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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Anarion
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Let me start by telling you a story. No, not the one about the glass-crafting. A different story, sort of. Two stories, actually, both about love.

Long ago, there was a craftswoman and she fell in love with a savant. You wouldn't think they'd have much in common, one so much in the act of making things to change the physical world, the other constantly buried in a book and thinking of high-minded ideas with her head soaring in the clouds. But they did fall in love. Maybe they're still in love. Some things happened though and one of them retreated to hide while the other one broke herself all up into pieces and forgot all about what she used to be. I think there's more to their story still to tell, but right now it's shattered and scattered about. I think that one of those pieces is here with us in Town, myself. Maybe several of them.

At the same time, and also much more recently, the Sun fell in love with the Bleak. The Headmistress of the Bleak Academy, most specifically. She hailed, some say, from a far and sunless land. The Sun, whose name was Jade, knew that falling in love with someone from a sunless land was a terrifically bad idea and that probably it wouldn't be good for either of them. She did it anyway though because sometimes love is like that, and sometimes the sun is like that, and sometimes people are like that. It turned out though that one day the Headmistress rode up on a flying chariot of darkest night and she fired an arrow into the Sun's heart and the Sun died. This was very troublesome for a short while because not having a sun makes it hard to do a lot of things, like take walks in the sunshine, grow flowers, or do roof repairs. The Sun had a daughter though, and some things happened, we're not really sure what, but some things, and now there's a new Sun. Her name is Jasper. Mostly this is working out pretty well, but there's a lot of questions about how this story ends and some people might feel pretty bad about Jade getting shot by her lover.

*****
Those are far away things though. Maybe the kind of things that someone might mull just after lunch on a warm day weekend in late spring. The kind of day where it's too warm with the sun overhead for the birds to sing and too still for the clouds to be in any rush to go anywhere. Where everything is quiet save a bit of rustling grass and a distant cricket and you might be forgiven for thinking that time has decided to take its own siesta for a little while and let this go on forever. It's that sort of day.

So, some questions to our fine residents of Fortitude.
Jasper: What are you up to on such a fine afternoon? Who are you with?
Rinley: Why can't you just lie down and take a nap right now?
Dulcinea: How are you keeping cool in this weather?
Miramie: Are you relaxing or do you have an errand to run?
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Storytime!

Back around breakfast I figured out that today wasn't just an ordinary day! There I was, shoveling rice and egg and natto into this perfect chattering mouth, and it hit me that today was going to be the day I figured out what exactly the GLASS DRAGON was. Those two words just popped into my head! Glass. Dragon. Like, I know I've heard the words around before, or maybe I just thought I did? You have to remember that I was eating at home, and home's really, really weird, because I live in the family shrine, which isn't a collection of buildings like most shrines are but is made out of what used to be an old Jotun building back when they lived here instead of people, which is why the ceilings are so high and there are so many corridors and you can get lost in there if you aren't paying attention, but really all you need to do is follow the cats because even if they don't lead you out at least they won't lead you into any real danger, because cats might be mean sometimes but deep down even the most cranky of tomcats doesn't want to see you get really hurt because, well, then who's going to open the canned tuna and plop it down in the bowl? Well, other than me, I mean, but cats tend to lump "people with thumbs" all together. Like, the way people just think about "cats" and they don't distinguish between different breeds and personalities unless that cat's really important to them? That's how cats feel about people, we're all just a bunch of dumb hairless talls with thumbs, except for me and my family, because we're the people that the cats own, except we also own the cats, but they definitely own us, so maybe it's like a double ownership thing? That's weird. If two people own each other, who gets to give the orders? Because you can just order someone not to give you an order. I guess it'd work like me and the cats, which is to say that we care about each other and just generally try to pay attention to what we're doing.

Anyway, Glass Dragons! You'd think that all that glass would make them really fragile, but, nah, that's not the way I see it. These are thick panes of stained glass, the most durable of all glasses, except for the safety glasses that they wear down at the Hayashi shrine while they're working on hot glass. Each scale's its own perfect pane! And then in its guts it's got this roiling molten glass gunk that it can puke on people instead of breathing fire, which makes it ultra super dangerous, because at least you can put out fire, but if you got the glass on you it'd meld with your skin and maybe then the dragon would be able to control your tormented zombie body to use as a minion with thumbs. Also it'd be able to shoot lasers out of its eyes by aligning the glass inside just perfectly, and letting the light zap out!

But Rinley, you may ask, but Rinley, I can't help but notice that we are not currently suffering under the iron boot of a dragonocracy. And the reason for that is simple! Like all super OP villains, the glass dragon had a weakness of some sort that made it explode, boom, pssssh, just like in that one episode of She-Ra! But because it's been so long since the glass dragon was around, that weakness has been lost, and now if someone who's smart and brave and incredible doesn't figure out what it was, then what will we do if the glass dragon ever comes back and starts shooting people with its eye lasers and then vomiting hot gunk all over them? We'll be toast! And glass zombies! And before you say of course the glass dragon isn't going to come back, isn't that exactly what you'd want people to think if you were a glass dragon? Think about it! Think about it.

