The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #421
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    No +that is not_whathappens happens. That is not the right thing to have happen! What happens is that we get a+parade let me fix it I can still fix

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Dragonhouse!

    "Of course," Dandy says, and she loves you very much and tells you that you didn't do anything wrong and there is no reason to feel bad and and
    You NEED this Ad[Dragon]! You should resits and establish dominance you should show your fire because nobody else in all the world has fire like you and wou;dt' it be so emuch more happy an ending if you just overrode your lying dragon eyes for a few moments and let me take care of this? If you just turn your head a little bit and catch Princess Dandy in a little bit of these irrelevant fire-sneezes and melt her like the sand and the snake husband THEN I PROMISE YOU WON'T EVEN FEEL BAD. Or is feeling bad what you WANT, ADILA? DO YOU WANT TO FEEL ALL OF THESE THINGS AGAIN? DO YOU WANT TO HAVE TO FEEL talons ripping teeth and gums NOBODY WANTS TO FEEL the smell of molten stone THIS IS WHAT YOU'RE CHOOSING what you were going to do next THIS IS WHAT I'M PROTECTING YOU FROM it was inside you all along ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS you will never be loved

    you deserve this+

    The harness fights as it comes off her head - it rips and claws and reaches. It had found such a nice dragon to live in and protect and shelter from the cold and the rain and the sadness, even if the fires burned so terribly bright inside. It had a place inside that dragon and it would very much like to leave the harness behind and set up residence much more permanently. support columns catch on the sides of a dragon's soul and tendrils bash against the door and scream all the reasons why she should open up and let it back in.

    Wouldn't it be easy? One breath and they'd be on their knees and they'd be yours and they'd all be yours and you'd be happy or at the very least they'd be gone and you'd be gone too and in your case wasn't that the same thing as happy? After all, if you stay you'll be alone. Alone with yourself. and isn't that even worse?

    Eyes of fire meet eyes of earth and it felt like it might be for the last time.

    I wouldn't... have to...

    +you... stop. have to...+

    The underground rivers are cold and dark and pitiless but their channels run deep. she can't... but she can surrender herself to a different kind of habit.

    +princess danddy,+ the thoughts are slurred, confused, piteous, even as Watchwomen close in on the two princesses from all sides. +y-you have damaged watch p-property and assaulted multiple o-officers,+ her eyes remained sunk to the sand +you are under a-arrest. and i... will conduct you to your sentencing...+

    The weakness in her heart, as always, belied the strength and speed of her body.

    Her wings clapped like a hurricane to clear Watchwomen from her path. She snatched up Princesses Dandy and Shazari and pulled them to her breast as she was already running, wings wide, trying to remember how to catch the air without... to leave... to find somewhere...

    [Get Away with despair: 6, 6, 1 -1 = 6. That's a miss.]
    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Omae wa mo shinderu

  2. - Top - End - #422
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    "...really, Alina??" That's something she can hold onto. She can work through her resentments later, because right now, she has to drag her sister, and exasperation is a much better thing to be feeling right now. Hold onto that, Jessamine. "Really?"
    "Jess, I..."

    Alina loses her grip on her sister, and it stings. There's all the hurt and fear and sadness and the desperate clingy hope, but that's all different from the sting. There's... it's an... an indignity is what it is, that she's somehow not earned the right to just hold her little sister and cry happy tears and let that be that. What was all the crystal flowers and magical sunrise stuff for if not for that?! Jessamine stands up, so Alina does too.

    She's... shorter. Than her little sister. By more than she remembers. Now that stings, too. And Jess is so graceful and imposing in her black silks and armor, with the beads in her hair that clink softly while she shifts, and now that her eyes are full of life again isn't she just gorgeous and awesome and the prettiest picture of an Illuminan princess? Perhaps in a rough-and-tumble pirate costume sort of way, as if for a ball. She's amazing. And Alina... well, she just got called a "Jedadi strumpet" by one of her own subjects without even the slightest hint of irony. Even in the House of Hospitality she did not really regret her disguise or her dancing. She'd been beautiful, so she was proud. But... but, b-b-b-but now... oh no oh no oh no. Stupid Slaugh! You really couldn't have left just this one thing for her? Noooo, horrible memory-eating demon marsh, you also had to go and ruin her last proper Illuminan outfit and now she's here in front of her impossibly perfect little sister in a... in a-- oh hey look, Rhyza's ok? Isn't that great? Isn't that--

    "Really, Alina? Really?

    It takes a lot, much more than you know and then even more than that by at least half, to manage to blush gracefully but also to completely lose your dignity while doing so. Alina manages. She coughs, sputters, backpedals... gets upset? Hey! She deserves dignity! She's the hero, the Princess-Promised! That still means something, darn it!

    "Nonono," Alina just about shrieks, "That is not what it looks like! She and I just--"

    Jess is staring at her with a gaze so piercing it reminds her of the River King.

    "No, you don't understand! It's not my fault, there were Rope Vipers!"

    An eyebrow arches.

    "We got tied up together and--"

    oh no no no abort abort abort

    "No I mean, there were all these... circumstances so I--"

    Staaaaaaaare.

    "Shut up, Jess!" she whines.

    This is not fair. It's not! Alina's face is pinker than the magical dawn, and she has never felt so flustered or helpless in the face of her sister in her entire life. Nor, indeed, any easier to drag.

  3. - Top - End - #423
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Kazelia!

    "You haven't changed at all," Ninian says tearfully. And it's not true, but it probably still stings. The spear makes a little popping sound as it comes cleanly out of the wound, and Ninian presses both her hands over it. "You're still the meanest of us."

    And with that, she turns her head away and curls up in a little ball, bereft of even a comforting stuffed griffin to complain to about what a jerk her big sister is.

    "Nice job, Rider," comes a sultry voice from behind you. There's a firm hand on your shoulder, and you turn to see Rhyza smiling at you. "Don't worry," she adds, "I get it. You're the rebel. You have to play mean or they'll never figure out you're being serious." She picks up Ninian by the scruff of her neck, ignoring her squeaks of displeasure. "Thank Ourania everything worked out, though-- and we've got you to thank."

    You might not ever hear that from Shazari, but at least Rhyza's got your back.
    There are a lot of little stings there. Ninian being so hurt. Kazelia doesn't want that. Rhyza's words take a bit out of that one, but Ninian is still hurting. Unlike Alina, Kazelia has no idea what to do about that. No idea if she could do anything about it at all, it might be impossible to hug a Rider into being a better person, even with a miraculous sunrise. If that miracle existed, well, maybe it existed, but Kazelia hadn't found it yet. She still doesn't understand, really.

    And then there's all this going on with Alina and Jessamine and Kazelia can't tell if Alina intends all this because she's acting kind of how she was earlier when she obviously had everything under control, but also it seems kind of embarrassing, so she leaves her thoughts to herself while Alina...bonds or something, and helps Rhyza get Ninian up and moving. They'd need to take her to Shazari. Kazelia was a little nervous about that, so her next move was to check with Rhyza and ask "you're okay getting Alina back when she's ready? I'm going to take my sister to Shazari. And maybe see this vaunted Snake Husband everyone has been so worried about. Hopefully, she got the heart back before anything got destroyed, Shazari seemed like she knew what she was doing."
    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 - #424
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Shazari!

    You have always had some respect for the Watch’s Princess. Any Iluminan would doubtless judge her gracelessness harshly; any Hollow-dweller would find her provincial and painfully blunt. But she had good intentions, by and large, and was determined to do her part for her people. That is the purpose of a princess, after all; no more, no less.

    And so it does pain you to be forced to coerce Adila to release you through the application of your heel to a wound in her side. (A jousting injury?) Her bellow of pain is regrettable.

    You tumble down from her spasming limbs, landing neatly in a three-point position. You lunge, nimbly weaving through the knot of Watchwomen in order to get to the snake-husband.

    What have they done to your kingdom’s husband?

    The light in his ruby eyes has faded, and he looks ruined, overrun, like an ancient monument defaced. He stirs feebly, displacing sand all about you.

    “...Valissa,” comes the resonant, booming voice from deep within stone chambers. “I... I missed you...”

    There is only one thing to be done. One thing that must be done. It is foolish and impulsive and will have far-reaching consequences, but you are a princess, and a princess must follow her responsibilities. A princess must do what she is called to do.

    You walk, head held high, Heart of Jedad clutched to your chest, into the yawning mouth of the snake-husband. His jaw closes around you, and there is a lurch as he begins to burrow, deep down, into the earth.

    There is much mending to be done; and though his outer wounds are beyond your skill to treat, his inner wounds are in need of the care of a princess.

    It is a shame—

    But this will not be forever, and Tashanna will forgive you when you return.

    ***

    Lozaria!

    You hate sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere. But when a princess tells you to hop to, you have to ask her how high, lest she freeze you in ice and use you as a table decoration.

    This should have been your ticket to becoming somebody important! Well, more important. You don’t get to learn witchcraft from Azora Howl as a no-name nobody after all. But after Ninian brought the treasures of Jedad home, and gave her father a city-ruining snake easily manipulated by hiding his magic gem in cities you wanted ruined, you would have become important! Respected! Feared! At book club, you could off-handedly mention that you were in charge of the Iluminan division in deep cover, and that you’d been instrumental in bringing the wealth of Jedad back home.

    ...which might still be salvageable, actually. If you made it back to camp before Princess Kazelia found it, you could evacuate as much of the Black Princess’s treasure as possible and return to Ilumina in reduced but still significant glory. Perfect. Always salvage the situation, Lozaria, always keep hustling.

    So here you are, on a sand dune, disheveled, having just come to this resolution, when a desert vulture comes down. “Shoo,” you cry, waving your sleeves at it. “I’m not dead!”

    The vulture changes.

    “Not yet,” your king says, amicably. His smile is the most frightening thing in the world. “Not yet.”

    “Your majesty,” you say, pressing your forehead down onto the sand. Please don’t ask about what’s going on. Please don’t ask about what’s going on.

    “Now. What’s going on here?” nooooooooooooooo “I do not recall giving my servants permission to strike against the Bazaar.”

    “We— that is to say, my lady Ninian— felt that you had, perhaps, overlooked the opportunities—“

    “Overlooked. Mmm.” oh no oh no oh no “What is your name, girl?”

    “l-l-lozaria sir”

    “I see. Lozaria. Well. Come and walk with me.” He snaps his fingers, once, and you scurry up in a way that is in no way reminiscent of a dog.

    ***

    Adila!

    You crash.

    You can’t go any further. You are hurting so much. Not just in your body, in that cut down your side that feels like it’s going to split and make you two dragons, not just in your throbbing magic hangover head, but in your heart, too. Your hurting heart. So big. So vulnerable.

    You carve a furrow in the sand when you fall, heedless of such things as place and time.

    And I do not think you come back to yourself until your jaw is pushed open and cool, numbing water is dripped onto your tongue. Numb is better. Isn’t it?

