The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #181
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "...Adila? Adila!"

    The hole is so deep and so dark that Alina's lights don't reach the bottom. She peeks as closely as she dares, but all there is to go on is the sounds of a scream and a dragon falling down a long flight of stairs. She swallows. There could be anything down there! A light-devouring shadowcat, or a pit full of spikes built over top a pit full of oozes built over top a pit full of pits, or even (in this part of the world!) a nest of Jedadi Rope Vipers, the only snake in the world that was also a rope. Just thinking about the possibilities makes her shiver. But that's a friend down there, and if awful things like that really are lurking just beyond her sight then so much the worse if she leaves her to fend them off herself.

    She takes the steps. Cautiously at first, but then faster and faster as she gets lower until she is flying past three at a time. She hops lightly over broken stones and goes sailing into the room where she lands perfectly right next to Adila. She finds none of her terrors down here waiting for her. She bathes the room in lights and colors, and once again by existing changes the composition of the scene. Instinctively, she offers her hand to Adila without knowing whether or not it will help. Her mouth hangs agape.

    "What is this place?" she breathes

  2. - Top - End - #182
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Princess Adila had taken cover behind the ruined doorway, shivering in fright. Then Alina skipped down as cool as you please and filled the entire dark and scary room with bright light. It clicked that the dragon was a statue, and then it clicked that the statue wasn't coming to get her, and then it clicked that things weren't quite so scary when they were covered in rainbows, and oh also you haven't had a proper breath for a couple of minutes now so maybe you should get on that.

    How was Alina so brave?

    That thought got her up more quickly than anything else did. +Are you okay?+ she thought, absolutely zero percent of her brain considering the fact that she was the one who took a tumble down the stairs. She hadn't seen what had happened to Alina - she hadn't hit her by accident when she fell, had she? There is a significant amount of totally unnecessary dragon-fussing before Adila could focus on anything else in the room, which was conveniently what she needed to slow her heart rate down to a point where she could look at that giant statue without freaking out again.

    +I have no idea what this is,+ she concluded eventually.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  3. - Top - End - #183
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    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?”
    "It was cold." Kazelia looks far away, the stars in her eyes glisten. The card is forgotten. "It's so cold beyond Ouroboros. It's so cold that when you first feel it, it pierces you. It goes inside you, like thousands of little needles until you can't feel anything anymore. You're so cold that you stop feeling cold and you forget what it was like to feel anything at all."

    Kazelia draws a deep breath and lets it out, and it glistens with ice even in the heat of the Jedadi sun. "The Riders came from far beyond Ouroboros, so far that I can't remember where we started..."

    ***There is a moment, like a flash going off inside Kazelia's head. There's an image of a tree sitting alone near the top of a grassy hill. It's just off center, perched so that someone who sat at the very top of the hill could lean against it and be shaded by its branches. It's an old tree, thick and gray and gnarled, but its branches are still strong and full of green. They've formed two canopies, one broad and leafy crown and one little plateau as the lower branches stretched and strained to find their own light. Kazelia is there, but she's not. She can't see herself, but she knows she's there. The night sky is spread out above the tree. There's no moon, but if you saw it, you'd see thousands of stars, so many that you couldn't even begin to pick out constellations, so many that it seemed the whole universe was pressing in above, leaving no room to move about. But you are not there, Kazelia is there. Kazelia sees a blank sky, full of blackness, shrouded in a velvet curtain. But strangely, if you look very closely in the starlight that you can see and she cannot, Kazelia leaves no trace of frost on the blades of grass. They are still, there is no wind, and they do not begrudge her her seat. Shooting stars that she cannot see cascade through the sky above the tree. And then, ever so faintly, there is a pinprick of light that Kazelia can see, at the very edge of the horizon, and she sits up to look at it and...***

    Not even a second passes. Kazelia simply looks like she's struggling with the memory of the cold. "Like I said, I can't remember where we started, but we went to many places, Oberon leading us through the blackness. I think it's his home, I don't think he came from the same place as the Riders themselves, even though we're his daughters. He started calling us that, I think anyone who served him long and well enough could be a daughter of his, at least anyone he keeps and favors. The blackness out there is his home, and he moves through it with a fury that is impossible. We went to so many places, far from here, most small and quickly frozen. Oberon took whatever fascinated him, strange artifacts and weapons mostly, the occasional person or animal, which became like us. The rest was left in ice when we were done."
    School Fox by Atlur

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

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

  4. - Top - End - #184
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Truthfully, Alina never thought she'd meet a dragon in her life. Or that if she did, said dragon would be carrying her off into the sky to hide her in a cave or a tower and keep her for a treasure. That was just the way of things: they were solitary and singularly greedy creatures, the stories all agreed. So she really was not prepared to have a dragon friend, or to have her be the most compassionate person she could remember meeting. Adila fell down a long flight of stairs and crashed through a wall! How was she the first to ask anyone if they were ok?! Her cheeks flush, which is a perfectly lovely sight in a room lit only by rainbows, but she turns her head to hide it just the same.

    "No sense wasting a perfectly good mystery," she says still half in awe, "Wanna take a closer look?"

