The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #661
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina stands still next to Ourania and watches Adila's joyful rush/hug combo with a distant smile on her face. She shifts from one foot to the other and her eyes go on sparkling in the dazzling light of the hall of Argossa. It's good. This is good. She couldn't ask for anything more. She's hardly even aware of the tiny sigh passing through her lips.

    Then without warning she goes stumbling and gracefully spinning several steps forward into the hall. She turns her head, mouth open in surprise, and sees Jessamine half laughing and half glaring at her.

    "You're her friend too, you dummy! What are you waiting for?"

    With laughter like the bubbling of a river, Alina races toward her friends and leaps in between in the warmest and most joyful embrace she can manage. Her lights sparkle on her head and with a bright flash she makes a fence to cordon off the sheep, which somehow immediately manages to get its head stuck in between the beams of light. She shakes her head and, laughing even harder, takes Kazelia's now free hand and brings it into the group. And don't think for a second that Rita hasn't found a way to sneak into this too!

    "I wasn't sure if I'd ever see you again!" Alina's voice is overwhelmed and overjoyed, "You were so brave! You were so amazing! You were so, I can't believe how, you look... you look amazing! Oh I'm so glad, I'm so glad it wasn't goodbye!"

    And the tears bead up again on her crystaline eyes, but they're the warmest, happiest tears anybody could ever wish to see.

  2. - Top - End - #662
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    Some Time Before...

    Rita!

    “Wait,” you say, looking around Fairharvest. You’ve been so excited to see that Alina’s okay, she’s... she’s not dead! You can’t even be mad at her, even though you failed to be any help at all. Again. But you didn’t even stop to think about your other friend. “Where’s Kazelia?”

    “She’ll be back,” Alina says, firmly, in that “has-to-come-back” sort of way. “She’s just been sent outside for a while.”

    “I have a feeling,” Ourania adds (and it’s actually Ourania, wow wow wow!!) “that she will turn up right when you least expect her.”

    You draw yourself up to your full height (just shy of Alina) and nod. Okay. You’ll be strong for Kazelia. After all... Alina and Adila need somebody to look after them!

    (Who are you kidding? You can’t do that. Kazelia was— is so much smarter than you.)

    “I wish we could stay and enjoy your hospitality,” Ourania adds, so graciously (she smells like warm grass and sunny days spent on your favorite pillow). “But there is no time now. I promise we will return.”

    Which reminds you of Jessamine’s promise. Your stomach rolls as you think about trying to go back, right now. Alina’s exhausted, Kazelia’s gone, Adila is a dragon again but even she seems tired and shivery.

    ...Jessamine will understand, you say to yourself, as you keep your head down and let all of the important princesses talk, instead.

    ***

    In your dreams, you have the heart of a lioness, and when you use your heart’s magic to turn into a girl, you are tall and strong and sleek. When you roar, Riders break ranks and run away. When you pounce, you knock Asteria Spite down and knock her out with one smack of your mighty hand.

    Then you untie Alina and she jumps into your arms, laughing, and kisses you just the way you always imagined she would. You’re big enough to pick her up and make her do that shaky little flustered giggle, and when she looks at you she sees someone who’s brave and strong and useful and worth staying for.

    And then the rest of the dream involves finding the legendary unmoving sunbeam while Alina clings to your arm and gasps a lot and even purrs just for you.

    (You are never going to admit any of this. You would burst into flames of sheer embarrassment.)

    ***

    Jessamine is very quiet on the way up. When the Roc wings overhead, and the wind blows cold, she’s the one who holds Alina tight.

    You don’t look her in the eye, and instead trudge along in the cold wind, eyes cast firmly down so you don’t have to look at anybody.

    Then, all of a sudden, somebody is giving you the best ear scritch of your life. You want to melt into a little purring puddle.

    “No sad princesses on my tree,” Ourania says, with what you vaguely can tell is forced positivity. But that’s still positive, it’s still standing up and taking arms against the oppressive gloom. And also did we mention that these are the best scritches in the history of scritch?

    She leaves you with more than purring and a spring in your step. It’s almost like she scritched the sadness right out, almost; you feel instead determined to make things right with Jess. And you even believe you can.

    No sad princesses on the tree!

    ***

    Of course you got there before Alina did. You practically outraced Adila! Kazelia is special and Ourania was right and love is real and you can take on anything.

    Maybe you can even do something this time. Something real and important.
    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."
    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.

  3. - Top - End - #663
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    Kazelia laughs as Rita races to her first and fastest, but then opens her mouth in what was probably going to be a gasp before Adila bounds onto her. She's not crushed though, just firmly embraced, and then Alina is on top of her, and the sheep is stuck in a rainbow light fence and Kazelia just can't seem to stop laughing! Her heart is singing and for a moment here, everything seems almost perfect. Almost because she notices that Alina's eyes are different and she'd like to ask why. Almost because the Sun has looked a little weary when they came for tea. But almost is still very, very close to perfect, and this is a moment for letting go of those things and just reveling in the joy of the embrace.
    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 - #664
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    Ourania!

    You were right. One less thing to worry about; one more gamble that paid out. One more sign that this time, even if the unthinkable happens, Hyperborea will be in good hands.

    You have so much you want to give them, and so little time. But first things first: you just have to invite them to tea with the moon, and bring your specialty ambrosia salad and cold cut sandwiches. There is nothing like a good meal to make the heart strong.

    And their hearts will need to be strong indeed.

    ***

    Oberon!

    "Useless!"

    The fires have been put out in Asteria's camp, finally. That ungrateful child-- did she mean to defy you, just like Kazelia did? Useless!

    You never should have shown them weakness. The only thing that weakness deserves is to be ground into the dirt, and you will never be weak again. You will never be at anyone's mercy ever again. Only the strong are able to take what they need to survive, and you are the strongest.

    (Even if, right at this moment, you are not; even if you can feel the Grandmothers hammering against the walls of their prison, seeking a weak point, seeking to break the enchantment rather than the prison itself. You will need to lock this amulet in your vaults until you are strong enough to cow them once again.)

    At least you have assembled around you those tools who have remained loyal to you: Azora, doing her best to hide her satisfaction that your command not to harm the Watch dragon turned out to be useless, and she was right that you should have let her deal with the skinless dragon however she wanted; Morgina, relatively composed and stable, delighted at how you scritched behind her ears and praised her for bringing in a traitor; Eska, having wasted the use of that dragon skin and failed in her task to guard the witch-roads, doing her best to look small and above your attention; and the one treasure you've brought out from this disaster.

    Diana, your witch-key who will unlock the wards of Argossa, standing proudly in the black and blue of your kingdom.

    At least that Iluminan was good for one more thing before she died.

    "Now, Father?"

    "Now," you growl, "now we find the Caduceus, and open the way. Then we humble that witch on top of her tree, and she learns her place."

    "By your side," Azora says, with a wry smile and a bow. "And what will we do with Kaja?"

    In one corner of the tent, Kaja glitters, face twisted in fear and sorrow. Good. Maybe this will teach her a lesson about loyalty.

    "Take her home and put her next to the Iluminan queen. I will discipline her later."

    Your tools bow, and retreat, leaving you to luxuriate in thoughts of sunlight and radiant beauty.

    ***

    Dandy!

    You're exhausted. It has been a day and a half, and no mistake. The damage to Fairharvest has been cordoned off with creeping vines, a watch has been placed over the slumbering golden dragon in the middle of town, and you've sent an official messenger to Hecatia University explaining what just happened and asking for their help in the fight against the Riders. But there's one more thing that has to be done.

    Scale polish. Tea blends. A crystal for absorbing negative energies. A little pamphlet explaining how mindfulness meditation can help alleviate post-transformation dysphoria. All of this in a wicker basket, wrapped up with a ribbon.

    And, tucked into the ribbon, a little note. Thank you, Adila. You're the best dragon in the whole world.

    All of that you hand off to the owl, which flies off towards Argossa. You watch it go for an indulgent length of time, wishing that you were in that basket, too.

    But there's work to be done, and it's a princess's duty to roll up her sleeves and be there when her people need her.





    End of EPISODE 3: To Hunt A Dragon!
    Tune in next week for EPISODE 4: Princess Heist!
    And don't miss the bonus web-exclusive short connecting the two: Argossa!
    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.

  5. - Top - End - #665
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    PRINCESS-CHAMPIONS OF HYPERBOREA
    WEBISODE 2: Argossa!

    The War Room!

    It's not really a war room. Or, rather, it's not meant to be. But it's the room with the great big map of all of Hyperborea, in perfect scale, complete with a to-scale Argossa root growing through the floor in full blossom. It's also the room where Ourania's storing her armory, which is not as big as you'd expect, but still impressive. Lots of shining spears and sun-blessed arrows, and masterwork suits of armor in the styles of all the different kingdoms.

    And it's here that Ourania first takes off the bracer on her left arm.

    All up and down her forearm, her veins are standing out in the purple and blue of the corrupted ley lines.

    "There's no room for hiding it here," she says, plainly. She's wearing a golden Rowani dress today, and a laurel wreath crown. "The health of the kingdom is the health of the queen, as the saying goes. And by the time I realized what Oberon was doing, I was already weakening. The closer to Argossa I am, the more of my strength I keep, but going out to Feloria was..." Her silence fills the room for a moment. "...a calculated risk. Particularly because of the agreements I have made with the kingdoms." One might remember Dandy, her hands on the earth, formally inviting Ourania in.

    "If Adila hadn't... but that's old history," she continues. "As things stand now, Kazelia, you have managed to hurt your father. If we press our advantage, we might be able to stop this once and for all, and save your sisters, too. But first, we need to know what he's planning."

    She turns to Alina and Adila. "Both of you had the chance to speak with Oberon and his daughters. Did they reveal anything of what he plans to do, how he thinks he can take over Hyperborea? Think carefully, please."
    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.

  6. - Top - End - #666
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Princess Adila has been losing her grip for these past few days.

    Some people are capable of relaxing when faced with a beautiful, perfectly secure princess castle where absolutely no crime is happening whatsoever. Not Adila. She has occupied and fortified the approach to one of the walk-in closets to secure a base for her ranging concentric mapping patrols. Under the cover of darkness she's been slinking through the halls, marking doorways with secret Watch-glyphs in chalk and filling in her notebook with pages and pages of maps all in accordance with protocol. Just as intently she's been building profiles of every magical creature and cosmic entity she's been meeting, determining their functions and agendas. The walls of her occupied territory are covered with maps, territorial and relationship. Somebody is up to something and Adila won't rest until she discovers it!

    Perhaps it's the stress that got to her. Perhaps it's paranoia that Oberon somehow might have found a place to infiltrate the palace. Perhaps it's the fact that a beautiful castle decorated with the iconography of all of the princesses reads to Adila like a mafia museum. Either way, things recently reached the stage where she approached Princess Kazelia asking her to assist during her interrogation of a rainbow sheep.

    Even this meeting was delayed while a hunt was conducted for the reclusive, surprisingly stealthy dragon. In the end the only thing that managed to coax her out and calm her down a bit was the arrival of Princess Dandy's care package. She's holding the crystal like she's forgotten how to let go of it, constantly turning it over in her claws, claws faintly clicking as they trace the sides of it, squeezing it now and then like it's a stress ball. Regardless of the efficacy of the crystal in channeling negative energy just the fact that she's holding it seems to be enough to take the edge off.

    +I... don't think so,+ thought Adila, almost a little ashamed. +I only spoke to Azora and Eska, and mostly about personal stuff. I'm sorry.+

    She hesitated a moment, then looked at the Allqueen's arm directly. +Are you... okay? Does it hurt?+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-10-12 at 08:21 AM.
    Any dream in the dark.

  7. - Top - End - #667
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    In her heart, Alina really had given up on ever seeing anything pretty again. Which would have been no less than what she'd deserved, given what she did in Feloria. So when they let her into Ourania's guest closet, she almost cried. And when they said she could have whatever she liked from there, she fell to her knees. The noise she made was... well, it's not really fit to talk about in polite company, ok?

    She picked a dress, a real dress, the first she'd seen in... she can't even remember. And, oh! What a dress it is! An Illuminan masterpiece in every sense of the word, but the most special thing about it was the way it filled Alina with a deep impression of both of her mothers, so much so that she could swear she smelled them on it.

