You are the loyal daughter.
One by one, this sugary pastel world is peeling away the false and insincere promises of your sisters. Where is Kaja’s stalwart resolve? Where is Asteria’s iron will? Where is Kazelia’s oath to loyally serve as first of the king’s lancers? One by one, they will be brought back to heel.
You know you could have infinite power over Hyperborea. If you seized the Caduceus for yourself— there, hanging above the dead princess— it would be yours to shape as you pleased, but that would be short-sighted. What is one world when you have seen wonders beyond your imagination? What is indulgence when you have love?
The lesson of Hyperborea, in the end, will be that you alone love your father best, and that is why he treasures you above all your sisters. That is why you tricked the dragon out of her skin, that is why you distilled the lights of Ilumina, that is why you will wrap the Caduceus in your cloak and take it safely to your father’s hands, and that is why he will always love you best of all.
The feeble traps of the chamber do nothing to impede you as you soar across the chamber, swift as a shadow over the face of the moon. Your own shadows lash out, razor-edged, and carve through tentacles and spears, even cleaving through a giant stone as it drops from the ceiling. It lands in two perfect halves on either side of the chamber, crushing writhing tentacles like serpents trod underfoot.
Your feet don’t touch the stairs leading up to the Caduceus; your shadow glides smoothly over the cyclopean stones, until you hover over the casket and the dead princess. This close, you can feel its power: the tingle on your skin, the soft susurrus in the back of your head, the taste of magic on your tongue. Quickly you release your cloak clasp and wrap it about your hands, reaching out for the staff, its stained glass serpents of red and gold twisted around a rod of black stone.
A hand covers the staff right where you meant to take it. Long, pale fingers, wrapped tightly, possessively. On instinct, you reach higher, meaning to wrench it away. Another hand closes tight around it. Then another, and another, and another, all the same, but stretching from the base to just below the heads of the serpents.
The owner of the hands swings the Caduceus back over her shoulder, impossibly. There wasn’t room for her behind the Caduceus, even if she is lanky and spindly and all angles! And where are all those arms coming from??
You raise your hands and immediately cast a warding-spell, which the Caduceus smashes through effortlessly as the woman swings it with every one of her arms right at your head. The moment in which it makes contact seems to last forever, and there is the sound of rushing wind and cheering in your ears.
Then, your cheek stinging furiously, you are sent flying back, spinning madly head over head over head. Atop the dias— not that you’ve noticed yet— your body crumples at the feet of the Queen.
There’s really weird.
And there’s catching your sister’s head.
She is — improbably, impossibly, only because it amuses Eupheria — still alive. Probably, reattaching her head would be as easy as plopping it onto her shoulders, though maybe you’d have to spin it around a few times to get it screwed back on.
And she is furious.
“How dare she?!?” she manages to pant out after the initial shock and horror fades. “Kazelia, go get my body right now!” It’s the Big Sister voice, and it almost makes you spring into action even now. Almost.
But this? This is a different sort of problem entirely. This is the Wicked Queen before you, in full control of her
powers. It’s time to rethink your strategy on the fly.
The Wicked Queen is here, and she’s had a long, long time to prep her wardrobe for just this moment. Horribly, she’s not just the bogeyman of your childhood right now: she’s someone you recognize, as if she was your own sister. You recognize that manic giggle as she doubles over in midair, in absolute hysterics. You recognize her aspirations to be feared and respected, now realized. You even recognize her morbid, surreal aesthetic, finally given the most intimate of canvases.
The bodysuit clinging to her willowy frame is glossy, light-eating black, the death of color, the backdrop for her display. The Iluminan silks draped across her body, writhing under their own power, are the iridescence of an oil slick. Her magenta hair is tied in braids so intricate they almost become scales, with opals woven into them serving as rows of serpentine eyes. (Mommy once taught you a secret: magenta is not a real color, but what we see when we see a color that cannot be understood.) An oversized floofy bow hangs in her hair, cyan and black, plain and simple, the colors of a shrine maiden inverted. It’s deliberate.
Her lights swirl around her like a halo, each one bright and sickly, the most unnatural colors you’ve ever seen in your life.
And her eyes are each neon spirals of teal and lime chasing themselves forever, swirling like whirlpools, dangerously entrancing. She always loved the spotlight, after all. What better way than to have eyes you can’t look away from?
“For the last time, Adila!” Eska is very disgruntled, considering that you are both protecting her from the tentacles by letting them rain down blows painfully on your own body, and also protecting her from her terrible hypnotizing sister by sitting on her.
Whatever else she says, as Rita fiercely defends Dandy with an Iluminan ribbon and her own Askaian claws, is drowned out by the cadence of that so familiar voice, full of that awful power and dread.
“Oh my gosh,
did you, did you really think? I just up and died of a broken heart??
And Caddy would just be here for you to steal? You’re all so stupid,
I love it!”
She wipes away a tear with an unsettlingly long ginger and sighs shakily, still grinning.
“Right. Let’s have a better look at you.”
She twirls the Caduceus twice and taps it against her own (presumably faked) casket, and gravity orients towards her with a sickening lurch. Not your sense of down being down, or the room moving in any way, just “things fall towards Eupheria now.”
The question for you and everyone else is not how you intend to escape. It’s how many tentacles you’re going to slam into on your way, and how tightly you’re going to cling to Eska to stop her from being hurt or from wriggling away.
roll +Grace. On a 10+ neither, on a 7-9 one, on 6- both:
- lose something or someone important
- take damage]