The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #121
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    +I know I'm a fool,+ thought Princess Adila wearily. +But you should be glad the world still has fools in it.+

    She spread her wings. One last run, leap, soaring glide. Her wings were unsteady, her head still ringing and her vision still blurred. She limped through the sky and soon enough spotted the Pegasus on the breeze. She flew towards it shakily, head drifting down as though she was on the brink of falling asleep in flight. Her scales still held an arsenal of weapons but she was too exhausted to complain.

    Princess Alina was not hurt. That was good. That was... that meant it was worth it.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  2. - Top - End - #122
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    This is not a bath. This is not a bath at all. This is Alina flying around high up in the sky on a pegasus who probably stole its wings from her house, still soaking wet and chilled to the bone and worrying about all her friends. Did Rita make it to the ribbon place ok? Did Kazelia rip herself in half or something? Is she going to be able to pull back together? After what she just did, is she sure she wants her to? What in Ourania's name is she wearing? And where's Adila? Is it a good or a bad thing that everything down there looks like it's on fire? Does it have to be so cold up here? Is she just going to think about Kaja every time she's in the air? Is this her life now? Adila's ok, right? She has to be, right?

    "So," she cuts awkwardly across her own jumbled thoughts. Or, well. Awkwardly for her. To Kazelia she probably sounds like the Hyberborean Semi-Annual Poise Champion right now, "I did warn you. About the Garthim, I mean. I told you, oh just down there by the way, that's where I told Rita to meet us. I told you that anybody controlling them would turn out to be an evil pervert. Next time maybe listen? Were there slimes there too? Oh, I just bet there were. It's a good thing everything's on fire there now. I'm going to miss it, but..."

    She's spared further comment when she spots the telltale signs of dragon flying in the misty distance. Oh thank goodness! If she was ok, then everything was worth it.

  3. - Top - End - #123
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    “There...weren’t slimes.” Kazelia says slowly. She’s recovering up here in the air. She’s still hurt, but less exhausted, her breath and her shadow returning, even if she still feels like she’s floating a few inches from herself. “There were Illuminans, a lot of them, one knight, her name was Tam. And they all served Asteria.”

    Kazelia sighs, slowly rubs her hands along her skirts, trying to smooth them down and offer her some decency while she sat astride a Pegasus. “Asteria likes attention, control over people. After I saw her pull Adila out of the sky and I flew in I thought, I don’t know, I thought if she had me, she wouldn’t be able to resist toying with me if I pressed her buttons. I wanted to buy you time and let Adila get away. But...instead she came back and you were dragged into camp by Kaja and Eska. Was it...was it all for nothing?”
    School Fox by Atlur

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

  4. - Top - End - #124
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    As Princess Adila came into range she clamped down as hard as possible on her thoughts. Ordinarily she was a constant scattery buzz of telepathic noise but now she was very firmly quiet. She didn't need the others to hear her thinking about just how much this hurt. Instead she started mentally reciting the Operations Manual in the back of her head.

    She needed to be strong for them. For everyone.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    "All for nothing?"

    Alina tilts her head, genuinely puzzled. She starts to speak, but her thoughts are interrupted by snippets of an operations manual. Her face falls when she sees Adila flying in, and moreover all the nasty awful weapons sticking out of her body. Oh no, oh no! The poor thing, that must hurt so much! Alina's only ever had one sword actually run her through and even if dragons must be made of tougher stuff than she was, that must hurt so, so much. Her hands fly to her face to cover her gasp. But she shakes her head and continues in a louder voice so that everybody could hear, as they all circle down toward the ground and the berries that meant adventure time in Summerveil was over for the day.

    "Of course it wasn't for nothing! How could it be for nothing? We destroyed the crystal at the heart of that horrible magic. Because of us, this place can be beautiful. Because of us, all the cats of Askaia will still have a place to call home. And we're all... we made it back to each other. That matters too. I know it cost a lot. I know it cost too much. But we won, ok? We won! Askaia will heal and someday a little girl is going to run laughing all the way down that hill and it will be the best day of her life. So don't call that nothing. It's everything."

  6. - Top - End - #126
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    Adila's recitation was knocked off course by the huge wave of relief that came crashing through her. She hadn't wanted to ask - she'd been terrified to ask if they'd actually succeeded or not. Too much slipped out along with that - pain, panic, despair, gratitude, just a huge rush of emotion that came with being told she could stop.

    She missed the landing as a result and crashed into the soft earth of the hill. Every part of her just relaxed simultaneously against her will. That had been the worst day of her entire life and she'd had no idea it was going to be like this when she set out and - once again she forced those thoughts aggressively back. She got back up onto her feet, claws leaving deep divots in the earth. +We have accomplished our mission,+ she thought robotically. +We should return to the city as swiftly as possible for debriefing and second phase planning.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-17 at 08:59 PM.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  7. - Top - End - #127
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    Kazelia let out a breath she hadn’t known she had been holding. “You destroyed it. That’s...that’s incredible! How...” Then her mind catches up to what she’s seeing, Adila all covered with weapons, wounded, clearly beaten up. “Adila I...I tried to protect you, I...when I saw Asteria pull you down, I tried. I’m so sorry.”
    School Fox by Atlur

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

  8. - Top - End - #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Kazelia let out a breath she hadn’t known she had been holding. “You destroyed it. That’s...that’s incredible! How...” Then her mind catches up to what she’s seeing, Adila all covered with weapons, wounded, clearly beaten up. “Adila I...I tried to protect you, I...when I saw Asteria pull you down, I tried. I’m so sorry.”
    Princess Adila stared at Kazelia in her ridiculous dress. So she hadn't imagined that.

    +Debriefing should occur from a position of safety after a period of reflection and contemplation,+ Adilia thought rigidly. +Let us return to the city.+

    Again her thoughts set into that unnatural repetitive droning, like sealed flood-gates.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  9. - Top - End - #129
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    Askaia City

    Princesses!

    Hail the victorious heroines.

    Your accommodations end up being in one of the comfiest beds-and-breakfasts in the city. (Except for Adila, who gets a local park and a tent, with cats moving in and out as they please - and that only after being gone over by cat doctors who remove the weapons of the Riders from you, and after them, perversely, cat acupuncturists who do their best work on you.) You are thoroughly rewarded with hot baths, and catgirl-sized dresses which are rather practical save for the hole for the tail, and heavy quilts, and mattresses you can sink into, and cats draping themselves over you all night long, and-

    Well. If Rita were not here with a good head on her shoulders and a lifelong tolerance of the mists, you’d probably lose a whole week here, in naps and noodle dinners and sunbathing. But Rita knows that you’re on a time limit, and so you end up in an oddly familiar coffee shop no more than a day or two later, surrounded by the smell of roasted coffee beans and hot buttered toast.

    “I don’t think you’ll need to worry about us,” she says to you, brightly. “My mother’s got our shrine maidens working on ways to purify Summerveil and keep the Riders away. We bloodied their noses, and they won’t be back without a plan.” She sounds cheerful, but unspoken is: and if Oberon comes to punish us, what are we going to do about it anyway?