So I am out here by the creek trying to figure out how exactly I'm going to figure out what the glass dragon's weakness was. Because, like, maybe it got written down at some point? But it must have been so boring that nobody ever included it when telling stories about it blowing up or melting or however it actually got beaten, I don't remember how that part went. I could break into Professor Hayashi's Archive again. Yeah, you heard me. I'm a seasoned criminal. I've got the place cased. Just walk in through the front door? Ha! That's what she wants you to do. That's why I know every window that doesn't close right, every one of the patrol routes and bathroom breaks, and the blind spots where you can hide from detection while you shovel your way through books that don't even have pictures or narratives, like, okay, I'm not a kid, I know that not all books are going to have both, but if you don't have either then you might as well just be like a school textbook, and I'm not here to learn, I'm here to figure out how to blow up and/or melt glass dragons. But, as I just mentioned, half the books in the Archive are boring hot garbage and the other half are mislabeled or misplaced or make Professor Hayashi go white as a sheet when she notices that I'm reading them, and, like, I'm not a kid, I know what dicks look like, I literally was reading that one because I wanted to get to the part where it explained where the chakra points were and how to punch them to make people explode just in case I ever ended up being given an amulet by a dying man on the beach and then suddenly the FBI's after me and I need to punch them in the chakras.

Or I could do something Rinley would have done. Which is what I'm trying to figure out. Would he have cracked open a nut and had a note fall out, written by the glassmaker who made the scales, saying that there was one scale right on his belly that was flawed and brittle? Or would he have been trying to grab a fish out of the water for dinner, when one stuck its head up and told him to listen up, because this was going to repay him in advance for saving the life of the Fish Princess? Except I don't have any fish in the creek today except for the teeny tiny ones that are fun to catch with a net, and the only thing in these nuts are snacks. And a wasp, weirdly. I have no idea how that got in the nut.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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Fortitude doesn't have a good context for dealing with explosions. The last one was a couple of winters ago in an event that has been slanderously hypothesized to have something to do with Rinley and all of those missing fireworks. This results in a population profoundly unprepared to handle a detonation of enormous size and ferocity coming from the old lighthouse. Some people raise their heads and hands to look off into the distance. Plenty of birds make the decision to get into the air and circle around, squawking urgently. A couple of dogs howl and bark because they were just looking for an excuse. A cat falls off a windowsill and pretends he meant to do that.

But there are no followups. No kaiju monsters or sustained firework aftershocks or invading star-eyed Riders from beyond, so everyone mostly just goes back to their own business afterwards and assumes that it'll sort itself out. Fortitude is that kind of place.

There is now a crater besides the lighthouse, and a white-hot shattered hole of molten stone that cuts right through the structure. The ground is burning, the sand is fusing to glass, the rocks have shattered, gouts of steam erupt from the lake where little fragments of molten fire have landed. For all the energy of the scene, though, the excitement has worn off a little bit too - the occupant of the crater has been lying there for about thirty minutes now and it's gotten to the point where a couple of enterprising birds have landed on nearby trees on the off chance there's a snack to be had. They're only metaphorically correct.

A hand the colour of Baharat spices reaches for the edge of the pit. Jasper Inkra emerges, standing, blinking, staring in all directions at the quiet Fortitude afternoon. It doesn't matter from how close or far away you see her, her face is always indistinct and her eyes are always perfectly, agonizingly in focus. There's tears in them - hurt, confusion, fear. But then they fix upon the lighthouse and they harden with resolve and compassion.

She steps towards the old stone structure. Lays her hand upon it, body alight with divine energy. And she speaks unto the building, "I am very sorry, sir, that I struck you. I swear that it was unintentional and I shall work with all my strength to restore you to your former grace and glory."

There is no reply. That is okay. It is only polite to wait. She is in the wrong here, after all, and will accept whatever judgement this strange giant chooses to pass upon her.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Phoe
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JOURNAL ENTRY NUMBER 387:
The seasons are out of alignment. The UnConvergence. The DisOrganization. The Un...Cola? Theoretical Phenomenon Name Pending. Whatever. Moving on. Regardless! Local literature suggests Spring as an idyllic period of lesser heats (hereafter defined as 22.778 degrees centigrade), gentle breezes (hereafter defined as sustained bursts of 7-10 knots. 0 garlic knots. have checked), and fresh strawberries (hereafter defined as fragaria x ananassa, a bright red fruit with lauded moisture retaining properties). Also? Picnics.

This has been an ENTIRELY picnic-free day. The temperature readings don't fall within expected parameters. Wind is non-existent. Strawberries... remain, but have fallen from their peak performance levels and stopped being on sale a week ago so I can't afford them anymore. Conclusion: Spring is broken.

This could signal the end of the world.

JOURNAL ENTRY NUMBER 99782655432...0:
Wait wait wait. Got ahead of myself. Meteorological Spring and Solar Spring have famously been desynched since the beginning of time. Personal Calendar remains in Time Out after it tried to eat the Nightmare Barometer. It might just be Summer. Further testing is required.

Regardless! It's too hot right now. Much too hot. Things will remain in a state of Too Hot for the next 11 days. Trust me, I've done the math.

I'm going to have to do something about this. Where is my hacksaw?

