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  1. - Top - End - #811
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Thanqol's Avatar

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Adila!

    Kyouko takes Kazelia by the hand and leads her over to a thicket in the gardens of Castle Artos. It's not especially secret, and a sheep retainer comes by to offer them both a drink balanced on a tray on its fluffy back, but it is just hidden from the main path to the front of the castle. Several fox retainers gather in the area behind Kyouko, doing some last minute stitching on a large pale yellow morning gown printed with chrysanthemums.

    "There are two keys to a proper Hyperborean kidnapping" Kyouko says, waggling a finger at Kazelia. "The first is speed, and the second is fabric quality!" She cackles with delight. "We will be demonstrating on Adila. First because you must never let the members of your group become complacent. And second because she is clearly in need of a good cheering up!" Kyouko cackles once again and Kazelia gives her a look that is simultaneously confusion that this would cheer someone up and a lightbulb going off that this would cheer someone up. It's one of those little things that makes a lot of Hyperborea start to make more sense.

    When Adila completes her scouting of the area and lands to come inside, Kyouko strikes. Several fox attendants rush out of the bush with the dresses, and a second set prepares with a series of silk ropes. They give Adila a bow, formally, and when she returns it, the set with the dress clamber onto her back and immediately begin attaching various loops and clasps and wrapping a silk belt about the dragon. The foxes with ropes follow in a flash and the second that each bit of the dress is secured, Adila is wrapped about with the ropes, preventing her from flapping her wings or clawing any of it off. Their working speed is quite impressive and you might get the impression that the fox team has drilled this exact scenario several times.

    "Kyahahahaha!" shouts Kyouko, emerging from the bushes and gesturing rapidly for Kazelia to follow her. "Now you are ensnared, Adila of the Watch! You shall be the prisoner of princesses Kyouko and Kazelia this day, and we shall not take no for answer. Kyahaha!"

    Kazelia tries to shrug and writes down a few notes on a new notepad that she seems to have acquired for today's lesson.
    +Oh No+ thought Princess Adila.

    She had been sleeping on the threat posed by Princess Kyouko. The last few times she had been targeted by the fox princess it had all been trickery - invitations to places that turned out to be dates, crime sprees linked by riddles to the locations of captured officers - but she'd never been targeted directly like this before! Never just straight up tackled and dressed! She had been complacent and daydreaming and she didn't know that Kyouko would dare -

    And then...

    +Kazelia!+ Princess Adila thought. +How could you betray me like this? You were my deputy! And now you're in league with the fox!? Ack! Argh! Treason! Stop! It's not too late to turn back to the side of righteousness!+

    She needed to convince her. Adila's projections of a new peaceful Hyperborea after Oberon was defeated were all falling apart in the face of Princess Kyouko's wickedness backed up by Princess Kazelia's strength and planning. Nothing would be safe!

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Adila!

    Well, credit where it's due: you definitely found a good hiding place this time. You can tell because by the time Alina finally appears on the steps leading down to your little fort she is looking extremely put out. She's pretty obviously been looking for you for hours. She's also carrying a comically large bowl of soup on a floating tray of orange light, which is probably heating it as much as it is holding it, because the bowl is still steaming, like, a lot. A lot a lot.

    She's wearing the dress Ourania gifted her again, and from the look of things decided it would be a natural hair day so her crown is just shining brightly from atop a floofy bed of lavender curls shaking themselves out past her shoulders. There's a dangerous look in her eyes, but as you watch her descend into the water barrel fortifications one deliberate and imperious step at a time, she's also never looked more like a Princess of Illumina. Or for that matter, more like a big sister. You can see pretty clearly now why it is that Jessamine is always so deferential around her even when she's an uncontrollable whirlwind everywhere else. Or, at least, you can see that if you're paying any sort of attention. I don't want to put words in your brain.

    She takes the time to weave through the fortifications properly, not lifting herself up over them or jumping past any of it even though it'd be a lot faster to do this pretty much any other way. Then she hits the final rampart, realizes there's no 'door', and makes an extremely irritated hmmph before lifting a barrel with one hand and very gingerly placing it in top of another. She stands in front of you without comment, towering over your sulky frame for the first and definitely last time in her life. Then she sets the bowl of soup down on the floor right in front of you.

    "You're sick," she says. It's not a question, "Eat. You'll be no good to the reclamation efforts like this, you poor thing."

    She takes a step back. And she stands there, watching you intensely. Waiting for the response.
    Princess Adila's deep brain registers the sense of danger from Princess Alina - and discounts it. It's not like Alina is dangerous after all. It's not like she's scary. Scary is the Captain in the Bronze - age and experience and devil-touched relics, capable of anything. That's what power is. If she's getting any sort of threat vibes off Alina of all people then that's probably just because she's not thinking clearly.

    +I'm not sick,+ she protests, not quite catching the irony yet. +I'm the opposite of sick.+ She definitely could go for the soup but - no! The suffering! She is not worthy of soup!

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    Alvonia is comprised of three primary colors: the vivid greens of the hills, the sharp blue of the cloudless skies, and the fluffy white of the sheeps. It seems almost a travesty to lay down a checkered blanket and plop a big black dragon onto the landscape. Thankfully, Dandy is just as sharply defined against those colors in her nice overalls and purple-checkered shirt.

    And here you are, the two of you, in some of the most pastoral scenery in all of Hyperborea. (Feloria is more about cultivation and beautiful crystal-studded woods, not miles and miles of grassy, gentle hillsides.) Dandy has dominated the conversation, which is to say, she has insisted on teaching you lots of Felorian walking songs. There’s a lot of “fe-da-rol-da-lay” and “hup hey” and then sneaking in something very, very suggestive about things to do on a May morning with the princess of your heart, but worded in such a way that by the time you’ve puzzled out what it means you’re already lost in the chorus again. And it’s such a Dandy thing that it’s hard to tell whether she’s even doing it on purpose or she just enjoys singing while she walks.

    But now you’re here, and she’s sitting criss-cross and looking up at you from the shade of her great big sunhat, waiting for you to present the picnic lunch. She’s letting you, which means you’ve got to do it. That’s how lunch with Dandy works, after all.
    These are songs designed for singing. Catchy little things that weave their nonsense sounds into your brain and twist it into those shapes, so easy and flowing and predictable - except when they're not, there's no way that was what I thought it was - that they actually prised a tiny "da-lay" from Adila's ordinarily tightly sealed lips. This makes her almost melt down with embarrassment and focus intensely on setting out the picnic instead.

    One of Adila's priorities in Argossa had been to negotiate with the head of Ourania's kitchens - a thunderhead in the shape of a sloth, decorated with golden wire - for a variety of foods to repay Princess Dandy with. She'd promised a dragon-load of Jedadi spices, flown across to the roots at some point in the future, in exchange for bags full of jams, wines, honeys, preserves, and seeds and nuts from Argossa's sky gardens. Queen Ourania liked chocolate and, given that it was her tree, about half of everything was mixed with some kind of chocolate flavour.

    +How is... everything?+ Adila thought, finding it hard to be nervous in a day so sunny, with a princess so bright.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  2. - Top - End - #812
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila

    "Oh, no, I'm not betraying you!" Kazelia says. She stops to write down a few notes on her notepad about avoiding the creation of inappropriate appearances of betrayal, then looks back up. "Kyouko said this was an important part of my Hyperborea education, and she said that since you're so tough, she'd be able to demonstrate all the different techniques necessary for a proper kidnapping. I promise we'll release you when we're done though!"

    You don't see this, of course, but Kazelia goes back to her notepad and makes a note: ask Kyouko how we know when we're done

    The foxes appear to be assembling some kind of large flat-top cart, but you have a moment to respond to Kazelia's rank betrayal naivete.

    Alina
    "That's...you're not mad at me? At all?" Kazelia looks confused. She settles for taking her robe off (which she folds neatly and places on the side of the pool out of splash range) and carefully dipping her legs into the bath while she thinks. Since her change in Argossa, you've noticed there isn't the same sort of ice forming everywhere around her, and indeed the warm bathwater does not immediately freeze over around her. It does perhaps cool a bit more than expected just from someone climbing into it though.

    "I thought, I don't know, I guess it's good that it was helpful, I'm glad to hear that, but I thought you were mad. When I sang and we connected, there was so much pain, and I just...I don't think you should just forgive me and say it's all okay. I don't deserve that yet. Definitely not because I managed to shout louder than everybody else in a crowded room."

    Despite that last denial, you can see from Kazelia's face that as her brain caught up to processing the part where you complimented her she did, in fact, feel very good about shouting louder than everyone else in the room. She had really been worried everyone would just ignore her pleas.

    Jessamine
    Kazelia takes that question as an invitation to enter more fully and settles herself in a second, equally woolly chair on the wall across from the desk. She gives Jess something of a sigh. "If I were still on the Rider side, the strategy would have been to send in some Illuminans and see if there were any traps or illusions that they might run into. That's not, uh, on the table I gather, though if any of the princesses can make some kind of construct that can send information back to us, that would be better than just trying to view the area from a distance or use magic to examine it."

    She leans forward and rests her chin on both hands while she thinks, speaking slowly as she puzzles on this one out loud. "I suppose that's what I would suggest. Start with Adila from a safe distance, and any of the princesses that can use magic to view the area from afar, but try to send something in ahead of the main army to see if what you get from distant viewing is really accurate. If it can be done with stealth or in disguise, even better. Riders do still raise animals, so maybe some of the transforming troops could scout safely."

    A pause, she leans back again, looks at the stack of books. "I don't suppose any of those books have information about how small princess teams do infiltration. That's a bit out of my experience, especially since we're sneaking Adila in with us. We'll need to either find - or create - a blind spot to enter, or we'll need some kind of deception to get her inside."
    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)

  3. - Top - End - #813
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    "You're lurking in a dark, cave-like area bundled up in all the clothes you own, and every time you show up to strategy meetings the only thoughts you can share are garbled gibberish. If you're not sick then I'm Valissa's great great great and so on grand niece."

    Haha I mean what?? Can you imagine??? Hahahaha anyway Alina is very stony serious right now. Her eyebrow is twitching and everything and if Jessamine were watching this she'd be making the biggest 'oh no' face ever. Her lights start forming very sharp, very weapon-like shapes all around her as her irritation takes shape in the air. She folds her arms across her chest and glares.

    "Eat the soup. You have to feel better. Or we're leaving you behind to rest."

    Kazelia!

    Oh gosh, oh goodness, oh... bubbling brooks, this is perfect, perfect, perfect. Kazelia is now invited to every scorching bath in Hyperborea for the rest of forever, or at least as long as she keeps up this particular water cooling trick. Alina seems almost to come undone; her muscles all relax at once and she slips right back down into the water until only her face is poking out and the sigh that escapes her lips is just... incredibly indecent sounding. She's in heaven.

    But heaven's full of heart-to-hearts today, so she drags herself back up and whips water every which way as her hair tumbles in all the directions it feels like before it slaps wetly back down on her neck in a perfect waterfall. She pulls her silly, drippy, over large sleeve covered arms behind her back and flashes another smile at Kazelia. But as she watches her Rider friend, her smile fades a little and she actually looks a little... ashamed?