    “Now- wherever you’re going next, I’m coming too. Me and the Lucky Number Seven. So where are we bound?” She looks to you expectantly, tail wagging, as a handsome young tomcat brings your drinks to your table.
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2019-06-17 at 10:57 PM.
    freedom in the flame

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

  10. - Top - End - #130
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thanqol View Post

    +Debriefing should occur from a position of safety after a period of reflection and contemplation,+
    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    “Now- wherever you’re going next, I’m coming too. Me and the Lucky Number Seven. So where are we bound?” She looks to you expectantly, tail wagging, as a handsome young tomcat brings your drinks to your table.
    [Starting note, Kazelia is rested and no longer out of body and she has also had a meal and healed her Sense, spending her last food. Her Grace and Doom remain damaged]

    Kazelia is dressed in new clothes. They're brighter, not the blacks and dark steel of her old armor, but instead some light browns of new leathers (though she's not sure exactly which sorts of animals the cats keep and she'd rather not know) with white fur highlights to match her hair. The outfit is a fairly form-fitting shirt with buttons up the front and short-sleeved with fur around the edges of the sleeves and the collar for ease of movement. Matching leather pants, not too tight even with the tail hole sewn up, ending at the ankles. Simple, easy to move around in. She has her spear tied with a sling across her back, and her bags over one shoulder. Not that any of you would ever violate Kazelia's privacy this way, but if you were to search her bag, you'd find the pink dress, tailored for a better fit by one of the artisan kitty tailors, stuffed in the bottom of one of those bags. For...reasons. Kazelia still looks somber though. Even with their success, you can get the sense from her face that she has been preoccupied thinking about how everything went and it's weighing on her.

    She answer Rita first though, with a genuine smile. "I'm so glad you'll be coming with us, Rita. It will be great to have you along. I hope you can teach me some new songs, all the Rider ones are very old. As for where to go, well, when I had the chance to talk with Eska in the city, she told me that Azora's next target was Jedad. I think we should go there and try to stop her before she has time to create something like the corruption that was here in Askaia. She's pretty tough though, she's a better witch than I am, but all we have to do is disrupt what she's working on, which is a lot easier than breaking up something that's already finished." Kazelia gives Alina a look at that and nods in gratitude.

    Then she orders a hot black coffee and turns and looks at Adila. "You also said that we should debrief formally, and this is as good a place as any, right?" Kazelia stops while her coffee is filled and takes a long sip of it without adding anything to it. Her sharp teeth gleam white as she licks her lips, and it looks like she has something she's been thinking about saying. "Adila I...when I left the Riders, I promised myself that it wasn't just about being angry at my family. That I wouldn't just throw everything away to get revenge. I wanted to protect this world and all its beautiful things, and that means protecting my friends. I charged in after you got hurt both in the city and at the camp to help protect you. I stayed with Eska to keep her distracted and I stayed with Asteria for the same reason, even letting her humiliate me to buy time for all the rest of you. And it...worked, Alina destroyed the Slaugh. But you got hurt anyway. Eska shot you, you got stabbed and cut by the soldiers and the valkyries and...and I failed you. I failed you Adila and I'm so, so sorry. Please, at least let me offer you my healing and I...I swear I'll do better in the future."
    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 - #131
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    Then she orders a hot black coffee and turns and looks at Adila. "You also said that we should debrief formally, and this is as good a place as any, right?" Kazelia stops while her coffee is filled and takes a long sip of it without adding anything to it. Her sharp teeth gleam white as she licks her lips, and it looks like she has something she's been thinking about saying. "Adila I...when I left the Riders, I promised myself that it wasn't just about being angry at my family. That I wouldn't just throw everything away to get revenge. I wanted to protect this world and all its beautiful things, and that means protecting my friends. I charged in after you got hurt both in the city and at the camp to help protect you. I stayed with Eska to keep her distracted and I stayed with Asteria for the same reason, even letting her humiliate me to buy time for all the rest of you. And it...worked, Alina destroyed the Slaugh. But you got hurt anyway. Eska shot you, you got stabbed and cut by the soldiers and the valkyries and...and I failed you. I failed you Adila and I'm so, so sorry. Please, at least let me offer you my healing and I...I swear I'll do better in the future."
    Princess Adila looked down at Kazelia.

    She was covered in bandages and her thoughts had been shallow and twitchy for some time. But the fear had lessened its grip on her heart and, with distance and the familiar, comforting buzz of urban life around her, she'd reached a point of calm. Her golden gaze was steady, her thoughts coming slow and rolling and considered.

    +Are you okay?+ she thought.

    +I didn't consider how hard this must be for you before, but I should have. You've decided to go up against your family. I can't even imagine turning against the Watch and they're a professional organisation. I never once considered how hard this must be for you. How complicated this whole thing must be for you emotionally.+

    She lowered her head a little. +I understand if you need to take time to think things through. Even if you need to stay here and catch up with us later. You're carrying a terrible burden and it's okay if you're not ready.+
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  12. - Top - End - #132
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    Nobody should ever run through something like the Slaugh. Illuminan silks are made to love the water, but by the time she got back to Askaia City, Alina was wearing tatters. So it is that she's sitting in this coffee shop dressed in something Rita gave her instead. Her hair's pulled back into a loose, wavy ponytail with bangs that bounce across her forehead, and her glass armor is worn in its usual pieces overtop a fitted, deep green cloth dress with petal sleeves and a skirt ending just past her knees. She wears it well, and her shin guards are a surprisingly nice accent to the sandals. With her crown still perched stubbornly on top of her head, she looks like... well, like Alina Cascade, but disguised as someone else's idea of her.

    And very, deeply relaxed. Goodness, as soon as she'd seen Adila being properly cared for, the only thing that could drag her out of those baths was her bed. She'd missed it! She'd forgotten how good it was! She was riding the high of decent food, good drinks, warm water, and a city full of people who, for once, weren't looking at her like the world's most attractive screw up. Nothing could bring her down from this. Nothing at a--

    "Um. Yes, I agree with Princess Adila. I know that I'd fall to pieces if I had to fight my sisters. I'm sorry for not considering how much more toll this must take on you, please take the time you need to get back on your feet, and in the meantime we'll go... somewhere. Like not Jedad! I know Feloria is getting close to a harvest festival and I'm sure a couple of extra princesses would really move that along! Or, um... we could go to Hobling Keep and see if they could make a replacement for Pearlion. I've heard some rumors about the islands near here, too! Or... or... Rowan? Rowan's lovely this time of year. There's so many places we could be! So we'll just... you know, go there, and you can rest, and we'll all have a wonderful time not being in Jedad. Which I'm sure is completely fine. Right?"

  13. - Top - End - #133
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    This wasn't what Kazelia had wanted. She wanted to make peace with Adila, she thought the dragon was mad at her for failing. She wanted to apologize, to do better. Now she looked panicked. Anything but this. Anything but being left behind doing nothing.

