[Plot] The Emperor's Pleasure - Under the Sea

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swaswj

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The Emperor's Pleasure - Under the Sea
Anguis Trigon, Phase Three




Blue sky above, with long, broad brush strokes of white stretching into the distance. Blue waters below, glinting golden in the late afternoon light. The Geamhess gracefully soared overhead, striking a course between the two folds. After passing through a wispy cloud and coating the airship in shimmering dew, the pilots began bringing the ship lower, close enough to make out the sea spray from the crashing waves, to smell the salt in the air. A merchant ship cut through the azure waters, sharing a heading with the airship that passed overhead.

On the horizon, a bright spot of green broke up the surrounding blue, the first glimpse of the capitol city of the velen empire, Pelagia.

Other airships came into view and the waters below were dotted by more and more vessels. With each passing minute, more of the city came into view, an emerald gem rising out of the water. Pelagia was made up of many circular districts rising just above the water's surface, with waves crashing against the supporting pillars. Roadways and bridges connected the different parts of the city, each spiraling upward and inward. There were four distinct plateaus above the waves, each smaller than the last. The crown of the city was a white-walled palace with pink coral roofing; its five towers each rose slightly higher than the last, leaving the tallest in the very center.

Pelagia was a jewel in the ocean, a bustling little city of beautiful architecture, with water flowing freely in sand-lined channels throughout the city, beginning at the Palace of Emphaevis and cascading downward in shimmering waterfalls. For an empire tied up in war, its capitol seemed utterly carefree.

This was Aea-Famau, the city above the waves, and it was only the tip of the iceberg. The spiral up from the water to the palace also continued downward, under the water. Where cities like Terminus and Prenditus spread their borders out wide across the land, Pelagia spread deeper beneath the waves. Throughout the city, there were enclosed, clear-sided tubes spiraling around: daywinds or more properly daigwindeu, named for the way they rapidly pull the occupants to their destinations with water rushing like a strong wind. For visitors to the city unable to breathe underwater, there are covered roadways with a steady supply of oxygen, far slower and far more common in the upper tiers, becoming rare to non-existent in the deepest depths of the city.

The Geamhess circled in, matching the spiral of the city itself. The airways around the palace were clear and this is where the airship was headed. As magnificent as the palace was, it was not the home of the emperor himself. Instead, it was treated as a vacation home of sorts, and at times, the emperor's children would live there to get away from the crushing pressure deep below. A small landing strip came into view behind the high, scalloped walls surrounding the towers.

Gradually and gracefully, the airship slowed and coasted it a near-stop, floating just above the surface. It turned, and two crew members jumped from the vessel, grabbing anchor chains from the edge of the platform, hooking them onto the ship with a gentle click. At last, they had arrived.

[550]

This thread will have a Success Check. Details will be available once the situation evolves.

After you all write your intro turns, I'll bring out the royal family members to better explain what will be going on. If you want to develop some of the main plot in your turns, perhaps include some observations and thoughts of how you expected Pelagia to be in the middle of a war, versus what you're seeing here. You'll also be meeting the emperor himself, soon, to find out what his plans are for you all.
 

MoonlitRain014

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Watching it all, Aeria was quiet. Her ingenarius' eyes moved over the elegant architecture and noted the simple effectiveness of the daigwindeu as they whisked people around with ease and speed. The velen kingdom's center was an impressive place, illustrating the wealth that was possessed by the water-dwellers. The marvels would undoubtedly increase as the slender spurii experienced more of the place.

The other marvel was the smoothness with which the airship was circling and descending. The pilot was undoubtedly a person of great skill and experience because they settled rather like a feather to float just above the mooring area. It couldn't have been easy to land such a gigantic machine with that much finesse. Again the spurii let her violet eyes focus on the design of the docks, seeing how effectively they were meant to hold the airship and allow easy disembarkation.

Once the airship was secure, Aeria made her way from the observation deck down and towards the extendable walkway that would allow her to step from the ship and back to solid earth. Even as she made her way down to the docks, her keen gaze moved around and continued to note all of the design and engineering touches that had gone into Aea-Famau.

[208]
 

Deni Perfide

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Deni was eerily quiet as The Geamhess landed on the surface of Pelagia. Though it was a factor of his mood, it was not simply due to his lack of comfort regarding air travel. How many years had it been since he had set foot or fin on any of the layers of the great underwater city? It must have been near a decade. He had not planned on going back, not after what had happened. Yet there he was. He breathed in and then exhaled slowly.

The velen put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it with a match. His blue eyes scanned the scene for familiar figures. Due to his aversion to air travel, Deni had spent a large portion of the journey hiding away in windowless holds, so he had not seen all that much of Ignis and Aeria.

As if the thought conjured her, Deni sighted the unmistakable short plumage of his business partner and friend. He quickened his pace down the ramp and approached Aeria from behind.

“This your first time in Pelagia?” he asked. After a long drag on his cigarette, he breathed smoke into the air and offered it to the spurii.

[200]
 

Aelflead Kirastes

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The sound of laughter and shrieks of excitement punctuated the sound of the waves that lapped against the sides of the Geamhess, and as background noise to the disembarkation of the rest of the ship's heroes.

These intermittent cries would grow steadily louder as Kirastes, Aelflead emerged from the sparkling ship with the feartu and tiae Mitis and Cordatus in tow. She wore similar attire to what she'd donned the first day down to the long split in the skirt of her dress; though her hair was noticeably less kept up, the ribbons of curls that she'd worn the first day were... Braided, in a way, and decorated with brightly and haphazardly colored paper flowers in contrast to the ornate hair ornaments she'd worn before while a single cowlick dangled at her nose; the spurii's brown arms and cloth wraps around her hands were also painted with the same bright colors as her flowers in haphazard fashion.