    Now, Alina is no princess of history and archaeology either. No matter where she walks or what colors she puts up on the walls, she is not about to gain great insight into the history of the people who dwelt here or who it was that wore these rich blacks, or even be entirely sure which great old dragon they thought was important enough to enshrine here. Alina liked stories about brave and clever princesses, and especially ones filled with romance and happily ever afters. She had comparatively little space in her head for the dusty histories of homelands not her own. But a place like this? It must have treasures far greater than things which may have once been arrowheads. She is curious to know what might be kept here. She is curious to know if it is something she could bear to take from this place.
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-06-25 at 04:37 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #185
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Once she'd finally assured herself that nobody else was hurt, Princess Adila finally allowed herself to acknowledge owwwwwwwww. She wasn't injured, none of her scales were broken, but she still needed to take a moment. Owch ow ow. How embarrassing! This is why she always checked what she sat on! And it wasn't fair! What kind of plants grew on wood!? That didn't make sense, plants grew in dirt! Oh gosh and she'd freaked out and used her voice, what if she'd melted the statue by mistake?!

    But honestly, the staircase had gotten the worse end of that exchange overall, and Princess Adila had only minor scrapes that quickly got pushed to the back of her mind when it really started to sink in where she was. She brushed herself off and started to follow Alina who was already off and exploring and how was she so brave!? She hurried to keep up, still scanning the corners of the room - and keeping a wary eye on the statue as if still not entirely trusting it not to come to life and attack her.

    +I know that shield,+ said Princess Adila, indicating the painting. +It's in the Captain's shield. She only carries it when swearing in new recruits, the last time she actually used it in battle was when I was still an egg...+ she wasn't able to keep the mixture of curiosity and hope from saturating her thoughts as she started to look around further with gradually increasing confidence.
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-25 at 06:15 PM.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  6. - Top - End - #186
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "So much for Plan A!"

    "How was this Plan A?! We burned through six plans just getting in here! We're gonna run out of letters, Alina! We're gonna run out!"

    "Less complaining, more running!"

    Alina flashed a smile at her best friend as her scrawny legs carried them as fast as they could away from the oncoming boulder, narrowly avoiding each of the trapped sandstone bricks laid out on her path. At least that part of her information was still good! Of course, one giant boulder later and those traps started triggering anyway. Somewhere between the darts shooting at her ankles and the flame spitting snake heads that suddenly opened up and singed the silks right off of her elbows, she was forced to conclude that Rita had a point. She was running out of ideas faster than she was running out of dangers, chief among them being that for some reason she was having trouble remembering which letter came after 'q'.

    Behind her she heard the click of another trap tile. In front of her she saw the floor pull back into the walls. She jumped. Underneath, the rope vipers coiled angrily and hissed with their frayed little tongues flicking out after. Unluckily, her legs were not long or strong enough to make a leap across a pit like that all in one go. Luckily, she'd just spotted a notch on the ceiling. With a band of yellow light wrapped around her left arm and a young catgirl wrapped around her right, Alina Cascade hung in the air and watched as the deadly, deadly boulder rolled harmlessly beneath her into the pit. She watched the dust settle, and the rope vipers wrap themselves around the hateful rock and tied themselves in a big angry bow around it. Which was honestly a relief, because she didn't want to hurt an animal like that.

    "I feel like it was a mistake to try and rob The Temple of the Mind."

    "But I have a perfect record, Rita! I've never been to Jedad and NOT stolen these jewels!"

    "Ok, but I think they might have seen you coming this time. Don't they normally keep them in the palace?"

    "Well, yes but--"

    "Plus, there was that note on the door."

    Said note: 'Dear Illuminan pain in my neck princess,
    Thank you very much for agreeing to test our newest traps! I'll sleep more soundly at night knowing our sacred treasures have a safe place to rest, and even more soundly knowing that even if you escape from my dungeons, you'll be safely locked up in your mother's once she hears what you've been up to. I hope this teaches you that nobody steals the royal jewels of Jedad 5 times and gets away with it.
    Yours Sincerely,
    Queen Shulamis of Jedad
    PS, please thank your mother for the scarf. I found the perfect place to put it!

    Ooh, it burned her! Stupid queen, being so smart. Stupid Jedad, being so prepared! She kicked her legs forward to start building momentum for a swing. She'd sooner hug Mr. Stormy again than give them the satisfaction of knowing they'd beaten her here! She swung on her Yellow once. Twice. Three times.

    "Lina no, Lina we're not going to make iiiiiiiit~!"

    They made it. If an awkward landing where you only get your toes to the ground and your best friend has to tug frantically on your arm while the other one windmills trying not to fall backwards into a pit full of incredibly angry rope vipers counts as making it. Which it did.

    "There, see? And we're only on Plan... what now?"

    "Pretty sure it's R."

    And in their fit of survivor's giggles, they very nearly missed the somehow soft but also stomping footfalls of the mighty sphinx, who was wearing a wry smile and the most
    dazzling silk scarf...

    ****

    "Oh really? Tell me more! It must be a very special shield if its history stretches this far back..."

    Alina watches Princess Adila with a queer smile on her face, forgetting for a moment thoughts of treasure and prizes. It wasn't quite the same, this adventure. But in its own quiet way, it might actually be better.

  7. - Top - End - #187
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Adila, Alina!

    When the world was young and patchwork and feckless, magic pooled. That’s what it did! It pooled in people, and in places, and in things, and made them so heavy and sodden with power that they risked ripping right through the world like a paper bag! That’s why the Grandmothers of Devilhome are so scary, I think: they haven’t so much bathed in power as fermented in it.

    But Argossa, the mountain-tree, its veins living crystal and its bark of stone, it is both the reinforced floor that stops things from sinking through and the fan which keeps all of that magic in circulation, like the water in the cities of Ilumina. (Well. Like they were before they froze over; laughing and swift were they all.) Its heartbeat is the heartbeat of Hyperborea. And its power is incredible.