    "Kazelia..." she purses her lips, searching for the right words for this moment, "Of course I was... listen. There's something you need to understand about me, that I don't think anybody really gets. Are you ready? Then listen: I am not brave. I'm not strong. I'm not wise. I'm not even close to perfect. I'm just... a girl. A girl your father broke. Every time we go somewhere, all I'm doing is scrambling to fit the pieces where I think they're supposed to go, trying not to throw up from how scared I am, and wishing with my entire heart that it'll be the last thing anyone asks me to do. Please, let this time be it. Let the next person take over for me. Let Jessamine do it, let Helya do it, let's go find Tara and make her... oh, I guess you've never met her. She's one of my rainbow sisters, who escaped during the Fall like I did. I'm not sure if you'd like her or not, but she knows like a hundred different ways to use a sewing needle. She'd be useful."

    Alina's arms drop back down into the water with tiny little splooshes, and she makes lazy circles with both of them, watching the ripples flow into each other and break apart.

    "The point is, I've been trying to give up for a long time. Or at least... take a big, long break, I guess. I'm not much good as a hero or a role model, you know? But you keep looking at me like one anyway. You and a lot of other people. And now... now we're here! People believe me! We've got a whole confederacy behind us, and... no matter what happens, I, I'm going home! So this isn't the time for me to be sulking or holding grudges or any of the other stuff you're worried about. I can keep going. That's enough for me."

    Helya!

    This is bad, this is bad, this is very very bad, she's blushing, she's blushing, oh rivers she is very definitely blushing. D-d-don't read into this please! Don't take it the wrong way! You are just... so very, very beautiful after all, and Alina is just a helpless princess given to crazy fantasies! It's nothing, ok? I-i-i-i-i-i-it's nothing!

    "I'm doing... better," she says, choosing her words extremely carefully right now, "Than I have been in a very long time."

    And here she hops down off of her perch, which is definitely a huge mistake because now Helya is absolutely towering over her and Alina is caught up in the smell of her again and... rivers wouldn't it be nice if just this one time it would be ok to get swept up in that and get a kiss from the lips she's been dreaming about since she was eight? But it's not. Of course it's not. She's not really tempted. Not... not really. All she wants is to get a chance to hold her friend's hand again. To take what was reached out to her in Jedad before she ran away. To connect. And, you know, if she does want to wrestle th-that'd be f--

    "Did you, did you hear about Feloria?" she asks, "About all the things that happened there? We have a lot in common again."

  4. - Top - End - #814
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    “Everything is fine,” Dandy says, cheerfully. You know, like a liar. She’s not. Her eyes are drooping, and she’s a bit more warm, perfect sunlight away from keeling over into the grass. She kept up the facade of fineness pretty well, but... wait, is this a reversal? Are you going to get to take care of her?

    “We’ve already grown back the support trunks for the wall,” she adds, tactfully not mentioning the fact that Stheno was the one who was thrown through it. “And we’ve got a temporary wicker lattice interlaced between them, just in case any more Riders come back.”

    That’s not really their intended purpose. Walls, in Hyperborea, are... well, boundary markers, mostly. “We are here, this is ours.” A dedicated princess finds them easy to scale; it’s just that doing so is a statement of intent. If you’re inside the walls, you mean to be inside, and on your own head be it if you’re caught.

    But, of course, no sooner did Dandy finish outpouring her growth magic back home than she showed up at Hobling Keep and helped lead repairs there— at least until Hornet and Mace got back. Then she’s been helping lead the catering crews back at the castle. She’s running on fumes, and morning meditation only covers that up for so long.

    She leans back, her face upwards to the sun, her eyes closed, and smiles. “It’s wonderful. Don’t you think? They have hundreds of different grass varieties here!”

    ***

    Kazelia!

    “Adila is terrible at sneaking,” Jessamine says, frowning. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she’d try to trick your— trick the Riders by thinking +I am not sneaking in+ so loudly at them that they wouldn’t notice her. No, she’d be much better leading the assault. Then she’s playing to her strengths, and we have a great big dragon as the centerpiece of our line.” She takes out a little carved dragon figurine and slams it down on a battle map with a little “blooooosh.” Was that... was that an attempt at an explosion noise?

    That makes a sort of strategic sense, but... well, I think we both know your heart sinks a little to hear it. You’ve been through so much with Adila, and the thought of infiltrating Ilumina without her is...

    Well, you tell me.

    ***

    Alina!

    Helya is giving you a look. A lookie sort of look. The kind of look that makes you feel like a plate of glass. Like she can see right through you.

    “I haven’t,” she says, and walks away. End of scene.

    Just kidding! She walks over to the weapon rack and pulls out a pair of Alvonian basket sabers. One gets tossed over to your feet, and she draws the other, stepping into Winterfrost Form. The challenge is clear.

    And the silence is deafening. The kind of thing that is just begging to be filled.
    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.

  5. - Top - End - #815
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Adila

    "Oh, no, I'm not betraying you!" Kazelia says. She stops to write down a few notes on her notepad about avoiding the creation of inappropriate appearances of betrayal, then looks back up. "Kyouko said this was an important part of my Hyperborea education, and she said that since you're so tough, she'd be able to demonstrate all the different techniques necessary for a proper kidnapping. I promise we'll release you when we're done though!"

    You don't see this, of course, but Kazelia goes back to her notepad and makes a note: ask Kyouko how we know when we're done

    The foxes appear to be assembling some kind of large flat-top cart, but you have a moment to respond to Kazelia's rank betrayal naivete.
    +You can't trust her!+ Adila thought in a flustered panic. +She's a serial kidnapper and she won't be satisfied until hmmmm hmmm hmmm+

    Princess Kyouko had placed a tiara with a little crystal gemstone on Adila's forehead. It was a Psychic Illumination Crystal that transformed psychic energy into light, commonly used as a way for the Witches of Hecatia to focus their towering intellects into laser beams. Adila's intellect barely managed 'energy-efficient lightbulb' levels of illumination, and a faint buzzing as her telepathy was reduced to muffled vibrations in the crystal. Her muzzle was tied shut with a ribbon by a fox servant as an afterthought.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Adila!

    "You're lurking in a dark, cave-like area bundled up in all the clothes you own, and every time you show up to strategy meetings the only thoughts you can share are garbled gibberish. If you're not sick then I'm Valissa's great great great and so on grand niece."

    Haha I mean what?? Can you imagine??? Hahahaha anyway Alina is very stony serious right now. Her eyebrow is twitching and everything and if Jessamine were watching this she'd be making the biggest 'oh no' face ever. Her lights start forming very sharp, very weapon-like shapes all around her as her irritation takes shape in the air. She folds her arms across her chest and glares.

    "Eat the soup. You have to feel better. Or we're leaving you behind to rest."
    +I am feeling better!+ Adila protested. +I mean - I was never feeling bad! I'm not - wait - let me -+ she ungracefully uncoiled herself from her brooding posture, raised her head - hit it on the ceiling and for a moment there was a little surge of panic as she stared at it like she was expecting it to shatter and the entire castle to crash down on her head. It took a long moment and a cautious poke to confirm that it was fine before she could focus on Alina again.

    +My plans are sound,+ she thought sullenly. +It's just a reality. I'm powerful enough to take on the entire garrison directly. I was able to keep up with a Devil Princess cutting loose.+ that thought in particular was saturated with hurt and bitterness. +If one of them could destroy Hobling Keep with a single toss then there's no reason why I can't take out Illumina by myself.+ She tried her best not to add the +maybe then she'll see+ but didn't quite manage it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Adila!

    “Everything is fine,” Dandy says, cheerfully. You know, like a liar. She’s not. Her eyes are drooping, and she’s a bit more warm, perfect sunlight away from keeling over into the grass. She kept up the facade of fineness pretty well, but... wait, is this a reversal? Are you going to get to take care of her?
    Nothing in Princess Adila's life has surprised her as much as seeing Princess Dandy tired.

    That shouldn't have been a shock! Her wakening thoughts and dragony pride have gone through life assuming that she's the strongest - her and Iron Star. That everyone else, everything else is fragile, delicate - that they all need her strength to protect them - but they were the only two who really mattered. Seeing Princess Dandy half-faint against her should be a confirmation of that bias, but that's not how she feels at all. She's more shaken in that moment than she'd be to see Ourania with a walking stick.

    But that isn't right either, is it? The Captain had to start using a walking stick when she was ten and that didn't surprise her at all. She'd even stood up to the Captain - she'd even accused the Captain to her face, relieved her of command, and though that had almost sent her into paroxysms of panic she hadn't felt her heart stop like that. So why...

    Her mind was frozen in the contradiction, all the curtains tangled after a burst of wind - and then suddenly she saw it. She was surprised not because she'd thought Princess Dandelion was weak. It was because she was her definition of strength. Hers was the strength she'd always been striving for. Not the strength to be restrained and disciplined like the Captain, but the strength to be compassionate and unflinching like Dandy. And she'd fallen so short of that ideal...

    No. She had to stop. Dandy was exhausted and now she needed to lift that delicate weight in a way she'd never thought she'd need to. She needed to be a different kind of strong now.

    She pressed the teapot against her heart to warm it; cast iron like the cups, crockery for an adventure. She set out the lunch with steady claws, wrapped up her blanket to serve as a cushion for Dandy, and sat with her back against the sun so her shade would fall across Dandy. She moved quietly and diligently through all the little chores and practicalities of setting up a picnic, including carefully cutting the lemons for the lemon cakes and running a circle of the juice around the cloth as an arcane ward against ants. Every movement was a gentle ultimatum that left no space for anyone else to try to help.

    +It is wonderful,+ Adila thought. She took a moment to look - really look - at the way the grass flowed and rippled like the oceans. She'd never taken the time to just look at a green and verdant landscape like this before. It wasn't like Feloria where the growth came at you from every direction; the empty rolling hills were a strange kind of barren even though they burst through with life. It was a strange memory of home. +It is wonderful,+ she thought again, with a little more honesty and wonder.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  6. - Top - End - #816
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila

    Kazelia scribbles down some notes about psychic tiaras for the future, concluding with ask Kyouko about suppliers. Then she happily gives Adila a pat on the neck as the foxes work the dragon on the newly assembled cart, which buckles but does not break and begin rolling her along a path into the castle's outer gardens. "Don't worry, I promise I won't let her do anything that would hurt you. Honestly, I doubt she even could."

    "So, Kyouko" she says while they're walking, since Adila appears to be limiting her communication to some sort of set of blinking lights from the tiara (some kind of pattern of 3 short blinks, 3 long blinks, 3 short blinks). "Where are we taking Adila? And what do we get from this sort of kidnapping? She didn't really seem like she was having as much fun as I've been."

    ***

    Alina

    Wow, you're uh giving some mixed signals between blissful pleasure and resigned self-acceptance. Kazelia eases herself fully into the bath and lets her hair soak through as well as she thinks. "This is hard Alina. I think you're selling yourself short, but I don't want to keep building you up either if you don't want my praise. It's just, being the one to step up when there's nobody else is something really special. You've got powerful magic and you're fast and graceful, but more importantly you're empathetic in a way that I can't ever seem to manage. I never even think of some of the things you do to be kind to other people. I just, I'm not sure what I want. To look up to you and learn from you, I think? To work together to stop my father. To have your trust enough that I can help you solve your problems and not just be there while you suffer inside. That's asking a lot though, I don't know if you can give me all those things." She sighs and rests back in the water, trying to relax, only her head visible.