The calm and easy smile resting on the woman's face blatantly read "peace" despite the two balls of seeming chaos both jumping up and down around and beside her and leadi-dragging her towards the palace with excitement. And when she tossed her head back over her shoulder to call after the rest of the crew, it came out in her voice as tones from old polished wood rather than the barking that seemed so typical of her speech.

"You lot of igźugar aren't going to sit and wait on the boat all day are ye?"


Well, at least in tone.

Igźugar = A Gina curse essentially meaning, "lazy dipshit" or "useless fool." A combination of the words, "iga" & "dźugar," and literally meaning, "wet trash."
Etymology: A result of the Laicar's history of war and specifically travel over the centuries. Travelers make as much use as humanely possible out of every item they carry with them on their journeys, including garbage as fuel for fire. Wet garbage has no use at all though, since it cannot even be lit for a campfire. As an insult, calling someone igźugar is an urge to get moving, chastising them for wasting time/being useless.

Ergo, Aelflead's being extra talkative due to her improved mood and is quite happily suggesting everyone get going in Gina, with the assumption that little ears won't pick up too much of her vocabulary.
 
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swaswj

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The dozen imperial guards that had joined everyone aboard the Geamhess marched out in two columns, with the two older children of the empire between them. Princess Grace et Neptunum was dressed regally, wearing a sleeveless dress of owl gray that nicely accented her warm pink skin, peach scales, and the coral ribbons atop her head. Her younger sister, Venus et Neptunum, followed shortly behind. Over next to Aelflead, Mitis and Cordatus tried to contain their snickers when Venus came into sight, draped in a shapeless white dress and a hood pulled over her head. Even under the concealing layers, the young woman had a distinct saunter in her step, and her eyes darted around, lingering on some of their own entourage but also sampling their guests once again. Sighting a particular mop of white hair, Venus hmphed and lifted her nose into the air.

With her sister somewhat under control, Grace turned her attention to the guests as they disembarked. Despite her fair form, the princess was strikingly tall, even above the imposing imperial guards that surrounded them. "We gladly welcome you all, brave and noble warriors, to the city of Pelagia, seat of the empire and home to our father, Emperor Thadal et Neptunum," the woman called out with her gentle smile spreading on her cheeks. "You stand upon the uppermost tier of Aea-Famau, the city above the waves. In Medius, we believe the name best translates to the Stage of Welcoming. This is the Palace of Emphaevis, where most of you will be staying if not otherwise engaged. Please, make yourselves at home. Allow the staff to lead the way, and please ask if you require aught. In three hours' time, we shall escort you down beneath the waves and to our father's throne in Taddeuwu-Aunifua."

With a serene bow, the princesses and their guards began heading in to the palace. Spying the younger siblings, Grace leaned over to one guard and whispered instructions. That guard split from the rest, taking up a position where he could watch the young prince and princess without intruding.

Not far off, Keydis remarked aloud, "I'm not one for being talked down to, but she makes it hard to dislike her." The brunette looked much the same as she had when the trip began, with the same armor over her clothing, although the splash of red dye in her up-swept bangs seemed fresh and bright. She had a lengthy item stretched across her shoulders. It was wrapped in a blanket from the ship, held in place by her wrists hooked over it. "You kids have any idea what your dad has planned?"

"Nuh-uh!" Mitis responded immediately.

Cordatus hissed something about manners to her and then tried to assume a more dignified air as he responded, "Father has not… deigned… to te-- to impart his…"

The guard helpfully explained, "Only Feartu Grace has spoken with the Emperor directly. It was also she who offered to convey you and your companions aboard the Geamhess. Else, Terminus had plans to send one of their own ships."

Blushing at the assistance, Cordatus nodded. "Yes, as he says." Mitis giggled and poked him under the ribs.

Keydis smirked. "Hey, if it's secret, then it's probably epic, right?" Spotting her copper-topped companion leaving the ship, Keydis offered Aelflead and the young royals a wave. "Be nice to 'Elfeed.'"


[561/1111]

You're free to describe your rooms or split off into chapters to do your own thing (exploring the upper levels of the city, for instance) for the three hour reprieve. My next GM turn will be when Grace is gathering everyone to head to the Ocean's Throne. Expect that soonish. I just wanted to leave a break in here to allow for some personal things.
 

Inks

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Pretending not to gawp at Aea-Famau’s unique and foreign architecture, at the waterfalls glittering in the warm afternoon sunshine, Red made her way off the Geamhess. The high-altitude sea breeze whipped at her bangs and kicked them back from her forehead, and buffeted the loose canvas jacket she’d thrown over her tanktop. The redhead felt acutely out of place - and out of her depth - here. Surrounding her were a bunch of war heroes or some shit, and those who weren’t here for their heroic deeds were apparently royalty.

Her gaze trailed, briefly, after said disembarking royalty - complete with imperial guard entourage. For a brief moment, she wished she’d been paying attention to some of those etiquette lessons her father had paid for. Maybe she wouldn’t feel so fucking lost? Then she caught the thought and scowled down at her boots. Feeling vaguely frustrated, she looked up again, scanning the crowd for Keydis - only to find the woman making her way over, still grinning from something she’d said.

