You have your orders! They’re good orders, which you are good at. You are to protect Azora and make sure nobody interrupts her while she opens the clocktower.
It’s difficult work! For her, that is. Somebody made this face of the clock very difficult to access, and the mystic lock is taking all of her concentration. You are sitting next to her on a lawfully commandeered Clock Restoration and Preservation Society gondola lift, trying not to take up the whole thing. The wind ruffles your pretty, lacy headdress that Eska helped tie on just behind your horns.
Something deep inside you is screaming, but all that’s coming out is a weird little tap tap tap you’re doing with your claws.
Dandy sits next to you, still struggling to break free and unleash her Iluminan-inspired treachery. Don’t let her interrupt all those mystic sigils and wheels Azora is carving into the very air, crackling with energy as she tries to align the energy of her spell-key just so.
Even a dragon as stupid and clumsy as you can be trustworthy and look after both Dandy and Azora. You’re going to do your very, very best. That’s what Eska trusts you to do! And for her sake, and for Dandy’s, you’re going to be the goodest little dragon in the whole wide world and not push Azora off the gondola on accident on purpose.
You expected the arrow. It comes hurtling out at you the minute you hit the Via Tempora, and you catch it effortlessly with your lights. Really, Eska? Really? You’re getting predictable.
Then there’s a puff of confetti and the scroll unwinds from around the shaft. It’s Eska’s looping, swooping cursive.
“Isolde says hello.”
Damage your Sense.
“I wouldn’t come any closer if I were you.”
The space around the clock itself is a wide, decorated plaza, full of tourists and visitors and cafes. And, unfortunately, a lot of innocent people gasping at the sight of Eska Glinteye dangling an Iluminan dancing-girl off the clock’s scaffolding by her wrists, her boot on the knife placed precariously next to the ropes holding her up.
“We don’t want to make a scene, after all,” she yells at you. “Just stay out of this and nobody needs to get hurt!”
Nobody needs to get hurt. Knowing Eska, she’s not just talking about her hostage: she’s hidden her backup and prepped some nasty traps for anyone trying to follow her up, and she does not care about any of the civilians in the plaza below.
But also, making a scene like this? She’s going to bring both the Watch reserves and the King of the Bazaar down on her head. So she’s either got another escape plan ready, or a backup plan, or she’s got some scheme unfolding and this is all a trap.
Kazelia felt like she’d barely had time to warm her skin in the hot desert sun. It felt different than before. She wasn’t sitting on the deck of a ship slipping on ice of her own accidental creation; she was letting the midday sun warm her and actually feeling it. She thought that she might even get sunburned if she stayed out long enough. She even had the distinct impression of Mother, appearing like nothing so much as a fat, lazy cat curling up in a sunbeam beneath a window and it was a truly sublime vision.
But that wasn’t to be at all. Instead it was Eska up to her old tricks: taunting Alina, holding Adila hostage, and probably setting a million traps. It was anyone’s guess whether her goal here was to spur Kazelia and Alina into sudden action only to spring something on them before reinforcements arrived, or if her whole goal was merely to stall for time.
“Alina do you see anything odd? Something here isn’t as it seems” Kazelia says. She’s standing, summoning a sandy wind to blow across Eska’s position and divert any immediate arrows shot straight at them as she looks for a sign of what’s out of place.
[Rolling Look Closely, with the help of some magical wind and sand to maybe reveal or trigger something safely. I rolled with hope on the assumption that Alina will help at least enough to count as working together, whatever else she might do as well in her post. I’m also assuming Kazelia had the chance to share a meal on the way over and heal her stats.
1. Is there something hidden or out of place? If so, what looks suspicious?
2. Tell me about Eska here. What’s she doing? What will she do next?
3. What will happen if I jump in and start a fight to free Isolde?]
Princess Adila leaps from the gondola.
It's a terrifying sight when a dragon comes right at you, especially if you're a former-Rider and were raised on bedtime stories of terrifying monsters of judgement who can smell a Princess who hasn't eaten her broccoli from ten miles away. Those wings, that speed, all that strength and power and worst of all, it's not your friend behind those eyes any more...
+Princess Kazelia!+ Adila says, swooping down and pulling her friend into a hug. +I've missed you! Oh, I am so glad you came, your sister is absolutely wonderful. I can't believe you never told me about her!+
Okay, maybe it is Adila back there still.
+I'm so glad you caught up with us - I'm sorry I left without saying anything but we were in a really big hurry - Dandy is in danger, you see. I sent you a letter explaining everything! Did it arrive? Oh, hey Alina! Wow, you look amazing in that armour!+
You did, in fact, receive a letter from Princess Adila right before you entered the city. It read like the diary page of the recently smitten, with hearts everywhere, and full of incredibly detailed little observations about Princess Eska, how cool she was, and all of her plans.
[Princess Adila is using teamwork to give Princess Kazelia Hope on her Look Closely roll]
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I take it back! Let me take it back! I’m sorry!!”
Little Alina had never been this desperate in her entire life. She’d tried everything she could think of, and none of it was working. She checked every room in the castle. Then she checked them all again in case she’d missed one. She’d run to every single person she could find and told them she was sorry, but nobody would accept her apology. They wouldn’t even tell her she was being silly and that Momma was on a trip to Axonia or anything like that! Freesia slammed the door in her face, Jessamine was too young to be any help, Lexi didn’t know what was happening, even Mommy wouldn’t fix it!
Mommy stroked her hair and made soft noises and said a lot of stuff, but all of it was wrong. She said this wasn’t Lina’s fault, she said that Momma loved her very much. She said that everything was gonna be ok. But it wasn’t! And it was all her fault!! Momma was gone and nobody knew where and she wasn’t coming back and it! Was! All! Her! Fault!
