Wednesday, April 13, 2011
To ensure neutrality and dissuade both combatants from employing prohibited tactics, the duel was hosted at Friedrich von Ritter's private home. A sprawling, antiquated estate southeast of San Diablo, overlooking the rocky, heavily forested coastline.
Because von Ritter did not personally approve of the Cainites' justification for wishing to destroy one another, he had ordered the duel to occur outside of his actual walls.
For himself, Cypress simply thought Von Ritter had a taste for melodramatic settings. He glanced beyond the cliffs, watched the churning, dark waves of the Pacific as they surged toward the coast--a never-ending, timeless assault.
It was as good a place as any to die, he guessed.
Cypress glanced at Marissa, unwilling just yet to allow Friedrich's packmates to 'escort' her to the priest's side, where she would be permitted to watch the duel unfold.
He wasn't sure what type of farewell gesture would be appropriate at a time like this. Probably none.
Cypress stared at her, thoughts cycling like a terrible vortex behind his otherwise calm expression. It was plain as day to her. He showed no fear, but the consequences of forcibly crushing said fear was painted all over his face.
He smiled, almost grinned down at her, reached down to enclose his fingers around her hand.
"This won't take long." He assured her.
Behind them, Brink was taking practice swings with his weapon of choice. A hatchet. The wooden grip sharpened to a menacing tip, a makeshift stake.
One direct hit to Cypress' heart and the fight would be over.
Her eyes searched his face, full and amber. She nodded a little at his words, her lips pursed. Brow furrowed, she chewed her lower lip as anxiety threatened to overtake her. Her fingertips stroked his as he reached for her, and she nodded, quietly.
She leaned in, lips brushing gently against his cheek, she murmured softly so that only he could hear.
"I love you."
She pulled away, smiling weakly at him. She made fists, nails digging lightly into the skin of her palms.
There were only four (visible) observers. Fearing violence against himself and his haven if the duel went badly for either combatant, Von Ritter had barred Cypress and Brink from bringing vampires loyal or well disposed to either of them along. This was a private dispute between 'Free Cainites', Von Ritter had insisted. Let it be settled in a private, civilized manner.
Behind them, Brink finished his practice swings and simply stared at Marissa. His eyes watched the beautiful Fae, unblinking and obsessive. Although there was no way to know exactly what his thoughts of her were, it could be safely assumed that they were horrible, nightmarish to the last.
* * *
Cypress initially allowed her to pull away from him. His first instinct was to show as little emotion as possible in front of his fellow Sabbat. Quite frankly, they didn't like that type of shit what so ever.
Then again, it was his 'fellow Sabbat' who demanded that he face destruction tonight, that Marissa be given over to the clutches of a monster so hideously beneath Cypress in every aspect (as far as he was concerned, at any rate). That his business was their business. That he had to hack Brink to Final Death in order to have the 'right' to claim Marissa as his own.
To hell with the goddamn Sabbat.
He turned to face her, ignoring Brink. Ignoring the pair of heavily armed 'coven knights' that Von Ritter had sent over to escort Marissa away.
He clutched behind her head with both arms and kissed her, ferociously on the mouth.
"I love you too." He uttered. His voice was cold, certain.
* * *
"Time's up," one of the knights informed them.
He gestured back toward Von Ritter, who stood--dressed in his best suit, looking somewhat impatient. Checking his pocket watch as if it actually mattered what time it was.
Breathless as the kiss broke, his hands on her face, His words. She nodded a little, her eyes threatening to well up but she fought it. She remained stoic and passive for him. She had to be strong.
The knights looped their arms into hers, pulling her back. She struggled momentarily, and finally acquiesced, allowing them to lead her away. Her eyes fell on Brink as she was marched from her lover and she offered him a scathing glare. Her hands slid into her pockets, thumbing the lone razor blade that she had brought.
Just in case.
She didn't want to entertain the fact that Cypress could lose... but she was a realist if nothing else.
Brink stepped forth. He was taller than Cypress. Bigger too. But despite his apparent leaning toward brute strength, he was also innately quicker.
The Toreador antitribu was undressed from the waist up, wearing only a pair of ragged and blood-stained jeans. No shoes, boots, or footwear of any sort (as the rules demanded).
His toenails, curiously, were painted black and well pedicured.
He raised his hatchet in front of his face, saluting Cypress' rank within the Black Hand--though he personally had nothing but disgust for a Cainite who gave himself over to such human frailties as affection and love.
Cypress deserved every shard of agony that Brink was about to inflict upon him for betraying the ideals of his sect and the nature of his own race.
Brink felt eyes upon him and glanced over at Marissa.
"Allow me to provide you with an example of how vampires are supposed to behave. Faerie."
