The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #271
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    ...why would she ever want to be friends with you?
    Kazelia had messed up. She had messed up so badly. It was incredibly obvious the instant she had more than a second to think. This was everything wrong with the Riders. She really was just like Azora, just like Asteria and all the others. At home, nobody would have taken that sort of thing. Riders, even the non-princesses, have a very strong sense of personal honor. Someone blatantly insulting you like those Jedadi swine would have been slapped instantly, not after Kazelia had tried and tried to forebear. Then they'd have arranged a proper duel to first blood, and if the idiots had continued insulting even after that, nobody would have blinked twice if Kazelia gave one of them a more narrow waistline. But she wasn't in Oberon's kingdom, and she knew she wasn't supposed to just be violent towards people here, that's why she had tried to hold out. The way all the Riders were just so cruel, so casually cruel was wrong and broken and Kazelia needed to be better than that, even when bad things were happening.

    She already knew all of that, so why was this so damn hard?! Kazelia lets out a scream at the top of those walls, to nobody in particular. The guards down below are listening, to be sure, but she doesn't care, not right now. She just needs to let it go. Because she knows she has to get back, that she has to be there, that the idiotic thing she said about not helping princess Shazari was wrong too and she wasn't actually that spiteful and...void damn it this had been a lot easier when she could just crush all her problems with dark magic!

    "Ourania, help me be strong, please. Help me do better." She listened for the song in her heart. It hurt Kazelia to do it now. Why didn't she think to listen for that inner strength and the singers' distant voices when she was stressed in the first place, instead of after it was too late and she'd ruined everything? But she did now, and it was humming a running song. Get back! Get back! Get back! So she did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    “Well?? Aren’t you going to do anything??”
    Kazelia comes literally sprinting around the corner at this moment, takes one look at the courtier confronting everyone standing there and throws herself on the ground prostrate. She's not stupid enough to say anything either. She just looks up at Adila with her empty eyes, the stars shimmering with tears and a look that says I know I messed up. I know and it hurts so much that I could burst.
    Last edited by Anarion; 2019-07-12 at 02:48 AM.
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
    Quotes

    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

  2. - Top - End - #272
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    “You, Watchwomen! We want to register a complaint!”

    Oh, uh. Oh boy. There are now only two (2) women in this room. No Mimsley, no Brill, and no Kazelia. Just two high-ranking Jedadi courtiers, one of whom has undone her veil and is pressing ice to the rich bruise on her face.

    “The mad dog your dragon brought in here struck my friend and then ran off. We demand she be found and charged with criminal assault.”

    Oh boy. This is the nightmare scenario. The Captain is under arrest, you have just pinned your professional reputation to Kazelia, and in less than half an hour she has managed to a) vanish on you, b) right after you declared you trusted her to clear the Captain, c) and slapped a very important emissary from Shazari, the person who is going to pay to make sure the Bazaar is not exploded, on her way out, while d) the Old Bastards are all looking at you with their judgey faces.

    This looks super bad, Adila. Even, maybe especially, if you turn it around and blame the victim of the crime here. Brookley is deploying a Tactical Eyebrow in conjunction with the Captain, whose cane is making a mildly rude gesture at you with several of its faces. You are on ice so thin you can hear it creaking underneath you.

    “Well?? Aren’t you going to do anything??”
    Remember how I told you the story of how Princess Adila got the judgey faces over eavesdropping a card game conversation? She had nightmares about that. She spent every waking moment for weeks afterwards reading the Operations Manual and polishing her armour and saluting so quickly she could break wooden boards. If Oberon was here and looked into her heart and saw her deepest fear it would be a table full of grizzled old ladies staring directly at her.

    And this was that plus the Captain.

    She just stood there, staring at empty space, ignoring everything being said around her and pretending that this moment wasn't real.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Kazelia comes literally sprinting around the corner at this moment, takes one look at the courtier confronting everyone standing there and throws herself on the ground prostrate. She's not stupid enough to say anything either. She just looks up at Adila with her empty eyes, the stars shimmering with tears and a look that says I know I messed up. I know and it hurts so much that I could burst.
    ... and it was either working or she really was that lucky.

    +D-Deputy Kazelia,+ thought Adila and her thoughts were vibrating with nerves. +I w-would like you to use your magic t-to identify if the Captain is under foreign influence. I o-observed a chill to her breath t-that would be impossible in the current climate and s-suspect that this might be something y-you could investigate further.+

    She was outright ignoring everything else happening around her, pretending that nobody was talking or raising eyebrows, or asking where Kazelia had been or that she'd been gone at all. She knew Kazelia had tears in her eyes and some part of her ached with sympathy but she had literally just bet her badge, her home, and all her friends on this. It was all she could do to stay standing.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  3. - Top - End - #273
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Thanqol View Post
    She was outright ignoring everything else happening around her, pretending that nobody was talking or raising eyebrows, or asking where Kazelia had been or that she'd been gone at all.
    That sounded like the most perfect plan ever and Kazelia was fully onboard. She glanced down, wiped her eyes, ignored the courtiers entirely and stepped over to the commander. "Let me see your arm." Kazelia pulled the silk away from her hand at that point and gently pulled up the captain's sleeve, touching the captain's bare arm with her icy hand. Most normal people would shrink back, though this wasn't so much a test to find a Rider as it was a test to find someone capable of not flinching even when very surprised. What it did do, though, was allow Kazelia to look into the Captain's eyes (well, eye plus eyepatch that was totally an illusion) while her attention was focused elsewhere for an instant. No Rider, not even Oberon himself could fully hide the eyes and the telltale signs of magic would be present to a practitioner looking for them, especially in a moment where concentration was broken. Her senses were screaming at her that there were Riders here, she hoped Adila had found the right one.

    [Rolling Sense with Despair. 4, 2, 3 +0. So that's a 5. I may ask a single question and we're going to find out the hard way. So let's just get to the heart of the matter. What the heck is going on here? What do my senses tell me?]
    Last edited by Anarion; 2019-07-12 at 03:44 AM.
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
    Quotes

    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

  4. - Top - End - #274
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "I suppose it's not really a trip to Jedad until I conspire with some thieves." There we go. Lead with a joke, flash a little smile while you shake his hand. It's water under a bridge, right? Well. Sand under a... what even is the expression here? Ugh, never mind. You're letting it go, Alina. You just made that big speech, so don't go getting swallowed up by old prejudices. Just remember that people live here too. And they're--

    She flinches. Yup, there it is. The distance, the coldness. Last names and that hurt edge in her voice. And... a promise to keep her safe? Still? Alina's heart does a little leap. And then immediately after that, her stomach lurches because she realizes how awful this actually is. Poor Rhyza is going to tear herself in half trying to keep her honor intact even in the face of total betrayal. But Illumina doesn't really do mercenaries. She has no idea how this works. Maybe it's important? Maybe she'll get fired if she doesn't see her word through no matter what. That makes a kind of sense, right? You'd want trustworthiness to be at the top of the list of qualities in hired soldiers, wouldn't you? But that's... still, it's...

    Alina plants a soft kiss on Rhyza's forehead, not knowing what else to do. Like the taller woman, she does it through her veil and marks herself with the same fashion faux pas in the name of trying to take a hurt away. An orange laser blasts through the chains holding Rhyza's arms up, and the princess sets her hands to work undoing the rest of the knots and bindings holding her in place. She doesn't ask for permission from the King. This part's not up for discussion, and if he doesn't like the method then he can find out what it's like to fight her properly.

    "I'm sorry this happened," she says, "I wasn't trying to trick you, it's just... you know, Shazari. Plus, then you wouldn't have liked me at all. But then you were really, um, forward, and really pretty so I just..."

    This isn't going well. Come on, Alina. Be a good princess for her! The ropes come undone and fall away to the floor, and she offers Rhyza a hand up. She's got a bit of a sniffle going on, but she's trying her best to smile.

    "It's ok! It's really ok! I understand, I'm Alina Cascade and I hurt you and you don't want anything to do with me anymore. But I, um, I would really appreciate a bodyguard for a while. And you're the best I've ever seen. You can charge me whatever price you want when we're done, ok?"

  5. - Top - End - #275
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    “You’re just going to ignore us?” Ooof. That’s not making you feel any better, as the Jedadi courtier stomps right up to Adila. “She assaulted us, and I demand you actually adhere to your precious laws!”

    The Captain’s eye doesn’t change. It stays clear and hard and, if anything, you’re the one who is being judged right now. Now, granted, this doesn’t rule out “under enchantment” or “had the strings of her heart severed from her self by the atrocious wonder-knife Echidna, which is named Yearning,” but it’s a start! She’s not a Rider, and a few simple tests will rule out the rest of the worrying array of ways your father could subvert someone.

    Then the world goes psychedelic pink hamsters and snow cone gravy. Someone’s just spammed an illusion spell on “random,” long enough for them to deploy— oh.

    That would be a Bound Wind, actually. One of Azora’s little toys. It slams you and the Captain together into a wall, and then you go tearing away out of her grasp, caught in an entire ocean’s worth of howling gale crammed into a tiny corridor.

    You’re flying head over heels in a dizzying abyss of black stone, hoping desperately not to slam into something in such a way you won’t ever be getting back up.

    So, uh. I guess the answer looks like “someone’s sowing discord in the Watch, and doing a fine job of it.”

    ***

    Adila!

    Let’s cut away a moment. Batty’s staring off into the distance. Then: “oh my gosh the Captain’s evil??

