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She shivers for reasons entirely unrelated to cold as she's shown the pose, and does her best. She makes the motions exactly right. That's the most painful part of this. It's a pale imitation of what it should be and something is deeply off. But once she breaks the pose, it becomes not quite as stark. "I am afraid of those I can only dance, and I don't know what'd be at stake." She smiles. "So, ah, do you plan to stay in the area long? Or would you like to duel for answers to a question?"


"Oh! Oh!" Jasper jumps up in the air with the excitement of someone who's never had someone challenge her to a duel before. "You actually want to - Yes! Yes, anything you'd like! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you want to dance -" she holds up one finger, turns around, and there is the sound of muffled squealing into a shirt sleeve. Then she straightens up and turns around regally with a completely impassive expression. "I accept your challenge and your terms," said Jasper Inkra stiffly. "The victorious will have total command over the secrets of the defeated -" there is a lot of willpower going into keeping a giddy grin off her face. "And as is expected, the challenger may be the first to dance."

Jasper paused and looked around. "Where are your backup dancers?" she asked.
Princess Adila breathes in.

Little cloth bags on each of her wingtips are torn open. The glittering sand cascades down them surrounding her in a storm of jewels. She tosses her head back, wings up, and the tiniest spark passes from her lips - like a kiss on the breeze for the world she loves.

The sand ignites, coursing down her neck and bursting through the air in flames that for a moment seem like a mane as wild as her heart. She steps forwards, claws clacking sparks from the stone floor, causing lines of fire to run up her legs in spiral patterns. Her eyes are closed and this one step, this first step, feels so much like dancing. All along her body the black burns orange and the fire of her heart is visible for all to see.

Then she snaps her wings in close and pivots about in a single devastating motion, spreading that fire with her pirouette. The flaming sand expands out in all directions and then the flames finally catch the partially filled bags and there's a detonation like a bad day at Hobling Keep.

As the smoke clears Adila shines. The sudden burst of dragonfire-heat has melted the prismatic sand that had delicately coated her scales into glittering stained glass. For a moment she's radiant, shining black gloss that reflects Alina's light of gold - a dark and crystal moon around that radiant sun.

She's freed from pride and fear both. She fights by expressing herself, and she fights only to buy time for her friends to express themselves. She's not striving for victory, she's striving so that Dandy has time to cast her magic - all the magic of love and life - so that Hornet has time to realize whatever inspiration takes her, that Alina has time to properly kiss her wife. There's no strategy that can be higher than this; to live your best life and help all of your friends to live theirs too. There are more wonders in each heart she fights for than she could imagine in all her days of dreaming.
An AEGIS Modular Assault Vehicle crashes down the aisle. It runs over Dominus' motorcycle. She doesn't notice immediately because she's busy kissing Angel-IKA, but as she's swept off her feet by the blonde valkyrie and carried towards the door you catch the briefest glimpse of her seeing the ruin of her bike and a very complicated expression taking over her face before the AEGIS elites burst from the doors of the vehicles in all directions.

Amidst them all, the Shogun floats, alight with red demon fire, surrounded by levitating muskets. There's a deafening barrage as she begins firing shot after shot out through the open door, guns cycling in perfectly ordered drill. AEGIS troopers enhance the fusillade with their own weaponry. The door becomes clogged with fallen Kingbots but still they try to climb over their defeated comrades.

The Shogun turns to face you, Errant, and she tosses at your feet the very confused and disoriented celebrant. "We'll have to make this fast," she said, giving you a bright smile. "So - here. My gift to you." She tosses you the keys to the assault vehicle. Then her eyes snap back to the celebrant who gets off her butt in a hurry.

"D-dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate a -" a laser beam cuts through the wall and sets one of the curtains on fire. "- u-union of two beloved heroes um you can exchange vows now."

*

Brainstorm!

That's... that's her! Doctor Sylvanius! The King of Mars! She does not look at all like the pictures.

What you're seeing is a little old lady with Doctor Wiley hair and glasses thick enough to stop a bullet with an adorable little golden crown floating above her head, surrounded by a phalanx of golden-plated battle robots that are laying down a hellstorm of fire. She squints up at you with a face full of smiling wrinkles and a voice like chocolate chip cookies. "Oh hello there dearie. Could you please show me to my seat? I do hope I'm not too late."
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?


"Oh!" said Jasper with a brilliant smile. "Of course that's fine, it's so much to remember - I'll teach you!" She walked over to Mila and stood behind her - her breath against your hair is so soft and warm you brain might melt away into the endless blue sky and dream of tropical islands. Forwardly, she pressed herself against your back, taking hold of both of your wrists - "You stand straighter, like this," murmured Jasper, remembering her own lessons. "This hand extended, this hand back here. Head high. You need to stand gloriously, as your most entire self, worthy of love. Believe in yourself!"

