The gypsy’s agile form hurtled down through the gloom and strobe-glow of lilac-colored floorlights, gloved hands aflame with searing dark magic, hair and cloak aswirl as the dark curls and fabric’s motion mimicked the curves of the circular, tunnel-like hallway. Behind her, vampires with lustrous ivory fangs and shimmering swords darted after her, screaming curses, their eyes gone blood red with rage. How, she asked herself, had she managed to get into this mess—
--Oh right: trying to steal those weapons. Bad move, that.
The said collection of weapons—or rather, one of them--was intended to be a prize to the victor of a tournament a vampire lord was hosting in this fortress for his own amusement; they were known to be one-of-a-kind, every last one of them, and of a sinister and destructive power. An assortment of warriors of various fighting styles and abilities was invited to take part in the competition in the hopes of obtaining one of these deadly treasures—but Cadenza had little time to spare, and even littler respect for rules.
And yet now I’ll be lucky to escape without being drained for dinner. Curse this castle of dirty vamps.
Speed proved to be irrelevant in the chase throughout the complex—eventually and inevitably, a group of vampires burst in from a hallway in front of the gypsy, cutting off her escape. One at the forefront of the pack smiled like a hungry wolf, and strode forward, hand outstretched to take back the weapons Cadenza had stolen. She smiled back, with brilliant white human teeth, and one of the vampires began to spit some remark about how pathetically arrogant a human woman would have to be to show off teeth to them, when suddenly the gypsy’s petite form disappeared—weapons and all.
The vampire with the outstretched hand—still outstretched in his shocked state—blinked once. Twice. Finally withdrew his hand back and rubbed his eyes with it.
“What the hell?” he shouted.
“What sort of trick was that?” one from the pack of pursuers asked, walking up to the others.
“Lord Sylvestre will have our wings torn clean off for this!” another cried.
“Shut up and search the adjoining halls—she couldn’t have gone far…”
And the commanding vampire would be right, although he had no clue just how very right he was; at his feet, melded into his own shadow, was Cadenza. These vamps knew she had magic—but they never imagined her to have a spell quite like her Silhouette of Stealth.
With another smile, she advanced down the hall and out of the lilac-lit network of tunnels, sliding along the wall within the shadows until she came to an empty ballroom.
Where she was met by the Vampire Lord himself, in all his bloodthirsty glory. Cadenza glanced up an expanse of crimson robes a tree’s length in height. Atop it—two dark, twinkling eyes set deep in an ashen face gazed down at her.
“Do you think I would not keep a tracking device on my most precious weapons? It is not visible to the human eye, but trust me, little thief, it is there.”
The man spoke with the assumed superiority and arrogance of one who had gained the upper-hand. Knowing that her shadow cover was useless around his keen senses, Cadenza returned from the stark shadows that were cast by great chandeliers into the room.
She stared with silent distaste at Sylvestre as she waited for him to speak.
“You will now kindly hand me over the weapons, and afterwards…because I do find your antics amusing, compete in the tournament as per the rules. If, of course, you choose not to comply, well…I believe you’re astute enough to imagine the consequences.”
Cadenza didn’t even humor him with a nod as she scowled and returned the weapons. Yeah, she thought, I can imagine them all too vividly.
Her knees popped. Ankles screamed. Lungs were on fire. She continued to run, ignoring all of this. To do otherwise would mean death, and she had too much to live for. Her blood would not be spilled this night! Or ever, for that matter.
“Little girl, little girl,” a silky, somehow attractive voice cooed, “Wherefore art thou? Running? Hiding?”
The foggy night was suddenly filled with inhuman chuckling. She whirled around, trying to find him. The creamy mist severely restricted her visibility, however. Her eyes brimmed with tears. The laughter seemed to be coming from every direction, echoing off the unseen signs and buildings.
“Come out, come out,” he chimed, cutting the laughter and calling in a tone of fake caring. “I can smell your tears. Let me wipe them away. Let your pain, your sorrow, your suffering… Let it be mine. I’ll take it all and leave you to bask in the nothing. You’ll enjoy it, I promise.”
She shook her head vigorously, flicking her tears about. Her bright blonde hair and fair face were slick with sweat. She was barefoot, having abandoned her shoes earlier, after he’d cut her feet with that odd wire. They didn’t take long to stop bleeding, but her shoes were still uncomfortable when soaked in blood.
“You’re not going to get me!” she yelled. Her pursuer’s voice chuckled in response, and she looked down at her feet. The cuts were gone by now. Didn’t take as long to heal as she’d initially thought. “I swear on everything that you’re not going to spill my blood! I swear on my life, on this mist, on my virginity! I swear on everything!”
The chuckles turned into full-blown laughter, and she again took off. She began to see vague shapes in the fog, but steered clear of them. What if he was hiding behind a sign? Standing in the entryway of one of the shops she’d passed? Or what if he was one of the shapes she saw?
Why, why was there nobody to help her? They’d heard the rumors, hadn’t they? They knew that there was a vampire about! She thought she was safe. She thought that the rumors weren’t as bad as they were. How could she have known that a vampire of that caliber was around?!
Movement. She stopped and watched, her heart beating fast than ever before in her life. For a moment she thought things were moving beyond the mist. Then she realized, horrified, that it was the mist itself moving. It was writhing, contorting, shifting. Was it alive?
“Interesting ability,” the voice said, an inch from her ear this time. She froze. Had she a full bladder, it wouldn’t have been full for much longer. “One of my favorites actually. I’ve been around this whole time.”
