LRF Contest: A Night Dressed in Red

_Hi everyone! Please enjoy my entry for the Lunar Revel Fanfic contest. Feel free to leave some feedback to, I'd love to hear your thoughts. _ Festivities in the city were well underway. The streets seemed to bulge as endless streams of people jostled through them. Vendors beckoned to passers-by, their voices fighting to overcome the distant booming of drums and the intermittent explosions of fireworks. Chains of red paper lanterns hung from the eaves of nearby buildings, threading their way from rooftop to rooftop. Vayne crouched above it all, pulling at the strap of her tight-fitting metal wrist-pig, candle light spinning off its glossy dome head. Unimpressed by the revelry below, her gaze was instead directed to her new clothes. A slight frown touched the edge of her lips. It had been Sejuani’s idea to dress up for the Lunar Revel, despite Vayne’s icy disapproval. Unfortunately, Sejuani’s stubbornness rivalled her own. She stood up, giving herself a final check. She had to admit, the slender red corset fitted her well. At least she wouldn’t be tripping over her costume while she hunted. She turned her attention back to the festival, her eyes picking apart the scene with the cold patience of a surgeon examining a patient. Through her glasses everything appeared dimmer, but otherwise unchanged. Her target must be further on. Quickly and quietly she stepped back a few paces, then sprinted and leapt, gliding from rooftop to rooftop. It wasn’t until she neared the parade grounds that something caught her eye. A tinge of green, like a splinter of jade caught in the frame of her glasses. She stopped, turning her head. Across the street a young man stood still amidst the raucous crowds, staring off the main road. He seemed to be hesitating. Vayne adjusted her specs. Peering through them revealed a sickly green glow emanating from a nearby alley. Thin, spidery coils of magic snaked out from the shadows, twining themselves around his arm, gently tugging him away. He followed, disappearing into the darkness. Deftly Vayne crawled up and across a nearby paifang that stretched over the street, approaching the edge of one of the buildings that stood over the alley. Looking down she noted that the eaves of the neighbouring buildings overlapped one another, blocking her vision. She clicked her tongue irritably, brows furrowed. An approach from above was not going to be an option. Quickly she clambered down the building, drawing odd looks and a few pointing fingers from the throbbing crowd. Vayne ignored them, forcing her way to the mouth of the alley. She strode inside with confident steps, leaving the bright lights of the festival behind. As she moved deeper the shadows grew thicker, squeezing against her shoulders, choking the little light that had filtered through down to a pitiful glow. Sounds staggered through the alley, muffled and choppy. Walls rose up through the dark, directing her sharply to her right. A dead end, albeit for a single door that swayed slightly ajar. From behind it, voices. Her footsteps were noiseless as she approached, her eyes piercing as she looked inside. “Don’t worry honey, we’ll have plenty of privacy in here.” The words oozed from the painted lips of a tall, elegant woman. Her skin was a delicate lilac that seemed to suck the light from the room. The young man was swaying in front of her, his glazed eyes trapped in her empty blue irises. Helpless against the wraith’s magic, he began to reach for the woman’s arm. Vayne watched as tendrils of jade green energy began to twist and bond around the wraith’s hands. In a single motion Vayne tumbled inside, landing in a crouch and firing off a shot towards the wraith’s head. The wraith growled as it leapt out of the firecrackers path and away from its prey. At the same time the man cried out, falling backwards as sparks spat from the explosion, singeing his skin. Vayne didn’t notice. Her eyes were tracking the wraith, her gold tinted glasses dimming the intense bursts of light from her firecrackers. The wraith dodged the fiery projectiles, green magic forming into claws where her hands and feet had once been. A growl rippled from its throat before it started swinging its arms like scythes, flinging hexes that howled as they flew through the air. Vayne rolled, but not before a searing strand of magic crashed into her wrist-pig. The contraption began to fizzle and hiss. Without a second thought she unstrapped the weapon and threw it at the wraith. The following explosion was like a clap of colourful, crackling thunder. Smoke invaded Vayne’s lungs, extracting heavy coughs. Her ears rang with a keening whine while the acrid odour of spent gunpowder burnt her nostrils. Wooden planks pressed roughly against her cheek, and she realised she’d been thrown to the ground. Her instincts kicked in and she leapt up, bringing the large Boar Cracker on her back to bear. Everything was painted in a rough grey haze. She grinned. A guttural groan scraped across Vayne’s ears. She turned, heart hammering. It was her target, splayed on the ground, dazed from the blast. She didn’t hesitate, loosing an excessively large firework from the weapons golden mouth. The wraith howled in fear before it was overcome by the explosion. Scraps of crimson silk fluttered slowly around Vayne before slipping back to earth. As the haze cleared so too did her mind, her grin blowing away with the smog. “Y-you saved me.” The man was trembling as he approached her. His previously red garb had been scorched black in several places, and a thin layer of ash had settled on his shoulders. Looking down at herself Vayne realised her own clothes hadn’t fared any better. “You’re welcome.” She fitted the Boar Cracker to her back and turned to leave. Her thoughts were already straying from the recent battle. She hadn’t counted on her clothes getting ruined. The thought of Sejuani finding out was certainly not enticing. “Surely there must be some way I can repay you? Please, it’s the least I can do.” The young man was still staring at her, his eyes wide. She paused. “Actually…” The parade had only just begun when Vayne managed to slip through to the front of the crowd. She let a small smile dawn on her face as she saw Sejuani leading the column of red clad dancers, her flail thundering as the low-grade explosives attached to it popped and burst. Sejuani caught her eye, a long smile stretching across her face as she swung the flail above her head in greeting (several of the dancers around her ducked and recoiled, struggling to maintain their rhythm whilst also avoiding the explosive sparklers). The young man had been useful in the end. Vayne glanced down at her new clothes, the rich red material practically bleeding colour. They had been pricey, but he had been more than happy to purchase the replacement garments. With a roar Sejuani’s mount, Bristle, rushed past. Laughter filled the night, spilling into the sky as fireworks mingled with the stars. She had a feeling that it was going to be a brilliant year.

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