“So,” said Red as Keydis came within reasonable speaking distance, “what’s next? There’s not gonna be a royal ball this evening, is there? I’m tellin’ ya now, I don’t know how to dance. And I don’t wear dresses.” And then, after a pause, she added, “Or skirts.”




[214 / 214 ]
 

Ignis of Animi

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Ignis emerged from where she'd been napping below the deck in time to see Aelflead interacting with the younger two feartu. This was the happiest and calmest the avian had ever seen the volatile woman, something that intrigued the pale woman enough to pause and watch for a few moments. Her relationship with the spurii was strained at best, making the pure-blood enlil wonder whether things could have been different. This cheerier version of aelflead seemed much more pleasant and likeable. Then again, the cranky spurii might have a soft spot for children.

With a shrug, Ignis moved towards Aeria and Deni, carefully picking her way through the crowd. Past her friends' shoulders, the enlil caught sight of Aea-Famau. The engineer stood still once more, breath catching in her chest. Her eyes traced the way the city spiraled downwards, sinking beneath the waves. Briefly, she imagined a younger version of Deni wandering those curved streets --or had he spent more time beneath the surface?

For a brief moment, the wonder and fascination she used to feel for the world returned. The scenes of circular cities and towers that formed a rising swirl, one that extended into the deep unknowns of the ocean were ones Ignis only knew from books. The stories she'd entertained herself with in childhood were once more coming to life. The nostalgia was quickly washed away by the cold realization that she wasn't here as a tourist nor an adventurer, but to face some unknown threat.

That thought sobered the enlil's expression. Looking away from the beautiful scene, she joined Deni and Aeria, offering each a brief smile.

"Mind if I have a drag?" Ignis asked, gesturing towards Deni's cigarette.

Amicus rustled disapprovingly, but the avian engineer ignored him; she didn't want to sink into panic and survival mode just yet. After everything she'd been through, Ignis' escapist tendencies hadn't gone away so much as changed form.

[320]
 

Valero

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The velen’s shoulders tensed a little at the sound of Ignis’ voice. Deni turned to his companion once his usual grin had recomposed. He pulled the cigarette from between his lips with two fingers and placed it in Ignis’ mouth. His gaze caught a glimpse of the hooded Princess Venus casting the royal equivalent of a glare at Dante. Any opportunity to gain leverage with the Princess had gone to shit thanks to that kinner. Deni could have glared at him as well for that.

‘Don’t waste time praying for a fish with an empty net’, the rogue thought to himself. Another one of his grandfather’s sayings. It was time to look for more opportunities rather than dwell on the one that he had lost.

“Y’know, I never thought I’d come back here,” Deni said absent-mindedly as he and his companions walked towards the exit out of the landing strip. His blue eyes watched the motion of residents travelling down one of the daigwindeu in the distance. “Being back here is surreal.”

After a momentary pause, Deni let out a deep, silent sigh.

“What do you say we hit the city? I didn’t spend too much time up here, but I know a place that does some killer cocktails and a grilled fish bar that works magic with gammarus tails.”

[420]
 

MoonlitRain014

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Aeria's eyes moved across the vaulting, impressive architectural elements that comprised Aea-Famau again. The details and quality of construction were impressively well executed and there was real durability in the way it was engineered. It wasn't some layered confection that merely put up a pretty front but was not able to stand the test of time. Like much that the velen did, it seemed that it was meant to last the ages. After Grace had delivered her message, the small group spread out and moved along behind the guards who were escorting them. Everything was still strange what with all the finery and pomp around them. This didn't stop Aeria from moving with a certain pride and poise in her carriage as they continued on.

Observing the children, a quick smile touched Aeria's lips. In spite of being royal and all that it entailed, they were still just kids with all of the foibles and innocence of any other child. There was also something sadly sheltered about them, a sense that the real harshness of the world hadn't touched them in a way that it might touch a child not born in their circumstances.

One eyebrow flickered up as the lean spurii woman watched Ignis take a cigarette from Deni, but she shrugged and as Deni spoke, flashed a bright smile. "Sure! I'd love to get a guided tour from a proper citizen. I'm also damn hungry. All that refined food on the Geamhess was great but frankly those tails sound way more delicious! I could also use a stiff drink after all the royal formality. Lead on, good sir, lead on."

[480]
 

swaswj

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Keydis took a moment to look Red up and down, smiling before saying, "I don't know, I think you'd look pretty good in a dress." She turned to start following the rest of the crowd into the palace before adding, "You don't have the right panties to be wearing skirts, though."

It was definitely loud enough that others could have heard, but Keydis only smirked as she waited for the inevitable, and probably physical, retort.

Aside from the opulence of the palace, there was something strangely mundane and anticlimactic. Staff swarmed out, leading the guests away by twos or threes, carrying baggage, offering amenities -- food, hot baths, massages, the works -- and all in all treating the whole affair like they were visiting dignitaries rather than heroes and warriors with legacies steeped in blood and iron. Keydis couldn't say that getting the royal treatment was entirely unwelcome, but she came because they were supposed to serve on some secret assignment for the emperor.

She wished they'd get on with it.

Keydis and Red each clung to their own baggage when valets offered to help. A young blue-feathered enlil man greeted them with a deep bow, introducing himself as Bleuatleu. "You're more than welcome to call me just Bleu, or even Blue, as it pleases you." As he led them through immaculate hallways that made the Geamhess look stale and plain, he explained that he had been born and raised in the velen city. According to him, his given name meant 'dashing' in the velen tongue. Keydis had to admit, he was a handsome sort, reminding her of how her uncle looked in his younger days.