Cold hands grabbed her arms and pinned them behind her back. Two even colder fangs nuzzled her neck, bringing her back into reality. She screamed, shrill and high at first. As the vampire bit and sucked away her life, the screams started to deepen.
Her hair turned black and was drawn into her head until her long locks had become mere stubble. Her eyes, once bright green, were now a dark blue. Her thin frame shifted until it was roughly the size of an average man, and her ample bosom seemed to melt away.
“H-How?” he stammered, his vision going blurry. How had his pursuer known? Did he know in the first place, or did he simply prefer blondes over the other possible victims he’d seen earlier?
“Simple,” Cain said, after pulling his blood-drenched fangs out of his vampiric victim’s neck. Was this cannibalism? Possibly. “I read the obituaries. Blonde woman, roughly eighteen. Was found drained of blood. Besides, you can’t hide your scent.”
Cain’s fangs quickly found their original point of entry and resumed their position, suckling the vampire’s remaining life away in less than a minute. Adonai continued until he’d drained his victim of blood, and dropped him to the ground. He licked his lips, getting every last drop.
“You were right. Your blood wasn’t spilled. I’m sure you’re glad to know, in Hell or Purgatory or ****ing Disneyland, wherever you go after you die, that not a single drop hit the ground. It’s all in my belly.”
He knelt down next to the corpse and laughed.
“Assuming the appearance of your bite victims by copying DNA from their blood cells. Nice ability. I’m sure I’ll have some use for it,” he said, taking on the man’s appearance for the heck of it. That was when he noticed the note sticking out of his pocket. He took it and read the short script quickly.
Dear Mister Jaggers,
Lord Sylvestre has invited you to participate in a tournament. The winner will receive his (Or her, but who honestly expects a woman to ever win one of these, am I right?) choice of the lord’s weapons. The castle’s address is enclosed.
- Sincerely, Lawrence McCallister
Cain memorized the address and arose. The note reeked of vampires, and that would mean more abilities to assimilate. He turned into the blonde girl his recent victim had mimicked, and skipped down the once-foggy street.
As the only human for miles, and the only woman among the masses, Cadenza wryly thought to herself that she must be a remarkably high-stake competitor for the vampires to place bets on.
Even so, Sylvestre seemed to have gone to great lengths to restrain her; the gypsy was being pulled along to the arena back-areas by two beastly creatures with bodies like mountains, her arms and legs chained together by cuffs of a strange bluish metal inscribed with runes and bits of ancient sutras. The ore used to make these restraints was said to be more sturdy than adamant and repellent of magic; her wrists were pushed from inside edge to inside edge, being crushed with a force greater than the strongest magnetic repulsion, for the energies within her veins were so very abhorrent to the enchanted metal.
As they made their way through the fortress, one of the guards, a minotaur, constantly barked to her to stop complaining even though she was silent, as if he just wanted her to stir up trouble so he could have an excuse to bludgeon a human on the head.
"You don't think you can be held by these cuffs, do ye?" he'd ask after every fifth step or so, his partner making no effort to stop the irritating flow of questions.
Cadenza would stare silently back at him, face emotionless, and he'd turn around, slumping his shoulders and grumbling in dejection. Then the cycle would just repeat itself again and again. After a while, it began to feel like they, and not just the conversation, were moving in circles. Cadenza could have sworn they had passed the giant bronze bust of Sylvestre five or six times. But then again, it's just as likely that the idiot is so full of himself that he has hundreds and hundreds of statues of himself placed around this fortress.
They passed various competitors on their way to the arena grounds--most of them, the Dome teacher noticed, were vampires. She managed to overhear the quieter guard mumbling a phrase or two as most of them passed; it seemed he was a competitor too, and one that had all the stats on his opponents.
"He just gets taller and fatter, who cares about that. He's got claws as strong as diamonds, but is clumsy on his feet. That loser can charge his weapons with lightning magic, but I can beat that."
The ogre went on like this until the noisier one slugged him on the shoulder and told him to pay attention to where he was walking, because they had, in fact, been walking in circles for at least the past three minutes. Cadenza had to suppress an annoyed groan as he apologized and they turned down the left corridor they had walked by so many times before.
Chatty, as she mentally nicknamed him, shouldered a wooden door to their immediate right and the three were instantly overwhelmed by a gale of the strongest bodily odor they had ever smelled. It was the sort of reek that erased every thought from one's mind but, "What is that God awful stink?"
Bad smells aside, Chatty, the ogre, and their charge forged on through werewolves, vampires, and other assorted creatures of questionable backgrounds, as the beasts and the woman were observed by all. A few vampires muttered something about beauty being wasted on a lowly human who would be someone's dinner before the night ended, and a couple others nodded in agreement. One of the werewolves insulted Chatty's mother's looks, and soon only the ogre was left to drag Cadenza while Chatty beat an apology and some teeth out of the beast's hairy face. The atmosphere, all things considered, was much like the usual rowdy bar or tournament locker room, with sweaty fighters high off their own testosterone and adrenaline and picking fights for the most trivial of reasons.
Things continued on like that once the ogre tossed Cadenza into a corner and removed her leg-cuffs--but as soon as Lord Sylvestre, announced by a vampiric page and golden horn, entered the room, everything changed. The fights stopped. The competitors stood at reverent attention, some even bowing at the waist. The lord extended a pale-complexioned hand, and one of the closer beasts kissed the emerald ring on his bone of a finger.
