[OCL Round 2] Predator & Prey: Suave vs. Ghost-Eye; Plush Peril!

Published Mar 15, 2023, 10:26:12 PM UTC | Last updated Mar 15, 2023, 10:26:12 PM | Total Chapters 1

Story Summary

OCL Round 2; Plush Peril

Ack, a li'l last-minute with this one! Originally I'd considered a draw piece for this... but with a tactic involving heavy obfuscation, thought it might not be the most thrilling image for an audience to see. As such, tried to concisely communicate my intent through the medium of writing! And by 'concisely' I mean '2400 words extra over what will be judged'.
I like words, okay?

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Chapter 1: Suave vs. Ghost-Eye; Plush Peril!

‘Wheezer’, Suave had decided, was his least favorite.

All lined up on the stump of what must once have been a great oak, Suave was taking the time to assess the three plush toys that The Scaled Academic had assigned to him - three little raccoons in three tiny green jackets all clearly tailored to resemble their new owner. Of course, each had their own unique characteristics - and as any empathetic person would, Suave had decided to name each of them for these traits. Wheezer, Dealer, and Iggy.

Dealer was an easy one. Little felt cards and a tiny stitched deck made it clear that this fella spent a lot of time at the poker table. He was Suave’s favorite, definitely.

Wheezer meanwhile had a nicely knitted pack of cigarettes - plus an additional cig dangling from his mouth. A firm squeeze also revealed that inside this toy was hidden a broken squeaker, giving out a strained gasp as it was released. Suave couldn’t help but feel like this one in particular had been made to mock him.

Lastly, Iggy. Iggy’s unique trait was that it had just gone up in a great ball of flames.

Well. Seems like Wheezer had just moved up a rank.

 

Eyes shooting up at his assailant, Suave locked on to his fellow competitor… and immediately reeled back at the sight of them.

Before him stood a great hulk of a man, pale scales over hardened muscle creeping their way up and across the unmistakable maw of a toothy crocodile. Grotesque as they were imposing, thick clumps of lichen covered their shoulders and torso, sealing over a peculiar lump on his chest as the dangling roots did all they could to cover his dignity. Across the back of one arm, otherworldly flames licked and flickered, no doubt responsible for having brought about Iggy’s recent demise. And as he raised that arm… it seemed he was more than ready for a repeat performance.

In the eyes of such a threat, Suave quickly grabbed the two plush toys from their perch, preparing to put his vast experience to the test. Yes, when dealing with such a foe, the raccoon did as he always did…
Suave ran away.

 

Ghost-Eye simply watched as his opponent retreated into the undergrowth, extinguishing the flame across his forearm. He was in no rush to chase after the desperate raccoon. He preferred a more… slow, methodical pace.

The veteran had, of course, arrived early to prepare. Aridin provided a curious locale for their encounter - floating islands connected by winding roots and climbing foliage provided uneven footing for the older competitor. He wasn’t anywhere near young or nimble enough to swing between the platforms or take advantage of the height differentials to drop from above. But what he did have… was the perfect environment to disguise his targets.

Long before Suave had arrived to collect his own plush toys, Ghost-Eye had already scoped out a number of hiding places - and made use of his lichen clumps to camouflage them among the plantlife. He hadn’t bothered to name them. Ghost-Eye didn’t see the point in such things.

 

Confident that he was well-defended, now there was the simple matter of hunting his prey. And whilst at Ghost-Eye's much slower pace it was clear that Suave could run… he was mistaken if he thought he could hide.