"Here's your room, Miss…" Bleu started to say as they stopped at one in a long line of similar doors in the lengthy hallway. There were no numbers outside to identify it, but the sea-shell themed double doors were an iridescent aqua color, while the next rooms to the left and right were the warm gold of sunrise and the deep violet of dusk.

Boldly, Keydis interrupted him to say, "One room is fine."

Without the slightest surprise, Bleu nodded and simply said, "Of course. If there's anything you need, I'll be happy to procure it for you. It will be several hours, yet, before the emperor is ready to receive you."

The room inside was even more extravagant than the hallways. Keydis dropped her baggage and most of her weapons, leaving only Promoveo and a dagger on her hip. Sharing a glance with Red, she turned to Bleu and asked, "What's there to see, top-side? I want to stretch my legs."


As I mentioned, feel free to work in chapters/collabs to fill this gap (I plan to do one myself), but I'm going to go ahead and proceed with the plot, also. This part takes place after the three hours have passed and everyone is gathered together again. If for any reason you think your character would not be there, let me know.

In the great hall of the palace, all four dozen of the elite warriors and heroes sent from Terminus stood lined up in formation, much as they had before boarding the Geamhess. Instead of the princess, an unknown man stood at the fore of the room. He was young, thin, but stunningly tall, head and shoulders above the imposing guards surrounding him. Even Grace, quite tall herself, would have lost out by half a head.

It would be a fair comparison, at least, because there was a strong family resemblance. Like all of the royal family so far, this man had piercing blue eyes. His skin and scales were red but deepening toward violet. The top of his head, though, had pale pink clusters of star-shaped coral. For clothing, the young man wore the uniform of the velen military, decorated with various medals on one breast. There was no armor attached to his uniform, though he did carry a long straight sword at his right hip.

"Welcome to Pelagia. It is my honor to officially extend the invitation to the Ocean's Throne, where you will meet my father, the emperor. I am Tofradeity Caput et Neptunum, First Tiae of the Empire." There was a brief pause, and then the young prince bowed his head. "Now, I have other matters to attend to. Please stay close to your escorts. I will join you in the throne room before the night is over."

Caput turned sharply and speedily walked away. Whispering began among those more familiar with the politics of the situation. The prince was the lead commander of the Empire's military, but was only just turned twenty years old. For him, taking time out to come greet them was probably the worst use of his time.

There was little fanfare while everyone loaded up into several ornate carriages just outside the palace entrance, each fit to hold eight passengers and led by a pair of trained calpa. The black horses had white seaweed manes and curling horns on their foreheads. In the open air, their fur seemed slimy and sickly. Soon enough, the procession of six carriages began moving.

The first carriage was led into a recessed tunnel. It seemed like a dead-end, with just enough room for the carriage itself. The passengers gasped in alarm as the entryway sealed behind them. The side walls of the tunnel were lined with bioluminescent algae, so they were able to see clearly as water rushed into the sealed chamber. It rapidly filled the room, and the passengers realized that the carriages they set in were airtight.

The inner doorway opened, and then they were off. The calpa, so slimy and cloddish in the open air, seemed suddenly to be sparkling thoroughbreds, racing through the flooded tunnel with stunning grace. The enclosed tunnel opened up suddenly, and the passengers could see the city rushing by. Now underwater, they had passed into the next layer of the capitol. Sunlight still filtered through the water -- appropriately, this depth was known as the Sunlight Zone -- and lots of lights filled the city, as well. Aea-Supety, the Farmlands. In every direction, there were crops of all kinds, many of them enclosed in underwater greenhouse structures, basking in the light that reached through the water and supplemented by artificial lights.

Where the carriages traveled, the roadway was enclosed by a wall of bubbles, a unique staple of velen design. There were two kinds, and they were viewing the larger of the two, which formed simple barriers to keep unwanted creatures out or just to denote the separations of property. It was easy enough to force one's way through the bubbles without popping them, even to breathe air inside them in an emergency. They weren't military defenses by any stretch.

Continuing onward and downward, the passengers got to see the entire zone spinning around them. The Farmlands disappeared as they entered into another covered tunnel, passing through the foundations of that tier of Pelagia down to the next. They emerged only moments later but the difference was immediate and stark. Barely any natural light reached here, into the Twilight Zone, but the abundance of artificial light was astounding. Lights and lighted signs, white and yellow, green and blue, bright neon pink and electric purple. This was Aea-Mess, the commercial heart of the city, where all of the major businesses thrived. The Mess was popular among visitors, below the waves but still relatively near the surface.

Their journey continued still, though, each calpa dashing through the water so fast that they were leaving streams of bubbles in their wake. Aea-Mess passed out of view as they slipped into another tunnel lined in green light. They emerged into the final Aea: Aea-Haidioety. Where the Mess had been a tapestry of lights and colors, the Hideaway was dark. No natural light reached into the Midnight Zone, where the rest of Pelagia awaited, and lights in this part of the city were mainly limited to the streets themselves, blips of white light to guide residents to their homes.

In Pelagia, citizens rarely returned home for anything more than sleep. Regardless of the time of day, the Hideaway was dark and quiet, a perfect place for rest after a hard day's work… or a hard night's revelries.

With each layer downward, the city grew wider and wider. They disappeared into another lighted tunnel and came out to their destination, over three kilometers in diameter. Taddeuwu-Aunifua, or the Ocean's Throne, was still not the widest tier of the capitol, either. An immense palace spread out beneath them, its sheer breadth putting the Palace of Emphaevis to shame. Lights lined every tower, every archway, every window, glowing in red, purples, and blues. In some places they lined statues and memorials.