    And that’s when the doors slam open and you and the Jedadi courtier are sent hurtling through the air, bodychecking Batty right into a wall as you do your best to be a tight little ball that won’t destroy anything. The illusion of the Bazaar flickers out of existence as Batty loses consciousness, and you end up bowling right through the doors on the other side.

    Where do you end up, once the wind finally expires and leaves you somewhere else, with the Jedadi courtier still desperately clinging to you?

    ***

    Rhyza!

    You do your best to flinch away from the kiss, but she is both pretty and persistent and... it feels nice. It feels bad, knowing you absolutely mustn’t kiss her back, but, even so...

    You accept her offered hand, slowly stand back up and stretch. You’ve been trussed up for a good long while, and need to get the circulation moving. (Alina could help get your circulation moving, you treacherously muse. Oh could she ever.)

    Then she offers to pay you whatever you want, and it’s out of your lips before you can stop yourself. “Aren’t you broke?” And it just hangs there, like a ten-ton weight, a reminder that, oh yeah, all her kingdom’s treasures are lost to these Riders.

    One more little indignity.

    “I’ll go help Juniper out of the snake pit,” you say, cooly, and beat a hasty retreat before you are sorely tempted to apologize. With your body.
    freedom in the flame

    Spoiler
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  6. - Top - End - #276
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    This is great! I mean, it's not great, it's going to be horrible, but Kazelia actually found this kind of refreshing. She puts a message in the wind to Adila: "It's not the captain, it's one of the other women, there was a Rider there!" even as she's flying off because she commands the wind that way and she's not going to let something like being slammed into a wall get in the way of her new duty. That she already screwed up, yes, we know, but she's trying to be better and she's still got that going for her. Also, yes, that was pretty obvious, but hopefully Adila would be glad to know it wasn't the captain at least.

    That said, focusing on her magic at a time like this meant that she was not at all focusing on important things like paying attention to her surroundings, curling up for safety, or landing. [Roll to overcome the windstorm: 1+2=3.] She tried to at least cover her head with her arms, but this was going to really hurt.
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
    Quotes

    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

  7. - Top - End - #277
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    Let’s cut away a moment. Batty’s staring off into the distance. Then: “oh my gosh the Captain’s evil??

    And that’s when the doors slam open and you and the Jedadi courtier are sent hurtling through the air, bodychecking Batty right into a wall as you do your best to be a tight little ball that won’t destroy anything. The illusion of the Bazaar flickers out of existence as Batty loses consciousness, and you end up bowling right through the doors on the other side.

    Where do you end up, once the wind finally expires and leaves you somewhere else, with the Jedadi courtier still desperately clinging to you?
    Oh thank Ourania

    Yes, she was being hurtled down a corridor and they were being attacked and everything was in terrible crisis but at least she didn't need to explain that she'd made a mistake and this was all a big misunderstanding.

    She crashed through the doors into the Hall of Oaths and came to a sprawling stop directly in the centre. Then she carefully placed the Greyhound to one side before collapsing and catching her breath.

    Banners hung from the walls. Many black - deep and solid black, the symbols and runes that had once adorned them dyed over. On the fringes of the least maintained banners, where the dye had faded, hints of colour could be seen underneath. Here and there, though, were banners taken as trophies. Flags from Feloria, Rowan, Deep Hollow, more... old and worn and several flag designs ago, symbols of an unknown history. Here too were kept other relics of conquest - the broken swords of the Eternal Blades, keystones from toppled castles, old and brittle teeth of terrible monsters. A single great, towering banner rose above all, dominating an entire wall by itself - a field of black like night-time, wrapping ancient secrets within its stitching.

    The room wasn't forbidden - on the contrary she had been here many times on cleaning duty. But it was inexplicable. It was a memorial to an unremembered war, a celebration of forgotten triumphs. She felt a burning connection to it whenever she was here - a sense of possessiveness, a feeling that these things belonged to her or she to them, and not knowing the answers was not knowing herself.

    She got unsteadily to her feet. First things first. +Are you okay?+ she asked the Jedadi courtier.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  8. - Top - End - #278
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina just stands there with her smile frozen in place while her eyes go ahead and let the room know how much that just hurt to hear. She can't even think of a retort or an assurance before Rhyza's speaking to her like ice and walking off just to get away from her.

    Well that was... that was it then, wasn't it? That's the proof that none of the passion or closeness or promises of before could survive the reality of her being Alina Cascade. And if she's being honest, she knows she deserves that kind of treatment. She's never been anything other than haughty and mean to Jedad and its people. And Rhyza might be a mercenary, but she's still working directly for Princess Shazari, who Alina has historically been even meaner and haughtier to than anyone else currently alive. Sure, she got baited into some of it and she'd like to think most of the rest of it was just some sort of childhood rivals thing and that if push ever came to shove they'd actually be friends, but... well.

    Here she is in Jedad, dressed like a barmaid specifically so that Shazari doesn't find out she's here. There she was in a pickle barrel thinking mean things about the princess to pass the time and cover her indignity. Even the King, who historically has been the closest thing Alina's had to a Jedadi friend, is perfectly content to toss out casual Illuminan insults right in front of her like it's the most natural thing to do in the world. So yeah. Maybe it was a bit of wishful thinking that she could smooth any of it over with a smile and a kiss. Or a lot of kisses. Or--

    Alina shakes her head. No, bad girl! Stop that! She's doing the cool distant thing to you and you will respect her wishes because that's what a good princess does. It's just like her mother always told her: matters of heart before matters of state. She'll try to apologize again just as soon as Rhyza comes back. If she comes back. How far away is that snake pit anyway? Actually don't think about snake pits right now. She shapes a brush out of violet light and sets to smoothing her poor destroyed ponytail back into her normal, kind of poofy style. If not her normal color. She'd have to figure out something else to do with it once she was out of here, but... well. At least she doesn't look like she just got passed around the bazaar like a tray of water fruits.

    Ok now, something to offer, something to offer... she winces. She does have one treasure left. Her only remaining one, aside from her light (which is not something that can simply be given away, or else she'd have shared it ages ago with no need to go through horrible shrine visions). But that's... she sighs and she draws her music box out from her light pocket. Her fingers caress the wooden top. She hasn't even opened it since... oh no. She's not really thinking about this, is she?

  9. - Top - End - #279
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    You end up in a contraband storage closet. This wouldn’t be so bad, except you dumped a couple of boxes onto your lap, breaking them open. That wouldn’t be so bad, either, except inside them was a) a bunch of weird potions, I don’t even know what they do, feel free to tell us what happened when they got all over you, and b) a bunch of formerly dormant Jedadi rope vipers.

    Formerly, mind you.

    So here you are, getting trussed up in interesting ways, trying to shake loose the two curling around your neck and gliding menacingly up your chin, when you hear the voice that makes your stomach plummet at a million miles an hour, far past Devilhome.

    Your father’s voice.

    “Pathetic.” He’s standing there in his dark cloak and finely pressed formal evening wear, looking down at you with mild contempt. You don’t deserve anything more than that. “Every time I lower my standards to accommodate you, you miraculously manage to somehow disappoint me again.”

    This... this isn’t real. This can’t be. There’s an illusionist here, right? Breathe. Don’t panic. Breathe. Use your words while you still can, and try in vain to reach for the box containing the song... just in case.

    ***

    Adila!

    “Am I okay? Am I okay?” Oh, boy. That hit registers usually reserved for small birds. “No, I am not ‘okay,’ you date-brained lizard!”

    She pouts like a champion. “You ignored my legitimate complaints, you allowed that mad dog of yours to molest the Captain, you allowed harm to come to me inside your very own citadel, and I am telling Shazari everything!!

    So. Um. This is not good, per se. This is in fact bad, and if you don’t do anything about her...

    Nothing will happen! Right now and immediately, that is.

    Later, Things Will Happen.

    You will probably not like those things.

    But that can be a problem for future Adila, if you like!

    ***

    Alina!

    The King completely misses the exchange of meaningful, pained looks that pass between you and Rhyza, but we have to cut him a bit of slack here: his mind’s racing faster than a Rowani thoroughbred.

    “Alina,” he says, after a moment, clapping you on the shoulder. You nearly drop the music box! But he instantly course corrects, brings a hand up under the corner tilting into space, and saves us all from having to watch your face as you look at a broken music box on the floor.

    “If you’re right, and these Riders have their eyes on the Bazaar, they’ve got the Watch on their payroll. I like the sellsword as much as you do, but we can’t really trust the Watchwoman.”

    Ugh. Double dealing. It’s such a mess, isn’t it? He continues.

    “Other than that... the smart thing for them to do would be to have eyes and ears at the House of Hospitality. The Watch has all the princesses holed up there. They might even have princesses working with them.” That is the most horrible thought ever. “But I think I can get you inside to investigate and figure out for sure. Don’t worry, no one will know you’re Alina Cascade. That’s our little secret.”

    Maybe you ask out loud, and maybe you just give him a puzzled look, and he winks at you. “They’re a bunch of princesses, and everyone knows they’re most dangerous when they’re bored. So there is a lot of demand at the old H-oh-H for... entertainment.”

    Oh no.

    Oh no oh no oh no.

    You can tell he’s asking you to do this because he trusts you, weirdly. You’re a princess! They can do anything, and so you must be familiar with all the other princesses and able to sniff out any suspicious activity, and of course you’re the one person in this room most likely to be able to sniff out the Riders. It all makes sense.

