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Tyger Tyger, burning bright (IC)


Nerdzul

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Ladies and Gentleman! The Tiger's Den Welcomes you to this Evening Entertainment.”

 

The voice boomed through the abandoned warehouse, shutting down the hushed conversation and the drunken laughers that, up to then, had filled the room and alerting the patrons that it was time to flood around the makeshift arena.

 

They were a colorful bunch, most of them thugs, gangsters and other shady figures from Southside, cheerfully spending the night out and enjoying the fights to come. However, any observer could easily spot that common criminals were not the only kind of attendees, as among the crowd one could see individuals whose attire would have been more appropriate in a soiree among the mansions of Bayview rather than a violent night in a rusty warehouse. All of them wearing elaborate animal masks concealing their features and appeared no less hungry for the entertainment provided than the rest of the crowd.

 

Tonight. I will be your Mistress of Mayhem. Queen of the Arena. Voice of god.” It was a tall blond woman talking, clad in the sumptuous attire of a circus ringleader, a golden cat-mask concealing her eyes, but leaving her smile uncovered. A grin that any watcher that focused on it for more than a moment could be left with the uneasy feeling that it sported too many teeth.

 

She was standing on a makeshift stage, overlooking a pit where the fighting was going to take place, the scene was illuminated only by roaring bonfires with the orange glow giving the ambience of the place an almost infernal vibe.

 

The patrons crowded around the pit and began to shout, ready for blood, all under the watchful eyes of the Tiger Den’s goons, tall, sharply dressed, figures with powerfully built, their expressions concealed by gorilla masks and their hands covered in white gloves.

 

Fresh Blood Awaits! Proud. Young. Ready for Battle.” The woman continued, raising her hands as if to welcome the fighters into the arena. “Or so they think.” She smirked, malevolently as her eyes surveyed the crowd.

 

The Tiger will welcome the victors among us. Brave Brothers! Baptized in Battle!” She proclaimed

 

And as for the losers… well...” She visibly shrugged as a cruel laughter echoed in the room.

 

By the side of the makeshift arena, a portion of the crowd has already began to swarm closer to another one of the organizers, a thin, blond man whose clothing matched the Mistress of Mayhem, with the exception only of the mask, that instead of a cat depicted a red fox.

 

I am sure that my brother would be eager to take all of your bets, but now, please…  It is time! For! Our! Warriors!

 

---

 

Finding out about the activities of the Tiger’s Den hadn’t been an impossible task, even for a group of young, or in the case of some among them, time displaced heroes. Sure, the underground fighting ring was new in Freedom City and operated outside the boundaries of the law, but their 'show' had quickly earned enough renown, or infamy perhaps, that information about it was not hard to come by, given enough legwork at least.

 

Unfortunately, from what they had discovered, the kind of bouts like the one planned for that night, were just the tip of the iceberg. There were other, more secretive events whose location and timing were much better guarded. It was on that kind of occasions where the Tyger, leader of the organization, showed up, dark deals were discussed and shady plots formed, frequented by the crème de la crème of the criminal underworld.

 

Now of course, one would need an invitation to participate and those were hard to come by, unless,  one could join the Tiger's Den League. And some spots spots were at stake that very night...

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Horrorshow

 

Aleksandr "Sasha" Palahniuk had been a part of Freedom City's Mafiya for many years, though he was still at a low rank, largely due to his lack of ambition and skill.  His older brother, Vyacheslav, a musician living in an apartment in Riverside, was completely ignorant of his illegal activities, though Vyacheslav's wife, an auto mechanic named Kateryna, had some suspicions, yet seemed content to let things lie.  But her mother, Oksana... she acted like she didn't know, but a few cryptic comments she'd made to him over the years -- comments that had occasionally helped him on some job -- made him suspect that she knew more than she was letting on. 

 

But such suspicions were far form his mind at the moment.  For now he stood, in his sunglasses and brown track suit, among other rough-and-tumble types of Southside, cheering at the Tiger's Den.  He had no idea that, several rows behind him, his nephew was keeping a close watch.