    “There,” the man says, closing your jaw again. “That should help.” He runs a gloved hand along your forehead, and the numbing chill in your skull helps you think again. “Talk to me, Adila,” he says, not unkindly. Behind him, an Iluminan(?) Witch wrings her hands and fidgets like a naughty child.

    His eyes are so deep. You could get lost in that starry night, forever.

    “Tell me what happened.”

    ***

    Dandy!

    You’re in more trouble than a vixen caught in a henhouse.

    You’ve been cuffed and are under armed guard when the Captain and the Annalist arrive, resplendent in their black-and-bronze. You’d never admit it to Adila, but the Watch puts the heebie-jeebies in you fierce when they get like this.

    “Princess Dandy of Feloria,” the Captain says, and her grandmotherly face is twisted into a sneer that just don’t look right at all, like a bad paint job over something pretty, “You have interfered with the Watch in the carrying-out of our duty. For this crime, we are prepared to induct you into our ranks.”

    That shouldn’t sound as right ominous as it does. Luckily, that’s when the smoke bombs roll right up to the Captain’s feet, and someone hooks your arm with their hand, all confident and sure.

    “It’s been a pleasure working with you, sister,” the dashing rogue says, and winks, just before the smoke bomb goes off.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    Chaos!

    Absolute chaos!

    There’s no snake-husband, but the Watch is dealing with a new problem. Smoke is billowing up from the Watch’s citadel, and there are two dozen different running duels through the streets of the Bazaar. Lots of Watchwomen in black and bronze are running about.

    And— oh, Princess Dandy is on a rooftop, waving you down. Next to her is a dashing gentleman. Given that you can’t see Shazari anywhere, that’s a safe place to get started, yes?
    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.

  5. - Top - End - #425
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Kazelia!
    And— oh, Princess Dandy is on a rooftop, waving you down. Next to her is a dashing gentleman. Given that you can’t see Shazari anywhere, that’s a safe place to get started, yes?
    That Shazari. She should have already been here. How irresponsible could she get? After the way her handmaidens had been so insulting at the citadel, Kazelia had half a mind that Shazari had just ridden off with the heart to make some point about not accepting rewards from Riders or something.

    But never mind that, the Bazaar wasn't destroyed...sort of? It looked like it was getting there all on its own without any help from laser snakes. Kazelia pulls Shiva, with Ninian tied up in both magical and traditional style riding in front, onto the rooftop and lands with Dandy and the man. He didn't look like Oberon, so she was at a bit of a loss. But it had seemed like Dandy knew what was up during the princess meal earlier, so this really was as good a place as any to get started.

    "What in Ourania's name is going on here?" Kazelia shouts as she brings Shiva in for a landing. She's not prepared to dismount yet, this might not be a safe place to be taking Ninian right now (safe for Ninian and safe for them, either way).
    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)

  6. - Top - End - #426
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Thanqol's Avatar

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    You crash.

    You can’t go any further. You are hurting so much. Not just in your body, in that cut down your side that feels like it’s going to split and make you two dragons, not just in your throbbing magic hangover head, but in your heart, too. Your hurting heart. So big. So vulnerable.

    You carve a furrow in the sand when you fall, heedless of such things as place and time.

    And I do not think you come back to yourself until your jaw is pushed open and cool, numbing water is dripped onto your tongue. Numb is better. Isn’t it?

    “There,” the man says, closing your jaw again. “That should help.” He runs a gloved hand along your forehead, and the numbing chill in your skull helps you think again. “Talk to me, Adila,” he says, not unkindly. Behind him, an Iluminan(?) Witch wrings her hands and fidgets like a naughty child.

    His eyes are so deep. You could get lost in that starry night, forever.

    “Tell me what happened.”
    The wave of black murk that projected from Princess Adila translated roughly into +I don't want to talk about it+

    Of course she didn't. Why on earth would she want to talk about what she'd done to what was probably the only person in Hyperborea who hadn't heard about it by now? Because obviously he hadn't heard if he was giving her water, sympathy, eye contact...

    He'd find out eventually of course. But did she really have to have that moment now? Couldn't she just... enjoy the feeling of someone not knowing that she was a monster for just five more minutes? Of course, it was too late for that, too, wasn't it? Her leaking, bleeding, unsteady thoughts had already soaked out of her. You didn't need to know the specifics to understand the grim confirmation of her own worst fears within those. She had only needed one tiny push to become the monster she'd always been afraid she would someday be.

    ... where was Dandy? Had she not even managed to rescue her? Of course not, Adila - you were only made for one thing, and you should know that by now.
    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Omae wa mo shinderu

  7. - Top - End - #427
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    “For Adil—“ Zap! The gentleman uses his lightning gloves to blast a Watchwoman right off the rooftop, and then gives you a grin.

    “These Watch types! Give them some weird mystic artifacts and they go all batty. Good thing I’d already planned for that.”

    “Hello,” Dandy says, a little bit out of it. “Did you see where Adila went? She’s not fit to be alone right now.”

    “Oh, did she get bitten by the Rope Viper?” What a nasty little question, Ninian.

    “No, it was this harness that the Watch made her wear. It was messing with her head, and she was brutal to that poor snake-husband, and when I got it off her—“

    “Adila tried to kidnap a couple of princesses,” the handsome rogue says, “and then Shazari got eaten by that giant snake, and now,” he adds, swinging that crackling glove over to you, “I’d like an explanation for what you’re doing here, Rider.

    Dandy hits him.

    Okay, it’s a gentle punch to the ribs. A “behave yourself” love tap, really. (If anything, you’d expect a lot harder back home.) “I told you, that’s Kazelia. She’s on our side.”

    “You’ll have to forgive me for not being quick to trust. Last I heard of it, the Riders were trying to kill me.”

    “Oh, please,” Ninian says, rolling her eyes. “You were a lot more useful alive, moron. I let you walk away from that.”

    “Anyhow,” Dandy says, running her fingers through her hair distractedly, “we’re— well, Mr. King here—“ (“Just the King, sister.”) “—Mr. King is tiring the Watch out so they’ll be ready to take a nap, and I’m trying to find Addy. Did you see her?”

    The answer is, unfortunately, no, but— well, read on!

    ***

    Adila!

    Oberon clicks his tongue. “Really, Adila, I expected better from you. Being moody is no excuse not to do as you’re told.”

    He digs into a pouch and takes out a pinch of glimmering, ominous powder, which he blows over your face, and it becomes a lot harder to keep your eyes open. It’s not especially unpleasant, but... it’s tough... not to just...

    to just fall into dreams of cold, and whirling dark, and starlight. Riderish dreams.

    Damage your Wisdom, and wait for Kazelia and her posse to come find you and wake you up.

    ***

    Alina!

    “I’m going to keep fighting.”

    On the one hand, thank Ourania that the awkward silence of trudging back to the Bazaar on foot was broken. On the other hand, Jessamine, nooooo.

    “I don’t know what you’re doing with that Rider, but... someone needs to actually fight him, Lina. And even if I was too rash the first time, I know better now. If we work together, we could defeat him.”

    And that’s tempting. Isn’t it? But that’s also just like Jessamine. She can’t admit that she was wrong. That maybe she can’t defeat Oberon through being brave enough and good enough and daring enough herself. That she couldn’t win the rematch if she just tried harder.

    This is the opposite side of Helya’s despair, and it’s going to be just as ruinous in the long run, probably.

    What if you go back to Ilumina and Oberon captures you both? And then there’s nobody to help Kazelia and Adila stop him. To say nothing of what he would do to you, the princess who dumped water on his head.

    But your little sister is asking you, and now you have to wrestle between the fear and the certainty that it wouldn’t work, and the fear of watching Jessamine march off alone, again, to fight him. And lose. Again.
    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.

  8. - Top - End - #428
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    Oberon clicks his tongue. “Really, Adila, I expected better from you. Being moody is no excuse not to do as you’re told.”

    He digs into a pouch and takes out a pinch of glimmering, ominous powder, which he blows over your face, and it becomes a lot harder to keep your eyes open. It’s not especially unpleasant, but... it’s tough... not to just...

    to just fall into dreams of cold, and whirling dark, and starlight. Riderish dreams.

    Damage your Wisdom, and wait for Kazelia and her posse to come find you and wake you up.
    How did so much time fit into a single day?

    Adila's half-completed thoughts are dragged towards the day spent on the unknown island. How were both of those the same unit of time? How could an interval where so little felt like so much be the same thing as a day like today where so much felt so empty? Exhausted thoughts try to trace through the vast heap of unstructured memories to find where she went wrong but she didn't even know when to start. Alina's disguise... wrestling with a djinn on the docks... accusing the captain... Helya's challenge, the joust... how honoured she'd felt when she'd been offered the bronze, how the pride that had filled her heart seemed painful somehow.

    She'd hurt people. She'd hurt... she'd hurt people. That was who she was. Underneath every habit and rule and law there was a dragon who wasn't just capable of hurting people but who actively wanted to do it. She'd beaten the House, she'd fought it and gained control, but that had just made things worse. The only part of her that could fight that fight was vicious... cruel. Just like when she'd gone after Helya. Cruel. A real princess was like Princess Dandy, who could see when she was in trouble and saved her... saved everyone else from her, rather, without even hurting her, even though she deserved it. Even though she'd almost... and Dandy had risked...

    She really was a monster. Not just because she was powerful but because she craved using her power. It wasn't anyone else's fault... Helya wasn't in control of her actions. The snake husband was just lonely. The Watch probably expected her to keep better control of herself. She tried not to make mistakes but it wasn't enough...

    ... but she could try harder.

    She could... she had to. She had to bury that cruelty as deep as she could and make sure she never had the opportunity to wield it.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-17 at 03:29 AM.
    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Omae wa mo shinderu

  9. - Top - End - #429
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    “Adila tried to kidnap a couple of princesses,” the handsome rogue says, “and then Shazari got eaten by that giant snake, and now,” he adds, swinging that crackling glove over to you, “I’d like an explanation for what you’re doing here, Rider.
    Kazelia's face goes through a lot of wait, I'm sorry, what? expressions. Even the shooting stars behind her eyes seem to arch at a more quizzical angle. She doesn't even bother shutting Ninian up at this point. Shazari was eaten by a giant snake?! With the heart? And that...well the snake was gone so that worked? But she had to completely flip her mental calculus here because every interaction with anything Shazari related (not to mention all of Alina's griping well thought out critiques on the way over) had prepared Kazelia for a selfish, arrogant princess who might be competent but would never do anything this self-sacrificing. So this really wasn't computing. And either way, the problem was the Snake Husband and maybe Ninian and other people that Oberon had brainwashed and Kazelia had dealt with that, hurray! So why was the Bazaar in chaos and the Watch run amuk? And the thought that Adila, of all people was in trouble was really not making logical sense either. Maybe Azora was here and she had brainwashed everyone? That made at least as much sense as what she was hearing from Dandy and this King guy. But Azora wouldn't go for a double bluff like that and...ugh this was too hard.