    The blouse fit her like a dream, following the shape of her body and still billowing the way a proper silk should (it must be breathtaking when it's wet, she thinks). The very top of it is a pink the color of rose quartz that follows the plunging v-line of the neck down to the the spot on her breast where her scar rests hidden and almost healed, where it bleeds slowly into cerise and then a deep orange that plunges beneath the blue ribbon-tied sash around her waist so that she resembles nothing so much as the sun setting over a calm and placid lake. Her sleeves are cut away at the shoulders to reveal the skin underneath, then wrap around her arms again until they reach the middle of her forearms. They end there in the same reddish pink color as the center of her blouse, right at the exact spot her glass bracelets begin. And everywhere like stars, sewn all up and down the fabric, are flecks of Illuminan Glass that glitter in every color of the rainbow. Around her neck sits a long, snowy scarf that trails and swishes and bounces gracefully with every turn and shift of her body.

    She wears a pair of strikingly white leggings under a series of layered skirts that open up at the front. The shortest is red, ending just at the tops of her thighs. Under that and slightly longer is orange, then another in yellow, one in green, a blue, an indigo, and finally a violet silk that brushes against the floor next to her soft opaline slippers. The slippers may just be her favorite part: not gaudy or showy or trying to make her taller than she is, and perfect for dancing with strong and supple leather on the soles for walking across stones and through rivers. If only she could find one.

    Then around her neck she wears a snowy scarf which reaches down all the way to the orange layer of her skirt, so that when she moves she is the clouds over her sunset lake and the rainbow blossoming beneath it as well. Everything is motion, dance, and grace of the highest caliber. It's wonderful. It's amazing. She feels almost more Queen than Princess, though not quite. Not quite yet. It's not time for her to exchange her crown.

    Jessamine had been walking around as if in a trance this entire time. She'd often seek out a balcony and stare out past the roots and blossoms of Argossa to where the ocean rose up to meet the world tree, and from there across the horizon in the direction of Illumina. Other times, she'd turn the other way and stare at Feloria instead. The wonder of this place was wasted on her; she had nothing but wistful sighs and distant looks to give any of it. Until she saw her sister, and it all fell away in the most delighted squeak. Which brought on a blush. She never squeaked! She didn't! That was a Lina thing, she was much more... a-anyway, let her do your hair Lina, let her do it! She's going crazy with nothing for her hands to do, so please!

    This is how Alina finds herself sitting in Ourania's council with her normally floofy hair bound up tight in a series of intricate braids. Two tiny plaits that loop from her bangs, just across the tops of her ears, then join again at the back of her head. Underneath that spot her hair is pulled back tight into a large knot like the center of a ribbon which pulls the rest of her lavender curls up to rest above the scarf instead of leaving it to mix and tangle with those trails of fabric. She's beautiful, and for once she feels like it too.

    And not a moment too soon! Because it takes every bit of borrowed strength from Argossa and the cleansing power of being allowed to look royal and beautiful again to give her the courage to swim back into her memories and listen to his words again. Even still, she doesn't look up at the High Queen or any of her friends, preferring to stare fixedly at a particularly pretty part of the floor where Illuminan glass embraces sparkling Jedadi jewels. There was a lesson to be learned there, she thinks, but right this second she's not sure what it could be. She swallows, and notices her hands are shaking.

    "...He talked to me," she says with a voice that's fighting not to quiver and failing miserably, "W-when held me prisoner. H-he kept, kept dumping water on me until I couldn't breathe and then in between... he talked to me. He told me that he had a job for me. He w-wanted a, a witch. From Hecatia. Asked f-for Diana specifically, I think 'cause-- because she's so famous and talented. Maybe anyone would have done. I don't know. He wanted me to win her over to his service. Which I."

    She squeezes her eyes shut. The guilt washes over her like a wave of hot needles, little crystal shards feeding on her uselessness and trying to take over her body again. But nothing happens. Nobody even yells at her, so she takes the deepest breath of her life and finally manages to turn her emerald eyes to Ourania's face.

    "I did what he asked. I asked Diana to spy on him for me, but that still means... anything she does is my fault. O-or if she gets hurt then I," she sighs, "I'm really sorry. He had my sister. He's still got my mother, I didn't know what to do. But he said... he said something else, too. He said that, s-said that when he had Diana and the... I think he called it the Caduceus? He wants that. He thinks that with that and Diana that he can force you to marry him, Your Majesty."

    She dips her head again. She's so tired, all of a sudden. Is it ok if she rests now?

  8. - Top - End - #668
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    When Ourania reveals her arm, Kazelia has a moment where the look on her face is not so much sympathetic as "I knew it!" though she has the good grace to immediately follow that with a sheepish look and downcast eyes. She follows Adila's concerned question with her own gaze, but hesitates to say anything and Alina fills the space instead.

    And then...then Kazelia is next to Alina and hugging her from behind. She's holding her, her long hair inadvertently tickling Alina's face and that new bit of green getting in her vision just a little. There's an anger underneath her, a slight tremble in the arms holding Alina, at what Oberon does to people, but this is not the moment for it, and it never goes past that slight tremble. In this moment, all her attention is on Alina, all her heart in being with a friend who was so hurt. She'd known, she'd told them about being with him, but she hadn't told them everything, and it was only now striking Kazelia how pernicious Oberon had been. Her heart sang out in pain with Alina, and all she wanted in the world was for her friend to never have to face that again.

    You might notice, Alina, that Kazelia is still cool to the touch, but not quite so chilly as before. Like a mountain stream, but not like ice crystals are forming all over your new dress. That's a surprise. You might even wonder, should you have the presence of mind to consider it, whether kissing Kazelia as she is now would be different than when you kissed Kaja.
    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)

  9. - Top - End - #669
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    Adila!

    Ourania nods, once, and puts on a brave smile. “It’s like having a cold,” she fibs. “And you just have to ride it out.”

    She does not elaborate on which question she was answering yes to, but the way she holds her arm... suggests the answer for you.

    ***

    Alina!

    Ourania can see right through you. And she’s looking anyway. It’s like being... like being an old piece of stained glass. Your guilt and shame are pooling near the bottom of your frame, but her light still shines through you and fills you up. She is distressed, that is true, but distressed that you have been forced to make such a choice.

    Then you mention the Cadeuceus, and her eyes widen in surprise.

    “Oh,” she says, softly. “Well, then. We will just have to discover where it is before he does.”

    This almost certainly provokes you and your friends to comment! Doesn’t Ourania know just about everything? She’s been around just about forever!

    “No. Adila never told me where she hid it.”

    What??

    “It takes a certain sort of strength to travel between worlds without being unmade, zero-summed, reduced to nothing. One that I believe you may be familiar with.” She does not elaborate; you may recall, perhaps, a nightmare swamp, or else a cold like needles. “Even more to arrive with most of your self intact. For your father,” she says, with a gesture towards Kazelia, “I believe this strength comes from his selfishness. For Adila, this strength came from her iconoclasm.”

    She gestures, and light shimmers before you, forming an image. A woman of average height, a short bob of orange hair contrasting with her bronzed skin. She wears burnished armor in the style of the Watch, holding her helmet under one arm. Her eyes are endless starry night forever.

    “When she came to Hyperborea, seeking refuge, she found simply her own pain reflected back at her. She became convinced that I was— that I must be— a tyrant who schemed to control this world. Her own experiences in some far-flung world allowed me to be nothing less. So she sought to overthrow me, and gave the kingdoms of Hyperborea an ultimatum: stand with her, or kneel before her.”

    Ourania’s voice turns wistful, and the stern expression on this Adila’s face softens. “She was wonderful, and hurt, and broken, and still kind. She believed she was doing the right thing, and once she realized—“

    Her voice trails off. “But it was too late, by then. One of her earliest converts was Princess Eupheria of Ilumina. I cannot tell you in what way Eupheria loved Adila, but I know that it was not returned in kind. Eupheria was an artist, an entertainer, silly and free-spirited and lovely.”

    Eupheria coalesces in front of you, mid-cartwheel, her lavender hair a mess. She bounces up and grins at Adila, who simply nods in return. As Ourania continues, Eupheria giggles silently, rocking on her heels, but with increasing anxious energy.

    “She tried everything to impress Adila. Glass crab soldiers. Glass bat spies. A great glass dragon brought to life by witchcraft. And every failure made her more desperate not to be seen as just a silly morale-booster for the cause. She wanted to be taken seriously. She wanted... she wanted more from Adila than Adila could give her. So she sought to bind the most dangerous power in Hyperborea to her will.”

    Eupheria lifts a rune-carved staff of Devil make, entwined between two shining glass snakes, and— the light inverts. She becomes a shadow, falling to her knees, insubstantial. The way Ourania averts her eyes from the sight suggests that this is an editorial choice; that she does not want to show you what or who Eupheria became. A last concession to the happy, gleeful princess you saw.

    “She could not control her power at first. It burned wildly through the heartland of Adila’s conquests, and it made Adila realize that she had awoken something more dangerous than I ever could have been. So she joined forces with me, and together we tried to make Eupheria see reason.”

    The shadowy figure of Eupheria rises, and stretches out all four of her terrible arms.

    “Instead, afraid, abandoned, hurting, Eupheria lashed out and turned me to stone. I was unable to help Adila, who only barely escaped. For three years they waged war across Hyperborea, and Adila... from what I was able to piece together afterwards, she only won by cheating outrageously, using anything she could get her hands on, fighting an endless army of Eupheria’s figments and nightmares, as her shadow stretched ever further across Hyperborea.”

    You see Adila, sword flashing at shadows, yelling out orders. It takes only a moment to realize this is Ourania’s conjecture, her best guess at how Adila acted during the mythic Shadow War.

    “She sealed Eupheria away, somewhere that not even the Caduceus could help her escape. And then, when the Caduceus’s magic unwound, I found myself free. And Adila... she never apologized. But she announced that she would simply keep watch over me, and that if I ever abused my power, she would stop me.”

    The figure of Adila turns away, her hair becoming silver, and fades out of sight.

    “...she never told me where she sealed Eupheria away. I never asked. It wounded her heart, and I would not open that scar. She never would have told me, either. But now, if Oberon finds the resting place of the Caduceus... it will make him a threat to all of Hyperborea whether it consumes him utterly or not.”

    Ourania turns to you, her face grave. “And so I must once again place my trust in you. He cannot be allowed to find where Adila sealed the Caduceus away.”
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    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."
    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.
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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.

  10. - Top - End - #670
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    “And so I must once again place my trust in you."
    Trust.

    The Operations Manual was a book in the same way that the Devilhouse was a place of residence - technically accurate but nowhere near the full story.

    Princess Adila II had sometimes wondered why she kept going back to it. It was a book that had taken her almost a year to finish reading, and she'd since gone back over it dozens of times - far more often than needed for a treatise on organizing patrol routes and ordering a battle. It wasn't like it was particularly gripping reading either - she'd gotten the gist on the first pass through, but she'd kept going back and back and back...

    Trust.

    The book was ten times longer than what she'd thought it had been.

    It unfolded in her mind like an unpicked origami. Each page folded out into a score or more others. Each line was written layered on top of each other. How many times had she stared into those pages, memorizing the details of the secret history of the Watch - the Pilgrims - and forgetting she'd ever learned those things soon afterwards? How could she have forgotten that bold, thoughtful pen and the sense of unbearable pressures and frustrations that weighed it down? Knowledge recognized knowledge and the doors in her head began to open. She wasn't learning this from Ourania - she was being given permission to remember it.

    Layers and layers of it unwrapped, much still illegible. The words ran deep, deep, deep. Tactics and movements and sketches of eyes - hundreds of sketches, every person she met Adila drew their eyes afterwards. Perhaps as a way to reflect on their character. Perhaps as a record to consult in case anything changed.

    Trust.

    It's like having a cold, she thought. I just have to ride it out.

    Each book was written on top of the others. The modern version of patrols, investigation and concentration of force was written over the top of military tactics was written over the top of plans for Hobling Keep, to assault it and to reinforce it, was written over the top of the thousand pairs of eyes. Each book unfolded and unfolded and there was more written on every fold. This one was how to be Captain, everything that she'd need to know if she ever blundered into that position. This one was how to deal with devils and all the bargains owed still. This one was what she wanted to say to - well, nevermind, no need to see that one just yet. But all of the books were written on deeper lines, five characters that cast shadows so dark that they seemed sometimes to be ten.