    "No! I, no! I want to help." Calm breath, if she started freaking out, they'd just think even more that something was wrong with her. Just be calm. Do not, under any circumstances start crying

    "I want to make amends for what my family has done. I couldn't bear to just watch while my father tries to destroy everything beautiful in this world. I couldn't bear it!" Kazelia, do not start crying, Riders do not cry, this is completely unacceptable. But her traitorous body was not listening to the little voice in her head at all, so instead she looked away from everyone and put an arm over her eyes and tried to pretend that everything was fine even as she sobbed and her arm grew wet.

    After a moment, it was clear to her that trying to wait for the crying to stop didn't work at all, so she spoke through those tears instead, quietly, but urgently, words spilling out of her as she tried to say everything she wanted to say all at once even as lines streaked her face from her dark and starry eyes. "Please, my sisters are all under his spell, they can't hear the Singers anymore. I need to help them and show the whole world that father is nothing but a lying old man. I have to, I'm the only one that can hear them, can really hear the old songs because of what Father has done. I need your help. I need...I need to be someone that can help you, I need to learn how to do that! Because if I sit by and watch father destroy anything else now...now when I finally know what he really is I...I couldn't it would tear me apart."

    She can't bear to meet the eyes of the others, what she hopes are her friends. She can't bear the thought that they wouldn't let her come with them now. Instead, she takes out the little wooden box she carries, places it on the table and opens it. It has no gears or springs, no metal hinges, just wood and a small slip of paper within. But from it, a song drifts gently outward, the dolorous song, the song that set Kazelia free, that she knew in her heart even her father could not withstand. And she listens and waits and hopes.
    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)

  14. - Top - End - #134
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    Princess Adila took a moment to lament her no-hugging policy. The Captain had been clear: the emotional reassurance was not worth the additional strain on the infirmary. One of the many little gestures she'd outgrown.

    She focused. She'd been trained for this.

    +Look,+ she thought. +You're tangled up between multiple different things. You love your sisters and want to save them. You hate Greymane and want to topple him. You love this world and want to protect it. You feel guilty because of what you've done. You want to protect us because we're your friends. You've been raised to fight independently and bravely. These are all important and terrible things and you're having to carry them all at once. But they're all asking you to be a slightly different kind of Princess.+

    Moving physically closer was a complicated multi stage operation. She had to check behind her in either direction to make sure there would be no cats underfoot, stand up, sweep her tail out behind her gently to scoop up anyone she'd missed, back up a few steps, lay down on all fours again checking for cats, and then bring her head in closer. The attention she had to pay to it slightly undercut the moment but she felt like the gesture was important enough for it.

    +We're not saying that we want you to leave. We're not throwing you out or calling you useless or saying you need to do nothing. We're saying that you've got the hardest job of all of us. We're fighting to restore Illumina - it's clear for us, even if it's difficult. I'm not sure what your happy ending looks like. Does it involve banishing your sisters, putting them in jail, talking them around to our way of thinking? When I see Princess Spite I see a criminal I need to defeat, distract, and avoid. You see your sister and every moment you've ever shared together. It means we're fighting different battles, and the Operations Manual indicates that -+ her thoughts tumble over each other abruptly as she panickedly remembers that not everyone considers the Operations Manual to be a holy text. +If - if we're not on the same page t-then we might get hurt.+

    She gracelessly tries to recover. +That's what I'm saying. I just want you to know where your heart lies.+
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    Askaia City

    Rita jumps onto the table on all fours. As a cat, mind you, she doesn't just go feral and vault onto the furniture for no reason, though if you spent some time reminiscing with Alina about childhood vacations in Askaia you'd learn that this is indeed a very necessary qualifier. Once again, she gets right up in your personal space, and this time she doesn't even have the excuse of getting her scarf caught on you. She presses herself against you and begins to purr, a sonorous and pleasant drone from the very depths of her.

    And what happens is-

    Well, it is very good that Adila takes the time to sweep and check in all directions for cats, because every time you turn around, there's another cat. The half-blind cook, settling herself down by your thigh. The tomcat busing the tables, who drapes himself lazily across your lap. The door is open; cats go in and out as they please, and today, there is reason for them to come in. They come in all their shapes and sizes, from the tall ginger ladies to the stub-tailed young toms, until there is an Askaian concert all about you. It is a way of saying: you are loved. You are welcome. We witness your tears, and do not judge them; but we will make a great noise to shake heaven until even those tears pass away and you have lost yourself in the mist again. There is no such thing as a sorrow that lasts forever, no matter how deep it yawns beneath you. We are the cats of Askaia! And we are here so that you will not be alone.

    Let your companions say as they will! Words are good, and you understand them well; but we are the cats of Askaia, and we know that there is nothing in the world so marvelous as we, and so we will be humble and let them explain your way out of these tears, even as we make for you the rope and the hook, and invite you to begin the ascent.
    freedom in the flame

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

  16. - Top - End - #136
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    At first, Alina doesn't move from her seat, though she's quick to make a handkerchief out of soft green light and float it to Kazelia. It's somehow warm and cool at the same time, and more soothing than it has any right to be. She watches from her seat with a soft smile on her face, fingers tracing back and forth across her neck where the chain for a certain necklace should be. It's only after the room has settled into a quiet purr that she opens her mouth to add something of her own.

    "I spent a year wandering around Hyperborea asking for help to take Illumina back. I got a lot of promises, but the only princesses were you guys here. And at first, I didn't know what to make of that. I thought it might be providence, that Ourania sent you to me to take the place of the colors Oberon stole from me and that together we'd make a prism. And maybe you are a gift, but you're not here to be one of my lights. You're here because you know the hurt that Oberon can cause. You're here and risking everything you've ever known because you don't want to see that hurt in anyone else's eyes. That's a precious gift, and I would never push it away."

    There's a moment where she hesitates, thinking about what happened to Eska. She saw it, and worse than that she understood it. But in the end it doesn't matter. Kazelia is just the same as Kaja: it's not the terrifying things she's capable of that makes a difference, it's her ability to cry and care in spite of them. She fills that pause with a hug, delicately wreathing her arms through cats and not letting go no matter how cold it gets.

    "I know how this ends," she says softly, "We're going to rescue every one of your sisters from the viper's nest they're trapped in. And we'll all stand against your father together. I don't know what that's going to take yet. But I've seen it, Kazelia. I've seen it. They've got the same spark that you do, and we're going to draw it out. That's why I wanted to make sure you were rested. I don't want you to stay behind, I want you well. I'm asking you to help me walk the hardest path there is, because we're going to have to fight, and when we do we'll need each other to remember why we're doing it."

    She lets go, and she takes a step back to stand a little closer to Adila. Her mind is full of thoughts of Summerveil now, flooding with memories of what it was, what He made it into, and what she hopes it will become. Not the same, but not worse either. And she swallows, because she realizes that if she opens her mouth again she's going to shut the door on her life the way she knew it. Possibly forever. She wipes a pair of sparkling tears from the edges of her eyes.