    Up above, that power was diffuse: a sense of beauty, the rich scent of dying crystal petals, the coursing winds far above. Down here, the flow of magic is amplified, and builds upon itself.

    The first thing that goes a little strange is Alina’s lights. They get brighter, bit by bit, slowly but surely, until each of them is a blazing little star, hard and pale and furious. In Adila’s chest, the fires are stoked, waves of heat releasing from her scales, and the room starts becoming terribly warm.

    And as if in answer-

    As if called to this purpose-

    Called by your hearts, your care of the shrine above, and your care for each other-

    The stone splits on one side of the room. On the side of the room where the wall is all root. For a moment, crystal is revealed, white and pink and throbbing with light. And from it, slowly, tentatively, is extruded a bud. Its bulb is hard, dark, yet clear enough to show something burning bright and terrible within.

    I think that it is a gift.

    Possibly.

    Or maybe it’s about to explode and get rock pollen and lasers all over you. Hard to say!
    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.

  8. - Top - End - #188
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina bravely shrieks in surprise and hides behind the statue of the Time Dragon. Her heart beats bravely in her chest, faster and faster and faster to show just how full of courage it is. Her arms and legs (and other parts, one supposes) tremble like the most valiant of jellies. And see how she manages to peak her head out from behind cover not once, but twice to see what had made that noise and caused that glow that wasn't her?

    Except that, when she does see it properly, her breath catches in her chest. Her heart refuses to slow down, her body refuses to stop shaking, but she steps toward the wall all the same. Really, she'd rather not. She doesn't want to be brave, not in somebody else's mind and not in reality. She doesn't have the slightest idea what this really is or what it might do. It terrifies her. But she's pulled toward it like a magnet just the same. Because it is beautiful, and Illuminans trust beautiful things almost implicitly. Because it's coming from the root of Argossa, and that means it's come from the great mountain-tree. Because it might be from Ourania, and the thing Alina whispers to herself at night to help her fall asleep is that the High Queen is watching, and she cares. Because Adila is here and watching, and for some reason that makes her feel better.

    "Oh," she squeaks, "My goodness..."

    So she walks forward, step by tiny step. Slow at first, but faster as she closes in, until her last three paces seem to all happen at once. It's gotten so warm; Alina's hair is damp with sweat. She reaches out and caresses the bulb with trembling fingers. It's somehow soft and firm all at once, warm as the sun and cool as a a gentle rain. She closes her hand around it and, bolder than she feels, plucks it from the wall. The feeling is indescribable. But the closest word you and I have to understand it is 'full'. Alina overflows with all manner of feelings and magics and light and other things she can't quite name, and when she turns it's like looking at some magical spirit that must have been born in a rainbow rather than under one. Her lips curl upwards.

    "Hey Adila, I..."

    She wobbles. She drops to her knees. Her eyes slide shut and, still smiling, she falls face first onto the ground and spills prismatic starlight into the room.

  9. - Top - End - #189
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    The Operations Manual had nothing to say about rainbow overdoses.

    Oh no! Oh no! Alina had fallen over and she hadn't been fast enough and maybe that was good because she was increasing in temperature and what if she burned to touch and there was so much light in the air and she'd never felt quite like such a dragon. Okay, deep breath - no stop that's a terrible idea, you can feel how much that stokes the furnace of your heart. New plan: No breathing. Much better.

    Be sensible.

    She picked her blanket out of her bag and once again wrapped it around Alina carefully - not to keep her warm, but like an oven mitt she could use to pick her up without burning. She did so quickly and then carefully lifted her up onto her back. Then she started walking slowly and carefully away from the glowing root and up the stairs, carrying the little princess with her.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  10. - Top - End - #190
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    Alina is floating face up in a pool of water. It's warm and soothing and nice, and she's more than happy to let herself drift for a while. The sun feels pleasant on her face, and under the surface gentle undercurrents tease her hair back and forth like the tides. It's nice. It's so very nice.

    But wait. Is that right? Thinking is so difficult. Why is she lying down? No, of course, because she'd just fallen over. But that doesn't feel right either, because didn't she fall forwards? She doesn't remember rolling over. And wasn't she in a room with a stone floor and no warm pools at all? And wasn't she with someone? She snaps bolt upright.

    "Adila!"

    "Nope! Guess again, silly~"

    There's that sense of disorientation again. Alina rubs her eyes and looks around. It's beautiful, wherever she is. The sky is the most brilliant blue, dotted with the friendliest, puffiest, whitest clouds she's ever laid eyes on. The water she's sitting in is a perfect mirror reflecting the sky. Even where she's sitting is perfectly undisturbed and free of ripples. And actually now that she notices, it's quite shallow too. She's sitting up, and the surface doesn't quite reach up to her belly button. She blinks, and turns her head. Everywhere she looks there's this weird sense of... infinity. The the north(?) and the east(?) and the west(?) there's the impression of something massive and wonderful just past the edges of the horizon, but however much she strains her eyes she can't quite make it out. It's very much like being back in the void they'd kept the heart of the Slaugh inside of, only very much the opposite.

    She turns south, or in the direction she hasn't looked at the least, and confirms there is no table and no chair waiting for her. Though... she blinks. She tilts her head, and blinks again. The figure across from her mirrors each of her motions in turn. But it can't be her reflection, because this figure is standing. She's dressed in Illuminan silks, in all their soft pastel colored glory. Sleeves of orange, pant legs blue, her shirt a pinkish red. Familiar lavender curls, but wilder, as if they'd been deliberately mussed up after too much careful grooming. Legs a little long for her body, hips that haven't quite figured out how to be wider than her waist. She's gangly and awkward, but in a way that anybody who looks at her can't help but think she's half a growth spurt away from being a beauty. A seven pointed crown on her head shining in quiet rainbow light. The figure flashes her a smile full of perfect teeth, save for one near the front that's still missing.