Cypress reached behind his waist, lifted the hem of his black and red Adidas hoodie and drew the commando dagger sheathed there. One weapon only. No fangs. No claws. Just one melee tool of choice.
Of course Brink had cunningly circumvented that rule by making his hatchet's wooden grip into a small stake. Cypress shrugged it off. He shouldn't have been surprised.
He tore his eyes away from Marissa, forced himself to pretend like he didn't hear Brink's words.
He'd make him eat them, anyways.
Cypress lifted the dagger. Saluted with an overt sneer. He only did so because Von Ritter was in attendance and he knew the Tzimisce had a penchant for medieval motifs and themes...
...Despite the sniper on the roof of the mansion, who had been ordered to put a .50 round into the first Cainite who cheated first.
Cypress waited for Von Ritter to give an indication that Monomacy was at hand.
The priest, once Marissa was secured at his side, pulled a revolver from underneath his suit and fired a live round into the air. The noise ripped through the air like a miniature strike of thunder.
Cypress looked at Brink, who looked back at him.
They met one another in a sudden, rapid, and utterly savage series of attacks. Nothing would be held back.
She flinched at the shot, but managed to suppress a gasp. Distracting Cypress in anyway could prove deadly for them both, so she managed to keep quiet. She pressed her lips together, a hand cupping over her mouth. She fidgeted with anxiety, praying to a god that had betrayed her.
It was almost too much for her to watch.
The Tzimisce stood beside Marissa. His eyes were trained upon the two combatants, although the words he spoke were clearly directed toward her.
"You're very pretty. And I can indeed smell your blood from where you stand. It is quite intoxicating, the scent. Can only imagine how you taste. I can see why these two are fighting to the death over you."
He paused, winced as Cypress drew first blood. Then smiled, lost for a second in vicarious bloodlust, as Brink recovered from the initial stab wound without a flinch.
"What is your name? I would like very much to remember you. Maybe have you and your vampire, which ever vampire it turns out to be, over for some social life one night. Wouldn't that be fun?"
His eyes went wide, he grinned, bringing up his fists as he saw what appeared to be Brink plunging the sharpened wooden handle of that hatchet into Cypress' chest.
The tip of the makeshift stake, however, caught on Cypress' hoodie as the Assamite antitribu instinctively pivoted out of the way. The snared weapon was pulled from Brink's grasp.
"This is getting good."
She gazed at the tzimisce wide eyed for a moment. She opened her mouth to say something, and hesitated. Social graces were certainly not the same with his people. She bit her lip, marveling how very much like Xem he was, and finally nodded a little.
Presumably in response to the tentative invitation. He was peculiar and eccentric- but he was also the boss here.
It wouldn't do to piss him off.
Her attention on Cypress, exhaling in relief as he twisted away, murmuring appreciatively.
Brink was disarmed, but he didn't panic. He immediately pounced on Cypress. No hesitation.
Brink's elbow struck Cypress directly on the bridge of his nose, snapping his head back with a force that would have shattered a mortal's face and most likely severed his vertebrae.
By the way that Cypress' head rocked backward at such an unnatural angle, that was precisely what it looked like.
It was far more obscene and noticeable an image than Cypress' right hand thrusting forward and arcing up.
Brink grinned, fangs bared, eyes narrowed into viperous slits of wrath and hunger.
That expression stuck on his face as he fell backward, losing consciously.
Brink's entire upper torso had been split wide open. The swath started at the lower left corner of his abdomen and ended just below his sternum.
He hit the turf, motionless. Eyes staring but seeing nothing at all. Lips still spread into a wicked grin. Atrophied, dry intestines and other organs exposed as the impact of his fall made the wound split further open.
Cypress staggered back, nose destroyed--the horrific center piece of a presently-marred visage.
He raised the knife in front of his body defensively. For the initial second it took for Brink's torpid state to register, Cypress didn't even know he'd won the duel. He just waited as the clock ticked, waited for Brink to make a second attack.
Then his instincts gripped him. He snarled at his enemy's unmoving form, approached it cautiously--ready to knife him again should Brink move an inch.
Cypress crouched down beside him, knife still at the ready.
He smiled with reckless, savage glee as he fell upon his opponent. Sticking the blade into the side of his neck and cutting, sawing, ripping. Content that he'd inflicted a destroying blow to Brink's neck, he then raised the Nomad Hero's head up...up...and off.
And hurled it as far as he could beyond the cliffs.
Mad Marissa sputtered with what could have been described as bliss- it wasn't really the right word, but she supposed it was the first that came to mind. Her hands clasped over her mouth, tears that had been banished before now come through- this time with joy and relief, rather then fear.
She cast her amber eyes at the tzimisce and offered him a warm, grateful smile, before turning her attention to the victor.