    "You'll help me, right? Let's make a new Illumina..."

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    Kazelia lets the cats come near her, holds onto Alina’s hug for all she’s worth, and puts a hand on Adila as she’s come near. It is the warmest that Kazelia has ever felt. Perhaps the warmest any Rider has ever felt. Perhaps...had they always been such a cold people? Something distant flashed in her mind, grass and sunlight from a place very, very far away. There was singing in the distance, not the dolorous song, but something happier.

    Some moments later, Kazelia reaches out and closes the music box. “Yes, I’ll help you build that new Illumina Alina. I’ll believe in that ending and in my sisters and...” here she looks at Adila “in the meantime if we need to stop them and arrest them so they can’t do harm, I think that’s the right thing to do.” She wipes her cheeks with the glowing green handkerchief and looks up at Alina, and something about that handkerchief made of light just strikes her as utterly hilarious and she giggles and can’t stop herself.

    It’s only when that too has passed that she lets out a breath. “I need to learn to work better with all of you” a nod to Adila, and what she had said about fighting alone. “And I need to teach you what I know about my sisters and my father. And we need to get going because as good as it would be to spend a week recovering, Azora works quickly and efficiently. We don’t have the time to give her.” An apologetic look at Alina. “I think it has to be Jedad. Eska told me she herself had plans for Hobbling Keep as well, but, um, we have a long time before we need to worry about that. So Jedad is where we should go. I promise to rest on the way. Travel here is...much easier than the kind of travel the Riders used to do, it’s very relaxing.”
    Last edited by Anarion; 2019-06-19 at 08:28 PM.
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  18. - Top - End - #138
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    In a perfect world, Alina would have flashed her most dazzling smile and a room full of cats and princesses would have all turned to her and called her wise and beautiful because she'd done the right thing despite it being hard and been there for a friend in a time of crisis. She'd been supportive and graceful and just committed herself to a vision of the world where she cleared a space in her home for the people who had invaded it and kicked her out and turned her into a mockery. So really, shouldn't she be allowed to have a moment to bask in that feeling? You couldn't have let the moment go, Princess The-World-Is-Six-Seconds-Away-From-Ending, We-Have-No-Time-To-Waste? She flinches, and turns her head to hide the flush in her cheeks.

    "Ok," she begins in a smooth and measured tone, "But have you considered the possibility that Eska was lying to you? And that Jedad is dry and awful, which is surely a potent natural defense against Rider invasions? Or maybe you heard wrong! It's probably not necessary to go to Jedad after all, I would really, deeply hate to waste everyone's time with this, they probably don't even want anything from a bunch of silk thieves and belly dancers. Right? There's just no reason for anyone to go there! And again, Rowan is right on the border of Illumina so if we just popped on over there and secured an alliance that would give us a perfect vantage point to keep apace with Oberon's plans and movements, wouldn't it? Actually, let's put this to a vote: if you want to waste everybody's time and go to Jedad just raise your hand."

    Left unspoken: The Queen of Jedad has seven (7) different bounties on the head of Alina Cascade (to be delivered alive, of course. Nobody's that barbaric). Because she is awful and petty. And also that is how many times Alina stole the sacred jewels of the royal family.

  19. - Top - End - #139
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    +...+

    Gears turned in Princess Adila's head.

    She'd left Jedad in the first place for the sole purpose of finding and arresting Princess Alina. She'd been tracking her down when she'd run into Greymane and the Riders, and then Alina had told her all about how Illumina was in trouble and she just had to help her, and of course she had agreed because that was the noble thing to do and Alina was very pretty and convincing. So she'd soon enough forgotten all about her original mission and they'd wound up here... but now it was all creeping back into her head. Was... was this just like one of the old stories? Where there'll be a tale written about how the cunning Princess Alina tricked the mighty dragon into saving her kingdom?

    Had she just done that same thing with Princess Kazelia?

    Her eyes narrowed. What would Princess Valissa do?

    She raised her hand. +I think we should go,+ she thought. +After all, we were both on our way there before this started and it would be very rude of us to leave our hosts waiting for longer than we have.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-19 at 08:09 PM.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  20. - Top - End - #140
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    Kazelia looked chagrined. She didn’t know all the background, but Alina obviously didn’t want to go to Jedad and she had just been so nice to Kazelia so pushing this seemed like a really not nice thing to do. But then Adila did want to go, and she said they had been heading there already? That was kind of confusing but it seemed rude to ask. So Kazelia slowly raised her hand. “Eska could be lying, but it’s all we have to go on...”
    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)

  21. - Top - End - #141
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    Askaia City

    Here’s the thing, Alina. You’ve been friends with Rita for basically ever. Just the two of you, one with cat ears and sharp little cat teeth, since you were a kid and she was a kitten. Heck, she was your partner in crime in at least two of those heists. She knows exactly how risky it is for the two of you to go back! Also, you are currently in a quantum state of maybe being smooch friends, which is a powerful bond.

    But she is also a cat. And in every cat is a little streak of perversity and daring and mischief. So she turns around on Kazelia’s lap, looks you right in the eyes, and with all the powerful energy of a cat knocking a cup off a table while maintaining direct eye contact, raises her paw.

    So, uh. Outvoted. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to hide in Jedad! I heard they invented this amazing piece of clothing that lets you hide your face. And don’t you worry, Rita’s got your back until the end of the line.
    freedom in the flame

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    I don't think there is such a time to have veils that it is not the fault of Raz_Fox.
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    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

  22. - Top - End - #142
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    The look on Alina's face is one half horror, one half pout, and one half complete and utter betrayal. And she stands there stuck like that for a full moment and a half, just staring at that accursed, adorable little paw hanging in the air, and it's worse because she knows she can't stay mad. So she hangs her head and slowly, ever so slowly, raises her own hand.

    "Fine then. But you're all going to feel really silly when we get there and nothing's wrong. Also please don't tell anybody that I'm coming. Or... or say my name at all for any reason while we're there. That'll really help smooth over this investigation."

    Ok, step one: find a distraction along the way and get these princesses separated from each other. That'll give her time to win them over to the right side of this argument. Anything will do, just some reasonably plausible mini-stop to delay the inevitable. Step two: just in case that doesn't work: maybe think a little bit about route into and out of the palace? You know, see if you can go eight for eight. For old times' sake! She glances at Rita and giggles in spite of herself.

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    The Ridgeback Mountains

    Something is missing. That was the thought that spurred Stheno to wakefulness from dreams of gold and sapphire. Something that is mine is missing. A dish? No. A goblet. Goblins made that goblet, and then it belonged to a princess of Rowan, and then it belonged to me, she said to herself. Also it had unicorns painted all over the sides and nothing is as sleek and beautiful in all the world as a unicorn - except for me. The fires roared inside her. Who would dare come into her home and take something from her? Oh, you heard about it, everyone knew a friend of a friend whose hoard had been stolen, but you never thought it would actually happen to you! Wrath! Fire and ruin! She would go and burn tree and field and home until someone brought it back, one way or another- that was their problem to deal with now! This is how conflict resolution works!