    T N
    R O
    U O
    S N
    T E

    For a moment, Princess Adila II caught a glimpse of the shape of Adila I's heart. The duality of perfect trust in the imparting of her knowledge, secrets, private thoughts and hard-fought experiences - and the perfect paranoia that had unwritten the entire book into its own shadow, to be revealed only when needed to know. She needed to be able to trust people. She couldn't. And the contradiction had...

    Well, she didn't need to know how that had ended. Just yet.

    The information starts to settle again. Many doors remain closed. Some few are left open. Most surprising is that the word trust remains visible in her memory - trust and it's associated shadow. It feels like the deepest secret of the book, those few letters, but it has been decided that she needs to know it now. It's hard to tell what the emotional resonance of that word and that word's shadow. Defiant suspicion, the kind that declares itself alone worthy of passing judgement? Lonely regrets, and the advice given after accumulating them for a lifetime? An order to trust Ourania, or a plea that she shouldn't?

    Adila shivered. She clutched her stress crystal. It glowed faintly.

    +...+ the thought took a while to congeal. +Adila left us more than I realized,+ thought Adila II... trusting? +It was hard for her. Too many regrets to take to the grave. But... I think she wanted to be able to...+ she couldn't bring herself to think the word, it felt too meaningful to just say. +... feel certain. About anything.+

    She was quiet for a moment, thoughts audibly stewing.

    +You're right. We have to stop him. He can't be -" the thought stalled out for a second, but Adila abruptly focused and forced it through. It was an unusual thought for her, like the psychic voice she spoke in for a moment belonged to someone else. +He can't be trusted with it.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-10-13 at 06:58 AM.
    Any dream in the dark.

  11. - Top - End - #671
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    The more Alina listens, the more uncomfortable she looks. She's obligingly guilty, shocked, scared, bewildered, and deeply fretful in turn as she continues to squeeze Kazelia's arm. By the end she's outright squirming in her seat and wincing like she doesn't want to hear another word.

    Eupheria. Eupheria? She doesn't... she doesn't know that name. In fairy tales, in bedtime stories, as some sort of vague and ancient menace sure. She knows all of the Eupheria stories. Like the one about her capturing Princess Carmilla and trying to make her a pet? Or the one about Princess Leorina riding her pegasus into battle to shatter the Great Glass Dragon once and for all? They're classics! She just... somehow it never occurred to her that the Evil Shadow Queen was a real person with hopes and dreams and too many disappointments for her heart to handle. Nobody ever told those stories.

    And she, she could have guessed if she'd wanted to! If she'd really stopped to think about it she'd have known immediately that Eupheria was Illuminan and not just using glass in all of her evil schemes because everybody knew that glass was the best material for making magical stuff out of and the stories would all have been worse without it. Somehow or another there just weren't any stories about a Princess-promised doing anything to stop her and it just... it never clicked. They were just stories. Just stories. About her heritage! About the darkness hidden in her people and nobody, not even her mother, ever told her about it. Did nobody know?

    ...She didn't expect to look so much like her, either. Thinking about what that might mean makes her insides feel unpleasant and squirmy. L-lots of people have lavender hair, it's just... you s-saw her face, right? And, and it is true that rainbows tended to push certain families back onto the throne over the years. Alina glances nervously up at Ourania, but flinches away before she can find any answers in that face. She doesn't want to know. She doesn't.

    "I..." she swallows and nods, tugging at her red skirt a bit to distract herself, "N-no, of course not. We'll keep it from him, I promise. Some things should stay asleep forever."

  12. - Top - End - #672
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    Kazelia clung to Alina and let her continue to clutch an arm as Ourania told her story. It brought some things into focus. How the reaction had been to Oberon, why they’d been allowed to set up a kingdom like it was all normal. Ourania had fought off the threat to her from her high place and then let things play out because she had seen something like this before. She even understood void travel! She’d just, she’d just missed that one thing about Oberon that made him intolerable, that made him a threat. Well, they could fix that.

    Something bothered her though. She didn’t reply immediately, but was reflecting on the last thing Alina said. “Should it be asleep forever?” She asked after a pause. “It feels unfinished. If we’re going to seek it out to keep it from Oberon, is our only goal to keep things exactly as they are? That doesn’t feel...right to me.”

    It didn’t feel like Hyperborea to her. Maybe with Ourania gone, Adila I had been forced to make a compromise. Maybe she has been like the Riders before and those starry eyes had made her too cold to bring things to a Hyperborean conclusion. Maybe Ourania had been too scared or too busy to search for the resting place of the Caduceus before this. But now they had to do it, and they could do better.
    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)

  13. - Top - End - #673
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    Lightbulb Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    "Almost no one can be trusted with it," Ourania says, sadly. "I suppose that Falling Lightning had good reason to build it, but even she hid it away, and this was the woman who handed a princess a sword that could cut a continent in half because she thought it was too dull to slice her bread anymore." There's the beat where Ourania says that she's joking. Ourania does not say that she's joking. She is instead staring at nothing in particular, lost in terrible memories. Then she shakes herself out of it. "Devils are... well, they're quite a lot. And letting others play with their toys generally ends badly for everyone involved."

    ***

    Kazelia!

    "No," Ourania says, sadly. "Alina is right. I will not have anyone desecrate Eupheria's final resting place seeking the same power that destroyed her. To do that would be to make their sacrifice worth nothing." Their sacrifice. Both Adila and Eupheria suffered because of the Caduceus, after all. "Please, Kazelia. If you are too late, if they breach the seal... do not take up the Caduceus yourself. Not even to save the day. Not even to fix what your father has broken. I will not see another princess's future consumed by that awful thing."

    She gestures, and the map of Hyperborea lights up with flickering lights, shifting and magnifying under her fingers. "Now. My recommendation to you would be to find, take, and if possible destroy all information Oberon has on the Caduceus and its whereabouts. To do that, you would need his attention elsewhere... and the assistance of as many princesses as possible." The map centers on Hobling Keep, and you can almost hear the faint din of its workshops and bazaars from here. "Fortunately for us, we will soon have quite a few princesses and queens gathered for the Crystal Gala. We're in further luck; Hobling Keep is the safest place in all of Hyperborea. Even if Oberon tried to attack the Gala, he would find his teeth cracking on that nut." A smile flickers across her lips.

    "If you rally popular support for fighting back against Oberon, if you can convince your peers that he is a unique threat to our world, you should be able to gather enough support to draw him away from Ilumina, exposing his ill-gotten capitol for a precise strike. This war could be over like that." She snaps her fingers. "But your first priority should be eliminating their research on the Caduceus. Even if we drove Oberon out of Ilumina completely, that would be worse than useless if he subsequently got his hands on that wicked thing."

    "The Gala will begin in less than a week," she continues. "Until then, I must insist you let me spoil you all a little. If I don't use all the rooms around here often enough, Argossa starts hiding some and budding in new ones, so, really, you'd be doing me a favor. I think I still know where the spa is..."
    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.

  14. - Top - End - #674
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    +The Crystal Gala,+ Adila thought involuntarily, scales rippling in the draconic equivalent of a blush.

    She'd been to one of those. It had been hosted in the Bazaar and everyone had been there and... she'd...

    She'd been off duty that evening.

    Young. Strong. Dangerous. Uncontrollable. Already having taken down four royal guards who didn't recognize her newly-minted princess credentials. Already having had a drink or two. Dressed in a sharp black suit jacket lined with devil's red, eyeliner vibrant orange with Egyptian curls, golden paint tattooing brilliant serpentine symbols all down her bare neck. She'd gone looking for trouble and she'd found it.

    Teenage rebel Adila on the warpath had been a force to be reckoned with - and worse, she had been trying to prove to Princess Iron Star that she was, in fact, cool. She toyed with and tormented anyone who caught her eye. She'd seduced princesses in front of their girlfriends with promises so direct and shameless that duels were demanded, and when she'd fought she'd fought to humiliate. It had been a raw exercise of power by an adolescent rake who knew no limits, only brought to a halt when Princess Helya took to the field.

    It had been an unforgettable evening - though Adila was quick to claim that she had been blackout drunk and had accordingly forgotten all about it. That was true in the sense that she tried incredibly hard not to think about it because any time she remembered it she wanted to curl up in a ball of shame and wish herself out of existence. She'd been worse than Princess Kyouko. She'd never thought she'd live it down.

    +You want me to go to the Crystal Gala,+ she thought. She looked at Kazelia, who didn't understand, and Alina, who did. She hoped she hadn't shared too much accidentally. Please don't tell her wh -

    The thought cut short, like someone had delivered a slap to the back of the head. Again she felt like she was being pushed to think a thought that wasn't exactly hers. +I love the Crystal Gala!+ she thought despite every barrier that should stop her thinking like that - and stared blinking in shock that she'd just thought that.

    And she was shocked at the honesty in the thought. Of course she'd loved it. She'd never had as much fun in her life. It's the kind of memory that lasts a lifetime and you won't always be so young so you should enjoy it while it lasts. In my opinion you don't have enough memories like that and sometimes you act older than I do -

    She blinked away the... weird train of thought. She stared blankly ahead for a moment. Her mind chewed undirected, like a stationary lawnmower. But it didn't dip back down into gloom. That entire cycle of guilt and shame was broken and it wasn't starting up again. All she could think about were things to do with dresses she had hoarded and never had the opportunity to wear, clothing that wasn't shapeless blocky Watch armour, and getting to see everyone else at their most beautiful and... +I would love to go to the Crystal Gala.+ Adila thought as the last of shock fossilized into certainty.
    Any dream in the dark.

  15. - Top - End - #675
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    The sound that comes out of Alina's mouth is such pure joy that, had an enterprising magician been around just then to bottle it, she'd never need to work another day in her life. It washes all of the guilt, fear, and worry right off of her so suddenly it pops her right out of her chair and several inches into the air in a giddy bounce that misses smacking Kazelia in the jaw by the space of a single braid of hair. Her skirts flutter up in a wave behind her and then cascade back down into place one color at a time only to swish right back up again as she bounces up a second time and then a third, squeaking with delight all the while.

    "The Crystal Gala is next week?! I thought I missed it! I thought I'd never get to go again! It's-- and I get to go? I really do?"

    The laughter bursts up out of her chest and demands the only celebration appropriate to a moment like this: a cartwheel! She lands on her feet and pivots to look at Adila for a moment before smiling even brighter than before, breaking into a fit of laughter she's kind enough not to explain, and clapping her hands together.

    "Oh, this is going to be so much fun! Kazelia, I can't wait for you to see! Nobody should ever go their whole life without attending at least once! It's... it's oh! There's dancing and food and music and absolutely everybody shows up so there's always a game or a contest or ten going on too and, oh! Oh! Did you know? Did you hear? They say that... do you know? They say that if two people end up under the spotlight at the center of the stage as a song finishes, then that person will turn out to be your true love!"

    Which is true! Or, well, it's true that they say it, anyway. A lot of princesses take it super seriously, so the middle of the dance floor becomes almost a war zone where girls are not remotely above using magic to make sure they get them and their dates under the magic spot when the music ends, but half the time the couple that gets there is already engaged anyway and most of the rest of the time it winds up not exactly panning out either. That's when they break out all the excuses like, 'oh, you have to end up there naturally' or 'it's really exact so if you're not holding hands and part of your hip or something winds up outside the light it won't work' or any number of other things like that, but Alina knows that's all a bunch of silly stories other girls tell themselves so they can sigh and giggle themselves to death instead of taking the extra chance to eat the very best cakes from across Hyperborea and just talk with all your friends.

    Not that Alina hadn't been right in there with all those other girls, it's just she knew the myth was a myth now, thanks to Adila. She'd been there at the Bazaar's hosting of the Gala, of course, one of the rare times she'd ever appeared in Jedad as herself. And she'd been dancing with Tashanna, like a good girlfriend should, but then she'd gotten all desperate about it and tried to pull Alina into the melee and they'd wound up separated when Adila took the whole thing for a challenge or something and started sweeping people all over the place, like what even was going on there, but the moral of the story was that she had been right under that spotlight, hand in hand with the person she'd grabbed just to avoid toppling over after an especially violent shove... and it had been Rita. So it just, you see, it couldn't have been, i-it's all just... that is... um.

    Alina turns a funny pink color and coughs to sneak past the moment. Thank goodness she didn't psychically project her thoughts into peoples' brains or... rivers.