JOURNAL ENTRY NUMBER ♪♥♥♥♪:
Alchemy, for unknown reasons, has an absurdly high success rate at conjuring or otherwise creating fire. It should therefore be a simple matter to cause create a large scale bonfire in the center of Town. After sustaining a sufficiently large burn for a period of 14-48 hours, local phlogiston levels should rise to a sufficient but theoretically non-lethal amount to allow for the creation of an acceptably powerful Inversion Circle.

With the fire thusly turned inside out it will begin consuming, rather than exuding, heat, and bring the ambient temperature of Fortitude back down to acceptably Spring levels. Plus, bonfires are amazing for picnics.

JOURNAL ENTRY NUMBER ▓ ▒ ░:
Alternative suggestion! It might be easier, and less prone to societal backlash, to construct a series of hypermagnetic obelisks and then bury them at key leylines across Fortitude, instead. After that, all I'd need to do is conjure enough lightning to activate the hypermagnet runes, and the obelisks would cause a chain reaction drawing the poles toward them.

After inverting magnetic north and south, I should find myself safely in late Autumn waiting for Winter instead of this frankly unacceptable Spring to Summer nonsense. Aside, why does Fall get such an austere alternate title while the rest of the seasons have to keep their dumb first names? I should ask somebody about this. Somebody who would know. I should commune about this.

Minor risk of turning Fortitude upside down instead, but honestly what are the odds of that?

JOURNAL ENTRY NUMBER ▄▌▄▐▀:
The odds are not good. Trust me, I did the math.

JOURNAL ENTRY NUMBER ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA[start]:
The Quixotic Tree, Orochi!!! Whose mystical glass trunk is a conduit for no less than an Alien God! Whose roots sink deeper than the universe! Whose spiraling, leafless branches blot out the very stars from the sky! All hail!

By summoning and subsequently planting The Quixotic Tree, Orochi I will be able to replicate a Theoretical Pruning Event and erase all of pan-human history from existence forever, drawing an alternate and previously deceased timeline into the resulting void to take its place. The mere idea of a Late Spring will become ridiculous! Under the despotic rule of Ivan the Terrible Who Is Also A Two Hundred Foot Tall Mammoth With Lightning Tusks For Some Reason, all shall be blanketed in an eternal blizzard! Also! People won't exist anymore! Or they will! But they'll be wolves! Who are still people! This is good! It's good, actually! Wolf people are scientifically (!!!) proven to be amazing at rock music! Which is great, because if I have to listen to Future Nostalgia one! more! time! I'm going to scream!

***

Dulcinea d'Avignon is slumped in at a table under an unopen parasol deep in the heart of downtown (Down Town? Investigate). Her ice cream has half-reconstituted back into soup, and she's fanning herself vigorously with a tattered notebook. Her spare hand is clutched around an iced coffee, as black as her very soul with lots of cream and five (5) shots of tiramisu syrup. She lifts it to touch it against her forehead and wipe away her matted black hair as often as she does to sip from it.

She's a mess, poor girl. The dark circles still aren't gone from her eyes, despite the liberal application of circle leeches last week. She's also wearing a turtleneck, which... eesh. That thing's clinging more than a desperate ex-girlfriend. Not that she'd... know anything about that, hahahaha. She plucks at the threads uselessly, a mess of sweat and stick and non-breathing fabrics that are all in black because for some reason every time she does the laundry that's the color everything winds up bleeding into.

"Ahahahaha, I really had you going for a second though, didn't I? It is waaaaayyyyy too hot a day for any of that stuff. Yowza."
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by eldest
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You know what's terrible about insomnia? Or more accurately self induced insomnia, because damn sleeping sucks: it's all rargh nightmares and dreams that you suppose aren't technically nightmares because you're getting everything you ever wanted in the dream just in the worst way and cessation of consciousness. What if you just don't wake up one day? That's terrifying. Sleep is terrible and it's a horrible thing to need to do, and I for one would rather get so much more done during the wee hours when everyone else appears to need to do it and I can be left alone. But that's a tangent, insomnia sucks because you can't do things well after a point. You can try, but then you're all fuzzy after a point and if you're trying to work with delicate things or hot things or sharp jagged things, all of which describe blowing glass, you might after a time be inclined to stop blowing glass after you start to drift and it starts sagging off the pole and dripping towards your shoe. So you might build up a backlog of things you've wanted to do, while doing the prep which does not involve as much fire, as well as doing all the paperwork and chores you could think you needed because you need something to keep yourself awake another hour or two.

But that, my friend, describes yesterday. And last night, for the first time in you don't want to know, Mila got enough sleep. More than enough, really, she's only been awake and refreshed for an hour or so. And she can do things and be perfectly focused on them. And then. AND THEN. The bloody day's too hot to want to be anywhere near a furnace.

So that's why she happens to be relaxing by the seaside, sketching the boats coming into the docks. A good sea breeze, practice, and something to work off of for her next piece, when the sun's set, the moon is up, and it's cool enough to even begin to think about being near open flame.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Anarion
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Rinley! There is a wasp in your nut. That's unusual, wasps don't typically fly into nuts, but you are pretty sure that you'd remember if your bag of nuts were buzzing earlier. There also appear to be a good number of water skaters on this river and the tiny fish aren't trying to eat them with their typical vigor. This could be because you're present and the fish don't want to risk getting too near a person, even a perfectly nice fox person like yourself. But it could be for some other reason! Maybe it's the cat lounging on a nearby river jetty a bit downstream from you. It may look like it's asleep, but you know that it is merely lying in wait for the right moment to strike, as all cats do from time to time.