    ***

    Jessamine

    "I know Adila would do a good job on the frontal assault, but I'm not sure that's where she would be most valuable. It's a lot of work to sneak her in, but I think we'd all be better off for it."

    That's rationalizing, Kazelia, and Jessamine is probably a good enough tactician to know that explanation doesn't really make sense. Adila taking on the walls could protect tons of people in the army and probably help just as much or more as some kind of infiltration. It's just, well, she's the one that sees things well, that catches certain types of tricks, and when she's on her best, she's a rock for the party. Plus, who knows which sisters are there? If Adila is off attacking the walls it will be hard to concentrate on the infiltration, always wondering what she's doing and whether Azora has turned her into some kind of amphibian.

    "I also, I want Adila to be with us. I like working with her, and I think she likes being with us. It will be better even if it makes the infiltration harder. Besides, she can sort of turn into a human for a while."
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  7. - Top - End - #817
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    Alina rolls her eyes, and maybe if you'd taken that more seriously things could have been different. Maybe if you'd taken that sense of danger as real, or if you'd stopped to think about how all of this looks, or if you'd thought back to all the moments you've shared with her, you'd be enjoying some tasty soup right now and everything would be well. She worked really hard on it, you know! Had to ask around all sorts of people to learn what you liked and then even more to figure out how to actually make it. Believe it or not, cooking is not her strong suit. But in any case you don't really care about that, I know. You're a big strong dragon with the weight of the world on your mighty shoulders, and that weight is the exact size and shape of Iron Star Crushes the Strong not thinking you're cool enough to make out with. That's pretty important stuff to be wrestling with.

    But it's also why Alina is right up in your face now. It's why her hands have you under the chin and are dragging your face so that you're right at eye level with her and forced to stare straight into those razor sharp diamond whites and the flecks of emerald buried in them that are absolutely burning with the angriest green light you've probably ever seen. Did you know the light of healing could look this sharp?

    "Fine," she says sharply. She doesn't smile, though I don't know if that matters, "No soup then."

    Three, two, one. She breaks eye contact and spins around to start walking out. About ten or so paces in, she stops and there's a flash of multicolored light while she summons her battle ribbon. She twirls it dramatically and turns to face you again.

    "But come upstairs. If we fight down here you'll just blame your loss on being worried about damaging the castle."


    Kazelia!

    Alina just floats there in silence, watching you. A tear starts beading in her eye, but she wipes it away on her sleeve without even blinking. A princess does not cry during bath time. That's simply not how it works! By the time her arm dips back down beneath the soothing water, she's wearing a wide grin. She giggles.

    "...You're so weird."

    And then she starts to swim! You've only just moments ago said that she was graceful, but this is something on another level. Alina moves through water like she was born into it. Like it's an extension of her body. It doesn't matter that the bath is so shallow that you could stand up in it and it would barely reach your waist; she glides along the top of it as easily as if it was a lake, her subtle motions not betraying so much as a ripple of movement on the surface. She takes her time and languidly cuts her way across the entire bathing pool before making her way over to you, Kazelia. But when she finally gets close, it's with a burst and a huge splash atop your lovely two-tone hair as she wraps you in the tightest hug you've probably ever gotten.

    Alina is so very soft and warm. Even to your body's new form she's remarkably warm. She's like hugging Spring, or maybe a breath or two shy of Ourania herself. But there's a spot right on her petite little chest that when it touches you is as cold as any Rider. That's the mark that she's been carrying with her since almost the moment your family came to Hyperborea. And she could have been rid of it, you think, almost certainly, except that she's never been willing to let your father exploit this connection for even a moment lest he use it to hurt someone she loves. This is the hurt that she carries more quietly than any other. Even more than her eyes, this is the injury that's changed her more than anything. And she'll probably carry it with her the rest of her life, even if your little band of Princesses manages to secure the happiest ending for the whole of Hyperborea.

    "You're so weird," she says again, pulling apart from you, "I can't believe you still won't yell at me! Why won't you get mad? Didn't you hear how selfish I sounded just now?"

    She shakes with a bunch of little half giggles. Weird, choking little trills that are very definitely laughs and not cleverly disguised sobs because a Princess! Does NOT! Cry! During! Bath Time!

    "Everyone... always expects me to be perfect. But nobody notices how hard I have to work just to meet their expectations. Even my little sisters call me a prodigy and get jealous sometimes, and I... that's why I don't like... that's why it's so hard for me to... to you know, accept the praise. All I see anymore when I look at myself are the cracks. The princess who doomed Illumina. But if it's you, Kazelia... if you want to believe in me anyway, I, I guess that's ok with me. Let's do it, all right? Together. It should be us. It has to be us."


    Helya!

    Alina's face screws up as the saber clatters at her feet. Why was this happening? Helya Laynasdottir, every gorgeous inch of her, every steely-muscled pound, every individual strand of that impossibly golden hair, every fleck of ice inside her eyes, every captivating lovely curve, every beat of her stout and loyal heart, and every second of her incredibly rare smiles the exact shade of Perfect Princess everybody accused Alina of trying to be, was challenging her to a fight. Why? She's barely ever been interested in sparring with Alina since... well, ever. She was too small, too squeaky, too focused on ribbons, too much fun to just play and run and do baking and crafts with for Helya to be interested in her fighting prowess.

    It's not fair. Alina glares at the saber, with its ornate hand guard and the beautiful Alvonian runes carved up and down the length of the blade. It's not fair! The Shining Princess-Knight got everything! The height, the talent, all of the best girls (hey now...)! And now here she was, ready to flatten one of her oldest friends in the kind of fight she had no idea how to carry herself in, which was extra unfair because Helya always won everything anyway. Even the stuff Alina was really, really good at! It's not fair! It's not... Why couldn't they just talk? Why couldn't they just... connect! For once! Alina kicks the saber and it flies up perfectly straight to hand level, where she spins and snatches it out of the air before twirling it like it was an Illuminan Trance Sword. The guard gets in her way a lot more than the unadorned, edgeless glass blades of her homeland, but she manages an intensely acrobatic display all the way, sending glowing after images of her weapon trailing after every flick and twist. She settles into a dancer's pose with the weapon held with the blade pointing down in front of her and the guard covering her face.

    Except, she'd always had this... fantasy. A daydream, really. About how she might someday work up all of her courage and charge into Rowan as an enemy, just like Princess Marina did. The whole scenario goes spiraling through her head now, fresh as it was when she was just a girl flowering into adulthood and just starting to dream her silly girlish dreams. The treasures she'd steal. The note she'd leave. The noise she'd make to make sure it was Helya who caught her. And then they'd fight! Alina would bring a gleaming, beautiful sword and then the two princesses would fight as enemies! The blades would clash! Keen! Clang! Sparks would fly! And then so would they. It would be this beautiful perfect dance, and then...

    And then... a-a-a-a-a-and th-then in the e-e-end... she, um, you know, um, that is, um, um, um! Helya would win. She'd disarm Alina, nick the top of her dress with the tip of her blade, j-just a little, you know! Just enough to mark victory properly and make Alina squeak. And then she'd... she'd take that sword right to Alina's neck and... lift her chin up with the flat of the blade so she could look straight down into the deep green pools of Alina's eyes. And Helya's perfect, icy blues would finally, finally soften like a lake embracing the end of winter at last and she'd smile more radiantly than the sun. Their lips would meet, and... u-um. Anyway! That's how... that's how they'd decide to get married.

    Alina blushes and very nearly bobbles her saber right out of her hands, but she manages to turn her flub into a a dipping, twirling sort of attack which is, naturally, knocked deftly aside with a swift and brutal punch. Alina ducks and rolls away, only popping up onto her toes with a flourish after she's well out of Helya's zone. Her crystal eyes watch her friend sharply. There will be three moves. That's always been the rule. Helya ends the fight in exactly three attacks, or else she's using you for practice. She'd know soon, and then they would be two glass princesses with no s-- still trying to keep secrets from each other. Alina swallows. Her face grows sadder by the second.

    "You... have you really not noticed?"

  8. - Top - End - #818
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    Adila!

    “It is wonderful,” Dandy repeats, a sly smile creeping across her lips as she looks at you. “Sure, it’d be better if it hadn’t taken a threat to the whole world to get you out of the Bazaar, but it’s important to take victories where you find them.”

    Be indignant all you like, but it’s true: if not for the threat of Oberon, you never would have visited Alvonia. Has it been worth it to travel, Adila? From the satisfied look on Dandy’s face, she seems to think it’s worth it for your sake. Probably there’s a pithy saying about travel expanding the heart on the tip of her tongue.

    And that’s when she puts her hand on your claw and turns her head to look out at the sheep as they meander on by.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    “And what happens when she goes +Hello I am not a dragon+ and blows your cover wide open? You’re not the only one at risk, either.” She does not elaborate on that point, due to pride, but you’re a sharp cookie. She’s not going to approve any plan that ends with Alina in the hands of the Riders again. She knows what Oberon would do to her.

    “This has to go perfectly,” she continues. “We get one shot. If I... if we fail, then this confederacy falls apart and Oberon gets all the time he needs to find the Caduceus. Adila stays on the front lines.”

    ***

    Alina!

    One! An Alina twirl attack that is easily knocked aside. Two! She closes the distance between you fast, faster than you were expecting. Because it’s Helya. Perfect, perfect Helya. Three!

    The disarm is perfect. The heavy sword clatters on the floor of the gymnasium. There is no nick to your lovely dress, but the flat of her blade finds your chin anyway. And... lift.

    Her eyes don’t soften, and she doesn’t lean down into the sort of kiss they write poems about. Which, you know, good! You’re both in very happy relationships! Your heart is just going a bajillion miles an hour because of that intense sword fight you just had!!!

    “What did he do to you,” she breathes, and the pity is so thick it might just choke you. Pity! From perfect Princess Helya! Because she thinks Oberon plucked out your eyes to be trophies or something, because never in a million years would she think that you... even after your heartfelt speeches, even after everything he had done... you were so weak that you gave into him, too.
    freedom in the flame

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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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    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.

  9. - Top - End - #819
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    At first, Princess Adila struggled. How she struggled! She shifted and kicked and strained and threw her weight from side to side - but the foxes had done their jobs well. Every time she pulled it felt like she was pulling against her own strength, every struggle seemed to make the restraints grip a little tighter, all the angles were wrong for her to apply leverage against. By the end she was flushed and embarrassed and her heart rate was up and... she felt a strange sense of calm. There was a strange sense of serenity in knowing things were entirely out of your control - good or bad, whatever happened wasn't your fault. B-by that she meant she was just lying in wait, waiting for Kyouko to get careless and make a mistake, she just needed to wait until the time was right.

    Alina!

    +Fight?+ Princess Adila was sure she'd misheard that. That and +Loss?+ Those things made so little sense that her mind latched onto the strangest part of the sentence as the weak point that needed to break: +We?+

    Her forensic detective brain began to unpick this confusing mesh of evidence. Princess Alina was probably carrying a message from someone good at fighting, like Princess Helya. The evidence started to come in - she must have offended Alina by rejecting the soup, and Everyone Knew that Illuminans were totally unreasonably nationalistic about their food. The battle ribbon was probably decorative.

