Hidden 26 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Eclair!

The Paladin stops, leans on her broom, stares at you. Her eyebrow twitches above those starglasses. “Look,” she growls. “You already beat me. You already convinced me to…”

She trails off. It’s doubly hard to gauge her expression behind those lenses of smoked glass. “Either you’re being honest, maid, or you’re trying to trip me up. Get me to reveal where she is. What kind of mission from those dragons has you shaking down a supplier of ecclesiastical… supplies? And, look, she didn’t just tell me that you’re her deranged stalker, she told Vessenmer, too, well before you even showed up, so why don’t you try coming up with some clever reason for that? Her name’s Eclair, and she’s relentless, and she’ll threaten people in my life if I don’t return her love—

She cuts herself off a little too late; she didn’t mean to play her hand so baldly. The sound of your breathing, the two of you, is loud in the cavernous room.

“…and here you are saying that you just want to clean and have polite conversations with a woman who’s terrified of you. Okay. You beat me. I’ll clean. But someone is playing me here, and I think the maid who just kicked my ass is the more dangerous possible liar here, as opposed to a scrawny, anxious nun. So you want to meet her? Only in a place we pick, with Paladins guarding her— that’s the only way I’d even consider it.”

Your tablet pings.
>[.onarainyeve]
>How are you finding the City of Colors, Eclair? I imagine the colors sticking to you as you go.
>No. Sticking to me.
>Damp like Morning’s moss, beaded with dew like pearl-diamonds. Smearing scales.
>Is that how the Nagi learned how to change colors?
>I wonder how to get colors out of a skirt. You would hate imprecise color smearing. Get under your skin. Tik-a-tak. Out out out. Not right.
>Oh, you poor dear…

Evening is the bookwyrm of the three. She’s probably coiled in the library tapping at her special tablet, claws fading into being long enough to register each letter, steaming violet and indigo, rising from her scales. She’s also the mimic; her voice is a patchwork of imitations, stolen words and phrases slipping into her speech. It’s an honor to have her attention like that. But, also, she does have a tendency to have her dreaming thoughts go in… odd directions.



Sayanastia!

Civelia— polished, perfect Civelia, that statue pretending to be a woman, that girl discovering she was always a statue— stands and strides over to you, despite the looks she gets from the Paladins.

“If your wicked hand and will are the cause of this,” she says, hand on her hip, eyes dark and unlit, voice as sharp and brittle as glass, “I shall make you explode like we did at Yellow Run. Then I shall have you scooped up into a cube, then smelted, then used as the cornerstone of a new monastery. I’ll put a picture over you, the stone cube you, depicting you tripping down the stairs here during your challenge speech on the Ninth Return. No, I shall have a ‘manga’ made. And then it shall be given to congregations for free. And then I shall fill the monastery with mathematicians.

She can’t actually do this, but the threat makes her feel better.

Both of you have reincarnated so many times that you’re getting familiar with the patterns, even when they don’t seem quite the same. And you both know that she was created to be Heron’s wife— and that she’s not good at it.

But the two of you still haven’t… you know. Something always comes up. You have… had… a tendency to have her in your clutches, build up the circumstances of her peril, and then chicken out of demanding her heart. Remember the one time that you stalled your own wedding for two hours until Heron showed up to save the bride?

Besides, you bit her arm off back at the dawn of time. That would probably put a dampener on any… you know. Weddings. Even if her duty to Heron wasn’t paramount, literally built into her heart. (You will, of course, have noted the comparisons to Kalentia by now.)

And yet, as she stares down at you, indignant and exhausted, you take a String on her anyway, as she gives into the desire to pay attention to you over the crisis, to needle you, to get needled back, to have your attention again. What will you label this String, o eater of soaps?



Yuki!

It’s no use. Every time you look at someplace, it seems distinctly more confusing. More complex. Almost as if, when you weren’t looking, someone was slotting in streets, smuggling in entire rooftops, and making a proper labyrinth for the hunt. (You’ve seen this film from your earth, yes? The one where nothing is what it seems and if you had just kept walking forwards, you would have gotten straight to the castle.)

“…tell me what the Fawn is like,” the Baygum commands, leading you uncertainly onto the next rooftop as her answer. No scenting magic (that she can break out on the spot, or has the resources for), just trying to get around and ahead of the hunt. Baying echoes from below, increasingly distant. “Will he be difficult to tame, Gonji? He will have my sluzhina as a tutor.”

“Me?” Juniper’s voice cracks a little, but not in a bad way. Like Olesya, she’s just accepted that the Khatun will catch him. “I… I wasn’t thinking about that. He’ll need a lot of training to really understand his place in the pack, Yuki! Cooking, cleaning, sewing, entertaining, behaving…”

Go ahead and share with the class, Yuki! And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest.



Hazel!

“Oh, huntresses~?”
“You’ll have to tell us all about it later, yah~”

You’re probably in a residential part of the city now— that is, the sort of part where the buildings aren’t tall to show off, but because it lets you pack more people inside. That’s as good a reason as any for the way the streets narrow, right? And the colors are even more gaudy, almost like a neon sign, hot on the eyes. You keep making turns, tighter and tighter, and the baying’s getting quieter behind the three of you, which means you might maybe have a chance to double back if they’d just stop and actually listen to you.

(And you probably don’t notice the patterns worked into the banners and the signs and the tiles. Why would you? You aren’t a starblooded ashiq of Aestival. So, too, you miss the look the two give each other, and the nod of agreement.)

Then— once again— you’re pulled to one side, suddenly, Keli and Seli’s hands firm on you, yanked off your feet and through a beaded curtain and down onto your knees on cool tiles. One hand covers your mouth, predictably, but the other covers your eyes, and together the two push you into a bow, straight from running, the air whistling through your nose. How cute you look like that, on all fours, trying to figure out what’s going on here.

ara ara~

The exhalation of smoke, issuing from between my teeth like a dragon.

“You may look, my darlings, and the Fawn too. I’m decent.”

And the hands are removed, and you may look up to see me, my electric blue robe already sliding off my shoulders, drawing the eye to the flat, toned chest fully on display. It might be somewhat more defined than yours, but you’ll have to forgive me for that; I haven’t had the chance to observe the particulars yet. I especially think I had a good eye for these glowing antlers, though they aren’t the only thing causing the shimmering halo of light on the walls behind me.

“What, do you not have mirrors on Yukisearth?” I say, in your adorable voice, gesturing with my dragon-headed pipe. “Next you’ll be telling me that you don’t have shell games, either.”

My dear daughters know better than to ask if I’ve been here the entire time, if I had a plan, to what degree I’m capitalizing on an opportunity here. As if I’d tell them straight! Or you either, for that matter.

I am here. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. And won’t we have such fun, darlings?
Hidden 25 days ago 25 days ago Post by Anarion
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"Tame?" Yuki hadn't really thought about that part. Everyone had been so intent on the hunt part. She had been too, the Golden Fawn (i.e. poor confused Hazel) was the chosen one, everybody wanted him. Yuki had been focused on protecting him, it hadn't really clicked that there was something about taming him.

That was really different than her experience. She'd drawn the sword from the stone, so to speak. Not...literally, but really close! Her hand patted the weathered blade she wore. A keepsake. Apparently it had been hung up after she left and since it had been a powerful glowing legendary sword, nobody had thought to oil it or sharpen it, so it tarnished over the years, became dull and a little rusted. A good metaphor for how things changed, but she loved it for that, had immediately taken it from Kel on her return, no questions asked, no time to try and fix it up, and she didn't even really want to.

She follows to the next rooftop. It was a good question, and she was glad to have her mind elsewhere. It felt like the city was bewitched as far as directions go and the easiest thing there was to stop trying, let Olesnya decide their route based on what she knows about her pack, and maybe buy a city map later. And some other maps for that matter, she was going to have a different journey this time around, she could tell.

"Hazel is...uh, kind of a sweetie, I think? He's really shy. Like, not about everything. He loves good food, especially sweet treats, he's got a sweet tooth like he's a five year old honestly. Oh man, and one time, we were out and he tripped and spilled ice cream all over his shirt and pants like he was five too. I mean, honestly it was super cute though. And he's not uncoordinated or anything normally! He loves games, especially rhythm games, he's really good at them. I think he's good at learning rules and timing and has good hand eye coordination, that sort of thing, and he tries to be a good boy and do everything right, so he gets really into games until he's super good at them! He just, kinda gets distracted by stuff sometimes when he's out places, so he can make mistakes or mess something up, y'know?" That hadn't come out quite how Yuki meant it to, but with the running and the thinking, her brain was just on gush as far as the part she was supposed to talk about. She was saying out loud and thinking at the same time here, not enough mental energy left for the filter.

