The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #151
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina dances across the fallen petals and, sweeping a large space clean with a broom she shapes out of blue light, sits herself down just in front of the great flowering root. She pats the ground in front of her where there's plenty of open space and conjures a pair of lemon cakes from... wherever it is she keeps stuff like this.

    "We're going to be here a while," she says with a curious look on her face, "We may as well take our time. Do you... eat things like this?"

    She takes a cup of water in her hands and lifts it over her head. Then with a soft sigh, she closes her eyes and pours part of it out over her face. Without thinking about it, she reaches out to repeat it with Adila. But then she flinches at the last second, and meekly puts the cup back on the ground. She mutters the prayer that goes with these gestures, but it's swallowed up by the air around her. It's another long second before she finally starts eating, and while she chews she turns her head to look around for something.

    "My mother came here when she was my age. She was in the middle of a competition with her best friend to see which of them could foster the most goodwill and magic across the world, so of course they kept showing up to the same shrines and towns and mostly people thought they'd started dating. My mother told me this was where they wound up getting into a huge fight. Things got really heated and they wound up knocking over... oh, there it is, over there. See that wall where the spaces in between the stones are shimmering? That's the one my mother got thrown through: she said it took them three whole days to put it back together..."

    And sure enough, on the other side the clearing where Alina's finger is pointing there's a wall where a rough hundred stones or so are inexpertly mortared together with what looks like melted glass that sparkle as the light passes through them. The remnants of a mural are still visible on the wall depicting two women embracing on either side of a horse and a column of rainbow light. Time, the wind, the rains, and ivy have obliterated a lot of the finer details, but the overall impression one gets from looking at it is that, if this whole thing took three days to do, then two days and twenty three hours of it were spent on that mural.

    "She said that of all the places they went together, this was her favorite. There's a lot about that story I don't understand. I was really hoping to see it for myself..."

  2. - Top - End - #152
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Lemon cakes were a contentious issue in Jedad, because of course they were.

    On the one hand no one was going to give up lemon cakes just because the Illuminans had invented them, that would be like giving up silk: unthinkable. Instead there was a huge amount of haughty elitism about the improved Jedad-style lemon cakes, which have pear slices on top instead of grated lemon, which was a totally original innovation which made Jedad lemon cakes an entirely different and better thing than Illuminan lemon cakes and while it would be unreasonable to call you treasonous for preferring Illuminan lemon cakes to Jedad lemon cakes it wouldn't be uncommon to think it.

    Princess Adila performs her customary check underneath her, cautiously sat down, and then gingerly picked up the Illumian lemon cake. She glanced around as if expecting to see Detective Brill frowning and looming and making a throat-cutting gesture from the shadows - and then she hurriedly ate it and enjoyed it immensely. Then again she glanced around to see if anyone had seen her.

    +I hope that whatever we find, it doesn't involve you throwing me through a wall,+ thought Princess Adila earnestly enough to conceal for a moment that she was joking.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

  3. - Top - End - #153
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    Kazelia!

    “Just the best kingdom in all of Hyperborea,” Brill says humbly. “The things they do with metal and gems! The perfumes! The ladies!”

    “If you like wearing a square foot of gauzy silk and two tea spoons,” Rita snarks, “it’s the place for you.” Then she blushes a little bit, glances out to sea. “The girls are pretty, though.”

    “Don’t tell Alina,” Brill adds, “but Shazari - the heir apparent - is the richest and most beautiful princess in all Hyperborea.”

    “Like anyone can tell under all the veils,” Rita says. Her tail is wagging just a little bit at the tip, though. (Does Alina have competition on the quantum kiss buddies front? Stay tuned!)

    “When we reach the Bazaar, I’ll be happy to show you all around. I’ve heard Rider Ice is the new fashion, but I do know some very good frozen yogurt stalls.”

    “...Rider Ice?”

    “Imported from Ilumina, the first real treasure that it’s ever provided the world,” Brill says, after checking over his shoulder just in case Alina was back.

    “Huh.” Rita kicks her legs out into an upsurging wave. “Speaking of Jedad, though, don’t carry valuables with you. Lots of theft. Lots of pickpocketing.”

    “Now that’s a rumor without any basis in fact,” Brill says defensively. Not that he regularly splits wallets with thieves he catches, no.

    “I know it is, because I was a certain someone’s partner in crime,” Rita says with a grin. “Had to run around in all sorts of criminal circles.”

    Far off, a gull calls. The seagull settles on your shoulder.

    “Also,” Rita adds, “it’s about to be Carnival. Do you like veils or masks?”

    “Wearing a veil suggests sympathies with Jedad,” Brill explains, “whereas wearing a mask suggests a devilish nature.”

    “Maybe not the best idea to go with a mask,” Rita muses. “What with already being a Rider.”

    Alina!

    A reminder that your people’s fortunes have, historically, been intertwined with the Rowani. It might be depicting Ansila and Marina, or simply another great Iluminan-Rowani romance, but it’s a solid reminder that you should really be going to Rowan and making another attempt to gain the aid of their princess, Helya Laynasdottir, who was almost certainly your role model growing up (being a few years her junior and a family friend). The last time you tried, well, she was too busy cleaning up after the terrible winter storms and helping her own people out.