    After all, the alternative to that explanation was that delicate, fragile, constantly captured Princess Alina had just challenged her to a duel. And that was so impossible it barely warranted thought.

    She shifted aside barrels and stumbled her way up the stairs, following behind Princess Alina - shaken from her reverie by the incomprehensible puzzle she'd just been presented with, thoughts trying to tangle themselves through their contradictions, and before she knew it she found herself blinking in the bright sunlight of the jousting ring.

    Dandy!

    +That's not why I left, you know,+ thought Adila, scratching a little at the dirt. That was one of those thoughts she kind of wished she could take back, a little moment when she wished she could just smile and be mysterious and cool and the kind of dragon who would leave their beloved home to go save the world because it was the right thing. But her thoughts just shined through regardless of how she tried to conceal them and now that she'd said it she was obligated to follow through with it. +I completely destroyed Spinner Street during a chase, and then accidentally started a fire in a Palatine chapel, and then I slipped in the street and broke a cart with my fall, and then...+ She closed her eyes to try and stop the sequence of little failures building up in her head. +... then the Captain asked me to take a mission outside the city. And it was pretty clear what she meant by that.+

    Maybe that's what's stopped her enjoying her travels. The quiet, nagging thought that this was actually exile.

    That left the question open as why she was enjoying this moment, though.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  10. - Top - End - #820
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila

    You are slowly rolled into a shadowed little glade just at the edge of the castle gardens. It's at the top of the rolling hills that make up Castle Alvonia, though this one is far enough at the edge that there are no sheep rolling down it today. The cool air under the trees is pleasant and you have the opportunity to simply listen in as Kyouko and Kazelia chat while the cart slowly works its way up the hill and everyone rests.

    "We are taking her up there!" Kyouko gestures triumphantly, her kimono hanging off one sleeve and billowing upward as she thrusts her arm towards the hilltop. "As to the why, well, my dear Kazelia, I believe that Adila will enjoy the trip and that it is an absolutely lovely location for drinking some chrysanthemum tea! Kyahahaha!"

    Kazelia writes down ask why chrysanthemum tea is worth hysterical laughter but decides to save that for small talk later. Instead, as they march up the hill, she observes Adila, who struggles but then seems to come to a state of serenity. "Huh, I guess this isn't so bad. Uh, bob your head once for yes or twice for no, Adila."

    Before Adila can do any bobbing though, Kyouko darts over in a flurry of kimono and intersperses herself. "No no, Kazelia. We do not ask yet. Firstly because the point of a proper kidnapping is that Adila has no say in the matter, and secondly because we are about to reach the gloating stage, which is much less effective when the kidnapee has a method for communication. Now, observe as I demonstrate a proper round of gloating!"

    The cart has already settled at the top of the little hill and Kyouko comes over. "No, Adila of the watch, I see you have accepted that you are at my, and Kazelia's, collective mercy. Kyahahahah! While we do not have time nor the luxury of transporting you back to Konkon at the moment, consider this a preview of the future to come. A future in which you shall serve the Konkon! Kyahahahahah! Now, you shall face a demonstration of my wrath, for Kazelia's benefit, of course."

    Kyouko's fox attendants, with some difficulty, roll you onto your side, taking care to secure your tiara, and Kyouko begins a searching examination of your belly with her extremely fluffy tail. When you finds just the right spot, she presses with full force.

    Kazelia looks a little apprehensive, but she also distinctly remembers the duel you had in Argossa and is prepared to cut the ropes should you actually find yourself in any real danger. So for the moment she just observes closely and takes copious notes including a small stick figure of a diagram in which she marks the spots where Kyouko is prodding.

    Alina

    Your hug is the most amazing thing! Kazelia just holds on and feels the warmth spread through her and suffuse her. She feels the cold spot too, the wound that you've been holding. She'd offer to heal it, but she knows already that's not what you're after. Instead, she lets herself fall backward with you into the water slowly, sinking in. She doesn't say anything as you jokingly chide her, but she smiles and for just an instant pulls the both of you completely underwater so that there's nothing to do but splutter and blow bubbles.

    She lets you back up and shakes out her own there. "There, I got mad and have taken it out on you by throwing you into the pool. Now I'm done being mad. I'm not sure I ever really could be mad. You deserve to be selfish, this world deserves to be joyful and I've seen how hard you work, Alina." She's smiling the whole time and by the way she hasn't stopped hugging you either, even if you're not pressed quite so close now. "It will be us. We're going to do it. It will be here, it will be this time that my Father meets his match."

    Jessamine

    Kazelia does not look happy about this at all. She looks away from you, starts flipping through one of the books, looking at old battles. "You're...not wrong" she says, looking like every word is grinding out of her. "Adila wouldn't just give us away like that, but she can't always control her thoughts and having her on the front lines would be really powerful. I just...it just feels like we should be together. Adila, Alina, and I have come this far, and I don't want to do it without her even if it is the tactically worse decision."
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  11. - Top - End - #821
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    The jousting ring of Alvonia is not the grand affair of the Pachydrome, but there's plenty of open space here for an enterprising young dragon to stretch her wings, to flex her mighty draconic muscles, or breath fire as much or as little as she should please. That makes it the grandest arena in Hyperborea right at the moment. Of course, Alina is also not as big of a draw as Helya, so even the strange sight of her furiously leading you down here hasn't attracted an especially large crowd, either. But maybe that's for the best: much less to fear in terms of collateral damage should something go wrong. There's a few stray sheep along with Princess Gale of course, and over there a few rows over is Princess Natasha very diligently scribbling notes into a tiny book in between inquisitive glances down where you are between the lists. Doesn't seem like there's too many other people about, but... oh look! Tashanna's here too! What fun, having the hometown advantage on a neutral site! Oh wait no, there's Rita too. She's so small, it's easy to miss her sometimes.

    Alina moves to the middle of the arena, and here you find your next surprise. There's nobody waiting here to act as her champion. Instead she turns to face you and flourishes her ribbon in a wide circle in front of her. Then she dips down and grabs the bottom layer of her skirt to grace you with a perfect rainbow curtsy. There's no moment where she laughs, she doesn't wink and say, 'haha, I really had you going, didn't I?' before offering you a fresh bowl of soup hidden in her infinite pocket of stuff that nobody has ever had the courage to explain to you how it works. None of that happens. She's glaring at you with terrifyingly serious intent, and I'm afraid it's time to consider that tiny, fragile Alina really does mean to duel you.

    "You may, of course, use any tools or techniques you wish. And don't hold back, or you'll regret it."

    Her ribbon sways to and fro in ceaseless, mesmerizing undulation. It's more serpent than weapon, more river than serpent. She balances perfectly on the balls of her feet. She really is more dancer than fighter, it must be said. But she's standing there, so poised and elegant, and it really must seem like she's waiting on you to make a move. I'll forgive you for being a touch bewildered still if you forgive me for assuming you're not exactly jumping into the fray here, either. But as soon as that hesitation lasts more than a couple of seconds, Alina clucks her tongue in disappointment and closes the distance for you.

    She has you in seconds. One, maybe two to get close. Another two to whip her ribbon low to the ground and wrap it around your front left leg and rear right. Half a second to pull, and all of a sudden whoops your center of balance is not where it's supposed to be and she's jumping in the air to pull the ribbon taught and expertly use your weight to guide you onto the ground. She lands lightly on your shoulders in the next eye blink and then, with a flick of her wrist, you're free. She jumps and you can't even feel the pressure when she goes, and then she turns in mid-air to land in front of you, already curtsying again.

    "I'm waiting, Adila. Show me the power to defeat all of Illumina."

    That means it's your move. What do you do?


    Kazelia!

    Alina is nothing if not an expert hugger, and part of being an expert is realizing when a hug is just going to go on and just needs to be accepted. So Alina does just that, and makes no effort to leave your cool embrace or to hide her smile from you, though she does take an extra moment to spit some of the water you just made her swallow back at you. She grins, and I hope you truly do understand what it means now to have friends. It's a special thing to belong, Kazelia. And this? Hyperborea? This is your home.

    And, honestly? This is also your victory. Because there's a lot more Alina could be saying. About how she still blames herself for what happened to Illumina even though nobody else will. About how even though she knows she's not the one who turned your father's heart to ice, she still thinks of herself as the one who called him down on Illumina so specifically. Every one of her people that's spent the last few years in slavery, the wound on poor Jessamine's heart, all of the horrors that have happened to her mother (that not even you have been willing to hint to her about in all this time), all of those things might have been avoided had she just been able to see him for what he was from the start and not try to reach out to him, at least in the way that she did. She could talk about how guilty she feels that she can't seem to find it in her heart to forgive him, either, the way she's managed to forgive several of your sisters so far. She could talk about how she's afraid that the both of you taking victory for yourselves might mean splintering your family, and she's not sure if she'll be able to fully open hers up to you. She could talk about all of those things, and try to spoil the moment with all the cold that sits there burning in her heart. But instead of that she gives into your embrace.

    "So!" she says with the kind of mischief in her eyes that makes you immediately suspect a trap of some sort, "What place that we've been has been your favorite, would you say? Where do you think you'll want to live when this is over?"


    Helya!

    "No, please don't... talk to me that way. Don't give me that look! I don't... I don't deserve it, ok?"

    Alina's head is still being lifted by that sword. Her heart is still going pitter-pat! Ker-thump, ker-thump!! But she hardly even needs to remind herself of Rita, because she's stopped thinking about kisses altogether and now the only thought in her head is that Perfect Princess Helya is about to cast her out forever for being weak and stupid. Finally. Finally! The reckoning. Finally. Finally! The validation! Someone's finally going to say it! They're finally going to get mad, but it's going to have to be Helya's gorgeous and wonderful face she sees twist into disgust and drop her to the floor.

    Right where she belongs. She casts her gaze down to where her saber wound up stopping. Three moves. Helya wanted a real match after all. A real match. With her. She blushes in spite of everything, and the tears start coming.

    "I turned to crystal," she says between shaky breaths, stuttering and stopping several times as droplets spatter across the runs on Helya's sword, "...Because my heart was impure. And I had to sing the song, because Dandy was trapped. And Dandy was trapped because I let myself get captured. And I let myself get captured because I was trying to stop Jessamine from breaking. And I couldn't do that... I-I... I couldn't do that, so they whipped me, and they drowned me, and they laughed and they laughed and they dangled me from a tree, and... he came and he touched me and it was so cold and I couldn't even breath and..."

    This is it. She's already out of excuses. Here it comes. Here comes the death blow. After this, her old life would be lost to her forever. Pieces shattering like stained glass shards. She swears she can already hear them shearing. Just like her legs when she...

    "He said to bring him a witch," her voice is so flat and dull and miserable. She's so pathetic, "And if I did he'd let Jess go. Maybe even... Mom. So that's what I did. I lied to all of my friends. I even lied to Rita. And then I swore the best witch in Hecatia to his service even though my heart knew it was wrong, and I melted into Crystal Song and I don't remember any of the rest until I was brought back. They... should have left me. But Jess wouldn't. She's so... selfish, sometimes. I didn't deserve it. I don't deserve it. If he wins, it'll all be my fault! So please, just... just..."

    And then there's nothing more for Alina Cascade but hot tears and the waiting through these next few horrible seconds that will last the rest of her life.