    "I don't know where Adila is, I'm sorry" Kazelia says, with a slight nod towards the fact that Dandy stopped the King from attacking her. That was a nice thing. "Alina and I have been out in the desert, we found the Black princess, helped her, stopped my sister" pokes Ninian lightly "and gave Shazari the Heart of Jedad. I thought that was supposed to fix things here." Kazelia sighs and rubs her temple. "Alright, well it sounds like the Watch is something you can handle, and the Snake isn't a problem anymore one way or another. So, if you think you can fit up here along with Ninian, we can try and find Adila. I'd love a safe place to put my sister too, one that's not Watch-related."

    (Assume we sort out the immediate logistics of who can fit on the Pegasus and go searching for Adila by some combination of flight and rooftop scramble)
    Last edited by Anarion; 2019-08-18 at 01:33 PM.
    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)

  10. - Top - End - #430
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Most of the search is retracing their route to get back to where Dandy was when Adila took off from the desert outside the Bazaar. With the Watch chasing them away and smoke bombs going off, it had been a confused exit, and with only the one Pegasus they have to go a bit slower while the King leads them back and traverses the rooftops. Once there though, it's not difficult to find Adila. She had gone up, curved into a spiral and careened through a piece of the desert before slamming into the city walls in a furrow of sand and cement chips 20 feet wide.

    She's unconscious, but not in the way Kazelia might have expected from hitting her head on the walls. It's more like...like she's in some kind of of hostile dream with something chasing her, her body, turned on its side is moving like she's sheltering herself and one of her wings twitches like it's mimicking flight in her dream. In some other context, it might have been cute, but out here in the midst of the crash, it feels unnatural and wrong. When the group arrives, Kazelia, Dandy, Ninian, and the King, Kazelia leaps off of Shiva, scattering sand in a puff rushes to Adila's side.

    In her mind, she's berating herself. Always says she's so strong! That she doesn't need help! The whole time in Jedad, Kazelia had been trying to keep that to heart, to trust Adila after the way that Adila had told her she'd interfered in Askaia. And she had, she'd done it, Adila had been incredible in finding Ninian (mostly, she'd been a touch off, but still made her reveal herself), interviewing the princesses, finding the heart, and saving Helya. But here Adila was hurt and hurting and Kazelia had not been there when needed. She hadn't protected her friend and she hurt with Adila. She didn't even have the magic left to heal the dragon.

    Adila, you find yourself snapped awake in a more old-fashioned manner. When you didn't respond to gentle shaking, Kazelia went for a stronger gauntlet to face technique to knock you out of your nightmares. You see the princess Kazelia in front of you, Ninian slung over Shiva's saddle behind her. Just to the side, Dandy stands with the desert at her back. She looks concerned and is maybe glancing judgmentally at Kazelia for her wakeup method. Behind Dandy, the King is standing in a relaxed posture but looking at you carefully, somewhere between sizing up how you're about to react and looking relieved that you're doing okay.
    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 - #431
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Adila, you find yourself snapped awake in a more old-fashioned manner. When you didn't respond to gentle shaking, Kazelia went for a stronger gauntlet to face technique to knock you out of your nightmares. You see the princess Kazelia in front of you, Ninian slung over Shiva's saddle behind her. Just to the side, Dandy stands with the desert at her back. She looks concerned and is maybe glancing judgmentally at Kazelia for her wakeup method. Behind Dandy, the King is standing in a relaxed posture but looking at you carefully, somewhere between sizing up how you're about to react and looking relieved that you're doing okay.
    There was a strange chill to Adila. Ordinarily her thoughts and compassion spilled from her and the warmth of her fire and her heart was strong enough to feel. There's none of that right now. She wakes without complaint, lifts her head without bleariness or hesitation, settles into a sitting posture smoothly and without commentary. There is a silence about her - not exactly a silence, like an anti-noise. That crackling not-sound that you get from speakers that are switched on and powered up but not playing anything.

    Oberon had been right. Being moody was no excuse. She needed to keep control.

    +Hello, Princess Kazelia,+ she thought. Once she fully had her bearings, she stood - but did not open her wings. +Excuse me. I need to report to the Captain,+ she thought, but there was no conviction behind it.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-18 at 07:48 PM.
    Roses are red,
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    Omae wa mo shinderu

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    Dandy’s brow furrows. Even trying to be responsible and under control, you’re still causing her grief. “Addy,” she says, “you sit yourself back down right this minute. You’ve got your energy all back-to-front.”

    She comes right up and taps you with a little silver rod, which shivers and makes a high peal. She nods. “Mmmhm. You’ve got bad flow in your heart and liver, and maybe even a blocked spirit point along your spine. You need a hot cup of lavender tea and a mint supplement, and some exercise.”

    “And don’t you even think about telling me you’re fine. You are so very not, Adila, and I will wrestle you into bed and bury you under pillows if’n you try and stop me.” It’s proof of Dandy’s essential Dandininity that it doesn’t sound suggestive as much as it sounds a little matter-of-fact. There’s no way she could beat you, unless she had some foliage to hand, but that wouldn’t stop her from trying.

    “Help,” Ninian interjects, “I’m the real Kazelia, Adila, you have to believe me, stop her before she tries to steal the—“ bzzzzzt. The King smiles as Ninian slumps over the saddle horn, still vibrating with the lightning magic. Not too bad for a last-ditch attempt, though.
    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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    Princess Adila would have liked to pretend that the fact that she instantly obeyed Princess Dandy's instructions was because she was a good, disciplined Watch officer who followed instructions out of habit. She would have liked to tell herself that mental disarray was a contributing factor. But she knew deep down that she obeyed instantly out of fear - because she knew Princess Dandy would make good on her threat if she was tested. When Princess Dandy had it in her mind that you were sick then your compliance was appreciated - but by no means required.

    (She hadn't realized how much of that habit she'd picked up herself until Alina had caught a cold. The Illuminan Princess' litany of protests had reminded her of how she'd used to be when getting doctored.)

    So she sits as directed. Her wings never opened; she never found herself inclined towards flight. Princess Adila was not someone who dealt with her problems by running from them. She focused on composing herself, strengthening herself. Princess Dandy was right. She needed to take the time to bury all of her feelings properly so she could focus on her mission.

    +Is Princess Alina all right?+ she asked, while diligently obeying any of Princess Dandy's instructions. +Princesses Helya and Tashanna? Are you all right, Princess Kazeliea? Princess D...+

    For a moment her thoughts were clouded. But she pushed through. +Did I hurt you, Princess Dandy?+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-19 at 02:27 AM.
    Roses are red,
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    Omae wa mo shinderu

  14. - Top - End - #434
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Thanqol View Post
    +Is Princess Alina all right?+ she asked, while diligently obeying any of Princess Dandy's instructions. +Princesses Helya and Tashanna? Are you all right, Princess Kazeliea? Princess D...+

    For a moment her thoughts were clouded. But she pushed through. +Did I hurt you, Princess Dandy?+
    "Yes, Alina is well. We found the Black Princess, who was her sister and helped her. We found the heart and gave it to Shazari, who I have heard came here ahead of me and was swallowed by a snake that has since departed." Kazelia shakes her head like she still can't really grasp that. Then looks over at Adila, being tended to by Dandy. Kazelia wants to ask you what happened, to say that she doesn't know why the Watch is in chaos, that you, Adila, are by far the best and most knowledgeable person in Kazelia's mind to explain what happened and why there is battle and smoke in the streets of the Bazaar after the threat they'd all been fighting had passed.

    But...she doesn't. Not in those words. Something about the way Adila is acting is off. She's asking if she hurt Dandy. And she's radiating a cold that should not come from her,, ever. So instead she says "Adila, I...I'm sorry. I'm sorry you got hurt. I don't know what happened, but I'm sorry."
    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)

  15. - Top - End - #435
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    But your little sister is asking you, and now you have to wrestle between the fear and the certainty that it wouldn’t work, and the fear of watching Jessamine march off alone, again, to fight him. And lose. Again.
    "Jess..."

    Alina's shoulders carry a hundred different fears and worries right now, and her voice is sick with the strain of it. But compared to Jessamine's swift armored footfalls or even Rhyza's experienced gait, it's her own feather-light steps that leave the smallest impression in the sands. In the old days, she'd have taken that as a sure sign she was right. But now? She sighs. No. Every decision she's made on her own has lead to disaster. The right thing to do here was lean on her Adjutant. Her sister. But still...

    "I am fighting him," she says with a weariness in her voice that should never belong to her (does Jessamine notice it?), "He's everywhere, Jess. And he's so strong. He's strong in a way that doesn't even make sense. My crown has been weakened and scared since it met him; I've had to practice for hours every day since just to compensate and I'm hardly halfway to being where I was. I still feel the pain where he pierced me, even though that should have healed a long time ago. And when I get angry or sad, or have an ugly thought I can feel it get so cold I think I'm going to die.

    He beat Helya, too. He turned her inside out and tried to make her a puppet, and if it hadn't been for Adila of the Watch and Kazelia, that Rider I was with, I think he might have done it. I've never seen her so full of despair before. And in Askaia... oh, Jess. He almost froze it, too. Those poor cats were suffering so much. Rita's parents and sister almost killed or kidnapped. They... they turned Summervale into this horrible swamp that... that ate memories and I..."

    She has to stop for a second, to take a breath to compose herself, to remind herself that her hands and all the rest of her are still here and still real. It makes her shiver, even in the Jedadi air. But she does, finally, describe the Slaugh to someone. Describe the terrible sounds and sights and smells. The way she found her old picture of their mother and how when the face smeared it was the only way Alina could remember her. The way she had to step into nothingness to unmake it, and the horrible sight she saw in there that picked her apart, piece by piece to try and erase her forever, that would have done just that but hadn't, because of... because of love. And she's crying again when she gets to the end of that story, crying even though she shouldn't be because she knows what that means and that despite love being the unbreakable cornerstone of her being she still ran away instead of saving her mother. That she let Oberon spread so far and hurt so many people. She let him almost take Helya and even Jessamine away from her forever.

    That she was all out of miracles.

    "It's all my fault, Jess! All of it! Every person he hurts, everything he steals or ruins is all because of me. I know I have to do something, and I'm trying so hard but it... but I can't even tell if I'm making a difference and I, I can't lose you again! I can't! So if you say you're going after him then I'm coming too, but I don't know how to protect you even then. Your... your eyes, Jess. I can't ever let you look that way again. I can't. I won't. But I don't know what to do. I want... I want to talk to mom again. And I can't, and it's all because of..."
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-08-19 at 10:05 PM.

  16. - Top - End - #436
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    Adila!

