[Mage the Awakening] Duel for the Bride

February 9, 2007

She walked through China Town with her companion. Doing her best to try to have a good time in light of everything. New York City was such a big place when compared to the small town she grew up in. But that life seemed so far away in comparison of things.

Back then she used her birth name, Lorianne. Her favorite things to do was hang at the mall with her friends, and maybe drive two hours to go see an actual concert when a good punk band actually came with in a hundred miles of her. She would have never believed that she would be in the situation that she was in now.

But when her father died, her life changed. She was so overcome with grief of the death of the “strongest man” in her world that she did nothing but sit in that same mall and sulk. She avoided her friends, never went to shows, just wandering her mall aimlessly, looking for something eternal so that she could accept that life may perhaps be worth living.

She met a Prince one day, a noble and strong man with a kind heart and a gentle soul. He showed her a new path, gave her a beautiful ring to symbolize their new connection and put her on the path of nobility and strength. She decided on that day to prove herself worthy of this Prince, by becoming a prince herself.

She awoke that day. She cast off a lie that had been told to all of humanity and understood the world as it should be for the first time ever. She realized the truth that mankind was meant to be eternal. With that knowledge she drew strength and power from within.

Today she called herself Raggedy Ann, but it had little to do with that fateful day and more with her style of dress. She wore an old fancy white blouse that she had ripped off to be just a shade bit longer than her petite breasts so that they would be, mostly, covered. A pair of blue micro-shorts that looked painted on. Red and white stockings and red legwarmers over those and a pair of blue Doc Martens completed her dress. While her hair was held up into two pig tails with red yarn hair falls, her make up done to make herself look doll like, complete with painted on “blush circles.” Her friends used to say she looked like Raggedy Ann on crack, so the name stuck from there on out.

Her traveling companion on her trip, a young Chinese girl named Yuri, was dressed in a more traditional way. In many ways she looked like she was right out of a traditional Chinese story. A long flowing silk dress in the traditional Chinese style had been what Yuri had insisted on wearing. If she didn’t stand out enough walking around in New York City like that, even in Chinatown, her hair had been bleached to a platinum white color. Raggedy Ann had often wondered why it was that color, though Yuri had often avoided to answer that question.

Yuri wasn’t really a friend in the traditional sense of the word. She was literally Raggedy Ann’s ward, or at least that is how Yuri would try to describe it. Yuri claimed to be a Bride of the Yaoguai, which she explained to Raggedy Ann as being a demon. She was in a long line of these Brides that were married to demons and left in the care of vampires, in order to protect the safety of her home village. Apparently the vampires expected great power when they possessed one of these Brides and had developed an entire ‘knighthood’ based around dueling each other for the rights to the Bride.

Ironically, the vampire knights had chosen the same rose-shaped icon for their own symbol, as was on the ring she received from her Prince. Fate seemed to have worked over time for Raggedy Ann as when she witnessed a man slapping a small blonde Chinese girl, she decided to intervene. That intervention lead to a sword duel between her and a vampire named Satoshi. A duel that Raggedy Ann managed to win, she had always been a good fencer, talking fencing lessons since she was a little girl all the way through college. Yuri explained to her that she would now live with Raggedy Ann, and serve her in all things. That was the role of the Bride.

Or she was supposed to be anyways. Raggedy Ann insisted on breaking that tradition and had treated Yuri more and more like a friend rather than a servant. It was this desire to treat Yuri as something more than the Bride that lead her hear to Chinatown. She brought Yuri to a place where she though she could fit in and be more herself, instead of the demure bride that she acted like.

It wasn’t working.

She had barely even gotten Yuri to walk next to her rather than behind her yet. And the more “natural” setting of Chinatown had seemingly made Yuri even more submissive in action. Raggedy Ann had decided it might just be time to call it a day and get them both home. She paused to tell Yuri that it was time to go home. When she noticed a fifteen-year-old kid marching out of an old building. He was Caucasian but dressed in the clothes of a Chinese peasant. An odd anachronism among the modern clothes, but then again, Yuri was dressed in a similarly old fashioned attire.

The teenager spoke to Yuri in Chinese, something that Raggedy Ann couldn’t even begin to pretend that she understood. The conversation involved the young man seeming to be very desperate. Yuri seemed to respond to these words with fear and with her usual demure nature. She then looked at Raggedy Ann and said something to the young man.

The man looked at Raggedy Ann, “You are the keeper of the Keng Bride?”

“Yuri’s my friend,” Raggedy Ann answered.

“She says that she serves you.”

”That’s what she says,” Raggedy Ann said, getting a bit agitated by this whole line of questioning.

“The master wants to speak with you and the Keng Bride.”

Raggedy Ann frowned, “No,” she said to him firmly.

“Please, he wishes to speak to you about you’re situation.”

”You’re not going to let me go unless I go see this ‘master’ guy are you?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not ma’am,” he said with a bow.

“Fine! Fuck! Whatever!” Raggedy Ann said throwing her hands in the air, “Take us to him.”

The young man bowed and led them into the old building. Inside the building, Raggedy Ann could feel the presence of something unusual. She opened her mystic senses up and felt the energy of a demesne surrounding her. She felt a bit better; at least she was dealing with mages and not vampires. Seemed she couldn’t go out without vampires challenging her for ‘control’ of Yuri.

The interior of the building looked like the inside of a Chinese palace and the very scope of it left Raggedy Ann awe-struck, “Impressive place,” she said aloud.

“It has been maintained as such since the master was a boy,” the young man said.