In the back of the locker room, Cadenza coughed.
Ignoring her, the vampire began, "Welcome one and all to my tournament. It's an honor to have you all here to compete, and I am sure your fights will bring me and my court a great deal of entertainment. You will be fighting to the death--and nothing less. If you don't kill your opponent, I personally will see to it that the loser is killed in the most brutal way possible. So maim, disembowel, and decapitate, my friends. And good luck surviving the night."
This last comment was directed at the gypsy, and was coupled together with a malicious smile of gleaming red-stained fangs. The lord licked a drop of blood from his incisior before leaving, entourage and all.
Once he was gone, the fights resumed. Chatty lumbered up to Cadenza after punching out another werewolf and barked to her: "You're my first opponent, human, so say your prayers now while you've got time."
Cain had no trouble getting into the castle. He’d changed back into Jaggers’ appearance after being accosted by some humans on the way (Oh, how he loved the expression on their faces when a beautiful woman suddenly sprouted fangs and began ripping heads off!), and gave his name as such. The guards at the gate let him in and told him that the locker room was straight down the hall.
“Locker room?” Adonai thought, following their directions. “You’d think that they’d expect their fighters to come dressed for battle, rather than changing in a locker room. Half the competitors will probably kill each other before the tournament starts!”
He sighed and stepped into the locker room just as Sylvestre was giving his spiel. Cain didn’t care about the windbag, instead focusing on discerning what kinds of vampires were in the tournament. He was disappointed to find that the majority of the vampires were little more than genetic anomalies, practically fake vampires.
Despite the overwhelming scent of these wannabes, Adonai could discern a few true vampires with blood types that he hadn’t assimilated, as well as…
“A human?” Cain questioned nobody in particular. A few nearby competitors shot him angry glances for speaking during Lord Sylvestre’s speech, but he paid them no heed. How was it that a human had been invited to this? They were rarely more powerful than a lesser vampire, after all.
“So maim, disembowel, and decapitate, my friends. And good luck surviving the night.”
The vampire assimilator continued to ignore the Lord’s speech and made his way towards the source of the scent. He pushed his way past vampires, ogres, a few creatures that he’d never seen before, and stopped. There were other scents that made things all the more interesting.
He forgot about the human for the moment and turned to scan over his fellow warriors, his lips parted in a scowl. Werewolves. Sylvestre had invited werewolves to his tournament! What little respect he held for the vampiric lord was instantly lost.
“Hey you,” a gruff voice said. Cain turned around, praying that the voice belonged to a werewolf, but found that the speaker was a tall, pale man with a bowler hat and brown business suit. His scent was that of a vampire species that he’d never encountered before. “Are you Mr. Jaggers?”
“Yes,” Adonai replied. “And you would be?”
“My name is Magwitch. I’ll be your opponent.”
OOC: Sorry for the bad quality. CJ's are skewed when you gotta puke every once in a while. ^_^;;
If there was one thing the crowd of Sylvestre's court had to admire about Cadenza, it was that she was a woman--and a human--that fought for herself. She handled herself in a fighter's manner, not a trace of fear nor a drop of anxious sweat on her lovely face as she entered the arena, her dark and intelligent eyes staring across an expanse of concrete and sand at a monstrous minotaur with legs the width round that of a sturdily-built, grown man's torso. The lord himself saw her as roguish and exquisite; her utter disregard for his rules and complete disrespect for vampires seemed to only enhance his interest and amusement in watching her, rather than diminishing them. Between the vampire and his minions, the anticipation in the air was nearly palpable as the lord announced her first fight.
The audience fell to a hushed murmur as a gargoyle emerged from the rafters and fluttered down to the woman on gnarled gray wings, coming to recount the scant few rules of the tournament.
"First of all, keep all severed body parts out of the stands--that includes your own and any that you hack off. Believe it or not, but we're actually trying to keep the fortress relatively decaying-limb-free.
"Secondly, only direct your attacks at your opponent. The audience and I are protected by invisible barriers, so you'd only be wasting your time and energy.
"Thirdly, start fighting when I ring the gong. Not before. We don't want the Lord missing a moment of the action.
"And finally--fight to the death. I imagine that one won't need clarification."
By this point, Cadenza had already tuned the creature out and was busy adjusting her leather gauntlets. He only got a mumbled "uh-huh" for his efforts when he rapidly waved a hand-like claw at her to elicit a sign of acknowledgment. Something snappy about the rules having already been posted in the back-rooms was muttered to his back later as he grumbled and disappeared across the field into the stands.
Chatty chose this moment to interject. "Ready, human?" he shouted, sneering the words. His protruding lower lip and short, flaring snout made his face perfect for the expression.
"I take it that I'm supposed to be offended by being called 'human'," the gypsy returned nonchalantly, knowing that a cool and casual tone would bother the beast more than any scornful voice. The angrier he was, the more embarrassing his defeat would be.
It was a very simple mind game, the gypsy knew, but more than sufficient enough for someone offended by low-brow jokes about mothers from some idiot in a locker room.
Before Chatty could come back with some quip of his own, the gargoyle fluttered down again and rang the golden gong to begin the fight. As the echo sounded throughout the arena, Cadenza disappeared into a blur of fading color; a faintly shimmering point in the arena that was being hit by the rays of light and reflecting them back, but that could not be seen itself. Orbs of shadow magic collected on the fingertips of a gloved hand that could not be followed by the many watchful eyes, and as Chatty looked to his left, and then to his right, he found himself suddenly pinned to the stadium wall by strange darts that seemed to blot out the light. He gave a strident cry as the immense physical pain washed over him--and it only grew louder and harsher as the magical energy seeped into his insides and wreaked havoc on every last nerve in his body with steadily increasing power.