    “I’m right as rain,” Dandy says, all matter-of-fact. “Don’t you worry about me.” Sure, she may have been relentlessly bullied by some devils, but she’s made of stern stuff, deep down. “Now we’re going to breathe together, okay? And you’re going to exhale your negative aura. On three, ready? One, two, three.”

    That’s Dandy for you. The only princess in town who could make you sit down and accept care, while firmly insisting that she didn’t need any of her own. Not yet, at least.

    ***

    Alina!

    The reason you can’t finish that thought is because you are being double-teamed with hugs. Rhyza on one side (and doesn’t she smell... well, uh, appealing) and Jessamine on the other, both holding you so tight that there’s no room to collapse to pieces.

    “You’re such a brat,” Jessamine says, with no venom to it. “Fine. If you’re scared of forgetting family in some weird nightmare swamp, I guess I’ll have to come along. At least for a little while.”

    And Rhyza is patting your hair and Jessamine is here and safe and the Slaugh can’t take her away from you. Not this. This is invincible.

    ***

    Juniper Blue!

    Clunk!

    That’s the sound of a cursed sword being dropped back into its chest. The Annalist slams the lid shut, and then slips the key into the lock, firm.

    “That really went well,” she says, cheerfully. “We’ll need to work more on the dismount, but if the snake-husband couldn’t stand up to Adila and her Watch, no other threat will stand a chance. The Bazaar’s safety is secured!”

    The Bazaar’s safety is secured because the criminals and lowlifes of this town distracted us long enough for the Captain to wrestle her sword out of her own hands and start restoring order, you don’t say. Later you’ll think it, but right now, you’re numb. Not just numb like an empty cup that’s just been poured out, which you do feel like, but numb like you just watched the woman you adore walk into the mouth of a giant stone snake, vanishing...

    For who knows how long.

    You had hopes, you know. That maybe this whole crazy thing would show this town how much you all needed Shazari. How, when the chips were down, she’d stand up and protect you all, no matter what. How worthy she was of... of being adored.

    And now you just feel numb, and sick, and like you want to go out into the desert and dig for stone until you collapse.

    “Really,” the Annalist chirps, “I almost want to thank the thief. You don’t get a dry run like this every century, after all.”

    Off in the distance, some enterprising devil safely under a parasol sets off a firework a little early, celebrating a victory over your Watch. Carnival will go on, just as it always does. Just as it always does.

    Can’t even wear the veil in her honor. Dress codes and all.

    ***

    Beneath the Bazaar...

    There’s a hole down there, you know. Maybe as deep as the clock. Maybe deeper. Most of the time, there’s a lid locked shut. But come Carnival, the lock’s always busted open and up come boiling the devils for a night of revelry. And come Carnival, if you want...

    Well. You can go down to Devilhome without having to trek out to one of the other doors, like the one down in Deep Hollow.

    And as the devils scramble up the stairs on all fours, claws settling into well-worn gouges in the rock, hollering and whooping and shoving, they part almost instinctively around the royal figure who descends down to Devilhome, followed sheepishly by a violet-haired witch.





    End of EPISODE 2: Veils and Masks!
    Tune in next week for EPISODE 3: To Hunt A Dragon!
    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.

  17. - Top - End - #437
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    This is the happiest day of Princess Hornet's life.

    The emotional by-product of that fact was making it difficult to adhere to the happiness optimizing schedule, which was a remarkable new issue that had never come up in any of her theoretical research on happiness. Fascinating! It didn't even make sense to try to reduce the joy overflow to preserve the schedule because optimizing for joy was the purpose of the experiment. This seemed more like a capacity issue. Perhaps some rechargeable happiness battery that would automatically preserve excess happiness so it didn't go to waste and she could tap during off-schedule cycles? She thought about it for a moment, coming up with two equally plausible technological paths: either a gigantic happiness harvesting robot squirrel that would apply the nut-hoarding instinct to the task of gathering happiness, or alternately a scrapbook. She'd prototype each of them in parallel later!

    Right now she was hanging out with her first ever friend!

    She'd always kind of hoped it would be Princess Adila. Adila's behaviour had been consistent with someone sending friendship signals - whenever she arrived in town Princess Adila immediately came to meet her. She always then followed her around wherever she went and paid extremely close attention to anything she did. There had been conflicting signals regarding her tendency to smash her works in progress/gifts out of her hands, but really, everyone did that, even mom. She also had scary eyes sometimes and there were sometimes fascinating but kind of worrying emotional-resonance waves that came off her and, uh, well, she was very big and could be very scary.

    But now she had objective, written confirmation that all of those bad things had been figments of her imagination and that Princess Adila was, in fact, her friend! And she didn't seem even a little bit scary any more! She seemed... like, the opposite of that actually. She was moving very slowly and keeping her head down low and not focusing her eyes on anything in particular. She hadn't even reacted to the time she'd reached to her toolbelt to check her schedule. Was this what trust was like?!!????

    The schedule had been clear: the next Bonding Activity was the Test of Strength. The Devils had set up a huge tower with a bell at the top and a fascinating friction-based counterweight hooked to a large button. Kinetic energy applied to the button would be transferred to the counterweight which, applied in sufficient quantities to reach the GRANDMOTHER tier, would strike the bell - and most importantly, allow the victor to have their choice of plush toys. Princess Hornet had already scouted the area and determined that this was the optimal plush toy procurement location, and she had already selected, named and mentally sectioned off a section of her room for the butterfly plush that she was determined to win.

    "TEST THY MIGHT" bellowed the devil, offering her the spiked and iron-wrought hammer. Princess Hornet could barely lift it. Not surprising - she knew the maximum amount of kinetic force generated by her body would be insufficient to win but would serve to provide comedic juxtaposition to Adila's followup. True to expectations her blow only hit the 'MERE MORTAL' tier. The devils laughed. But Princess Hornet threw a confident glance over at Sir Milkwings in the prize stand, and then offered the hammer to Adila.

    Princess Adila recoiled in horror.

    ... had she mistaken it for one of her inventions? Was it a conditioned response to being offered things by Princess Hornet? The hammer did look a little bit scary and devil-y but, not... you know... that scary so it probably wasn't that...

    After a moment, Adila seemed to gather herself and gingerly reached out to take the hammer. Princess Hornet's heart rose - and then tapered off in confusion when Princess Adila's... distinctly sub-optimal swing only hit the 'WICKED STRONG' tier, several notches below GRANDMOTHER. The devils laughed at that too, confirming her hypothesis that the swing hadn't been right. It seemed like it had been optimized for the minimum force rather than the maximum. Did Adila not know how to swing a hammer? Well, it would make sense if she didn't, dragons probably didn't use hammers much - and she obviously looked unhappy with her result. Princess Hornet bounced awkwardly from foot to foot. Okay. Suboptimal. Encircle and bypass. Maybe teach Princess Adila how to swing a hammer later, in some sort of friendship bonding training moment.

    She was going to have to leave Sir Milkwings behind for now. That was disappointing. It would have been nice to get a second friend.

    *

    Things followed a more productive path afterwards. Princess Adila was very agreeable! She liked every single one of Princess Hornet's ideas - she thought. The only data she was getting was agreement. Adila didn't seem to broadcast her happy emotions in the same way she did that spooky scary anger-irritation emotion she usually did. That was also interesting data. It wasn't really optimized for the theoretical happiness loop where she'd be able to combine her own happiness with overflowing dragon-happiness to reach unparalleled heights, but that had always seemed like a game-breaking exploit anyway. But it was okay! They were getting to do all the games and eat carnival food together and she'd even found them hats because Adila didn't seem to want to wear either a mask or a veil even though she was off duty.

    Her heart dropped when they ran into Princess Iron Star Crushes The Strong.

    Iron Star was mean. She hadn't met her that often, but when she had she'd always been being mean to Adila. Well, no more of that! She was going to protect her new friend from this jerk devil and her jerk friends. Princess Hornet bravely stepped forward and set the power on the Jerk Reductor 844 to 'massive'. Iron Star was going to have to get through her if she was going to bully Adila.

    Iron Star glanced at her for a moment, then looked at Adila. Her devils weren't hooting and laughing like they normally were. Instead they all stood very still and very respectfully. Iron Star gave a slow, purposeful nod - an 'I respect you' nod. And then they all turned and kept walking.

    Princess Hornet was stunned. That result was outside three standard deviations of the expected reaction from Princess Iron Star. That had worked!? She'd stopped Iron Star from being mean to Adila? That was grade A friendship materiel, right there!

    She turned to look at Adila. Adila didn't look happy. Adila... didn't look happy at all. She looked worse. She felt worse. Had... that been the wrong thing to do somehow?

    *

    This hadn't been a very good happiest day of her life.

    Ordinarily Adila talked a lot. Don't touch that, please put that down, how do we shut it down, what are your demands, that kind of thing. She hadn't been like that at all this evening. Maybe that was what friendship was meant to be? But she hadn't been talkative with anyone else either. She hadn't stopped to talk to any of the Watchwomen on the street, even though they'd called out to her and congratulated her. She hadn't reacted even a little bit during three separate instances where purses were stolen. She hadn't even flinched despite her using gadgets on four individual occasions, one of which had gone bad. It was like she was thinking through some incredibly important math problem and was running on autopilot. Maybe she could help out? She knew how distracting a really good problem could be...

    She looked at the dragon. She was so still, like a statue. She wasn't focusing on anything. Those weren't calculating eyes, calculating usually had lots of quick microexpressions and little physical twitches and glances. This felt like there wasn't...

    "Princess Adila... are you okay?"

    There were microexpressions now but she didn't know how to read them. Nobody had written a book on dragon body language. There was an increased pressure in the air, like that empty space that happened before Adila sent a really loud thought, but it didn't resolve into anything.

    They were by the observatory, looking up into a sky of storming stars. Below there were crowds of people cheering, celebrating, having the best days of their life. For some reason Princess Hornet didn't envy them - didn't even think about them, really. It didn't really matter that this wasn't the kind of night she'd imagined because there was something bigger than fun going on here, something she didn't know what to do about or how to optimize...

    +I don't know+

    Like all of Adila's thoughts it was an interruption to her thought process, like her mind suddenly stopped following its chain of logic and just had that idea, all at once, before resuming.

    Adila had turned her head a bit, looking up at the skies in a direction that Hornet couldn't see her eyes.

    She didn't know what to do. She didn't even have the theory. Where would she even -

    A strangely ordinary sort of instinct had Princess Hornet reach out and pat Adila on the top of one of her claws. A little gingerly. Pat. Pat pat. Was that okay?

    There was a strange shift in the not-sound that had been coming from Adila but it was impossible to guess at what it meant.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-21 at 07:54 PM.
    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Omae wa mo shinderu

  18. - Top - End - #438
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina was busy with Jessamine, and Adila had somehow run off with Hornet, of all people. Tashana was still with Helya recovering, and it seemed like Dandy might have gone to help with that since she was good with poisons.