She didn’t mean it! She didn’t! Good princesses aren’t supposed to think that one mom is prettier than the other one. They’re not supposed to like getting snuggles from one more, they’re not supposed to turn to turn to the other when the first one says no. She didn’t mean to do any of it! She didn’t mean to fall asleep during her glass blowing lesson! She was a bad girl who didn’t love her Momma enough and now she was gone forever and she just wanted everyone to believe that she was sorry!
Alina buried her face in Momma’s pillow and cried the entire day away. It took hours for Mommy to find her and hold her until she ran out of tears. And it wasn’t until she saw the tears in Mommy’s eyes that she realized she needed to be brave and strong and beautiful for everybody that was still there.
Over time, even the shape of Momma’s face had started to fade from Alina’s memory. It wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t sharp and clear the way that Freesia’s still was. And she’d guessed that meant it wasn’t supposed to happen. When even Ourania had refused to say anything about King Isolde, Alina had completely given up hope on ever finding her. She’d told herself that it was ok; the long years with just the one mother had taught her how to handle the disappointment. Wherever Momma was, if she was even still alive, she must have at least been happy, and that was enough. Alina had a big important mission now and an entire Kingdom counting on its Princess-Promised much more than the return of its King.
And now… and now… Momma! Momma!! Alina’s eyes are glassy and unfocused, and she doesn’t so much as flinch when Adila came swooping down to join them. The only thing that’s in her sight is that clocktower, is Eska, is the hostage being dangled in front of them. If Eska meant to keep her away like this, then she’d outsmarted herself for sure. If she meant to trick Alina into jumping up through some gauntlet of genius traps, well… that was pretty short sighted of her too. Gold burns atop her tiara and fills her breastplate with its light.
Momma! Your daughter loves you, Momma! Just wait, just one more minute, and she’ll finally show you how much.
”Eska is a mechanical genius and I am honored to be in her presence. She’s just like Hornet! Instead of making her machines look like you again, though, she’s made them look very non-representational. They have lots of legs and self defense crossbows, and all the bolts have a proprietary poison blend on them! Get hit and you’re going down peacefully! I wonder if she’ll consider selling them to the watch? I really hope she will! <3”
There they are, just like Adila described them. The clockwork marvels look like a cross between a scorpion and a gecko, clinging to wherever they could find a shadow. The wind and sand, of course, are intended to clog up their workings and make it harder for them to target you, but charging forward into the kill zone? You’re going to get shot by a bunch of bolts, you’re going to get bystanders hit by bolts, and while it won’t kill anyone... it’ll cause a lot of panic and, also, you’ll end up flat on your face with your muscles all slack, drooling onto the tiles while Eska grinds her heel into your back and Azora claims the Caduceus. That’s bad.
“I know you have fought Eska a lot, but she told me that if you don’t try to attack her sister, she’d be happy to leave you alone! In fact, if you really wanted to make her happy, which you should, because she’s really amazing, you could just go see the House of the Zodiac and let her claim whatever’s inside the clocktower. If I was as smart as Eska and wasn’t a dumb, useless ditz, I’d guess that this has something to do with figuring out where the tomb of Princess Eupheria is and disturbing her forever resting place and claiming the dark power of the Devil staff which consumed her when she fell and I did nothing!!! And Eska says that’s a good thing and I shouldn’t worry about it at all, so you shouldn’t either!”
You should probably do the opposite of that. The trick’s going to be getting height, right? Eska has the high ground, and she has the advantage in both range and time. All she needs to do is pin you down or buy time, and then she can whistle for Adila and fly off with her and Azora.
“Adila!” Eska sounds angry. Did you do something wrong? “What did I say? I trusted you to do one thing! Don’t you trust me, too?”
Look after Azora and Dandy. You can do that and be with your friends, right? Just don’t let them interfere and you can hang out with them as much as you like!
You’re not alone. Rita is making her war yowl next to you. If you dive forward, she’ll follow right behind you. If Eska tries to drop Momma, she’ll be right there helping you catch her. You are a team, and nobody can defeat the magic of kiss buddies. Nobody!
Go. You can do it. Go save Momma and punch Eska in the face and, as a finishing trick, stop Oberon’s daughters from disturbing the tomb of Eupheria, wherever her final resting place truly is.
Kazelia’s attention is suddenly torn in several directions all at once.
“Oh Adila! Hi! We were...” she’s looking at Alina charging in, remembering Adila’s letter and all the robots that Eska had set up here, that would only have their aim slightly slowed by the wind she’d kicked up.
“...were uh coming to find you. And I think my other sister Azora might do something really bad if we don’t reach her first. And Eska...” think Kazelia! You need to not start a fight with Adila right now and you need to do something about all those robots. Her hand, which was waving to Adila, suddenly crackles with an arcing, almost electrical white light and the wind quickly picks up much harder, scouring from rooftop to sparkling, gem-studded Jedadi rooftop. At this speed it will pick up the sand that naturally collects among market stalls and desert roads. It will fill gears with sand, send bolts off course, and generally stop up the clockwork things with grit. It won’t completely stop them, but if she’s lucky, it will damage them and weaken their bolts.
[Doom roll 1+6+2=9. Damage one stat in trying to drive off the robots, lose current advantage.]
“...Eska doesn’t know! Yeah. She’s very smart, but she’s used to doing whatever Azora tells her. I was too. Azora is the oldest and she’s always liked ordering people around. Oberon has been giving her the best magic for years too, and she’d probably try and turn Eska into a ferret or something if they argued...” okay there’s Alina diving forward, Rita hot on her heels. Hopefully, she’d slowed the robots enough to help.
“...a-anyway we uh, we need to go down there and uh, help Alina free her Momma and tell Eska she’s in danger from Azora right away!”