 

The previous night, Davyd's grandmother had pulled him aside after supper and told him that his uncle Sasha had been acting squirrelier than usual, and she wanted her shapeshifitng grandson to keep an eye on him, but not to let him know he was doing so.  Davyd eagerly agreed, always happy to help his babusya, proud to be doing something that might keep a member of his family safe, and curious to see what his uncle could be getting up to.  He had done a fine job tailing his uncle, in the form of a rat, or a pigeon, or passerby.  Once he saw his uncle duck into an incongruously active warehouse, he shifted into a more apt form, a hulking goon in camouflage pants, a faded short-sleeved blue-and-green striped shirt, with a gray flat cap covering short brown hair, and made his way inside.

 

Okay, he thought, he's just attending some illegal street fights, nothing too troubling.  Unless he's making bets he can't pay off.  Which... is very possible, yeah.

 

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Things had gotten a little out of hand. It was Neko who had overheard the stories of the "Tyger" of Freedom City, and it was she who had suggested to Owain that they investigate without any of their usual friends and allies. If this Tyger was one of the lost children of Mura, the home village that she had left behind in 1944 but that was no longer visible even to her own eyes and ears, perhaps he (or she!) knew a path to find them. Surely American superheroes would just arrest such a criminal rather than ask the questions that Neko needed to have answered. 

 

So it was that they had gone out at night, together, and assumed a proper disguise - Neko wearing a white kimono she'd used for her very first Halloween costume and a hood over her ears, Owain in the skin of a wolf as her companion. Parked in one of the rear benches, Neko closed her eyes and leaned against a wall, letting Owain guard her as she began looking around the place for Tyger. By all appearances they were just an ordinary, if oddly-dressed, Japanese girl and her very large wolf if you didn't look too closely. All across the arena, here and there and everywhere, mysterious cats began searching for the mysterious Tyger. For the coming bloodbath in the arena, Neko cared very little at all. 


For his part, wolf-Owain was on edge. Stealth and sneaking never played to his sense of honor, especially when they were certainly doing false dealings to their hosts. But he was a good guardian nonetheless as Neko used her magic to search the arena and its surroundings, keeping a watchful eye and growling a warning at anyone who came too close to the seemingly-sleeping girl. 

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Jennifer was uncomfortable behind the half bear mask covering her face from the nose up as she entered the Tyger's Den. It had taken awhile to get the symbiote to shape it properly enough, of course if one looked closely it still had the rough texture of the techno-organic nature. Her dress was a sleeveless, knee length number of dark maroon that Jamie had helped her pick out last year.

Her best friend, and college roommate, Jamie had mentioned her latest boyfriend had been acting strange the last few weeks. It hadn't taken a lot of effort for the two to track his visit to the den and link them to his odd behavior. They agreed that they couldn't jump to conclusions, so Jennifer had agreed to enter the lion's den..., or rather, the Tyger's Den.

Few spectators stood out as she tried to move casually through the room. A large man in camouflage pants looked to be built like one of the gorilla masked goons, but he wasn't exactly dressed like them. On one of the benches a girl in a white kimono sat with a large dog beside her. She must me someone rich or important Jennifer thought as she took a drink from a tray to hold as a prop in her deception when a woman's voice boomed through the building.

 

Suddenly people moved like a tidal wave, clamoring for a view of the pit below the lasciviously dressed woman in the golden cat mask. She glanced around but couldn't spot Jamie's boyfriend. As started to move around the perimeter of the gathered patrons she just noticed an unusual number of cats wandering around. She chalked the sight up to strays searching for food and ignored them as she continued her search.

Of course, knowing her luck, he chose not to even come this time.

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"A man who certainly has  bone to pick..." The voice of the Mistress of Mayhem boomed in the arena as one of the fighters stepped in from behind the makeshift stage. Barrel chested, dressed only in a pair of tattered shorts and military dog-tags around his neck, the wolfman jumped past the roaring bonfires, careless of the flames, he landed in the middle of the arena, bared his claws and howled powerfully toward the sky. 

 

"And I ensure you... the guy is definitely not all bark... Fangs ready and claws bared, say welcome to Ripjaw! Our first fighter!"  She raised waved her arm toward the fighter and grinned widely at chorus of cheers coming up from the crowd. 