    But you also know exactly how he intends to sneak you in.
    freedom in the flame

    Spoiler
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  10. - Top - End - #280
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    An analyst would probably be able to tell you, based on the menagerie of effects Kazelia is experiencing, that these potions came from a princess or high-ranking knight out of Deep Hollow. Perhaps confiscated by the Watch after someone got a little too violent on the rooftops. What Kazelia will tell you is that
    a) there is a barkskin style effect across her stomach and lower legs, making them hard and strong, but difficult for her to move, and growing in as darker blue fibers wrapping about her legs and stomach
    b) Part of this bark around the belly-button is on fire. It's not a large fire, but it is distinctly on fire, perhaps a potion of firebreathing or some such, but as it is there's just a continual flame on her stomach and
    c) Her stomach smells of a cooling woody perfume that is honestly very soothing and in any other situation would really be making her stress melt away.

    Here, her stress is not melting away. It is not melting away at all! She ignores the rope snakes around her head and neck and does her best to try and keep still so they don't tighten and instead puts all her focus on pulling out the little box with the dolorous song. She keeps it tight against her side, away from the potions and yanks the lid off. The slow mourning tune comes forth and Kazelia speaks slowly, to prevent the rope vipers from doing anything further. Perhaps they would at least avoid the fire? Oberon had her at his mercy, if he truly was here, the song alone wouldn't stop him even if it hurt him.

    "Father...if you're really here...why? What does this place...even matter to you? What does...this world...even?"

    ***Kssssh***

    Maybe it was the song, or Oberon's image, but Kazelia was elsewhere again. A distant elsewhere. Small, but not like the tea party with Asteria, with its pretty pink walls and frosty windows. This was a grand outdoor theater. Its stone seats were carved right out of the side of a mountain, and tall conifers dotted the slope and the sides of the stage. Atop that stage, made of cut wood, still rough with its bark, stood the singers. They were tall, and they were not at all similar, not like the Riders before or since. Each one had her own hair and skin, light and dark and chestnut with faint little freckles arrayed across the stage. The dolorous song rose from one of them, a silver-haired girl, shorter than most of the others, who looked over at Kazelia. Somehow, even though there were many songs across that stage, they all sang in harmony and the greater melody floated up above them to all those gathered. Oberon, an old man already with his silver hair sat in the front at the base of the mountain and he wept openly, even as the gathered listeners clapped and joined in the song.

    ******

    And then that moment of vision was gone, and there was Oberon, and Kazelia with ropes snakes tightening around her throat and making it difficult to breath, her stomach on fire and thick with her new fungal armor, and the music box still playing, fainter than in her vision but still present. She stared straight at him though, her question hanging in the air, and said "Oh Ourania, protect me."
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
    Quotes

    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

  11. - Top - End - #281
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    Your father kneels before you, his cape pooling about him, the hem melting into deep pools of shadow rather than bunching up unfashionably. But that's normal, that's a normal thing for it to do, actually. His eyes are vast and deep and the stars within them shoot across the empty night. The tune, melancholy and mourning, oozes out of the music box, slow and sad and making the skin on your arms prickle as you feel it, that connection, as if you could slip out from Hyperborea into some place where you are wanted. Like that little silver-haired girl is just a reaching of your hand away.

    "Why not?" He asks, and casually knocks the music box from your hand. It hits the stone floor, and the lid snaps shut on the song with a crack. But. But. He's... they promised... it has to be an illusion... this can't be him, it didn't work on him, so it can't be him, they wouldn't lie to you--

    You know what illusions are bad at? Touch, usually. They're all sight and sound. An illusionist could throw a punch at you from a mile away, but all it would do is make you flinch. But your father (but it can't be) wraps his fingers in your hair and yanks your head back, painfully. I wish I could say this was the worst thing he'd ever done to you when he was angry. I really do. You open your mouth to scream, and a thick serpentine knot slithers between your teeth, reducing you to incomprehensible gurgles and screeching.

    "Kazelia," he says, sighing, like you're forcing him to do this. Like he's going to say, this hurts me more than it hurts you. "I'll give you one more chance. Take your little accomplices and go. Don't get in my way, and I won't have to punish you." You attempt to jerk your head away, and he yanks the back of your head into the shelf with such force that it leaves your head ringing. "But when you fail again, I want you to understand that your minions will share in your punishment." Oh, that's just like Dad, all right: you don't even have friends, Kaze, you have servants.

    He stands up, brushes dust off his immaculate clothes, half-turns to leave. Then he stops and gives you a very uncharacteristic little smirk over his shoulder. "Why don't you stay in here for a little bit and think about what you've done, dear? Don't bother coming down for dinner."
    freedom in the flame

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    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    He stands up, brushes dust off his immaculate clothes, half-turns to leave. Then he stops and gives you a very uncharacteristic little smirk over his shoulder. "Why don't you stay in here for a little bit and think about what you've done, dear? Don't bother coming down for dinner."
    Kazelia seethes with rage at her sister. Azora would pay for this (she supposed it could be some other sister, but Eska wouldn't be back yet and she couldn't come up with anyone else who would roll this way). Obviously, it hadn't been her father, he hadn't transformed into a moth, a caterpillar, or a windstorm at any point in the conversation. That didn't make it sting any less though, and her paranoia at seeing him was real. That's why she had pulled out the music box over everything else, even letting the snakes tighten around her in the process. She bites down hard on the rope snake in her mouth with those sharp rider teeth out of spite. Let's see how the snake enjoyed that, hm? It became evident after a moment that while the snake was not enjoying itself, it also was not getting any looser. Well, that wasn't going to work. Her stomach was still on fire, and if anything the snakes seemed to be enjoying that compared to how rigid and frosty the rest of her was. At least she smelled nice, the woody tone was quite pleasant and helped her calm down while she waited.

    Deep breath. In. Out. Kazelia closed her eyes and let the dark energy of the void within her grow outwards. When she used her healing on herself it didn't crackle as much as it did on someone else, something about the transfer of the shadow did that. But it made her whole body grow darker, the stars retreated in her eyes, her skin became almost midnight, and though it was very cold indeed, this kind of cold was the kind that tingled up her spine in a way that brought her back into focus. The shadow helped her clear her mind, rid her nose of the last bits of those minks' perfume, relax even in the grip of the rope vipers. [Kazelia is using her bloodline to heal both her Sense and Wisdom.]

    She let the main part of the energy fade and kept just a little bit in the ice to start massaging one of the rope snakes. Not the one on her throat, that was a terrible test snake. She picked one of the ones curled around her waist near the cinders of the fire. She wasn't exactly sure what to do with these things, but she felt she could figure it out, like she had with the gull. So she started massaging that one, first one way, then another, seeing what it liked. While she did that, she let herself reflect. A few things were clear. First, she had let the sense of impending doom she had felt since coming into this fortress panic her. She knew how to fight, Adila knew how to fight, all these Watch guards obviously knew how to fight, that wasn't the problem. What was the problem was that someone here was trying to create all this chaos. It hadn't been the watch Captain, but she was certain a Rider had been in that room, and the whole Oberon act there seemed like Azora Howl, not to mention the windstorm, which was an Azora magic special. The other problem was that she, Kazelia, was trying to do too many things, and she needed to stop crushing herself over that. That's what Adila and Alina had meant, back in Askaia, right? What she had now was that she'd promised something to Adila and the dragon obviously cared about promises a whole lot, you could see it in her eyes. That was important because Jedad wasn't the last place they would go and they needed to find a way to work together, here and in the future. (the stomach snake is starting to move now, she thinks she's getting the feel of it).

    Fixing the problem here meant working together, not taking it all on herself. Adila knew the fortress, the Captain could command the Watch, there were probably others, even Shazari's maidens knew the customs here and could aid them (and they apparently weren't Riders even if they were very mean). There hadn't been very many people there when the wind had gone off. Adila, the Captain, both safe. The two handmaidens, also both safeish. There had been a wizard or something in the room, but Kazelia thought she had seen her get knocked unconscious, so probably not her. That left, what had it been, six old commanders of the Watch? One of them had probably been Azora or one of her servants in disguise. Maybe the captain was nearby here, Kazelia had held near her for most of the windstorm before they blew apart. (Her magic now is getting the snake out from around her throat and her mouth).

    She continues massaging the snakes, letting each one work its way off her in turn and settle into a comfortable coil. "So, you snakes" she says aloud, her voice filled with the same satisfaction she feels from them as her magic strokes them. "Would you like to come with me? I need to find some friends and there might be someone here that would really like to meet you. I'll make sure you get all the massages, okay?"

    [Yes, Kazelia would like to have a coterie of rope snakes accompany her out of the room once she's done slowly freeing herself. And of course, for this Talk Sense, I have rolled an 11 because the universe knows this is a good and right thing to do.]
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
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    Oh gosh. Oh no oh no oh no no no whyyyyyyy is this happening? Why is this day like this? Wasn't going to Jedad supposed to be the good deed that cleared her karma? Did Shazari somehow find a way to sit on Ourania's throne and warp the skein of fate? This isn't fair! This isn't right! This isn't... a bad idea, objectively.

    "Well I do trust her," she says, determined to be right about something, "And she can move around freely in the city so there's no better person around to get me to the... to that place."

    What really stinks about this is that he is one hundred percent right. His instincts really are as sharp as ever. If there are any number of princess' here, at least one of them is bound to be caught up in whatever's going on in the Bazaar. It's basically a law of the universe. And if someone's got bad intentions and isn't named Shazari, they need to know about it. And nobody in the entire rest of the country is going to be nearly so well equipped to figure out who's gone bad than she is. So it needs to be her. And if it's her then she needs a disguise and... rrrgh! She sighs and puts the music box away. She'd think about that later. When there was time and the mood in the room wasn't stupid and also dumb.