"Kind of makes him hard to tame though cuz he's already really tame. Like with everyone pretty much. How do you make someone who's shy and tame and tries to be really proper and polite more tame, y'know? Like, if you caught him, he'd totally just do whatever you told him to. I mean, like, he'd try to escape if you put him in a cell, but if you were just like 'hey, please, this is really important and it'd be rude if you didn't respect my culture' I'm pretty sure he'd just do whatever you asked. At least for a while until he was somewhere safe and could leave with his friends. Though, like, well, maybe not everything? Some of the stuff you've been telling me about, Juni, he'd probably be too embarrassed to do. Far as I know, he never dated anybody in high school, like, not even casually. I don't think he's had his first kiss ever, not that I've heard about. And like, I dunno if I've ever seen Hazel hug anybody who's not his mom, which I shouldn't laugh at him about, he tries so hard to be nice and not offend anyone. But, so like he'd probably be kinda traumatized if you tried to make him a...er...like a slave for you? Um, I mean, I'm not saying you practice slavery, I just don't know the right word, but like, the thing where you catch him and force him to do stuff, like you were kinda saying, Olesnya" (whoops) "like making Juni tutor him whether he wants to or not, I think he'd get really embarrassed about that stuff. But like, I dunno, we're waaaaay off from taming here, not sure I answered your question?"

Yuki blushes, brushes her pigtails back with her hand, resets her footing, keeps moving, staying close to Olesya (ya, bad girl!), tries to see how close they're getting to the city walls, or if the types of roofs are changing or anything. Something, anything that would situate her in Crevas.
Hidden 23 days ago Post by Thanqol
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It wasn't... wasn't like that. The ritual was contingent on Heron's presence; the old bond needed to be severed at the same moment as the new one was forged. The realignment of the triad - two verses one - would have locked the heroine in a dark world encircling the abyss, the last bearer of a flickering flame rather than the proud guardian of a thriving world. In time that battle would have worn on her, scratching away at her will until she gave up. It had been obvious, in retrospect: the only weapon that could truly kill the heroine's endless determination was loneliness. That was why...

She needed a comeback. A narrative about how she'd teach the mathematicians antireality equations, corrupting them with knowledge of the void until the temple inverted and became the nexus of madness. The structure of it was all there, a dark promise about a new age of evil, the tools of civilization once again turning to its own ruin. But even as the thought arose it drifted away in her head. Her heart wasn't in it. Pointless threats and pointless speeches, another turn of the wheel, when instead...

"You will do all these things?" said Sayanastia. "That is a shock. I presumed you would do as you always do: sit obediently and wait for Heron to rescue you. Though perhaps, with her out of the picture and your attempt to crown a new champion ruined, you finally feel the need to take matters into your own hands?"

There was a flicker of something inside her. She'd lost... so many times. In the end the only thing she could do was accept her place. She was lesser than the heroine, and such was a dragon's pride that accepting that had taken so very long.

But she didn't yet know if she was lesser than Civelia. And that question raised a flicker of the old fire inside her.

[Spending the Unrescued String: Sayanastia wants Civelia to work towards challenging her directly, rather than hiding behind champions]
Hidden 23 days ago Post by Phoe
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"Hrm."

Assassin/Idiot/Chariot/Power Sweeper--

"I require your name, if you please. My notes are becoming cluttered."

indicated yet more new information.
Mildly contradictory, unclear the degree to which she is herself involved in deception versus merely being deceived.
Newest testimony alleges Sister Tammithyn possessed preexisting knowledge about my investigation, its likelihood of turning toward her, as well as misinformation regarding my intentions.
Mentioning again for posterity, I possess no prior knowledge of this woman.
Accusation stands thusly: that I (subject Eclair Espoir) am dangerously in love with her (subject Sister Tammithyn Murr) to the point where I will threaten her connections and livelihood if I am spurned.
Firm conclusion cannot be reached without an interview with this new subject.
HOWEVER!
Circumstances suggest a single obvious responsible actor.
Communication with the Manor can no longer be assumed to be safe.


"I fail to understand how more Paladins would make her safer, if she is not safe from me already. But I appreciate your sense of deductive reasoning nevertheless; most people I cross weapons with tend to cling to the possibility their loss was a fluke. Your commitment to duty has defeated that delusion already. I commend you. Truly."

Pause, blow ink dry. Leave notebook open. Seek eye contact, hold. Five, four, three, two, one. Blink. Tilt neck forty-five degrees, rotate ear forward. Observe patterns of breathing, consider availability of information.

Next question, ple--

Her tablet pings. Eclair is lost in reading the missive, vulnerable for the moment in the soft wonder of receiving direct communications from one of the Dreamers. Colors smearing, the impossibility of getting them out again. Indeed, indeed, indeed, that is the conundrum in the moment. The idea keeps clinging to her. The threat of a theory that attracts facts, when she needs it to go the other way.

The name, pressed into her fingers even through her gauntlet in the form of paint. Who could know enough to namedrop her and even follow the thread of her musings several steps in advance? Timtam. Only Timtam. She mustn't think it. But now that she has, it fills her entire mind. Her target knows. Already the chase is not secret. Lady Evening, that means...

The warning that had sent her hear to start with. Frustratingly impossible as it was to read, it was left specifically for Eclair's eyes. Hers alone? That was the question that needed answering.

"...What is your evidence that there are only two possible liars?" she asks, dreamily, "Certainly I could be spinning an ever more elaborate tapestry of lies, and certainly the good Sister could likewise have set a trap, little though you respect her potential as a combat threat. But what do you know about the person who told her about me~?"

There is a trap here, more than likely. But Eclair cannot feel its jaws closing just yet. The path unfolding under her feet leads only in one direction.
Hidden 23 days ago 19 days ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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It’s instinctive, the holding still. Generally speaking, if somebody yanks you to the ground and claps their hands over your eyes and mouth, they probably have a pretty good reason for doing so, and most of those reasons call for holding very still and taking stock of the situation. The surprised “Mrmph!” is also instinctive. That can’t be useful for most of those reasons, but he’s two for two now, so it seems rather hard to keep from doing. The quiet that follows when the hands are removed is just good sense.

Yuki told him a lot about Thellamie. Whatever she didn’t tell him first, he was bound to ask about eventually. He knows about the stars in the sky and a star on the ground. He knows about maid knights, paladins, tricksters, magicians, singers, dancers, and quite a few people between. He knows about the Outside, portal stones, and a few things about the moon.

He doesn’t know who she is. He feels who she is. Which isn’t as helpful as a name in some circumstances, but not this one. He feels he should keep kneeling until she says it’s alright to get up. He feels he should take questions of how she got her and what’s going on, and tuck them someplace it won’t be a bother to her. He feels he shouldn’t question why she would trouble to help him either. As a matter of fact, he feels he shouldn’t say a word until she’s done speaking her piece, and until then he should sit here and look at her politely. Look at her suitably impressed-ly? Would she be offended by a quiet “wow?” Maybe hold off on that. Just look, for now. Look at…himself.

But the trick with feeling small is that thoughts can be as large as ever. As she speaks, a few old ones make themselves heard.

That's not him. The voice is the same. The height is probably the same. The face, uncertain. The antlers, he doesn't know them well enough to say. His chest isn't flat, toned, perfectly shaped, perfectly groomed, perfectly lean. His chest shouldn't be shown. He wouldn't wear a robe that low, and definitely not one so bright. On second thought, no, he wouldn't have that face either. Not a face so smoothed with makeup and eyeshadow framing his lashes. He - and that's just it; he's him. Ugly. Disgusting. Common. Trash.

They aren't him. They're close enough to see him. Far enough to be something and someone else.

"We do, ma'am," and it is ma'am. Of course it’s ma’am, for her. (Yukisearth, that’s home, right?) "We've got both those things. It's just that I haven’t ever looked like that in a mirror before. Which, it’s not to say it’s wrong, no. Nobody at the ceremony got close enough to get a good look at me, so they don’t know much beyond a boy with glowing antlers. Honestly, you’re probably what they’re expecting a Golden Fawn to look like, so, if you wanted to lead them off the trail, this should work better."

Maybe they’d really want to chase a prize like her.
Hidden 23 days ago 23 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Yuki!

Thank you for handing Olesya that String; I'm sure it will come in handy sooner rather than later.

"The Khaganate's system is very different from slavery," Juniper says, because she's been set off. "It's an honor offered to those who could not evade the hunt but who have useful skills which are used to support the huntresses and it's an acknowledgement of how useful we are despite the fact that we couldn't overcome the hunt and thus our lives are forfeit ceremonially but have been taken up by the pack because it's not like they'd actually kill anyone and on top of that we have the option to request another hunt within a reasonable time frame and if we can use the skills we've picked up to evade being caught for a set period of time then we have earned freedom and a boon from our mistress with the caveat that if we do it before we've learned enough from them we'll receive a corrective punishment but really it's about knowing yourself and knowing what you've been able to learn in the process of serving which is in and of itself an important thing to be able to do and before you ask being invited to share body heat is an honor and--"

Olesya snaps her fingers and gives Juniper a Look, and wow, that's a Look. The eyeshadow, the lowered eyebrows, the stony and flat expression, the way her eyes aren't even open all the way but she's still Intense... be honest, you're in the splash zone at least a little bit, aren't you? Either way, Juniper blushes and stops talking, tail wagging uselessly. Olesya then spares a moment to give you the Look, like, you got her started, so behave.