[Oh and take 1 XP for invoking your Storytime quest right off the bat.]

*****

Jasper! A creature of this size and with such stern and stiff bearing likely holds some sort of knightly title. It may be very cross with your disrespectful entrance. Regardless, however, Sir Lighthouse (third of his name) does not deign to answer you and returns your comment with only stony silence.

You don't know this, but typically there would be a lighthouse keeper who would perhaps come to check on what's happened. Today, however, the lighthouse keeper, who is a young lady perhaps a year or two younger than you appear at the moment, decided that it was too nice a day to sit in a stuffy lighthouse when literally everything was light. So she's off in Fortitude near the beach having a milkshake in a cafe with a friend of hers. It is strawberry and she is using it cover her current blush because her friend said that her freckles make her look cute and she blushes easily.

But! You are met with stony silence for the moment. Perhaps you've got an idea of why that might be?

*****

Dulcinea! Just two tables over from where you are mulling the nature of reality and the nature of melted ice-cream, you see a young lady with freckles and a strawberry milkshake start to blush at something the other girl with her (who has lovely curly black hair that bounces to just below her shoulders) must have said. You have an uncanny sense (or possibly just a good dose of observational field experience) that the freckled girl is playing hookie with her friend and wasn't expecting to be complimented so. She's now using her milkshake as an impenetrable shield to hide her blush. It is failing.

How are you feeling?

[Oh and take 2 XP. One quest XP for proposing some interesting alchemical theory, the other for invoking speechlessness in the reader.]

*****

Mila! The sea is lovely. Well, the Lake, rather. This is Big Lake, all fresh water. There's a cool breeze coming off it it though, and it does have some waves. There's a fishing boat out there, the fishermen lazily dangling their lines as they rest near the their rods, attached to the side of the boat with some firm hooks. They'll be ready to catch something, but just now even Big Lake doesn't seem much up for disturbing the calm. A couple is sleeping on towels spread by the sand nearby, though the young lady appears to have been out longer and is starting to get a sunburn.

The only thing that seems to be off is a bit of dust from what sounded like something happening over by the lighthouse at the end of the beach. It's a little ways away, but you could walk there if you cared to check it out. It might be a little tiring though, but then again, it might pass the time. Your painting is also coming along nicely though. And you could let the young lady know about her developing sunburn. Really, the world is your oyster right now, to do with as you will! It's very refreshing and gives every sign that tonight will be very productive! (Is this too good to be true?)
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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The Child of the Sun waits for judgement to be passed upon her.

It is not all with grace. She keeps her head down, not daring to search for the lighthouse's eyes. As the silence continues her breath becomes shorter, more fearful. She squeezes her eyes shut. Every minute that passes with her sins unaddressed compounds the seriousness of her crime. The offense she has given is so dire, the pain she has inflicted is so serious that she is being left kneeling and unaddressed upon the doorstop. There are unpracticed tears, and unpracticed attempts to control them. There are ears and instincts shrieking at every sound of bird and hound in the distance that cannot be addressed, for distraction would show insincerity in her quest for penance. There is a secret wish for a mother as gentle and kind as she's trying to be, who would use a smile and a miracle to explain everything and make everything better.

The stone is so cold beneath her fingers. She's never felt anything like it. Her hand begins to tremble, and then with a sound of anguish, she throws her arms around the lighthouse as best as she is able and she cries and cries and says that she's sorry and that she's lost and that she didn't mean it. And as she does, she tries with all her wishing heart to bring as much warmth to this cold stone as she can.

And all about Fortitude, what was already a very hot day turns into a scorcher. Within twenty minutes the town erupts in groans as the ramshackle old power grid overloads under the strain of trying to keep everything cool in the face of the Sun's apology.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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“A cat.” Don’t play coy with me, narrator! As if I don’t recognize this cat on sight! I know pretty much all the cats, you know. It’s part of being a Yatskaya. Sure, I don’t know him the way I know Molly or Phoebe or Old Whiskers or Adora or Timmytom, but I recognize those stripes, and the fuzz around his face like he’s got a tiny cat beard; that’s so obviously Edelgard von Hresvelg, named after the Prussian philosophy person, that I am insulted, yes, insulted that you would insinuate that I don’t know him! Of all the nerve!

Still, it’s always good to get to know a cat better, especially if you’re, and I’m tossing out a pure hypothetical here, trying to hide the fact that you are in a forbidden friendship with the heir to the rat throne, which is probably made out of all this silverware, all butter knives and fork tines all sticking out like a porcupine, and I haven’t mentioned my theory to Eduard (no relation to Edelgard) yet but it just makes sense when you think about it, because that’s objectively the coolest kind of throne, and it’d be really good at stopping a cat-level incursion from eating the king of the rats in one bite. That’s why there’s a ban on loose cats in Fortitude, you know. If you find a mommy cat that’s snuck off and made kittens, the only kind thing to do is send them to this animal shelter over the hill in Horizon because otherwise you have to put them to sleep unless there’s a cat on their last life who’s willing to give up a slot, because the Treaty of Rodentia declared that you can’t have over a thousand and one cats in Fortitude on pain of war being declared between ratkind and catkind until there were a lot, lot less cats. Oh, and also humans would be treated as “feline collaborators,” which, uh, isn’t good. And from the sound of it you might think, wow, these rats must be straight-up jerks, but they’re not, not really, because there’s a prophecy. Eduard hasn’t explained anything about the prophecy to me yet, and neither has my dad (but what else is new), but that’s okay, because I figured it out myself.