    "I don't know any Jedadi dances." she protests. And she knows as soon as she says it that it won't hold water. Er... for the love of Ourania, what expressions does anyone even use in this backwards sand-drowned place?!

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    “Am I okay? Am I okay?” Oh, boy. That hit registers usually reserved for small birds. “No, I am not ‘okay,’ you date-brained lizard!”

    She pouts like a champion. “You ignored my legitimate complaints, you allowed that mad dog of yours to molest the Captain, you allowed harm to come to me inside your very own citadel, and I am telling Shazari everything!!

    So. Um. This is not good, per se. This is in fact bad, and if you don’t do anything about her...

    Nothing will happen! Right now and immediately, that is.

    Later, Things Will Happen.

    You will probably not like those things.

    But that can be a problem for future Adila, if you like!
    +Oh no! Where does it hurt? Is anything broken?+ Princess Adila thought, hurriedly turning around the Greyhound looking for injuries. Then the nature of her objections and the fullness of her health started to sink in. +You're - there was a magical attack that affected all of us! We need to work together now, we need to find the Captain who has clearly been enchanted and -+

    "It's not the captain, it's one of the other women, there was a Rider there!"

    + - a-and -+ Princess Adila's thought crashes into a halt. +It wasn't the Captain, my mistake,+ thought Princess Adila, and then did the most insightful and diplomatic thing she'd ever done. She pulled out her notebook.

    +Your companion is now a person of interest in my investigation. What can you tell me about their recent behaviour and activities?+ thought Princess Adila with the stupid optimism of someone running entirely on training. +Have they been unusually mean or cruel recently?+

    [Raz knows what I rolled]
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-07-13 at 04:22 AM.
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    Kazelia!

    First, I must whisper a vague dread into your heart. Your father’s grasp of shapeshifting has, by and large, skipped over his children, with one exception. But this... this can’t be Ninian. She is silly and undisciplined and enjoys sowing chaos, not running big overarching plans. Having her be behind this would be like being savaged by a puppy so bad you need to go to the hospital. This is Azora, right? That’s what Eska said.

    (But shapeshifting and Rider witchcraft combined... would explain a lot of what you have seen thus far. And she is both changeling-child and witch. Still, I think you would very much not like it to be Ninian.)

    The hearts of rope vipers are full of holding. Their desire is to hold fast and to hold tight. Like the great snake-husband of Jedadi myth, they are also full of wrath. How dare you try to move them from their chosen place? They are furious creatures of hisses and biting.

    But once they decide they like you, and these have decided that they like you, they wish to hold fast to you. They relax their strangling bonds, and instead slither up and down your limbs, drape themselves about you as a necklace, nestle affectionately in your hair. Ours, they sing to themselves. Our friend.

    Give us a foe! They think of tight, crushing coils, of writhing and nipping and rubbing and tickling. Little better would they like than the opportunity to show their simmering wrath towards the enemies of their friends.

    If you ran into Azora Howl right now, she’d be the one in trouble.

    Instead, well— read on!

    ***

    Alina!

    “Ah, I forgot,” the King says, wryly. “You are a barbarian, who thinks a dance is all mincing steps and done to imitate streams.” R-rude! Iluminan dance is very sophisticated and graceful and not just “brazenly sway tummy around” thank you very much! “But not to worry! You are in the King’s court, and there is no skill that my noble knights have not mastered.”

    Oh gosh how are there suddenly three different Jedadi thieves standing behind you nodding their heads knowingly, this is a trap, a terrible terrible trap that you have just waltzed into, pun intended.

    You are dragged off to an awful gyrating fate.

    ***

    Adila!

    The courtier short-circuits for a moment, trying to understand where on Hyperborea you gained the absolute nerve to speak to her that way. Don’t you know who she is, you overgrown lizard?

    I am telling Shazari on you right now,” she declares, and flounces away.

    Well. That’s. Not good.

    You head out, presumably after gathering your bearings, and some time later run into both Kazelia and Ojaa at a T intersection.

    “There you are,” Ojaa says. “We’ve taken the Captain into custody. Brookley suggests you ought to have one of us come with you.”

    Right. Yes. Of course. This is not a suggestion, Adila.

    “She also advises you that there was a disruption in the patrols soon after our... incident. And that it’s likely our saboteur has escaped. Will you be staying here tonight,” she asks of the fortress that most definitely still has Riders somewhere inside it and you have no idea who you can trust, “or joining the other princesses at the House of Hospitality?”
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2019-07-13 at 04:59 AM.
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  16. - Top - End - #286
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post

    Adila!

    The courtier short-circuits for a moment, trying to understand where on Hyperborea you gained the absolute nerve to speak to her that way. Don’t you know who she is, you overgrown lizard?

    I am telling Shazari on you right now,” she declares, and flounces away.
    Well... it was a good thing that Princess Shazari was extremely wise and patient and forgiving (everyone said so!). If she wasn't Princess Adila would be terrified at the prospect of her head being filled with... an uncharitable perspective. Princess Shazari definitely wouldn't interrupt a critical investigation involving a laser snake over a harmless accidental insult or two. Surely. She was very lucky to live in Jedad.

    “There you are,” Ojaa says. “We’ve taken the Captain into custody. Brookley suggests you ought to have one of us come with you.”

    Right. Yes. Of course. This is not a suggestion, Adila.

    “She also advises you that there was a disruption in the patrols soon after our... incident. And that it’s likely our saboteur has escaped. Will you be staying here tonight,” she asks of the fortress that most definitely still has Riders somewhere inside it and you have no idea who you can trust, “or joining the other princesses at the House of Hospitality?”
    +I have been advised by Deputy Kazelia that the Captain is not a shapeshifter, but that still leaves a range of possibilities,+ thought Princess Adila, snapping back into professionalism mode when addressed by a superior officer. She wasn't trembling nearly as hard now. She'd followed a lead and it had been live, even if it hadn't lead to where she originally expected - that was solid police work with real results that had rustled a hostile Princess.

    +My mission is still to find the Heart,+ she thought clearly. +I want Deputy Kazelia to run a few checks on the command staff to see if anything else comes loose, but after that this becomes a matter of base security. I will follow up on the House of Hospitality. Time is of the essence.+


    It was with a newfound sense of confidence that Princess Adila took to her work. She could actually look the Old Bastards in the eye at this moment.

    She had been trained to trust in her perceptions and her intuitions - often by these exact same people. "You have those magic eyes and you're too silly to believe them?" Brookley had shouted, cuffing her behind the ear. It had taken a long time to sink in! When everyone in the world sees one thing and you see something totally different it takes real courage to raise your hand rather than dismissing it as a trick of your imagination. But the Watch had cultivated that skill in lesson after lesson and they'd always acted on her perceptions. Her commanders were partly deaf, partly blind and - well, one of them only had one eye. Her job was to see things they couldn't.

    She'd done well. She'd lived up to her training. She'd trusted in protocol and herself. Now the Watch was wise to the problem and they would not be fooled again. The job wasn't done so she couldn't feel pride yet, but she could feel confidence - she had been away but her senses and instincts were still sharp. She knew this, and did not need to be told.

    When the Captain was cleared by Deputy Kazelia she didn't apologise, didn't grovel - she thanked the Captain for her co-operation in her investigation. She thanked Deputy Kazelia too - there was a predatory gleam in Princess Adila's eyes now and it burned away any past mistakes either of them had made. She had the scent. She was on the hunt. She had met her enemy and not been fooled. And in that moment, does she not seem like such a Dragon? The kind that can see through any mist, any darkness, any deception - the kind that Riders fear so?
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-07-13 at 06:18 AM.
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    Adila, Kazelia!

    You’ve got the Captain freed and about half the other OB’s cleared when the alarm bell goes off. Fire at the outsite Artifact Storage, where the stuff that they don’t dare store inside goes.

    See, from the sound of it, Brookley took a few of her gals to go get The Interrogator. Big stone lion head that tends to go CHOMP when it hears lies, as long as your hand’s inside its mouth when you say them. (Gross.)

    But when you two show up to help, there’s no one there. Just a card, laid in the lion’s mouth.

    A Queen.

    “Come and find me,” it reads, in neat, tight handwriting. And then there’s a cute, curly little heart, and on the back: “I might even give them back.”

    Of Brookley and her gals, there’s no sign.

    And the oppressive air of the place has lessened. Maybe not gone completely... but it’s like you can breathe again, Kazelia.

    Try not to inhale any smoke.
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
    Quote Originally Posted by BladeofObliviom View Post
    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
    Quote Originally Posted by Kasanip View Post
    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dervag View Post
    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    "Oh, I'm the barbarian because you don't appreciate art. Next you'll be telling me it's wrong to swim."

    Alina shakes her head, but she's good and stuck. Illuminan etiquette demands, requires that she learn these dances now, because there is no graceful way to extricate herself from the responsibility. This is personally embarrassing, but what part of this evening hasn't been? If she refuses and storms off screaming 'solve your own problems, you jerks!' then she's being mean and ugly, which is tantamount to becoming evil. If she's going to keep her image as a good princess worthy of her mission, and despite everything that's still the crystal shape beating just next to the deepest truest part of her heart, then there's no choice but to commit to this.

    And likewise, no choice but to show these... no, that's inappropriate... these (ahem) 'knights' that she can learn their dances. In no time at all! In fact, give her thirty minutes and she'll be better at it than they are!

    "...This is hard." she whines, exactly twenty minutes into learning these awful belly dances.