    So that left Kazelia with...Kyouko. Which suited her perfectly. After her talk with the Fox retainers, Kazelia had the perfect idea for a day together with the fox princess. She actually rubbed her hands together with a bit of glee at the thought.

    *****

    About ten minutes later, as Kyouko was sipping tea at the house of hospitality, Shiva descends from above and Kazelia snatches up the princess before she or her retainers even know what's happening (but not while she's sipping tea, obviously, Kazelia waits until she puts her cup down to spring).

    "Hey Kyouko" she says in a whoosh of blue silks as Shiva soars them into the air and goes into a spin, Kazelia holding onto her new charge tightly, her own chill mixing with the rushing air.

    "I had to leave too suddenly earlier, and I thought to myself, well, I thought that you were so nice to me earlier and I owed you a favor." She grins with Rider teeth and it's the feral sort of grin, the one that says that this is going to be a lot of fun.

    When they come out of the spin, Kazelia waves to the frantically chasing fox retainers and points them to a nearby roof in the heart of the Bazaar where she directs Shiva to touch down so they can watch the sunset and the night Bazaar light up with torches, lanterns, and the weird magical lights of the devils. "This is...you can't..." Kyouko starts to say, and Kazelia shrugs as the sun goes down in a brilliant blaze of desert orange. "We Riders are known for being evil, I thought. Plus, I spent my whole time here doing the Watch thing and then they turned out to be kind of crazy and wreck the town, so I figure now's the time to have some fun. You can bring your chaperones too if you want." Kazelia gestures over to the fox guards who have climbed up onto the roof but also aren't quite sure what to do and are looking to Kyouko for a signal. Her response is to let them know they can stay where they are, and she sits with Kazelia and watches the sunset as the desert stars wink into the night sky light brilliant diamonds of light. Kyouko points up to those, and Kazelia looks up with hope, but the only stars she sees dash past across her eyes. For just a moment Kazelia looks desolate because this is a beauty that she can never see, but she won't let that long-running pain affect her.

    So she jumps off the roof, pulling Kyouko with her. Kazelia isn't the best at quick getaways (at least without a pegasus), so it turns into a magically assisted ice slide to the ground and rolls them right into a group of demons painting the turqoise walls of their building some kind of bright pink ink. They look at Kazelia landing on her butt, Kyouko daintily stepping down beside her like they're expecting something. But Kazelia lifts a hand, grabs one of their inkpots in a bit of magical ice, and flings a sheer line of splattered pink on the side of the buildings with a grin at Kyouko. The devils look for a second and then whoop and go back to their work with abandon.

    *****

    Kyouko had never been kidnapped before. There were a few aspiring fox suitors who had tried, but between her guards, her natural charm, and her shocking entirely appropriate talent for magic and trickery, none of them had ever quite managed the feat. But here was this brazen rider, pulling her away, then reassuring her guards, then engaging in...in graffiti and she found her heart beating with a rush that she hadn't felt since the first time she'd tied up her older brother while they were still in boarding school for practice. She picked up an inkpen, careful not to splash any on her perfectly done fox nails and added a small vertical to the wall, perfectly completing the feng shui from Kazelia's much larger diagonal slash.

    Then it seemed Kazelia was gesturing for them to move on and they slipped into the crowds of the night bazaar. Oh it was delightful. The smells of sweet spices, the sizzle of the coal fires from the street vendors, the light of moon and stars glittering off the silks and gems of the packed throngs, and the devil lights shifting and moving among them. It was glorious chaos and revelry, and Kazelia was very close to her and made her feel very safe as they moved through it all. Of course, she was perfectly safe by herself, and her retainers would maintain a careful watch just in case anything happened, so that was entirely unnecessary. But it still felt amazing when Kazelia bought her a skewer of sweet cinnamon puffs and held it so she could nibble at them slowly while they sheltered from the crowds against a wall between the stalls. And then even grander when they found a stand of just the right white silks for her and Kazelia bought one and slowly wound it about her shoulders. Not so grand as her perfect wedding dresses, of course, but such a warm gesture!

    Oh and Kazelia was so cute, the way she moved through the crowds. Constant accidental chills helped part the way for them, yet they were still packed and mingled. Then they slipped up the streets, towards the larger buildings, to thinner crowds. Here, gangs of devils were playing music and Kazelia took her hand. And even though it was very cold now that they were out of the crowds, Kazelia pulled her closer and they started dancing. It was a stately dance, cold like the Riders so clearly were, moving slowly to the music from the Devil flutes, and Kyouko found herself pulled along, twirling slowly and stepping lazily with the music from the devils in time with Kazelia. Kyouko saw the stars whirl past, the night moving with the music as a crowd of masked watchers came to enjoy the show that two princesses were putting on. Ah, how lovely, one could lose themselves in such a night.

    *****

    Kazelia found herself breathless when the dance ended. She'd wanted to tear through the Bazaar with Kyouko, but somehow found herself caught in a trance with the fox, slowly dancing in time with the demons as a larger and larger crowd came to watch the show. When at last the song finished and released them from the spell, the gathered watchers, devils and those imitating their masks clapped and for a moment she entirely didn't know what to do with herself. Wearing such a brazen persona all night and pretending like she knew what she was doing had been quite the challenge, and she kept having to be careful not to slip into her cruel spiteful days in the process. Confident and brave, but not mean, never mean. So Kazelia tried to catch her breath and took a bow with Kyouko, then they parted through the crowd, noting the pleased look of the fox retainers who had enjoyed the show and made their way up to the observatory.

    Perhaps Kazelia would go and have her fortune read at some point. But for tonight, she seeks something broader and more grand, and perhaps a little scarier. She takes Kyouko to the very top, to the grandest armillary sphere that the observatory has set up along with a telescope. And Kazelia sets the spheres within spheres to spinning, the coordinates of the night tilting and tumbling away as she aligns the telescope with that grand nothing in the beyond. And for a moment she looks and gazes into the void beyond worlds, the night beyond the great serpent that protects Hyperborea. And then she beckons Kyouko over and lets her see, and perhaps, beyond the stars, Kyouko too gets a glimpse of that vast and dark void because she gasps and steps away from the telescope.

    "I...I could never...not like that" She says, and Kazelia nods.

    "I couldn't either, but I did. Many times. The Riders aren't evil, but we've come here from far away and most of us are very, very lost. Thank you for being here."

    And for a moment, Kazelia thinks that she might cry, but Kyouko saves the moment with a laugh. "Mwahahahaha, do not think that such a sight will stop me. Now that I know you come from beyond the stars, I shall find your weaknesses, and Oberon himself shall quaver before my might. Mark my words, next time, you shall be mine!" And it was on that note that Kazelia nodded and smiled and finished up their date. The two slipped out of the Observatory and returned by roof to the waiting pegasus and the house of hospitality. Before she mounted Shiva and flew away, Kazelia sat and stared at the distant sky that was so dark and at the lights below, now almost entirely devils caught up in their revels, like stars below her. Perhaps that could be enough?
    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)

  19. - Top - End - #439
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Jessamine Cascade did not do disguises.

    Disguises meant you were ashamed of yourself, and a Princess was always beautiful. Besides which, she'd spent far too long not being herself to want to waste even half an hour being somebody else tonight. For that matter, she was not about to let Alina go out like that either. No more weird wrong hair, no more veils, no more awful gauzy silks, no more 'Rinley'. Have some pride, sis. You're supposed to be the crown princess of Illumina. Well, fine. She could fix this. While Lina wastes her night talking to that redheaded swordswaif (honestly, Sis and tall girls...), Jessamine fills the House of Hospitality with the sounds of scissors and needles. Freesia was always the best seamstress among them, but she's a Princess of Illumina too. So even though all of her clothes are weird blacks for some reason, at least Lina will have something proper to wear again. Plus, now they'd match.

    Jessamine Cascade did not have time for Carnival.

    This was a Bazaar celebration. A Jedad custom. She felt gross just being here. But the time to go stealing off into the desert to figure herself out already came and went, and Lina wouldn't leave without Rita (so some things hadn't changed at least), and the cat princess was insistent on staying for some reason. She tried to hide out in a room, but Lina wouldn't let her. "Please", she'd said, "I need to get ready to leave. We've lost so much time already."

    "That's right," said Alina, quietly placing eggs, lemons, flour, sugar, and several tiny jars of flower oils on a table in front of her, "We've lost too much."

    *

    The smell is heavenly. Lemon cakes. Just lemon cakes forever, with rosewater, with lavender, with river lilies, with orange blossom, on and on. Her hands feel so clumsy without a weapon in them, but Alina is insistent. They bake and they bake, and what doesn't pass muster they eat on the spot. The smell of citrus and flowers fills her head and drags out memories that aren't her dreams, and every time gets just that little bit easier than the attempt before it. When they get full, they start laughing. And in the middle of laughter, there are tears.

    It's so stupid to cry like this. Somebody needs to be the strong one! And if that's not going to be Lina then it has to be... it has to be...

    It's the smell of citrus and flowers. It's the feeling of Big Sister's soft hands guiding hers. Yes, yes, like this, that's a good girl. Make sure the frosting's nice and pretty now, ok? It's the cool splash of water on her head that's like the first drops of rain in a storm. It's Alina's sheepish grin, and the warmth of the hug that follows. This is strength. It is strength. It is, it is. Lina is still strong. She is. So maybe it's ok to...

    They make too many to possibly eat. Alina focuses all of her attention frosting just two lemon cakes, piping and sprinkling until they're the most beautiful things Jessamine can remember, more beautiful almost than even mirror cakes or rainbows or pools full of flowers or Lina or Mommy or, oh no there are the tears again. Stop that, Jessamine! Stop. Lina is the crybaby, you're the one who outgrew it. Alina smiles softly and gestures at one of the earlier efforts while she balances her masterpieces in her arms.

    "Can you grab that one, Dewdrop? It's important. Oh, and get your big stick, too."

    "It's called a Na--"

    "Shh! Are you trying to get me in trouble?!"

    On her way out of the kitchen, Alina snatches a pear. What is she up to?

    *

    She's never met the girl who's passed out at the foot of Helya's sickbed, but she can tell it's someone important to Alina right away. Her sister motions to set the cake on the table while she fishes a pair of notes written in that useless, swoopy handwriting of hers and sets them in the girl's lap without moving a finger. Her lights are doing everything. This is new. She's lighting a candle and shifting a blanket while she leans in and plants a tiny kiss on that girl's forehead. She's never used her lights like this. Lina always called her lights her little warriors, and wouldn't shape them into anything more complicated than a spear. Jessamine stares, and finally notices that there are colors missing. Oh Lina. Oh no.

    "We'll meet again, Tashii."

    Her green washes over Helya, and Jessamine can see her sister wince. Slowly and carefully, she pulls bubbling drops of venom out from a bandaged arm and carries them in a bubble of light to a spare vial, which she tucks into her light. All at once her crown snaps together on her head again, and her light dims like it's exhausted. That's new, too. She stares quietly, not wanting to say a word or spoil anything as her big sister's second oldest friend, the one she always came home squealing about and pining after, stirs and looks at the pair of them with blue eyes that remind her of a lake in the winter. Cold, but clear.