And then she swirled away in a burst of yellow fabric, walking backwards with a hand to her chin to inspect the results. "And of course if you wish to challenge me to a duel of swords, or dance, or weaving, or archery, that would be wonderful!" she said.
Ailee had been cupping her hands over her mouth in readiness to yell something over at the direction of Coleman and the trash god before Lucien begins begging for restraint. She looks back and forth between him at the sentient garbage with a look on her face that clearly communicates how little she appreciates being made to think about what she's going to say before she says it. Then she shrugs and starts tracing a finger through the air, leaving trails of fire in very readable cursive. It's neat and refined, the kind of handwriting that might be formalized into a font on a printing press for religious works.

The content of the writing is itself less elegant. It starts with LOOK JACKDAW! I HAVE UNCOVERED THE SECRET OF WHERE THE FISHMONGER'S SEWAGE OUTFLOW IS and it goes downhill from there.

Ailee looks at Lucien expectantly, hopefully, with wide eyes and an innocent little mousy smile upon her face.
Princess Adila stands up as tall as she safely can. She's surrounded on all sides. Strength flows through her muscles and her eyes move smoothly from target to target. Assessing. Processing. Preparing.

Of course it's doomed. Of course she has no chance. She doesn't need a legendary work of military strategy engraved on her soul to know that. She's not powerful enough to win, of course not, not in the face of these numbers, this evil, his strength.

But... it's not always about winning. It's not about power either. She has enough strength and ferocity within her heart to fight, even now, even if it's futile. She can't stop this, but she can get Princess Hornet to safety - and maybe if she's very lucky, Princess Alina and Princess Kazelia as well. The proud little flame in her heart that one day dreamed of dragons can at the very least manage this.

+Princess Hornet,+ said Adila, spreading her wings causing the vibrant oranges of her dress to cascade, glittering with firedust in the colours of the rainbow sands of Jedad. +No matter what happens... I trust you to fix things. Okay?+
"Gk-erk-Hlp-ack"


The robots are silent for a second as they both run vocal clarification filters. The results are inconclusive, which they fortunately take as evidence for action. Prometheus severs the chains with a precisely applied laser beam and Bode puts a mega-lozenge in your mouth and makes you swallow. Breath starts to return.

Hang on. If Prometheus is in a Martian Kingbot does that mean that Doctor Sylvanius' forces have already...

The main doors are dramatically kicked open and the figure outside is backlit in a spectacular halo of laser light fire. She raises a finger and yells, "I OBJECT!"

@Sarahphim!

On the one hand, Dominus is a bio-scientist with a variety of organ enhancements that give her superhuman abilities when it comes to processing toxins. On the other hand she has a pretty significant head start when it comes to getting smashed. She's already pretty unsteady when the door comes down and Angel-IKA strides down the aisle, glowing golden. In the backdrop you can see Vault moving like a katana through a crowd of robots, a lifetime of learning to perfectly dodge your laser patterns manifesting itself perfectly as he tears through the machines - here, there, slamming a Repeater down so that Ferraphim1tp (sunk ships never die) can jack a bot and turn its firepower against her foes.

But Angel-IKA is having none of that right now. She's coming down, radiant, eyes like fire. If you did one good thing in your life it was help her redesign her costume. Home-made wolf-hoodies are in the past, now she conveys the aspect of primal savagery alongside her angelic appearance and looks entirely herself.

"H-hey, Angelica," said Dominus, having spilled the champagne all over her biker jacket. "I mean. Ha ha ha! It is too late for you to stop my evil plan!"
"Where the hell have you been, Pasey? I've been worried sick!" said Angel-IKA.
"Oh please, like you care," said Dominus. "We're professionals. Professional rivals. We always knew our jobs would come first."
"Our what!? Our jobs?! Is that what this is about? Pasey, do you have any idea how many laws I broke trying to hunt you down!?"
"You - what? No, Ange, you shouldn't -"
"I blew up a biker bar when they wouldn't give me information!"
"Tell me that wasn't the Crimson Roadhouse -"
"I hijacked a train so that I could steal a spy satellite!"
"You stole a -"
"I dangled the CEO of Crown and Slate off a building for information!"
"Mr. Blutcher? You threatened Mr. goddamn Blutcher!?"
"Of course I did, Pasey!" said Angel-IKA. "And then I crashed a stolen car through a robot army on my way in so I could get here in time to stop you from doing something stupid!"

Dominus stands there, absolutely flabbergasted. You're right there besides her, @Sarahphim - what do you say?
"See?" said Ailee, punching Lucien in the shoulder chirpily. "We're getting somewhere now! We've gone from being smack-talked by a waiter to getting a conversation with something that at least has the self respect to pretend to be a god. This is progress, Lucien, don't look so bitter! Maybe it'll be interesting enough to write a Monstrology paper about? The Deeper Journal can't get enough papers on creatures that think they're gods."
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!"
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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