    She slithered furiously through her antechamber and out into the cold air of the mountain's side. The sun was setting: doubtless the thief thought they could get away by night! Ha! The eyes of a dragon cut through night and snow and storm alike! She gathered her strength and prepared to vault from the spur of rock before her front porch, and that is when the goblet rolled over the stones to bump against her foreleg.

    "My apologies," the thief said, leaning against the mountainside, his face set to the darkening horizon. "It seemed the easiest way of waking you up."

    "Easiest?" Stheno let out a bellow of fury that shook loose rocks and scree all about. "How dare you, you impudent little monkey! Do you know who you are talking to? I should set you on fire and push you off the cliff to see if the fire goes out before you hit the bottom!" Her tail slammed against the floor, leaving a spiderweb of cracks right in her front porch. Clearly his fault for getting her all riled up!

    "Stheno. Of the Gold, which I thought rather on-the-nose until I had the chance to see you. You're magnificent, you know. All that power and strength coiled underneath those scales... it's been some time since I was a dragon. Maybe I'll indulge myself again."

    Stheno squinted at this idiot. Okay, now she actually felt a little relieved she hadn't tossed him over the side. It would have been bad karma to kill someone who was obviously mentally challenged. Like a pathetic little monkey like him could ever have been a dragon. Then he turned on his heel, flashed her a smile, and- wait. What was wrong with his eyes?

    "But not yet. That wouldn't be sporting. Where's the challenge in breaking in a dragon as a bigger, stronger, more potent dragon?" He chuckled, and a chill ran all the way down Stheno's spine. Unfortunately, she hardly felt it, because the fires of rage were blazing out of control. When she snorted, it licked at her nostrils and tickled the back of her tongue. Maybe she'd risk that bad karma.

    "All right. Enough foreplay," the doomed fool said, drawing his little knife. What an idiot! Bringing a knife to a dragon fight? No, she was definitely doing the world a favor- she was going to save it from ever seeing children as stupid as he was!

    (And if Stheno had been an older dragon, or a smarter dragon, she would have stopped and thought to herself: maybe there is a reason he is not afraid. But it is the nature of Oberon Greymane to punish stupid little girls, even ones who can breathe fire and can crush a tree without trying.)

    ***

    At Sea

    Kaja had a cabin all to herself on the way back, though all of Eska's gadgets and scrap was heaped up on the other bed in the cabin, which meant that Kaja had some precious time all to herself tonight. And to make sure she had it, she was sitting with her back up against the door, making sure nobody would be able to open it while she looked at her contraband, her new necklace now on the outside of her shirt.

    The queen's face was a lot nicer in the picture. But what Dad did to her wouldn't generally flatter anybody, you know? There was something about it that made Kaja feel... soft. Kinda warm, really. She traced the shape of the queen's jaw with one finger. Yeah. That's where Alina Cascade got her face. Both faces were really nice. I mean, she didn't really want to kiss Alina's mom, but she was objectively, you know, definitely kissable, and if Dad weren't really insisting he wanted to marry the High Queen he could do a lot worse than marrying Alina's mom. But wait nope actually that's a terrible idea because then Alina would be her sister and it'd be super gross for them to kiss again and they'd have to live together and eventually they'd end up holding hands and then she'd just have to commit doubly illegal kiss crimes.

    ...oh. Right, she said to herself. This? This is the face of the enemy. And when her daughter comes home- when one of Kaja's sisters brings her home- Father will... he'll do very bad things to her. She'll be lucky if she gets to be frozen out in the gardens. Which means that it's stupid to spend time thinking about her, because Father wants her punished, and Kaja has her orders, and Kaja is a good daughter. The paper trembles in her hands. Even keeping this is bad. It's useless and compromising and what if Father finds it and realizes she disobeyed him on purpose? No! She is a good daughter! She is a good soldier! She took the paper firmly by the top and, without giving herself the chance to think about it, tore it in half with a sharp, violent pull.

    The sound- the sound was too much. She stopped, looked at the two ragged pieces she held in her hands, and then, in rising panic, tried to put them back together. "No," she breathed. "No, no, no, stupid, stupid, stupid, you're so stupid, Kaja," she said, in rising panic, as she looked at the picture she had just ruined. Even if she sewed it back together it'd be so obvious it had been damaged, and that'd be risking tearing new holes in it, and she'd just ruined the picture that Alina Cascade had given her like a big stupid clumsy idiot, because that's what she was, and the next time they met Alina Cascade would ask her "hey what'd you do with that picture of my mom I gave you, can I see it again, because I really miss her" and she'd have to say "no, I tore it up," and then Alina Cascade would never talk to her for the rest of her life and she'd live a really long time while frozen out in the gardens and every time Kaja walked past she'd remember that even if Alina Cascade weren't frozen she still wouldn't talk to her.

    And because it hurt and there wasn't anything else she was holding she crumpled up the two stupid awful pieces of paper into tight little balls and threw them across the cabin as hard as she could, so hard that they made a louder noise than paper should be able to make at all, and then hid her face in her hands for a while and hoped that nobody walking past the cabin could hear her. Somewhere in there, she ended up holding the little crown against herself, wishing- well. It's not my place to say.

    Then she got up, solidly, wiped at her running makeup, picked up the crushed-up pieces of paper, and started slowly, carefully, flattening the creases out. Because just because something was broken didn't mean it couldn't be fixed later.

    ***

    The Soffkin Hill Country

    There was something about the two women that gave Jacen the willies something fierce. It wasn’t just the star eyes, though folks over across the way in Feloria had been telling stories about really mean princesses which had them, and it wasn’t just the way the temperature dropped standing nearby them, and it wasn't the way that his sheep had taken one look at the two of them and then decided that the grass was much more interesting on the other side of the hill, which happened to be as safely out of their line of sight as possible. It was the way they were standing, like they were very busy, but also like they might decide they were upset with him at the drop of a hat. Plus, the one wearing all the smoky ribbons was really looking at him, and you couldn’t tell if they were blinking or not, what with the star night eyes, but you really got the sense that even if she had regular person eyes she still wouldn’t blink.

    “Boy.” That one was the one with the practical bob of white hair and the feathery cloak, the one who might as well have had Hello! I Am The Oldest Child embroidered on her dark corset, given Jacen's experiences with his oldest sister, who was exactly this kind of bossy, too. “We require you to solve a... difference of opinion the two of us have. Now, the Deep Hollow is north of here and easily found by following the road, correct?”

    “North?” Jacen fidgeted nervously. You had to let a gal like this down easy. “Well, not exactly, ma’am. My lady. Miss. To get to Deep Hollow you’ll want to cut across the woods here heading north-west and then squeak squeak squeak.”

    Azora Howl took a long, calming breath as the mouse formerly known as Jacen scurried off into the long grass, and did not look at her sister’s oh-so-very-smug-and-hexable face.