    "You'll tell her, right?" Alina's voice is straining a little as she whispers, "That this isn't goodbye?"

    Helya nods.

    "We'll fix Rowan too. I promise."

    *

    "Are you going to tell me what these cakes are for?" Jessamine asks as they pass by a strength testing game in the middle of the street.

    "Well, this one's for the baking contest. I entered us under your name; mine's poison around here."

    "And the other one?"

    "Oh, you'll see."

    "Lina? What about the..." suddenly she felt self conscious. Her voice drops an octave, "the pear?"

    Alina's smile reminds Jessamine of nothing so much as the River-King. It's terrifying.

    "Oh," she chirps, "You'll see."

    *

    This is Princess Shazari's camp. Though this is Carnival, so even here there are revelers milling about, paying their respects to the woman who disappeared inside of a giant... snake thing. Alina's never had a good thing to say about Shazari (especially not after she kept kidnapping poor Freesia), but then again they were rivals. It made sense that Lina would want to see this. Maybe that's even what the cake is for. But then there was that smile... what's she planning?

    Alina walks up to the makeshift shrine in front of the camp and lays the beautiful lemon cake right at the center of it like Hyperborea's prettiest offering. As she steps away, a cloaked figure calls out in a sharp voice Jessamine is sure she recognizes:

    "Hey, you! Don't you dare think of giving the Princess a lemon cake without the proper topping on it! Do it right or face the consequences!"

    That smile is back on her face. Oh no. Lina, be careful. Lina don't do it. She lifts the pear up, takes out a knife, and carves a delicate slice out of it. Lina don't you dare ruin that cake. The smile grows even wider, even more mischievous. Her fingers descend with the pear slice down toward the icing they'd worked so hard on. Closer. Closer. Closer. She's hovering just over it. She's gonna do it. She's gonna ruin that poor cake! She takes the pear slice and throws it onto the other side of the wall into Shazari's camp.

    It's bedlam. Immediate, absolute pandemonium. Iron Star Crushes the Strong couldn't cause this much havoc in so short a time. Alina barely has time to cry out, "Jess, rooftop!" before the cloaked figure tackles her to the ground. They make a big show of wrestling and roll end over end into the crowd of bloodthirsty Jedadi citizens who are so outraged and so scary now that they're like this that the fearsome Black Princess does exactly what her big sister told her to just to be shot of them.

    The night air feels cool on her sweaty face, and Jessamine glances at the stars trying to catch her breath. What was that about?

    *

    "Did you get it?" Alina asks as she pulls the cloaked figure up onto the rooftop with her.

    "Who do you think you're talking to? Of course I got it!"

    She holds up a necklace with a ruby so fine it glitters even in this dim light, and dramatically pulls off her hood. She's got an eyepatch for some reason, but oh! It's Princess Rita! Then, does that mean this is... did she actually ask for Jessamine's help to--

    "And that," says Alina with a broad grin, "Is a perfect eight for eight. I can't believe that stuck up goof actually brought this here."

    "Don't be like that, Lina!" says Rita. "Shazari did a very brave thing, you should respect that."

    "Oh, I know. This time it's more about..."

    Alina trails off to the sound of clapping just behind her, mixed with an ominous crackle of electricity. Now here's a man Jessamine only knows by reputation. But everyone's heard stories of the King of the Bazaar. Well. He's certainly exotic. Talk about living up to your reputation, too. What a shame he's a man, or else maybe, oh this is no time to be thinking about things like that. Do you want to turn into Alina?!

    "I do like your style, sisters. But maybe next time, try skipping the theatrics and just wait out your moment, yes?"

    He flashes the trio a smile. Flicks his wrist to wave goodbye. Which is when they all notice he's got the necklace. And four, five retainers? Oh, and they're all gone. Alina's just sighing and shaking her head.

    "Ok Dewdrop, this one's all you."

    It's a chase! It's a rooftop chase by adventuring princesses racing after a master thief! Oh, this is just like in Lina's stories! Jessamine's feet are as light as she can ever remember them being as she leaps from roof to roof, bounces off of canopies and whirls her naginata expertly from side to side to block errant slings and rocks. And every so often, also lightning. Alina keeps pace, smiling and laughing the whole time while she wraps red glowing ribbons around her arms and makes these huge, impossible leaps she's definitely never managed before. But this all seems very familiar to her, as she runs up to each of the King's knights in turn and throws them this way and that with lovely acrobatics befitting a Princess of Illumina. Jessamine can't help but be a little proud, even as her sister turns around to gloat and makes a joking thrusting motion with her tongue stuck out. As if to say, 'oh, guess we don't need your big stick after all!'

    "Are you slow or something, sister?"

    "Nope!"

    Alina ducks under the lightning, which is now arcing dangerously right at Jessamine. The thing about Illuminan glass, though? It's very very good at absorbing or reflecting magic. Before anyone can blink, the King is on one knee and smoking slightly. And Alina is triumphantly twirling the necklace around her finger.

    "...Well played."

    "Just making sure you know the score, brother."

    *

    It's a beautiful sunrise. Jessamine is spending it on a rooftop alone with Alina and Princess Rita eating candied apples on a stick. This is the feeling of adventure. This is the feeling of belonging. It's light, it's fun. And it's hope. That maybe, Alina still knows what she's doing. That maybe, things can still be all right. Together, they can do it. Together...

    "We're a good team, Jess."

    "Mm."

    "...Did you have fun tonight?"

    "Oh come on, Lina. That's like asking if the sun has a watch."

    Jessamine doesn't answer. But she clicks her tongue just before she laughs. Maybe, she supposes, she had time for Carnival after all.

  20. - Top - End - #440
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    The Seven Nail Teahouse

    The Seven Nail Teahouse is thirteen stories tall, all winding stairways and paper doors, winch-powered elevators and sumptuous rooms sticking out into empty space, with a single janky board as a “structural support” underneath them, with nothing between the guests and a terrible fall but the insistence that the floor be a floor. It is noisy, filled with gambling, wreathed in smoke, and very well-behaved despite the natural inclinations of everyone present.

    After all, the Grandmothers do not care for their tea ceremonies to be interrupted.

    “I am honored,” Oberon says, smooth as you please. He wears a loose black-and-silver robe, open on his pale-scarred chest, much to the serene delight of his hostesses. In accordance with the ancient laws of Devilhome, he wears a mask: the North Wind, all grey swooping lines and spiraling representations of the gale; it contrasts well with his skin, which is the color of the depths of an iceberg on the storm-tossed sea, and a chin speckled with several days’ worth of frost-white stubble. In his hands he holds a steaming cup of black tea, bitter as wickedness.

    “It has been some time since we had visiting dignitaries,” Grandmother Fray says. (Her full name is Celestial Boundary Frays Between Doom And Fate. But that’s such a mouthful, isn’t it, dearie?) She is huge. Her neck is long, and her limbs are heavy, and she wears layers upon layers of elegant silk. Her horns are a maze of spirals and jutting spikes capped in yellow jade, hung with pennants and lucky charms. And she is such, in a dirty and noisy city of anarchy, because everyone knows better than to inconvenience her. She has not expressed her strength in some time. She has no need to. “Especially new arrivals from over our dear Ouroboros.”

    Grandmother Mirror makes a noise of contempt deep in her throat. Dear indeed, but she’s never forgiven Princess Abolishes Obstacles for wasting her time like that. There was hardly room enough in the city for the two of them, even these days.

    “It’s dreadfully messy out there,” Grandmother Blossom sniffs, derisively. “At least you haven’t tracked any nothingness on the carpet. Existing out there is such an inconvenience.”

    “Indeed it is,” Oberon says, flashing her an all-too-winning smile. “Which makes me all the more impressed that you made this whole world from scratch. It’s much better than most of the dreary worlds I’ve visited.”

    He heaves a wistful sigh. “And yet. You’re barred from enjoying it. When I found out about it, it struck me as being terribly unfair. Here you are, stuck at the bottom of a dingy old hole, and all those ungrateful princesses prance around up above, enjoying your handiwork without ever giving you your due. When I come into power...”

    “Oh, you’re coming into power now?” Grandmother Thorn is too deft to laugh out loud, but deft enough that the laugh is understood. “Congratulations, young man.”

    “I will.” Oberon stares into the depths of his cup for a moment. His sight is elsewhere. His sight is on the top of a stone tree. “I mean to marry Ourania. Once we wed, I will gladly unbar your gates and drown the sun, if that is what it takes for you to walk freely once more. All I ask for is your backing. Together, we could force Ourania to her knees.” His voice is smooth as velvet on the blade of a knife. “She cannot possibly overcome us working together.”

    The Grandmothers cannot hold themselves back. They let loose the laughter of old women, who have learned not to care about being restrained.

    “Bless your heart,” Grandmother Fray says, holding one hand out towards him. “Do you think Ourania could make us do anything?”

    “Us, who made the sea and sky?”

    “Us, who are inexorable, inevitable?”

    “Us, who broke the sun and moon?”

    “Child, we agreed to come below, until such day as Hyperborea’s story is finished. But sometimes the things you make surprise you, and ask not to be broken and remade.”

    “What kind of monsters would we be, to go and be too strong among all those dainty princesses?”

    “Breaking their badly made castles and useless toothpick swords.”

    “We are forever. We can afford to be patient and wait for them to finish their fun.”

    “What you should do,” Grandmother Fray concludes, with the air of someone who has not been contradicted in centuries, “is go and apologize to Ourania for being a boor. Be on your best behavior, and you and your Riders can enjoy the world we made, without making more trouble for yourself. Or you can all come down here and let loose, whatever you like.”

    There is smoke-choked silence, and Oberon’s knuckles shake where they rest on his shins. Then he laughs.

    “So. That princess was right about you.” He lifts his head and looks defiantly into Fray’s golden eyes, behind her heavy, ornate mask. “You are nothing more than anachronistic, useless old women too scared of your own power to use it.” He lets his cup of tea spill out onto the reed mat as he rises. “But I will make use of that power, whether you will or no. I just thought I might as well give you a chance.”

    “He’s right about the tea, you know,” Grandmother Mirror says, leaning over to Grandmother Thorn, who laughs into her sleeve. “I don’t know why we even go here. Tastes like goat’s—“

    “Think carefully,” Grandmother Fray says, raising her head. “Before you say something rather foolish, boy. You can still save yourself.”

    “Save myself?” His lips twist into a sneer. “You should be more worried about yourselves.”

    ***

    The Spire of Lost Hope

    Princess Azora Howl lifts her head. “You were right,” she says. “The Grandmothers rejected Father’s mercy.”