    That’s the thing about Helya, the thing that probably broke your heart as you got older. She’s thoughtful and quiet, even while being big and strong enough to wrestle horses down to the ground; she’s polite and has a beautiful, understated little smile; she’s the kind of person who’s good at literally everything she does, and even if you spent the next three years mastering Devil Hyperchess she’d wipe the board with you, blink a few times, and apologetically smile and offer to make dinner for you, because of course she’s also a world-class chef.

    But she’s cold, too- and I don’t know if you know the first place to start, to thaw a person like that, a person who is both so solidly responsible and yet so distant that she could look a childhood friend in her watering eyes and say that, no, her people needed her more.

    ...I’m sorry for bringing it up. Try thinking about something else, instead.
    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.

  4. - Top - End - #154
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    “Also,” Rita adds, “it’s about to be Carnival. Do you like veils or masks?”

    “Wearing a veil suggests sympathies with Jedad,” Brill explains, “whereas wearing a mask suggests a devilish nature.”

    “Maybe not the best idea to go with a mask,” Rita muses. “What with already being a Rider.”
    Kazelia tries to take that all in. Jedad was clearly a very strange place, and it made a lot of people very emotional about it, but in different ways. It made Kazelia content to take it all in as it came, for the most part, though she did look forward to seeing it and perhaps seeing what there might catch her fancy. She gazes over the railing, lets the sound of the sea and the calling of the gulls echo around them for a moment before she answers.

    "Hmm, well, it sounds like wearing a veil would be the easier route, people would think that I fit into the kingdom, and it sounds like a lot of other people wear veils there too, unless for some reason the Jedadi themselves don't have sympathies with Jedad." Kazelia rubs her chin, trying to imagine what that might be like, but it really just eludes her. "Then again, I am a Rider already. Perhaps if I wore a mask, my other features would just be considered part of the costume and I would be given compliments on how skillfully I was portraying the new menace to Hyperborea. And perhaps having a devilish nature might help me meet interesting people in Jedad, no?"

    Kazelia seems inclined to make up her mind, but before she makes any final decisions, she looks at the gull perched on her shoulder rather quizzically, and gives a squawk, mimicking the call of the other gull, but with a different lilt to it. She's trying to ask it: "What do you think, Ms. Gull? Mask or veil to hide my face?" Maybe it will have an opinion!
    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)

  5. - Top - End - #155
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Kazelia!

    The gull squawks loudly and decisively, and both Brill and Rita stop to look at it. The seagull knows you're talking to it! But there's still a barrier there, something not quite right.

    "Huh," Brill says, a bit dumbfounded.

    "You're getting closer," Rita says, with a giggle. "But it's not about words. Just words, that is. You have to open up your heart!"

    "How do you open up a heart, anyway? That's nonsense," Brill grumbles. "You sound like a witch."

    "You are vulnerable. You have to want it more than anything else, and part of wanting it is to accept that you're going to be seen. You have to want the seagull to understand you. And then you..." She pushes her fingers up against her forehead again. "SEAGULL. SHARE YOUR WISDOM, SEAGULL."

    "What sort of wisdom does a seagull have, anyhow?"

    "ONLY THE MOST EGGCELLENT SORT."

    "...you're under arrest."

    "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALI- Kazelia save me."

    Rita dives into your lap, which is making your next attempt to speak seagull a little more difficult. Brill's attempt to seize this adorable fugitive from justice has been foiled by the fact that Rita is now two steps out of reach. Once again, Kazelia, you have saved someone from this beautiful and beloved world from certain doom. I am so proud of you.
    freedom in the flame

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

  6. - Top - End - #156
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    There's that word again, creeping into her thoughts. Cold is a Rider word. It's an Oberon word. It shouldn't be a Helya word. It's not! She's strong, and loyal, and brave, and dutiful. And... and... tall, and beautiful with just the dreamiest eyes, so sharp and hard they're like cut gemstones. She shouldn't use a word like 'cold' to describe someone like that. Nobody, from Hecatia to Devilhome on down offered her any help. Helya at least was... sisterly about it. She had advice to give, and offered a horse to carry her as far as the border so she wouldn't have to walk again. She even rode with her the whole way! That's not cold, it's not. She isn't being fair.

    But those eyes. Those beautiful eyes stared straight at her, and her lips parted, and it wasn't to kiss her or to say she was sorry. She said, "No, Alina." And she turned and rode away at a trot, without even having the decency to look upset about it.

    Alina squeezes her eyes shut tight so she doesn't have to look at the stupid mural anymore. She pulls her legs tight against her chest and sits there ignoring half a lemon cake while she sits there in silence, trying to ignore the rush of disconnected memories pouring out of her brain and into the shrine. Riding lessons. Wrestling. A campfire. Baking a pie. Those sharp, green eyes. The only person Alina could look at like a big sister, because all of the people she loved were younger, and looked at her like that instead. She's not going to cry this time, she's not. She swears she's not. And Helya Laynasdottir is not cold.

    "Right!" she says with entirely too much cheer in her voice to be quite right, "That's enough of that! I mean, no, I'm not throwing you through a wall, what? No! What I meant was, you and me, we're together here, so let's... let's get cleaning. And then we'll... hey, Adila? You were originally trying to bring me to Jedad, right? Well, now that we're going, that is, when we get there... what do you plan on doing after?"