“And um, when was that.”

“The 1860’s,” the young man replied.

“Um, are you sure this guy isn’t a vampire”

“No, my master walks the path of the Dragon Scholars.”

”Oh, that’s good then,” Raggedy Ann said, unsure of what that exactly meant. She looked at Yuri who was still walking five-feet behind her.

The young man lead her into a large chamber that almost seemed like a throne room, complete with a jewel encrusted throne. On it sat a thin and wizened old Chinese man dressed like a Manchurian lord. Standing to his right was a Chinese man in his mid-thirties dressed in a really good suit and tie; and to the left was a Chinese man in his twenties dressed in the garb of an Imperial Chinese guard. Raggedy Ann couldn’t help but feel a lot out of place surrounded by these people.

“You are this creatures caretaker?” the old wizened man said to her, he seemed to be referring to Yuri.

“No, Yuri is my friend and I protect her,” Raggedy Ann replied adamantly.

“You will turn the creature over to me to be destroyed,” the old man said.

”Who the fuck are you to tell me that!”

“Typical Caucasian, when they feel threatened they respond with profanity,” the old man smiled and shook his head, “I am Xia Long, 3rd Degree Master and Lord of the Replesant Order of Dragon Scholars. I demand you cease you’re cavorting with demons and turn over the demon bride.”

When Raggedy Ann heard his title, she knew she was in deep trouble, but she swore that she would protect Yuri from people who would harm or exploit her, “Well you have no right to demand that I give her to you.”

“Dharma,” he said to the man on his right, “Bring it to me.”

The man in the suit bowed deeply and walked into the shadows. Raggedy Ann looked suspicious and waited, wondering what was next. Moments later the man came out of the shadows with an ornate box that seemed to be made of jade. He opened the box and held it up to Xia Long.

Xia Long reached inside and pulled out an ancient ring made of gold. It bore the same rose seal that the ring her Prince had given her so long ago as well as the same mark that the vampires who were exploiting Yuri wore. Xia Long put the ring on one of his long finger.

“You’re one of them!” Raggedy Ann said angrily, it seemed even mages were total assholes.

“One of them?” Xia Long questioned, “Oh no, the awakened gave up their claim to the Keng Brides long ago. The vampires kept up the games, but they are demonic creatures to begin with. The awakened realized that cavorting with demons was a sure way to destroy oneself.”

”Then why do you have that ring!”

”Because I have sworn to destroy the Brides of the Keng when I find them. So I challenge you to a Duel Arcane for custody of the Bride,” Xia Long said with great conviction.

“Fine! Let’s do this old man!”

“Six Talon, square the circle,” Dharma spoke aloud, “I shall bear witness to the duel.”

The man to Xia Long’s left nodded and took out a bag of powder, pouring the powder out to make a circle on the ground. Xia Long stepped off his throne and stepped into the circle that was being made. Raggedy Ann could feel the magic of the Duel Arcane being cast. He right hand became heavy with the weight of a fiery rapier, she felt herself becoming protected by an invisible force of fate. Xia Long’s hands were filled with an empherma sword of Chinese style and a small buckler of Psionic energy.

He was ready as was she. The duel was to begin. Raggedy Ann looked at him, the initial battle of wills began, she had never actually participated in a Duel Arcane, but Marcus had told her about them. They always started with a test of wills. Raggedy Ann steeled her mind, totally steadfast in her ability to protect Yuri. She felt Xia Long’s will strike at her but she struck back and struck harder.

The contest of wills was over and Raggedy Ann had one, she decided to press that advantage. She charged forward with her fiery rapier and struck home, the magical blade passing through Xia Long’s body and damaging him. Xia Long struck back with a series of surgical-like strikes with his own blade.

Raggedy Ann went to strike again but found Xia Long’s defenses to strong for her to break through again. When Xia Long’s blade stuck through her again she felt for an instant that she was not going to be able to defeat this man. That Yuri was going to be lost to this man and then killed. She felt so weak.

A noble heart never surrenders came a voice in her. The Prince who had awoken her to magic and given her the ring had told her that so long ago. But as she was struck again she felt the last of her will sapped away.

She started to feel her weapon fade into nothingness; it was then she realized the voice she had just heard had not been her Prince. It had been Yuri. Somehow Yuri’s will had added to her own, fortifying her defenses.

Emboldened Raggedy Ann struck again this time finding that her blows could break through the defenses of the wizened master. She stuck him once more and found his weapons fade away.

She had defeated him. She had won the Duel Arcane. Yuri had been protected.

“You cheated! You demon whore!”

“Figures an old fart would resort to profanity when he doesn’t get his way,” Raggedy Ann said with a chuckle. She enjoyed throwing Xia Long’s own words back at him.

“You cheated! I will have your head for this!” he shouted at her. Dharma was already helping him to his feet.

“Master, that is for the Consilium to decide. As far as I could tell, she did not cheat.” Dharma looked at Raggedy Ann, “And thus you and the Bride are free to go.”

Raggedy Ann grinned, “Yeah we’ll be leaving now. Come on Yuri, we’re taking off.” She turned and left as she said it. She would feel much better after she got home and smoke an entire pack of cigarettes.

“As you wish, Miss Raggedy Ann,” Yuri said demurely and walked behind Raggedy Ann.

“And would you stop calling me that!” Raggedy Ann demanded.

“As you wish, Miss Raggedy Ann,” Yuri said.

Raggedy Ann just face palmed as she walked out. It appeared that some things were not going to change.

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