Friedrich smiled in response to her words. He didn't blame her for refusing to give up her name. Poor thing, he thought. She was terrified. He didn't feel any pity for her. He just acknowledged the fact that Marissa was most likely frightened and in no mood to chat with him.
He acknowledged the duel's end with an arched brow and a dubious expression.
"Over far too quickly if you ask me," he said to Marissa. "Mr. Dreadslay should have drawn it out more... No matter. You're free to return to his side."
She blinked, distracted. She hadn't heard the request for her name. Rather, she had, but it hadn't registered.
"The black Madonna." She murmured belatedly.
She nodded and wiped her face with the back of her hand, pulling away from his side and making her way to Cypress. She moved with liquid grace, her hands reaching for him
Cypress staggered back to his feet. He licked every drop of Brink's Vitae from the blade of his knife and from his own fingers, which were still locked in place over the grip of the weapon. Wasn't much sustenance, but he'd ashed his opponent before even thinking to drain him. A waste, many would agree, as the fallen Sabbat's blood was given over to the victor after Monomacy concluded.
He turned around, still holding that knife. His face was a mess. The bone and cartilage forming his nose had been completely shattered. However, when he finally saw Marissa reaching for him, when her visage registered in his mind, he smiled with electrified joy and relief.
He lowered the knife, returned it to its sheath. He was still reeling from the pain of his broken face, as well as the sheer rush of the kill. The euphoria that Brink would no longer trouble them was also setting in.
Before this onslaught of varied emotions, Cypress stood transfixed. He did manage to reach forth with his right hand, once the knife was sheathed, and place his hand on her hip, drawing her close to him. His fingers weren't trembling as might have been expected. They were stronger than normal, the force they exerted even in pulling her body to his terrifyingly potent.
His eyes, for the most part, seemed suddenly dazed, lost in a state of fugue. He might have survived the blow to the head, but it was quite a vicious one never the less.
"My face. It's all fucked up," he explained, as if it needed explaining. His voice was extremely distorted. His nasal cavities would need to heal before he could talk properly.
She nodded as he pulled her close. She smiled at him, tearfully, coiling against his frame and clutching him desperately against her. She shook, she trembled- enough for the both of them it seemed. She sniffled, ecstatic that he was in her arms, relatively unharmd. She giggled as he spoke, twisting her face to kiss his neck, and murmuring low, just for him to hear.
"I still think you're handsome."
Cypress' lips cracked into a faint but blissful grin at the words she murmured into his neck. His left hand closed upon the back of her head. Fingers raked up over her scalp, sharply and without finesse. He eyes lidded and he pulled her closer to him.
"I'll take your word for it."
Listened to her heart beating against his own chest, felt her pulse resonate up from her skin and into every one of his fingers.
He knew he wouldn't be able to expend much of the unholy essence in his blood to heal his face. He wasn't exactly ravenous yet, as the duel had been brutal but quick in its duration, but any more and he'd risk a frenzy when, not if, he tasted her blood that night.
That thought did seem to shake him free, somewhat, of his current dazed state of mind. He clutched at her, pulled her closer, held her possessively. His fingers combed through her hair, the only aspect of his embrace that was afforded any gentleness what so ever.
"Let's get out of here."
Around their feet and ankles, the ocean-scented wind scattered Brink's flaking remains like the contents of a toppled, overflowing ash tray.
She nodded, pressed against him both of his volition and of her own. His hands in her hair made her eyelids flutter, and she nodded, smiling gently. She pulled away, sliding her hand into his, letting him lead her away.
She twisted back, offering a half wave at the elder who had overseen the event. She was grateful at least, that he had been objective.
He barely permitted her to escape from his arms, even to twist back and wave at Friedrich. Didn't want to let her move an inch at the moment. Her living warmth, her mere presence was intoxicating to him at that point in time. It even made the throbbing pain in his face seem pleasureful somehow. Every sensation, every thought he had was charged with exhilaration, with self-immersion in thankfulness and joy that, for a time at least, they were going to be alright.
Cypress detached his right hand to press his fingers to his nose. He sacrificed enough blood from within his veins to fuse the cartilage back together and give his nose something of a normal shape, although it was still clearly broken.
"Home." His voice was still somewhat nasally.
Cypress smiled and nodded down at her, removing his hand from his face and keeping his arm around her, holding her to him as he began that long walk back to their car.
There was still that illusionist to reckon with. He didn't want to think about him at the moment. Maybe word would spread of Brink's fate, giving the illusionist pause. Cypress didn't count on it, but didn't want to think about that at the moment.
No. This was their time. He was going to make certain that they both enjoyed it, reveled in it, immersed themselves in it, for as long as it lasted.
"Home..." He reiterated, kissed her temple lightly.