    She takes her light broom and starts clearing petals into neat little piles. She's not sure she wants any brilliant eyes looking into hers for what's coming next.
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-06-21 at 01:13 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #157
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    “I’m sorry detective, but this cat is under my protEGGtion” she says, giving Rita a light pet with one hand and exchanging a wink with her. And then Kazelia laughs. Not like the giggles from earlier, but a full broad sound from her belly. Kaja could laugh like this, when she wasn’t fretting or being picked on.

    And just like that, she had it. She looked up at the gull on her shoulder and it was laughing too, she knew it. And when they both calmed down, she took a few crumbs from her bag, slightly chill in her fingers and offered them to the gull, and she asked it out loud “tell me what you’ve seen in the land we’re apprising, my friend” and it was the same as her words before, but it wasn’t because her heart was laughing in time with the gull’s and within that rhythm was a gentle song. The gull already knew that song. They all did. They always had.
    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)

  8. - Top - End - #158
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    "Right!" she says with entirely too much cheer in her voice to be quite right, "That's enough of that! I mean, no, I'm not throwing you through a wall, what? No! What I meant was, you and me, we're together here, so let's... let's get cleaning. And then we'll... hey, Adila? You were originally trying to bring me to Jedad, right? Well, now that we're going, that is, when we get there... what do you plan on doing after?"

    She takes her light broom and starts clearing petals into neat little piles. She's not sure she wants any brilliant eyes looking into hers for what's coming next.
    She'd wanted to joke again, she'd even rehearsed a couple just in case she was asked that question, but Princess Alina didn't seem in the mood. Maybe she'd told it badly? She looked over at the mural. No, more likely that had made her sad somehow. Wheels turned in her dectective's mind. She'd met Princess Helya and honestly hadn't liked her. She was very formal and serious; the Watch had its discipline but that wasn't the same thing. It had always been a bit of a mystery why she wasn't the first to be traveling with Alina...

    She put away her strange and confused thoughts and communicated instead in the unflinching seriousness of an Officer of the Watch.

    +You have been sentenced to seventy two hours of community service for your disturbances of the peace,+ thought Princess Adila, completely deadpan. +Since the Queen of Jedad has refused to press charges with the Watch for your burglaries in favour of her own justice system those will not be held against you, but you still created an enormous disturbance during your escape and that must be accounted for.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-21 at 06:57 PM.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

  9. - Top - End - #159
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    Kazelia!

    Even as the seagull snaps up the crumbs, its heart joins in the song, and this is what is understood:

    I have seen this place you imagine.
    I have flown over the waves which break on the shore.
    I have eaten their food which burns amid crowds.
    I have seen their buildings of blue and green.
    I offer these memories to you, who have understanding of them.
    I will let you see the veils and the masks, which I have no names for:
    The shimmering veils, cast over noses and mouths and chins;
    The paper masks, colorful, though many white-and-black in the devil style;
    The jewels, the laughter, the sandaled feet going by;
    The black of the Watch like shadows;
    The beggars and the thieves in the alleyways;
    The shuffle of the shells in the never-ending hunt for the Queen;
    The gleam of sunlight on glass spears and bright scimitars;
    Chests overturned, gold and precious jewels spilling forth;
    The heavy tramp of elephants laden with palanquins;
    From above, the Bazaar, a pearl in the beautiful golden dunes;
    From above, the desert, brown and gold and amber;
    Great swirls of different spices crashing against each other;
    The waves breaking upon the shore.


    I don't know how long you sit there in communion, absorbing this. It might be ten minutes, with Rita poking your cheeks and playing with your hair. It might be mere seconds, leaving you reeling with the flood of memories to sift through and reinterpret. Either way, the seagull removes itself from you; you are a cold perch, after all, even in the bright and sunlit day.
    freedom in the flame

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

  10. - Top - End - #160
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    "...That's a joke, right? You're telling some sort of dragon joke right now? Or a... Watch joke, I guess? The other times I've dealt with your companions it's always been a fine. Or that one time when I was 11 your... Captain, I think? Asked me to 'lose' a shipment of spyglasses somewhere she could find it. And nobody said anything about a three strike rule on the way out! Does that mean those were bribes? Have I been bribing the Watch this whole time?"

    Sweep, sweep, sweep. For as busy as she's making herself, Alina really isn't making very much progress on this whole 'clean the shrine' thing so far. She hesitates for a moment, then spins and faces Princess Adila after all. Still, she's careful not to look her in the eyes.

    "Anyway that's not what I meant. This is mission over for you, right? The end of your journey? What are you going to do?"

  11. - Top - End - #161
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    "...That's a joke, right? You're telling some sort of dragon joke right now? Or a... Watch joke, I guess? The other times I've dealt with your companions it's always been a fine. Or that one time when I was 11 your... Captain, I think? Asked me to 'lose' a shipment of spyglasses somewhere she could find it. And nobody said anything about a three strike rule on the way out! Does that mean those were bribes? Have I been bribing the Watch this whole time?"

    Sweep, sweep, sweep. For as busy as she's making herself, Alina really isn't making very much progress on this whole 'clean the shrine' thing so far. She hesitates for a moment, then spins and faces Princess Adila after all. Still, she's careful not to look her in the eyes.

    "Anyway that's not what I meant. This is mission over for you, right? The end of your journey? What are you going to do?"
    +If you were involved in the bribery of Watch officers that is an additional charge, albeit one that can be annulled if you co-operate with the subsequent investigation,+ thought Princess Adila uncomfortably. She knew corruption happened, of course - it happened all the time and dealing with it was the major duty of the senior staff. She was reasonably certain Brill was corrupt and he'd been her partner for two years and they were friends. But damn it, it still wasn't right.