Unseen to the rest of the world, three spirits flanked the lizard-folk, loyal tribesmen who had kept by his side even in death. To each, he assigned a task;
“Oedipus, follow. Don’t let him out of your sights. Sylvan, I want the most direct route. Phyrra, your fire stays with me…”
Each understood what was required of them. Without a further word, the souls drifted deeper into the undergrowth…

 

Unaware of his invisible stalkers, Suave had found the moment to take a breather. He was pretty certain he’d lost the big guy - but he had no idea how much time that had actually bought him. After all, the lizard had already found him once…

Suave still wasn’t entirely sure how he’d been discovered so fast. He’d collected the toys from the Academics, found a clearing to gather his thoughts and come up with a game plan, and just barely had time to decide which plush was his least favorite (it was still Wheezer, if only because Iggy had since been classified as a ‘DNF’ in Suave’s mind) when he’d suddenly come under attack.

Best guess would be that this guy was some kind of super-tracker? And from Suave’s brief impression of him, not one with a sense of humor. A direct, to-the-point determinator who would have no time or patience for the raccoon’s shenanigans.

Huh. Sounded just like the city lawmen.

Well this would hardly be a challenge then…

 

Hopping up the branches of a nearby tree, Suave used his raccoon agility to swing about - circling up and down the trunk until he found what he wanted. Within the bark was a small hollow - nature’s knapsack, the perfect hideaway for any furry critter! And whilst it was perhaps a little tight for Suave himself, it just so happened to be the perfect size for one of his plush doppelgangers!

Dealer was soon given priority place, stuffed unceremoniously into the cavity, the remains of an old parkat nest pulled in front of him so that no casual eye would catch a glimpse of the poker-playing plush. Suave was pretty satisfied with his safety there. Honestly… he had doubts over the lizard guy’s ability to even climb the tree, nevermind hunting around it for hidden holes.

Still, if this guy WAS tracking him, he probably wasn’t THAT far behind… As such, Suave entered part 2 of the ‘Defense Of Dealer’ plan - trying to guide his opponent away! Descending the tree, he left a pair of heavy boot prints in the dirt, stomping around as he made his exit from the scene of the crime. Oh yeah, it was gonna let ol’ lizard-breath track him… track him right PAST the scene of the crime!

 

Grunting as he descended through thick brambles, Ghost-Eye followed the path that Sylvan had picked out for him - a few wafts of Phyrra’s flames used to clear through the dry branches as he honed in on Suave’s direction. Whilst younger, more dignified competitors may have complained about the hostile route that the spirits had chosen, Ghost-Eye had no time for petty whining. He knew he couldn’t keep up with the raccoon on his more dexterous, windy path. As such, it was up to him to make his own way, cutting corners as he created a direct tunnel through the plant-life.

As he traveled, his scaled palm occasionally brushed against the lichenous lump on his chest, making sure it remained secure. He didn’t want to take any risks by leaving it behind…

Soon enough, Ghost-Eye emerged in a small opening, with a large tree. And by that tree’s side, Oedipus waited.

As Suave had made his plans, clambered high and enacted his sneaky ploy, the spirit had idly watched, ready to report the plush toy’s exact location back to his Chieftain. It was somewhat disappointing really, just how pointless the raccoon’s efforts had been.

With what could almost be described as a smirk, fire began to lick it’s way across Ghost-Eye’s palm. Sending Oedipus after Suave once more, he stayed behind but a moment - preparing to familiarize Dealer with Iggy’s fate…

 

A few floating islands away, and Suave had come to a halt once more. He was confident he’d put some more space between the lizard and himself, and ensured that the trail would lead away from Dealer’s hiding place. He’d been defending well - now he just needed a plan of attack.

Judging by how the big guy moved, he probably had some time - time enough he considered, to take a seat on an exposed root and have a quick smoke break! Setting Wheezer down on the branch opposite, the raccoon pulled out a packet of cigarettes, placing one in his mouth… before glancing at the plush facsimile of himself. Staring at the cartoon roll-up that dangled pathetically from it’s snout.

“S’a bad habit, y’know?”

The button eyes stared back, unblinking.

“Not that it bothers me at all.”
He definitely wasn’t bothered by it. After all, if he was bothered, he wouldn’t be telling an inanimate object that he wasn’t bothered, now would he?