  12. - Top - End - #822
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    Silence. Dandy is silence. She is still, save for the soft rubbing of her thumb on your claw, and she actively exudes silence. Your own thoughts find themselves lulled into silence. The wind ripples over your scales and draws waves in the grass. Dandy’s hair is a flag rippling in the wind.

    Finally, she breaks the silence. (You may have found yourself wondering if she had fallen asleep sitting up.) “Where will you go?” After Oberon? After the victory in Ilumina? Where are you going to go once the world is safe again, Adila?

    ***

    Kazelia!

    Jessamine jumps up onto the table, going from sitting to standing on the table in one fluid, graceful motion. Tears are glistening in her eyes, and she makes a tight fist.

    “Kazelia, your plan is terrible,” she says, her voice thick. “But your heart is true. I can’t break you and Adila apart. You have to follow your heart, no matter where it leads!”

    Victory! You have successfully convinced Jessamine to wait hold on where did she get that battle ribbon from and how did she get it around your throat with one flourish? Iluminan Princesses are scary.

    “But only,” she says, tilting your chin up with the hilt of her ribbon, “if you promise me that you won’t let anything happen to Alina. If she’s hurt because your heart guided you wrong... you might as well turn yourself in to your father, because he will show you more mercy than I will!”

    ***

    Alina!

    The sword is lowered, wiped once with precision, because of course you can’t sheathe a sword with tears on it, and then Helya drives it point-first into the ground. This is it. Here it comes. She’s going to take her glove off and slap you and then tell you that you are weak—

    And that is when she kneels down onto one knee, wraps her arms around you, and holds you. She doesn’t say a word. She just holds you. The scar on your chest throbs, but it is a different sort of pain; it is the sort of pain an ice cube might feel if you held it against another just as cold.

    She holds you, and slowly strokes one hand down your back, the other arm wrapped securely around you. She touches you as if you were a scared mare about to bolt, and you’ve seen her in that exact scenario, so you know that it’s the same gentle acceptance and slow, soothing brushes from your neck all the way down your back.

    “You didn’t leave me.”
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2019-12-12 at 02:04 AM.

  13. - Top - End - #823
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    No! I am dragon! I am fire! I am death! I am not ticklish at all! I am too dignified and important and serious to be ticklish!

    That thought echoes defiantly through the psycrystal for about 0.45 seconds before Adila starts thrashing helplessly and melting into gales of gagged giggles and equally inaudible pleas of surrender.

    Alina!

    Princess Adila wakes up.

    She's on her face. In the dirt. Being taunted by a princess. For the first time in the past few days she feels her heart beating, feels her breath rising, feels the mud against her scales. How did she get here? How did she drift into this? How did she not see that coming? Was that really Alina who did that?

    A professional, thoughtful warrior starting from this position would have taken a moment to assess the situation, formulate a strategy, and take a stance. They would have taken the time to centre themselves and work through those bubbling questions in their brain. At the very least try to focus on their opponent and figure out what their approach was.

    Adila was not a professional warrior. Her fighting style was best described as self-centred - entirely based around thinking about what she was doing with no consideration for her opponent. She started from the baseline assumption that she was going to win and she just needed to figure out how apply the minimum amount of force and effort to the task so she wouldn't cause collateral damage.

    So her opening move is unforgivable - she takes her eyes off you and rummages around in her pockets. The most basic tenant of duelling is to at least maintain eye contact with your opponent, but Adila is from streets where the average crook isn't going to pull a cosh and rush the Watch's dragon so she has time to do things like this. She doesn't even have the grace to smoothly produce her gadget in a single smooth flourish, she's looking around for it like she's searching for her keys. By the time she eventually produces the tanglewool grenade - a magical yarn ball that when thrown sends an explosion of binding ropes in all directions, you've had the time to cross the distance and open up with your next combo.

    Dandy!

    She ebbs away in that silence. It's not the dread silence of anticipation, of waiting for a response with heart in hand. It's a silence that's as much answer as anything, and the tangle inside her... even if not fully calm, the edges become less jagged. There is contact and that is really all she wants.

    The question turns over in her head, that impossible weight.

    +I mean, I know... I know that I could ask to be taken in. But I'd be a burden. I'd still be... me, wherever I went. And it'd be just a matter of time before those little disasters built up again and I'd be told to move along again...+ she closes her eyes and drinks in the sunlight like she's counting the minutes she still has with it. +... so I thought that the only place that would accept me in the end would be Devilhome.+
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  14. - Top - End - #824
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    Adila
    Kyouko is merciless and you find yourself, your bonds, and the cart shaking as she works her magic. Her foxes pop out with some wooden branches and stones to ensure the cart remains steady as you shudder and shake. Should you get a glance in, Kazelia actually does appear to be smiling, the kind of smile one gets at something incredibly cute and childlike, which is obviously wrong and must be a trick of the light because you are not cute or vulnerable, you are powerful and terrifying and she obviously would not be smiling that way!

    "Now you see why I should be truly feared. Kyahahaha!" Kyouko beckons Kazelia over now and makes a hand motion that says join me. Kazelia does try to laugh. It's hesitant at first, she's fairly self-controlled, so it comes out forced and not very loud, more of a cough almost. "Oh Kazelia, come now, a proper laugh is terribly important!" Kazelia tries again, trying to remember the last time she really laughed. There was the recent sort of laughter in Argossa, or with Alina dancing in the rain, which brought a smile to her face, but that wasn't triumphant laughter, it was more like abandon or merriment. The last time she'd really laughed triumphantly, it must have been almost three years ago, back when she was still with her sisters. When they'd managed quite a trick on Eska as a group and caught her unawares, getting her own giant beetle bot to recognize her as an enemy and slowly tie her up and dangle her out a window upside down.

    So, Kazelia does laugh, but it's, well, it's actually a bit scary, a booming laugh that nobody here has ever seen out of her, and that maybe, for a moment puts in mind that feeling from Oberon that someone could delight in the fact of pain itself. That's very unhyperborea, and Kazelia completely stops herself when she realizes that Kyouko has gone completely silent well ahead of her.

    "Oh no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean, I did something wrong..."

    But before she can say anything else, Kyouko is there shushing her. "No, no. It's my fault, I forgot about how you were brought up. This happens once in a while with young foxes as well. They get caught up in their power and they forget everyone else who's involved. Kidnapping is a very long Konkon tradition, you see. Most places in Hyperborea ransom princesses and important knights of course, but we in the Konkon have raised it to a high art. A proper kidnapping takes into account the feelings of the kidnapee as well. They may not have power in the moment, but they need to know that they are safe, and that they might even enjoy it. This is also why fabric quality is so critical. Adila could absolutely have broken out in the first few moments, or tried to breath fires on my dear retainers, but she did not feel in danger and would never have ruined such fine quality materials, isn't that right my dear?" Kyouko goes over and gives Adila a little reassuring little scratch under the chin, in that hard to reach place where a loose scale can get really itchy. It's heavenly.

    "Now, let's start with something simpler. You'll add to Adila's bindings. Here, take this and tie it around Adila's snout gently so it ends right above her nose. You should do this by feel. Adila, if you don't like how it feels, I expect you can find a way to let Kazelia know, even with all those bindings, isn't that right? Now go ahead."

    So, Kazelia takes the powder blue ribbon from Kyouko and slowly and very carefully begins tying it under your chin and over your snout into a pretty bow shape. How does it go?

    Alina
    "Oh, um, I don't know if I'll want to just stay in one place and live there." Kazelia says, hedging a bit as the hug eases to its eventual end and they sit side by side in the pleasantly cool bath. "There's still a lot of the world I'd like to see, I owe Kyouko a visit to the Konkon, and there's the whole western part of the continent and the other islands, not to mention Devilhome when it's restored seems like it would be great fun for a visit. I suppose of the places we've visited that Jedad has been my favorite though, at least if Argossa doesn't count..." glances out at Alina from the corner of her eye. "The Bazaar seems so lively! They have all sorts of goods, they study lots of different things, the different princesses seem like they gather there all the time. I don't really like the Watch, though. I mean, I tried to stick to their tenets for Adila and I think that discipline is good!" She adds quickly, "but I prefer more freedom so I'd probably end up joining the other princesses in constantly doing things that they don't allow. Which would be fun, too, actually..." She looks over at Alina, who would not possibly do such inappropriate things and hastily adds, "not that I'd ever want to cause more trouble than other princesses!"

    Jessamine

    Your ribbon is on fire. Not very much fire, but it is distinctly burning, the smell of singed thread filling the air. You're not quite sure when that happened, but the part around the back of Kazelia's neck near the spear she wears is on fire now. If you tried to pull it too tight, the charred threads would just snap instead. She seems less bothered by the small flame than you'd expect from a Rider. It is very difficult to focus on these details, however, because she is staring at you with suddenly very hard eyes with their own fires burning behind them.

    "You haven't spent the time journeying with me that Alina and Adila have, so I'll forgive you for saying something without knowledge" she says, her tone matter-of-fact. "I will protect my friends. No matter what. It's why I'm here."

    Then she lets the expression slip and is back to her more typically placid self. She nods gratefully to you, Jessamine, at least as much as she can nod with your ribbon (still on fire) around her neck. "So, that's one matter settled. What about the terrain? Do you think you can keep the main force concealed until it's time for the assault? I recall there were some rolling hills and fields of flowers around the castle, we should try not to trample those either."
    Last edited by Anarion; 2019-12-13 at 03:46 AM.
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  15. - Top - End - #825
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    Adila!

    "Not good enough!"

    Wait, why is her voice so close? Alina's already right in front of your face, and even as she taunts you she's already flicking her wrist and snatching your grenade up with the tip of her ribbon. She's been watching you, Adila II. Did you think she wouldn't? Did you think she was just an innocent, fragile little flower, just a cute little storm inside a teapot and not a seasoned warrior in the Hyperborean image? You've heard the stories, you should know better! The Uncatchable Alina Cascade! The Scourge of Jedad! Oh sweet, naive Adila.

    Alina rises into an effortless backflip. If she meant for it to be a kick then her toes just barely miss your nose and all she manages is to kiss you with the wind, right before the bottom three layers of her skirt smack you one after another under the chin in an ever-deepening wave of blue-to-purple silks. Fwip fwip fwip, and then she lands flawlessly with her left foot and then her right, only the tips of her toes touching the ground before she jumps again and flips further backwards another two, three, four times. And while that's going on her ribbon snakes along behind her in a big, beautiful wave pattern that quickly unravels its grip around the tanglewool grenade and lobs the weapon onto the ground right under your belly.

    Princess Alina lands at last with her right leg extended behind her in a beautiful arabesque. She flourishes with her ribbon, and with her left hand wiggles her fingers at you with a dainty little "bye bye!" sort of wave. You're plenty tough enough not to be hurt by the detonation, but all of those binding ropes have nowhere to go really but up, over, and around you. The wild few that whip out into the arena fly every which way. You'd expect this to be the moment where Alina winds up almost as tied up as you are right now, but instead she hops up into the air on tiny flashing panels of warm-colored light that blink out of existence the instant her feet leave them. She rides them up a good ten, fifteen feet or so and then drops perfectly back down to the ground without so much as buckling her knees.