    "Hey there, Lina! Nice to finally meet me!"

    "Wait. You're... me?"

    "Well of course you silly fish! Did you really think I was your dragon friend?"

    Alina blinks again. She stares down into the mirror pool and sees her face as she's come to know it in the years since. Her body's as shapely as ever, her crown has five points and two empty spaces where other lights should be. She stands up, and... huh. She's only a head or so taller. But still. She rubs a hand against her cheek.

    "What is this place? Am I dead?"

    "I dunno! But you don't look very dead to me. Do you feel very dead?"

    "Not really..." Alina shakes her head.

    "Then you must be alive! Hooray! I wouldn't want me to be dead." the younger Alina laughs and kicks at the water just to see the splashes. The pool is still a perfect mirror.

    "Well, um... can you tell me what we're doing here?"

    "What, already? You adults are always so serious! How can you see an amazing place like this and not just want to play?"

    Alina raises a quizzical eyebrow. "Well, I mean... I do. Honestly, I do! Everything here is so beautiful, it's just. Well, you know. My friend is probably worried about me, I should get back to her if I can."

    "Oh she is, she super is," young Alina nods with her best (and thoroughly unconvincing) Serious Face, "Though actually I'm a lot more worried about her! I was lookin' at her heart a bit ago and Rivers! Isn't it just the saddest thing?"

    The girl touches her fingertips to the water, which for the first time ripples to show something other than the sky. It's disorienting for Alina to see herself like this. Unconscious, wrapped up in a huge blanket, and being carried back up the long flight of steps to the outside world and cooler air. She strains a little harder and sees Adila in full with her great golden eyes equal parts panicked and determined. It's impressive, really. Alina's body is barely bouncing around up there at all. But for some reason looking at this makes her heartsick. The smaller her folds her arms across her chest and nods extremely seriously.

    "Mhm, mhm! You see, you see? That's how come you're here! 'Cause you touched Magic, Lina! Not like fireworks on a summer's night or lemon cakes when you're super hungry or even quite like the lights on your head. This is the really for real stuff, the kind you have to open your heart all the way just to see. And that's why I'm here: 'cause you've got a real important adult decision to make, and I've gotta make sure you make it right."

    That made no sense, and Alina says as much. Surely as a very wise and entirely grown up princess she shouldn't need advice to make important adult decisions. And certainly not the advice of a silly kid version of herself. She was entrusted with saving the entire world, for goodness sake! No burden could be heavier! The smaller Alina shrugged, and looked very sad.

    "There's magic in your hand right now, Lina. And what if I told you it could make your Red and Yellow come back?"

    Alina's mouth hangs agape. Well that's no choice at all! Unless it was a choice between the two colors, but even then! Any step closer to putting herself back together is something she has to take! She has to! How could she live with herself if she gave something like that up? She flares up in scary colors, and her eyes gleam darkly. Around her in the water there are little rings of frost and, though she doesn't notice, when she opens her mouth her teeth are sharper than they should be.

    "You stupid kid, what do you even know?! Just look at your crown with all its seven lights, you can't know, you can't possibly know how much it hurts to feel those holes sitting on top of your head. Inside your heart! Go knock another tooth out, you dumb brat! Go fall in a well, just disappear, just leave me alone! You want to stop me from feeling whole again, and I won't let you! I won't! I have to put myself together again! It's... it's..."

    "It's too scary, falling apart," finishes the younger one, taking a step back and looking just horribly sad about it, "I wish you could see how much ugly stuff that jerk left inside you. I'm really sorry, Lina. It's not a thing anyone should hafta ask you. It's not a hurt you were supposed to have."

    Alina's eyes are full of tears. She hisses and fires dangerous beams of light in random directions, not caring what happens or looking what they're aimed it. She cries, and they tear through the air in unison with her sobs. It's some time before she notices she's hugging herself.

    "I promise, Lina, it's your choice to make. I'm not gonna stop you either way. You've just gotta understand, ok? There's another heart you know that's full of aches and scary stuff same as yours. And you can fix that! But if you do, you can't have your colors back. And I dunno if you're gonna get another chance like this... not for either thing."

    "But... I..." she's softening again, warming. The pool around her is just a pool. Her teeth are just her teeth. Her tears are still fresh on her cheeks, unchanging. The mirror pool reflects two truths. To her left is warmth and friendship, but just above it there's a shadow and a horrible laugh that makes her heart frost over, and in that laugh there is an evil promise that without her true lights she will never stop what he is planning. To her right, Oberon is broken before her, and she is a mighty and shining in radiant white light so bright it hurts to look at her, but just behind that where her all-white eyes refuse to look there is the shadow of a tail slinking into a cave to sleep and be left alone forever, and this makes her heart feel as though it had been stabbed with a fire needle.

    "How am I supposed to choose one of those?" she asks

    "I dunno," little Alina shrugs, "I'm just a kid. But didn't you tell somebody recently that Alina Cascade was something other than her lights?"


    ****

    Outside, the air's a little cooler. Alina shifts on top of the dragon's back, but she doesn't stir.

    "Adila" she murmurs, and then another words it's not quite possible to catch. In her clenched hand, a crystal flower blooms.

  11. - Top - End - #191
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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    The sunset was mediocre.