(But it does sound like slavery with extra steps and a whole framework of "I caught you and could kill you," doesn't it? The underlying hunt ethos is so gauche and barbaric, and just between you and me, Olesya and Juniper here are actually doing it properly, the way those Serigalamu were a blink of a century or two ago, lovers chasing each other across the edge of the Outside with a net they'd woven together, "prey" offering exactly what they wanted to give once caught. But things have certainly changed out west, haven't they?)

"...we track naturally," Olesya says. "Even in unnatural places." And, come to think of it, this does feel a little unnatural, doesn't it? Not quite the same as the Outside, more like someone talented and clever is pulling the wool over the eyes of the world, saying: what if things were like this, instead? "...but you are not pack. Can you scent his trail?" And she casts a hand over my Labyrinth of empty houses and winding alleyways, still looking to you. A request, but also a challenge, and also a measuring. What can you do, Yuki Edogawa, Heroine of Crevas?



Sayanastia!

Oh, darling. That would be fun, wouldn't it? But Civelia makes half of a scoffing noise before belatedly remembering that it's beneath her station. Her purpose. Her role. Her coffin. She's not just a one-armed girl, you know; she's a goddess with as many memories as you, if not more, and she's a Beacon of Hope for the Struggling of the World and all that. She's already trapped in a crystal, and the crystal's called Society. (Deep.)

To challenge you directly, she'd have to know that Heron was out of the picture, and believe that there was a threat she couldn't wait out, and that it was your fault. Or you'd have to convince her to want something, with her maiden's heart, her young heart and not her old thoughts, and stand in her way. Or, like, I guess you could enact some sort of Wacky Scheme teaching her self-defense with Injimo, only you keep bullying her, and you get her to stand up to you, and in the moment when she starts to overpower you with her one arm you lean in and press your forehead against hers and steal what Heron never wanted--

"The Civils would do it," she says, looking away from Temptation, waving her hand. "Or Heron. Who--"

She turns to Rurik. Chooses her words carefully. "...may have been distracted from the importance of this ritual. Who has not gone to chase after the Fawn. Who, perhaps, may be entangled in side errands and tasks that seem dreadfully important in the face of a ritual I have been preparing for centuries?"

She smiles, sweetly, on reflexes almost as old as the world. She's struggling so very much to be angry with Heron, but this is beyond the pale for the Hero of Ages. Or would be, if she were here. Attending the festival. Not on the Moon.



Rurik!

Civelia cannot know that Heron is on the Moon and you cannot let her follow up on Sayanastia nearly blowing the whole operation just to needle her and you have to have a reason that you didn't leap into the fight with the maid and Civelia is looking at you and she's almost certainly going to have an Emergency Civil Conclave set up here by morning and you are on the spot, so good luck!



Aadya, the Rock upon a Mountain!

"I am Aadya, the Rock upon a Mountain," you say, somewhat tetchily. (I'd estimate roughly two-thirds of your thoughts right now are just a repeating mantra of REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH.) "And... wait, no, that..."

You stop to hold your chin in one mighty gauntleted fist for a moment. "...the Sister already knew your name. Vessenmer can't be a spoiler here, turning her against you, unless she were in some sort of ridiculous scheme with wide-ranging implications across the Church." (REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH) You don't have any reason to suspect Vessenmer, not above this snooty maid (REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH) or poor Tammithyn herself, who was a mess of tears when she came to you to beg for help, and this is frustrating and none of it really makes sense, does it?

Hold onto what you said. Either Eclair (REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH) is lying to you, or you got played by a Sister, or you got played by someone who made the Sister lie to you, and she was very convincing, and would someone being blackmailed really be that good at acting? Maybe. Dammit.

Maybe it's time to pull out the biggest gun you've got.

"You know," you say, with as much firm casualness as you can, "the Goddess herself is in the city tonight. And given the fact that this involves the Church and your mansion," and you see that she hears the lack of capital letter there, which is a petty victory but a victory nonetheless (REMATCH REMATCH REMATCH), "I can probably expedite this. Get her to cross-examine both of you. I'll have to pull her out of the celebrations, but she's the goddess herself, she'd definitely want to pass judgment. Now, if you're really innocent, you'd have no reason to deny that, would you?"



Eclair!

You hear, distantly, a noise that is familiar. A noise that cuts through distant tumult and the sound of this Paladin's blustering.

Someone, out in the streets, is grinding down a handrail.



Hazel!

Oh, come now. We don't do that here. All that sulking, when you should be properly awed and indignant and squeaking. You'll make me look bad, you know? And we can't be having that. I'll end the story right here if you think you can make me look bad in front of my lovely daughters.

"That may be so," I say, and my daughters glance aside with the casualness of a caught kit, which tells me that they don't know, and it's not like I can flip back and review the story thus far. Naturally. "But that is why we need to get you out of these clothes, ya?" There. Did we get a reaction with that one?

I clap my hands, as if calling for a servant, and my fires light the room: blue-white, the color of my light, dazzling and enchanting. Have a look, Hazel Valentine Fletcher: have a look at the clothes hanging from the racks. "Now, we don't have much time, so pick something out. Girls, you will be coming with me. We need the switch to last as long as it must." And not a minute longer- but that's a spoiler, isn't it?

Crevas is known for its colors, and that is what I offer you, Hazel. Soft silk and comfortable linen, all in your size, all in a dizzying array of colors, all lit by my radiance. Hoods and veils, vee-necks and loose trousers, and it's a coincidence that all of them have the subtle patterns denoting a servant of the Karn family. Not that you'll know that yet, so forget I even said it. Here, Hazel, something to hide those horns, something to blend in, and all you have to do is sacrifice your Yukisearth clothes. Don't you worry, there's a changing booth, and I'll keep the girls from peeking too much.

As you hesitate (we both know you do), I let a bit of reverb slip into the voice. It's such a delightful party trick. "As I said, we do not have much time. Unless you want to be on a leash by morning, be quick about it! Besides, Amali is waiting, ya?"

"Oh, she's here?" Good girl, Keli. That trill in your voice will let Hazel know your delight.
"You can't keep her waiting!" And there, Seli, with the swat to his rump, not giving him time to really think about this. Oh, you've been taught well.

Tell us what you pick out, darling, underneath my light. You'll love it. That's my promise.
Hidden 21 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Rurik!

It was a terrible thing, to be responsible for primordial entropy. He had no leverage against the Dark Dragon; what threat could he make, what promise could he offer? Heron had decided that they were friends now, and it had not been his place to question her logic, no matter how much he had in this circumstance wished to.

He had simply been grateful. The Princess had defeated an immortal terror, had ended a cycle of evil that had begun with the dawn of time. She knew what she was doing, just like she knew what she was doing when she moved on to the next target, just like she knew what she was doing when she left him in charge. Putting him in this position had been a sign of respect for his abilities, and the only thing he regretted about this was that he was unable (for reasons of both decorum an disguise) to rebuke Civelia for her lack of gratitude.

"Hey, Civ," Rurik as Heron shrugged. "You're safe, and Say's not causing trouble. Cut her some slack, would you? She's new at this. And you notice how I'm not running off after the fawn? I'm being a good girl and waiting for you to give me a quest, so, you know..." that was already more words than Heron normally said, so he let himself trail off and bounce on his heels, like he was waiting to be unleashed.
Hidden 21 days ago Post by Anarion
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Juniper is lucky her tail is wagging and she can't hide her glee. Well no, Juniper is whatever. Olesnya is the one that's lucky that Juni is lucky. If Juni wasn't into it and was getting that look, Yuki would have been in Olesnya's face so fast. Like blink and you missed it fast.

Even so, Yuki's tail flicks just once, in irritation. Tails were good for that. You hardly get to give Yuki the same look because she's new and doesn't have the words for it. And if Juni is that sensitive about it, maybe there's something to be sensitive about. Whatever, this train of thought wasn't getting her anywhere.

In a different moment, being asked for her tracking skills would have had Yuki panicking. That wasn't something that she'd learned. She wasn't a girl scout, and her summer camp and after school stuff had been sports related. Thellamie made her fall in love with swords and fantasy. She thought she'd been smart to live that out and get in good shape, and she had. But that didn't magic up a super sense of smell or the ability to know what signs a fleeing deerboy would leave in the middle of a city she hadn't visited in over half a decade. Assuming any of those signs weren't immediately trampled by a hundred racing wolfgirls and snakegirls.