    "You are moving your legs too much, miss. The motion is in the hips."

    "I. Am. A. Princess!"

    Until today, she never knew it was possible to bow sarcastically. But they're doing it, and in unison no less.

    "A thousand apologies, Miss Princess."

    What made it worse is they were right. Or, they were right about being wrong, which was close enough. Alina is faultlessly graceful, but her concept of dance is not at all suited for entrancing guests and drawing their eyes with the promise of her body. In Illumina, at least when Illumina had dancing, there were two main types of dancing. Noble Dancing was what she practiced most (of course), and was what the King had been mocking earlier. The step sequences were enormously complicated, and the dancer wore long, trailing ribbons on her back so that every spin, leap, and step left a fluttering trail in her wake. It was a sacred art, that consecrated new glass towers and kept the important rivers pure for another year, and was a celebration of skill that put the dancer above the people watching her, at least until she was finished. Which was no use here at all, because the goal was the opposite.

    But, she slowly figures out, it isn't exactly meant to demean her, either. Well it... ok, this is a complicated thought. No, it's... they're making her do this because she's Alina Cascade, which is supposed to be an insult. But the dance is about treating how the people watching you feel as more important than what you look like doing it. That's... kind of neat, actually. But she's not telling them that. And she's not going to let it stop her from showing up anybody who dares to try and dance next to her tonight.

    Her big breakthrough comes at minute 35, when without prompting her mind starts wandering and she thinks about her stint as Elsaria the Dread. When she'd had to take up sword fighting and needed to adapt what she knew about ribbon combat very quickly so she kept up her image as a feared bandit and not a flailing moron. Imagining the sword in her hand, twisting, swaying, bending her back away from phantom foes up on the rooftops where she learned to be comfortable, she finds her rhythm. She flourishes. She's beautiful. Eye catching! And she dares anyone to say a word against her just now.

    She stands up perfectly straight and sticks her tongue out in a highly mature display of victory. Which is absolutely not dulled by the realization she's about to put her training to use entertaining old friends and acquaintances for the good of a country that wants her to fall in that snake pit, please and thank you.

  19. - Top - End - #289
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    A Queen.
    Kazelia, bedecked in her new rope snakes (about which she says not a word) takes her time checking over the others. She does so with care and precision, doing her best to match Adila's formality and salute her and the captain properly when each person was cleared. She tries to do this without making it look silly, which is very difficult for her, but she's clearly trying her best in the role, and if anything she seems refocused. The ropes snakes, for their part, seem to be quite enjoying their position on her body, or perhaps just hibernating because of her chill, but either way they're resting peacefully along her arms and over her shoulders.

    Her heart lightens when the alarm goes off, but although this does allow her to let out a breath that she had not realized she had been holding, it also causes her to purse her lips in concern. "She left" she tells Adila when they find the card. "I can feel it, there isn't anyone of my siblings or their servants here anymore. If Azora was in the fortress, the card is all she's left behind." That squiggled heart bothers her though. Azora didn't do cutesy. She enjoyed cruel humor, but her style was powerful and commanding with a mixture of spite and disappointment at the incompetence of everyone around her. Cutesy hearts and an offer to play nice if everyone went along were not the Azora way. Which made that niggling thought of Ninian work its way back into her head. And that was bad in its own way. It wasn't as bad as Azora, it really wasn't, but Ninian was so good at tricks, and Adila was so sensitive. She...needed to say something. Maybe more than one something. With the captain present she says "Adila and um, Captain, uh, ma'am" She does a small salute to make sure it's okay for her to speak and then goes on "This note, and the odd illusion before, it suggests it could be a different one of my sisters, a shapeshifter. She could, if it were her, she could be pretty much anyone, she most takes after our father that way. Don't trust your senses, she has powers of illusion too, as we all just saw."

    Kazelia will stay at attention with Adila while she makes whatever other preparations she feels at necessary at the fortress. She doesn't have much more to say while the princess focuses on her work, but when they have left, she will walk alongside Adila and speak quietly to her. "Adila, before we left Askaia, you told me how hard this must be with family involved. I...you were right. It is hard. I feel like it's my fault, I know them, I can sense them, if I'm not always working as hard as I can, every minute, then I'm failing them. It makes it hard to bear things when they go wrong and I...I need to get better at that." She pauses a moment, but she has something else to say. "We're also, we're at the place that's your home now, and my family is threatening your family. That has to be hard for you too. So, if there's, if there's any way I can help or anything you need me to do, just let me know, okay? I think, if neither of us has to bear these burdens alone, it will make them a lot lighter."

    [I think I should roll to speak softly with Adila here, which is an 8. What Kazelia would like to understand is What Adila will tell us about the pressure she feels, what she wants and how Kazelia can help her get it, and what would she have Kazelia do next? One of them you can refuse to answer or reveal a terrible truth. Note that I intend this to be Kazelia doing her best to be honest and to listen, so the move putting you in the position of having to hold back or say something unwelcome can perhaps be Adila struggling herself with these issues herself, or revealing to Kazelia how much Adila has felt shaken by her behavior, though feel free to put in something better if you have ideas.]
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
    Quotes

    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Kazelia will stay at attention with Adila while she makes whatever other preparations she feels at necessary at the fortress. She doesn't have much more to say while the princess focuses on her work, but when they have left, she will walk alongside Adila and speak quietly to her. "Adila, before we left Askaia, you told me how hard this must be with family involved. I...you were right. It is hard. I feel like it's my fault, I know them, I can sense them, if I'm not always working as hard as I can, every minute, then I'm failing them. It makes it hard to bear things when they go wrong and I...I need to get better at that." She pauses a moment, but she has something else to say. "We're also, we're at the place that's your home now, and my family is threatening your family. That has to be hard for you too. So, if there's, if there's any way I can help or anything you need me to do, just let me know, okay? I think, if neither of us has to bear these burdens alone, it will make them a lot lighter."

    [I think I should roll to speak softly with Adila here, which is an 8. What Kazelia would like to understand is What Adila will tell us about the pressure she feels, what she wants and how Kazelia can help her get it, and what would she have Kazelia do next? One of them you can refuse to answer or reveal a terrible truth. Note that I intend this to be Kazelia doing her best to be honest and to listen, so the move putting you in the position of having to hold back or say something unwelcome can perhaps be Adila struggling herself with these issues herself, or revealing to Kazelia how much Adila has felt shaken by her behavior, though feel free to put in something better if you have ideas.]
    +Don't worry,+ Princess Adila thought reassuringly. +Things will be just fine. Let me know if it's too much for you and I'll discharge you; you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.+

    Perhaps the most surprising thing emanating from Princess Adila's thoughts is how calm and confident she is right now. Her earlier nerves have dissolved and she is heading down the street with purpose and confidence. If she couldn't handle this specific pressure right here then she'd have washed out of the Watch a long time ago. This was The Job. This was the morning and the afternoon and the evening and the night shift. Rogue Princesses? Dangerous mission? Weird cheating magic? Kidnapped officers? Stolen magical relic? This was what she did. This was what everyone did. This was literally what they signed up for and the world would be weird if it wasn't like this.

    Despite everything that I have just said, Princess Adila is not actually brave at all. Her fears swim below the surface, shadowy shapes and figures that she tries her best not to think about. It's simply that what scares her is social. She is hyperaware, every second, of how different she is from everyone around her. Every time someone talks to her like a Watch officer and not a scary dragon she has a crashing rush of relief. She's so aware of how fragile that illusion is. If she messes up and breaks something it's always 'that damn dragon' and not 'the damn watch'. She's worked unbelievably hard to spin the illusion that she's a person and a professional, and people go along with it so long as they don't think too hard. She dreads more than anything the child who will stand up and point out that the Queen is not wearing any clothes and break the spell for-ever.


    So here's the terrible truth part. You could help her realize all her dreams right now! You could solve her problems for good and make her the happiest dragon who ever lived! You would just need to explain the situation to your father and let him take away Princess Adila's big, awkward dragon body and replace it with a humble little human one and you'd grant every wish she holds inside her heart. He's the only one with the power to make a change like that, and I'm sure he would be delighted to have a dragon as a new pet. It goes without saying that she would then be entirely useless when it came to helping you save the world.

    (She'd take the deal too, in a heartbeat. See, a little additional twist you can see in that clear confidence of hers is that it simply hasn't sunk in for her how dangerous the Riders are. She thinks of Oberon's followers as just another kingdom, albeit one with an above average number of Princesses. She certainly doesn't believe the fate of the world rests on her shoulders. Perhaps this is why she's treating you with as much friendliness and understanding as she has been - she simply hasn't twigged as to what your people are capable of.)


    But of course, she doesn't know that such a thing is possible. Right now she's focused on the mission. Her plan is to not let you out of her sight and, if necessary, bodycheck you in the event of you losing your temper again. She really doesn't want to have to do that but right now she's oathbound to hold you to the same standard she holds herself to. If you get mad and, say, challenge one of the Greyhounds to a duel then that is legally the same as her getting mad and challenging the Greyhound to a duel. Then after you're discharged any crimes you committed or offenses you gave she will have to answer for. She takes that so seriously that if Princess Azora Howl showed up right now and you were in danger of doing something rash she'd prioritize subduing you over her.

    So what she wants is for you to please please not get in any fights and, if you do, please please please take the time to take off your badge and ask to be released from service first.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  21. - Top - End - #291
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    Rhyza!

    Beautiful. Eye-catching. Flourishing.