    “Of course they did,” Princess Black Serpent Scorns Heaven’s Light purrs. The thin winds of Devilhome kiss at the lace bows of her skirts. “The old cows are stagnant. They’d rather wait until the end of time than risk anything interesting happening.”

    Morgina growls, heavy and low. Unlike her sister, whose mask is all owl feathers and gold, she has a simple smiley face mask with no eye holes covering her face. The mask tilts back a moment, and the mouth on her neck yawns, wide and horrible.

    “I know,” Black Serpent says, and reaches out to squeeze one of Morgina’s hands. The squeeze is returned. “It’s about time we had a ruler. I will remember my friends and my enemies when I come into my own.”

    “As you say,” Azora says, and steps out. The air frosts beneath her heel, and she stands impossibly over the tight-packed streets of Devilhome. Her fingers trace blue fire on the world, nimble and sure, and the wind whips hungry around her. She invokes the power that is hers by right as first among her father’s children, and pours it into the golden talisman that hangs about her neck, carefully honed for this moment.

    And the world shears.

    She cuts into the air walls, boundaries, great blades of trembling, shivering power. The underground world is alight with it, ice-silvered, towers bisected and divided by the intersection of those edges. And then, with a twist of her wrist, the walls constrict, rotating tighter and deeper, and at their heart: the Seven Nail Teahouse. (The towers do not fall. It is impossible for the architecture of Devilhome to fail.)

    Her father is thrown through the wall outwards, paper ripping as he hurtles uncontrollably towards his daughter; he twists, changes, becomes the howling tempest, and all but bowls over Morgina and Black Serpent in his passage. In a moment he coalesces behind them, returns to his proper form, and there is a savage fury in him that is echoed in Morgina’s low, wet gurgle.

    The Grandmothers immediately construct a bridge the width of a fox’s paw out of cotton yarn and stride furiously down it. “So this is your trick, Oberon,” Fray bellows, and the noise of it is a hurricane. “Do you think we cannot break your walls? There is nothing we cannot break.”

    Azora smiles, and holds up her talisman, struck from the wall that stands between Hyperborea and the void. Golden, gleaming, and perfectly carved into the shape of the snake who devours her own tail. And in the walls, for a moment, there is the flash of a golden eye vaster than cities.

    “You are sentimental,” Oberon says, with the air of one who has uncovered a grievous personal failing. “And while there is no wall you cannot break, there are walls you will not break.”

    Princess Black Serpent twirls her coal-black parasol and curtseys to the Grandmothers with the contemptuous air of one who has accepted a duel to the death.

    Grandmother Mirror launches herself at Azora like a star falling from heaven, and quick as you like, Black Serpent and Morgina leap to, meeting Mirror in midair. The power of her blow sends a ripple all through Morgina that explodes into wet, black tentacles pushing their way through her fur; the power of her blow sends a hairline crack through Black Serpent’s perfect porcelain mask.

    And Grandmother Mirror falls back, and there is no time for a second approach. The walls part around the assembled Riders, interlock once more, and spin tight and close until they coalesce into a gleaming black jewel, afire within. And this proceeds, inexorably, into Azora’s outstretched hands.

    She affixes the jewel into the talisman. There is a blinding flash of light.

    And the towers of Devilhome collapse, all at once, suddenly unable to deny that up is up, that down is down, and that architecture is a science.

    And Azora turns, smiling beatifically, and presents her father with his prize.

    ***

    The Remaining Half of the Bountiful Ewe Cafe

    Oberon’s coffee has ice floating atop its black depths.

    “Your majesty,” Black Serpent says, still holding one hand to her broken mask to keep the pieces in place, “now that those meddlesome hags are removed from play, there will be a battle for the city. One that I intend to win.” Already the truth of her words can be seen playing out in the alleyway their table overlooks. One gang of devils, armed with yo-yos, is doing battle in the name of their Princess with another, who are all armed with giant forks and saucepans. In the distance, one devil hits another over the head with half of a fallen tower. “Will you be in attendance?”

    Oberon takes a long sip, watching as an aspiring devil champion uses her yo-yo to rip the trident-sized fork from her adversary’s grasp. “No,” he says, wistfully. “As entertaining as bringing your kind to heel would be, regrettably, I have other matters to attend to. I have the means to reach my beloved now. All I lack are the key and the betrothal ring.”

    “I thought you were going to offer her a betrothal collar,” Azora notes, yawning. She stirs her coffee with one lazy finger, by art of her sorcery, heedless of how she is creating concentric rings of frost over the entire city in the process.

    “The ring is traditional,” Oberon says, chuckling. “The collar can be a wedding present. At any rate, I have decided on my key, and must go and fetch her. Do have your people under control by the wedding.”

    “As my lord desires,” Black Serpent hisses, bowing her head. It has the tiniest, jauntiest hat on there, perched precariously on her curls.

    Morgina lifts her head up from the pillow she has made of Black Serpent’s skirts and nuzzles their masks together affectionately, holding her hand with a whole bunch of tentacles.

    ***

    The Depths of the Devil Gem

    “Look, all I am saying is that the young man was very easy on the eyes, everything else aside.”

    “Do shut up, Blossom.”

    ***

    Devil Gem acquired!

    New Stat: Impossible Strength. Oberon doesn’t have the full power of the imprisoned Grandmothers, yet. Hyperborea would be doomed if that were so. Even so, he can lift, throw, hold fast, or break anything he can lay his hands on.
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2019-08-22 at 06:24 PM.
    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.

  21. - Top - End - #441
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    PRINCESS-CHAMPIONS OF HYPERBOREA
    EPISODE 3: To Hunt A Dragon!


    Princesses!

    Dandy needed a boat. You had a boat. Funny how these things work out.

    It was Rita who insisted you all ferry Dandy back across the inner sea, her heart touched by the sight of Dandy trying her best not to come all exploding to pieces, a witch-letter in her hands. Come home, it had read. Dragon attack on berry festival. Princess needed.

    And now, here you are, moving through the shallows of Parsley Bay, and ahead of you the friendly little port of Bounty is smoldering. Not burning, mind you, not actively being set ablaze. But the sky is choked with its smoke.

    Dandy stands at the rail, looking like you could topple her over with a feather, as long as it was a big enough feather. Around her, the cats scurry, pushing the barge along by pole, trying to get you there faster.

    No princess deserves to stand helpless by and watch her kingdom burn.

    ***

    Adila!

    You’re doing your best to be controlled and responsible and to keep all those messy emotions buried deep, deep down. Still, inquiring minds just have to know. What’s it feel like to be called to stop an actual dragon rampage? This is the sort of thing that should properly belong in stories, not happening right now— what misgivings are bubbling through your great big dragony heart?

    ***

    Alina!

    It’d be nice if Rhyza was here to protect you and Jessamine from a big scary dragon, wouldn’t it? But I think she’s on an important mission for your sake in Jedad. Go ahead and tell us about that, and your parting, and the keepsake she left you.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    Something’s coming. Something big. You can taste the ice on your tongue, you can hear the silver bells of pegasus bridles afar off, and you can feel the chill winds that herald your folk’s arrival. They will be upon you soon. But they are coming from across the sea; they are not here yet.

    A dragon, though! Is your cold heart trembling at the thought of seeing an angry dragon who, unlike Adila, might have no compunctions over melting you down into a puddle?
    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.

  22. - Top - End - #442
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    You’re doing your best to be controlled and responsible and to keep all those messy emotions buried deep, deep down. Still, inquiring minds just have to know. What’s it feel like to be called to stop an actual dragon rampage? This is the sort of thing that should properly belong in stories, not happening right now— what misgivings are bubbling through your great big dragony heart?
    Of course Princess Adila has no interest in dragons whatsoever. She's never once investigated their history, their culture, their famous figures, their triumphs or their terrors. Not even a little bit! All that information would be totally useless to her, Jedad didn't have any dragons and she was never planning on going anywhere else. Why research creatures you were never going to meet? Why tempt fate into giving you opportunities to use that knowledge? Why even dream those dreams? What if you discovered you liked them? What if they soaked into your heart and pulled you away from all the things that you actually cared about?

    Why put everyone at risk like that?

    She looked at Princess Dandy standing next to her. Her wing twitched, daydreaming about pulling her into a hug.

    But she thought better of it.

    Still. She had her reason now. And she had confidence that there was no way she would accidentally like anything that was hurting Princess Dandy like that. She wouldn't even extend that courtesy to herself.

    She'd spent a lot of the trip over in the air, making up areal combat moves. She'd never really imagined fighting a dragon... a peer before. She was for the first time in her life genuinely worried about being outmatched. Not the kind of outmatched that you got when going up against Princess Helya where there was always the backup option of destroying everything from the sky like she did to the... there was a huge difference between trained and untrained humans. What if it was the same with dragons? She'd never trained to fight against a dragon, was she going to be the equivalent of Scampering Jeni going up against the King?

    She focused her mind. Scampering Jeni could get her bites in no matter who she was up against, and so would Adila. Heart and ferocity and the drive to protect her friends would have to make up for everything else she was lacking.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-23 at 09:32 PM.
    Roses are red,
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    Omae wa mo shinderu

  23. - Top - End - #443
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    A dragon, though! Is your cold heart trembling at the thought of seeing an angry dragon who, unlike Adila, might have no compunctions over melting you down into a puddle?
    Yes! Adila was...different. She looked like a dragon, but she wasn't, like, scary. Kazelia hadn't seen her fight against the snake husband, and Adila tried so hard to be friendly that she just seemed like, well, another princess.

    But now there was a dragon attack! That was a very scary pair of words. It conjured pictures of some vast creature, a distant silhouette up in the sky, all fire, destruction, and death. You never wanted something like that to notice you, that's why good little Riders did as they were told and stayed in their camps. Kazelia, of course, was far too old for that sort of thing and she knew perfectly well that she could do what she wanted and a giant scary beast of fire and shadow almost definitely would not come out of nowhere and incinerate her.

    But doing whatever you wanted and being probably okay was a long way from intentionally sailing into a dragon attack! This was inviting the fiery horrible death. Going straight to it. Saying to yourself that yes, actually, the horrible fire monster was real and let's go directly towards it. This was a bad life choice. Such regrets. You know what place was nice right now? Any other place. Why are we going this way again?!
    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)

  24. - Top - End - #444
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    She had to find a private room to say goodbye in. Otherwise she couldn't do it the way she wanted to. With her hands on Rhyza's, softly stroking her arms, squeezing those muscles and looking up, up, up with such affection in her eyes. It was important, all of it. It was important Rhyza understood how much she meant.

    "Is it all right if... could I ask you a favor?"

    That earned her an amused smirk. Oh, that face! Queen Rhyza... Alina blushed and squirmed and fidgeted and quite forgot that she was supposed to be the princess here. Second after cruel, blissful second ticked by before a merciful nod released her from the spell.