But now, well, Oleysnya had gotten Yuki's goat, so to speak. A challenge, a withering glare that she didn't deserve, and a useful reminder on top of that. ...we track naturally, even in unnatural places. Yeah, okay, she was up to that.

"You're right, I've been going about this wrong. Money bet is Hazel's not smart right now. He's overwhelmed. So...even though he could have lost most everyone by doubling back, he's not going to think about that. He's going to be in flight mode. We saw him turn down that way, and then turn a corner and go out of sight. Let's follow from the roofs, we've got better sight than the pack this way. So ignore the pack, they weren't close enough to see any better than we could and it doesn't matter where they are. Look for the closest clear line of sight the way he ran. We'll either see him, or that tells us that he hid somewhere between where we are and where the view clears up."

And then for good measure, she quickly pulls her tablet out and starts a DM.
>[.snowkitten]
>Hazel, you okay? Know where you are?
>I'm with one of my friends and... a hunter 🙃
>...better than the alternative I think, we can sneak you out of the city, figure it out from there
Hidden 20 days ago Post by Phoe
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Aadya - Idiot/Assassin/Chariot/Power Sweeper... name sparks slight familiarity.
Check with previous notebooks?


Sniff air, turn head. Quizzical frown, for effect. Finger on lip, pose. Keep this girl on toes. Not for sake of posturing. Leverage, leverage. Important to foster respect, but failing that will settle for awe.

Eclair pulls a piece of clean paper from her side bag, and rests is on her tablet. In her personal ink (and with her personal quill), she writes a message to Lady Vessenmer. It contains an order for a shipment of dyes matching the full range she'd identified by herself in Timtam's message/warning/possible taunt (that is a personal identifier. Here she simply lists the colors and intensities). She marks a location outside of the city as a delivery point, leaves instructions for billing the Manor, and signs her name in swooping, florid script. She writes nothing more and nothing less than this, then folds the sheet into a paper crane and floats it across the room and through the door, where she notes the sound of it striking the good Lady on the side of the head.

"From your manner of dress, the state of your armor, and your basic understanding of posture, I can conclude that you lack the organizational authority to compel a goddess to an examination that would be equitable for my situation. From your expression I further conclude that you were aware of this, and that the true aim of your offer is to trap me in a net of bureaucracy, possibly in misguided retaliation against my earlier (earnest) praise. I could not say. I can only tell you that you are the second person in this same evening, in this same room, who swapped from aggression to sudden conciliation in service to impeding what should be a very simple investigative process.

"I have nothing to hide. I deny the very implication it could be otherwise. But as an innocent I similarly have nothing to gain from, from..."

Trail of thought lost in sudden sensory detail. Context of entire situation changes. Colors smearing in a skirt. The most dangerous thing in the world -- no. The only dangerous thing in the world is the risk of not witnessing the source of that grind. Exit from the premises is now essential; no distractions or delays can be tolerated.

Seize Aadya by the wrist. Shift weight, pull. Use shift in momentum to break into run, drag her toward the door.

"NeverthelessForTheSakeOfGoodwillIAcceptLetUsBeOffComeOnStopStallingWeGoGoGoGoGo!!"

Must see it. Must. A Sister? A Heretic? A Hobbyist? Can't be left to interpretation. Cannot.
Hidden 19 days ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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In the breath before the grand reveal, a single, magical word is spoken.

”Pardon?!”

And then - clap! Fwhoosh! Fwhoosh! Fwhoooooooosh!

Hazel rises to his feet, blue-white light glittering in his wide eyes. How did…? Where did…? For him? He can really? This is all for him? He looks down one rack, then looks the other way, then back again, but no, it’s the same either way. There’s no end to the line of clothes swaying on the rack in a dazzling rainbow of colors. They stretch far, far into the distance, past where he was pretty sure a wall used to be, vanishing into a blueish, white glow. If he stares long enough, he can start to make out little shapes in the flames, and their capering dances make his head a touch giggly. Like, like hiking in the mountains and stepping out onto a view so incredible, the only thing you can do is laugh in awe and amazement.

But magic aside, he has to pick out an outfit? One outfit, from all this? Where’s he even supposed to start? Do you pick up clothing this nice like normal clothes, or do you just pick them up by the hanger, or-

Her voice shakes the room, and he jumps with a startled yelp. No thank you ma’am, he does not want to be on a leash by morning! He would like zero leashes for the foreseeable future! See how much he’s nodding agreement! Okay! Yes! He’s-

“HeY!!!”

-stumbling out of swat range?! Abwughbhg?! Why?! Why was spanks a thing that could happen! What is the meaning of this! Explain, foxgirls! Explain!

no seli winking is not an explanation aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

He scampers into the nearest clothes rack. For hiding. For defense. For a place where the world makes a little more sense. For a place to bury his face in his hands and let out a long, muffled squeak, like a teakettle trying to keep a secret. But there was no time for letting off steam. They were on the clock. Focus, Hazel, focus! You gotta pick out a disguise! Quick! He looks around him, and. Huh.

Huh.

He peeks out of the clothes rack, but no, the nice lady is already leading Keli and Seli away, paying him no further mind. There’s been no more claps, or magical fwooshes, or anything. So how is it that the one clothes rack he happened to stumble into just so happened to have something so…so possibly wearable?

Could this also be a sort of magic?

Whoever she is, she must be an awfully clever magic…person. (Wizard didn’t sound right, sorceress was a little better, but still didn’t feel impressive enough, you know?)

Anyway! To the changing booth. With an armful of possibilities.

*****************************************

Huh.

Huuuuuuuuuuh.

You know.

He didn’t?

He didn’t hate it, actually?

It’s not something he’d usually wear, for sure. As if he ever thought of wearing - what is this, silk? Whatever it is, it’s really soft. Not in a cozy blanket sort of way. Smoother than that. Fancier than that. Quite a bit nicer than that.

The pants remind him of his jeans back home; they’re loose, and he can squat and stretch easy as pie in them. But where his jeans were a bit baggy, these wore their extra fabric in graceful, flowing arcs, down to his ankles. When he walked back and forth in front of the mirror, they had a sort of swishful bounce to them, trailing his own motions. He wasn’t sure if he tied the sash/belt/thing correctly, but it was a lot fancier than his own worn belt, and the fabric didn’t dig into him when he sat or bent down.

The shirt. The shirt had started on thin ice. Yes, it fit him tighter than any t-shirt he’d ever worn, somehow without feeling too tight. Yes, the material was nice and comfy against his chest and back. But the stomach. The stomach was. Hrm. Not. Flattering. Something looser would hide that a lot better.

But then he’d put on the, what was it called, a capelet? A capelet atop his shoulders, draped over his arms and chest. He got the sash belt figured out. And you know what? With everything put together? His tummy didn’t seem quite so bad. The loose fluttering of the capelet drew his eyes a little higher, obscured the unflattering sides just the right amount. And the sash, with its pattern of woven snake tails, was so eye-catching that he couldn’t notice his own waist properly.

Now, he didn’t know anything about this sort of fashion. Taking another look at it, he was positive he’d picked out at least one devastating fashion faux pas. But taking a third look at it, as he walked back and forth, and saw his pant legs swishing, saw the capelet fluttering, felt the smooth, cool fabric brushing against his skin, well, maybe he was pretty close to alright?

Maybe.

Possibly.

Well. One of the three of them would tell him if he was making a fool of himself, right? He’d have to ask about something to hide the horns anyway.

Nothing else for it.

They didn’t have much time.

Taking a deep, deep breath, Hazel Valentine Fletcher nudged the curtain back, and hesitantly left the safety of the booth.
Hidden 19 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Rurik!

Civelia smiles. It's the kind of smile that an artist might struggle to achieve, the ideal that they would strive to be able to create on demand: subtle, gentle, without pulling the lips back from the teeth. A smile that is not mad, don't put in the news bulletin that she got mad, she's so happy to be rebuked by the Hero of Ages.

"We're going to need to have an Emergency Civil Conclave just to untangle all this trouble," she says, sweetly. Her gaze lowers to the tiles, lit by flickering starlight and lanterns. "Just having this unexpected revelation from the stars would be trouble enough, but the Khatun has begun to play her hand at last, and perhaps other dragons have begun to stir in their slumber." (Heron hasn't been to the Mansion... recently, that is. If you asked Tsane, though, there would likely be notes from a previous life's infiltration somewhere in the stacks, and Cair would have inroads on where to find the apron.)

She clutches her hand to her breast, and though there is no wind here, still her hair dances. There is faint and flickering starlight on her stony lips. "Heron, by the Trust placed within me by the First Fallen, I charge thee with bringing some token to the Emergency Civil Conclave upon the morn which shalt suffice to shine Light full upon Our troubles and turmoil. Furthermore, I beseech thee, bring forth some treasure which has been vouchsafed to you from Our keeping, that from it I may draw strength in proportion to the tumult that does Us surround."