Beyond the palace itself, buildings were kept simple and plain, glowing in simple white and yellow lights. These were government offices and departments, the political heart of Pelagia.

The roadway they followed spiraled down and stopped directly in front of the entrance. All six carriages lined up together, before advancing into a broad, covered antechamber. A wall came down behind them, sealing off the entire chamber, and in an inversion from earlier, water began draining away. Drivers cautioned their passengers not to get out, yet. When the water had drained and the opposite wall slid open, the carriages proceeded up into the palace, straight up to a pair of staggeringly tall doors, easily ten meters high.

Finally, the doors opened, letting the visitors from Terminus out, deep in the heart of Pelagia, on the footstep of the empire's chamber of rule.

If anyone is interested, feel free to describe the Ocean's Throne in more detail. In my next turn, you'll meet the Emperor, do whatever you'd like to prepare.

Referring to that conch shell I showed earlier, this is still one layer above the widest point in the city. It is, however, about 2km below the surface, which means it's very cold (4C/39F), very dark, and your ears probably popped at least once on the way down. To counter that, this layer is filled with artificial lights (magical, technological, and natural bioluminescent plants/algae), and there are numerous heated vents and braziers of slow-burning coals.

Also, expect lots of people to be around dressed in finery.

[1549/2660]
 

Ignis of Animi

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Ignis watched the journey from the surface into the underwater depths of Pelagia through a carriage window with fascination. Her dark eyes attempted to trace the widening layers of the city as they raced past. The speed of their travel made observing much beyond the changing color and quality of the lighting difficult, but it was fascinating nonetheless. She kept her face mere centimeters from the window, her breath making vapor on the glass, until they came to a stop. Not even the popping in her ears could keep the woman from the sight before her.

Sitting back in her seat, the avian woman rubbed at her eyes a bit. She had forgotten to blink. A few teary blinks solved the issue of dry eyes while the passengers waited to be released. In her lap, a bushy creature squirmed impatiently.

Ignis stroked the leafy creature's head a few times to remind him to settle down with little effect. Amicus wasn't a fan of the rapidly moving transport nor of the idea of visiting the ocean's depths. He was a forest spirit meant for woodlands and trees, not endless depths that lacked sunlight. A light hug from his contractor helped sooth his nerves a bit, but not enough to sit still.

Once the doors finally opened, Amicus clambered up onto Ignis' shoulder and gripped onto her purple half cape to secure himself.

A bemused expression on her face, the engineer stood and filed out of the carriage --not the first one out but not the last to exit either.

The enlil, one of Terminus' "heroes", made her way through the small crowd towards the familiar figures of Deni and Aeria. Staying near them helped dull the underlying sense of dread that had begun to build. The splendor, technology, and new sights could only distract from their purpose here so much.

As they approached the throne room, Ignis noticed a distinct lack of heat. It wasn't quite chilly, braziers with glowing coals were placed in key locations. She searched out the area and noted a few vents, likely pumping the room with heat. Still, even with these in place, the temperature wasn't quite warm. In response, the avian fluffed her feathers beneath the dark, basilisk leather cloak ensconcing her body.

Searching for something to say to break the relative quiet, Ignis turned to her companions and remarked, "I feel a bit under dressed. "

[401|721]
 

Deni Perfide

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Deni rotated his bottom jaw to get his ears to pop. His gills had contracted subconsciously after staring at the layers of the city they had passed. It was an old habit after taking in the sights that upper Pelagia had to offer; when he used to live there, he had spent most of his time in the lower recesses of the city.

Once the airlock was released, Deni was among the first to leave the carriage. He flourished his black trench coat and straightened his matching fedora, all the while making sure the purple half-cloak was still resting over his shoulder. Once he had ensured that his attire was presentable enough, he released a sigh and took in his surroundings.

The pelagian's blue eyes marvelled at the sight of the royal palaces. After his eyes had feasted on the buildings, he gazed at what seemed to be some sort of flower bed. Great petals in hues of reds and blues, pinks and purples. Some were no larger than his fingertip, others the size of a small child. Upon further inspection, he realised it was not a flower bed. A reef.

"I forgot just how beautiful this city could be," he chuckled.

When he turned away from the flowers, the velen realised that the others had gone ahead. He strode to catch up to them. He arrived just in time to hear Ignis' remark.

"I think we all feel underdressed," Deni replied. "What exactly do people like us wear to meet an Emperor? It's not like there's a guide book detailing it, is there?"

[684]
 

MoonlitRain014

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Down here, down in the darkness Aeria looked around as she was enfolded by the vague sense of cold. The warmth and soft glow of braziers added a cozy flicker to things and made her stance relax, even as they moved towards the throne that symbolized all of the great power vested in the velen emperor. The tall, lean spurii caught a glimpse herself mirrored in a window and her posture unconsciously straightened up. She wore the green and gold dress uniform of the contigeri which consisted of a pair of close fitting green velvet pants, a green cloak that swept halfway down her legs and a rakish tricorn hat that rested at a fashionable angle. She was carrying the best of her halberds with finely filigreed decoration that chased all over the surface of the blade. For some reason, a certain pride seemed to have come into the angle of her head and the way in which she stepped forward.