 

--- 

 

While unfortunately Neko's cats could not locate the Tyger on the scene, several details did not escape her senses. A powerful unnatural scent of the jungle weirdly saturated the arena, one that she could recognize as a sign of spellwork at hand.  Owain, himself, with his own awareness of the supernatural, could see vines of dark emerald power crowding the abandoned warehouse. The manifestations were stronger around the masked individuals, who strangely enough maybe, Owain realized all lacked any distinctive scent. All, but one, a woman that had just recently joined the crowd and was wearing an bear mask to conceal her features, it almost felt like the unnatural effect was ignoring her. 

 

--- 

 

"I promise you're all going to be shocked!" The voice echoed again as a woman waltzed in the arena, clad in a biker's attire, her eyes concealed by a pair of oversized black googles, she stepped very deliberately on the grounds while swirling a metallic chain over her head, electrical sparks danced around its links and a thunder soon echoed in the arena, strong enough to fully drown the chaos of the crowd.

 

Playfully, she teased the wolf-man with her chain. "Hey doggie doggie doggie..."

 

"Can you all feel the tension in the air the way I do? Please say hello to Chain Lightning!" She grinned mischievously again as the crowd cheered.

 

---

 

As the two fighters showed off in front of the crowd, many of the patrons swarmed toward the bookie and his assistants, a couple of the gorilla masked goons and began to shout their bets. Among t them, there was Davyd's uncle. Although, one could infer that he wasn't paying much attention to the two contestants, but his mind had been drifting somewhere else during the introductions. When he got to the man with the fox masks, the time for betting was pretty much over and much money had traded hands traded with paper slips with the details of individual bets, Sasha's eyes kept shifting from place to place when the bookkeeper saluted him with a grin. They shook hands and apparently the bookie took his bet, but perhaps there was something more going on than what met the eye.

 

--- 

 

While Jennifer walked through the room, she could feel the confusion beginning to ramp up. The crowd growing more restless about the fight to come. She could swear however that from time to time, one of the masked individuals have given her a sideway look, like they could somehow feel that there was something out place. None of them though, seemed to bother or pay too much attention to her, for now.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Horrorshow

 

Goon!Davyd moved a few steps to keep an eye on Sasha, and his shoulders sank a bit when he saw the considerable amount of cash he handed to one of the fox-masked bookies.  Oh, Uncle, where did you even get that much?  Mom would be so- waitasec...  He noticed that what the bookie was handing Sasha wasn't a betting slip, but something much bigger.  He took a few steps forward, and saw what he thought was a thick envelope.  What is that?  Receipts?  Contracts for new fighters?  Wait, do they even do contracts in a place like-

 

His train of thought was interrupted by one of the gorilla-masked apes brushing past him, making a beeline for a woman in dark maroon dress and a half bear mask.  Then he noticed the three other apes slowly but steadily making their way towards her.   Four on one seems so unfair, he looked back to his uncle, then to the woman in maroon, but this might be some internal thing that I'd best stay out of.  He looked again to his uncle, then back to the woman and the quickly-approaching apes, eh, I can track Uncle Sasha by his cologne later, he thought as he began stalking behind the ape that had bumped into him.

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Neko came back to herself and made a disconsolate noise. "Nothing," she murmured in English, and then in Japanese added "<Did you see anything?>" 

 

"<Nay,>" Owain growled, "<Some here are hidden by spells so powerful that they leave behind no scent.>" His Japanese had always been better than her English, perhaps a reflection of the mystic realm from which he came. 


"<At least there is the show,>" said Neko, shrugging. "Maybe we see him later." While the sheer size of the crowd had her on edge, she had no particular fear of bloodsport - and she doubted very, very much that the soft people of the future had anything to show her that she hadn't already seen when it came to carnage. 

 

Owain butted her leg with his massive wolf's head, then turned his head significantly towards the press happening around the woman in the bear-mask. "<There are other problems.>" 

 

Neko studied the scene, glancing over from where she sat, not sure what was happening, and not sure she was supposed to do about it. It wasn't as if she and Owain had actually paid for their tickets either! After a moment's consideration, she decided to rise from her seat and head for Chimera as if she owned the place. Projecting a confidence she didn't feel, she walked right up to the bear-face woman and asked, "Excuse me! Can you show me the water closet?!...the bathroom! For ladies?" 