    She got even more uncomfortable when Alina started asking about the future. +I promised I would restore Illumina, and that is what I'm going to do,+ she thought, and then abruptly stood up. She was trying hard not to think about why she was doing that or what would come after doing that and that vast ominous thing called the future more generally. Instead she started picking up heavy stones and hauling them into place with drilled efficiency. The Watch still did field construction and demolition drills as per the Operations Manual, the modern utility thereof was mostly in establishing fire breaks and reconstruction...
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

  12. - Top - End - #162
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    "I don't understand."

    It's taken her a while to get to this point. But she takes her giant pile of petals and lifts it up high into the air on a series of light tiles until a good breeze catches them. She turns her head to watch them float away and toward the ocean like a school of skyfish. It's beautiful like few things can be. But then that moment ends and it's back to work, and she busies herself with digging more of the sweet smelling things out of the gutters, where she can be a little closer to Adila while they both work. She doesn't want to be shouting right now.

    "I can think of a lot of reasons why you should hate me. Or dislike me, at least. I've seen the way your detective friend looks at me when he thinks I'm not paying attention. And you're... not like that. You're the one who left her home to arrest me, and yet you were the first of anyone to tell me they'd help me get my home back. You're the only one to promise that sight unseen. Not even Rita promised that, and she and I are..." Alina pauses awkwardly, and sighs.

    "All I keep thinking about is you in the sky, after we destroyed the Slaugh. With all those awful wounds, I... I'm so sorry Adila. I was so insensitive. I go on and on about my missing lights, but if this is how I treat my friends, then I don't deserve them. So I just, I wanted to ask you why you said what you did. If there's something that you want, I want to help you get it. And if there's nothing, then I don't know what to do. I can't put you through that again. Not you. You're as warm and caring and bright as any of my sisters. I'm sorry if it's uncomfortable, I promise I won't make you talk for the entire rest of the day. But what will you do? What do you want?"

  13. - Top - End - #163
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    What do you want?"
    +I want to be a hero. I want to be a princess. I want to be a person,+ thought Princess Adila. +I want to be the kind of person who, when approached by a stranger who needs my help, can and will solve their problem, whatever it is. I want to be a Brightball star and a friend and a wife and a mom. I want to have a job that helps others, and live with other people, and have lots of friends. And instead I'm going to grow up into a big ugly dragon and go to sleep forever on a pile of gold and not be able to come outside my cave without destroying everything.+

    She stared off into the far away horizon.

    +I want to be human.+

    She closed her eyes.

    +I don't care how many times I get hurt. I'm already so big that I can't live safely in a city any more and so useless that the best thing that can be done with me is going out to track down a foreign princess for minor public disturbance violations. I was happy when you told me that I had a chance to help save a kingdom. It might be the last chance I get to be the person I really want to be - a person who saves kingdoms and doesn't ask for anything in return. This is my dream, Alina.+
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

  14. - Top - End - #164
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    Blink and you'll miss it. There's a sudden scattering of petals, a flash of light, and the soft 'flumph' of some rotting mushrooms as they snap off of their stems and shrivel up in the sudden rush of heat. And then Princess Alina Cascade is there, on the little staircase of lights she's built for herself so she can stand face to face with Princess Adila. Soft and watery green eyes stare straight into shining pools of gold. She takes her hands and places them on each of Adila's cheeks and for a moment, no words come to her. She stares, and she feels the warmth flowing into her fingers. She lowers her head so that her forehead touches Adila's nose.

    "You're not useless." she whispers.

    Her light carries her apart again, and she steps gracefully back onto the ground. She has to look up now to maintain eye contact, but she's careful to do it anyway. Even when you're scared, there's some things you can't say to somebody's feet.

    "Please don't ever say that again. And don't tell me it doesn't matter if you get hurt. Do you understand how beautiful your dream is? It's so amazing I feel like I can barely hold it in my heart. How can there be an Illumina worth living in if I have to sacrifice your or your dream to get it? Someday..." she shuts her eyes, and lets the image sweep over her, "Someday, we'll both be wives and mothers. Our children will play together, and I'll teach them to swim in the rivers. You can teach them to play Brightball. Don't throw that away. Don't throw any part of that away. Do you understand?"

  15. - Top - End - #165
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    Kazelia leaned back and took it all in, absently petting Rita (with just enough presence of mind to move her hand widely so that Rita had a refreshing cool sensation across her back and not a single icy patch on her fur). The gull came across as speaking rapidly, faster than a person would talk, but not so fast that it left her dazed. And when it was done, she waved goodbye with contentment.

    “The buildings in the capital are all really blue and green like that?” she asked the detective and Rita. “I knew Hyperborea was rich, but I was still imagining it would all look like desert and the town would blend into that. “And what is this hunt for the queen they all seem to be on? Even the gull knew about it.”

    She looks at Brill with a satisfied grin. She’s moved right to asking the specific questions and skipped right past the part where she managed to open her heart up, cynics notwithstanding.
    School Fox by Atlur

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    Anarion's right on the money here.
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    Kazelia!

    Rita and Brill go straight from shock and amazement to laughter. They can’t help it! Astonishment makes one vulnerable to laughing.

    “I call showing her,” Brill says.