Now as they stood before the massive, imposing doors which towered above them, the true magnitude of the place became evident. There was a certain solemnity that came over the crowd as they stood there. The sense of an ancient and powerful kingdom was so clear in this room. It was a reverence that seemed to cause all of the volume of conversation in the place to drop, as though a velvet cloth had been put over it. Aeria seemed to be struggling to keep herself from glancing up and her eyes were sparkling, moving to inspect the beautiful hinge mechanisms on which the doors hung, just as her eyes had moved over the airlock, inspecting the mechanism and seeming to drink it all in.

Her attention seemed to return to the more mundane conversation at hand. She looked over at Ignis and Deni, shrugged and smiled wryly. "I haven't worn this uniform in years, but somehow it seemed appropriate. I had the damn thing but I guess it looks pretty official. After all, we're 'heroes' right?"

The word 'heroes' was spoken with a certain sarcasm that crept unbidden into Aeria's voice.

[833]
 

swaswj

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"More of a hero than some," Keydis remarked nearby, clad in her violet scaled armor with Aridusian silks in shades of red and Hiemisian fur lining her collar, and her own black wool cloak beneath the purple one marking her as one of the entourage. "You all were there for the demon fight while I was still trying to book passage from Concha Litus. My only claim to fame is being one of the people to capture Orator, and he surrendered." That likely wouldn't have been enough if not for the recommendation given by Havital.

The doors swung open, gears and hinges humming audibly, the tune of impeccable maintenance. No angry metal squeals grated out. The entrance led directly into the grand hall, dim light filling most of the room while a bright light shone down on the Ocean's Throne itself at the far end of the hall, on a raised dais. It was a stunning sight, made from mother of pearl and spreading out wide in scalloped design, with emeralds and sapphires inset into the lines.

The throne was vacant, but the room was packed. Princess Grace was there near the entrance, in the same owl gray dress as earlier, but with her red locks freshly styled and studded with various shells. Princess Venus, meanwhile, stood on the opposite side, in a sober dress of satin, clinging to her shapely form without revealing anything untoward. Venus bowed her head regally, welcoming the guests together with her sister, displaying all the propriety and manners she had eschewed during the trip.

Cordatus and Mitis were nearby, the younger children waving excitedly to the new arrivals. Mitis was wearing the same turquoise suit as her brother rather than a dress. In fact, it looked a size too large on her and probably belonged to Cordatus. Two new faces stood near them, as well: the youngest of the emperor's children, Puer and Puella. The five-year-old kids were twins, close to but not quite identical, with the boy's skin being a bubblegum pink and his sister's a faintly lighter taffy shade. They had the same bright blue eyes as the rest of the imperial family, though, and their clothes matched the eyes perfectly, even glowing faintly in the dim light. Both were bare-headed, with elfin ears and cherubic smiles.

Among the attending velen, residents of the capitol, most were dressed in vivid finery in a splash of colors complementing their varied skin-tones. Some of the more sober-looking colors belonged to velen from the far north, where shades of grey, silver, and brown were more common.

The four dozen guests settled into formation once again, some of them fidgeting uncomfortably from the attention. In front of them, the throne remained empty, and they stood there for a long moment of uncomfortable silence while the dignitaries around them muttered among themselves. Finally, a slow clap began from behind them followed by a hearty chuckle. The rest of the room fell silent and the heroes in the middle stiffened reflexively as the guest of honor finally arrived, striding right through the center of the formation.

Emperor Thadal et Neptunum was not a large man, by velen standards, but neither was he small. He was not given to indolence, yet neither was he in peak physical condition. Even his voice seemed average, without the weight of authority carried by men like Magister Eximium or the fugitive, Orator. What he lacked in physical presence, however, he made up for in sheer fabulous display. Thadal's skin was a stunning fuchsia, with scales that glittered like purple diamonds. His eyes were bright, electric blue, distinct and passed down to all of his children. The crown on his head was iridescent, shimmering in a rainbow of colors, otherwise a simple circular band with three upswept spikes above the forehead and a glimmering orange citrine set just beneath them.

A voluminous cape of lime-green fell from his shoulders, lined in mint on the inside. His bare, oiled chest was on display underneath, with his thickly padded yellow shirt wide open. His pants were tangerine, with his feet bare. The loud clothing glimmered in intricate designs, catching light as he passed.

He spun, sweeping his cloak out dramatically before sitting in the throne, leaving his cloak draped over one arm-rest and resting one leg over the other. He leaned against his fist, shark-like teeth on full display as he admired the men and women in front of him.

"Welcome to my empire, O heroes from afar! I am Thadal et Neptunum, thirty-eighth Emperor of Pelagium. The Magister has extolled your bravery and virtue, recounting to me the many deeds for which you've each become famous! In your eyes, I see there was some truth to his words. Welcome to my city. Here you are honored guests and will want for nothing.

"Stand not so stiffly, then! There is food, drink, and fine company!" Thadal swept an arm around the chamber. Long tables were piled high with food, pyramids of wine bottles and rows of pelagian spirits. "Partake of the ocean's bounty and my city's splendor."

Once his proclamation was finished, music started up. The small band gathered at the rear of the room, but the acoustics in the chamber let the music fill the room, surrounding the guests.

Some of the men and women looked at each other uncertainly. After their five-day pleasure cruise, few of them expected to be invited to a party. Others, however, seemed nonplussed by the situation, and one enlil man grabbed the woman next to him, spinning out of formation with her in tune to the music.

There remained an edge of uncertainty, however. Not once had the emperor mentioned the war. Wasn't that the entire reason they had been sent? Princess Grace looked at her father with the faintest hint of a frown, though the younger siblings didn't seem to pick up on any of the mixed feelings. Cordatus and Mitis were already rushing over to Aelflead.