    "A-and anyway, oh my gosh, the dresses! It's the most magical part of all of it, just you wait and see. Even the smallest kingdoms put everything they have into finding the exact perfect outfits for their princesses, and it's such a special moment you almost never see anybody wear those clothes again so..." she trails off. Realization dawns on her, and her hands clap over her mouth in horror, "Oh! Oh no! It's in a week?! But I haven't been planning at all! A-and my tailors are all enslaved or in hiding and... oh stars shining on a lake, I don't have a single thing to wear! What'll I do? Oh, this is a disaster, it's... oh no!"

  16. - Top - End - #676
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    Kazelia looks a bit hurt when Ourania addresses her. "Of course not, I'd never..." she starts to say, when both Adila and Alina suddenly break out into complete hysteria over this Crystal Gala thing. Kazelia has to whip backwards to avoid Alina bursting into the air (she manages it with more grace than in the past, even if her hair does floof up practically everywhere) and all thoughts of being upset are wiped away with her complete bewilderment.

    She listens to Alina mind you, and it sounds lovely. But Alina was completely right that Kazelia had never gone.

    "Huh, so it's...fun? I mean, ever since the Riders took over Illumina, we've been hearing about these galas. But Azora hasn't deigned to go either and I was always out patrolling so I've never gone. My little brother Cassian went every year of course, and I did hear that Asteria had started attending last year. But...well Rider princesses are, well, uncomfortable with the idea of non-violence and except for Cassian, who my whole family considers, um acceptable losses (Kazelia has the grace to blush at this admission now that she knows better) most of the others spent the first couple years assuming it was some kind of princess trap."
    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)

  17. - Top - End - #677
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    +So... just how easy do I need to go on you, Princess?+

    Though the thought was condescending there was absolutely no question that Princess Kazelia had Princess Adila's full attention. It was intoxicating. Ordinarily her thoughts came out dispersed, casual, spreading out in all directions like sound fills a room. This was different. This was like she had her brow pressed against yours, whispering into your forehead, close enough to see your reflection in her golden eyes - even as she kept her distance, as bold and sinuous as a cat.

    She moved differently now. Until now, Adila meant immobility - like a gargoyle, as still as possible, like the animation budget hadn't existed to put all that dragon in motion. Now every part of her flowed with the alien grace of an animal at play. She stretched her neck and unfurled her wings, casual-casual going through warmup exercises, but those transfixing eyes never moved or blinked for a second. No matter what she might seem to be thinking she was taking this seriously.

    +Should I fight you without my wings?+ she thought, daring, provoking, +After all, it wouldn't be fair if I took flight and burned you from the skies... I should probably not use my fire either, while I'm at it. Should I keep my teeth to myself? I wouldn't want to hurt you too much... and you'll have so much to keep track of already I should probably keep my laser-lights in reserve. Along with my magic. And my psychic powers. And I'll need to pull my punches, of course... what do you think? You, bringing everything you have, against me using just my tail? Seem fair? You reckon you can keep up?+

    *

    She hadn't been able to sleep properly. She'd fortified the walk-in closet but the stress still got to her. There was still more she could be doing. There were still people and creatures around whose natures she didn't know, couldn't predict. There were still people she couldn't count on, people who could betray her at any time. You need to watch out, Adila. You can't trust princesses, especially Illuminan princesses - their hearts might seem as clear as glass but they're just as fragile and so, so sharp when they break...

    She groaned and pressed her head into the pillow. She'd tried all her usual tricks to get to sleep. Deep breaths to slow her heart rate, blankets on, blankets off, cuddling treasures, counting sheep, tossing and turning until she'd tangled herself into one giant ball of fabric and scales... the strange thoughts in her head kept coming in a steady drip, as though they were disconnected from her physical tiredness. By the end she felt more awake than when she started - so she gave up. She got to her feet, yawned and stretched and washed her face (what kind of walk in closet has an ensuite bathroom!?!?) - and then padded out into the dark.

    She missed being legitimately stealthy. She still could pull off a number of cunning tricks and misdirections but overall she'd just grown out of it. She'd loved the days in the Bazaar when she was wrestled with cats and could lurk under the coats of her friends when it was wet and raining. Even if she knew now she didn't want to be human... she still kind of wished she could be small. Not all the time... just sometimes.

    Golden eyes swept away the darkness like it was nothing, and she remembered to be quietly thankful for that. She hadn't realized how blind people were, how useless those pretty but plain little eyes were. She'd thought that when she confused them in the dark it was because they were silly or scared or not paying attention but they genuinely couldn't see at all... Eyes of water. Eyes of soil. Eyes for talking, not eyes for seeing...

    She paused in the doorway outside Alina's room. Looked through the darkness, to the mirror, and the princess contained there.

    Eyes of... crystal?

    *

    There was only one question on Adila's mind still... well, only one question that she didn't think she would find out naturally one way or another.

    +Why do the devils let you rule the world?+ thought Adila to Queen Ourania.

    She was a little shocked by the brazenness of the thought - and by how little she was embarrassed by it. This was, as she had indicated, the Queen of the World she was addressing! She should at least act with some respect, even if respecting monarchs wasn't protocol - but damn was it hard to escape the bonds of protocol right now. Her training was tamping so hard down on any natural politeness and... it was like... she just got this feeling that Ourania was a suspect. Not Queen Ourania... and not the main suspect. But one of the actual culprit's shifty friends who needed to be given a stiff questioning. Sure, it was protocol... but Q- Ourania had saved all their lives.

    Dandy saved your life, the thought cut through. Ourania made a bluff. She's a trickster, and do not lose sight of that.
    Any dream in the dark.

  18. - Top - End - #678
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina is practicing, for what that's worth. She's in a huge, open room, who even knows what it's actually for, but it's full of mirrors and she's watching her lights reflect off of them with a look of intense concentration on her face. She takes a languid step forward and lifts one arm, palm up, though the air as though she were pushing it through water. Her four remaining crystals swirl along up the length of it until they reach her palm then spin out in wider and wider arcs until they form a circle of four slow columns of colored light stretching from floor to ceiling.

    She pulls her arm back to her and takes several slow and precise steps backwards and pushes both of her arms out to either side. Each column of light pushes further away from her and coalesces into a different shape. An Askaian cat, a small Rowani unicorn, a Felorian Flower Fox, and an enormous catfish all dance playfully toward her to brush up against her legs and fingertips whereupon they burst into showers of sparks. She claps her hands over a vibrant mix of sparkles, sweeps her arms outward and stomps on the ground as hard as she can (which is not very), and the light becomes a four-point diamond shield.

    She twirls the shield above her head and slashes with it in a circle that makes her arch her back and dip her right foot out in front of her to counterbalance the extension of her left arm behind her. As the shield completes its first rotation, it morphs in her hand into a saber in the Jedadi style of all things. She thrusts, rises onto her toes and takes several steps to either side with a series of flourishes to match. She holds the sword low to the ground and puts her free hand above the hilt so that it's already in position to grab it when it stretches to become the haft of a halberd just like the one Jessamine uses. She leaps, spins, and brings the weapon crashing into the ground. She draws her arms apart again and the halberd splits in half into two trailing ribbons in two colors each. Her dance is a whirlwind now and she is nothing so much as a waterfall in light and slender arms. Her ribbons form a bridge of light she walks all the way up to the ceiling, where they become a ladder she slides back down to the floor. She shrinks it down to a hair pin, rolls that around in her hands until it forms a mirror which she holds up to the ones on the wall to watch it reflect her reflection. Then she whips the whole thing into a towel that she dabs on her forehead to wipe away the sweat building up on her brow.

    She's still now, except for her breathing. Eyes closed, crystals moving back to her crown and clicking back in place to bath her in their gentle light again. That's what she's up to when you find her, Kazelia. She hasn't noticed she has company yet. Is there something you want to say or do?

    ****

    Eyes of crystal don't need to see in the dark, because they're never in darkness. Alina sits upright in a comfy chair while a glowing orange hairbrush softly combs and dries her sopping wet hair all by itself. Even her silk pajamas look drenched, she must have only just stopped bathing a minute or two ago.

    She stares into the mirror with a weird smile on her face as she watches the glittering emeralds in her eyes softly shine their light back on her face. Her fingers press down onto the table in front of her, and the smile twists itself into a pout. Her pursed lips shift from one side of her face to the other as if she were swishing some bit of liquid very slowly around her mouth, and she heaves a sigh.

    How's she ever going to get used to these? It's not like she doesn't deserve this or anything, but it'd be nice to be able to do her own makeup without her reflection staring right at her and reminding her how stupid she'd been quite so... loudly, you know? The eyes she knew were soft and liquid, playful and expressive and possibly her favorite feature, if she was allowed to think that kind of thing about herself. These were... not that. All sharp and intense and weird, and there was just no getting used to it. And no going back. What a selfish thought. Wasn't this a lot better than being made of crystals head to toe? What more could she possibly feel entitled to now that she's gotten two entire miracles all to herself? Come off it, Alina.

    She smiles again, softer this time, and turns her head with a loud drip drip drip as her sodden hair soaks the ground by her feet. Emerald lights meet gold, both shining in the darkness.

    "Up late too, huh? You wanna come in?"

    ****

    She really should stop drinking this tea so fast. If she runs out, this quiet little moment would end and then she'd never get to hear the things she needed. But every sip she took was another sentence she didn't have to come up with, and the cup obligingly hid the permanent blush on her face while it was in front of her, so that she's already gone through 3 full servings before they've even had the cakes brought to them. Stars and lights, Alina, she's going to think you're an addict! You're going to run Argossa out of honey and Ourania is going to throw you in Princess Jail!

    "S-so, um..." Ugh, you can hear the tremor in her voice and it's so ugly and embarrassing and this is going to be all Ourania thinks of whenever she remembers Alina for the rest of forever.

    All those dreams of this when she was a little girl, and this is what she does when they finally come true? She winces, and takes another miserable sip. This, the smartest, wisest, prettiest woman in all of Hyperborea (except, obviously, for her mother, her memory insists)! Come on, Alina, you can do this? She flashes a bright smile and draws all the courage her heart has to spare up into her voice.

    "This is really embarrassing, but I don't think I'm ever going to get another chance if I don't ask now," Ok, yes, nod once and, "W-would you mind telling me... which is your favorite variety of lemon cake? B-because I'd always heard that--"

    URRRRGH! Alina Cascade you big dummy! Oh somebody, something, please save her!
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-10-18 at 12:31 AM.

  19. - Top - End - #679
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    Kazelia smiles at Adila's taunting. She'd never seen her friend have so much fun like this! She was also used to, well, trying to be nicer with all the Hyperborean princesses, so getting to let loose a little was fun. Not to mention she had some new stuff she wanted to try out. "I don't know" she whispered, swirling her voice into the wind so it jumped all around Adila in their big outdoor arena. It was covered with mostly sand, unlike the better planted stuff, and had some straw targets spread around the edges for the more tame practice sessions. "Maybe you should just stand still and let me test out my new spear, if you really want to be fair. And hey, bonus, that way you won't embarrass yourself when you try out your fire breath and it turns out I'm untouched, right!" Kazelia twirls her new staff around in one hand while keeping her spear on her back, ready to fight. "Actually, I'm not sure I need the spear, I think knocking you on the head with a stick will be more than enough to drop you, right? I'll just practice working with fire later, against someone tougher."

    Kazelia grins and gives Adila a "come at me" gesture. She's even hoping for the fire breath so she can try out her new staff first.

    *****

    Kazelia stands very still at the entrance to the mirror room as she watches Alina finish her routine. This isn't an easy conversation. All this renewed light, hope, and vigor here in Argossa just makes it harder to talk about something that's hurting her. But...but burying her feelings deep in her heart doesn't feel right either, even more now with the way the song in her heart seemed to flow like water. Stopping that up felt almost sacrilegious.

    On top of that, Kazelia was really hurting. Since they had met by the rivers outside of Illumina, more than a year ago now, Kazelia had looked to Alina as a light in her life. There had been something infectious, when she'd seen the princess dancing in the water, the panic of her sudden landing on a Rider Pegasus, the grace with which Alina had moved even in surprised spluttering as Kazelia tried to explain herself. Alina had never lost that all through their travels, not through the Slaugh when she had emerged triumphant, not through all the indignities she'd gone through in Jedad. Not until...until she had met Oberon again and he had hurt her so badly that she had lied to her friends and helped him. Even though she, of all people, knew how awful he was, she had given in and helped him.