There. That's the real thing. That's not a polite request. The Goddess has called upon her Eternal Bridegroom, formally, invoking magic almost as old as the world itself. Time to get on it.

By and by, where's Kalentia?



Kalentia!

"We are not the descending into starglamour," the Lunarian says, staring down the length of the Via Cobera. Like many major Crevas roads, the Via Cobera contains both a stairway and the broad Nagi paths, heading down the straightest route to the Welcoming Plaza. Or, at least, it should. It's just that... it doesn't. There's supposed to be a straight path, and if you squint you can almost see it, but... no, it snaps right back to splitting around a building jutting out of the center of the road like a mountain, and sending both sides of the Via Cobera veering off into other streets.

They've extended an arm (the bandaged one) to stop you from running down into it. One of the earlike things floating above their head twitches. Their shoulders are hunched, and as far as you can tell, they're exhausted from the running fight. But they stopped you from following said running fight into the 'starglamour.'

"I am the displaying of penitence for failing to arrest this disturbance of serenity. You are... the judging of my weakness, Mending. You are dictating how I am atoning."



Yuki!

Speaking of doubling back, however, it appears that some members of the Khatun's pack have doubled back for their goblins. A goblin-crab is scuttling along walls, goblin-horses gallop recklessly down paths made for the Nagi, and a small sharp-winged goblin soars upwards, against the stars. Olesya and Juniper both tense up, watching its arc, and then Olesya shrugs. "If she knows..."

The huntress doesn't bother to finish the thought. What does Juni see in her, anyway?

Together, the three of you make it across rooftops and over streets until you're within eyesight of the Welcoming Plaza. Well, isn't that perfect? There's only one way in and out of the city, assuming that you're not going to dare the perils of the Outside. Perhaps you can lay a trap for him here? Or, well, not a trap. You usually don't think about making traps for your friends, do you?

"Oh, perfect," Juni says. "We can lay a trap for him here!" She sounds positively giddy at the thought, and is already pulling some sort of folded net out of her robe's inner pockets, like she's the blonde member of Mystery Incorporated.



Eclair!

Here's the trick, Eclair. The poisoned tip of this scorpion's sting.

The Paladin's gamely trying her best to keep up with her, and it's to her credit that she can keep up a sprint even faster than yours, but she doesn't have a skateboard. You do. And you have no hopes of catching up with the distant sound of tricks if you don't take to your skateboard. Leave her in your wake vainly trying to catch up.

But if you were to abandon her, well. Then you'd get close enough to see. To call out. And then it would be a race. And we all know who happens to be grinding towards the Welcoming Plaza at this time of night.



Hazel!

It would be polite, at this stage, to offer me a String, wouldn't it? I do think you should be a good boy and do just that.

Particularly because, at this point, I might as well be you. The you that scampered into my den, at least, just with better eyeliner. On either side, my daughters peek out from behind me, hands to their veils, eyes alight with intermingled pride and affection. And I am putting on a show of stretching, limbering up, getting ready for a run (which you should definitely get in the habit of doing, Golden Fawn).

"It's such a shame we can't take him home yet, yah?"
"He'd look right at home on the Garnet boardwalk!"
"It'd be easy for him to get work, yah?"
"He'd die blushing first~"
"So? We'd kiss him back to life~"

That barrage from my girls is interrupted by Amali making her way through the door. Ah, Amali, brought here on extremely short notice, game and ready for anything that her Auntie asks of her. My perfect weapon against you, Hazel Valentine Fletcher. My trap to keep you right where you're needed for our game.

"Why, isn't he a handsome young fellow?" Amali adjusts her half-moon spectacles, getting a better look at you, smiling with the warmth of an Aestivali hearth. "They'll love him up at the Chrysanthemum." (Keli and Seli frantically swallow giggles, electric with the prospect of going and finding you there.) "Don't you worry about a thing, darling," she says, looking up at you, hair silver with age, leaning on her driftwood cane, ears at attention even as she radiates the benevolence of age. "We'll overnight here and then head out with the crowds in the morning. You certainly look like you could use a good night's sleep after all that excitement and magic and such. You're probably peckish, too, and we can feed you properly, dearie. I've forgotten more places to eat around Crevas than you've known!"

"But for now," I say, your accent almost down, "how's about I, uh, give you this, maybe?" I stand up on my tippy-toes, the way that you would, to snap two nets around your antlers, letting them contract down to a tight fit. "It's thirsting wool; it'll grow soggy and heavy with your light if you leave it on too long, but, um, maybe it'll work for short distances? And you can always wring it out to get liquid light, and, oh, gosh, that's really useful stuff! Just be aware it'll soak through and get as sheer as, uh, as," and I do a devastatingly true-to-life hand gesture at Keli, who offers you a bouncy bow.

"Now, the two of you, gosh, you've got to get going! Because soon this whole place won't be here anymore, and you'd be right in the middle of all those strong Nagi and opportunistic Serigamalu and then all that effort I put into helping you would go right to waste, and, oh, Amali would probably get hurt, too, and we both know you're not going to let that happen! So get going, okay?"

Amali takes your arm, and you're definitely not going to be able to wriggle out of helping a little old lady to her hostel. You've been bound as tight as can be, Hazel. Aren't my bindings so very pleasant?
Hidden 18 days ago Post by Phoe
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"You are capable of finding the truth."

Said while sprinting. No time for anything else. Imperative, imperative. Mustn't fall behind. Even this basic courtesy constitutes a risk. Measure angles, trace route for higher acceleration. Playing catch up.

"Investigate."

Spoken as command. Spoken assuming innate bond of broom crossing blade overrides organizational antagonism. Spoken while kicking Paladin in the chest as part of launch platform.

Apologies.

Noting for posterity: forgot to say that part out loud.

Grab window ledge, fingertip grip. Push off, elevation climb, aiming for alley. Wall kick, pivot, wall kick, gain roof. Resume sprint, retrieve board. Find an inside line. Doesn't need to be optimal, only needs to be faster. If located, then leap, duck, plant. Fly.

180, drop, tail grind. Kickflip, second 180, land and pump until stairs. Leap, attempt Feeblegrind for moderately better exit angle. Time leaps between breaks in rail to maintain altitude and avoid flat grind. Boardslide on landing, nosegrind through transfer, remember broom in hand at last minute. Use as vault.

There!! Eclair's eyes flash with triumph as she finally catches a glimpse of her target ahead of her. It's dark enough in the moment that the details are difficult to make out from this distance, but even just the silhouette leaves very little doubt as to who it is she's chasing. This is it, then. The cut to the end of the journey. There will be no need to double back and trouble that poor Civil Nun if she can just make contact long enough to get her questions answered here.

She should be preparing for a duel just now. But she neither draws the sword at her hip nor makes any motion to summon her heartblade. Instead she grips her board in one hand and whips around a pole with the other to gain a few more precious steps. If she can keep up the pace, she should make contact just as the pair of them enter the Welcoming Plaza. It's sure to be a commotion down there, absolute noise and chaos given the festivities, but even if that prevents the final apprehension of the Target there's so much useful data to gather in the exchange that it doesn't occur to her to worry about it.

"Stop! Don't run from me!!"

She couldn't, even in retrospect, explain what made her call out. She especially couldn't explain the note of desperation that edged into her voice, or the sudden unpleasant lurch she felt in her stomach as her pulse raced in wild and uncomfortable rhythms. It couldn't have been fear of repercussion, that was unknown to her. But then what?

Was it the sense of uneasy nerves that came from circumventing the traditional investigative process? Was it the sense that flung herself into a trap? Unlikely and impossible, respectively. But then what? But then what? It couldn't be that she, that Eclair Espoir, the Violet Flash, was afraid of learning something?! Or, or, or!!

"YOUR PENMANSHIP REMAINS AWFUL, FOR THE RECORD!"
Hidden 16 days ago 16 days ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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Hazel was prepared for disappointment. He was hoping for approval.

He was unprepared for the approval of foxgirls.

Is. Is that going to happen if they go to Garnet? Wait is that a when they go to Garnet? They don’t. They’re not. Surely not? But they’re going there. So. Is he going to have to work there? Would they need him to? No, well, of course, they’re joking, it’s a joke, ha ha ha, there’s, there’s other jobs, surely. Oh he cannot even look at the two of them right now help his cheeks are burning up aaaaaaaaa

He is spared, only managing a tiny sputter before the oldest, most sweetest lady in all of Thellamie descends upon him. In this moment, Hazel realizes he’s never actually thought about grandmothers here before, be they Aestivali, Nagi, or what have you, but there she is. All the powers of fox and grandmother. Her silvery fur is soft, her voice is soft, the smile that wrinkles her nose is extra soft, and with the unstoppable power of many years, she at once bestows upon him a mighty blessing: Handsome young fellow.