    That was one of the most surprising facts about leaving home: mediocre sunsets. In Jedad, each sunset was spectacular: the entire sky blazed crimson and violet, the clouds trailed off in columns of shining gold and purple, and there were touches of infinitely refined blue run through with so many spears of sunlight that it came to seem turquoise. This sun just disappeared behind a bank of clouds and snuck out of the sky like a nobleman from a mediocre stageplay and, ho! Suddenly it was twilight!

    But the island made itself known through an eruption of noise.

    Birds chorused in overlapping layers. The ground swelled with the creaking of crickets. Layers of frog-song formed a solid wall of noise. The noise fused into one coherent sound; one unbroken swell of music with no space between the beats. She lowered her head to the ground to a cricket that continued to chirp fearlessly despite her claws being inches away. She made eye contact with a vivid blue frog that felt sufficiently confident in its poison and poisonous coloration that it didn't need to bat an eyelid at her. She walked into a swell of birds who erupted out in all directions in a choir of panicked peeping sounds, wings batting a dovish melody as they flew. Strange crystal growths and bioluminescent fungi came to light the way, fireflies and will-o-the-wisps that saturated the air with impossible new forms of light. And light was everywhere. The wild quails and peacocks demonstrated the shining colours at the end of their feathers. Evening flowers opened dropping glowing pollen down upon the path. Even the moss bloomed with little yellow flowers, each with a miniature sun at its heart.

    She'd thought the island would be quiet and dead at night but the opposite was true. This was a celebration. Every creature had a light. Every creature had a song. Every creature had drunk deeply of magic and beauty and had only held itself at bay for fear of being out-competed by the shining sun. She'd imagined the woods as dark, scary places but this was almost more vibrant than a city.

    She walked slowly through the strange night, taking in the colours as she continued to carry Princess Alina.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

  12. - Top - End - #192
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    Alina sits down on the surface of the glassy water and hugs her legs close to her chest. Wisps of cloud float on forever above her head, perfect and unchanging. The sky is the same piercing blue, never changing or betraying any sense of time. She stares blankly at her own reflection, and it stares back with an equally tired expression. A minute passes. Or maybe it's a thousand years? The subtle drip drip dripping of a water clock as it counts each second through an eon, then turns over and counts those same seconds over again. The princess sighs.

    "This is hard." she says

    She turns her head, maybe looking for her younger self, but the girl has already faded away back into whatever place or moment she sprang out of. It's just her, and a question that she's ashamed of. Slowly, she uncurls and just sits with her legs splayed rather indelicately in front of her, leaning back on her arms while her nick tilts up toward the sky. She flops over on one side, swirling the surface of the water with a fingertip while it plays with her hair in turn. She stands up, stretches, and swings her arms aimlessly from side to side. She takes off running and her feather tread doesn't so much as ripple the water beneath her. She is Alina Cascade, the Petrichor Princess who the songs compare to the Illuminan Water Deer, those translucent creatures whose bodies soak up light and colors in the form of the lilies they eat and whose gait is more akin to a dance than anything meant to carry a creature from one place to another. And no matter how far she runs or how graceful and perfect she is, nothing ever gets any closer.

    It's all there, everywhere she looks. The all-consuming sense that unspeakable beauty and everything her heart and mind could ever dare to hold are just. Over. There. But they retreat in equal measure with her footfalls forward, and by the end even though she runs herself short of breath too many times to count and tries too many directions to name she finds she may as well still be standing in the exact center of this strange universe. She kicks at the water in frustration.

    The droplets splash about in huge, foaming waves that vastly overstate the strength in her legs, almost like a storm swallowed up the water just beneath her and is bent all on turning the placid mirror pool into a raging ocean. And from those waves emerge two new figures, and she knows before the even finish shaping themselves out of flecks of foam that they are both herself. The first Alina is very much her twin, down to the last curl, but no crown sits upon her head, and she is heavily bundled in Rider blues that wrap and obscure her frame like any other Illuminan conscript. She offers the tired, Askaian-dressed version of herself a terrifyingly sad smile.

    "Hello, Alina Cascade. I am called Sacrifice. Do you still need help? You called for me, when you could just leave."

    The other Alina is barely recognizable. She is taller than Kaja and so bright it hurts to look at her. Wrapped around her body is a dress of dark silks. No armor fouls her form, no sleeves cover her radiant arms. Her silks trail behind her in a seemingly endless train that ripple with power so that she seems like a river all to herself. Her hair is long and flowing and comes to rest (or rather, it dances violently) all the way down at her knees. On her head is a crown, but it's not one that Alina recognizes: electrum wire mesh wrapped in great spiraling loops around a pair of hard pointed stars that glow without any of her colors. One shines in pure white, the other answers all in black.

    "GLORY/I AM. I AM TRUTH/APOTHEOSIS. THE REASON I AM HERE/is to prove my friendship. the reason i am here/IS THE INSTRUCTION OF ALINA CASCADE. KNOW IT. i know it! answer! THE ANSWER!"

    "A-are you my future?" Alina asks the both of them, astonished.

    Sacrifice shrugs and shakes her head. Glory folds her arms across her chest.

    "never are/never to be. fragments. POSSIBILITIES/PERSPECTIVE. an understanding?"

    Alina shakes like a leaf and can't nod either answer.

    "There are many hearts that depend on your kindness, Alina."

    "YOUR POWER/SALVATION. growth --> necessity."

    "Oberon Greymane will never be defeated unless your heart is made whole. There is only one path to healing, Alina."