    ***

    “Here she is,” Brill says, holding up a card. On the card, glossy and colorful, is a silhouette of a veiled queen on her throne, before a fan of peacock feathers. “Now, all you have to do is find her. She’s yearning for a kiss from such a beautiful princess!”

    He sets the queen face down, and reveals two more cards: silhouettes of curvaceous dancers. “Don’t be fooled by her handmaidens,” he says, before setting them both face-down. He flips over the queen again. “Remember, this is the queen. Use your wishing heart to call out to her, because here we go.”

    The cards blur under his fingers; for a moment, you’re sure you have it, but then somewhere in there you lose track of which of the three she was, exactly. Rita, in the form of a cat, purrs contentedly in your lap.

    “Now, your highness,” Brill says, setting the cards down with a flourish, “Where’s the queen?” With a gleam in his eye, he adds, “It’s traditional to let you play for a kiss the first time, but seeing as everyone knows about the dangers of Rider kisses, allow me to suggest playing for some of your ice?” He sets down a golden Jedadi coin, and gestures for you to pick.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Blink and you'll miss it. There's a sudden scattering of petals, a flash of light, and the soft 'flumph' of some rotting mushrooms as they snap off of their stems and shrivel up in the sudden rush of heat. And then Princess Alina Cascade is there, on the little staircase of lights she's built for herself so she can stand face to face with Princess Adila. Soft and watery green eyes stare straight into shining pools of gold. She takes her hands and places them on each of Adila's cheeks and for a moment, no words come to her. She stares, and she feels the warmth flowing into her fingers. She lowers her head so that her forehead touches Adila's nose.

    "You're not useless." she whispers.

    Her light carries her apart again, and she steps gracefully back onto the ground. She has to look up now to maintain eye contact, but she's careful to do it anyway. Even when you're scared, there's some things you can't say to somebody's feet.

    "Please don't ever say that again. And don't tell me it doesn't matter if you get hurt. Do you understand how beautiful your dream is? It's so amazing I feel like I can barely hold it in my heart. How can there be an Illumina worth living in if I have to sacrifice you or your dream to get it? Someday..." she shuts her eyes, and lets the image sweep over her, "Someday, we'll both be wives and mothers. Our children will play together, and I'll teach them to swim in the rivers. You can teach them to play Brightball. Don't throw that away. Don't throw any part of that away. Do you understand?"
    She appreciates the gesture. She does! She feels fulfilled in her heart, happy that someone would care for her that much. She's always wanted a friend like this.

    But she has to put that image of the future aside gingerly because it hurts to think about. How was she going to be in a relationship where an affectionate hug risked breaking bones? How was she going to even have children around when a sneeze could destroy a building, let alone teach them Brightball? She doubted that anyone would find her attractive to begin with. Her strength had already exiled her from her home and the life she wanted and thinking about a future where that that somehow wasn't true was something she already tried very hard not to do too much.

    +I hope you're right,+ was the part of her thought that was directed; it cut through the fog of sadness, bright and sincere, but not without picking up some of that melancholy along the way. +Come on. We still have work to do.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-22 at 07:52 PM.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

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    Kazelia looked at the shells, hesitated, pointed at one but then pulled her hand back, pointed at another instead, shook her head, but committed. It was hardly surprising then that she got the handmaiden and not the queen. “Some Rider ice then, that was the bet?” She looked chagrined. This game was very hard. But the bet was eminently manageable. She leaned down and put a hand on the deck next to where Brill had set up the shell game and simply concentrated for a moment. The frost that she always left collected and solidified at her command, and pressed her hand upwards, creating a little cube of ice right there on the ship deck, perhaps 6” square. It would be slippery, but one could pry it up easily enough, or sit on it to keep cool if you happened to be the size of a cat.

    “I hope that satisfies the bet. Why do people play this game in Jedad though?”
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    Oscar Wilde Writer & Poet (1891)

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    "I am," Alina insists, "I promise."

    There's a part of her that wants to keep pressing the point, but quite apart from knowing when she'd run out of words, one look at the state the shrine was still in robs her of the ability to think about much else. Petals still lay in massive clumps, possibly burying walls or altars or who knew what else and flooded half of the walkways. Rot and tangled overgrowth that needed to be cleared away. Cobwebs just... everywhere. More rocks that needed moving to rebuild walls, ribbons that needed replacing (thank goodness she'd come prepared for that), all of which is to say nothing about the hour or so she needed to spend just quietly contemplating the root so that it would feel properly respected for its own sake. Oh sweet rushing waters, how was there still so much? The very worst and most dismaying part of this, of course, was that these sorts of jobs were all very delicate and required a very careful and intimate approach. This was hours of work in front of them. Thank goodness she had a friend. And that she liked camping.

    Alina looks up at the sky and can't help but pout when she sees the sun is already more than halfway across the sky. And any princess knows you don't try to catch a ship on the open see by the light of the moon. That's just asking to get lost and probably kidnapped by mermaids. Or worse. She sighs, and takes her broom back to the battle.

    "I can't believe it's this bad. Normally there are way more princesses on journeys that can tend to places like this. How many years has it been since anyone even left home?"

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    Princess Adila has the opposite problem to Alina. She was worried she was doing too much work! Within a matter of hours she had exhausted the piles of stone and created a set of lumpen and functional walls that resembled nothing so much as the walls of the ruined fort. It was like packing up her blocks, back from when she was small enough to play with blocks. Claws and tail and sometimes mouth moved together in an efficient rhythm, leaving her mind to wander back to a state of compressed emptiness as she looked out over the sea.