“Jus’ thinkin’, guy your size should be lookin’ after his health.”

“Awright, awright, jeez, I’ll come up with a plan!”
Withering beneath Wheezer’s unwavering gaze, Suave stuffed the cigarette packet back into his shirt, exchanging it for a much more practical box of assets. The Deck of Many Faces…

Whilst at first glance a normal set of playing cards, this set of 52 regenerating cardboard pieces were key to unlocking Suave’s elemental affinity. All he had to do was decide what faces were best to-
And that’s when it happened. The explosive sound of splintering wood. Of fire scorching through bark, not where he was now, but a short distance away. Where he’d been.

Where Dealer had been.

 

It was immediately clear to Suave that his card-carrying compadre was now toast. The thing that was confusing him was… how? He was certain ol’ croc-face wouldn’t be moving anywhere near fast enough to be there now, not if he was following Suave’s path. Not only that… how had he found Dealer? He was practically invisible from the ground, and there was no way they were stopping to investigate every tree along the way - that would be ludicrous!

No… Suave didn’t know how his opponent was doing it, but it was clear that the lizard-man had some means of perception beyond what one could normally see before them. He’d found a shortcut to a destination he shouldn’t have known, to directly reach a hiding spot he shouldn’t have been aware of.
And Suave… Suave would just have to deal with that.

Unsheathing the deck, the raccoon looked towards Wheezer once more.
“Alright buddy, it’s just you and me now…” as he spoke, his hands expertly shuffled - beginning to stack the cards he wanted to the top, “Let’s light up…”

Ghost-Eye gave a hiss as he touched down on solid ground once more - paying no heed to the charred smoking black scar he’d left on the trunk above. It had been a slow climb down, pain from old wounds starting to alighten in his leg. Still, he would proffer no time for rest. It was a fool who would rest on his laurels when the job wasn’t yet completed… and the veteran was no fool.
Sylvan had already plotted out a route for them, taking advantage of the time Ghost-Eye was dealing with Dealer to plan ahead. They’d settled on a slightly less direct path this time - they were aware of the impact the competition was having on their chieftain’s body, and felt another battle through the brambles would not serve their long-term goals well. Still, as long as Oedipus stuck by the target, it wouldn’t take long for them to resolve matters here…

Following the spirit’s guidance, Ghost-Eye continued to limp in Suave’s direction. It was a straight-forward journey this time - only occasionally having to duck beneath a low branch, or use the petals of Aridin’s megaflora to bridge between the floating islands. But still, there was something bothering him…

There was a smell in the air, the faintest wisp of burnt smog. Not only that, as he moved closer there seemed to be… almost a haze in the air.
And then, approaching him… Oedipus.
“You’re meant to be with the raccoon,” Ghost-Eye stated flatly. The spirit responded in a small strained whisper;
“L o s t … h i m …”
Had Ghost-Eye been a more emotional figure, he might have berated the soul; Where? How? Why!?
The lizard knew however, for Oedipus to have lost track, there must have been very good reason. And as he picked up the pace… that reason became very clear.

 

As he descended further down Sylvan’s path, the haze grew thicker, stronger, obscuring his vision as it filled his lungs with it’s putrid stench. There was smoke… and a lot of it. Nevertheless, he pushed forward, trying to find it’s source, shielding his mouth and nostrils as well as he could with one huge palm. That is, until, he foot landed on something flat and smooth. Something that felt out-of-place against Aridin’s natural backdrop.

Bending down, Ghost-Eye examined the object. It was something perhaps unfamiliar to his culture - but something he could at least recognise as not belonging here.
It was a playing card… or rather, the burnt remains of one.
And it wasn’t alone.
The ground was scattered with them, some only lightly singed, whilst others had completely given way to ash. One thing they did have in common however was a symbol, repeated over and over again across all of them. If one of the Academics were here, perhaps they could explain it to Ghost-Eye as the ‘clubs’ suit. Even without that knowledge however, it was pretty clear to him… these tools of Suave’s were the source of the thick smoke.
Realizing he was now deep into his foe’s domain, Ghost-Eye turned to back out… only to discover the way he’d come was now also covered in the ever-growing haze. Their entire battlefield had been overtaken, and not only that…
He’d just heard something in the distance. The explosive sound of splintering wood. Of fire scorching through bark.