Left there, pegged to the wall through his flesh, he would have died on his own in some short matter of time. But that slow, agonizing death was not something the crowd, nor his opponent, had the patience to wait out. And so, before he could even eke out another cry, his heart was carved open by a brilliant flash of silver he later registered as a dagger, and his vitality spilled out in a wine-red sea upon the arena floor.
The gargoyle rang the gong and appeared again from amidst the gaping faces of the still shocked crowd.
Landing on the battleground to hold up Cadenza's hand, he shouted to the masses, "The human from Earth, Cadenza Madrigal, wins the first bout!"
“Pretty good,” Cain said, used to speaking in Jaggers’ gravely voice by now. He reached into the left pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Adonai grabbed a lighter from his jeans and held his palm open, lighter lightly held between two fingers. He tipped the pack over and tapped the bottom with his ring finger, forcing the last remaining cigarette to fall out and into his waiting hand.
“For a human,” his soon-to-be opponent remarked. Their match was next. Of course, they had to wait for the loser’s carcass to be removed. Considering how large the cadaver was, the vampires had a good two minutes before one of them would die.
Adonai calmly took his cigarette between pursed lips and flicked the lighter open. He paid no heed to his surroundings as he pushed down on the fodder button and flicked the roll of flint with his thumb. With such an old lighter it took a few tries, but he was given a perfectly yellow flame as a reward for his patience. He dipped the tip of his cigarette into it and, satisfied, flipped the lighter shut and stored it in his pocket.
“A smoker?” ‘Jaggers’ turned and looked at his opponent. The large man’s brow was furrowed in disapproval, and his lips were curved lightly downward. “Nasty habit, that is. You could damage your lungs. For immortals like us, that’s quite a mistake.”
“Whatever,” Cain replied. He inhaled deeply, and a rude idea crossed his mind. He plucked the cigarette out and dropped it on the ground. His opponent gave a smile of approval, and Adonai returned it. “Stupid bastard.”
The Class S ground the cigarette under one of his heels and outstretched his hand. A friendly gesture would be the best thing before a fight to the death. Or at least before a rude gesture, anyway. His opponent took his hand in an iron grip and shook it roughly, perhaps in an attempt to intimidate ‘Jaggers’ with his strength. Adonai squeezed tighter and suddenly yanked Magwitch face to face.
“What-” he began. Doing so was a horrible idea. By talking, he opened his mouth and allowed Cain to blow all of his smoke right in. This was even better than simply blowing it in his face! Magwitch coughed and sputtered, accidentally inhaling most of the unhealthy cloud. ‘Jaggers’ took advantage of his momentary discomfort and shoved him with more strength than he’d let on earlier, knocking the tall man flat on his back.
“Next fight!” a voice called. “Jaggers, Magwitch, you’re up!”
“See you out there,” Cain said. He snapped his fingers and pointed at Magwitch. “It’ll be fun.”
With that he turned and headed out to the arena. There were still splotches of blood on the concrete walls, and he couldn’t blame them for not washing it off. Blood would excite both the competitors and the spectators. He found himself wondering how much blood would be coating the arena by the day’s end.
An odd creature, likely a gargoyle, fluttered down and yammered about something that the Class S didn’t particularly care about. He waved it off and watched it flit over to his opponent, who was just now entering the arena sans bowler hat and suit jacket. Magwitch too waved the creature off. His face was contorted in what Cain assumed was a hateful scowl. Either that or he was constipated.
Adonai’s eyes (It’d taken him a while to get used to having two of them) didn’t move away from the sight of his opponent until gong rang. He blinked once mere seconds after the echo died, and suddenly found himself surrounded by a small group of grey-skinned humanoids, with appearances ranging from children to old men. Their soulless eyes looked at him without feeling, and their clawed hands lashed out to rend and tear flesh.
“Jaggers, Jaggers, Jaggers,” Magwitch’s condescending voice said over the sound of the Vampiric Assimilator being torn apart. “If you hadn’t been so mean to me in the back, it might not have ended so painfully. Who knows? Maybe I would’ve simply summoned one of my ghouls and made him explode. I’ve got countless ones… All of them former victims. Nice little trick, isn’t it?”
Cain would have made a retort, had his lungs not been ripped open by a particularly feral ghoul. Another one snapped his spine, and a third snapped his neck. Happy with their accomplishment, the ghouls stepped back and let the vampire’s limp body collapse into a bloody heap for all to see.
“Ah,” Magwitch said, walking over to his fallen foe amongst the crowd’s rabid cheering. He knelt down next to ‘Jaggers’. “How the mighty have fallen. Cliché line, I’ll admit. It matches the situation regardless. You thought you were so tough.”
The crumpled body suddenly rose, bones snapping back into place and flesh replacing itself. The Ghoul Summoner could briefly see Adonai’s organs regenerating before his chest cavity was closed off by re-growing bones and muscle. He was too horrified to notice that one detail had changed. ‘Jaggers’ now had a blade sticking out of his right wrist.
“You talk too much,” Cain said through growing teeth. He rammed his blade through Magwitch’s throat without a moment of hesitation, piercing straight through without any resistance. The Assimilator twisted his arm and severed his opponent’s head in a crimson explosion.