    You meant to come back in and check on Alina. Make sure she wasn’t in any danger. Juniper Blue was having a lie-down, free from rope vipers, to help her sleep off the incense. Which meant that you could be here.

    There is an old wives’ tale that you heard growing up, when you sat around the campfire and ate your hot curry: there is a certain desert snake that hunts birds. It lies on its stomach and pretends to be dead, and then, when the scavenger-bird swoops down, it lifts its head and begins to undulate. The bird watches, transfixed, helpless, as the snake wraps coil around coil about it, its head never ceasing its hypnotic motion.

    It’s true. You once had to fight a brood mother while blindfolded. But you did not think that princesses, too, had this power. Not until you slipped into the room and your eyes fell on her.

    When she stops, she stands up, sticks out her tongue playfully, and then notices you. The look on your face! Longing, helpless, and unable to move, as if caught by the dance of the serpent, and how lovely it would be to wrap her up in coils, to stop her from making those enticing little rolls of her stomach, those sways of her hips, to accept the tantalizing promise of that body.

    Then her instructors turn to see you, she glances away, and it is as if your body is released from bondage in an instant. “I... the princess has not had anything to eat, and has just exerted herself,” you manage, unable to look any of them in the face. “She should take a moment and find refreshments. I will accompany her. If she will have me.”

    Idiot! Dullard! You can feel the blush creeping up your face. You must not be winning and seductive and take advantage of Alina’s heart. Try harder!

    ***

    Adila, Kazelia!

    Here’s what I think will happen here—

    That you will be seduced by the Bazaar, just a little bit. That you will know time is of the essence, but the city itself, despite being in danger, despite being in the midst of civil war between the law and those who break it, is too vividly and irrepressibly alive to be denied.

    I think that each of you ends up buying something that you think the other would like, and that you both end up spending too much on something that leaves you happy but a little rueful. You both see something extraordinary, something you hadn’t seen before, and you both share a secret with the other in the glow of a purchase.

    And then— only then— will you have happened to arrive at the House of Hospitality, which I should very much like Adila to describe for us.
    freedom in the flame

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    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
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    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
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    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
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    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    Alina turns in her moment of triumph and sees Rhyza staring at her. The look in those sharp, strong eyes makes her blush harder than any of their previous flirting did. When people knew she was Alina Cascade, they pushed her away. They ran from her, they schemed against her, they tried to kidnap her, they fought her, or worst of all they were boys. Nobody ever knew her name and then looked at her like this. Not since--

    One of her instructors tries to get her attention, and the spell is broken. She looks away and fights off the urge to bury her face in her hands. But, oh! She's even 'the princess' now, and don't ask her why but that just feels so much more romantic than hearing her last name. Oh, no good. No good! She's melting! She touches a hand to her cheek and she smiles. The right move here is to be polite about it, to not look desperate or like she's trying to use Rhyza for something. But what comes out is:

    "Oh yes, please! I will have you!" and then a pause while her words registered with her brain before, "F-for an escort. A guide! To help me find a meal and... gather myself before seeing me safely to the House of Hospitality. Yes. Just... just let me change, and we'll be on our way. Is that all right?"

    And that, dear friends, is what we call "princess smooth". She'll be a queen someday, our Alina. You can tell by the way she dusts herself off from that little moment and proves that really, actually, she's all business here.

    "I do need to recover my strength. I haven't eaten since this morning and a nameless somebody saw fit to shoot me full of lightning and sic a rope snake on me for several hours. If I learn anything valuable or find another princess acting strangely, I'll report back here and we'll work out a plan from there. I'm... pretty sure I recognize this place, actually, so I'm certain I can find it again if I have to. Unless you have somewhere else in mind?"

    There, see? Saved it! She's so good they won't even notice her staring at Rhyza again.

  23. - Top - End - #293
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    Alina!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you. So! As you yourself noted, the dances performed in Jedad are about the emotion provoked in the viewer, and similarly, the outfits for their dancers are all about capturing the audience’s attention by giving them as many opportunities to fixate on something as possible.

    But first, a brief side note! The wonderful thing about the composition of Jedadi silks in particular is that they are refreshingly cool to wear. Most clothes would stick to the body and get uncomfortably clingy in the heat, but their silk whisks away sweat and billows comfortably at the slightest breeze, amplifying the relief from the weather. In Ilumina, it would be dreadfully impractical— going absolutely sheer in a proper rainstorm, for example, and leaving you a shivering mess— but here, it works perfectly. Even if it’s so light and gauzy and teasingly hints at what’s underneath and not proper silk at all.

    Your new outfit, doubtless pilfered, is all about deep, rich blues and burnished golds. Ostentatious golden hoops frame either side of your face, their nadir level with the hem of your opaque veil, and your (flusteringly low) neckline is embroidered in gold thread, with peacocks and storm birds chasing each other across your front (itself a motif representative of the struggle between Jedad and Ilumina). Your trousers are loose, though collected at the ankles, and slit down the sides, the better to show off your royal legs; your slippers are dainty and admittedly really cute. Where possible, the makers of the outfit wove in small diamonds into the thicker areas of the fabric, and the outfit even came with one of the precious serpent-tear jewels as a decoration.

    Though it’s a little weird wearing something so precious in your navel, honestly. The knights promised it wouldn’t fall out, something about it being magically attuned to the outfit, but it’d be just like them to prank you. Especially with what they did with your scarf.

    See, the dancer’s outfit is also tied in to Jedad’s nationalistic ideals and motifs. And one of them is their vassalization by Ilumina, and their overcoming of the same. So of course there’s restraints worked into the outfit. Golden cuffs gleam at your wrists and ankles, with little rings for slipping a scarf through, and a gaudy collar gleams around your neck, with a corresponding ring for the scarf. The knights may have teasingly implied that tying yourself up a little with your own dancing scarf and “squirming helplessly” before undoing it with a flourish was the height of skill, muuuuuch too difficult for a beginner like you. And while that’s almost certainly reverse psychology, it’s also true! I mean, the bit about it being a mark of skill. You’ll have to tell us if it’s too difficult for you.

    And because these knights are also jerks who are very, very good at keeping a straight face, they triple-knotted your scarf through your collar’s ring and then handed the other end to Rhyza, just to watch you both try not to combust.

    ...

    SO anyway, how about getting a proper meal incognito? Remember, it’s definitely not a date. It’s just a chance to get to know Rhyza and daydream about what it would have been like if she hadn’t found out your identity and maybe even flirt a little because you literally can’t help yourself.

    ...okay maybe it’s a little bit a date.
    freedom in the flame

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    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  24. - Top - End - #294
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    Kazelia has much to think about. It's overwhelming for her, and she is not used to this, to being anyone's confidant, to trying to be nice, to any of it. First, there is that sense of melancholy at starting to understand the way that Adila sees herself, how much she doesn't want to be a dragon, how hard she tries to maintain a facade of normalcy around her behaviors. That facade of normalcy, Kazelia could, if not give it to her, at least direct her to it. Oberon would take her with open arms, a powerful dragon like that, and even if he gave Adila what she wanted, Kazelia knew his toll would be horrible. Remember, Father is a liar. He makes promises and then he never gives you what you truly want. But now she knows, she knows that he could offer it and that if the terms were right, Adila might take it. That's a heavy burden to bear.

    Then there's the fear and disappointment in Kazelia herself. It wasn't surprising, not at this point. But it still hurt. It hurt that she couldn't live up to what her friend wanted her to be, it hurt to know her people's ways really were so different. And a big part of her hurt because she realized Adila didn't respect her. Not really. Kazelia Swiftlance, arguably second in skill and prestige only to Azora Howl herself amongst the Riders, was someone that this dragon thought needed to be body-checked because the way she'd react to a bad situation would bring her shame upon the dragon, the watch, whoever else in Jedad. And that was a cruel thought, but it was nevertheless there and all Kazelia could do was bury it very deep down and try to pretend it hadn't entered her head.

    But above that was her desire to do better. Kazelia would be the type of person that Adila could trust, she would learn about the other kingdoms and how to be a princess within them. And maybe she'd work on importing a few of the better Rider customs around too because they weren't all bad and the Jedadi had shown themselves to be incredibly disrespectful without any fear of retribution. But, later. She would educate people, not punch them in the face.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post

    That you will be seduced by the Bazaar, just a little bit. That you will know time is of the essence, but the city itself, despite being in danger, despite being in the midst of civil war between the law and those who break it, is too vividly and irrepressibly alive to be denied.

    I think that each of you ends up buying something that you think the other would like, and that you both end up spending too much on something that leaves you happy but a little rueful. You both see something extraordinary, something you hadn’t seen before, and you both share a secret with the other in the glow of a purchase.

    And then— only then— will you have happened to arrive at the House of Hospitality, which I should very much like Adila to describe for us.
    The sights and sounds of the bazaar are a welcome relief from that dark fortress. This is the part of Jedad that Kazelia finds enchanting. People full of life, moving about no matter what was happening, with all sorts of strange things, food and drink, toys, and spices, silks everywhere. It felt incredible and was enough to take her mind off brooding or trying to march like a guardswoman (which, by the by, Kazelia does just fine, she has military training, it's just Rider princess military training with very sarcastic salutes).