    Kazelia lets out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding and steps forward into the hall of mirrors. "Alina" she calls softly, twenty hands all lifted in twenty mirrors to grasp her friend on the shoulder and then lowered before Alina opens her new eyes. "I..." She trails off, what could she say. It's so obvious she's hesitating, but she couldn't stop herself from filling that void of sound either. "I don't understand. Why trick Diana? Why help Oberon? Why not tell us what he'd asked you to do? Why Alina?"

    *****

    "Okay, so like, when dad went full serpent and then you did that bird transformation, why didn't you go mongoose there? Was it because it was faster to go bird to quiver because of how the feathers fold in, or do you just prefer the firebird motif and you had him either way?" Kazelia is sitting on the roof garden with Ourania, holding a cup of tea in one hand that she's not drinking because she's too busy quivering with excitement! Hanging out with the sun and the monks here had been cool, but this was Ourania, the one person who had really pulled one over on Oberon. Kazelia was replaying that entire fight in her head and she was totally geeking out!
    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)

  20. - Top - End - #680
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    Adila!

    Such impudence! This isn’t just a Queen, you know: she’s the High Queen, the one and only. But, then again, you are a Watchwoman. Impudence is practically expected.

    “Because I defeated them all,” Ourania says, her voice grave, her eyes even. “Seven days we fought, and each of their champions I cast down screaming. And then, when they had no strength left, when their weapons were broken, when I stood triumphant over the world I had made mine by right of conquest... I booped all their noses.”

    Oh no! A surprise boop! Right on your snout! Ourania!!

    “That’s why they wear the masks,” she adds, valiantly trying not to break down into laughter. “So I can’t do it again.”

    She refolds her composure over herself, but can’t quite get her impish smile to go away. “Adila,” she says, changing tack, “This has been your first time traveling outside your home, hasn’t it? Tell me, what was your favorite part? Did you like what you saw? If you didn’t like it, that’s okay; I’ll just erase everything outside the Bazaar and next time there will be even more interesting things for you to see.”

    W-what??

    ***

    Alina!

    Ourania looks around, but there’s nobody in here but the fluffy crystal sheep balancing the cake tray on its back. (The cakes here are marvelous and wet and sweet, and you have no idea who makes them. Maybe Ourania? One might imagine Ourania up at three in the morning, making cakes. This is probably ridiculous.)

    “Can you keep a secret?” She leans in close, all serious and intent on you. You nod, of course, and she smiles. This is it! This is the moment your suspicions are confirmed, and you’ll get to crow about it forever, or else the moment you’ll have to declare war on Ourania for her heretical lemon cake opinions, haha. Ha.

    (That sure is a funny joke thought and not something that belatedly horrifies you!!)

    “So can I~” Oh. Oh no! She must have known you would use this as leverage in the Great Pear Debate. (Or maybe she could tell you had a bad thought—)

    She pats your hand and gives you a very expressive wink. “By and by, Alina, darling. If you keep drinking tea like you just got out of the desert, you’re going to end up stuck in the facilities longer than is proper. A princess must be beautiful, after all, and how are we all to see your beauty when you’re occupied? And, no, leaving the door open won’t solve that little dilemma.”

    Oh gosh. Is. Did she just? Ourania!!

    Her expression sobers a little. Not serious or angry, just... sensitive. Not joking any more, now that she’s made you sputter and blush.

    “It’s just the two of us, Alina,” she says, reaching over and giving your hand a reassuring squeeze. “Whatever you need to say... I’m listening.”

    ***

    Kazelia!

    “It’s because an Axonian secretary bird can snap a branch clean in half with one stomp,” Ourania says, cheerfully. “They’re natural snake hunters, and— I’ll be honest— I did want to step on him more than I wanted to put my mouth on him.” She shudders theatrically.

    “My turn.” She sets her teacup down and folds her hands under her chin, looking expectantly at you. “What about Hyperborea convinced you that it was worth fighting for? Worth defying your sisters, your father, your people? Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful— but I want to know more about what changed your heart! Especially if it might help your sisters escape.”

    She winks at you, her smile turning impish. “And if it’s a crush... I’m flattered, but I really am much too old for you, darling.”

    She! You! What! Ourania!!
    freedom in the flame

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    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.

  21. - Top - End - #681
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Kazelia smiles at Adila's taunting. She'd never seen her friend have so much fun like this! She was also used to, well, trying to be nicer with all the Hyperborean princesses, so getting to let loose a little was fun. Not to mention she had some new stuff she wanted to try out. "I don't know" she whispered, swirling her voice into the wind so it jumped all around Adila in their big outdoor arena. It was covered with mostly sand, unlike the better planted stuff, and had some straw targets spread around the edges for the more tame practice sessions. "Maybe you should just stand still and let me test out my new spear, if you really want to be fair. And hey, bonus, that way you won't embarrass yourself when you try out your fire breath and it turns out I'm untouched, right!" Kazelia twirls her new staff around in one hand while keeping her spear on her back, ready to fight. "Actually, I'm not sure I need the spear, I think knocking you on the head with a stick will be more than enough to drop you, right? I'll just practice working with fire later, against someone tougher."

    Kazelia grins and gives Adila a "come at me" gesture. She's even hoping for the fire breath so she can try out her new staff first.
    Adila gave her first blink, genuinely taken off guard. The only Princess who'd reliably fight her was Princess Helya, who responded with taunts about her skill with modest agreement. Some other princesses would tease her as they were evading and fleeing but never while looking her in the eye and standing their ground like Kazelia. Nobody had ever given back what she gave like that. She felt a warmth start to emanate from the point where her spine met her neck, pulling her into a deeper focus than before. She couldn't lose now.

    +You're going to regret that,+ she thought - playfully but intensely. And she went.

    Princess Adila has a lot of natural advantages, as her monologue suggested. She's shockingly fast, insanely strong, and has a limitless barrel of tricks to draw from. Every single part of her is dangerous, tip to tail. She's cunning and adaptive and can come up with something to get her out of any bad position. It's shocking, overwhelming, intense, deeply unfair -

    - and to most people that would conceal the fact that she's absolutely rubbish at actually fighting.

    Kazelia, you are a skilled enough duelist to immediately see why Adila has a 0% win rate against Princess Helya. She's all about Cunning Tricks and Brilliant Plans and as a result her fundamentals are totally neglected. Sure, it's totally unexpected when she opens her mouth to breath fire and instead strikes out with a full blast of silver lasers. Yes, the big menacing rush as a conceal for getting her tail around your ankle is a well-planned move. But there's no follow through, no capitalization on the techniques. And worse, after she's concocted and executed a Clever Plan she just comes to a complete halt as she tries to think about if the trick worked and what trick she wants to use next. She's got absolutely no instincts and no reflexes.

    It's not the same as her not being dangerous - she's insanely dangerous, even with panicked flailing. But it's extremely clear for all her Watch training she's never practiced against a peer opponent. She's all theory and no practical.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    She smiles again, softer this time, and turns her head with a loud drip drip drip as her sodden hair soaks the ground by her feet. Emerald lights meet gold, both shining in the darkness.

    "Up late too, huh? You wanna come in?"
    +Darn. Rustled,+ thought Adila, slinking into the room. She wasn't wearing the gold and black armour she normally did and it completely changed her silhouette and the way she moved, especially in this dim light. Without it her lines were sleek and angular, and unlike her matte black back scales that seemed to absorb light her silvery chest scales sparkled orange and red as they caught the dim candlelight. It was like seeing fire through water.

    +I wanted to...+ the thought descended into confusion. Apologize was part of it, but it didn't feel right. She didn't feel like she needed to apologize to Alina specifically, but she was still carrying around guilt and shame that she needed to get out some other way. The thought resolved again, the emotional turbulence smoothing out. +... talk. I've been thinking a lot about things I did while in a place of despair and... it seems ridiculous now. I dragged people into my drama at exactly the wrong time, because I couldn't even see something as simple as what I really wanted and... well, I thought you might have some experience with that.+

    She walked closer and the lights of the room changed, becoming clearer and tinged with blue and grey, circling around Adila's head like a halo as it cast light on Alina's eyes from different angles. +Are you okay? How do they feel?+

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    Such impudence! This isn’t just a Queen, you know: she’s the High Queen, the one and only. But, then again, you are a Watchwoman. Impudence is practically expected.

    “Because I defeated them all,” Ourania says, her voice grave, her eyes even. “Seven days we fought, and each of their champions I cast down screaming. And then, when they had no strength left, when their weapons were broken, when I stood triumphant over the world I had made mine by right of conquest... I booped all their noses.”

    Oh no! A surprise boop! Right on your snout! Ourania!!

    “That’s why they wear the masks,” she adds, valiantly trying not to break down into laughter. “So I can’t do it again.”

    She refolds her composure over herself, but can’t quite get her impish smile to go away. “Adila,” she says, changing tack, “This has been your first time traveling outside your home, hasn’t it? Tell me, what was your favorite part? Did you like what you saw? If you didn’t like it, that’s okay; I’ll just erase everything outside the Bazaar and next time there will be even more interesting things for you to see.”

    W-what??
    Princess Adila gave the cross-eyed look of despairing confusion that a dog gives upon the booping of the snoot when the dog is far too domesticated to even make a half-hearted bite at the offending finger. She tries to avoid scratching her nose because that would show that she had been Gotten To, but that battle was lost even before it began. The 'confused and betrayed puppy' look intensifies when Princess Adila realizes that she is suddenly responsible for the continued lives and existence of everyone in Hyperborea and it was probably a joke except she couldn't take that risk she needed to fight for the survival of the world!! Everything rests on you, Adila, you must deliver the most optimistic travelogue in the history of Hyperborea or there will be no history for Hyperborea!!!

    +Um so I've only been to Askaia and Feloria and this one island and also a lot of time on a boat and please don't delete Feloria Dandy will be sad and it's not even a problem that everything is really cold because that's not how those places normally are probably also please don't delete Dandy either+ the closest experience a viewer might have to Adila's emotions right now is 'bungling a quicktime event' +Askaia was also really cool and everything was really tiny and full of cats and then there was an island uhhhhuuhhhhhhhhh+ she short-circuited for a moment, only finding enough clarity of mind to get in +don't delete that either+

    Part of the reason she was freaking out was because Princess Adila, in her heart, was a little bit lazy and cowardly and homesick and she didn't really like travel that much. She liked staying in familiar places where she knew everything and had a routine and a lair and treasure and connections and Jedad suited her a lot.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-10-19 at 02:44 AM.
    Any dream in the dark.

  22. - Top - End - #682
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "I didn't trick her, first of all. I asked her to be a spy so that we could gather more information on Oberon's plans. Which would be really helpful!"

    Alina flinches in Kazelia's grip, and for once it has nothing to do with how cold the Rider Princess is. There's a green light in her eyes that radiates guilt so intensely that it threatens to spill out of her and taint everything in the room. Crystals are always honest, if nothing else, especially with themselves. And you might expect such a guilty person to burst into tears and say she's sorry, or at the least to yank her hand free and go running from the room all poise and grace and shame. But the rest of her face registers shock and hurt. She flinches, yes, but then she steps forward.

    "I tried my best, you know? I did everything I could think of! I really... I thought you'd understand. I thought you, of all people, would understand."

    On her head, her lights try their best to twinkle reassurance. They even manage to push a warm and gentle pressure on Kazelia's shoulders for a moment before they're yanked back with rather unnecessary force back to her crown. Alina's lips open, but she can't find another word to put in them. They close again in silence.

    She turns away, but doesn't flee. In a hall of mirrors, this does very little to hide the tears beading up against her eyes.

    ****

    Alina's giggles fill the room with almost the same brightness as her lights. Or Adila's, for that matter. Little droplets of warm water shake off of her in every direction. They drip on her nightstand, her mirror, her chair, and a little bit might even manage to spray Adila on the chest. Her eyes flash too, their own little attempt to join in on the mirth, but it's a bit like someone laughing because her friend is even though she doesn't understand the joke.

    "Oh sister, you don't know the half of it."

    Her hairbrush winks out of existence. Alina yawns and stretches in her chair, which lifts her pajama shirt up high enough to expose her stomach for a moment. See? You two match! All exposed and vulnerable and open in ways you're normally not. You're beautiful, the both of you.