The crowd, which had been fiercely cheering, fell silent for a moment. The victor took the opportunity to lick the fallen vampire’s blood off of his blade. Creating ghouls from past victims? Great ability to have. Especially when they can teleport to your side. Knowing that he could make them explode at any time made it even greater.
He turned and looked up at Sylvestre as the crowd erupted once more. Cain’s bloodstained lips parted in a small smile, baring his fangs at the Lord. His time would come by the time this was all over.
“The vampire Jeremy Jaggers wins!”
Cain drew his blade back into his flesh and walked back to the locker room, making sure to step on Magwitch’s corpse on the way. Dirt belonged under his heels after all.
Deep blue eyes smoldered at Sylvestre from a dark corner of his private box, the woman they belonged to held behind numerous barriers and bound again at ankle and wrist by the adamant-hard, magic-repellent restraints. The vampire lord was treating her like some bloodthirsty juggernaut of a beast, keeping her locked up as if he feared she would kill every last thing in the fortress if she were let loose--and yet, that impression wasn't without some factual backing. Sitting there, with the pressure on her limbs increasing every minute, the thought of killing the entire lot of vampires, and especially Lord Sylvestre himself, had often crossed Cadenza's mind. At the moment, it was just a matter of figuring out the most brutal and humiliating way possible.
The crowd below erupted into cheers, shouting for some victor the gypsy couldn't see from where she had been chained. What she could see, however, was the bemused expression that came over Sylvestre's pallid face as his eyes trailed the figures on the field. Soft, disjointed mutterings began to rise to his lips, first of which was a puzzled: "Jaggers--was he always that strong?" that he whispered as the claps began to fade away, and then minutes later, apparently running back over the same line of thought: "This is not what I recall."
Whatever research the lord had ordered to be done on his competitors seemed to have failed him in this instance. Cadenza could only smile at this realization--any surprise that could throw the vamp off-balance was amusing and welcome to her. It had bothered her greatly to learn that he appeared to know so much about her; she could only rationalize that he had a contact in the Dome that knew her before she had become a teacher and her records became off-limits; but now there was someone he hadn't studied, and hadn't prepared for, and suddenly this whole tournament became a brighter situation. The lord's protection measures would be lacking somewhere.
When Sylvestre glanced back over at the woman, trying to reassume his self-assured smile, he was alarmed to find that her apathy was now replaced with confidence--one that he knew could only prove terrible for him in the end.
The time for Cadenza's next match came, and she was released inside the battle arena where the audience and lord were protected by their force fields. Her opponent had no such restraints; he leapt from the crowd, one of a large brotherly group of vampires that had been bragging about their skills since before the tournament began. He strode out to take his place on the field to the cheers and cries of his fellow creatures.
When he came to a stop across from the gypsy, he gave a toothy grin. "Quite a beautiful treat they've given me here. Feeding's always a much nicer experience when you'd like to kiss the neck before biting it."
The remark--intended to be a compliment of sorts--didn't bring a reaction from the human. She was merely waiting for the gong, anticipating the moment when she could send another arrogant vampire screaming to their end.
As if her intention could be read in her eyes, the blond male stepped back a bit and narrowed his pink lips, tensely watching for the gargoyle who would come and begin the match. No more words were exchanged between the competitors as the crowd fell to a lull in volume and the gray creature emerged from the masses.
"Cadenza versus Erkunde, begin!"
The gong shook with the force of the gargoyle's strike; and as soon as Erkunde's eyes had moved away from the golden disc and back to the field, his opponent had already dropped down into the shadows of the arena, gliding along to where he stood faster than he could follow. He burst into a zig-zagging sprint, desperately wanting to avoid ending like the minotaur she fought in the first round, and he circled the perimeter of the arena until the crowd burst out into laughter at his cowardice. Their chuckles and cries made the vampire break out into a hot, bashful sweat; skidding to a stop, he set his jaw firmly and focused on the shadow zooming towards him.
Focus, Erkunde, focus--you can copy that, just...go!
Mere seconds before the shadow had reached him, the vampire melted into the shadows himself and faced off with the gypsy. Unfortunately for him, the shadows were Cadenza's realm, and even there she was armed with further skills to kill and defend. Maintaining shadow form without being a shadow-magic user was already difficult enough--but having to avoid having his energy drained, and his body cut apart by a quick saber that cut like diamond was nigh impossible.
Blood splattered across the field, leaking from the shadows. A high, shrill cry joined it moments later, and soon, two figures materialized from the depths of the shadows in the center of the arena.
Standing alive and unscathed was the human, Cadenza Madrigal--and dangling from her left hand, covered in his own blood and crumpled over a gaping stab wound that pierced in through his chest, tore into his bleeding heart, and went out his bruised back was Erkunde, the now deceased member of Sylvestre's Brotherhood of Vampires.
The gong was rung and the dead body carted out, blood left to congeal during the fights that would follow.
Cain watched Cadenza leave the arena, a look of interest on his face. She was by far the most powerful human he’d ever seen. If he wound up fighting her, he’d enjoy sampling her blood. It probably tasted better than the dirt he’s been drinking.
At that thought, he looked at the bloody spot that Erkunde left behind. Being able to meld into shadows would be a very nice ability. Coupled with his Shadowdance technique, it would be even more deadly. He’d be-
Adonai sighed and turned to confront the source of this shout. What he found was a man who looked deathly ill. His skin, with the exception of dark rings around his eyes, was a pallid shade of white. His clothes were obviously several sizes too large for his unappealingly thin frame, and he seemed to be having trouble breathing. Nonetheless, his eyes were bright and lively below his snow white bangs.