    “He probably says that to all the foreign princesses, you know,” she said in her best, most even tone. “Keeps them lost.” She folded the map evenly, let it vanish with a snap of her fingers, and then turned north-west with a flourish of her cloak.

    Morgina stayed, watching the long grass and licking her lips, until her sister called for her; and it was a long time before the mouse dared to snap off a stalk and start writing HELP HELP ITS ME JACEN in the dirt.

    ***

    Endless Night, Beyond the Rim of Ouroboros

    Hello, Eska Glinteye said to herself, sitting by the campfire. All around her, the black roiled and swam; above her, the smoke endlessly became nothing once more. Welcome back, she said to herself, my beautiful girl. I just had the most interesting conversation with a pretty young princess named Alina Cascade, and I'll tell you all about it. Come and sit with me a while, dearest.





    End of EPISODE 1: Peril in the Jungles of Askaia!
    Tune in next week for EPISODE 2: Veils and Masks!
    And don't miss the bonus web-exclusive short connecting the two: Let's Training!
    Last edited by Raz_Fox; 2019-06-20 at 04:41 AM.
    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."
    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.

  24. - Top - End - #144
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    PRINCESS-CHAMPIONS OF HYPERBOREA
    WEBISODE 1: Let's Training!



    A Nameless Island

    Adila and Alina!

    It is a law in Hyperborea that all must be fruitful. For this reason, this is not a blasted place of grays and browns; the mouldering dock is overgrown with hanging ivy, with broad leaves trailing in the water. So, too, the slate-grey, chalky earth yields up dark but hearty trees, purple and blue flowers in thick bushes, and there flit butterflies across the path, even here, even in a forgotten place, a spur of rock given up by the sea.

    All the same, words must be spoken with intent in a place like this; they struggle for birth against a smothering quiet. Above the treeline, uphill, can be seen the sacred gate of a shrine; its heavy white ropes hung in honor about it are threadbare and ragged. The stone steps are similarly overgrown with moss and grass, to the point where it is only the regularity of the slope that reveals them, at times.

    Within- once you pass under the sacred gate- there is a flowering root, the size of a tree in its own right, made from stone. Here is where one of the many roots that hold the world entire together emerges from the seabed, curls up towards the light of the sun and moon, and breaks its rough crust to reveal veins of living amethyst and quartz, delicate petals fluttering in the breeze with a sound like old and dusty bells.

    The petals lie upon the cobblestones, in the gutters, heaped up in piles thick enough to use as a bed, though each one is as thin as Iluminan gossamer. They emit a sweet and heady smell: the strange and marvelous decay of gems as they lose the light in their heart, the life they have drunk deep from ageless Argossa. All around, there are abandoned cobwebs; outbuildings made from that same dark wood, holes poked through the papered-over windows; paper tags and ribbons in a state of decay and rot; mushrooms, mold, and grass poking up through the cobblestones; petals, heaped up in a place where you did not expect them to be.

    It is similarly a law of Hyperborea that these root-trees must be respected. Not worshiped or praised or sacrificed to, but simply respected, the way that one would respect a revered elder. To leave the shrine as it is would be offering disrespect. I do not think this needs to be spoken out loud, or telepathically announced; it is known. This is the way that things are.

    And you can spare a day, and catch up to the Lucky Number Seven after you're done.

    Spoiler: The Shrine
    Show
    Spooky: damage this when you overreact to something that turns out to be harmless.
    Neglected: damage this when you tell us about the ritual chores of the shrine, then carry them out.
    Mysterious: damage this when you find art of some sort, tell the Overlord what its composition is, and learn what it reveals about your people. This stat must be damaged twice.
    Cheerless: damage this when night falls, the crickets begin to sing, and you light lanterns.

    When all these stats are damaged, the scene will end.


    ***

    The Lucky Number Seven

    Kazelia!

    "I know how Adila does it." That's what Rita says to you, while you sit together with her on the side of the barge, your legs dangling over the edge, kissed with sea-spray and sunlight. Let me take a minute, though, to digress here about Rita von Catabas.

    She's slim and boyish, perhaps a year or two younger than Alina, with messy brown hair, the sort that will never straighten out or lay flat. Her skin is deeply sun-tanned, the same color as her fur, and when she grins, she has teeth that aren't quite as scary as yours, but still are undeniably feline. She dresses in reds and oranges, her trousers end below the knee, she bares her shoulders and disdains shoes, and she indulges in a feather motif whenever possible. Also, she has a bandana tied about her brow, in a sailor's fashion, and altogether looks much more comfortable like this than she did in coats and snowshoes.

    "Her voice, I mean." She presses her fingers to her temple and opens her green eyes wide. "HAS ANYONE SEEN A CRIMINAL? I LIKE RULEBOOKS. WHY ARE ALL THESE CATS ON ME I LIKE THEM THEY ARE WARM AND FUZZY AND CUTE. WHOOPS DID I SIT ON THAT SORRY." She drops the act and laughs freely, affectionately. "It's because she has a very big heart. All dragons do."

    The conversation meanders here a little; I think that Rita sees a shark and gleefully waves to it, and teases you that your smile might have more teeth in it than the shark do, and it takes you a little bit to get back to the topic at hand.

    "It's her heart speaking," Rita says, not looking at you, but just because the sunlight's sparkling on the waves just so, and you don't really need to look at her either. You can watch, and imagine that Ourania's dancing on the waves, each step leaving light in her wake. "We cats know all about hearts. Ours are the wisest and calmest and humblest anywhere ever," she says, with what is possibly mock seriousness.

    There is a moment where the two of you just watch a seagull go by. Then, she adds, casually, "I think I heard yours when I was in your lap. It sounds like a whole bunch of people singing, really far away, forever and ever. I think if you really tried, if you listened to your heart and wished really hard, amazingly hard... I think you could let people hear your song."

    That's that; that's all; unless you intend to press the issue. Being Kazelia Swiftlance, I am almost certain that you will- that what she has said is the sort of thing you would seize on immediately, awestruck and shocked-

    But you don't have to!

    Not while the barge bobs along the waves and cats rush by in their adorably tiny bandanas and belts. This is the sort of moment where you don't have to if you don't want to, is all. You know what I mean. The sun is warm on you and Shiva is doing loops a mile off and the Singers are humming so low and soft that everything else is encompassed in them, if you understand me. Savor the moment as long as you would like.
    freedom in the flame

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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.

  25. - Top - End - #145
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    This is the most beautiful place Princess Adila has ever seen.

    She's seen the city, the desert, the ocean, and the frozen lands of Greymane. She'd never seen anywhere like this. Quiet and green and woven through with stone and shadow. There were the shapes of buildings; the implications of towers. Earth too straight and sharp to have been carved by the wind and weather, foundations now crowned with stacks of old bricks tossed apart by stubborn trees. The quiet was unfathomable. Every old, smooth stone she looked at challenged everything she knew. If all the people were to leave the Bazaar and let the wind and sand take back the city, would it one day look like this?