He couldn’t be happier with his new clothes.

(Yes, most of the unprompted compliments he’s ever gotten have been from kindly old ladies of no relation, butt that doesn’t dim his smile one bit.)

The world feels a little less scary now, doesn’t it? They’re going to get a nice dinner somewhere. They’re going to get a good night’s sleep someplace safe. Tomorrow, she’ll have the route all planned out. At no point is she going to suddenly ask for his wallet and/or valuables. It’s going to be okay. It was rough there, for a little while, but it’s going to be alright now. All he has to do is what he’s asked.

But first, he’s got one more thing he needs to do.

When she takes his arm, he holds it out juuuuust so, nice and straight and stable, so she has all the support she’d like as they walk. His arm holds still, even as he bows to, er, himself, from the waist. His other arm hovers indecisively - do they do sweeping bows in Aestival? - before settling on polite and straight by his side. “I know this isn’t much, but, thank you. Thank you,” and he hopes with all his heart she can hear how much he means it. Behind him, his tail flicks a steady, joyful beat. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without your help. You’ve done,” his words trail off, his gaze bouncing between clothes, and wool, and grandmother, and decoy, and there’s not enough time to say everything he wants to, they’ve got to get going! “So much for me, and, I just hope that you’ll be safe and that I can make it up to you someday.”

[Activating Friendly Benefits with Inara. She gets a String, we get to hear what she finds attractive about Hazel.]
Hidden 14 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Kalentia!

"Oh! Oh- oh wow, um, thank you for spotting that -" Kalentia said as she stopped by the edge of the distortion. She reached out, fingers surrounded by protective rings of gold, as she traced it. "This is really good work. It's so subtle, and just a little bit mean. It's locked in place between two doorways and a sewer entrance and I think I can sense a ribbon trap pinning down the edges. Tsane would love to analyze something like this, the craftsmanship is..."

She'd never expected her career to take her into reality-weaving. As an arcane art it was vanishingly rare, almost a study in the movements of the Eternal Hero and the Nexus that formed her storehouse, retreat and weapons locker. Even getting to encounter another practitioner was exciting, even if it also put into perspective how crude her own technique was. Just about the only thing she was good at was closing portals. It was an important duty sometimes; leave a portal like this open and the torn edges would start bleeding in Outside influence until it turned into a monster-generating pit. A lot of the more complex reality rewiring stuff still went over her head but if she conceptualized it as a wound in reality then it wasn't that difficult to imagine herself bandaging it over.

"Hold up," said Cair, coming down the stairs behind her. "Word came down, new mission. We're heading into the Stacks."
"Oh!" said Kalentia. "Oh, are you sure? Because this looks like -"
"It looks like not our problem," said Cair. "We've got to get buns here a new suit and Civelia wants us to fetch her hat so she can eat it."
"Maybe someone got trapped in there before -"
"Then they're in a cozy hell," said Tsane, following down after Cair. She'd torn off her sleeve to reveal her arm, still glowing with radiant rainbow light from the marker pattern. Kalentia winced - that looked like a nasty mana burn. Nothing to do until it burned out though. "That's a foxhole, and it looks like one left by either an extremely scary fox or a whole pack of them. Anyone who goes through that is going to get gnawed silly, and that includes us."
Now it was Cair who was looking at the portal contemplatively.
"Really?" said Tsane.
"I mean, it does sound nice," said Cair.
"Well, then be my guest," said Tsane.
"No, no..." Cair sighed. "Buns before huns," she started to pick out her portal tools; heavy spotlights filled with glowworms from sacred springs, a book written entirely in blue ink, a long black ribbon. "It's lucky we found this, then. I can repurpose it into a link to the Nexus."
"It's amazing how you can do that," said Kalentia. "I mean, just... you can repurpose anything."
"Oh! Haha!" said Cair. "It's not that hard. Nobody's looking after it, all you've got to do is... pick it up, sort of?"
"I wish I could do that," said Kalentia. "The way you move around with those is like how Heron does it."
"Aw, pshaw," said Cair. "It's nothing. Not compared to what you can do -"
Tsane stepped through the portal without a word.
"Did - did you finish?" said Kalentia.
"Uh, I don't think so?" said Cair.
"Yes, you finished," said Tsane, leaning back through. "You didn't realize?"
"There's this whole additional section with the glamourdust I'm supposed to do at the end," said Cair.
"Oh, that was never necessary," said Tsane, as she slipped back. "I thought that was a grift thing. I didn't realize."
"A grift thing!?" Cair said, outraged.
"You do kind of grift a lot," said Kalentia apologetically.
"I only do what I do because people insist on charging the Hero of Ages for the armaments she requires to defeat the Dark Dragon!" said Cair, stepping through into the Stacks.

Mountains of crates. Weapons and armour racks forming vast corridors. Phalanxes of mannequins armed and armoured in enchanted green glass or soft golden bronze. A battering ram with the head of a wolf carved in silver and aluminum, combat golems on ceaseless patrol, flocks of buzzing astral wisps, and enough armour to outfit a hundred horses.

"We're practically defenseless!" Cair said as she lead the way into the endless armoury of the Hero of Ages.

[Astral Dance: 10]
Hidden 14 days ago Post by Anarion
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“You’re laying the traps, not the…uh Baygum?” That one kind of slips out, pure surprise. Didn’t quite seem like it matched up with the relationship, especially the whole ritual life is forfeit thing that Juni had just gone off about. If Olesya was the one marked by light, wasn’t she supposed to lay the trap for capturing the faun so that she could tame him? Or was there a transitive property thing where anything that her captive did was to her credit no matter what? If so, that didn’t seem particularly fair, especially if Juni…no, no it was clear Juni was fine with it. Moving on.

She walks around the Welcoming Plaza. This place she knows. They start parades here sometimes. Open stones laid out in a circle that leads you to the street into the city proper, and cool stone walls. Crevas had a style and lived it. She watches Juni putting the net down, trying to set it up, wondering how she was going to camouflage it into stone of all things. Maybe she had some kind of magic? Or maybe she could just color match it with some loose gravel.

Her mind spins over the last conversation as she watches the pack move about as well, climbing the walls and spreading through the city at impossible angles. Wondering if the Nagi had anything to match that. Winged Lamia guards maybe? Or jetpacks. Had she ever told Sulochana about jetpacks, as a concept? Nagi would probably love jetpacks, they’d be able to pounce someone tail first with them. Maybe powered by magic crystals or something.

But anyway, she was pondering what Olesya said when she saw all the mounts, “also, if she knows what? I’m sorry, but I never really met the Serigalamu when I was here last time, so if there’s something with the goblin mounts and the Khatun, can you spell it out for me?” A guess, maybe a dumb one, Yuki wasn’t even sure what the She was, but Olesya only seemed to care about the Khatun’s opinion, so that was where Yuki was starting with her guess.

A little time passes. Yuki is fretting and checking her tablet. No answer from Hazel, but also no visible Hazel. Could mean he was hiding and unable to safely pull his tablet out. But that could mean somewhere dark, which would mean the whole cut off the entrance plan might not pan out. Did she even want to catch him in a net? She had been hoping that he’d willingly join her despite Olesya’s presence and they’d be able to sort things out more quietly after that. She was ready to heart duel for Hazel’s freedom if she had to, but hoped it wouldn’t come to that, especially if it would make Juni mad.

Yuki taps her foot on the stone streets, and then her ears twitch. What was that sound? That sounded like a skateboard. Distinctive wheel scraping on stone sound. Sensitive cat ears don’t lie about that kind of thing. It was an Earth sound, not at all like the big wheels of wagons or carts, the sound that only came from small hard wheels spinning quickly over an equally hard surface. Her head whips around to look for it.
Hidden 14 days ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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Hazel!

Well, we just have to start with you, sweet little thing. So nervous. So anxious. So desperate to be a good boy. (What, did you think you could hide these things from me?) You need approval. You need to be chased. And you need a blessing or you’re never even going to make it to the Chrysanthemum.

The thing about the kiss I give you— on the lips, with your lips, light passing between us like the heat of a summer’s dusk— is that, in a way, it’s your kiss for yourself that your heart wouldn’t admit it needed, but was screaming out for all the same. Keli’s my daughter, you must remember; I have a weakness for you soft little things. Especially ones with those sad little eyes like a wet kitten and that slender figure just made for playing dress-up and no idea of what to do with your hands while you’re standing.

But when I pull back, for a moment, you’ll be able to see the stars in my eyes (like in your gritty true crime drama, Oshi no Ko). I am old, darling (and in that moment, you intuit this). I am older than anyone in this world. I fell from Heaven because I could not help but make things more interesting. I am helping you, Hazel, because I think that you will be interesting. And if you bore me, I will not abandon you. Not without seeing if I can force you back into being entertaining first. And you should not, under any circumstances, underestimate my ability to make situations more entertaining.