[1000/3660]
 

Aelflead Kirastes

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And inside of her mind, this discordant behavior struck the red haired half-velen more than just keenly.

They had all been brought here to fight and defend a border; she herself had accepted in part because of a secondary opportunity associated with coming there. But despite her wavering mind over that task for the sake of children rushing towards her, she found herself a tad frustrated over the time being wasted by this ruler of a nation.

Aelflead stooped down to meet the tiae and feartu and while her face denoted the same smile as before, her eyes were cast about the room with suspicion. What would an emperor accept warriors of renown into the heart of his empire for, if not the task for which they had been called? Does he intend to keep us here and fatten us with parties for days rather than send us to do what we came here for? The trip went off without a hitch, perhaps the threat is smaller than we presumed? Could we be here for some other reason? Or does he simply not think we're good enough? She thought.


But, if that's the case... Why then even bring us here at all? In the midst of all of these thoughts, she allowed the twins to drag her away to dance, but kept her eye on the eldest members of the crown who had yet to move. When she caught the look her majesty Grace sent to her father, the redhead couldn't help but shoot a look of her own back to the rest of group.
 
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Red

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Lost in a sea of well-dressed, well-mannered guests, Red chewed on the inside of her cheek. She’d dressed up about as much as she could tolerate - meaning she was wearing her most fitting vest, the forest-green one with two rows of gleaming silver buttons down the front, her whitest dress shirt, and a pair of polished boots laced up to her shins, where they tucked into her pants. Her shirtsleeves were rolled up to her elbows, but neatly. Still, compared to the vast majority of the party-goers, Red looked positively pedestrian.

Red glanced at Keydis then looked away again. She folded her arms over her chest, tutted sharply, and said, “Thank the gods we got the best of the best up in here.” In spite of herself, a smirk ticked up one corner of her mouth. “I’d hate to imagine how horrible this woulda turned out if we didn’t have some hero-class people dancin' and stuffin’ their faces.”

Despite the dry tone, Red was more bemused than anything. Maybe she’d misunderstood the circumstances behind their being here. If that were the case, however, it looked like she wasn’t the only one. More than a few of the faces in the crowd seemed out of sorts, like they had expected a lot more out of the emperor’s speech than what they’d received. Either Pelagia’s emperor wasn’t great at the whole public speaking thing, his priorities were clearly different from what everyone had been expecting, or...

Or what, Red didn’t really know. Or care. She was just here for--

Idly, Red looked over at Key again, then tracked the other woman’s gaze. Another redhead - this one with hair the color of fresh blood, done-up and decorated in a way Red couldn’t imagine ever bothering with. Her skin was deep bronze and her two-toned eyes bright, alert. She seemed friendly enough, smiling at a small cloister of children that were clinging to her like burrs, although Red could make out the scars on her skin from here. A warrior.

Red opened her mouth to announce she was going to go hunt down some alcohol - these sorts of parties were really only bearable once she was properly tipsy - then stopped. Just over the other redhead’s shoulder, one of the guests was watching the youngest royals. Almost the moment she’d noticed, the young man looked up. Their eyes met, then he looked away, saying something to the guest beside him.

Now that she was looking, it felt like more than a few people in the crowd were tracking the children. Interest in the royal family, maybe? Or.

“Hm,” said Red. She nudged Key in the side. “Poor kiddos. Got a lot of eyes on them, don’t they?”



[452 / 666 WELP]
 

Deni Perfide

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Deni stared after the Emperor in his fantastic garments with a grin on his face. All of the rumours that he had heard during his life in Pelagia seemed to be true. Emperor Thadal et Neptunum was not at all what a lot of people thought him to be. In fact, had Deniisis Perfide been born into royalty, he can’t say he would have done things much differently.

As soon as the Emperor gave the party the go ahead, Deni’s eyes continued to scan his surroundings. For a moment he caught a glimpse of Princess Venus staring at him. Then she turned her nose up. Nothing could be done about that just yet. At the sight of Keydis he squinted a little. He didn’t recognise her companion. As soon as he was certain it was actually her, he passed her a friendly nod. It seemed they only ever met at parties, whether it was Terminus or Pelagia. He wondered if he ever travelled somewhere like Prenditus, would he find her in a bar there?

The velen maintained his pleasant smile and leaned close to Ignis and Aeria.

“I’m going to get a drink and have a dance,” he said quietly. “I have some information about our host, if you’re interested.”

The pale pelagian shrugged visibly and sauntered to a table next to Keydis and her red-haired acquaintance. The table was filled with glasses in all shapes and sizes, with a range of liquids from clear to amber to inky black. His webbed fingers grasped the short glass that contained what he sought. A golden liquid with just a hint of green. Alatichryso, the velen whiskey liqueur that was infused with kelp, for a salty aftertaste. Deni sniffed the glass. His blue eyes widened a little.

Levus brand, he thought to himself. Of course it was the expensive stuff. He had only tried it once before and it was on a different plane of existence. A small sip and he sighed delightfully. That was the only thing he didn’t feign.

In truth, the facade came naturally to the velen. Deni had been forced to endure too many social meetings like this one as a child - though perhaps none of such a magnitude - and it seemed the reflex had not left him. It even felt the same, like a little fish in a school of other little fish, trying to figure out which ones were actually sharks in disguise. If his previous experiences were anything to go by, everybody was a shark. That was why he feigned ignorance, all the while weighing every figure his blue eyes could see.

“Didn’t think we’d be partying so soon,” Deni said to nobody in particular. “I like this Emperor.”