    This was the first time in all her life she'd been somewhere with just a single other person. It was the first time in her life she'd ever been anywhere so silent. She'd never flown far from the city, even though she could - the silence had always deterred her, as real and physical a barrier as the desert. When she'd first traveled she'd kept close to Brill and the various guides she insisted on hiring to lead them through the wilderness. With each new heart she'd collected on her travels she'd felt a bit more connected to that thriving, all-encompassing hum of a city. A ship was a small thing but it still had the familiar patterns of industry, community, conversation and laughter. A ship was a house and a hearth and a family. It wasn't home, but it was in the same category of things as home.

    And this place was...

    She could see the patterns of the place as clear as daylight. Every twist and turn of those ruined foundations was laid out in painstaking diagrams in the Operations Manual. This is the outer picket wall. Fallback lines. Countercharge dugouts. Duelling field. Main wall. Keep. Barracks compounds. A raised space... that wasn't in the manual? Other signs. The muster yard was off grid, re-aligned to face a huge and ancient tree stump that must have towered above the entire island before it was chopped for wood and so the Captain would have a place to stand and address her troops. She'd spent her whole life in a place just like this one, set out to the same standards. She could navigate the ghost fort with her eyes closed but for the hundreds of years of trees and flowers.

    This had been a place of war. A place of industry, discipline, community, fire, ambition, love. It had been a home for her and people like her. Now it was faded to earthen memories, tumbled stones, blossoming trees and unimaginable silence. Long ago, a Princess Adila had stood on this same earth and looked upon not a shrine but a military compound, and the soldiers there had not called themselves the Watch. Now a Princess Adila looked out at the ruins of a place that might have been her home and felt very small and mortal.

    ...

    She was embarrassed to be having these thoughts - to having thoughts at all. Ordinarily her scattered ideas and chatter blended in with the crowds of those around her, people hearing bits and pieces but not putting it all together. She shared her ideas with them while still being blended in with so many different senses and pressures that it didn't feel like they were expected to pay attention. But with only one other person present, and such silence all about, there wasn't anything to stop every thought in her mind from being read in full sequence and with perfect clarity as easily as one might read a letter. There was no line between thoughts she had, thoughts she shared, and thoughts she deliberately projected. She felt exposed to Alina, inside and out.

    There was no one to save here. There was no one to be suspicious of here. There was no one to judge here, or to help cross the road, or to salute, or to show off to. No duties or shift rotation or Brightball matches or the sounds of bells from the Clock or the smells of spice. No one trying to dance for you or pick your pocket or throw up on your armour. No one to sneak up on and pounce, or to tell you off for being too big to keep pouncing people. There was only one person and she had somehow become everything despite being none of those things, while also seeming just like another part of the island. One person and the big blue sky, scattered across with checkered clouds like a patchwork quilt.

    It didn't feel like being alone.

    It took her a while to come around to that thought, and it surprised her. When she'd fought the Riders in Askatia she'd felt alone, even when there were technically people all around her and trying to stab her. On her first night on the road she'd cried until she couldn't take it any more, then flown back to the Bazaar and slept there in secret before flying back to catch up with Brill and pretend that she'd never left. Here she felt... like she was just in a place where people weren't. Not that there were no people. It's just that they weren't here. There was... something else here? Perhaps the place itself was here. This wasn't a nowhere-place, an in-between place. It was a place with its own presence that didn't need people in order to be what it was.

    She knew this place would snap her like a twig if she'd been here alone. If all her thoughts could do was tumble inwards on themselves then she'd be trapped by them. She'd need to bottle them up and fly back home and pour them all out on the first person she saw, or maybe write them all into a diary in the same way. She wouldn't be able to be present here if that's what she was doing; she'd be piling up moments without knowing why. Princess Alina changed all that. She stopped and looked at things that wouldn't have broken her own relentless walking motion, causing her to look deeper at strange whorls of moss or colourful insects she wouldn't have noticed in her constant vigil for criminal activity. Alina's presence changed the composition of scenes; another ordinary bend in the path and view of the sea became a portrait of sadness, or a study in thoughtful reflection, or a thunderbolt of a smile as she passed through it. The lights she gave off changed the character of the stones and trees - not just brightening, but saturating. An ordinary grey rock was revealed to be a whirlpool of violet and glittering star-drops as it caught the light from her lantern just right. The dew on a wild strawberry broke into a tiny rainbow as it caught a stray beam from the second sun. An old, dead tree, heavy with the weight of living ivy and silk rope wrappings, seemed to steam in the morning light as the dew evaporated between two stars.

    Century-moss scraped away under her claws as she walked. She felt bad for it; its peaceful life disrupted by this strange, brutal interloper - but she also cursed it because the devilish stuff was slippery and her claws were blunt from a lifetime of clattering across stone. Alina, of course, could climb a ladder of falling cherry blossoms and didn't face the same trials as the gingerly delicate and occasionally stumbling dragon. But there were a lot of stairs, wrapping all around the island, and she tired long before Adila did. It was all right when she did, though. She didn't feel compelled to offer to carry her or try and skip to the top. She was content just to sit and look at the place and the person within that place and let it be for as long as it took for the rainbow princess to catch her breath and take another crack at the stairs. Also because the exercise was good for Alina. Pump those legs, rookie!

    There was no hurry here. Everything was going to take as long as it was going to take. Adila had no idea what that meant or how to deal with that, but the place seemed to have its own ideas of how things were done and it didn't seem to need her understanding in order to be as it was.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-20 at 07:13 AM.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  26. - Top - End - #146
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    PhoeKun's Avatar

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    The hills are alive with the sound of dragon. Princess Adila is everywhere on this island all at once. She is the claw marks she leaves on the mossy steps. She is the sound of breathing, so powerful and steady that it seems to Alina to be the stirring of the air itself. She is the thoughts that wash over everything, that pour themselves endlessly into Alina and fill her to bursting with new sights and sounds and feelings. To be vigilant. To be wary. To be watchful. To be shown the way this tiny island comes alive, not with people but with life. To see the patterns of the moss and know it is the first time. To see the way the light touches everything, and wonder in amazement. To hear the gentle patter of a tiny creek as it splashes itself over a worn down rock and across the steps that carry them up, up, up. To feel the cool water on her toes. To dance. To laugh, and to hear what it sounds like for the very first time. To be a child again. To step forward through a fold in time and be a mother. To miss her sisters terribly. To not feel lonely at all.

    The clack of dull claws against stone. The rustling of some unseen thing slithering away through the undergrowth. The fluttering of a lark's wings. The chirp and a buzz of a dozen crickets suddenly leaping off of the path. The rumble of the ground that follows every carefully measured footfall. Alina is a passing spirit on the breeze, but the entire island marks the presence of Princess Adila of the Watch. Such power! Such presence! Here, the stones say, is a creature that could crack the earth if she chose. And see how she doesn't! Child, you are but the passing of a summer drizzle and soon to be forgotten by stone and root, but this I shall remember. You are lucky to keep the company of someone so magnificent.