    She offers you her third curtsy of the duel while she waits for you to free yourself, inviting you to the next steps in the dance. The next level of escalation.

    "Don't you dare take me so lightly!" she snaps while the air around her crackles with little fireworks, "I am Alina Cascade, the Princess-Promised of Illumina, and you will show me respect!"


    Kazelia!

    Alina looks at you with the most huffy, offended expression you have probably ever seen in your entire life, Kazelia. She coughs, she sputters, she squeaks, and then she... splashes you in the face with a wave so big and intense she can't possibly have managed it with those dainty little arms of hers. She glares at you for just a second longer and then... she giggles. Oh my goodness, how she laughs! It lights up her face and takes over her entire body, it ripples through the water around her and sends it in waves straight over to you. Her silly, rolling chimes fill the whole bath house, carrying up, up, UP into a shrill and uncontrolled squeak that lifts her bodily and dumps her straight back under the water.

    Before she surfaces, the bubbles tell you she's even giggling down there. She crests again and tosses back her hair, and the last gorgeous notes dibble out of her lips, which are sparkling.

    "Oh Kazelia. Oh sweet, innocent little Kazelia... what have they been teaching you about me? And you went and believed it! You won't cause too much trouble? You don't want to cause too much trouble?! Why even go to Jedad, then? Oh stars, oh little lights, oh rivers! You silly little fish! Have you been thinking about me this way the entire time? Who do you think my best friend is? Why do you think I went to the Bazaar I had to wear so many disguises? Because I actually know how to decorate a lemon cake? Hahahaha, oh no! Well since you're so sadly mistaken, let me tell you..."

    There's a flash of light and suddenly the Ruby of Jedad, brightest of the crown jewels (Shazari's personal favorite!) is dangling off of her wrist just like her sleeve. Alina flourishes and, flash! It's gone again.

    "I would consider it a personal failing," she says with an almost catlike smile creeping across her face, "If you went back to Jedad and didn't cause at least as much trouble as I have. Not that you'll ever want to go back, of course. Not once you've seen what Illumina is really like..."

    Her smile turns wistful as she stares up at the skylight lighting the bath.


    Helya!

    "Because... because I..."

    Her breath catches. Her voice fails her. She tries to take a deep breath but it keeps hitching and stuttering on her. The warmth of Helya's body. The smell of her hair. The coldness in her breast, matching Alina's exactly. The pain. She sniffles. No, no, no, no! She's not doing this, she's not she's not she's not! She has to be strong. She has to be strong so Helya will let go and she can leave. She has to... she has to...

    The tears are flowing freely now. They dribble down her cheeks and splash on Helya's shoulder, now that there's no sword under her chin to catch them. She's held so tightly she can't even lift her arms to hug Helya back. She's a, she's just a... the hand on her back is so gentle. She feels it run through her hair, down her neck, past her shoulders, following her backbone all the way down. So gentle! So soft! So... gentle! Is this, is this, is this? Is it? She lets her face fall all the way onto Helya's strong, warm shoulder and takes a deep breath full of the scent that fills her mind with all sorts of thoughts, not a one of which makes her blush.

    Instead she cries openly. She buries her face in "big sister's" neck and lets the pain and the guilt wash out of her through her eyes until all that's left is the softness of the hand running up and down her back. The softness... and that tiny speck of cold. The secret hurt. The spark of pain that will always connect these two princesses. It connects them. It links them, deeper than magic. Deeper than love. This is their Summerveil, and like the ruined house it is sad, but no less beautiful for it. Alina shudders, sniffles, and finally... rests.

    "We'll... we'll always be... li, like... we a-are... family," she whispers, "aren't we?"
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-12-13 at 05:16 PM.

  16. - Top - End - #826
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    “Devilhome??” Dandy sits up, eyes full of fire. A surprising amount of fire, actually. The kind she usually tries to keep carefully tamped down with meditation and thoughtfulness. “Are you pulling my leg? That would be... sure,” she says, taking a breath, “they certainly wouldn’t mind having buildings knocked over, and you could be as strong as you liked, and you’d probably end up leading an entire gang, but... wouldn’t you end up missing the sun? And you wouldn’t look good at all in a mask.”

    It would have been very easy to make that sound petulant, but Dandy’s self-confidence makes it a simple statement of fact. Why would you mask yourself forever, Adila? No, no, that’s not your style at all.

    “I want you to know that you will always be welcome in Feloria,” Dandy continues, not knowing she is opening the floodgates of terrifying flashbacks.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    Jessamine smiles. It’s a dangerous smile, one warrior to another. If you are the flame that will illuminate the hearts of your people, Kazelia... then Jessamine is a waterfall, a churn of water that will extinguish any who stand against her.

    But there’s definitely respect there. You stood up to her the way she wanted you to, and now she knows that she can trust you to keep her sister safe.

    “We could,” she says, taking a seat once more. “But that’s not the Hyperborean way. We have to keep them distracted, draw out their guards, so that you can succeed in your own quest!”

    How Hyperborean! How... not helpful. If the princesses end up all defeated, it won’t matter if you can undo the defenses on the city.

    ***

    Alina!

    “I don’t deserve to be part of your family,” Helya says, simply. But she holds you still. She holds you until the tears end, and then for a time more.

    Then she lets go, and draws her sword again. Returns to her proper stance. The tip of her sword points down to yours, where it lies on the floor.

    “Another?”

    Because that’s the Laynasdottir way. Feelings? That’s no excuse not to get your sword fighting in! In fact, that’s the best way to just work through them!
    freedom in the flame

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

  17. - Top - End - #827
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    Part of Princess Adila is bitterly lamenting that her beloved friend, Princess Kazelia, is being inducted into a life of crime before her eyes. Oh, how could she have let this happen? Why hadn't she been watching Princess Kyouko more closely? How was she possibly meant to enforce order like this??!??!

    But on a little bit of a deeper level, she sees something in Princess Kazelia that reminds her of herself. In that look, in that exchange... Kazelia is a little bit afraid and uncertain of her own power. She's trying to learn how to control it, and Kyouko is helping her do that. She doesn't register it consciously, but the idea falls like a seed in the deep earth of her subconscious mind.

    She softens a bit after that. She is still fire! She is still dragon! But. You know. She'll put up with this. For now. For the sake of her friend. And no other reason at all.

    Alina!

    Okay! Okay, Alina has gotten her licks in and made her point, but it really is time to end this! So she's a bit slow on the draw, fine, but this isn't a real contest and it's time to remind everyone why!

    Princess Adila struggles out of the last of the tanglewool and opens her wings dramatically, puffing herself up as large as she'll go. And then she sweeps forwards with open wings, filling all the available space and trying to sweep Alina into a tight embrace where all her agility will be for nothing!

    In the Princess Champions of Hyperborea fighting game, Princess Adila has just progressed from 'hanging back while trying to remember a really complicated combo super move' to 'grapple spam'. She is one hundred percent confident in this technique because it carried her through the campaign against AI opponents.

    Dandy!

    +Of course I don't want to go to Devilhome forever. My heart hurts just thinking about it!+ Adila thought. +But... how would I be welcome in Feloria after half of Bounty was burned down by a dragon? I'm just... I'm...+

    The various practical reasonings and arguments swim around in her mind in a vague fog. They're not the point, they're all just surrounding the point.

    +I'm scared,+ she thinks in a small voice. +I don't know what I'd do if I lost a second home.+
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  18. - Top - End - #828
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila

    There is a delicate moment and then Kazelia finishes the bow and inspects her own handiwork. She's no Alina or Kyouko when it comes to delicacy, but she looks satisfied and Kyouko does too. "Knotted with care and love. Most excellent! Yes! Most excellent!" Kyouko gives a tiny little fox paw clap for Kazelia's work and Adila's very kind obliging. "Now, normally, this is the time where either something explodes and we all have to respond immediately or I'd begin the preparations to have you shipped back to the Konkon islands for your eventual wedding. My younger sister did always say that she wanted to ride to battle on a dragon, perhaps I could...no no Kyouko, you committed to the princess alliance. So, we will be letting Adila go presently. But not quite yet, I think we need to do a bit more bonding and then give her some sport for her escape. No Kazelia, let me show you all the best places to scratch a dragon's scales to give them that feeling of euphoria from hitting that place you just can't quite reach. And while we do, my lovely retainers will make preparations for the grand finale."

    Kazelia is gentle at first, but she quickly remembers how strong your scales are Adila. So when Kyouko shows her the right spots just below the belly, on the back of the neck, and the edge of the shoulders, she takes to it with a certain gusto and as she passes in and out of your view, you might notice that Kazelia herself is blushing a bit and seems to be enjoying herself more than one strictly might just from the pleasure of being a good student.

    Alina

    Kazelia is dripping wet and her mouth is hanging open. "I...you...when did you?! Oh stars and void! I mean, I've seen you fight, but I thought you were so dainty, and so kind to everyone. I mean, the lemon cakes of course, everyone that I've talked to about Jedad and Illumina has brought them up, even the Sun! But everything else, I thought maybe it was just general rivalry, you needed to stay hidden so the Jedadi didn't take advantage of you. Shazari's handmaidens were so mean, so of course you needed to be hidden. I just...I didn't realize. I'm so sorry, you must have thought I was completely ignoring you with all that Kyouko and Esmeralda business at the gala too!"

    Kazelia is babbling and blushing furiously as she starts to realize how much of you she has never seen before.

    Jessamine
    "You need to be around after the battle too. No sacrifices! Your goal should be to draw out the guards and then retreat, disappear and get close by stealth so that the second we drop the defenses you can storm the castle. If we sneak in and open the doors, it's not helpful if there are no princesses or soldiers there to seize them. So you should have a stealthy approach. Get close, launch a surprise, and then slip away and get them to chase you in circles. With the princesses here, perhaps you could even magically cultivate some tall grasses as the group advances so you have a place to disappear into without good vision."
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  19. - Top - End - #829
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    The thing about grab moves is that they always look like they're about to work right up until the moment they don't. Alina stands there looking haughty and incredibly annoyed while she waits for you to close the distance. You're there, legs and wings held wide to block her off, and she's statue still. She's got nowhere to go. Then you commit to the lunge, and so does she. She plants her foot on your claw and runs straight up your outstretched foreleg, making no more impact as she goes than would the rain. She settles on top of your head, just where it joins the top of your neck.

    It's hard to see up there, but given the way her battle ribbon twirled on ahead of her and the fact that you can feel soft silk wrap around your throat, you can make a pretty educated guess what she's up to. What is she hoping to do, strangle you? Pointless. She doesn't have the strength. Your momentum will carry you back down to the ground and then you can easily pull off a half twist and either shake her off or pin her properly this time. And that's the moment you feel something else wrap around your back right leg and with a gentle tug suddenly your center of gravity isn't where it's supposed to be and all of your power and momentum is working against you and THUD! Down you go crashing onto the ground again.

    Alina lands lightly on her toes again and flicks her wrist to call her ribbon back to her like a gorgeous, blue silk tail. Normally this is when she would dip into another curtsy, but this time she conjures a panel of reflective light so that you can get a good look at the elaborate pink silk bow she's tied around your neck like an adorable little pet's collar. Oh. Well gosh, that's cute. Also thinking about it, she really hasn't used her magic at all, has she? Not even the magical flame you gifted her, which you'd think would be a necessity for such a tiny thing to stand up to a dragon. And maybe this is when the awful truth finally clicks: she's not really trying. She's not taking you seriously at all right now. And she's winning!