When Fortitude is swollen and bloated with cats, specifically being one thousand and two cats, then the spirit of the catssiah will descend on the Virgin Moggy, and she will give birth to a kitten and name him Puss in Boots. Because he has boots, he’ll be able to travel to the Far Roofs, beyond the roofs we know.

And obviously the rats don’t want that to happen! Imagine, a cat up there, tromping around in his rainboots! It’d be so unfashionable that they’d all die of second-hand embarrassment!!

Anyway, I start Operation: Sneak. I get down on all fours and look deep into my own soul, and then I take dainty little steps with my hands and knees, imagining that I’m a sneaky fox who doesn’t make a sound. (But out here, I don’t actually become a fox.)

It takes forever. Empires rise and kingdoms fall. The crickets chirp. The water striders dance. I put my weight on a twig and Edelgard twitches an ear and I have to wait for my heart to slow down which is tough when you’re holding your breath because that makes your heart want to speed back up again! But eventually I start pushing through the longer grass onto the jetty, and that’s when Edelgard raises his head and fixes me with a death glare.

I mollify him by giving a traditional greeting: slowly blinking to establish trust, and then sticking out the tip of my tongue between my lips. Blep!

(Storytelling: 1/9 XP)
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Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh gosh, look at that! Look at that look at that look at that, gosh gosh gosh! Freckles! Blushing freckles! Is that not the cutest thing ever?

Objectively, no. It's around number 87 maybe? Between "kitten falling face first into a bowl of cream" and Eliza Dragorovich's pink nail polish. But still! That's really precious! And oh! The look on Ms. Curl's face! It's so great when somebody lets themselves be so obviously smitten like that. You go girl, get that cutie! Just be careful; statistics show that 67% of first dates centered around freckle kissing end in breakup after only three weeks. Conversely if you stave off temptation until the third meeting, the relationship results in stable, ultra-cuddle class marriage in roughly 52% of cases! Hey, sneer all you want but data doesn't lie!

Also, something something blah blah blah the subtle sting of jealousy who could ever be the one to bring light into my world of shadows why is it always them and not me. Yawn. You build up a tolerance to the stock reactions pretty quickly with enough exposure, it's cool. Also it turns out you need to have a heart to feel heartache, so, you know. Yeah. Let's just take this second and by happy for--

Oh shoot! Whoops! Notes notes notes, get back to documenting this phenomenon! Remember, Dulci? If you're not doing science, it's called stalking. Fan to notebook transformation sequence: go!

Dulcinea's floppy, badly abused notebook flops back down onto her table next to her ice cream with a noisy clatter. She uses her suddenly spare hand to pull out her phone and snap a picture for her archives, then drops that and fishes a big fountain pen out of her bag. Her tongue pokes out of her mouth a little bit as she writes, like it tends to do when she's concentrating really hard.

wlw mlm wlm
||||| ||||| ||||| ||| |||
||

"...Huh! Wonder if that means anything?"

She taps the pen to her lips a couple of times in idle contemplation before frowning suddenly. She glances skyward through her sodden bangs, and sighs.

"You know, there's such a thing as doing your job too well. Not for me, but... some people. Hint hint up there!"

With a groan, she drags herself out of her chair. One step forward, pause. Double back, and a looooong drag of her iced coffee. The poor ice cream's a lost cause at this point. Or, well, it's not, but it's a project unto itself to rescue the stuff and as has previously been mentioned, the heat. Some other time, some other five dollars. Preferably someone else's. She sets the cup down on top of her notebook and shuffles off precisely two tables over.

"Hi there! Don't mind me, I'm from the... well never mind it doesn't... hm. I'll just be a, nnnrgh! A minute, I've just... ooogh! Got to... fffffllllrble, why do they make these so nnnf! stubborn! Eeeep!"

Dulcinea tumbles backwards onto her butt, but flashes a tiny smile when she sees the table's umbrella opened up over the happy couple. She lifts both of her hands up and waves off their looks with dismissive little wiggles (mantis style!).

"Ok, as you were, as you were. I was never here. Oh, but if one of you could tell me how you think things are going in about..." she glances up at the sun, then down at her phone, "eeeeeleven minutes an seventeen seconds? That'd be a huge... n-no, no, as you were."
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It's very refreshing and gives every sign that tonight will be very productive! (Is this too good to be true?)


Today's going to be a great day, she's sure of it, she'll make sure of it. She's got time, she wants to take a look at the lighthouse (it was something she was going to draft a sketch of anyway, so might as well head in that direction) but she wants to finish this work first. A moment, though, to rescue the young lady from sunburn. Such a fate is terrible after all. And back to the work at hand, and she'll be good in about thirty minutes.

And all about Fortitude, what was already a very hot day turns into a scorcher. Within twenty minutes the town erupts in groans as the ramshackle old power grid overloads under the strain of trying to keep everything cool in the face of the Sun's apology.