“My name is Enrico Albano,” he said. “I believe I am your next opponent.”
Cain yawned and turned away from Enrico. Albano’s spot on the Assimilator’s list of priorities was a bit too low for the vampire to care. From what he could smell, the albino wasn’t a vampire or a werewolf, so he had little reason to pay attention to him until their fight. His thoughts shifted back to the human woman.
“Maybe drinking her would be a bad idea,” he thought, pulling out his iPod and putting the plugs in his ears. He turned it on and chose ‘Shuffle’. As the macabre lyrics of Insane Clown Posse’s “Terrible” flowed into the vampire’s eardrums, he briefly considered the possibility that the human was more powerful than him.
Another fight finished in the meantime and ‘Jaggers’ and Enrico were called to the arena for their bout. Cain turned his iPod off and stuffed it into his pocket, grumbling about how he’d been halfway through one of his favorite Pantera songs. He kept his hands in his coat pockets and walked to the arena.
Unlike his first match, Adonai received more cheers than his opponent. The vampires in the crowd chanted his name like a mantra, and a few female ones went as far as to flash him their breasts. He chuckled at the rock star ovation he was getting.
On the other hand, Enrico didn’t seem to have any fans. A werewolf in the audience continually snarled at the pale man and gave him a plethora of rude hand gestures that Cain never even knew existed. Albano received more scorn when he stole a look at the bared breasts of one of Cain’s female fans, causing the raven-haired woman to pull her shirt back down and snarl at him.
“Jaggers versus Enrico, begin!”
The Assimilator was diving for Erkunde’s blood spot before the gong even rang. In his hurry he missed seeing the whip-like tentacles emerging from his opponent’s arms. He scooped up a small pile of blood-soaked dirt in his hand and tilted his head up below it, parting his fingers to let the sticky mixture drop down his gullet.
He managed to swallow half the pile before one of Albano’s tentacles snapped at his side and cracked a rib. The vampire dropped the remaining dirt and cart-wheeled away, ignoring the burning in his side. Where the tentacle had struck, his clothing had dissolved and his flesh was burned.
“You suck Enrico!”
Albano briefly looked at the raven-haired vampire woman in the audience. Despite the fact that Cain seemed to be losing, she was still one of his biggest fan girls. ‘Jaggers’ made a mental note to seek the girl out after the fight, and started to dissolve into his Halfmist form.
The woman uttered a cry of disappointment at seeing him dissolving into mist, thinking it to be an effect of Enrico’s tentacles. The pale man watched with mild interest as the Class S strolled towards him, a cloud of mist now encircling both combatants. If he’d run, maybe he could have avoided what happened next.
“Are you afraid of the dark?” Cain asked his opponent, making sure he was loud enough for the audience to hear. Cliché expression, he had to admit, but it certainly fit the situation well. He stayed perfectly still as the mist turned pitch black. Albano lashed out with his tentacles in an attempt to strike his foe before he lost sight of him, but his opponent disappeared into the darkness seconds before the tentacles hit.
Enrico considered swinging about randomly, but decided against it. Flailing around would make him an easier target, and he wouldn’t be able to hear ‘Jaggers’ as well. He decided to sit still and listen for his enemy’s footsteps.
A minute passed with no sound. Another went by much the same. By the third minute, the pale man was getting anxious. Where was he? Albano opted for an experimental snap of one his tentacles straight in front of him. Much to his surprise, he felt something grab the appendage.
“This hurts like a *****,” he heard ‘Jaggers’ say, struggling to keep a firm grasp on the tentacle amidst the burning. “You’re better off without it.”
A sudden wrench and the tentacle was gone, along with Enrico’s arm. He cried out in pain and lashed out with his remaining tentacle. This turned out to be the true fatal mistake. By lifting his arm, he had nothing to protect his armpit from Cain’s fist. The vampire punched into the armpit, through his ribs and vital organs, and out the other side.
Adonai kept his arm in place and sucked the dark mist back into his body, revealing a gruesome sight for the audience. Albano was barely alive, convulsing and heavily bleeding dark purple blood from every orifice. Cain looked at the audience with a smile on his face and twisted his arm, tearing it out the front of Enrico’s chest.
The whole arena shook with the crowd’s cheers. ‘Jaggers’ female fans flashed him again, cheering at the top of their lungs. He looked at the dark-haired one that’d distracted Enrico earlier and winked at her. After he cleaned up, he’d be paying her back for the help.
Sylvestre’s eyes drifted from the battlefield back to his captive in the balcony. Her expression was unreadable; all he could glean from it was that she was listening to the cheers for another Jaggers victory, and that it was pleasing to her to see the vampire lord squirm in his seat.
“My dear,” he began, in a noticeably distressed tone, “it’s hard to know what to do with you—you have such a fine, endearing face, and it compels me to feel ill for putting you in such a state. But then, when I remember how vicious and merciless you have been on the battlefield, I have to reassess those feelings, and remember the killer you can be. Do you enjoy playing these mind games with me?”
A cool voice answered, doing nothing to pacify the vampire’s nerves; “I wouldn’t toy with you. I’m direct. If I cared enough to get out of these restraints, then I’d get out of them—the magic repellent quality wouldn’t be an issue.”