You are cute. You are entertaining. You need to be comforted. You need to be tormented. You have my attention, Hazel Valentine Fletcher, my Golden Fawn, and the attention of any of Us is perilous.

Does that answer your question, sweetieantlers~?



Eclair!

The skateboarder, the maid, the prodigal, she has nine tails. Her own, which lashes with excitement as she speeds along, and the eight strings of firecrackers which trail from her hand, long and glimmering and Outside-touched.

She spares you a glance over her shoulder, through that laughing mask in black and white, and then builds speed, lifting up into a 1080 spin, giving her an excellent vantage point and momentum. With one hand she grips her board and the strings (can you hear her giddy laughter) and with the other, she flings a line at you.

And as soon as it comes close to you, you can see that the firecrackers are crudely shaped like lizards in a multitude of colors— indigo, chartreuse, honeysuckle, cream, viridian— and then you have just enough time to see their eyes glow and a little fire spit from their mouths.

Suddenly it’s not a spiraling spring of firecrackers. It’s two dozen simultaneous barking sparking snapping hissing shuddering roaring explosions spreading through the entire east side of the plaza, and you’re headed straight into it unless you do something now.



Yuki!

Boom!! The plaza explodes into a tumult of fireworks as the masked maid lowers herself on the board and aims right for the Stone, tossing out a string of fireworks to either side of her.

Yowl!! Juniper’s suddenly staring down Hazel and those darn foxgirls bearing down onto her, and behind them the city guards and the Khatun’s pack (and the view looks different than you remember, though I don’t expect you’ll have pieced everything together yet.

Swoop!! Olesya sweeps Juniper up in her arms, her curved heartblade lying on the tiles, crushing the nun against her as she tumbles backwards out of the way of the tumult, cradling Juniper as a Nagi’s coils crash through the space where she was (and, unfortunately, the net snaps up a pack huntress right behind her).

“Golly!!” Hazel is scampering like his life depends on it, squeaking and bobbing and weaving and sliding, and Keli and Seli have their thin heartblades out kissing the air and stinging any hunter who gets too close.



Cair!

The path is blocked!

Specifically, the path from A6 (Armory, S-Y) across to G1 (Civil Regalia/Shrine) is blocked by a collection of illustrated Hub guides. Or, more specifically, they’re being blocked by the Hero’s Shadow, who is expertly turning the page of a guide to Basal, their dreadful talons gripping the corner with ease.

Their sleek-spotted tail thumps. Their wings shudder iridescent. Their empty eyes reflect unseen lamplights. Their heat fills the corridor, a pleasant but powerful sauna-sweat. A spiced floral scent lies heavy on the tongue.

They’re a reflection of Heron’s soul, supposedly. That’s the theory, at least, and asking the Shadow to confirm a theory is useless, because they’ll just answer with “if you say so, it must be so.” Also, they might Challenge you afterwards, and then you’ve got to toss out all your plans for the afternoon to deal with that. Anyway, that’s supposedly why they look nothing like Heron, and why they’ve shown up with as much regularity as Sayanastia.

“Six and one and six. Boxcars, but she’s elsewhere.” Their voice is androgynous, melodious, the kind that makes sense of nonsense. They cock their bearded-vulture head, stroking the illustration of the Deep District (done up in seven shades of purple) with the back of one wicked talon. “Tell me: which of you has the purest nature? I need all of your answers.”

It’s always gotta be a whole thing with this one.



Hazel!

The kettle whistles, and the scent of something almost exactly like what you would call tea-tea fills the cramped little room.

“You will want to take those off, sweet,” Amali says, setting a tray of tea and cinnamon biscuits and toast with butter and goblin-orange jam before you on the table. She gestures to your antlers. “Or they’ll be soaked through and no good tomorrow.”

A light blanket is wrapped around your shoulders. A goblin that’s almost exactly like a cat, just with a checkerboard for a fur pattern, is making biscuits of his own in your lap. You’re sitting on a soft cushion on a hard chair, and the ticking of a grandmother clock fills the room as much as the scent of the tray’s treasures.

Your lips are still faintly tingling.
Hidden 14 days ago Post by Thanqol
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Thanqol

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"Cair," said Tsane before anyone else could react. "Cair thinks it's Kalentia, Kalentia will say the Lunarian to try to be polite." She's one-handing a book[1], which is no mean feat - turning the pages with her nose - holding her glowing arm raised like she's about to unleash a magical blast (rather than the reality, which is she's about to spend 6-12 hours experiencing a bad acupuncture session). "Why are you here, Shadow?"

Of all the Handmaidens, Tsane is by far the worst at emulating the Princess. There's no inspiration to her performance, no flash, no attention to the mannerisms or subtleties. Sometimes she'll read woodenly off invisible palm cards. This isn't always a disaster - a lot of the times when she's put on the spot it's because she's dealing with a demon or fey monster so far from human that getting the hair colour right is enough to fool it - but the others always find it a bit cringe.

But there are also moments like this where, even in the absence of any disguise whatsoever, she nails it better than any of them ever dream. Not in the precision of her performance but in how she goes beyond it; the furnace-energy of someone about to transmute knowledge into violence. It makes it seem like she is the Heroine, disguised as Tsane.

[Read a person's (book): 10. What do you hope to get from this encounter?]

"I, um, I do think you're probably very pure," said Kalentia apologetically to the Lunarian. "In a good way. Not in a one dimensional way. You have a really good energy."

[1] Riddles of the Ancient Beasts, which she carries with her at all times after being mortifyingly embarrassed at a team trivia night.
Hidden 13 days ago Post by Anarion
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For Yuki, when she remembers this later, the scene at the Welcoming Plaza splits into two distinct moments. The first is the sight of the maid. The second is everything else.

The sound of the skateboard was so unexpected. She’d told people about skateboards of course! Several people when she was here last time. She liked skateboarding. Yuki was a motion girl, she liked anything that got her moving. The stomach drop on rollercoasters, the wind in her hair when running (even before she had fluffy triangles that could sense every change in the air!), the sudden swift shift of a fencing stance, and for sure the ground rolling away from her when she got on a skateboard.

So, when she heard it, it snapped her head to it, and before her eyes was a maid knight. She’d only met the one, Eclair, last time around. Yuki still remembered her. She had lost her notepad and was looking for it the whole adventure, they kept running into each other. Only, at the end, well, Yuki thought the victory had really been Eclair’s. Sure, Yuki had the sword of legend, infused with light and all that. But she had thrust it exactly one time into Azaza, a single strike that infused the star with so much light that she could not maintain herself and was imprisoned within the mirrors she so loved. Yuki had no expertise, no particular skill at the time. Eclair had taken that duel, had moved like a blinding flash of violet hair and black and white robes. Faster than Azaza. Faster than Yuki could follow. It had been so unexpected. So incredible. It had been like watching a person fly. Azaza had been so utterly occupied, forced to bring all her powers to bear, to use the magic of her star to cheat because she was going to lose to the maid! And so her defenses were lowered, and Yuki was free to thrust the sword of light into her side and consume her and all her reflections in the blinding glare.

So, now Yuki stares. At a new maid with a halo of curly light orange hair and a black and white mask over her face to match her outfit. Well…no, the mask didn’t match the outfit. The maid outfit called for a friendly smile lighting up raised cheeks and sparkling eyes. The mask may have color-matched, but it felt flat by comparison, black and white with no emotion and a sinister curl to the smile painted upon it. Yuki stared as the maid came over the roofs with her skateboard, stared as the “tails” of firecrackers flared into colors. Stared as the maid’s sword fluttered undrawn at her side.

A part of her mind is thinking hottest villain, 100%, gotta see what’s under that mask and kiss it. The rest of her is reacting to the firecrackers, jumping towards Juni and realizing that Olesya is bigger and closer, and is going to get there first.

The second part of the scene is the chaos after the sight of the maid, who hangs still in Yuki’s mind’s eye. The firecrackers going off were like time suddenly going from slow motion to warp speed. Like the orcs flooding past Grond into Minis Tirith (later, it would occur to her that the way the view changed also made her think of this, like a gate having been broken to show a different world past it from which everyone comes flooding in).

Yuki acts on instinct. Realizing that Olesya has swept up Juniper, she pivots so hard her foot slides on the stone tile and her tail whips up into the air for balance. Her other foot steps and pushes, causing her to spin towards the crowd. And she she spins, her heartblade is already forming in the air. A great crescent axe glowing with the cool white of Kel moonlight at the end of a long pole with a sharpened end. Yuki grips it in both hands, her right hand near the base, her left just below the center. And as she completes the spin, the axe forms into a wide sweep already occurring, taking a Nagi and a member of the pack completely off their feet in the same sweeping motion.