    The stairs curve sharply back and forth in a switchback pattern. Tiny little things, and so many. Trouble in its own way for each climber. Alina pauses near a break in the trees and watches the sun sparkle on the surface of the choppy ocean waters. The deepest, startling blue glistens like sapphire tinged with flecks of white that dance in and out of her sight. Wave after wave after wave. She feels like such a tiny, fragile thing after all.

    ...She hasn't said a word all morning. And she hasn't needed to.

    Alina Cascade aches. It's a good ache, like her heart ran the River Race without telling her, and it must have won because she is filled to bursting with light and a desperate need to share herself with the world. There's some thought carrying her body forward, but she can't see the shape of it. Her fingers trace the black scales of Adila's neck. Her tiny arm rests against the solid plates of her back, so powerful and so warm. Her cheek rests against one huge wing, and as she moves herself along the length of her fellow princess' body the softness of her curls tickles across the scales.

    Her heart is lighter than her feet. Both carry her several paces up until she's standing above Adila with both arms spread wide. And she shines! Her light spreads up the steps, across the rocks, and down the trees, so bright that even the sun might stop in the sky for a moment to stare down and smile at the sight. Everywhere they look comes alive with color that draws in and closer, drawing brighter until it is a cloak made just for Adila. Bright, deep and shifting colors that sink into her blacks and golds. At this moment, she could be going to a ball. At this moment, she looks more beautiful than Alina would ever hope to. At this moment, she is a work of art in seven shining, brilliant colors. And when she finally notices the rainbow that's come to stretch itself across her friend's wings Alina cries. She is the soft summer drizzle come to wash away the dust, and afterwards comes peace.

    And also more stairs. Just so, so many stairs. But she doesn't mind, as the moss turns to silken petals and she passes at last under the great shrine gate above the trees. There's work to be done here, and she doesn't feel tired at all. To see the magic for the first time all over again. To feel the song inside a special heart. To feel connected. To feel strong. To feel...

    Elsewhere, in a cabin on the Lucky Number Seven, an ink brush rolls out of a bag onto a table. It knows that today something is happening that will have to be painted. A new memory to be preserved, so that anyone who looks will know how special is the heart of Princess Adila of the Watch.

  27. - Top - End - #147
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Anarion's Avatar

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia let out a sigh, the air whistling through her sharp teeth and joining with the wind blowing past the lucky number seven. “My heart, hmm. I think you hear it right, Rita. It’s like, coming here, it came alive for the first time.”

    Kazelia watches the light across the water. The sun sparkles across the shimmering waves, turning them into rising and falling crests of molten gold. She saw Ourania in that, the firelight dancing across the sea. In that moment, she thought perhaps her heart could reach anything, could stretch out along Ourania’s sunbeams and share the song she always heard.

    Kazelia looked up at a gull, its screech echoing above the sound of the water sloshing against the boat’s hull as it dove away from Shiva’s midair antics. She held out her arm, palm down and beckoned the gull to land. And it did, looking at her quizzically. She stared back, cocked her head, and after a moment asked it, “hello, any news?”
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  28. - Top - End - #148
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Raz_Fox's Avatar

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    The Lucky Number Seven

    Kazelia!

    The seagull looks at you with those beady black eyes. It considers you, and it's almost as if- as if it is considering you, and preparing to give you the news of the day, to open that beak and squawk out everything it's seen today-

    But it doesn't. But, to its credit, it doesn't get in your face and be an annoying bird and make you look like an idiot. It just hops up onto a railing, oddly unconcerned with all the cats nearby. Then it starts preening. What an unhelpful bird!

    Detective Brill laughs, leaning on the railing. Not the railing next to the seagull, the railing on your other side. "Kid, I have no idea if that hocus pocus about the heart speaking to people is true," he says, which is an oddly skeptical stance to take in a magical world of princesses and talking cats, "but it takes a special kind of stupid to have a cat princess tell you to try speaking like Adila and then use your mouth words." He grins. His mustache is newly waxed, and his jacket is covered in cat hairs.

    "Don't be rude," Rita says, and then sticks her tongue out at Brill. "Kazelia's doing her best. I'm sure the seagull's about to tell her about everything that's happened to it today!"

    "Sea. Clouds. Sea. Fish. Sorry for spoiling it for you, Princess."

    The seagull squawks, and both Brill and Rita look at it, then look at you, like they're expecting you to say, aha! That did it. But it really was just a normal squawk.
    freedom in the flame

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

  29. - Top - End - #149
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Thanqol's Avatar

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    The shrine itself was a tumbled-down ruin. It had once been grand! A sweeping temple that had covered this entire clifftop, with meditation rooms and chambers to chant and contemplate and manufacture cheese. A great pile of freshly cut brick and stone, in other words. The Operations Manual remembered that places like that were the first places to come down when a fort needed to be constructed. Soldiers had walked these steps for days, carrying rocks down the hill like ants harvesting a lost apple. What remained was much a memory of a shrine as the scattered ruins below were a memory of a war.

    It has begun to take shape again. Travellers and pilgrims have taken the time to collect piles of stone from the tumbled down fort and carry them back up the hill, leaving them in neat piles by the outline of the shrine. It is the duty of Princesses who visit to make those final steps and put the rocks back into the walls, reconstructing the shrine fragment by fragment. One stone or a hundred doesn't matter. There is no rush. If it takes ten thousand princesses ten thousand years for the shrine to rebuild itself then that is the time it shall take. When it is done every stone will tell a story. This is a place where the stones roll uphill with the same gentle inevitability as the tide that washes at the cliff walls.

    To Princess Adila it's a place that's ancient and recent and timeless all at once. What other building could express its own past, present and future in the same way? It... spooks her. Both the past and the future are strange countries with dark promises of fire and strength. There are Princess Adilas in either direction and she does not know if she'll recognize either.

    Creakily, she breaks her silence with deliberately focused thoughts, chasing away the scattered cobwebs of contemplation and place before they bury her. An attempt to profane the moment by asking questions that don't need to be asked. +So... have you been here before?+ she thought. +What are our duties? Are you all right after that climb, do you want to have lunch, did you drink enough water?+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-20 at 05:17 PM.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  30. - Top - End - #150
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Anarion's Avatar

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia gives the gull a bemused expression. “Just a normal squawk, I’m afraid. Though I’m sure Sir Brill has the right of it. I suppose it would t be quite that easy to open my heart. But then again, talking is talking, and it works just fine when I call my words into the winter wind and it carries them where I will it. That’s probably more natural for Riders.” She looks at the icy patch on the ship railing where she’s been leaning, obvious evidence of the Rider preference. It doesn’t seem to really bother her this time though. It’s too nice on the ship, the warm sun and cool breeze mixing just right. “So, both of you two have been to Jedad, right? What should I expect there? I’ve only been to Illumina and the areas around it as my dad expanded the borders.”
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

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