunge in close and clamp her terrible maw at the other woman's throat, feasting to both harm and heal. Heal herself, anyway.

COMBATSYS: Zarine successfully hits Laurel with We Hunger.

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Laurel           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|==-----\-------\0           Zarine


Zarine's teeth sink in deep, drawing blood into her terrible maw with such brutality that whatever supernatural force has a hold on Laurel is briefly forced to relent, allowing the woman beneath the mask to register her pain through a loud cry and wide, frantic eyes. Somehow, losing mass -- becoming /less/ made Zarine exponentially more dangerous-- capable of battering her way right past the larger woman's attempts at parrying to seize her and drink.

In this moment when the ancient vampire has embraced her true self to the utmost, she's rewarded with a taste of blood that swiftly cools on her tongue, redolent with something much, much older than Laurel herself. By the time it's in her throat, it's closer to a syrup: sticky, sluggish, and thick in its creeping descent towards empowering the thirsty vampire.

Slowly, surely, the taller woman sinks towards her knees; her free hand's tangled in Zarine's hair to rip her away, but the effort is in vain; by the time she hits the ground, her fingers have almost gone slack, still stubbornly tugging but absent any real force. Her sword lies listlessly in her grip on the other side, and there's further still to fall. From her knees, Laurel begins slumping forward, threatening to collapse atop Zarine as the last dregs of fight are drained from her body; her masked face falls against an emaciated shoulder when just holding her head up becomes too much of an effort.

And there's further still to fall.

"... hnnngh--"

Another brief peal of humanity starts to slide from her lips only to be choked off abruptly.

At her side, the sword rattles, then scrapes against the dance floor.

Brown fingers tense and coil in Zarine's hair, /wrenching/ at her in a bid to forcibly free herself.

Even though she's barely breathing, Laurel slowly draws her head from Zarine's shoulder, leaving several glimmering splotches on her dress; she tilts, shifts her chin until the two women are face to face.

Eye to black, fathomless eye as tears flow like a river of wailing stars.

Sparkling droplets begin hitting the ground; similar to before, they swiftly metamorphosize into spindly ghosts with wicked claws and grievous faces. /Unlike/ before, they don't lash at Zarine-- not /immediately/, anyway; more tears fall, more ghosts manifest, and their ephemeral forms melt in and out of each other, a writhing spectral web which increasingly surrounds the two monstrous fighters.

Like an audience waiting for a show.

Like caged beasts anticipating a meal.

A tear falls to the ground with a sharp note -- a cold, bright resonance that casts ripples through the phantasmal flock and precedes the already low lights of the club flickering madly for a few moments before snapping, breaking, shattering off. The fog surrounding the dance floor has, by now, thickened into an oppressive, faintly twinkling wall around the competitors.

"Murderer," intones the voice behind the mask, deliberate and gravel-laden.

And with that word, the swarm of ghosts surrounding them finally flow inwards, scratching, clawing, /seizing/ at every inch of Zarine they can reach in an effort to trap her beneath their wailing mass.

COMBATSYS: Laurel has reached second wind!

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Laurel           0/-------/---<<<<|==-----\-------\0           Zarine

COMBATSYS: Laurel successfully hits Zarine with For The Nightmare Children EX.
- Power hit! -

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Laurel           0/-------/---<<<<|=======\-------\1           Zarine

While the legion of ghosts boil inwards, the masked woman herself slowly draws up to her full height, which--

Surrounded by whirling, spectral wrath--

Wreathed in thick, flickering fog--

It's as if there's always a little more of her yet to be unfurled as she rises, and rises, and rises, eventually towering over the vampire noble once she's finally retaken her feet.

Even though there's nothing but darkness behind the eyes of the mask right now, Zarine might just be able to sense the pure malice with which the taller woman regards her in the still, pregnant moment that follows--

-- before the masked woman drives her sword into Zarine's chest with a two-handed grip.

At the start of her feeding, the hands wrenching at her silk-fine hair are like the wings of a moth beating against steel. Only her hunger is in control, and it has retained its strength. The feast of thick, syrupy blood does it's job. The claws retract, the face fills back out. Her eyes stop glowing balefully and her fangs become unobtrusive as Laurel falls under her might. Coming back to her senses, she blinks a few times to clear the red haze from her mind. To become a person again. That moment is when she is once more crushed.

As she comes to, the writhing, furious ghosts of the damned manifest, and she takes a staggering step away from the rising phantoms and those empty black eyes. They rise and rage, their fury barely bound by whatever will remains in Laurel. Waiting for something. Waiting on a word.

That word comes. Three syllables. Murderer. What -is- murder, anyway? Killing is not murder. Murder is a willful act of killing done to another of ones own species. Zarine, let's be fair, generally doesn't kill when she feeds, but if she -does-, is it truly any more murder than when a lion eats a zebra?

These ghosts seem to think so.

They explode in a fury, clawing her flesh, driving her to the floor. She reaches up through the whirling smoke and fog, hand splayed wide as Laurel's heavy blade sinks through her sternum and spine, pinning her to the floor with a sense of finality. Her hand drops, hitting the floor with a heavy, dead thud.