    "THE WAY/IS LIGHT. TEMPTATION. the world freezes. light thaws. HOPE/I AM. HOPE/YOU ARE. obvious."

    Sacrifice thrusts her hand into her chest and pulls out her crystal heart. Glory wraps herself in twin columns of light. Alina shields her eyes. The world around her returns to its normal placid self, and where two women had been standing there is now only a disappointingly plain and boring door. Alina blinks, and puts her hand on the knob.

    "Weren't you two supposed to argue?"

    "You already knew the answer," says Sacrifice's voice.

    "strength/seeking. strength/all that's needed. A PUSH. stop wasting time. stop. STOP!"

    "Do the right thing, Alina Cascade."

    ***

    The sun has already set. The island has already risen. Alina's eyes flutter open, and she stirs and flops unceremoniously off of Adila's back. Because she is herself, somehow it manages to look intentional and graceful. She tries to pop up onto her feet but she's tangled up in dragon blankets again for some reason and just goes tumbling right back over. She huffs.

    "What is going on?! Adila? Adila! Where are you? Where am I?"
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-06-29 at 03:10 PM.

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    +You are sick, just like I said you were,+ thought Princess Adila, picking up the blanket-bundled princess with her mouth and carrying her over to the shrine. +Honestly, I don't know what you were thinking wearing a sunbeam into a frozen wasteland. When we get to the Bazaar I am going to buy you so many sweaters, but until then,+ she carefully set Alina down on the stone steps, +you are going to take it easy, you are going to drink lots of water, and you are going to stay in that blanket. I am going to start cooking some soup.+
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "For the last time, I am not sick! I touched a magic tree blossom, that makes it perfectly normal to pass out and have really weird dreams! Probably!" Alina huffs again with all the princessly dignity she can muster. Which, by the standards of somebody wrapped up in an over-large blanket and placed on a step like a child, is a lot! But given that she is that thing exactly, it's also next to none. She sighs.

    "...I will permit you to make soup this one time. As a precaution. A diplomatic measure. For the sake of our friendship." she nods, "But for the record I object to the way you're worrying about me while I am extremely busy being worried about you! Make sure you note it! I want this read back to me when we go over the minutes at the next princess conference!"

    It's easier not to fight it, she decides. The evening air is too pleasant and the shrine too beautiful. She sits there wrapped up in Adila's warmth and watches the dragon with the gentlest of smiles on her face. Her fingers work some unseen object over and over again in her hands, and when she closes her eyes for a moment she smiles, because she knows exactly how to do what has to be done.

    "Also, my light is very warm, thank you very much! You come back here and say it's not!"
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-06-30 at 12:49 PM.

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    +Your light went out after we hit the first cold breeze in Askatia,+ said Princess Adila, dumping her pack on the ground and starting to sort through it for pots and spoons. She started peeling a small pumpkin with one claw. +Sweaters may not be pretty but neither is a runny nose and temperature. You're just going to have to accept that Princess Kazelia is going to be prettier than you when it's cold outside.+
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    "Excuse you? Excuse you? Just who do you think you're talking to?!"

    That did it. That really did it. Alina's out of the blanket and on her feet before the first bit of pumpkin peel can hit the ground. She rises to her full height and glares at Adila with eyes like the fury of a storm. She opens her mouth to say something, pauses, and stomps up several more steps so that she's actually standing higher than a certain scaly jerk of a princess, then poses there with her hands on her hips. The lights on her crown sparkle angrily, and the island conjures a special breeze just to flutter her dress dramatically.

    "Doooooon't you even start with me, missy! Ourania herself couldn't knit a sweater unflattering enough to make Kazelia outshine me! I could wear a dozen sweaters at once and people would still fight duels just to kiss my hand! Why do you think Queen Shulamis really wants me delivered to her personal justice?! I'm the princess of Illumina! I'm Alina Cascade: the first and last word on fashion anywhere you ask around! Don't you talk to me like I'm one of your Jedadi hussies who needs to walk around with her belly all exposed just to turn a glance!"

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    Princess Adila completely broke down into psychic giggling. Head into the stonework, whole body shaking in silent and yet intensely noisy laughter. She'd hoped her teasing would get a reaction but she hadn't imagined the utterly sincere condemnation she was now receiving. It was like watching a thunderstorm in a teapot and she absolutely could not keep it together even one little bit.

    +I concede the point, Your Highness,+ Princess Adila managed to focus out. +And I am glad to hear that you have no objections to sweater-wearing.+
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    Kazelia!

    Rita is quiet for a while. There is sound, of course: the creaking of the rigging, the sighing of the waves, the low hum of feline sea shanties. Brill, trying to get his card back from the seagull. The world is quiet, here.

    “Do you like the cold?” It’s a soft question, when it finally comes. “It can be a bigger question if you like, but let’s start with you.” She kneads at your robes, gingerly. “Do you like it when it’s cold and all those needles are inside you? I won’t judge you if you do.”

    And there are bigger questions wrapped up inside that question, too. Do your people like the cold, or do they live with it, not knowing any other way? If you hate the cold, do you want warm coats and cats sleeping on top of you at night? Are you cold right now?

    Are you all right, Kazelia?
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raz_Fox View Post
    Kazelia!

    Rita is quiet for a while. There is sound, of course: the creaking of the rigging, the sighing of the waves, the low hum of feline sea shanties. Brill, trying to get his card back from the seagull. The world is quiet, here.

    “Do you like the cold?” It’s a soft question, when it finally comes. “It can be a bigger question if you like, but let’s start with you.” She kneads at your robes, gingerly. “Do you like it when it’s cold and all those needles are inside you? I won’t judge you if you do.”