That sweep creates the space that Yuki needs to sprint. Not out of the crowd, but into it, coming at it from the side and cutting through at a diagonal. Though her axe is no sword, her fencing training carries her forward, each sweep matched by advancing footwork, the momentum of the heavy axe pulling her into the run to keep up with herself, and the spinning blade either scattering the crowd or dropping them before her.

“Hazel!” She calls, as loud as she can. But her voice can’t carry above the deafening explosions. And no matter how fast she goes, she can’t cut down a whole crowd by herself, nor outsprint the fastest Nagi and Serigalamu. Not with her short little legs. There is no amount of puissance that will let her catch up to Seli and Keli (of all people!) dragging Hazel along and out the gates. Instead, she’ll have to let the crowd dictate where she goes until she cuts her way free. “Hazeeeeeel!” But her voice is even further away. She should never have left him alone.

[Yuki attempts to defy disaster through the crowd with daring: 3+1+1=5]
Hidden 13 days ago 13 days ago Post by Phoe
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What is she supposed to do? Turn away, unacceptable risk. Cease chase, unacceptable outcome. Already committed. Already obligated. Have to catch up, have to ask questions. Have to.

Tuck body, backside 540 into melancholy air, pull board to -- is. Is that? Yuki Edogawa? What is she do-- colors! Running colors smearing colors colors all over colors in her skirt colors in her hair get them out get them out she can't get them out how do you wash them away?

She was. Warned. About this. Unlovable fool, Eclair.

Noise. Noise noise noise, too loud too loud too loud too loud too loud too loud!!

Hands lift off board. Hands clamp over ears. Eyes squeeze shut, overwhelmed, overwhelmed. Read and prepared for, outmatched, defeated, make it stop please just make it sto--

Landing. With no grip on her board and no eyes on her landing, Eclair cannot stomp through. Her processes are broken up by useless whimpers and admonitions. Thoughts worse than useless and senses willfully turned off and attention actively diverted toward stopping all the things she needs to keep going.

She cannot push through this. She cannot stick the landing. Her skateboard goes skidding out from under her feet and Eclair Espoir crashes violently into the ground. Feet first, then knees, and now back as she rolls and bounces and tumbles inelegantly across the Welcoming Plaza with the deafening clatter of her armor bruising her soft body in the name of protecting her bones, crash and clatter and the tearing of messy skirts upon the stone street until with a final horrifying crack she collides with the fountain and stops all at once.

Collapse onto floor. Hands on ears, hand on ears. Noises, animal noises. Quiet, quiet, quiet. Not quiet. Need quiet. Please quiet. Where did? Just. Come. Please come. Please come ba-- please come, please come back. Answer. Just, just, j-j-j-just say...

Why?

Tears force their way through Eclair's tight clenched eyes. Her teeth grind together and drool escapes her lips as well, her entire face determined to leak and ruin her decorum and her station. But she does not cry. Does not wail or sob. Instead she shudders. Her voice is small and shattered, stuttering the beginning of a word or a sound that could express the sensations trying to explode out of her but never quite getting there.

Cease. Reclose mouth. Pivot, wipe mouth on shoulder, tuck legs into chest. Cease, cease. Breathe and sink. No more. What's a 'Hazel'? No more.
Hidden 10 days ago 9 days ago Post by TheAmishPirate
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TheAmishPirate Horse-Drawn Tabletop

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In the space of a few blinks, Hazel rockets from one warm dream to another. Right. They’ve escaped. They made it to Amali’s home. In the way of dreams, he’s not entirely sure how he got here, but then again, nobody’s asking too many questions about it. Himself least of all.

Removing the thirsting wool is delicate work. He has to extricate his arms carefully, one by one. Don’t disturb the cat. Don’t let the blanket fall from his shoulders. Either would be a tragedy. The nets are fastened by something he can’t see, something that ought to make a noise once he figures out the trick of the clasp, snap, thingy.

Pop! Pop!

There they go. At once, a faint glow lights up the room just a hair brighter. He drapes one over his shoulder while he fold-fold-fold-folds. Swap. Fold-fold-fold-fold again. He sets them atop his napkin; ordinarily that’d go in his lap, but, well, the space is occupied. And liquid starlight probably stains tablecloths terribly. He gives his host a polite, grateful smile. “Thank you for the dinner, ma’am.”

Now, he can properly turn his attentions to the meal.

You know, he wasn’t really a huge fan of jam back home. He’d had it for years as a kid, but one day something in him just clicked, and suddenly the lumpy texture of it was disgusting. Took him ages to find a new sandwich he liked after that. Hasn’t really gone back to try it since. But seeing how she put it on his plate, he owes it a chance, doesn’t he? Just a taste, on a corner of toast, and see what it’s like. Right away, it’s smooth, thank goodness. And sweet. And a flavor that resists description. Fruity, sweet, but somehow, a little spiced? Not spicy. Something with bite to it, all the same. And oh! It plays well with a bite of the cinnamon biscuits too. Leaves his mouth tingling, pleasantly. He licks at his lips, and is surprised to find nothing, not even a crumb.

A hand gets halfway to his mouth before he realizes it’s probably quite rude to run a finger over your lips at the table. It quietly retreats, to resume petting a cat.

It is a fact of life that a good meal in good company is always a difficult balancing act. Good food makes you want to be quiet and eat. Good company makes you want to talk and laugh. Hazel muddles through like a seasoned pro. Before long, he’s telling Amali about his day, and all the adventure he’s had. There’s a lot of ground to cover there, a lot of trouble she wasn’t there for, but has gotten herself wrapped up in now. He never speaks for too long before remembering his food, and tactically asks her about past festivals, Crevas, and more. Small bites, then, in case she passes the conversational ball back to him. He really strikes gold when he thinks to ask if she remembers the time when Yuki last visited, and the two of them are soon comparing notes and stories as the biscuits and tea flow freely. So freely, that the night calls for a second pot.

Amali gets to her feet, shooing off his offers of help to clear the table. No, no, he’s helping plenty by keeping that old rascal occupied. He does so love to get under her paws, such is his right. With a fond chuckle she shuffles off to her kitchen, leaving him free to gently pet the lord of the house. So pleasing is his offering, that he is allowed the privilege to scritchie his little ears. So Hazel waits. So Hazel pets. So Hazel drifts-

And he sees her closing the distance, again. He remembers that bit clearly. He closed his eyes then, not really sure why. Then he felt her lips touch his. He made. A noise. His eyes shot open. And then-

Starlight. Bright without burning. Color without shape. Eyes closed now, dearie.

After that, it got. Fuzzy. Presumably he did something with his hands, because he had them before, and he has them now, so they must have done something in the intervening time. But what?

He remembers her mouth covering his. Gently. Completely. Pressing soft but firm, and, he didn’t know lips were so sensitive, but, they were. Gosh. They were. She smiled against him, and he knows that because he could feel her moving, so slightly, and when she did his whole heart fluttered. Or was that her making a little humming noise? Don’t ask him. He’s already lost. The rest of him vanished. The rest of him was pressed in, soft and firm too, from, arms wrapping, flush against his chest, all sides, and

He remembers a body so focused on kissing they’d forgotten how to do anything else. If they hadn’t had a lifetime of practice standing up, surely they would have collapsed in a silly heap. See how easily their hands can be directed to hold onto sides. Feel them grab on, for dear life, without gripping too tightly. Even though they’re hopelessly out of their depth, see how gentle they are. See how eager they are. Lean in, and tilt up. Eyes closed. Don’t stop. Not yet. Let them know they’re doing a good job. Please.

He remembers taking breath and banishing thought. This face is delightful to touch. These lips are sweet to kiss. This heart is dear and precious. Don’t you agree? Deny these facts and they will be proven true again. As if such a chance will be given. All that is needed from you is the sound of your joy. It is the greatest treasure you could offer, more valuable than you could ever know. Whenever you like. As softly as you like. Let your heart sing to me. Delightful. Sweet. Precious.

He remembers that mug of tea being empty a moment ago.

No kettle could match the pitch of his surprise. Amali is there to witness that too. And whatever else she just saw that put such a smile on her face. “Sorry! Sorry, I didn’t see you come back. Long day.” He takes up his mug in both hands, much to the annoyance of cats in the vicinity. Terribly sorry, he needs to do something with his hands or else he will die. “Thanks, again, by the way. For the tea, the dinner, the place to stay, and, everything.” He takes a careful sip, mindful not to burn his tongue. “Are you still good to travel tomorrow? I don’t know how many people will still be after me then, and with this disguise I could slip out with the crowds easily enough. It’s no trouble at all.” She didn’t know, after all, when she agreed to take him in. It’s only fair she gets the chance to back out of his trouble.
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