    +I'm more surprised pirates haven't moved in,+ thought Princess Adila. +This is an excellent strategic position. The fort is still defensible with a little work and from up here I can see passing merchant traffic.+

    She pointed at a gauzy horizon with absolutely no distinguishing features or sign of merchant ships.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-22 at 11:15 PM.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

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    Alina stops her cleaning to stare. Not at the horizon; a casual glance is enough to show that's a lost cause. She stares at Adila, and she blinks. She blinks again. And then, she can't help it, she bursts into a fit of giggles that hit her so hard her hair starts bouncing in little lavender waves. Even her lights start twinkling in time with the sounds of pure mirth.

    "Goodness, they do tell fun stories in Jedad. That's the kind of adventure I dreamed of when I was a little girl! But just... look around you for a moment. Do you feel that? This is a special place, gripped by Argossa. It's a place kissed by crystal petals, where they say you can hear the heart of Queen Ourania herself if you stand here on a clear night with a pure mind. Pirates wouldn't dare come to a place like this, even if it has been deserted. Well... Princess Esmeralda Blackscarf might, but she wouldn't dare build a fort. Stars and lights, could you imagine a fort being here? Just thinking about it I get so, so..."

    And she broke into another torrent of giggles.

  22. - Top - End - #172
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Alina stops her cleaning to stare. Not at the horizon; a casual glance is enough to show that's a lost cause. She stares at Adila, and she blinks. She blinks again. And then, she can't help it, she bursts into a fit of giggles that hit her so hard her hair starts bouncing in little lavender waves. Even her lights start twinkling in time with the sounds of pure mirth.

    "Goodness, they do tell fun stories in Jedad. That's the kind of adventure I dreamed of when I was a little girl! But just... look around you for a moment. Do you feel that? This is a special place, gripped by Argossa. It's a place kissed by crystal petals, where they say you can hear the heart of Queen Ourania herself if you stand here on a clear night with a pure mind. Pirates wouldn't dare come to a place like this, even if it has been deserted. Well... Princess Esmeralda Blackscarf might, but she wouldn't dare build a fort. Stars and lights, could you imagine a fort being here? Just thinking about it I get so, so..."

    And she broke into another torrent of giggles.
    There was a faint increased pressure on Alina's mind as Adila tried to figure out if she was being made fun of. She knew Illuminans could be ditzy but... and sure this place was more vibrant and alive than any place she'd ever seen, even the Queen's gardens! And she'd never seen a tree that grew crystal flowers, and a place where the root of the world emerged above the ocean was miraculous and worthy of respect. And, sure, maybe if she stood here at night and wished this might be the kind of place where you could hear the heartbeat of the world... She rattled her head. Her brain was filled with rainbows and sparkles. Okay. She was being sincere.

    +Do you really not see it?+ thought Princess Adila. +This entire place used to be a Watch fortress! The foundations and ruins are everywhere. You see there?+ She pointed out what honestly looked like an ordinary flat piece of ground. +That's a foundation for a sentry tower. And you see how those trees are shorter than the ones over there?+ Again, ordinary trees of ordinary height. +They were clear-cut to make space for the muster hall. This entire shrine was knocked down in the first place to use the stone for the outer walls! Do you really not see it?+
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

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    Kazelia!

    Brill snaps up the ice without a moment’s hesitation. “It’s not hard, really,” he says with an airy wave of his hand. “Look, I’ll slow it down this time, give you plenty of time to pick, for the same wager?”

    “It’s rigged,” Rita purrs wickedly. “The first rule of Find the Queen is that the player never gets to find the Queen.”

    “That’s hardly true,” Brill huffed defensively. “It’s just that-“

    “That it’s a contest to see who can cheat more outrageously.” Rita gets up, kneads your lap with her adorable little toe beans, and then curls back up. “Who can palm the card fastest, who can give a fake tell, who can bump the table, who can swap out the handmaidens for Queens while the dealer isn’t looking...”

    “It’s true that it is a game of both cunning and skill. And both are necessary to survive in Jedad. Why, if you do not have the wits to win a simple game of Find the Queen, you’ll end up the unwitting dupe of one of the Cats of Jedad.”

    “No relation. Though I am one, technically,” Rita says. “On account of being an accomplice for a Grand Theft.”

    “Or kidnapped for your magical ice production powers. Or in so much debt that you have to become a dancing-girl in the Princess’s harem. Or... taken in by second-hand Iluminan silks!”

    “The trick,” Rita adds, airily, “is getting you to play by the dealer’s rules at all. The most cunning dealers palm the queen and put down three handmaidens. No matter which you choose, it’s always going to be a loss.”

    “Which I did not do,” Brill says. “Which means there’s a chance you could win, if you try again!”

    “There isn’t,” Rita says agreeably. “And if I know anything about Jedadi dealers he’ll walk away in an hour with your ice, your purse, and a pair of something frilly in his pocket, and that after giving you one more chance to win it all back.”

    Brill goes absolutely speechless in aghast, possibly overacted horror, and Rita does that wicked little kitty smile.