    And there are bigger questions wrapped up inside that question, too. Do your people like the cold, or do they live with it, not knowing any other way? If you hate the cold, do you want warm coats and cats sleeping on top of you at night? Are you cold right now?

    Are you all right, Kazelia?
    "I thought I did." Kazelia doesn't look distant. She looks at Rita. Glances at Brill and the gull, grins briefly, looks back and meets her eyes. This conversation has been a bit overwhelming, but this question, this is the one she knows the answer to, the one that's burning inside her.

    "Before we came here, I thought I liked it. Oberon did that to my people, made them all a little bit like he is, cruel and sharp, like the knives inside us. But two things changed for me and that's why I'm here now. The first one's that when we got here, I got to see Ourania." Kazelia laughs with the warm memory, this one a quiet laugh that settles through her like the gull feather presently settling onto Brill's head.

    "I got to see her crush my father and cast him down. I wasn't with them, he thought he took only his best witch, but I rode ahead of the others, I've always been like that, and so I pulled up near the end of their fight, still above the world, above the great serpent, and I watched her flash with fire and cast him down. I've never seen Oberon bested like that." Kazelia does look distant for a moment, but it's clearly because she's fangirling about the fight. You can see her picturing the play by play and those moments when Ourania really got the upper hand before she tunes back into the conversation.

    "I'd love to meet her someday. But, the second thing is that my people, whoever we were, we can't remember it right. We all hear a distant song, but Oberon drowns it out. Except not me. Maybe because I saw that moment with Ourania? Maybe I'm just the first and more will start hearing the song. There's a part of us that Oberon never took with him, that he couldn't defeat either that's still out there. When I heard that song, the same song I carry with me, that I played before we left when I was so worried, it felt like Oberon's power over me just evaporated. And I could see clearly for the first time, including the fact that he lied to all of us about what we'd get coming here to Hypreborea and that we were ruining everything. So I left, I flew out and I found the princess that Oberon had overthrown and I pledged to get her kingdom back. Because no, now that I thought about it, I don't like the cold at all." She gives Rita a smile and then taps her chin pensively as if to say, give me a second, let me think about one more thing.

    "As for my people. That I think is a bigger question. They're under Oberon's sway, he's making them feel like there's nothing they can be except what they are. But, if that went away, I think some would like it. The witches, some of the craftsmen maybe, they might like themselves as they are now. But I think most wouldn't. We were all something different before, something that wasn't like this" shows off her teeth and pats her skin "and if we remembered it, I think we could change."

    Now, as for the unspoken question, the jury is still out on that one! Is Kazelia okay not remembering all these important things? Is she okay being something that she'd rather not be? She seems like she's okay with the path she's on to confront those problems at least. But she probably wouldn't turn down a warm cat that didn't mind a little frosty fur.
    School Fox by Atlur

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    Anarion's right on the money here.
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    "I'll wear whatever I want to." Alina sniffs.

    She stands there looking haughty and imperious. Twinkling furiously while her friend psychically laughs herself to death like she's never seen a proper Illuminan Storm before. Which she probably hasn't. The moment passes. Alina quietly descends the steps again and sits back down on the blanket. Her fingers go back to work. She does have something important to do, you know. She can't get caught up in something like this forever.

    "I wish you could see my lights the way they're supposed to be. They were so strong. They were so beautiful..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    "I'll wear whatever I want to." Alina sniffs.

    She stands there looking haughty and imperious. Twinkling furiously while her friend psychically laughs herself to death like she's never seen a proper Illuminan Storm before. Which she probably hasn't. The moment passes. Alina quietly descends the steps again and sits back down on the blanket. Her fingers go back to work. She does have something important to do, you know. She can't get caught up in something like this forever.

    "I wish you could see my lights the way they're supposed to be. They were so strong. They were so beautiful..."
    Princess Adila finally caught her breath. Despite how funny she'd found Alina, some part of her had wondered if she was about to be executed by a barrage of rainbow lasers. There had definitely been an edge to that glare that had made it only ninety-five percent adorable.

    She gathered herself, thoughts flowing back up to her mind like sweeping sand. +If you told me that before tonight I wouldn't have known what you meant,+ thought Adila, looking out at the glowing forest. +I'd have thought, light is light, isn't it? But now...+ the idea trailed off into contemplation for a moment.

    +What were they like?+
    Last edited by Thanqol; 2019-06-30 at 01:34 AM.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    "Oh, they were..." Alina pauses, a little lost for words. Her lights twinkle with encouragement on her head. She smiles, "They were brave, and fierce, and loyal. A rainbow is so much stronger when it's complete, like seven little sisters supporting each other through everything. With Red's to lead them they were stronger than a whole flock of storm birds. They could punch holes in steel or crystal as easily as paper or stand in a fight with the strongest monsters and warriors you could imagine. Nobody could break them! Even if I poured as much magic into them as I could, the kind that would overwhelm them now, they'd shine on as strong as ever. I could heal sicks or hurts without needing a rest. I could have walked into the coldest cavern in Hyperborea and they'd have kept me warm forever without ever needing a break."

    She breaks out into laughter as a memory surfaces: "One time when I was younger I was trying to teach Rita to swim and we almost got pounced on by a lion! You know, the big ones Askaia gets sometimes? The ones that get so big they can scare away a waterfall with their roar? One of those. And it came at us all 'roar, I am going to eat you little girls!' and when it tried to grab me, my Red wrapped around its paw and threw it straight into the river! And while it was doing that, Yellow rallied Violet and Orange to blast it all up and down its body so that when it finally climbed out of the water its mane was cut all down to nothing, and when it saw its own reflection it ran off mewling into the jungle."