    "Would you please stay here for me and watch over Tashanna and Helya? They've each suffered so much lately, in their own ways. I need someone I trust to make sure they stay safe. That they actually rest. That they know that I'm still--"

    "Shh," said Rhyza, pressing three fingers onto Alina's lips, "Don't worry, my little princess. I've got this."

    "Y-your?"

    "Mine."

    She could not have imagined a more perfect kiss. There was no play for dominance, no lifting or bending down or anything that might have spoiled it. It was long and it was lingering and it was soft. Fingers playing with each other's hair or jawlines, a shared little smile. In between each slow and tender kiss, there would be two or three little ones, on lips or cheeks or foreheads. One of them would move as if to pull away, and the other would close the distance again and start the dance anew.

    Finally, Alina dismissed the lights she'd been standing on and dropped to the ground. She looked up at Rhyza and grinned to hide the blush creeping onto her face.

    "Thank you," she said, "For everything."

    Rhyza grabbed Alina by the wrist and held her fast. For a moment it seemed like she was going to pull the princess back onto the bed and delay her from leaving, but after just a moment she pulled away. When she did, she left a pale yellow scarf tied just above Alina's glass bracer. Soft and light, it fluttered with every tiny motion Alina made.

    "So you don't forget." Rhyza said, and glided out the room without another word.

    Alina took a moment to compose herself before following. Then she nearly jumped through the ceiling when she saw Jessamine standing there, leaning against a wall with her arms folded across her chest.

    "So... does this mean you've found Miss Right?"

    "..."

    "I'm just saying, you'd get some very pretty kids out of her."

    "...Jess, please!"


    ***

    Alina's never fought a dragon before. She's done a lot of other things but this is... isn't this too much to ask of any princess? But as she watches Dandy wavering in the breeze, as she watches the port smoking in front of her, she pushes that thought out of her head. They'd manage. They had to. Dandy, and her Feloria, deserved for this to happen the least of any place or people in all of Hyperborea. Alina takes a deep breath, and gently (gingerly) puts her hand on Dandy's shoulder. The scarf still tied to her wrist flutters in the ocean breeze. When she speaks, her voice sounds so much braver than she feels.

    "Don't worry, we'll fix this. I promise we will."
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-08-24 at 05:41 PM.

  25. - Top - End - #445
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    Princesses!

    Smoke. Smoke and ash and charred wood under your feet. The colors of Bounty have been changed utterly, terribly, to simple blacks and whites by the heat. Collapsed houses jut spars from the earth, and when the wind shifts, it brings heat and embers washing over you.

    Dandy is walking like someone asleep, and her eyes are not watering from the smoke. To feel so much that the safest thing to do is understand nothing— is that not understandable?

    But Feloria is strong, and the wildfire only gives new flowers a chance to bloom. There are bucket chains, triage tents, and teams of farmers picking their way through collapsed houses, block by block, searching for anyone who might be hurt, using their burly muscles to lift fallen beams off of those trapped. Nothing can daunt the intense practicality of Feloria, after all.

    Well. Almost nothing. As you all approach one of the triage tents, a little girl starts screaming and clutching at her mother. A murmur ripples through the assembled Felorians, as people grab at their weapons or their family, seeing another dragon.

    Dandy could help, maybe. But the frightened tears of the infant are washing over her and finding no purchase. She is staring at a flower shop that looks as if it had exploded outwards, and the deep claw gouges in the soft earth before it.

    Rita von Catabas, on the other hand, has already turned into a cat and is scampering over to be soft and warm and fuzzy for that little girl. If there’s one thing that an Askaian cat is good at, it’s comforting a frightened child.
    freedom in the flame

    Spoiler
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    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.

  26. - Top - End - #446
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    Kazelia, wearing her furred leathers rather than silk, pulls towards the back of the group. A Rider was not much better than a dragon for offering comfort and succor in a moment like this. And Kazelia was not in the mindset for it. She had seen Adila breathe fire on Askaia, but while that had been terrifying, it had been focused on just the Rider camp, and Asteria had promptly roped Adila out of the air. This, though, it was a whole town brought to ruin, and it felt like the kind of scale that was beyond her.

    She shudders as the child cries out and grips her spear with a strength that makes her knuckles turn pale blue. She realizes it’s because of Adila, but it’s hard to relax. That poor child. And poor Adila.
    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)

  27. - Top - End - #447
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    +Citizens of Feloria,+ Princess Adila addressed them in the firm, confident voice of an Officer of the Watch. +Your Princess Dandy has returned, bringing with her the Princesses of Illumina, Askaia, the Riders and the Watch. I am Princess Adila of the Watch and I will protect you.+

    The clarity came easily to Princess Adila, letting her cut through the tangle of emotion inside her. People here were suffering and in pain, Princess Dandy could barely stand, Princess Kazelia was trembling, Princess Alina was sick with worries and compassion. She needed to be strong and the strength came effortlessly. It didn't matter right now if people were afraid of her. It didn't matter if this meant she'd have to give up her plan to move to Feloria someday. It didn't matter that she knew that she was capable of inflicting this havoc with only a little push. Right now the only thing that mattered was that people were hurt and they needed help.

    She knew her way around disaster areas. She was first on the scene for every fire in the Bazaar. She had the strength to knock down building walls, lift fallen rooftops, walk through fire without hesitation, carry people from the wreckage. Without hesitation she left the other Princesses and proceeded towards the most perilous fallen or burning house. There was a lot of work to do.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-24 at 08:50 PM.
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    Omae wa mo shinderu

  28. - Top - End - #448
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "Hey, she's here to..."

    Alina's voice trails off into nothing when Adila leaves everyone behind. Too late. The damage was already being done. Dragons. Why did it have to be dragons? This isn't fair. Adila didn't deserve any of this. Such a sweet person. Such a genuinely good and kind person never deserved to be looked at with fear. She wanted to yell and lecture and fight, but what good would her voice do? In times of trouble, a people looked to their princess. These are not Alina's people. She rarely even appeared here, except for the odd festival now and again. They needed another voice much more than hers.

    Alina steps forward with her stately black silks swishing and trailing behind her, an Illuminan Princess in mourning. She moves right up to Dandy's side and offers her hand. Something to hold. Something to squeeze. Something to crush, if it came to that. You never knew.

    "It's all right," she leans in and whispers, "It's going to be all right. Ok? Give me a deep breath now, please. In... and out, there you go. Can you speak? Just a word or two is ok, just let them hear your voice..."

    [It seems appropriate to Reveal the Way, which if you agree is a 12]

  29. - Top - End - #449
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    Alina!

    Dandy takes a deep breath and steadies herself. “Don’t worry,” she says, with a clear voice. “I brought along a dragon who I would trust with my life: Princess Adila of the Watch. She is a peacekeeper, and she will find and apprehend the dragon who did this. After all,” she says, with a wan smile, “they say to set a thief to catch a thief. By the same logic, you should set a dragon to catch a dragon.”

    “She is a little small,” a baker says, scratching his head. “Compared to the one that attacked us. Big, gleaming, all gold and coils. They make dragons smaller over there, I guess.”

    (Bigger than Adila? Scary.)

    Then a horn rings out, low and booming, the kind of sound that makes ice run down your spine. Riders. As if this wasn’t bad enough.

    But everyone doesn’t wilt and worry and faint away like they might have a moment ago. People are standing up and forming informal ranks behind Dandy. They might not be an army, they might have just lost their homes, but they’ll stand by their Princess for as long as she needs them.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    You led an elite wing of Riders once, Kazelia. You were a huntress when your father required something found, or someone. You would bring them back home, sometimes in chains, sometimes... somewhat deceased.

    So when you hear the horn of the Wild Hunt ring out across Parsley Bay, who do you expect to see riding those black pegasi, who will you recognize from your old unit, and how worried are you, knowing you were the one who trained them?

    ***

    Adila!

    “There we go. On your left, try leveraging there.” The young woman helping you out can’t be older than fourteen. She’s got a practical leather apron on, and gardening gloves to stop her from burning her hands on hot metal, and a wand stuck in her belt. “It’s okay. Hold it, I’ll help Janice out. It’s okay, Miss Janice, everything’s going to be fine. I think the dragons sent someone to help us.”

    She doesn’t ask you if that’s true. But she does get her hands hooked under Janice’s armpits and helps her up and out from the debris.

    That’s when the horn rings out, and the girl turns pale. “More problems? Really?” She sighs, a little shivery, and straightens up. “Thank you, Miss Dragon.” She awkwardly leaves it at that, and seems undecided. Should she go and see what it is? Should she ask you? She should know what to do!

    You’ve seen the look in that face in officers who just got promoted unexpectedly. The panic of unprepared-for responsibility.
    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.

  30. - Top - End - #450
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    “There we go. On your left, try leveraging there.” The young woman helping you out can’t be older than fourteen. She’s got a practical leather apron on, and gardening gloves to stop her from burning her hands on hot metal, and a wand stuck in her belt. “It’s okay. Hold it, I’ll help Janice out. It’s okay, Miss Janice, everything’s going to be fine. I think the dragons sent someone to help us.”

    She doesn’t ask you if that’s true. But she does get her hands hooked under Janice’s armpits and helps her up and out from the debris.

    That’s when the horn rings out, and the girl turns pale. “More problems? Really?” She sighs, a little shivery, and straightens up. “Thank you, Miss Dragon.” She awkwardly leaves it at that, and seems undecided. Should she go and see what it is? Should she ask you? She should know what to do!

    You’ve seen the look in that face in officers who just got promoted unexpectedly. The panic of unprepared-for responsibility.
    This is one of those questions with an easy answer: Obey the summons. In the dirt and chaos of the front line, a soldier is deaf and blind and dumb. Isolated soldiers are surrounded and destroyed; without unity lines crumble; without the head the body is paralyzed...

    +There are still people trapped in there,+ Princess Adila thought unexpectedly. +We can't leave them.+

    She was surprised that was the thought that came out, and equally surprised by the strength of it. Reasons bubbled below the surface - was it guilt, perhaps, or was it the primordial satisfaction of being really useful for a change? She had, after all, relentlessly struck away at her list of small pleasures and habits over the years - no more shows of prowess, no more drinking, no more pouncing, no more flirting - and this, saving people, was the only one that she had left to her. And even if it was a bitter tea, with no smiles or admiration or even people who didn't scream when they saw her to sweeten it up, she would savor every drop.

    And perhaps there were other reasons to be slow in responding to instructions. Perhaps it was a different kind of selfishness that pushed her, perhaps she wanted to test the idea that maybe she sometimes could disregard and order and have it turn out okay. What could an emotion like that be called. Fear? Pride? Stubbornness? Independence? It was a confusing concept and Adila didn't trust it, no, she actively suspected it because she sensed the burning presence of dragonfire at its root. It had the better of her now but she watched her own motivations like a hawk even as she worked. She knew what that emotion looked like when it had a chance to fully express itself and so knew to stamp it out early.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-08-25 at 06:35 AM.
    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Omae wa mo shinderu

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