    The seagull snaps up one of the cards and tries to fly off; Brill goes chasing after it. Rita chuckles to herself, then asks, more seriously:

    “What was it like where you’re from? I’ve heard you came from beyond Ouroboros... is that true? Or are you from an island near her scales, like the foxes?”
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    It's a freaking Romulan dump truck. The Romulans are no more likely to build an unarmed warp-capable ship than they are to become a hippy commune.

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    "I..." Alina's face is impressively, perfectly blank, "Really, really don't."

    She skips down a ways to get a closer look. She's trying very hard to give Adila the benefit of the doubt right now. Maybe this was a dragon-sight thing? But however she looks at it, that's a patch of ground. Those are trees. Not even differently sized trees, with stories to tell about what was and what's grown again. Just... trees. She'd asked the trees for their opinion if she could, but Illumina doesn't raise that kind of princess.

    A breeze wafts by to flutter her hair and ruffle her dress, and she fidgets a bit. Yeah this is pointless. She pivots on the balls of her feet and stands there staring at the dragon with one hand on her hip.

    "Are you sure you're not imagining things? I'm not even sure what I'm sure what I'm supposed to be looking at. How about you come down here and show me all of these... whatever yards?"

    It's probably not helping her that she's standing on the wrong patch of ground.

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    Ooh! How did she not see it? Didn't they have military camps in Illumina? - oh, of course they didn't. They probably all lived in beautiful curved castles with internal waterfalls and their soldiers probably trained while balancing on one foot on stones in the middle of rushing rivers. Wouldn't know a real military compound if it used the sacred stones of their ancient temple for material...

    Princess Adila found the impression of the outer curtain wall and traced its passage. She perfectly predicted each dip and spike in the trace. She could not, however, establish that this was anything other than a particularly steep hill, especially as it was torn and hollowed out by tree roots.

    Next she took Alina to the old keep ruins and its crumbled stone walls perfectly aligning to her mental grid. She was very certain that this room was the unit barracks and that room belonged to the regimental blacksmith, look at this strange pond - that totally used to be a pit for a blast furnace! She had significantly more difficulty proving that these were military buildings and not just old extensions of the temple. Would it have killed the Watch to leave some statues or carved graffiti or something!?

    Then she had a brilliant idea - she went to what seemed like just another totally ordinary patch of forest and started digging. After about ten minutes she triumphantly held up an ancient little shard of rust and announced that this was the practice field and by finding an old arrowhead she had conclusively proved that this used to be a military base. She then immediately broke it in her claws while trying to hand it over to Alina for closer examination and despite her best efforts to put it back together... it didn't really look like an arrowhead.

    Finally Princess Adila gave up. She could see the lines as clear as daylight but she had no idea how to prove any of it. She could see the wild natural beauty, but she could also see grim walls and patrol patterns as clear as if she were looking at a postcard of home. She sat down heavily on a flat bit of land and ancient timbers creaked slightly under her weight.

    +Maybe I am imagining things,+ she concluded. +Maybe I'm just homesick.+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-23 at 10:30 PM.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

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    It was exciting, to start! Another moment in what was becoming a string of them on this island where Alina got to feel like a kid again. Where hills were mysteries to be conquered and 'adventure' meant only seeing new things, and shadows or deadly consequences didn't hang over her head or her every action. She wanted badly to see the fort walls and imagine a big scary army crawling over this place. There might even be treasure, which would make a nice story to tell Rita when they got back...

    But where Adila walked her along the lines of a wall, all Alina could find was a hill and the signs of the trees and grasses that had made it their home. It was beautiful, and wonderful... but it wasn't a fortress.

    And where she stepped through the half present walls Adila called a keep, Alina found the remnants of a shrine. Here's where they might have stored incense, and there is where they once kept holy texts, and that pond could just as easily have been a well where water was drawn for travelling princesses to purify themselves by soaking in it before they presented themselves to the priests and the root of Argossa. And she did not see a fortress.

    The best moment was the digging. Now she couldn't help but think of pirates and all the times she caught stories about Princess Blackscarf, who always seemed to be one step ahead of everything that tried to get in her way. But when Adila found the arrowhead (and why was it that children hunting for treasure always seemed to find arrowheads everywhere?), it shattered before Alina could touch it. And whether she played with the pieces or turned her head, it really could have been anything. She giggled again as she tossed the bits aside. Not to be mean, but because the hunting had been fun.

    But whether there was a fortress or pirates here or not, there was value in the seeking, and trying one more time to look through someone else's eyes. Growing up had not conquered her little girl dreams, nor had anything made this place less than the most beautiful land she'd seen since leaving home. So she looked at Adila, watched her sit down, and she smiled as brightly as the lights on her head.

    "That may be true," she says, "But it's never a bad thing to see home wherever you are. I think that... if there was a place like that here, they must have deeply loved the root and flowers here and wanted to keep them safe and see them respected. Which is why... if they were here, they gave it all back."

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    "That may be true," she says, "But it's never a bad thing to see home wherever you are. I think that... if there was a place like that here, they must have deeply loved the root and flowers here and wanted to keep them safe and see them respected. Which is why... if they were here, they gave it all back."
    +Hehe, yeah...+ Princess Adila relaxed a bit. She had been soaking in the excitement from Alina and it was hard not to feel like the search had been worth it even if she'd found nothing. It was a happy afternoon.