The sounds of the frenzied ghosts hide the creaking of wood, the scraping of metal. Her sword, left embedded in the wall, wrenches itself free and bursts into crimson flames of magic. It flips around and races through the space like an arrow, rocketing to punch into Laurel's back in a final act of vengeance.

COMBATSYS: Zarine successfully hits Laurel with Bury Me Deep.

[                                < >  //////                        ]
Laurel           1/-----<</<<<<<<<|==-----\-------\0           Zarine

What is murder?

Is it a predator feasting on prey?

An innocent soul being ripped from the world too early?

Consumption in the fires of vengeance?

Maybe it's like indecency: one knows when one /sees/ it.

And whatever's in Laurel? It sees hunger wearing a human face.

Nobility thinly wound around bestial urges.

A wrong begging to be r--

The tall woman explodes forward, limbs flying wide as a flying sword /bursts/ through her chest and going limp when she topples to the floor. Shuddering-- twitching, she strains to plant her hand against the ground and push herself up as rapidly cooling blood sluices over metal and pools beneath her--

-- and then she falls with a sick, wet plop.

Still breathing, barely; shallowly.

Still shuddering.

Still twitching--

-- reaching, slowly--

-- wrapping bloody fingers around the hilt of Zarine's blade--


COMBATSYS: Laurel gains composure.

[                            \\  < >  //////                        ]
Laurel           1/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0           Zarine

Zarine is pinned to the floor. The fog obscures what she can see. She smells blood. She hears the sound of metal cutting through flesh. She knows her blade struck true. And yet, Laurel is still up. Still moving. Still -fighting-. How? How is that possible? As far as Zarine can tell, she is still merely a living human, and yet her blood was different. Still nourishing, but ... off. She croaks from below the fog, her voice hoarse. Exhausted.

"What -are- you?!"

Her hands twist in mystical signs, channeling what little power she has left. She has to finish this. No matter the cost. The blade that Laurel is starting to pull begins to fight against her, resisting her grip. Even as that happens, the blade blooms with magic, first wreathing in crimson power which coalesces and condenses into a sizzling black ichor. With an act of will that taxes her severely, the blade starts to wrench. To twist. To try and escape and, in the doing, finish this.

COMBATSYS: Zarine successfully hits Laurel with This Corrosion.

[                                < >  /////                         ]
Laurel           1/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0           Zarine

Whatever she is, Laurel can only hold on for so long once the blade begins sizzling with dark magic. As the sword twists, wrenches, and fights its way from the taller woman's body, Laurel forces herself into a low, hunching crawl. The blood freely flowing from her wounded chest marks a staccato trail beneath her as she struggles forward, willing to use the last embers of strength left in her body just to get closer to Zarine.

To reach through the ghosts already swirling into the air and sinking into the fog and paw blindly at the vampire.

To growl,


before drawing to an abrupt, but brief halt. Blind grasping instantly becomes a last, desperate grasp for the vampire's head, the taller of the two intent on palming Zarine's face-- her /skull/-- in her unholy grasp and slowly dragging both of them upwards.

It's only a matter of time before she falls for /good/, but if she - or the thing inside her - have their way, Zarine will be coming along for the fall.

COMBATSYS: Laurel can no longer fight.

[                         \\\\\  <
Zarine           0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Zarine dodges Laurel's Starve Your Fear.

[                         \\\\\  <
Zarine           0/-------/-----==|

The blade wrenches free, spinning through the air, scattering sizzling ichor everywhere. It wobbles, drooping as the last of the magical boost begins to fade. Still, it knows where to go, stumbling through the air to slip into its scabbard. Only then does it fall over with a metallic thud.

Zarine is still pinned by Laurel's sword, her regeneration halted by its presence in her body because it's driven into the floor so her flesh can't reject it. She hears the stumble and the hissed word. She does not understand.

She does understand the jumpscare that Laurel gives her, lurching into view, swirling the fog, and reaching out with her (comparatively) massive hand. She's stuck, easy prey. Another victim for the entity behind the mask.

Her body reacts without input.

One last time, it dissolves into mist, flowing around the sword, around Laurel's grasping hand. Swirling slowly away in a stream of silver vapor only to become solid once again when out of her reach as she falls. Zarine, on her feet again, staggers, the wound in her spine knitting together ever so slowly. She's starving, injured. Easy prey for any hunter who would do her harm.

"You...well fought. ...We should speak later," she says to the presumably unconscious Laurel on the floor. "I want to know your story, if you will share it."

She staggers again, extending a hand to weakly drag her blade to her hand, if only for her to lean on it like a cane. "This is over," she says to the faceless officials who are clearly observing this. "I need sustainance. Bring it to me before I decide -you- are to be it."

Hobbling across the ruin of a dance floor, she slumps into a chair and waits.

COMBATSYS: Zarine has ended the fight here.

Log created on 20:10:51 09/09/2023 by Laurel, and last modified on 19:53:13 09/11/2023.