And twenty minutes later she's reminded why you never get your hopes up.

She sighs, glaring at the painting which is almost done, it's right there, but she just can't justify finishing it when the lighting changed and the paint's so hot it's runny. Another half completed thing held hostage by the whims of the natural world: she darts a glare up at the sun overhead, scowling as it shines brightly on, indifferent. She mutters under her breath as she packs up her tools into a tote, putting her shoes in there as well and striding through the surf, south. To the lighthouse, then, there's a big object providing shade there at least and something that might be sketchable, though the paint's all buggered for today.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Anarion
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Rinley, I will play coy with you whenever I please, don't tell me what to do! But anyway, Edelgard regards you with the noble disdain that is the birthright of all cats. Even your blep is not enough to melt his heart. However, it is hot and he appears to have a slight itch on his tummy. He gestures by rolling an imperceptible amount to expose this area. You are to understand that your obligation is to give this area appropriate rubs and scritchies. This will please Edelgard, which he may express by clawing the back of your hand less frequently than if you were to attempt to pet the wrong location.

It occurs to you that if you establish adequate rapport, you might learn why Edelgard is here. As a cat of standing, he ought to know the goings on of Fortitude. Perhaps with appropriate persuasion, he might be willing to open up to you about where you should be searching for this glass dragon mystery. Or this Catssiah mystery, though between you and me, I wouldn't trust a cat to be honest with you about their most sacred prophecies no matter how perfectly you give belly-rubs. Eduard, who is definitely not a rat that you know or have any sort of forbidden relationship with given your Yatskaya background, would agree with this stance.

[Would you like to spend some will on interacting with Edelgard particularly well?]

*****

Dulcinea,

The couple stare at you with a mixture of confusion and annoyance at your interruption. Though strawberry freckles flashes you juuuust a hint of gratefulness. The sun is starting to beat down even harder than ever. This is odd, you are confident the weather should not be behaving like this, the heat of the day had definitely reached its zenith approximately 23.7332 minutes prior to this moment. This does mean, though, that you've done quite the good deed, shielding this happy couple from the sun before it caused them any suffering!

You yourself are not in the umbrella's shade though, having made your recovery from your little tumble with a scramble backwards. How does it feel to be in direct sunlight that is definitely unnaturally hot and are you going to do anything about it?

*****

[Jasper, take an XP for doing sunny things! This isn't exactly sunny in disposition, but it is quite literally sunny and that's close enough!]

Unfortunately, the Lighthouse is truly unmoving, even in the face of your breakdown. There's not much to say here. It really doesn't seem either capable or willing to respond. Perhaps your fall has sent Sir Lighthouse into some kind of shock or coma state? Certainly it's not every day that the Lighthouse has to deal with craters so near to it. Perhaps you even gave him a fright, landing as close as you did. Why, a few more inches and you'd have sent cracks through the base of his cement and then where would he be? Perhaps it's something else? Do you have a theory as to why you're getting such a bad reception once your crying starts to abate?

Oh, and be quick about it, somebody seems to be coming!

*****

Mila, life can be so hard. You let the sunburned woman know her trouble, but all you get for your efforts are a glare for interrupting them, though as you pack up your paints before they run everywhere, you do see them adjusting their position, so you can be reassured that you did some good at least, even if you got no gratitude for it. As for the paints, some will be lost forever and you think that your indigo and your teal may have gooped into a rather unpleasant gray that will require new tubes of both the next time you paint. That will require a trip to the art store and the good indigo paint is the most expensive one! That's just how these things go though, you're sure to find some shade and some cool stone by the lighthouse at least.

[Take one XP for being a bit under siege here, unless you don't think it's that bad yet, in which case you're under no obligation take it.]

As you walk along the beach and pass the little extension in the cliff that comes just before the lighthouse, you see a young woman with long dark hair, about your age, standing against the lighthouse and crying. Despite her sadness, there's something positively radiant about her and you immediately have the sense that she might be an exhausting sort of person, though likely an optimist for all that. On the other hand, she's obviously in distress. What do you do when you see her?
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Thanqol
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Jasper feels empty.

Her face hurts. Her chest hurts. Her stomach hurts. Hurts. What a concept! Like there are mountain ridges inside her that she grinds against, like she's swallowed the void of space as it continues to expand in all directions, like the dying days of a star as it puffs red and bloated, burning toxic fuel. Hurts. She's never felt anything like this before. It's... ah!

Ah. She understands.

She steps back from the lighthouse. She bows, fist in palm. "I accept this punishment," she said. "I will carry this pain as penance. Thank you for the curse you have bestowed upon me." She smiles through the tears. She can do this. She can take on his burden. She is glad for the opportunity - she feels proud, even! She'd do this even if she wasn't being punished, just think, removing this suffering from the world!

She turns about like a fire in autumn and smiles at the newcomer through tear-soaked joy. What other sorrows can she burn away?
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Are you kidding? Of course I put some of my will into doing this! This is my job! It’s not my destiny, which is to be the best Rinley ever, but it’s my job, which means I’m on the clock and people get mad at me if I don’t do it, and there might be a termination of benefits if I don’t uphold my part of the deal, but the rewards are amazingly worth it. Exhibit A: scritchie scritchie scritchie, wub wub wub, whoooosa good kitty, huh? Whoooo’s my widdle ray of sunshine? It’s you! It’s youuuuu!! You’re my widdle Swiss croissant~!!