    "You don't really get used to them, do you? I kind of hoped they'd have... softened, I guess? By now? But it's kind of like having a tattoo on my face, isn't it? Oh well, it's not like I don't deserve it."

    She shrugs, accepting. Her smile is as bright and warm as it's ever been.

    "So! This is a sleepover now, right? You want me to do your nails while we talk?"

    ****

    Alina chokes, splutters, and stammers quite obligingly, and she does it all without betraying that first and most important commandment of the Illuminan Princess. But when she's done there's still nothing in the room but her and Ourania and this mostly empty teacup. She eyes the pot again and reaches for it before thinking better of it and gracefully switching tracks to pat the cake bearing sheep on the head before lightening its load and setting a cake on the plate in front of her. It looks delicious! She can smell the orange and other citrus blending in the crumb and it makes her mouth water.

    She doesn't take a bite. She doesn't even reach for a fork. Ourania, High Queen Ourania, is squeezing her hand. That means it's time to (gracefully!) blush and try to meet her gaze. She can't! Oh gosh, she can't do it! Her eyes flutter down to her feet. She slowly raises her head back up to look again at the astonishingly beautiful queen of everything. She turns even pinker this time, but at least she manages to stare properly!

    It only takes a moment to see it: she knew the whole time. Of course she did! Gosh, this hand is so warm. How is she so warm? How is she so perfect? It doesn't seem possible that anything bad could happen to Hyperborea with someone this wonderful there to guide it. But still... but still there's...

    "I," she whispers before going quiet again for a long time. She manages another glance at Ourania, and she knows she's going to have to say it out loud. She swallows, "It's just, I. I never knew that... that Eupheria was a Princess-Promised. I know all the old stories but, um, what... was she really like? And was she? I mean, am I? Are we..?"

    Please, Your Majesty. Please, please fill in the rest. This is good enough, right?

  23. - Top - End - #683
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia really does keep her word on the first taunt and prepares for the fire breath, only to get totally thrown by the lasers. They don't hit quite as hard as a full on dragon claw or breath attack and she has the presence of mind to dodge out of the way at the last second and channel a bit of her magic, so it will only bruise a bit. If you're paying attention, you might notice that her magic is a little different than before. Not the instant ice but instead more like flowing water that swiftly hardens as it reaches its destination, pulling and misdirecting all but a few of the lasers, which do make her wince. Well played gambit!

    She comes out of her roll and tucks her arms and legs, bracing for the follow up blow that would have sent her flying halfway across the arena, but it never comes, and that's when she has the same realization that Helya once had. When your follow up does come, she lets the tail get hold of her and uses the momentum of the pull to lift up her staff. She's nowhere near as strong as you are, of course, but she's strong enough to hold a stick of wood firm as a full strength dragon pull causes it to careen right into your lower jaw, knocking your head upward. Your advantage is that even with all this, indeed with a blow struck using your own strength against you, the best Kazelia is really getting here is a bit of a dazed moment before you recover. She doesn't really have a way to seriously hurt you, not without pulling her lance out or using the kind of heavy duty magic that would be seriously inappropriate even for an all out sparring match like this. If you were in a joust or some other contest with points, Kazelia would have struck a decisive blow, but if we're talking about an endurance match, you've got a near-certain victory.

    Also, on the subject of the new lance, it's something of a question mark. It's crystal, obviously magical, but it doesn't look as sharp as Kazelia's old lance. As she sees you recover, she looks a bit curious and decides to unsheathe it and see what happens. She shouts out to you. "Hey, I'm going to use my lance this time. If I actually hurt you at all, do that mind shout thing at me to stop, but up to that point I'm going to go all out. Don't do anything stupid, okay?"

    *****

    "Alina no, I...that's not what I meant...I..." Kazelia was caught trying to backpedal. She'd known this might hurt Alina to talk about, but she hadn't expected her to get angry! Couldn't she see what an obvious mistake she had made? She'd given Oberon one of the key things he needed for a total victory over Hyperborea! On top of that she hadn't said anything about why she hadn't told her friends! But Kazelia couldn't bring herself to say any of that. She wanted to feel angry, but she wanted to not hurt Alina more and she saw the tears starting to well in the mirrors and so all she can do is stutter and fall on her back foot, literally and conversationally, as she takes a step away from her friend's outburst.

    *****

    Kazelia quite nearly chokes on the sip of tea that she had started on while Ourania was talking. She'd started nodding along and even grimaced appropriately at the idea of biting her own father (gross!) and then all of a sudden her cheeks were turning the most embarrassing shade of mauve. "It's not like that!" she blurted out. "I mean, I do like you, but not like, I mean, you're beautiful and I when I saw you I was smitten but not like, aaahh! this is coming out all wrong!"

    You've probably never seen her this passionate, but she'd been all emotional about getting to talk to her idol and now she was getting teased about a romantic interest when obviously what she saw in Ourania was the most pure form of platonic beauty and power and not anything that she'd want to be kissing right now...p-probably! Stop looking at her! Ah, think of something else, anything else, Kazelia! "Uh, and uh, Hyperborea has really pretty flowers!" There, yeah, totally saved it.
    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 - #684
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    “Is that really all you have? Some flowers? A handful of stray cats?” She raises her good hand to her cheek and laughs condescendingly, all ohohohoho!

    Then she jumps! Her dress billows like the petals of a flower around her as she alights on a table, letting her look down at you (a sensation you’re not particularly familiar with, after all). And now she’s holding a serene devil mask in front of her face, all closed eyes and mocking smile. If she wasn’t holding her corrupted arm close to her side, you might think her invincible, a figure of sudden strength.

    “No, no, I can do something much better. Cats are out, now rats are in! You’ll enjoy the exquisite squalor of the Fen much more, I promise. And I have this idea for a maze of rocks and winds, all I need is to fold Feloria on top of itself to serve as fertilizer, and that’s barely an afternoon’s work. I made them, after all, so I get to decide what to do with them. What right do they have not to be used as raw materials for my new vision? I get bored so easily, you know.”

    This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Something pricking at the back of your skull, seeing that devil-mask and that line of reasoning— but you can hardly be blamed for finding it hard to be pinned down, not with the fate of all of Hyperborea resting on your shoulders!

    ***

    Alina!

    Ourania tilts her head, seemingly waiting for you to finish that thought. Once it is clear that you would rather fling yourself to the Roc than say one more word, she sighs. But she does give you a reassuring squeeze.

    “Alina, imagine that you could want something, even for a moment, and make it happen immediately. Every thought that went through your lovely little head, exploding out of you in technicolor. Your heart exploding out of you, smothering everything else around you. You might be able to control it at first, but do you think you’d be able to control yourself every second of every day, stop yourself from taking away Kazelia’s mouth— or head— if she said something that irritated you? From making Rita dance on puppet strings, just because the thought of her dancing crossed your mind? Turning an entire city to glass and rain because, for a moment, you were homesick?”

    You’re a good person, Alina. You really are. But you’re not perfect. And you certainly can’t say you’ve never imagined— oh no that sure was a thing you just thought about Rita. Imagine if it happened just because you thought it!

    “Eupheria was an artist, and one with a very distinct style. Almost ghoulish, but always beautiful. She could start an entire dance number with nothing but her own enthusiasm and her lights playing drums and trombone, because her energy and happiness were so infectious. She was so full of love that she could never hold it all in. She just... couldn’t admit to herself that it wasn’t always reciprocated. She was a good person, Alina. And so are you.”

    She chucks you under the chin with her injured hand, her fingers stiff but gentle still.

    “But the Caduceus is dangerous. The devil sages were used to being able to change the world however they liked; the Caduceus was just a shortcut for them. But we don’t have their adamant mental self-control, and our world is much more stable and full of people who can be hurt now than it was back then. And even my heart would start to look monstrous if I smothered the world in it.”

    Unsaid, unspoken: and imagine what the world would look like if it reflected Oberon’s heart back at him.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    “Not to brag,” Ourania says, with the self-aware sort of feline smile that says she absolutely knows she is bragging, “but I did win a beauty contest at the dawn of time. And that’s how I became High Queen!” That... um, what? “So don’t worry. You’re not the first princess to lose her head over me~”

    Not helping, Ourania!

    “I’m sorry for taking you away from Feloria before you had the chance to visit the Royal Gardens, then,” she continues. “After this is all over with and no one has to worry about your father again, allow me to recommend a visit.”

    The way she says it— she’s not worried. She knows that you will defeat your father. Or, rather, she believes. She believes in you. This paragon of power and prettiness... she is putting her faith in you.

    Isn’t that just setting off fireworks inside your chest?
    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.

  25. - Top - End - #685
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Kazelia really does keep her word on the first taunt and prepares for the fire breath, only to get totally thrown by the lasers. They don't hit quite as hard as a full on dragon claw or breath attack and she has the presence of mind to dodge out of the way at the last second and channel a bit of her magic, so it will only bruise a bit. If you're paying attention, you might notice that her magic is a little different than before. Not the instant ice but instead more like flowing water that swiftly hardens as it reaches its destination, pulling and misdirecting all but a few of the lasers, which do make her wince. Well played gambit!

    She comes out of her roll and tucks her arms and legs, bracing for the follow up blow that would have sent her flying halfway across the arena, but it never comes, and that's when she has the same realization that Helya once had. When your follow up does come, she lets the tail get hold of her and uses the momentum of the pull to lift up her staff. She's nowhere near as strong as you are, of course, but she's strong enough to hold a stick of wood firm as a full strength dragon pull causes it to careen right into your lower jaw, knocking your head upward. Your advantage is that even with all this, indeed with a blow struck using your own strength against you, the best Kazelia is really getting here is a bit of a dazed moment before you recover. She doesn't really have a way to seriously hurt you, not without pulling her lance out or using the kind of heavy duty magic that would be seriously inappropriate even for an all out sparring match like this. If you were in a joust or some other contest with points, Kazelia would have struck a decisive blow, but if we're talking about an endurance match, you've got a near-certain victory.

    Also, on the subject of the new lance, it's something of a question mark. It's crystal, obviously magical, but it doesn't look as sharp as Kazelia's old lance. As she sees you recover, she looks a bit curious and decides to unsheathe it and see what happens. She shouts out to you. "Hey, I'm going to use my lance this time. If I actually hurt you at all, do that mind shout thing at me to stop, but up to that point I'm going to go all out. Don't do anything stupid, okay?"
    +Ahah... ahhh,+ Adila rolls her jaw, feeling the jarring impact in her teeth. +You... you think that I need a safe word?+ she thought. +Well, don't! You got lucky once but it's not going to happen again!+

    And that was the second weakness of Princess Adila in battle: It was extremely easy to get inside her head. An unexpected blow and a well timed taunt was enough to get her full attention and provoke her into an all-out assault. She brings everything she has out all at once - a sudden flash of fire along the ground like a wall, and then a blast of air from her wings to send it menacingly forwards. She then abruptly drops to her stomach using the fire as a veil and then strikes out suddenly like a snake from the reeds, pushing the attack as intensely as she can, trying to pounce and grapple Kazelia into submission.

    But you've seen this too, Kazelia. She's fighting with her heart now instead of her mind, determined to finish this before you get to try to do whatever it is you're planning to do with your lance. But she's not holding anything in reserve and isn't pacing herself at all - like a new recruit goaded into a full offensive. The only thing that stops it from being inexcusably bad form is that you're not clear exactly what her limits are, or if you can last long enough to force her to hit them - but getting results off the back of her natural abilities rather than hard work is Adila's fighting style in a nutshell.



    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Alina's giggles fill the room with almost the same brightness as her lights. Or Adila's, for that matter. Little droplets of warm water shake off of her in every direction. They drip on her nightstand, her mirror, her chair, and a little bit might even manage to spray Adila on the chest. Her eyes flash too, their own little attempt to join in on the mirth, but it's a bit like someone laughing because her friend is even though she doesn't understand the joke.

    "Oh sister, you don't know the half of it."

    Her hairbrush winks out of existence. Alina yawns and stretches in her chair, which lifts her pajama shirt up high enough to expose her stomach for a moment. See? You two match! All exposed and vulnerable and open in ways you're normally not. You're beautiful, the both of you.

    "You don't really get used to them, do you? I kind of hoped they'd have... softened, I guess? By now? But it's kind of like having a tattoo on my face, isn't it? Oh well, it's not like I don't deserve it."