[454/1,138]
 

MoonlitRain014

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Aeria glanced around, feeling the high collar of her uniform uncomfortably tight, despite the fact that it fit her well. The grandeur and elegance of the room, the incredibly lush array of foodstuffs and the flamboyant and intricate appearance of the Emperor made her eyes roam, not able to focus on any one thing or person. Her fine eyebrows drew together as she scanned the room, as if something was troubling her and it was difficult to pinpoint it. Having made one more sweep of the room, she wrinkled her face and leaned in towards Deni. "Doesn't something about this situation strike you as being off? It doesn't appear that anyone's taking the threat they're under very seriously."

The splendour, the grandeur and the spectacle were so overblown and the glittering crowd so dramatic that it gave the impression of an elaborate set piece in a theatre. Everything was so over the top and glittering that it seemed unreal and contrived.

Settling into a quiet, semi-brooding state, the spurii continued to cast her eye across the crowds before once again returning her attention to regard Ignis and Deni, waiting on the velen's response to her rather gloomy query.

[198/1031]
 

Aelflead Kirastes

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Despite the splendor of the event and surrounded by the children of the court, Aelflead's suspicion intensified.

Taking notice of the redhead standing beside Keydis and sparing a breif glance to follow her line of sight drew her attention to a stranger, a pair, watching her location too carefully. A subtle look around the room brought more into her awareness now that she knew what to look for and her antsiness hit her max level for toleration.

She quickly considered the glittering blades fastened to her hips.

If I'm fast I can take out the closest two and pin another by drawing attention to them with the ruckus if I move now before they finish sharing they've been spot-

"Elfeed! Do you know how to dance?"

"Can you teach us?"

"I'm thirsty-..." The obvious problems with the woman's line of thinking suddenly breaking through Aelflead's monologue pulled the woman from her thoughts and back to reality.

She could only reach one, maybe two of the strangers if she moved now, and enemies put down are enemies put down. But that would leave the children on their own, and she didn't trust that the only strangers in the room were the ones she could see. If she could only reach one or two of them the kids would be set upon before she could even register new assailants, much less reach her first targets. And that wasn't even considering her special circumstances.

No, staying put was probably the best move at the moment.

"I'm sure that ge-acquiring punch will not take more than a moment sis-" Cordatus piped up trying to rein in his siblings rowdiness. Whether he recognized the disconnect between the red haired spurii's face and head or not, he gave the woman a moment to regather her thoughts while the feartu bickered among themselves over her attention impatiently.

Aelflead scanned the room again; taking in the mixed perceptions of the warriors gathered, letting her gaze linger on Keydis and her sunlight haired companion for longer than she'd willingly admit to herself, and looking for a solution to her conundrum that didn't involve her sitting still until something happened.

Aeria seemed about as suspicious as Aelflead was herself and Deni was drinking already with an expression as unreadable as Ignis' on his face.

Most importantly, none of them besides the other redhead seemed to have noticed the strangers in the room, and most frustratingly; because none of them were looking her way, she couldn't alert them without drawing more attention to herself.

"Alf-weed... A-leed... Elf-Elfeed, You look scary." Said Puer, the pinkest of the twins, cutting through the woman's thoughts again.

"It can't be helped kiddo-" Elfeed exhaled and slowly blinked, then reached down to take the girl's hand. "If I'm not scary then bad guys'll get me." Then with confusion plastered across the girl's face, Aelflead lead her and the other royal children towards a table with a bowl full of pink liquid sitting prominently atop it.

"C'mon squirts, fuel up first. Then we'll dance."
 
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Dysney

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Ignis stood still for a moment after the Emperor invited the guests to enjoy themselves. The surprise numbed her and paralyzed her momentarily, the pale skinned enlil standing lost amidst the crowd of guests slowly shuffling towards the food and drink. The avian glanced from the emperor to his children, noting that only Grace seemed to find this transition odd.

Unsure of what to make of it, Ignis glanced around the crowd to gauge the reactions of the other heroes and familiar faces. Aelflead looked as though she'd been insulted, Aeria appeared to be displeased, and Keydis' redheaded friend seemed thoughtful.

Deni's words, brought the enlil's attention away from the growing suspicion building in her chest for a moment.

Aeria's words brought the discomfort Ignis was feeling front and center.

"I'm of the same mind as you, Aeria," the rust-feathered woman admitted, stepping closer to her companions so that she could speak quietly.

"I'm interested to hear what you've found out Deni. If we grab drinks, we might be able to speak freely without attracting unwanted eyes and ears. It will certainly get noisy enough for that if we're patient."

Ignis began to walk towards the food and drink after another meaningful glance towards Deni and Aeria. They needed to talk, and, if she and Aeria weren't being paranoid, it was best to take caution and try to blend in for now. Trying to remain outwardly calm, the avian took a fancy cup, a glass bubble shaped thing with gold, circular designs decorating it, and filled it with the drink from the punch bowl. A light sniff revealed that it was likely alcoholic.

Drifting away from the table and looking for a good place to settle along the edge of the room, Ignis paused, head turning towards something.

Amicus had been staring at a large statue, reminiscent of the one on the front of the Geamhess for some time now and his focus had begun to protrude into her consciousness.

Eyes locking onto the artwork, Ignis walked towards it as if pulled along by a current. Stepping around the other partygoers, the slim enlil moved through the crowd as if everyone else were invisible until she came to stand at the foot of the statue. Looking up, the pale woman frowned. Then, she blinked, shook her head and turned around to see what had become of Deni and Aeria.

[wc later]
 

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