[Will 2 + Superior Cat-Speaker 2! A default outcome of 4 suggests that this is effective and brings me closer to my goals.]

It’s only once he’s doing his content squint and has stopped batting at my hand whenever I slow down that I lay the bait. “You know,” I say, so slyly, “I just so happen to have some kitty treats, but I was planning on giving them to a very clever cat who could find a place with information on the glass dragon. Maybe we could turn this into a mutually beneficial arrangement? You know: I scritchie your tummy full of wuv, you scritchie mine, that sort of thing.” Scritchie scritchie! His tummy is so full of wuv! If I brought him over to Dulcy, she’d measure him with a set of calipers and put him on a scale and then tell me that it was scientifically proven that his tummy was, in fact, 83% saturated with love and attention, but that his Badness Levels were unusually high for a cat of his size, and that he was shedding all over her black wardrobe please take him away Rinley before I am left with the prospect of starting laundry day three days early! This is because she is a sillyhead who doesn’t understand how cat hair can tie any ensemble together.
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You know that feeling when you go outside a movie theatre? You're stepping from a story, which is wonderful and great but somewhat flatter than real life, with all the plot threads neatly tied together in a bow at the end, and stepping into real life, which is loud and sometimes smelly and oh so much brighter? You're dazed, just a bit, as you come out into the parking lot and you might sneeze at the bright light that suddenly fills your awareness and makes you know that there is more than just a set of regimented stories and that life is complex and beautiful and you could never understand all of it in a million years?

That metaphor ran away from me a little but that, exactly that, happens as she rounds the bend and sees the lighthouse, the strange woman standing there, the crater, and the blinding glow. Down to the sneezing fit. "I'm sorry" -ka-chew- "I'm not sure" -ka-chew- "what's going on" -ka-chew-. She stumbles through the apology, staying far enough away that her sneezes won't get near the other woman.
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Jasper stares at you. Her eyes are pits of bottomless gold, all seeing, all-knowing. Her nose is crinkled in concentration. She watches for a long moment and then squares her shoulders in resolution - and gives a soul-crackingly cute sneeze in response.

"I am Jasper Inkra -" tsink! She frowns and looks at her nose a little cross-eyed. "Did I do that right?" she murmured to herself before continuing with the stately presence of a Roman orator, one hand dramatically raised, the other folded behind her back. "- and I am honoured to," tsink! "greet you. I am The Sun. Are you the" tsink! "god of these lands?"
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Mila freezes. She stands stock, perfectly still for far too long. It's her, and Sir Lighthouse, the third of his name, and both are frozen.

And zoom in through the eyes (which have grown wide as saucers) into her thought process.

First the lights. Alarms, specifically, red lights blinking to wake the dead, if the dead were also deaf and worked at a nuclear power plant that was going critical and needed them right now. Speaking of which, in case said workers were also blind the alarms have a very loud wail, pulsing like a tornado siren to make sure you know that shit got serious. A scattering of thoughts all try to come up with a plan for the rapidly approaching danger, but keep running into each other in the corridors of her mind and scattering the half-formed concepts to frayed imaginative wisps.

After far, far too long she moves again. Takes a deep breath, putting her hands in front of her, clasped together, pointer finger touching her chin. Lets out her breath, takes another deep, calming breath. Points the fingers towards The Sun.

"No."

Oh dear this was a terrible terrible plan and she did not introduce herself properly and please don't be mad.
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Point of order: Dulcinea already knew the day's temperature would hit record highs twenty such and such minutes after it had begun declining for the day. Why do you think she took the time to open that couple's umbrella? Somebody's got to have an eye toward the future, even if nobody appreciates that sort of thing.

"Well, anyway, you... right. Yeah. You two have a lovely evening? Ok byeeeeee~"

Heh, suckers. It's 15:14 right now, any quantifiable state of evening is hours away. Niiiiiice. Gosh, she hopes this one ends in kissing. It feels, you know, well, I mean, it doesn't feel much of anything when people get kisses. There's no tactile sensation (obviously!) and no pitter patter doki doki adrenaline surge that tells a person to get excited. But her Conscience Crystal turns bright pink whenever it happens, which objectively means the thing happening is good. Maybe someday she'll have enough data to understand why.

You... I mean, you know. Empirically. She signed that contract fair and square and all.

Regardless! The Sun! Is too hot! It is behaving Abnormally! But one data point doesn't exactly make a graph, now does it? Like, yes, she could slink home right this second, where the AC is acting up again (she keeps demanding 'fair wages'? whatever that means?) but at least there are copious amounts of delightfully sun-free shadows in which to work and construct a Sun-Catching Net or a Self Altering Reverse Magnifying Glass or to construct an obsidian fortress around Fortitude and block out the radioactive hellbeast once and for all! She could do that! Obviously. She's Dulcinea d'Avingon!