    She shrugs, accepting. Her smile is as bright and warm as it's ever been.

    "So! This is a sleepover now, right? You want me to do your nails while we talk?"
    +I'd like that a lot, actually,+ said Adila, setting one of her foreclaws on the table. It's remarkable how... blunt they are. Dragon talons are supposed to be sharp and scary but Adila's have the points completely worn down from years of walking across stone streets. You can tell she's generally taken good care of them outside that, though - looking closely you can see the hints of a matte varnish she's applied to avoid chips. The little claw on her left hand actually has a variety of colours on it already - orange, purple, pink, white, glitter-gold in a strange and discordant little rainbow. +Oh, I was trying out a few different colours to see which I liked best,+ she explained when it was noticed.

    But her attention was really still on Alina's eyes. +You know...+ she thought in that absent Adila way which was more like thinking out loud than deciding to say something specific, as much image as words +I think that they'd look really good if you did your eyelashes up a bit to match.+

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    “Is that really all you have? Some flowers? A handful of stray cats?” She raises her good hand to her cheek and laughs condescendingly, all ohohohoho!

    Then she jumps! Her dress billows like the petals of a flower around her as she alights on a table, letting her look down at you (a sensation you’re not particularly familiar with, after all). And now she’s holding a serene devil mask in front of her face, all closed eyes and mocking smile. If she wasn’t holding her corrupted arm close to her side, you might think her invincible, a figure of sudden strength.

    “No, no, I can do something much better. Cats are out, now rats are in! You’ll enjoy the exquisite squalor of the Fen much more, I promise. And I have this idea for a maze of rocks and winds, all I need is to fold Feloria on top of itself to serve as fertilizer, and that’s barely an afternoon’s work. I made them, after all, so I get to decide what to do with them. What right do they have not to be used as raw materials for my new vision? I get bored so easily, you know.”

    This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Something pricking at the back of your skull, seeing that devil-mask and that line of reasoning— but you can hardly be blamed for finding it hard to be pinned down, not with the fate of all of Hyperborea resting on your shoulders!
    I made a mistake I trusted her and now it's lead me to this, and the only asset I have is a single panicking dragon let this be a lesson to never trust ever - the panic Adila was feeling was accelerating faster than her ability to keep up with - they trusted me and my decisions and now it's too late I've let the Watch down, I've let everyone down -

    Her heart was beating wildly, unable not to take every word seriously. She was thinking about fighting, about - about protecting. She'd spread her wings in an instinctive attempt to make herself look bigger and was thinking about pouncing Ourania - oh no, oh no, she was actually doing it now, like some part of her mind had pushed her into committing the unthinkable before she'd even thought about the alternatives and now she had to just roll with it and blurt out the one thing that she could say without freaking out and melting down.

    +I won't let anyone hurt my friends! Not even you!+
    Any dream in the dark.

  26. - Top - End - #686
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    "Yes it is, Kazelia. That's exactly what you meant."

    She doesn't turn around to face you. But it's not anger that you sense here. Anger would imply she feels wronged, and one look at her eyes, reflected across those twenty mirror selves, is enough to dissuade you of that idea. But her voice is unusually sharp just the same. She can't stand still either; her body is all nervous shifting and stepping from side to side like she's trying to head something off, or like she's worried a chandelier is going to crush her for being a bad girl. Nobody's punishing her. She can't stand it! She can't stand it! But at the same time, every time anybody gets close her heart beats faster inside her chest and she turns into... whatever this is.

    "I can't believe you were so stupid, Alina. Say that. I can't believe you messed up my plans, Alina. Say that! Why didn't you spit in his face, Alina? Why didn't you let him drown you, Alina? Why did you believe him when he told you that if you said anything that he'd take everything out on your little sister? He'd only worse than killed her once before! I thought you were stronger than that, Alina! I thought you were strong like me and Adila! Say that, Kazelia! A princess is always honest!"

    Her voice cracks. Her shoulders sag. Finally, she turns her head to face you again, Kazelia.

    "I'm sorry, ok? What else do you want to hear?"

    ****

    "Oh, that's a thought! You know I bet if I had some fresh Argossa petals to work with I could really make them sing. A bit of sapphire, nice bold garnet effect on the lashes, maybe a frosted glass to pull the whole thing together... wow, Adila you're really onto something! I think I might make this the theme for my Gala look!"

    Alina reaches out and brushes her fingers over Adila's test claws, humming happily while she works. The tune's completely all over the place: some Illuminan waltz or another, actually maybe probably several different pieces stitched haphazardly together actually. She's focused far too much on other things to try and remember how any of it really goes, she's just... it's just so... a moment like this has to have music, doesn't it? The smile on her face might actually be brighter than the lights she's working by now.

    "Hmm," she hmms, "You don't really strike me as a purple sort of gal, and I don't like the dark-on-dark look besides. The second you put that silly armor back on and cover up all these gorgeous underscales you'll be a big slinky shadow. That's no good. No good at all! How are you supposed to dance Dandy off into the night if we don't get every inch of you sparkling?"

    Her lights pulse with excitement. In a wave of her hand, Alina produces two bottles of polish shaped from her raw magic. One's a dazzling orange color like a setting sun on the clearest day you can imagine, and the other is the sort of dusty pink you might expect her hair to fade into if you left her out in the desert too long. Both of them gleam in her palms and push away the night.

    "So? So? Which one sings to you?"

    ****

    Alina chews on her lip thoughtfully. Oh, what she wouldn't give to be squirming right now! But if she did that then Ourania might take it for the complete wrong issue, and if that happened it would be total disaster. Totaler than total disaster, even: this little tea party would end, and everything would be over, and she'd have to spend the rest of her life asking the question and not knowing the answer. So no, no squirming for her, this is a distinctly squirm free zone.

    But the distress must still show on her face because there's another squeeze on her hand and this is completely not fair because Alina doesn't know how to blush any deeper and Her Majesty just won't stop staring! All those warnings about the Caduceus hang in the air and just sits there all beautiful-like with that... that... expression! On her face! You know the one! Just... waiting for Alina to add something. Knowing she's still holding back. Stars and lights, is this is what it means to be a Queen? Is she going to need to be like this someday? Is there any chance she could-- oof, now there's an ugly, ugly thought.

    "That isn't quite what I... well no, I guess it is, thank you. I understand what you're saying, Your Majesty. But the thing is, I mean, that is, what's really bothering me is that...

    Gosh goodness, can we start over? Hello, my name is Alina, it's so wonderful to finally make your acquaintance, High Queen Ourania, blessed be your name and may you reign forevermore. Thank you for the tea! I've never had any like this before! And the honey is spectacular, too! Do your bees get their pollen from the crystal blossoms? Is that why it feels like my heart wants to sing a song? And, um, oh while I'm asking questions, just one little trifle to bother you with I am so so sorry to be rude, but... could you please tell me? A-am I... am I Eupheria's descendant? Because she looks so much like..."

    Alina sighs. She's got a death grip on Ourania's fingers and she really hopes this isn't hurting the High Queen because if it is she'll never forgive herself, but without that to anchor her she might as well go sailing right back into the void to have another chat with Not Alina for all the grip she's got on things by herself.

    "Please don't tell me it doesn't matter. It definitely does. I-I'm, I'm happy she was a good person but all that says to me is that good people can doom the world. I didn't even know about her until just the other day and now it's like, urgh. Like there this connection, this pull from her to me and it's... I'm really scared, Your Majesty. Because she chose to pick up and use that awful thing, whatever her reasons might have been. And I've done something just as stupid!"

    Again, she hesitates. One more time, she stops just short of saying the thing that's really bothering her. One more shot at Ourania decides to guess. But it's not going to work: the answer won't mean a thing if she doesn't earn it herself. So let's do the dance again. One more shot. Give her one more opportunity, please.

  27. - Top - End - #687
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    It's a weird sensation when you pounce, Adila. You're using the fire as a veil, so it's not like you expected Kazelia to get incinerated, but you would have expected her to at least try to step back and dodge a bit. Instead, she's holding out her staff just standing there like a perfect target for you when suddenly it feels like you're moving through molasses. There's nothing there, she's just holding up the staff, you can see her clear as day, but the fire that you sent forwarding is parting around her and instead of you tackling her faster than she could possible react to, you feel like you're suspended in mid-air in some kind of invisible gelatin.

    Now, here's a trick for Kazelia as a combatant. She's still got that Rider viciousness. So where you, in the same situation might have stopped and looked at your magic staff and been like +wow, who knew it would work so well!+ Kazelia is already sprinting at you with her spear drawn with one hand. She slips the staff over her back with the other and takes the spear with both hands as she reaches you. As she uses her momentum to drive the spear forward, the tip blazes with sudden flame that bursts outwards, obscuring Kazelia and engulfing you with fire as the point flashes straight for your chest just below the neck.

    And...then it skids off. A few of your scales do chip, you'll probably have a terrible itch and maybe some soreness there for a few days while a new scale grows over it. Against anyone else, they'd be on fire, impaled, or at least forced to direct the entirety of their magic towards defense and pressed to the limit. But you're a dragon, a child of fire covered with a fierce natural armor, so for you a lance of crystaline fire is just an annoyance.

    Kazelia looks at the new lance appreciatively as she steps away from you and the fire subsides into smoldering cinders settling into the sand. "Okay well, that's the best I've got" she calls out. "So...maybe you should tie a few claws behind your back." She grins but then sounds serious for a moment. "Seriously, though, take it slower but longer, sustained. Your first attack, you had me and you didn't follow through, and on the second you put everything into the first blow with no expectation that it might be countered. What if you really try tying up a claw and see if you can keep going and hit me with just one claw over time?"

    *****

    Kazelia looks like she's been slapped, Alina. She's taken her spear off her back, not to point it at you, but so she can lean on it and hold herself up. "You didn't tell me what he said to you" She looks away from you, twenty reflections lean on their spear and look down and shake their head like they're trying to think and can't get their mind to stay focused. "I don't need you to be strong Alina, I..." Kazelia looks at you imploringly, and there are tears pooling at the base of her sea-green eyes. What does she need? She's looking at you with all the need in the world but she can't find the words for it. The words to tell you that she needed you to be her light in dark places and now she can't see it anymore and it's tearing her up inside.

    *****

    Ourania is setting off all the fireworks. Kazelia blushes so hard you might think she's changing colors again (if there were a makeup team, this is the point where they'd storm out in protest). She tries to open her mouth, shuts it, takes a long drink of tea instead, follows that up with a deep breath.

    "I would love to visit the Felorian gardens" she slowly says after a pause that Ourania has the good graces not to fill. "I want to visit, well, all the countries. The flowers were one of the first things I saw here, the vividness of the colors in the Rowani fields where I would patrol, and the way my sisters and their troops would destroy them. I've seen so many things though. Even frozen, Illumina is beautiful, rainbows still shine through the ice and crystal. Jedad was so full of life! So many things, music, tastes, sounds and smells, just bursting with life. Even Askaia, which is small and quiet, was full of beauty and cats who treated me like a friend."

    "What I saw in you was a fire that even my father couldn't touch. It gave me the idea that he wasn't invulnerable. That idea let in a song, it let me see the things in Hyperborea in a way that none of my sisters can. Or...couldn't maybe, I'm not sure what happened when we fought Oberon, but when I opened that music box and sang the song in my heart, I saw something in Asteria change, and from what I've heard so did my other sisters."

    Kazelia looks thoughtful for a second. Presently, she looks up at Ourania and meets her eyes. "Anyway, how do you know I'm too young for you? I'm not from here, after all."
    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)

  28. - Top - End - #688
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    Adila!

    “The second we begin to fight, darling, you have already lost.” Another boop to the snoot, this time with that carefully gloved hand, her stiff fingers still managing to be gentle enough to only startle you. “Maybe I’ll drop a mountain on your head and then you’ll have all the time in the world to puzzle out the answer. Or maybe I’ll dropkick you right over Ouroboros’s back into the starry void beyond, and let you fizzle out with a pop! There are foes even in our world that you cannot simply be defiant at and hope to win, you silly little thing. Didn’t Adila teach you better than that?”

    Chin up! Shoulders back! A princess must be beautiful! And she’s rather quick on her feet, isn’t she? Her dress all aswirl, her face peeking out all sparkling-eyed from behind the mask as she circles you, pokes you, tugs you into place. There we go, that’s proper princess poise.