    "...Have you at least figured out why I'm upset, Adila?"


    Kazelia!

    "Well... you did completely ignore me at the Gala," Alina says with a tiny smile still on her face, "But it was worth it for today. Hahaha, this was so much fun! You're so much fun, Kazelia! I never thought I'd meet anyone besides Adila who thought about me like that! And of course she... rivers, she really never told you? You never talked? We met when she got sent out from the Bazaar just to arrest me! Of course, that was probably..."

    She trails off, and just sits there in the pleasantly cool water for a moment.

    "It's not really my story to tell. And anyway I think my days of being the thorn in Shazari's side are just about over. We've had a lot of fun, she and I, but after what happened last time... I don't think she'd take it the right way anymore. Ah, what a shame, we missed our window. You and I, and Rita obviously, we could have pulled a job that they'd sing about for a thousand years. But, haha, I guess it's ok if that song takes place in Illumina instead."


    Helya!

    Alina looks down at the sword on the ground. Then she looks up at Helya. Down. Up. The sword. Helya.

    There are still a lot of words she wants to say, but they dissolve before they find her lips. Her eyes don't soften, they can't anymore, but they do sparkle with a happy, playful green light. And she smiles, bends down, and picks up her saber with a flourish.

    "Another," she agrees, "And then maybe after we could play chess? There's so many stories I still want to tell you..."

    Alina hops playfully from foot to foot. She's radiant. She's perfect. And she gets three moves before her Rowani sister disarms her again.
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-12-15 at 06:38 PM.

  20. - Top - End - #830
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    “Home isn’t a place,” Dandy says, soft but firm. Her fingers play against the scales of your wrist. “It is a state of mindfulness in wherever you find yourself...”

    She shakes her head. “But the places, the people, are hard to leave behind. I could say that all I liked, but if Bounty had been destroyed, if all Feloria was ruined, and I found myself lost and homeless like poor Alina... I’m not sure mindfulness would do me much good, no matter how hard I tried to find my center.”

    She picks up her teacup and takes a meditative sip. The wind shifts, and you can smell all the flowers in Hyperborea coming off her.

    “...whatever you decide,” she says, not looking at you, her attention on everything and nothing all at once, and isn’t it strange how a princess so much smaller than you can have a presence as big as the hills? “You shouldn’t choose out of fear. Fear is a blind guide, flinching away from any noise, good or bad. Choose out of love.”

    And I daresay it’s hard, in that moment, to choose between loving the tall spires of Devilhome and the gentle flowers of Feloria.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    By the time you leave Jessamine’s study, there are several pages’ worth of new annotated maps and battle strategies on her desk. When you look back, you see the princess of Ilumina, her shoulders relaxed, a faint smile on her lips as she closes her eyes and sits back.

    That has to be the most relaxed you’ve ever seen her. And maybe, in some small way, you’ve helped make up for what your father did to her. And maybe, in some small way... you’ve kept the princesses of Hyperborea safe.

    Well done, Princess.

    ***

    Alina!

    The moment I want you to remember is that evening. You’re sitting in the study, there’s a fire crackling in the hearth, and a warm wool blanket over your legs. There is a kitten curled up on your lap, purring up a storm, her eyes shut tight and a smile on her little feline face. Across the board from you is Tashanna, who took over from Helya so that you’d actually have a fighting chance; she’s got little silver sheep earrings and a wool-colored veil, because her fashion skills are impeccable. Helya is sitting at one side of the board, faintly smiling, making little noises of approval or sucking air in between her teeth whenever you move a piece. More the former, which is reassuring.

    The moon’s full and shining through the window, the night watch is baaing the All’s Well, and you are warm and loved and with the family you made yourself, with your own love.

    That’s the moment I want you to keep close in your heart forever, if nothing else in all of Alvonia.
    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.

  21. - Top - End - #831
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    Kazelia!

    Princess Adila is one enormous bag of tension. She doesn't know what good posture is for a dragon and has to hunch a lot to fit through doors. So when a massage starts she melts like butter, instantly and totally incapacitated so deeply and totally that you're not even sure if you need the bindings.

    (This was, in fact, A Ruse. Princess Adila had figured out that with her thoughts muffled she's uniquely capable of lying, so she just needed to be so compliant that her captors would feel comfortable removing the bindings - after which point she would turn the tables and tie them up! For law enforcement reasons! But her plan did not count on the fact that she actually was in dire need of a massage and accordingly would completely melt for-real into total paralysis. The plan at that point reverted to 'wait to be rescued'.)

    Alina!

    Princess Adila arises like a storm. She has finally, belatedly, registered the threat she faces and that she needs to actually strive her hardest if she doesn't want to hit the dirt a third time. Everything comes together for her all at once, all of her strength and tricks and magic. She is Adila, champion of the Watch, dragon of time! She is too powerful and terrible to be stopped! If they knew what she was capable of they'd fear her as much as she feared herself! Behold, her true power! All the wrath of her wounded pride, cut deeply by Princess Iron Star, and deeply again now, comes forth.

    It's basically just button mashing.

    Now she's teleporting behind you! Now she's shooting a laser! Now she's trying to wrap you with her tail! Now she's going for another grab! Now she's trying to block your dodge with her wings! Her fighting style hasn't changed from when she fought Princess Kazelia: 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!

    And, well. There's a reason why there aren't any hostile dragons in Illumina.

    (But beyond all that, she's further impaired by not even being able to truly focus on the challenge. She's distracted by the worry that her friend is mad at her, and that she kind of knows why, and that it's her fault. In addition to everything else working against her she's working against herself just as much)

    Dandy!

    The mist rolls in. Something hiccups. The sun shouldn't be this hot. And... oh. She's crying. Just a little bit.

    They're not tears that come from hurt, or shame, or despair. She's been through a lot of those. These are different. Quieter, gentler... the simple knowledge that she's safe and doesn't need to be afraid. That this won't have to be any kind of goodbye. That she... that she can't live without this either and that she won't have to try and pretend that she could. Her heart feels so full that she can't bear it and for a long moment she just leans into an embrace and isn't anything more.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  22. - Top - End - #832
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila

    Kazelia really warms up to the massage when she realizes how much you're enjoying it. You're closing your eyes in pleasure, so you probably miss the I really need to learn more about my friends scrunched up facial expression that she's got going as her mind works alongside her hands. You also probably miss the retainers scrambling about jiggering with some things on the cart. That's okay though because you are in dragon heaven and rescue will certainly come soon.

    When Kazelia and Kyouko are done, they rest back to admire their handiwork and Kyouko whispers something quietly with Kazelia.

    "Okay, Adila, Kyouko says we're done now since she can't keep you kidnapped with the mission coming up. There's a finale, apparently, but she promised you won't be hurt, so just let me know when it's done if you need help getting out of your bonds and I'll come and help."

    "I'll call this, the KonKon Fireworks Spectacular!" Kyouko says. "I'm still workshopping the name though. Have fun!"

    With that, the fox attendants set several fuses alight to a series of sparklers and rockets that have been set all about the cart, then knock out some stops they had placed around the wheels and set it rolling down the hill, still with you tied up to it. As a final curtesy, Kyouko takes one little steps forward, removes the tiara so you can think-speak, and then steps out of the way as you start rolling downhill and picking up speed as the sparklers set alight in a myriad of colors. She gives you a little dainty wave before the cart tips and you can't see them anymore.

    Back on the hill, Kazelia adds to her notepad: include big finale! Then, as an afterthought, adds a couple more exclamation points.

    We'll leave it to the perspective of all the other princesses what it's like to see the KonKon fireworks spectacular roll toward the castle sparkling and glittering with Adila at the center. There are certainly rainbows and explosions, and there might be some rainbow explosions!

    Alina

    "I can't wait to see Illumina when you've restored it" Kazelia says. She begins to get out of the bath and dry herself off. "But when we're done with ousting my father, you and I, and Rita, are definitely going back to Jedad and we're going to pull the biggest heist they've ever seen. If Shazari's a little on edge from all of this, we'll just have to make sure that we're extra careful to show her that we're robbing her castle of everything valuable in good fun. Besides, I met some sort of thief king when I was there, and I bet he'd be happy to help after we helped him defend the roofs during that whole chaotic fight."

    Jessamine
    Really, nothing more needs be said. Kazelia hums a little tune to herself as she departs, eager to see what the others are up to and get a little fresh air before the proper princess council gets started.
    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)

  23. - Top - End - #833
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    You're much more powerful than Alina is. You're faster and stronger and bigger than she is, and even your light shines brighter than any one of hers can on its own. But she has six, and you have one. She practices, and you don't. So none of it really matters in this moment. Watch a master at work.

    You teleport behind her and it startles her badly to see anything move so fast, but it also means you're not in front of her anymore and she's free to flip away from you with a series of forward hand springs. You fire the laser while she tumbles, and she catches it in a bluish-purple tube that forms like a shield in front of her without even halting her gymnastics. She lands and spins, and stares straight through you. Her ribbon twirls in wide spirals in front of her; she jumps through it when you sweep her with your tail, and she catches the tip with the end of her ribbon and yanks it so your tail whips around and slaps you on the thigh.

    You go to grab her and she moves to jump past you. You get your wings up in her face to block her and her back curves, and through some trick of Illuminan dancing magic this changes her momentum enough to switch from a leap into a backflip, at the height of which she tosses the light tube in your face so that it cracks on your nose and lets the laser she trapped zap back out just a whisper away from your face as it beams harmlessly into the sky. In the second that buys her she's gathered her ribbon around her skirts and tugs them both up with a flick so that when she slides under you they only brush against your belly scales and not the grass or mud that might stain them. You feel her finger tapping you on the back.

    Then when you whip around to snatch her at last, you wind up wobbling and dropping to the ground again as the chain of yellow light connecting all four of the prismatic manacles she's attached to your ankles on her way past you suddenly shrinks and pulls taught, yoinking all your limbs inward and dragging you back down to the earth with a thud. She briefly bends down in front of you so that she can look straight into your eyes. And then, for the first time since you've seen her today... she flashes you a smile. It's like being visited by a summer breeze, or glimpsing a Jedadi sunset out of your window. And I hope it eases your heart a little bit to see it. You're still her friend, Adila.

    Then she hops lightly back a good ten feet and drops into another curtsy. Around the arena there's a smattering of polite applause.

    "Do you still need another round, or can we get to talking?"


    Kazelia!

    Well that pulls her up short. Alina eyes you as warily as she might a rope viper before, at long last, flashing you an uneasy smile.

    "We'll... work through the details later. I can't even, I mean, until I know my Mom... er, my Mother is ok, I don't know that I can think of anything past that. But you're, you know, you're right. You're absolutely right, Kazelia. You're a very good princess, do you know that?"



    A Single, Perfect Moment

    This is a room full of warmth. This is a room full of love. This is a room full of smiles, hopes, and dreams. Alina loses all track of how many games she wins or how many times Tashanna crushes her almost as badly as Helya would because she's always too focused on not losing her Queen.