It's just, well, this could easily be because too many people got the hiccups all at once and the sun noticed and started doing it too. Or maybe a lighthouse got mad. A wizard's curse. The birth of a thousand and oneth cat (wait, no. what? ridiculous. stop looking at wikipedia during hypothesis). Or because it's still a relatively new sun it might just still be calibrating. It hasn't needed calibrating yet, but it could need it. The point is she might very well wake up tomorrow to discover everything is completely and frustratingly normal. Again. And more's the point, the sun being in the sky is one of those objectively good pink-crystal moment kind of things, which is why she carved out her own heart to put it there.

So like... yeah. Further data required, and all that. So that meant the obvious next step was to take readings and find out exactly what the deal is here. Later. Tonight. With cooler air and better working conditions for canvassing the whole of the Fortitude Sky. Also to be frank, it's rude to stare. You know how light changes its form when it knows you're viewing it? Same principle, but a glowing yellow orb in the sky.

She drains her coffee in a single swig, then fills the cup again with her ice cream. Waste not. She saunters away from her third favorite cafe. And then zips back again at double speed to the tremendous consternation of a pair of beautiful lovebirds. Forgot her notebook, sorry.
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After far, far too long she moves again. Takes a deep breath, putting her hands in front of her, clasped together, pointer finger touching her chin. Lets out her breath, takes another deep, calming breath. Points the fingers towards The Sun.

"No."

Oh dear this was a terrible terrible plan and she did not introduce herself properly and please don't be mad.


"O-oh."

It looks like you just kicked her in the chest. Jasper's face falls, her shoulders slump, her courtly pose dissolves. Now she just looks lost. She takes a moment, holds up one finger in a regal gesture for time, and then starts pacing back and forth and talking out loud to herself.

"Stone giant. Capable of enduring pain and inflicting it in turn," she's not, like, muttering either. This is completely normal talking volume and she's got great projection, like a stage actor. "Strangely cold. Greeted by an entity that is not a god and not performing proper courtly greeting rituals. Refuses to give it's name. Has some sort of... facial expression that indicates fear or panic, and punctuates certain sentences with a shockingly high energy discharge of breath..."

Her eyes go wide. She spins about, and points at Mila dramatically with an outstretched finger.

"I know where I am!" declares Jasper with a brilliant smile on her face. "I am in the Consuming Hells, and you are a devil!"
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Name, right, names are important, do not want to upset The Sun with no name or in fact anything else. "Ah, no. You are not in the Consuming Hells, and I am not a devil." Not technically a lie. "My name's Mila." Also not technically a lie, but we are not thinking about any other name we might have had no ma'am. "We're in Town, the outskirts by Lake. Not in Outside though. And... I know some courtly rituals but I don't know which are the right ones. I... I hope you're not offended?" Was that the right level of contrite? How do normal people react when they come face to face with Great Powers? Why didn't she study this?
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Anarion
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Well Rinley, Edelgard is enjoying your scritches and belly rubs. Yes he is! Yes he is! These aren't the best belly rubs he's ever had in his life, mind you (that honor belongs to one of your siblings, care to tell me which one is the best cat-speaker in your opinion?). But this is good, quality scritch scritch on a lovely day. So, Edelgard lets slip, in his meowing way, that where you need to be is near the downtown cafes. There's someone there that the cats can see, and that you can see, and while Edelgard doesn't really understand something like a glass dragon (being "not a cat" it can't really be that important) he understands shiny pretty glass being in unusual places. You kind of understand intrinsically that you should be there.

Now if you'll just let me...scooch you...a little bit...oh look you've made your way downtown despite the sun beating down on you! And look, there are two really notable things in front of you! One is Dulcinea, who appears to be engaged in some kind of...cafe relay race maybe? Wind sprints? She's zipping in and out of the same cafe at variable speeds as you enter the scene is what I'm saying.

The second is some kid about your age with her straw hair in two braids sitting on the steps near the cafe. She's not remarkable or anything. No romance going on, so Dulcinea wouldn't have particularly noticed her. I bet you think she's important though!

There's a lot to do here, this is what happens when cats are forthcoming with information, I guess. What are you going to do?

*****

Oh Dulcinea, look, it's Rinley coming down the road here. Also, pretty much the whole cafe is staring at you right now, what with popping up to manipulate an umbrella and then your little fall, your dramatic coffee+ice cream finish and your exit followed by reentry sprint. It's a little speedy for Fortitude, you're going at just above the typical pace of life and you now find yourself the center of attention. The host, who's a bit of an older fellow, maybe in his fifties and obviously doing this because he likes the chance to meet people coming into the restaurant leans over and asks in a casual way "everything all right, miss?"

What's your response to being the center of attention?

Also, how do you know Rinley? Is it only from requests to measure the precise amount of wuv in a kitty's tummy? Perhaps you've got some background. What emotions are sparked seeing her coming down the lane and being obviously spotted out?

*****
Jasper and Mila!

[Jasper, take two XP. One's an XP for wrestling with some nameless feeling of loss. The other one is for proposing a theory about your world.]
[Mila, take an XP for being suspicious about your other identity. I mean, I doubt Jasper noticed, but I think you're being a little suspicious.]

You're talking. But for your info, a normal person who is a Fortitude resident would be relatively nonchalant in this scene, even if she were to conclude that one or both of you were goddesses. Fortitude's got plenty a goddess in it. They deserve respect, don't get me wrong, but it's really nothing to get huffy over. I don't mean to interrupt though, carry on.

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