    Alina closes her eyes and sighs into the pleasant night air. But there's a smile on her face that the universe would have to try much, much harder if it wanted to be rid of. Five lights sparkle and wrap Alina Cascade in thin, colored sheets. Like a hug from her oldest and most special friend.

    "I came so close to fixing them today," she says, "But I let the chance slip away from me."
    Last edited by PhoeKun; 2019-06-30 at 01:51 PM.

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    +You don't sound like you regret it,+ Princess Adila thought. When Princess Alina regretted something it flowed from her mind in cascades; things she could have done, things she should have done, people who could have done it better, sadness, heartache... a flow of emotions she wished wasn't so common. But when she said that she had given up an opportunity to repair her lights she was smiling and shining.

    She also couldn't shake, in the context of Princess Alina's recent staredown and her subsequent story, the thought that if she had her red light just then she might have thrown her through that wall after all.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    "I know, I'm surprised too! For the longest time I thought I wanted that more than anything. But then I realized if I did that... I couldn't do this."

    Princess Alina hops back onto her feet and walks lightly toward Adila. And from behind her back, she produces a rough-cut crystal, rather roughly attached to what had been a pair of old necklaces she'd linked together. She has to hop a couple of times to actually get it good and around Adila's neck, but she's determined not to let any of this detract from the magic of the moment. She needs to do this part herself, or there's no point. She finally gets it clasped and pumps a fist in an extremely dignified manner before touching two fingers to the surface of the crystal. Each of the five sheets of light that had been wrapped around Alina attach themselves to Princess Adila instead. It's a strange sensation: tingly and cool, but also warm at the same time. Even though it's only light, there's a faint sense of pressure like a hand on her scales. A gentle pat, maybe, or perhaps a hug.

    The crystal necklace pulses with its first faint traces of light. Alina smiles brightly at it.

    "We'll get you a proper chain for this, I promise. But how does it feel?"

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    +...+

    The air thickened with psychic energy, tense and heavy, like the air before a thunderstorm.

    +OH MY GOSH!+ Princess Adila squealed. +It's beautiful! Oh my gosh! It's - it's! Thank you! It's gorgeous - when did you?+

    Suddenly she froze. You can feel the calendar turning inside her head as she tried to remember which holy day it was. +I didn't get you anything,+ she thought meekly.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    "Who said I need anything in return?" Alina says with a giggle.

    She reaches out and taps the crystal with her fingers again, then pats Adila's neck.

    "We're connected now, ok? So don't ever forget it. That there's someone here who doesn't think you're a big dumb ugly dragon. That's all I ever need from you, I promise."

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    "Who said I need anything in return?" Alina says with a giggle.

    She reaches out and taps the crystal with her fingers again, then pats Adila's neck.

    "We're connected now, ok? So don't ever forget it. That there's someone here who doesn't think you're a big dumb ugly dragon. That's all I ever need from you, I promise."
    That was all Adila needed as well.

    If there is magic in the hearts of princesses, Adila's has enough to conjure new stars in the sky. She doesn't know how to speak; it's a moment, it's been a day, when all her wishes had come true. She can't think clearly enough to form words, she just radiates warmth and happiness like a lantern, driving away the chill of night.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    This wasn't what she'd come here to do. It wasn't what she'd planned on, and it wasn't something she'd even known was possible. Frankly, she wasn't all that sure it's what all of the different aspects of her conscience or whatever that was were actually yelling at her to do. But it felt good. And it felt right. And there's no need for words or gifts or anything just now.

    Princess Alina leans against her friend and feels the warmth wash over her. She smiles, and lights up like a beacon. And together, they push back the night.

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    Princess Adila glowed in happy unison.

    It took her while to realize it was literal.

    Her scales were shimmering with silver light, slowly but firmly intensifying into a radiant white on the sharpest edges. It melded into the darkness and rainbow light without overwhelming either; it pooled in the shadows like liquid and floated amidst the rainbow spectrum like beads of oil. It was light without fire, warmth without danger - her heart blooming out into the world, freed from the constraints of her body.

    She stared in wonder, and the light followed her gaze. It swirled and pooled where she focused her mind, the same skill that allowed her to project her thoughts allowing her to project something... deeper instead. She hesitantly touched the world with her heart and it responded. As gently as a breeze she lifted a mouse from the underbrush on a cloud of shining silver and held the tiny thing up to her face, where it sniffed at her nose fearlessly. That's when it all finally came together and she channeled all of those positive feelings directly towards Alina - the silver light descended like a storm into a soft, fluffy and warm hug.
    Some stories are to tell. Some stories are to keep.

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    Default Re: [IC] Princess-Champions of Hyperborea

    "I had a feeling you'd be a natural..."

    You probably expected it, but Alina Cascade is an amazing hugger. Even when her target is a dragon, she knows how to really get her arms around someone and wrap them up so that they'll feel loved. She's soft and, maybe because she also seems to delicate, isn't afraid to squeeze as hard as she can. She's smiling so much that it's actually kind of starting to hurt. The muscles in her face are tired so there's little spurts where her face resets to neutral, but she can't help it and it creeps right back up on her all over again. This was definitely the right decision. Only an idiot would think it wasn't.

    "A white one though, huh? I'm surprised! I thought for sure you'd be a Red, or maybe even a Black! Whites are supposed to be very rare, you know. I wonder what sort of temperament it has?"

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