    “Now let’s try again, shall we? What right do your friends and their homes— which, I must remind you, I made, and therefore have every right to dispose of as I please— to go on existing after I’ve gotten bored of them, hmmm?”

    ***

    Alina!

    “Yes.”

    The word hangs in the air like a sword.

    “About the bees, and the honey in the tea, and being part of Eupheria’s family,” she clarifies. “She’s not your grandmother, add a few greats, mind you. She didn’t get to have a happily ever after. But she did have little sisters she loved very, very much. And one of them was your great-a-few-grandmother. So, yes. You are related to Eupheria, and her blood will forever call upon your soul, just like the blood of Diana, Rós, Milethe, and... if I remember correctly, Valissa. The compulsion to make terrible decisions concerning the Caduceus in order to impress a loved one should be about as strong in you as the compulsion to hunt in the woods of Axonia with your polycule, to carve a castle out of an iceberg and freeze yourself inside it to await the day you are needed most, to become a legendary beekeeper, or to steal national secrets in order to make them a distinctive part of your culture. Do tell me if you have found yourself unable to stop yourself from doing any of those things, because then I’ll know that I need to lock you in the good guest room tied to a chair with the von Catabas girl while your friends find the Caduceus.”

    Is she joking? She’s probably joking. She’s probably joking?? She seems very serious but also she can’t possibly be serious, and also why would she bring Rita up in that particular context??? It is safe to say that she’s almost certainly joking but that you also cannot under any circumstances treat it as a joke just in case it’s not a joke.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    “It’s one of the secret powers granted to me as long as I stand within Argossa,” Ourania explains, grandly. “I know every guest’s birthday, favorite color, and height in mice. Which isn’t actually that useful, normally, but if I ever need to replace you with a tower of mice standing on each other’s shoulders in a convincing Kazelia disguise, it’ll be as easy as that.” Everything she just said is almost certainly not true. Almost.

    “Besides, it’s very evident that you’re still growing. You still have a lot to learn, my young princess, and I can’t wait to watch you as you spread your wings and soar. Once this dreadful business is over, I just know you’ll have the opportunity to visit each and every one.”

    Her smile fades for a moment. Unspoken is the qualifier that not every kingdom will be back to normal for a long time. Ilumina, for example. Perhaps others, depending on how long it takes you all to defeat your father once and for all.

    “Now it’s your turn,” she says, sliding a biscuit tray closer to you. “Ask whatever you will.”
    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.

  29. - Top - End - #689
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Kazelia looks at the new lance appreciatively as she steps away from you and the fire subsides into smoldering cinders settling into the sand. "Okay well, that's the best I've got" she calls out. "So...maybe you should tie a few claws behind your back." She grins but then sounds serious for a moment. "Seriously, though, take it slower but longer, sustained. Your first attack, you had me and you didn't follow through, and on the second you put everything into the first blow with no expectation that it might be countered. What if you really try tying up a claw and see if you can keep going and hit me with just one claw over time?"
    Adila is not taking the time to listen to your thoughtful critique.

    Adila smash.

    Of all the things she picked up from Stheno this is not one of the more endearing ones. She keeps coming, fuelled by wounded pride, determined to only negotiate after she has decisively won. She's still making sure she's not going to hurt Kazelia, and she hasn't exactly gotten any better at fighting, but on she comes, again and again, pouncing and chasing and rushing and stay still! Stay! Still! I will get you! I am best dragon! That hit didn't count! I'm not going to let there be another princess who I lose to! I'm meant to win against everyone! Stay! Still!

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    "Oh, that's a thought! You know I bet if I had some fresh Argossa petals to work with I could really make them sing. A bit of sapphire, nice bold garnet effect on the lashes, maybe a frosted glass to pull the whole thing together... wow, Adila you're really onto something! I think I might make this the theme for my Gala look!"

    Alina reaches out and brushes her fingers over Adila's test claws, humming happily while she works. The tune's completely all over the place: some Illuminan waltz or another, actually maybe probably several different pieces stitched haphazardly together actually. She's focused far too much on other things to try and remember how any of it really goes, she's just... it's just so... a moment like this has to have music, doesn't it? The smile on her face might actually be brighter than the lights she's working by now.

    "Hmm," she hmms, "You don't really strike me as a purple sort of gal, and I don't like the dark-on-dark look besides. The second you put that silly armor back on and cover up all these gorgeous underscales you'll be a big slinky shadow. That's no good. No good at all! How are you supposed to dance Dandy off into the night if we don't get every inch of you sparkling?"

    Her lights pulse with excitement. In a wave of her hand, Alina produces two bottles of polish shaped from her raw magic. One's a dazzling orange color like a setting sun on the clearest day you can imagine, and the other is the sort of dusty pink you might expect her hair to fade into if you left her out in the desert too long. Both of them gleam in her palms and push away the night.

    "So? So? Which one sings to you?"
    +A slinky - a shadow?! Don't underestimate me, Princess Alina,+ thought Adila huffily. +Do you think that I'd make my triumphant and terrible return to the Crystal Gala wearing my uniform? I've had -+ she produced a notebook, stuffed thick with paper, and slapped it down on the table +- years to plan my revenge! This time there will be no mistakes!+

    She opened the book. Boom - a chapter on dress designs. Boom - a chapter on dance choreography. Boom - a chapter on accessories, with a notable subsection for ribbons. Studies on fashion, domestic and exotic, and stitching requirements and support bracing to scale them up to dragon size. It's equal parts idle sketching and incredibly serious architectural-style construction diagrams. Procurement plans, including emergency sourcing and portable assets. It's also notable that this is the same notebook that Princess Adila pretends to write in whenever she wants to look investigatorily - moments when she's looking stern and serious and writing notes she's actually been doodling ideas for dresses and how to adapt human fashions to her own physique.

    +I intend,+ Adila thought, somewhere between a declaration and a pout, +to outshine every other princess! You included! They'll all be fighting over who gets to dance with me! Hmph!+

    She closed her eyes and turned her nose up. Then she opened one eye and added, +I'd like the orange one, please.+

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    “The second we begin to fight, darling, you have already lost.” Another boop to the snoot, this time with that carefully gloved hand, her stiff fingers still managing to be gentle enough to only startle you. “Maybe I’ll drop a mountain on your head and then you’ll have all the time in the world to puzzle out the answer. Or maybe I’ll dropkick you right over Ouroboros’s back into the starry void beyond, and let you fizzle out with a pop! There are foes even in our world that you cannot simply be defiant at and hope to win, you silly little thing. Didn’t Adila teach you better than that?”

    Chin up! Shoulders back! A princess must be beautiful! And she’s rather quick on her feet, isn’t she? Her dress all aswirl, her face peeking out all sparkling-eyed from behind the mask as she circles you, pokes you, tugs you into place. There we go, that’s proper princess poise.

    “Now let’s try again, shall we? What right do your friends and their homes— which, I must remind you, I made, and therefore have every right to dispose of as I please— to go on existing after I’ve gotten bored of them, hmmm?”
    Oh no she was getting booped and bopped and posed and oh no everything she ever feared was coming true she should have finished the job when she had the chance...

    Adila was trying to cope with the backdrop current of complete emotional meltdown and the more, hmm... present and vivid feeling of embarrassment and weakness. The startling impact of getting absolutely dismantled, out of her attempt at getting in a fight turning into chastisement and correction, actually managed to shake her out of the fear and despair. Much like how cats are designed to go limp when carried by the scruff of the neck, dragons are designed to shut down when outmatched, and that was the instinct that was taking over Adila now.

    The only upside was that it gave her a little bit of a chance to take a deep breath and collect her thoughts a bit. +Just because you have power doesn't mean it's right for you to use it,+ Adila thought. +That's exactly what's wrong with the Riders! They think that just because they can they're allowed to! They think that just because they want something they should be able to have it, without thinking about how anybody else feels! That's why I'll defend places that aren't just my home - because even if they're not my home there are still people who love those places! And even if - even if I can't stop you, I'd still be right and you'd still be wrong!"
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-10-20 at 11:18 PM.
    Any dream in the dark.

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina goes slack, like someone let the air out of her. She holds a hand up to her face and takes several deep breaths into it. Her lights take advantage of the silence and her distraction to rush back over to Kazelia and squeeze her shoulders like they'd wanted to this entire time. She shakes her head.

    "Please just say it," her voice is quiet as it slips past her hand. Twenty different mirrored Alinas slump to their knees in unison, "I need you to say it, Kazelia. Be honest with your heart before it turns to crystal like mine did. So just... just say it, ok? I let you down. You thought because I was willing to fight your father that meant I was special, or a hero or... or something. And now you know, I'm not. I'm just a stupid little coward with some stupid little lights--"

    Her voice hitches, and some of the warmth and pressure you'd felt from them goes away.

    "--Trying to act like I belong."

    ****

    "Princess Alina!" her voice is doing a weird, warbly thing like she's trying to mimic an echo. And it's so high pitched! This is a terrible impression. You don't sound like that! ...Do really you sound like that? "The uniform of the Watch is a sacred vestment linking us through generations of tireless civil service! A princess like you might not understand the subtle beauty of red-black on green-black, but I happen to know that blah blah blah and history lessons!"

    Alina loses herself in a fit of giggles. Every part of her is bouncing with mirth except for her hands, which she's set to painting each of Adila's claws in the requested color. She's as practiced and precise as you'd hope she'd be, given her reputation. There's a lot of area to cover, but she makes steady progress so that each claw becomes a shining little orange star. Beautiful! Gorgeous! She looks at each new page in the book, every little detail of the plan, and her eyes literally light up.

    "I'm so proud of you, Adila! You're finally taking your duties as a princess as seriously as you take your other job. Have you settled on a material, then? Will you be sewing it yourself? I see you're very into ribbon fashion, but have you considered adding some glasswork? I remember the first time I saw you and I instantly had this idea for a tiara that'd have Kyouko scheming for weeks to kidnap you, for a start! I, you know, I think I still have enough material with me that I could make that, if you wanted me to. You will ask, won't you?"

    ****

    "I... eep! O-of course I d-d-d-- no, I mean, um. No? Yes? No! Definitely, definitely no! I mean, th-that is, I do technically have the crown jewels of Jedad with me so if that counts as-- oh rivers, Valissa? Valissa?! That can't be... I mean you must be... a-are you sure that-- I mean obviously you're... I just... um! Eeep!"

    Alina has to sneak her other hand back just to properly hide her face from these implications. Oh gosh. Oh gosh! Sunlight streaming through stained glass shards! Oh no, oh no, she's picturing it! She can see the chair, the ropes, the incense somebody would put in there to calm her down, a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-and Rita! Oh gosh. Oh no. Why is she thinking about this? Why can't she stop?! This is not helpful!

    With all of her spare blood already rushing to her face, Alina can't blush any deeper. Her body settles for expressing this new height of embarrassment by letting out a long, high pitched squeak. There's nothing useful coming from her at all. Ugh, is she a princess, or a cat toy? Oh no. Oh no, there she goes again.

    "...I-I understand what you're telling me," she manages after a horrible minute, peeking her head back out and trying to recover as much dignity as she can, "But that's not quite, I mean, there's something..."

    She tugs at the hems of her skirts. Come on, Alina. Just say it. You can do this. You can. Alina sighs.

    "My whole life, I wanted to be a Queen like my mother. And she told me that meant I'd have to become the Princess-Promised, first. When I was chosen I was, I'd never felt so happy. I was so proud. I thought that being chosen meant I was special, you know? The River King wouldn't pick me to be Queen some day if there wasn't something about me that made me the right choice over all of my rainbow sisters, right? So, so I thought that and... through everything that's gone on I've held onto that feeling because I thought, maybe if I was special, it meant there'd be something only I could do to help fix this whole mess. That kept me going when I got scared, you know? And I got... I get scared a lot. The Riders are so scary. Oberon is so...

    B-but now I don't... I don't believe it anymore. I've hurt so many people. I've messed so much up. If Oberon manages to hurt you, it'll be because I helped him. And before me, there was Eupheria, helping Adila hurt you. Doing worse, herself! How can... how can the Princess-Promised be special, if she and I are that legacy? I want to help. I want to help my friends find the Caduceus and make sure it's never, ever used, but I... I'm so scared, Your Majesty. How can I do this, when I don't believe anymore?"
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-10-21 at 05:47 PM.

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