    +I do wonder, though,+ she thought. +You wouldn't know but the Watch is so... mysterious! The Annalist never talks about what we did before we came to the city, or the Captain. Sometimes I overhear the Grogs talk when they're drunk, and it all sounds so exciting and important, but even then it's only bits. And nobody outside the Watch seems to know anything at all! I don't know if they're making it up, or if the world just agreed to forget...+

    She strummed her claws, thoughtfully. The soft moss absorbed most of the sound but one pierced through to clack on wood. +I don't even know if you've even heard of the original Princess Adila, the one I was named after. The way the old folks tell it she was the greatest princess of all time! She lead a great army, and she besieged every city in Hyperborea, and she seduced every princess, and she could arm-wrestle a devil-mother, and so on. I wonder, what if they were pirates, like Princess Blackscarf? Or something else? Maybe she came from outside the world like Greymane? But I don't even know what her army was called before it was the Watch.+

    Princess Adila wasn't lamenting her lack of knowledge, she wasn't even transmitting the slightest resentment to the world for keeping this secret. She was just curious, the raw mental energy of someone trying to solve a difficult puzzle with only scraps of information.

    As she shifted her weight, the wooden boards underneath her began to creak - and that is when you learn something about Princess Adila. While she might seem very perceptive at times she is extremely good at filtering out noises and sounds. She can sleep happily next to an active construction site and that same talent is being put to use disregarding that ominous creaking coming from below her.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

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    "That's a weirdly comforting thought," says Alina, "That the first Princess Adila came from outside Hyperborea, I mean. That'd be proof somebody could do it and then just... settle. I wonder if--"

    Now, Alina is not possessed of super senses, but one thing she does have is a keen sense for when a noise means trouble. So if Adila was putting her prodigious talents to use ignoring the increasingly loud sounds of groaning wood, Alina was soon unable to focus on anything else. That's a bad sound. A danger sound.

    "Um, Adila?"

    Yup, very very bad sound. More like a snap this time. And a snap like that is not far from turning into a crack. Who even knows what a crack could turn into! She hops backwards, princessly instincts guiding her feet away from the greatest sort of danger there is.

    "M-maybe you should move..."

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    +But there's no evidence that she settled, just that her army did!+ Princess Adila's mind churned away blithely. +She wasn't with the army by the time it reached the Bazaar, at that point a Devilhome Princess was leading the remnants...+

    There was a snap loud enough for even Adila to hear. There's a moment when the information reaches her mind and you've got a perfect window into her thoughts as she looks down at the mossy carpet she's sitting on: +That's weird. Plants don't grow on wood.+

    And then the entire thing gives way underneath her and the dragon goes tumbling down.

    It's a complicated fall. There are a lot of limbs flailing about in different directions and sub-optimal interactions with stairs. At first there's shock and instinct, claws scrabbling and gouging out chunks of stonework as she tries to find something to grip on to arrest her fall. Then discipline asserts itself like a kick to the throat - the worst thing a falling dragon can do is flail around wildly. Someone might get hurt! She snaps her wings to her sides, curls her tail, tucks in her claws... and continues to bounce awkwardly and destructively off and down a spiral staircase hoping that she doesn't hit anyone on the way down.

    She tumbles tooth over tail, building up momentum. She reaches the bottom of the stairs but that doesn't stop her. She careens forwards into a stone door, shattering it.

    And then she's in a room with a gigantic golden eye with a clock in its pupil staring right at her.

    Princess Adila goes out of her way to keep her mouth firmly closed at all times. A couple of reasons for this - there's always risk of fire and sparks, her teeth are kind of threatening, and we all know what she's like when using her mouth words. But in addition to all that she can also be very loud.

    So when she screams out loud it's got some force behind it.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-24 at 06:19 PM.
    Soldiers, no poor sap ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by being all that he can be. Damn the torpedoes, or give us death. Eternal vigilance is the price of duty and to the victors go the spoils. So remember: you are the best of the few and the proud. So ask not what our country can do, only regret that we have but one life to live.

  30. - Top - End - #180
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Raz_Fox's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Imladris
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila!

    I will not tell you specifics; what this room was once used for, who came here by night, or why it is buried so far beneath the earth. I will tell you what may be seen.

    The statue of the Time Dragon, Firstborn and Self-created, was once splendid. Onyx his scales, gold his eyes, lifelike the form, and his pupils, though rusted and dingy, still tick onwards, inexorable.

    To look upon him, to be a dragon and look upon him, is to know awe. He is to you as you are to Alina; impossibly vast and grand.

    Around him, time and neglect have not been kind to the murals that once decorated the walls, particularly in the patron’s niche, where hung a depiction of the person who paid for the statue, or else was in some way important to this place.

    Their face is effaced by mold and rot, but still your sharp eyes can make out that they wore black on black, the colors distinguishable to the trained eye, and their hand rests upon a vast bronze shield, its rim set against the ground.

    This place is old. I would say impossibly old, but that’s likely just the feeling one gets around a statue of the Time Dragon: like you are breathing in the air that knew the first sun and the first moon.

    One wall is shaped around the root of the shrine above; no tool dared deface it. Down here, the feeling of being close to something sacred is so thick that it can drown you. The scream is eaten by the walls, leaving no echo, no reverberation.

    If you were an amazing archeologist princess, you could probably unearth shocking secrets here! Admittedly, they’d mostly be shocking secrets about art composition and magical statue carving and architectural styles, but they’d be really shocking, if you were an amazing archeologist princess.

    But you’re you, which means- I think it means you just very much want that person in the damaged mural to be Adila.
    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.

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