    She settles almost immediately on trying to find something for Adila. She considers some sweets, but decides that she'd rather inquire later into dragon dietary preferences before accidentally getting something unpleasant. She next considers the stall of a lovely basket-weaver who weaves light and dark rope in enchanting swirls. But she passes on that after sizing a few up: not fireproof. They went past a merchant selling leathers including some exotic saddles, which Kazelia at first dismissed immediately because that would just be rude, but next to those, she saw another leather merchant (why did merchants always come in clusters of the same thing, anyway?) selling packs and purses. That actually seemed perfect. She covertly tried to size up Adila's sizing, which was very large and stopped at the booth to consider. A merchant's bag, slightly square with a tight iron clasp that wouldn't come open while flying. Yes, that seemed excellent! Kazelia had seen a number of the other watch members carrying such purses or packs even while on duty, and Adila could do the same with something a bit larger to be properly to scale. So, she pointed it out to Adila and asked the merchant if he could attach longer straps using spare leather, big enough to go over a dragon's waist so that Adila could wear it on her back or over her shoulder. Then she paid the jaw-droppingly high price that she really should have inquired about first but now it was too late and she was committed even if this was the only thing she could buy here. She gave it to Adila with a grin and hoped very much that her friend liked it.
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
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    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    The sights and sounds of the bazaar are a welcome relief from that dark fortress. This is the part of Jedad that Kazelia finds enchanting. People full of life, moving about no matter what was happening, with all sorts of strange things, food and drink, toys, and spices, silks everywhere. It felt incredible and was enough to take her mind off brooding or trying to march like a guardswoman (which, by the by, Kazelia does just fine, she has military training, it's just Rider princess military training with very sarcastic salutes).

    She settles almost immediately on trying to find something for Adila. She considers some sweets, but decides that she'd rather inquire later into dragon dietary preferences before accidentally getting something unpleasant. She next considers the stall of a lovely basket-weaver who weaves light and dark rope in enchanting swirls. But she passes on that after sizing a few up: not fireproof. They went past a merchant selling leathers including some exotic saddles, which Kazelia at first dismissed immediately because that would just be rude, but next to those, she saw another leather merchant (why did merchants always come in clusters of the same thing, anyway?) selling packs and purses. That actually seemed perfect. She covertly tried to size up Adila's sizing, which was very large and stopped at the booth to consider. A merchant's bag, slightly square with a tight iron clasp that wouldn't come open while flying. Yes, that seemed excellent! Kazelia had seen a number of the other watch members carrying such purses or packs even while on duty, and Adila could do the same with something a bit larger to be properly to scale. So, she pointed it out to Adila and asked the merchant if he could attach longer straps using spare leather, big enough to go over a dragon's waist so that Adila could wear it on her back or over her shoulder. Then she paid the jaw-droppingly high price that she really should have inquired about first but now it was too late and she was committed even if this was the only thing she could buy here. She gave it to Adila with a grin and hoped very much that her friend liked it.
    Princess Adila loved pockets. Pockets were among her favourite things. There wasn't a better gift you could give her, and there was a ripple of surprised delight from the dragon when you presented her with the gift. +Oh! It's wonderful!+ she said, using her silver light to hook it around her neck and fasten the clasp. Her melancholy thoughts disappear in an instant - suddenly there are tools and gadgets and cosmetics levitating out of many small packs and pockets distributed all around her uniform as she started thoughtfully rearranging her kit so that the weight would balance evenly across her body. And as she shuffles around her gear you see things you never imagined she had, little secrets she didn't mean to reveal.

    Brushes and paints are the more surprising one - Princess Adila carries around a full makeup kit with her which in some instances resembles something like tools a house painter would use. She has a thoughtful array of jewels, necklaces, ribbons, clasps, brooches, paints and other such charming things. She has a felt box for both sewing and knitting, and several rolls of colourful fabrics. She has neckscarves and perfumes and nail polish. You haven't seen her put any of these tools to use, but they're in her pockets and in her mind. More practically, she has a variety of other tools - door spikes, coin purses, saws and hammers, a diary, magazines, glue, a compass, chalk, stamps, notebooks and quills, antitoxins, a set of scales, an abacus...

    You can feel the sheer enjoyment she feels at redistributing all her tools - and more so, in being able to manipulate her tools so easily and effortlessly with the help of the little light. Having pockets and using tools were things that made her feel so wonderfully normal.


    Having settled her gear back into place Princess Adila's first thought was to return the favour (and of course was aware that this is how the Bazaar Got You, but sometimes it was fine to Get Got). She abruptly angled them down a series of streets towards the Street of Silence.

    It got steadily quieter and quieter as one headed towards the Street of Silence, a heavy and unnatural stillness creeping up on you like coming deafness. At first people spoke in whispers, and then not at all. Strange architecture with hooded spaces and bizarrely patterned rooftops ate passing sound until even the beat of your own breathing fell away. The cobblestones were replaced by carpet that muffled even the sound of your footsteps. By the time Princess Adila found what she was looking for the silence was all-pervading and oppressive as an anchor around your neck.

    And then she lifted up a beautiful Spanish guitar, focused her light to a tiny point and began to play.

    She'd loved playing the guitar when she was little, and her claws were natural picks but she'd gotten bored of it long before she got too big for it. But she remembered a few tunes and this was the one she was best at. It was a common tune and a famous song, one of the first that students learned when they were just getting started out. Ideally it was played with the backing of dozens of violinists, but she made do with what she had. It was one of the many songs from the legendary story The Merchant Princess, telling the tale of how she crossed the deserts of Jedad through the midst of the greatest sandstorm in Hyperborea's history...

    And the Street of Silence lit up. All those cunning acoustics and delicately woven spells made the sound emanate and saturate the air all around her. It was revealed that it wasn't silent because there was anything sinister or oppressive in this place, it was silent so that when music rang out all could hear it clearly.

    And then Princess Adila finished playing and lifted the guitar over to Princess Kazelia.

    +I know you love music,+ she thought, +but all of your songs sound so... sad, and so far away. If you'd like I'll get you this, and teach you how to play when we have time. Maybe you'll feel better connected to Hyperborea if you learn some of its music?+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-07-15 at 07:43 PM.
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    "My songs...they're not really mine. They're a shared heritage, but this..." Kazelia eyes go very wide and she nods. "Yes, please teach me. I want to learn to play my own music." This was quite possibly the best gift you could have given Kazelia. Music for her is the center of her soul, it's not only something she loves, but something that steadies, calms, and centers her. It is perfect.
    School Fox by Atlur

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    Anarion's right on the money here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    "My songs...they're not really mine. They're a shared heritage, but this..." Kazelia eyes go very wide and she nods. "Yes, please teach me. I want to learn to play my own music." This was quite possibly the best gift you could have given Kazelia. Music for her is the center of her soul, it's not only something she loves, but something that steadies, calms, and centers her. It is perfect.
    Princess Adila sparkled in delight. +Guitar, picks, some sheet music... I'll have it delivered back to the ship so it doesn't get damaged,+ she thought, paying the merchant and handing the guitar back. +This is going to be a lot of fun! But right now we need to focus. When we head into the House of Hospitality you'll meet many more Hyperborean Princesses. They're all intensely dangerous, seductive, intelligent and deceptive individuals - hardened criminals to a woman, capable of anything.+ Her eyes narrowed at the thought. +The least of them is a mastermind capable of unravelling the threads of an entire kingdom if left unchecked.+
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

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    The first sight of the House of Hospitality is breathtaking! A massive, palatial complex surrounded by musicians, gardens, fountains, pools, and hundreds of rooms! It is one of the most impressive buildings in the Bazaar - but after the first glimpse wears off it seems gaudy and over-wrought. The façade is a little tacky and the entire thing gives off the vibe of being too recent. It actually comes as a bit of a relief to be informed that this is not the House of Hospitality, this is the House of Guests, the kitschy and overpriced competitor put up by a scumbag businesswoman to delude tasteless travellers who came expecting more than the actual House had to offer. Everyone in the Bazaar hates it and agrees that it is an eyesore but it's also the kind of thing travellers expect from the Bazaar's reputation.

    The actual House of Hospitality is much smaller - more big house than palatial mansion. It's a hollow square building with simple marble columns and a red-tiled roof surrounding a central courtyard with a flower garden. And oh, how artistic everything is! This place is the heart of beauty for the desert. As the wind blows the sand then it forms coruscating waves of ruby quartz and emerald dust, the thorns of the cacti burst with the richest and most magnificent spices that leave you as breathless as kissing, and from here stars and nebulae can be seen in the daylight sky. The view is spoiled on one side by the House of Guests, but to the other the desert opens up to a vista where the sand dunes are cleaved by the patient hooves of a million camels.

    The distinction between beauty and wealth is as plain to see as night and day, but many travellers are nonetheless lead astray into the House of Guests. Perhaps it is the pretty dancing girls who dress as pretty djinn missing the point of the old stories, or perhaps it is the fact that to stay at the House of Hospitality is free so long as you contribute to the care and maintenance of the House while staying, as opposed to the House of Guests that asks only for money. The House of Hospitality benefits from its relative overshadowing - there are no more queues at the doors and the most foolish and rude clients are naturally channeled into the House of Guests. But no locals to the Bazaar, and certainly no Princesses, would ever be fooled by glass alongside diamond.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-07-15 at 10:59 PM.
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Before we get to the date, we should talk a little about the last aspect of Alina's costume: her hair. It's not a big change when you say it out loud, all they did was slip a (absolutely pilfered) jade hairpin in between the locks on the back of her head. They told her it was magic, and it must be, because when they brushed it again all of her curls came undone and her hair went as silky straight as though she'd been dancing in the most beautiful rainstorm she could imagine. Except it was still dry! The effect was much more deeply transformative than her ponytail had been, or even some of the elaborate plaits her mother used to tease it into for balls and other fancy occasions. The way it frames her face makes the whole shape of her seem different, and even if she wasn't wearing such an opaque veil she'd be willing to bet that the number of people who would immediately realize who she was would be very small indeed. Even tiny movements sent it rippling back and forth across her back and neck in brilliant golden waves. Seeing it, she's struck by two thoughts. One, if she can she'd really like to have this hairpin when she leaves Jedad. Two, she really wishes she could let it revert to her normal lavender right now. But blond does go better with this outfit, so here she is. She quite timidly lets herself be lead out into the streets by Rhyza on her scarf-leash, going scarlet as she does.