Ghost-Eye’s stomach sank.

 

In truth, Suave still wasn’t fully acquainted with how to use the Deck of Many Faces. He knew that burning different cards had different effects - using clubs to make a smokescreen had become common practice for when he needed to get away from the law. Still, it was a little more complex than that. There was a level of… interpretation from the user of the deck - a level of intentionality to guiding the actions of the cards into certain shapes and functions.
This was where the spades came in. Stood in the smoky landscape, the raccoon examined a 2, trying to impart some level of will onto it. Spades, generally speaking, acted as Suave’s offensive tool - burning one would summon missiles of flame to his aid, the number of which generally matching the number on the card. Suave had discovered quite early on that the lower the number, the easier these missiles were to manipulate… with the very lowest amount even able to lock onto and chase after whatever the raccoon kept his focus on!

Right now however… he didn’t know where his targets were. The thick smog may have been a way to keep his opponent at bay… but it equally stopped Suave from being able to find the plush toys that had been hidden from HIM. Even without the smoke, he wouldn’t even know where to begin looking!

But… if these heat-seeking spades could read his INTENTION for them… then maybe…

With a sigh, Suave took a deep breath, shoving Wheezer down the front of his jacket. Hands free, he lit a match against the side of the deck box, bringing the flame to the card’s edge.
“Awright buddy… you be quiet now. Daddy’s gotta focus…”
With that, he closed his eyes… and set the playing card ablaze.

 

It was to the aftermath of this elemental experimentation that Ghost-Eye arrived. Huffing and panting as his aged body rushed to the source of the sound, the veteran came close to a familiar spot of the Aridin wilds. A spot where, not too long ago, the lizard had chosen the bow of a tree to hide a small toy, a lichen seal holding it firmly against the bark.
Now… all that was left was a scorch mark in the splintered wood. A charcoaled symbol of Ghost-Eye’s first loss this round. And no sign of how…
There was no Suave in sight - even as Ghost-Eye pressed further into the smoke, he could hear no sound of retreating feet. There was no sign of how he could have done this - no sign of how he even knew WHERE to do this.
“T h e … t h i c k e t …”

The spirit’s voice caught his attention. Of course - it was no use dithering, whatever happened here was already a lost cause. Ghost-Eye had been on the offense for the entire round so far, but now? He was on interception.

Clutching the lump on his chest once more, the lizard-man moved as fast as his legs would allow, battling the undergrowth as he closed in on the location of the other toy. Things had taken a decisive turn… and now his preferred slow and steady pace had given way to a requirement for rapid action.
Through the thick smog, he could just make out the hedgerows now. The second plush he’d been gifted had been tucked away there, the leaves of his fungal growths blending in among the land’s natural plant-life. It seemed undisturbed for now, just a few more steps and he-
And then there was a light. An orange glow moving rapidly through the smoke towards their location.

As it curved through the air it’s form became clear. A pointed spade of flame, whisking through the air as it expertly dodged hanging branches and dangling vines… until it descended upon the hedgerow.
Just a few feet away, Ghost-Eye could only watch as the item he’d been assigned to protect went up in flames.

 

So that was it. That was how he was doing it. Suave hadn’t uncovered his hiding places, hadn’t used the cover of smoke to creep behind his back and take out the plush toys whilst he was unwary. He’d sheltered himself in thick fog, stood his ground… and gambled on his elemental powers to find their own way.