Sylvestre looked doubtful but worried at the same time. He glanced from one of his guards to another, reassessing the safety of his box, and then looked back at the woman with uncertain eyes. “Do you comprehend the level of pain you’d experience if you exerted any pressure on those restraints? Do you understand how much that’d increase if you did it as you tried to break through these barriers? It’d be more than any human could hope to bear!”
“Persistence wins out over pain.”
Cadenza had shot the reply right back, as if the vampire’s words were not even a consideration. Sylvestre was left momentarily speechless.
“You’re all talk,” he sputtered finally, desperately searching for solace in his doubts and words. “The moment you attempted anything, the pressure on your limbs would overwhelm you.”
As he spoke those words, Cadenza was reaching up for one of the feathers in her hair; and, with a gentle touch of magic that sent the restraints buzzing in response, she flicked it upwards into the air. The guards and Sylvestre didn’t even have time to blink before the area behind the barriers erupted into rocky dust; a great, brown cloud billowed up, filling the cube of space as there came a faint sound of crumbling, and then, all at once, a giant hole opened up in the bottom of the balcony, and a disc of stone was plummeting down from where Cadenza once sat, the gypsy riding down along with it. The vampire lord could hear screams below as razor-sharp feathers rained down on the crowd from the opening, and the disc of balcony flooring crushed several audience members underneath its massive weight. The lord’s guards rushed to look over the railing, and were just in time to see the cuffs binding Cadenza’s ankles and wrists burst into shards at the touch of the feather blades.
Cadenza wiped a trail of blood from her mouth, and glared back up at the two guards as they ducked back behind the railing. The Gods only know how my body withstands all the s*** I put it through; the high velocities, the high altitudes, the high pressures; I should be dead by now. But I’m not—and Sylvestre’s only a hop away.
The men only had time to stagger back as the gypsy launched herself off from the crowd, landing to get a firm grasp on the balcony rail and leaping over to meet the frontal force fields head-on. Sylvestre was given such a fright that he toppled back in his chair and struck his head against the stones.
“Restrain her, restrain her!” he cried, half-delirious with fear. Hordes of armored guards poured out of the balcony entrance, toting magic-repellent lances tipped with poison.
“Take that as a warning,” Cadenza said, cracking her knuckles. Then she allowed herself to be carted back down to the arena for her next match.
After moments spent recovering his breath, Sylvestre was able to sit back up again and regain a hold on his thoughts. It was clear now that the tournament had gone far beyond violent entertainment—it was posing a real threat to his well-being. The human alone was enough to make him fear for the lives of everyone present, above all, his own—but coupled with the threat of Jaggers, there was no avoiding the cold hard fact that he might soon have to face his own mortality.
He’d have to put an end to this—and soon.
“Who shall the woman face?” the gargoyle fluttered up to ask. “The crowd’s getting impatient.”
Unbeknownst to him, the creature had chosen a poor time to interrupt the lord—and he was about to pay for it. “She will face you, Hugo, as a lesson to never approach me unannounced again. Remind me why it is that I pay you so handsomely and injure her for me, will you?”
His wrinkled face gone a sickly white, the gargoyle fluttered back down silently to his punishment.
“C-Cadenza versus Hugo, begin,” Hugo cried, and the gong sounded as loudly as his wildly-thumping heart. Bitterly, he wondered who would replace him after he had his guts served on a platter.
“I wasn’t under the impression that you were a competitor,” Cadenza called out, a wry smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. Part of Hugo wished she wouldn’t bother talking and would just get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.
And as she had said earlier, Cadenza was direct, and couldn’t agree more. Hugo had hardly taken another breath before he found his nerves going numb, and soon he was pinned to the ground by an arrow through the neck.
He gave a low, sad croak as the lifeblood spilled out from the wound; there was something about never having children, or getting revenge on Sylvestre that could be made out if one strained to hear, but it was all drowned out by the ringing of the gong.
‘Jaggers’ watched both Cadenza’s demonstration to Sylvestre and ensuing match against the unfortunate Hugo, a look of indifference on his face. On the inside he was mildly disappointed. During her demonstration, the human had killed the raven-haired woman who’d distracted Enrico earlier. And she’d seemed like such a nice vampiress too…
“Victory goes to Cadenza, the human!”
The crowd booed her with as much vigor as they’d had cheering him earlier. Rather than flash her, female vampires hissed and spat. Male vampires and werewolves forgot their previous animosity towards each other and were joined in snarling and booing the human.
Chants of, “You suck” were intermingled with the hissing and snarling to form a noise that Cain found somewhat comical. It was obvious that he was the crowd favorite, and she was the one they most wanted dead. He was the face, and she was the heel. He was reminded of a wrestling match he’d seen a few months back.
“ECW,” he muttered to himself, remembering the staged fight. He’d been in the front row, of course. “John Cena against Rob Van Dam for the WWE Championship. Cena was a hero everywhere but ECW, while RVD was hated everywhere but ECW. It seems this tournament is akin to that, with the unfortunate human playing the role of Cena, and myself as Rob Van Dam. Lovely.”
And, as RVD had done before him, Adonai expected to win this. He was the crowd favorite, after all. This human was in his territory, and the crowd was firmly behind him.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice suddenly rang out, “Lord Sylvestre has created this magnificent match-up to finish the tournament. He’s decided to skip the semi-finals and go straight to the finals with a four-person battle royale!”