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Jennifer picked her way through the crowd, looking for Jamie’s boyfriend. She hadn’t spotted him yet, but there were a lot of people in masks. Judging from their richer attire though, she was sure he wasn’t amongst them. As she glanced around at them she got the impression they were eyeing her in return. She was worried she might be called out if she looked too long, so she needed to quicken her pace. Sooner she found him and figured out what he was doing, the sooner she could get out.

Jennifer turned to continue her search and nearly ran into the younger girl in the white kimono.

 

On 11/27/2021 at 11:57 PM, Avenger Assembled said:

Projecting a confidence she didn't feel, she walked right up to the bear-face woman and asked, "Excuse me! Can you show me the water closet?!...the bathroom! For ladies?" 

 

“Oh? I’m sorry.” 

She apologized as she looked down at Neko.

“I… ah.”

Jennifer looked around a little surprised. Looking back to Neko she wasn’t sure what to do for a moment. She didn’t want to make a scene so she smiled politely at the girl.

“Honestly, I’m not sure myself. But I’ll help you look for one.”

Jennifer wasn’t thinking about the fact she was probably being more polite then some here would probably be. But she offered the girl a friendly smile. She wanted to ask what someone of her apparent age was doing in a place like this, but decided not to ask. 

Jennifer was unaware of any danger she was possibly in, but it was about then she noticed the large, wolf-like dog.

‘Oh, yeah. Forgot about that thing.’

She thought as she tried not to sound nervous.

“That’s quite the puppy you have there. Are they friendly?”

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A chorus of electrical crackles, mixed with howls and screams soon filled the scene and stole the attention of the majority of the patrons. The ebbs and flows of the fight in the makeshift arena favoring some time Chain Lighting , others Ripjaw, with a clear winner having yet to emerge. The Mistress of Mayhem playfully commenting on the competition.

 

Davyd's uncle quickly left the bookie and rejoined the crowd, carefully placing the envelope in a pocket of his jacket, one could not tell if the grin on his lips was one of satisfaction, or if it was tainted by more than a hint of anxiety. Meanwhile, the gorilla-masked good that he had been following clearly had his eyes toward Chimera, he and his colleagues were trying to be discreet, which at least, slowed them down enough that they hadn't yet reached their quarry. Now, Davyd's could not be certain, of course, but it didn't look like they harbored good intentions. 

 

--- 

 

Neko and Owain could also see one of goons approaching from behind Chimera's back, picking up the pace a little, but still keeping his walk deliberate enough.

 

As the crowd began to heat up while following the fighting going on in the arena, cheering, shouting and teasing the two combatants, both of time displaced young heroes could realize that the supernatural field was somewhat reacting to their behavior, going with the flow of emotion in some way. When the electrified chain wrapped around Ripjaw's neck sending the wolf-man scrambling for air the patrons began to call for his opponent to finish him and as they did, the unnatural energy of the place seemed to surge more powerfully than before. 

 

--- 

 

While Chimera still was not aware of the guards closing in on her, by then she could by now notice that at least two goons were beelining toward her from the crowd. One wearing a gorilla mask, the other a strongly built fellow in camouflage pants and a blue-and-green striped shirt, who seemed like he was tailing the Tiger's Den guard just a few step behind.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Horrorshow

 

I'm getting the feeling they see her as an intruder, Davyd thought, which would make for a good distraction I could use, if I were up to something.  But I'm just here to keep an eye on Uncle Sasha.  And they look like they're not the sort to be gentle with intruders, so maybe...

 

With the crowd's focus on the fight (or on their own business), it was not too difficult* to shift forms in a way that went unnoticed.  Now Davyd looked like one of the gorilla goons, and he reached out to lay a hand on the shoulder of the one in front of him.  "Hey," he grunted, "Boss wants us backstage.   One'a the fighter's is tweakin'."

 

 

* if I need to spend an HP to temporarily get the Hide in Plain Sight feat to pull this off, I'll do so.

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