    Alina had always heard that dancers in Jedad were afforded a lot of respect, at least compared to serving girls. But to be honest, this was a much harder walk through the streets than her previous tour with Rhyza had been, even though there was a lot less groping and eye covering and kissing and now that she's thinking all this out loud could we please go back to that? Pretty please? Neither of them has the nerve to keep up the little leash act with so many eyes about, so Alina undoes the triple knot as quickly as her fingers know how and drapes the garment so that it covers up her silver scar, which is very very exposed thanks to the cut of this top. She's never let it stay visible like this before, ever. She hates it. And she desperately doesn't want Rhyza to stare at it. Stare at any other part of her, please. Look at her with longing or with loathing. Just... not with pity. Don't ask her how much it hurts.

    No good, she's nervous again. She wraps both her arms around Rhyza's one again and clings closely to her guardian, just like before. The only difference is that now the fluttering of her heart is also wrapped in a layer of worry that she'll be shaken off. She looks up at her date with her soft and vulnerable eyes. It's hard for her to read the mercenary's (don't call her that again, Alina) expression.

    "So, um, where do you recommend we go? I've never actually bought food in this city before, so I'm a little excited in spite of everything."

    She smiles, but the effect's lost a bit in this veil. Jedadi fashion is weird and complicated. Unlike Illuminan fashion, which is tasteful and... also complicated. Sh-shut up!

    "You know, um, I was really impressed by how you handled yourself back there. Even being all tied up like you were and with Askaian incense being so close, you always looked like you wanted to jump up and kick his face off! You were very brave and fierce. Princess-like, even. It's... kind of an underappreciated art, the whole 'prisoner' routine. But you do it well! So I thought I should, um. Yes."

  30. - Top - End - #300
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Raz_Fox's Avatar

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    Sep 2008
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    Imladris
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    Hmm. The House seems... well, like it’s being used as a holding pen for some very dangerous princesses, honestly. There’s an incognito Watchwoman at the cafe on the other side of the street, and you’d bet your best tube of lipstick that there’s at least two more keeping an eye on the other exits. They wouldn’t be able to stop the princesses, should they choose to leave, but they can at least tail them and make life a little tricky for them.

    Windows are closed, and the House of Guests is booming in comparison; if the old H-oh-H is royal prowling grounds, the rest of us had better cough up some money, or so popular thought goes. Then, when they inevitably get in some flashy magical duel, you won’t miss any of your sleep or otherwise be distressed by their shenanigans.

    Still, there’s some staff that’s always here, a close knit community more like a family than anything else: old Mayzie works the kitchen, the Sheela sisters help direct the cleaning, and “Rocky” Maud serves as the door-warden.

    When she sees you, Adila, Maud sucks air through her teeth. “Welcome back,” she says, with a melancholy smile. “Come to visit, Addie?” Now, here’s the thing: you’ve known Maud basically for ever. She used to sneak you snacks while you both were on duty! But that means she knows as well as you do that you don’t fit very well inside the House of Hospitality.

    You’re going to have to... shrink. Down to person size. That’s the only way to avoid trampling flowers and knocking over antiques and generally being a menace in there. And that just means if you lose your head, you’ll break things even worse.

    Ready to do the changey thing? Right in front of Kazelia, even?

    ***

    Kazelia!

    Inside, the House of Hospitality is cozy and homey. The air is cool against your skin, and smells faintly of spices, baked bread, and furniture polish. The light is faint, filtering through half-blocked windows, and somewhere a harp is being played, the kind that makes a princess want to sit a while and just listen. It almost lets you ignore the vague feeling of unease tickling up and down your spine.

    And over here, in a side room just off the atrium, are the first two princesses you’ll meet today. One’s tall and blonde and vaguely melancholy-looking, with horse motifs worked into her blouse and her belt and her cloak-clasp; the other is slender and dark, covered in veils and jewels and silver, and beams excitedly when she sees the two of you.

    “Adila!” she cries, waving you over with a bangle-bedecked arm. “Thank Ourania you’re here. You wouldn’t believe what a time of it we’ve had!”

    “The Heart’s as good as found, now,” the blonde says, faintly, but with absolute confidence. She keeps her eyes down on the chess board that sits between her and her exuberant friend.

    “I don’t think we’ve met,” the beaming princess says, offering her hand to you. “I’m Tashanna, and please, allow me to formally welcome you to Jedad.” It would be hard to feel more welcomed if you were hit with a giant stamp that said WELCOMED on it in block letters. “And you must be one of Oberon’s children, right?”

    The way she says his name... she can’t have met him. Nobody who knows your father would say his name like that, like they’re excited to know him. Not if they knew the man who you had, arguably, seen just this very same day.

    ***

    Adila!

    PROFILE: Princess Helya of Rowan
    • Has an impossible 100% win rate at Find the Queen. Current theories on how include “impossibly lucky,” “cheats outrageously,” “cheats but only when we try to cheat first by using three Handmaidens,” “is secretly the best illusionist in Hyperborea,” and, perhaps best supported by evidence, “pathologically incapable of losing a challenge.”
    • Underneath that placid, chivalrous exterior is a calm, well-mannered princess who will under no circumstances turn down a challenge, will under no circumstances fold, and will under no circumstances say “maybe we’re taking this too seriously and should de-escalate the situation.”
      She once bet her crown on a game of chess. Like, her status as a princess and everything. And she calmly smiled and didn’t raise her voice at all and told her opponent GG after a blitzkrieg of moves that made them lose in twenty minutes flat.
    • And the maddening thing is that if you don’t challenge her, she’ll have a gentle vacation here and cause no trouble at all. She’s so nice. Just under no circumstances let someone challenge her to see who can climb the Clocktower fastest because she will blink and smile affectionately and then clamber up it like a bat on a sugar rush.

    PROFILE: Princess Tashanna of Jedad
    • Tashanna was, much like the Princess Adjutants of Ilumina, raised to support her older sister Shazari upon her assumption to the throne, as well as being prepared to take the throne in case the unthinkable happened first. She ended up taking to diplomatic training like a fish to water; she’s sweet as honey, painfully generous and a natural philanthropist, can slow dance a fox into flustered surrender, and somehow makes most people walk away feeling like Jedad’s a perfect ally for any and all of their needs.
    • Officially, very officially, she doesn’t have a criminal record at all. And for 99% of her life that’s actually the truth and nothing but the truth! But mysteriously, if you were to bring up stories of “Tashii the Very, Very Scary,” whose short but dastardly reign of terror alongside Elsaria the Dread had the Watch helpless to stop her before her inexplicable disappearance, she’d go red as a tomato behind that veil, bleat like a sheep, and fall out of her chair, in exactly that order. But why would you ever want to do that?


    ***

    Rhyza!

    When the princess removes the other end of the scarf from your hand, you have to will your fingers to let go; in happier circumstances, you would have made her bat those lovely eyes and beg for its return. But that would be winning, and we are not to be winning, Rhyza, no we are not. We are to be a good person, and—

    Arm. There is. Arm. Princess. Arm. Wrapped. Hello. The clash between “pull her closer” and “don’t enjoy this” near paralyzes you for a moment. Your heart goes at speeds usually reserved for hunting dogs. She asks you, looking at you so weak and innocent and tempting, where you recommend to eat.

    This is tricky, because you have to take her somewhere where there is absolutely no chance you’ll run into an ex. This complicates the question considerably. Can’t be the kebab place down near Salt Street, Suzi’s working the counter. Can’t be the Felorian place up on the third floor of the Dawn Tower, Ely’s a waitress there. Megathe’s dancing at both “The Dragon’s Leg” and the Serpent Cafe, depending on the day. And you can’t take her to an Iluminan place at all, even one of the fancier ones where the waitresses are fully clothed, because then she’ll think about the home she lost and you can’t bear to see those frail little shoulders droop and those lovely eyes tear up again.

    ...you’re stroking your fingers against her palm. Stop that. You’re a terrible person.

    Where were we? Right. Maybe... there’s this one hummus place with a bit of Askaian flair that she might enjoy. You might even have to help her lift her veil to stop it from getting smeared with hummus. Yes. This is a good plan.

    “Follow me,” you say, sternly, like she couldn’t lift her legs off the ground and be carried along, if she wanted to. “I know a place.” There. Cool, composed, professional, not wanting to make a princess squeal. The perfect performance.

    And then she starts complimenting you. Oh dear.

    “It was nothing.” Too brusque! “I just don’t like it when I can’t help the people I care about.” Good. Good. Keep talking. “And you were much better at being a prisoner. You had the helpless struggling and squirming and...” WHAT NO WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT. Do not let her see your face, it’ll ruin the cool reputation you’re trying to build!

    “...do you like our food?” There. Better. Safer. Less likely to go in terrible, terrible directions.
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2019-07-16 at 01:34 AM.
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    Raz, you scoundrel! You planned this!
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    Great, and now I'm imagining what Raz's profile on a dating site would look like. "Must be okay with veils."
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    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
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    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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