The crowd erupted with such force that the very building shook. Cain dropped the unlit cigarette he’d been preparing to light, and laughed. A battle royale? It seemed that a certain Vampire Lord was getting a bit antsy. A battle royale match up would ensure the death of either himself or Cadenza, and would raise the chances of both copping out.
Hugo’s replacement waited until the cheers had died down, a good five minutes or so, before continuing with, “For those who have forgotten, these four are the survivors who will be taking part in this battle royale!”
“First, the vampire champion of Ariento! He’s previously won two of Lord Sylvestre’s tournaments, and has dominated the competition in every one! Judas Mesias!”
Cain looked at the only other man in the hallway, a large man with long hair and pure white eyes. The man appeared to return the glance, though ‘Jaggers’ couldn’t exactly tell, considering the lack of pupils. He assumed this man to be the infamous Judas Mesias.
“Then, there’s the greatest demon to ever take part in these tournaments! He hails from the fifth circle of Hell, stands at nine feet eleven inches, and is the coldest bastard you’ll ever see! Gran Titan!”
Both Adonai and Mesias peeked around the corner and into the arena. Gran Titan was already standing there, his leathery wings outstretched and his axe-wielding arm held high. From what Cain had seen, Titan had a range of ice-related powers, along with a decent amount of regenerative capabilities.
“Of course, how can we forget the toughest human this tournament has ever-” The crowd’s boos forced him to momentarily silence himself. Even when he resumed speaking, a few scattered shouts could be heard. “As I was saying, the toughest human this tournament has ever seen. Cadenza something or another!”
Judas and Cain looked at one another. Neither cared much for Cadenza (Though the booing crowd obviously cared less), and Gran Titan wasn’t on their minds. They were two proud and powerful vampires, and this was where they were to prove who was better. The champ and the newcomer. This was going to be interesting.
“And last, but not least-” ‘Jaggers’ rolled his eyes at this statement, the most overused proclamation in history. “We have the surprisingly powerful, mysterious, magnificent, Jeremy Jaggers!”
The crowd exploded this time. Cain heard his stolen name chanted over and over, a small smile on his face. It was good to be recognized as the best, even if it was under an assumed identity. Judas suddenly laughed, drawing Adonai’s attention.
“Jaggers,” Mesias said, rolling his eyes (At least, Cain thought he was) and chuckling lightly in a demonic tone. “I knew Jaggers, and you’re definitely not him. Drop the charade. I’d like to know the true identity of the man I’m going to be killing.”
‘Jaggers’ suddenly began to morph. Before Judas could blink, he was looking at a slick, one-eyed vampire wearing a business suit and smoothing back his hair. Mesias laughed at the sight and, to Adonai’s surprise, thrust his hand out.
“Good luck,” he said. When Cain took his hand he pulled the Class S vampire close and whispered, “I never lose. You’ll find that out soon enough.”
He released his grip and walked out to the arena amongst cheers from a few of his still-faithful fans. Adonai watched him go, shifting back into his ‘Jaggers’ personae. This would definitely be interesting. For now, saying that Cadenza and Gran were at the back of his mind would be an understatement. The only person he could think about was Judas. Particularly what powers he must have, and how he’d be getting them soon enough.
“Judas Mesias,” he said, walking out to the arena to the roar of his approving fans. “It’s a pity I’m going to have to kill you. You seem like a decent vampire. You’ll probably taste better, though.”
Any other words he may have said to himself were soon consumed by the crowd.
Widespread hatred's nothing new, Cadenza thought as she strode out into the arena to the sounds of boos, I imagine my picture's been pinned to the center of countless police station dartboards.
The rest of the woman's thoughts were drowned out by the cheers that followed Jaggers' entrance. She thought about booing, just to piss them off, but figured it was a waste of breath. No one could hear any individual voice amongst all that.
The gong was rung; and instantly, the two vampires on the other side of the arena went at each other. Cadenza was left staring across the sand at the massive figure of Gran Titan, beast from Hell and some other such claptrap. The demon took one look at her, lifted up his ax, and contorted his hideous, leathery face into a sort of grin.
"This little human is what they give me? Har!" His laugh was like a deep cough from the bowels of the earth. The arena shook.
Up in his private box, Lord Sylvestre smiled and interlocked his slender fingers together underneath his chin. He leaned forward, not wanting to miss the exact moment where this woman was frozen to death. He found himself thinking, as he watched, that she would be an exquisite ice sculpture, and mentally began working out a place for her in his fortress where she could be seen by all. Perhaps by the ballroom... he mused.
His reverie was cut short by jeers from the crowd. Gran's arm had just been sliced off by his own ax.
No worries, I'm sure he'll...
Cadenza pivoted on a frozen boot and kicked the demon across the face. Daggers in her shoes flared out and sunk in, cutting across until there were two violet streaks of blood.
...a kick won't do him in, he'll...
Gran fell to a giant knee, swinging his one remaining fist as wildly as he could. A new right arm was reforming, but it was too late. A shroud of shadow magic rolled out over him, and there was almost a whimper as popping flesh could be heard, squeezing under the steadily-building pressure.
...my God man, get up!
There was a brilliant burst of ice contained under that dome, and when the shadows melted away, all that was left was a pool of ice, and a few sad little chunks of leathery gray flesh. The crowd was stunned silent for a moment, but soon, the boos started up louder than ever.
Cadenza thumped her boot on the sand and the ice broke off into little shards like glass, falling to the floor. Then she turned her attention to the other side of the arena, to see how the vampires were faring.
OoC: It's a little weird to write Cadenza without all her upgrades. XP But that was fun.