    But it doesn't matter, not at all. Because the games give way to stories, and the stories give way to gasps and laughter, and the laughter gives way to talk of weddings and lots of other silly things. Helya is of as few words as ever, but the ones she chooses are... soft. Rita is busy being a cat and snuggling Alina so cutely that no ex girlfriends or old crushes could even dream of making a move on the most beautiful princess in the world. Alina's hand on her head, sliding all the way down her back is all the conversation she needs. Her delighted purrs are all the reply the room needs. So it falls to Alina and Tashanna to share most of the burden of conversation, which they do with the kind of warm, relaxed ease of two people who had grown close enough to touch each other's hearts, then drifted away only to be brought back together again in a different shape.

    ...Alina is so lucky. There are no more tears left for her here in Alvonia, her heart has nothing in it but warmth and love. Even the vein of ice running through her has no power to trouble her tonight. Alina has such a large family, the parts that she chose and the parts she was given. Alina is so loved. She is so loved. Something inside of her blossoms like her very own root of Argossa. Outside, the sky fills with rainbow explosions like the aurora that sometimes fills the night sky over Castle Thessia. Yellow, Orange, Blue, Indigo, and Violet glitter on her crown. Green shines happily through her eyes. She doesn't have a Red, even now. And you know what? She doesn't need one. Alina Cascade is whole again.

    It's time for her to go home. It's time for her to see her Mother again. It's time for her to finally heal all of the hurts she's carried around all this time. It's time.

  24. - Top - End - #834
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina!

    The world is upside down.

    She's losing against Princess Helya. Fighting. Cards. Music. Jousting. Magic tricks. Arm wrestling. An endless series of crushing defeats. That didn't count! That was Helya, and Helya was unfairly good at everything.

    She's losing against Princess Iron Star. Fighting. Crime. Dancing. Hearts. Control. Strength. Love. An endless series of crushing defeats. That's didn't count! That was Iron Star, and she was so much more powerful because she was a devil and besides, Adila was distracted by her crush.

    She's losing against Princess Dandy. Health. Sickness. Cooking. Inner peace. Strength. Endurance. Spirituality. An endless series of crushing defeats. That didn't count! That was Dandy, and Dandy's inner strength was an entirely different thing.

    She's losing against Princess Hornet in the fairground games in the Carnival. She's losing against Princess Rita as a little dragon, chased away by a kitten that isn't afraid to hiss and bite. She's losing against Princess Kazelia in a duel but doesn't want to admit it. She's losing against Princess Kyouko because she can't bring herself to resist. She's losing against Princess Alina here, now, in front of everyone. The reaction from the crowd isn't shock and amazement. It's polite applause.

    She's lost against everyone. At everything. She's never won. She's never won at anything! She's not the strongest princess at all! She's... she's the weakest.

    The world isn't upside down at all. It's the right way up. She's just been lying on her back this whole time.

    And all of her self-importance, all of her pride, all of her stubbornness falls out of her head and down into that forever sky.

    +I suck at this,+ she thought. It's not self-pitying. It's not shock or shame. It's wonder. She's awed by the thought. Overwhelmed by the realization.

    It isn't the case that she has reached the top and has nowhere left to go other than to remove herself from the world for its own good like the Devil-Grandmothers of old.

    It's the case that she needs to shape up right now because she's already fallen behind everyone else.

    Her upside-down mind empties out, revealing two secrets deeply buried: hope and determination.

    +I'm good,+ she thinks. +You win. I'm sorry. I'm ready to listen now.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-12-17 at 01:03 AM.
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  25. - Top - End - #835
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    Adila!

    This moment is just for the two of you, and the sheep grazing on the hillside, and the wide open sky, and we shall seal it there. After all, Dandy would never say another word about it. You have your privacy to cry, and nobody else needs to know that the heart of a dragon is so much softer and gentler than her scales.

    ***

    Princesses of Hyperborea!

    Kyouko’s fireworks extravaganza is a thing of beauty. First come the bouquets, popping into showers of burning flowers, orchids and lilies and chrysanthemums. Then come the fireworks that shimmy into the shapes of little foxes with shining tails, doing loops and knots and adorable little backflips.

    Finally, the grand finale: a firework that looks just like a kidnapped Adila, every detail just right, squirming in bright light.

    It’s incredible, you say to yourselves, as Helya and Tashanna troop out to go help the trussed-up dragon with the front row seat: however does she get the knots just right with fireworks?
    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.

  26. - Top - End - #836
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    Alina snaps her fingers, and the chains and all your manacles burst into a wave of butterflies that soar up into the sky in waves of color and color combinations beyond counting. She spreads her arms, and the shapes of their wings merge into beams of light, which draw back to her crown and glitter, if it's possible, a little bit smugly. But she smiles, and her face is nothing of the sort.

    "Then let's start with the most important part: you're still my friend, Adila."

    She walks closer and puts her hand under your chin, and gestures over at a nearby hill. Jousting fields make for great dueling spots, but the crowds are less ideal for heart to hearts. And it's amazing how the grass barely seems to bend under her feet as she walks up there with her tiny dancer's feet, and maybe almost as amazing is the way she looks at you with such softness after all that sharp glaring she's been hitting you with. She pats the grass next to her, and watches the sun float on the horizon.

    "We're still friends," she repeats, "You can't break that just by being a sulky little rain cloud. But you made me a promise. You said you'd help me get my home back. And now that it's finally time to try, you're sabotaging every meeting you show up to, and hiding from the rest. You don't even like Iron Star that way! You promised. I don't want to think that you forgot. But you wouldn't even talk to me. To me! Do you not trust me? Do you not believe me?"

  27. - Top - End - #837
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    +It's not that,+ thought Princess Adila. +It's not that I don't trust you. It's that I didn't trust me. I didn't think I had to try to succeed. I... had this idea that I could just do whatever and it'd work out for everyone, except me, because I'd always mess it up for myself somehow.+

    She rolled over, world spinning in her head as she became right-way up. +But things weren't working out because I was powerful, were they? They were working out because everyone else was trying so hard and carrying me along even though I was off in my own world. I thought I was the best but I just got unlucky whenever I tried things but that's not how it is at all. It sounds silly when I say it out loud...+

    Some part of her still wanted to cringe away and hide from the embarrassment of having been so wrong for so long. But she couldn't afford that luxury - she never could have. +I need to work harder. I will work harder. I won't let you down again.+
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

  28. - Top - End - #838
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "Yes, that's exactly what not trusting me sounds like."

    Alina throws you a long, hard look. And then she melts into wave after wave of giggles. Her hair bounces every which way, and her crown twinkles like stars atop her head.

    "You know why I made that Light for you, right? You sound like you're putting it together, so I'll spare you the lecture I was planning. But if you ever have another bad day and start forgetting what you know right now, I want you to think about what your Silver means. It will light your path. Being a princess is a lot more work than being a dragon, you know. But it's also more rewarding."

    She smiles. She tries her best to sit with you for a good long while, but she's also a Cascade, and rivers are not very good at keeping still. Besides, you've got other places to be right now.

    "Think I'll go bake a cake!"

    She claps her hands together and starts dancing her way down the hill. There's a pause, and then a moment later a bright orange laser singes the ground in front of your feet.

    "Oh silly me, I almost forgot! Never, and I mean never, insult my cooking like that again. Mmk?"

    And with a wave and a dazzling smile, the princess who believes in you more than any other disappears over the crest of a hill on her way back to Castle Artos. Do you like cake, Adila?

  29. - Top - End - #839
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    PRINCESS-CHAMPIONS OF HYPERBOREA
    EPISODE 5: Princess Heist!


    Alina!

    Snow is swirling in the air, underneath a heavy slate-grey sky. Everywhere is color, as always; but the colors are dead silver and bone and dust, and all the countless hues of frigid blue. The sound of water is that of creaking ice and snow crunching underneath your cumbersome black boots. There is sound, but it is the sound of quiet sobbing as Iluminans, the colors of their hair dull and muted, are rounded up and driven towards the looming shadow of your home. Castle Thessia, named after the legendary queen who built its lovely, fluting buttresses and spires.

    It looks sharper now. The ice is slick and jagged on every parapet, and it reminds you of a grasping claw raking at the sky.

    Welcome home, Alina.

    ***

    Kazelia!

    So far, the plan is working. That’s a good sign. The illusions are fine work, but ultimately only minor glosses over the expert cosmetic work and costuming. As long as you don’t have any extended staring contests with real Riders, no one should notice that the stars in your eyes are not moving as they should.

    Your expert infiltration party is quietly sober as your wagon approaches Riversong Square. Kyouko, as ever, is revealing her own hidden depths by not hamming it up and cackling wickedly. Rita is sticking to the plan, determinedly not attracting suspicion by giving her girlfriend supportive cuddles and hand squeezes. And Dandy, the surprise member of your team, hasn’t said a word since you arrived.

    Five Riders makes a squad. Enough to cart around a prisoner. And it looks like you’re not the only ones; there are multiple squads driving Iluminans up towards the castle. How lucky that you fit right in!

    ***

    Adila!

    This... is a lot less comfy than being captured by Kyouko. Sure, she did the actual work, as directed by Kazelia, but... well, as she said, fabric quality matters. And these are heavy, uncomfortable, cold Rider chains. They chafe a little whenever you shift your weight, and the muzzle is so much less gentle than those ribbons.

    The tiara on your head has been given a makeover; it now looks like a proper piece of Rider work, all spiky and glittery, and with straps that go around your horns.

    It’s not that hard to play exhausted, beaten, and defeated under these circumstances, especially after getting trounced by Alina the other day. If you’d tried to charge in and free Ilumina single-handedly, this is how you would have ended up anyway, and it wouldn’t be Dandy (her frizzy hair pulled back into a strict white ponytail) holding the keys to your chains.

    The only problem is that you can’t tell everyone when you notice the upcoming ambush. It’s obvious to your Watch-trained eyes: there’s about to be an attack on the Riders up ahead, from cloaked figures stringing bows and unfurling battle ribbons and taking up sniping positions.
    freedom in the flame

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

  30. - Top - End - #840
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Being volunteered for prisoner duty was the sort of consequence one had to live with after tuning out of the planning councils.

    Princess Adila had not spent much time at all in captivity. In retrospect that had been a product of her laziness - if you don't travel to foreign kingdoms to do crimes like a real princess then nobody really has a chance to capture you. She's inexperienced with helplessness and deception, and even something as basic as conserving her strength instead of struggling for unreachable comfort is new to her, so she's tired from the journey as well and it would be very easy to be miserable about it all.

    But she is not! She is focused, she is dedicated, she is alert! She has a lot to learn and just as much to prove if she's going to start getting the results she wants!

    Contact.

    That cool, clear voice rings through her head and in a moment she goes still. First, urgency. Are you in immediate danger; if so, act to prevent it. Second, motive. What is your objective? How does it compare to the enemy's objective? Thirdly, layout. Who is where, in what numbers, with what exit routes and capabilities. Think it through, compare to the Manual's ambush case study chapter, determine counterplay. You don't know much, Princess Adila, but you know small unit ambush tactics.

    [Look closely with sense: 7

    What is going on here? What do my senses tell me?
    Tell me about the ambush. How could they hurt me? How could they help me?
    Tell me about the ambushers. What are they doing? What will they do next?]
    If the sun won't rise on our horizon
    We'll march on to spite the skies.

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