From there, these missiles of explosive force could navigate their own path. He didn’t even know where the two plush toys he’d hit had been. He probably didn’t even know that he HAD hit them. And he most certainly didn’t know that the last toy those missiles would be seeking out was-

Ghost-Eye’s pupils narrowed in sudden realization. Hand shooting to the lichen lump upon his chest, he tore the plush from his form, staring at it as it pulled away from him.
More sympathetic souls would have done anything they could to save the poor toy. More stubborn men would have refused to back down now. But Ghost-Eye… Ghost-Eye was pragmatic to an end. And he knew when to cut his losses.
Hurling the plush toy away from himself, the small lizard-folk caricature spun through the air for but a moment… before a missile whizzed out of the fog and exploded it out of the sky in a shower of singed stuffing!

Ghost-Eye didn’t bother to look back as his chances of winning this round sizzled to the ground. In his mind… he’d already moved on from it. A disappointing finish… but one he would make up for in the next round.

He pitied whoever took the stage against him next…

 

It was a short while before Suave became aware that the bout was over. Firing blindly through smoke into the Aridin wilderness had proven a surprisingly successful tactic for him - but it had made him rather difficult for the Academics to locate. It was only the sound of coughing that made him aware anyone was approaching at all.
“Honestly, I can’t understand why you actively CHOOSE to breathe this stuff in…”

As Suave turned, The Scaled Academic became visible. Wafting his hands as he spoke, the air currents directed themselves around his motions, rapidly clearing a visible path through the smoke. It seemed this man had some elemental affinity of his own.
“By all means, continue to blast fire into the Aridin sky. But you should know it’s to no avail. Your opponent has long since left…”
Suave offered no response to the Academic’s patronizing tone. He simply glared, making his displeasure clear.
“Oh come now, lighten up Ignacio, this is the second round you’ve won! Why, only one more battle to go, and you could be a winner, hm?” Stepping forward, The Scaled Academic pressed a finger into Suave’s chest for emphasis - the stuffed form of Wheezer giving out a sharp gasp as his squeaker was squished, “You know you really should get that checked out~”
Clearly amused by his own remark, he stepped away from Suave, pulling out a small notebook as he jotted a few words into it. He seemed to be examining the raccoon, making observations.
“...Can I help you with somethin’?” Suave finally spoke up, clearly eager to get going.
“Oh believe me,” they stamped a full-stop with emphasis, “You already have~”
Placing the notebook back in an inside pocket, The Scaled Academic stepped up to Suave once more, pinching his cheek;
“Chin up! Not too long until the next round. I’ll be seeing you… soon~” With that, the Academic made their way away, long tail swaying with each step. Watching as he went, Suave slowly lifted Wheezer up out of his jacket, whispering into the toy’s ear.
“Y’know what buddy? I take it back…” in the distance, The Scaled Academic disappeared from view, “HE’S my least favorite…”

With that, Suave - and Wheezer - took their exit from the battlefield. After all - they BOTH needed a smoke.

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Comments

  • Mar 17, 2023, 11:08:57 AM UTC
    WHAT AN ABSOLUTE ADVENTURE
    Wheezer is the best character and I expect him to be in more art. What a lad.

    Gorgeously written! As always, I adore your writing. The way you wrote each character in their own hunts, and utilised their abilities in the best way is -CHEFS KISS-. Particularly a fan of how you used Ghost-Eye's spirits!

    can u do more writing pls thank u
  • Mar 16, 2023, 11:34:51 AM UTC
    Heck yeah! I love how you interpreted Ghost-eye's personality perfectly!

    I also love the moment where Ignacio takes a moment to chill out and smoke with one of his plushes. That's some funny and cool hijinks that I love to see in written stories!
  • Mar 15, 2023, 11:24:10 PM UTC
    AaaHH that was so much fun to read (I know they're only looking at the first 1200 words for judging, but your writing keeps me hooked to the very end)!

    Love how you depicted both sides, makes it more cinematic Big Smile Ooh, and that last bit when Ghost-eye figured out how Suave's missiles worked - it forced him to give up that last one or risk being burned :O