Story Ten Highly Practiced Recklessness Part Three

<RyanSherbrig> "My apologizes, Elizabeth, but… family business, you know how it is."

  • RyanSherbrig heroically refrains from gesturing towards Thorpe.

<HollyhockGod> "Oh, believe me, i know all about it."

<HollyhockGod> She heroically refrains from gesturing towards Thorpe.

<Alexa> (Are Ebba and Fiona coming too?)

<Fiona> (I am)

<Ebba> (sure)

<Alexa> "I just want to know one thing: are you coming back for good?"

  • Fiona mostly looks kind of nonplussed about the situation

<Pandora> I'll…. be here forever!

<Pandora> Maybe not in quite the sense you were hoping for.

  • Alexa looks like a hurt child, torn between wanting to hug Pandora and storm off in tears.

<Pandora> Let's make a long story short, sis.

<Pandora> I've been around for a long time, and most of it sucked.

<Pandora> I made a list once, and the number of deaths I got that were peaceful and surrounded by grandchildren were around 1% of my total.

<RyanSherbrig> "Slitting your throat to save yourself walking across the room may have been a factor in that."

<Pandora> Slightly more as time went by, but still not great… okay, yeah, Ryan has a point.

<Pandora> But still!

<RyanSherbrig> (/me is still in the denial phase, manifested by dry humor and treating the situtation as nothing out of the ordinary!)

<Pandora> So, the way I see it, there's a good argument to be made that the world would be better off it the Horsemen consumed it and memorialized it inside themselves.

<Pandora> So when they offered me the chance to show up I figured it was a good time to find out for sure.

<Alexa> "You're fucking kidding me."

<Pandora> If the world doesn't end, I guess it was worth keeping it around.

  • Fiona is only mildly surprised.

<Pandora> When you're five thousand years old, maybe you'll think the same.

<Alexa> "But how can we trust you now?"

<Pandora> Trust me?

<Fiona> (do I still have her domain?)

<RyanSherbrig> (I suppose E'jah never got back to us about the stone of antiheroes being conveniently finished, and prepared for debuting at this very party, right?)

<Pandora> I expect you to kill me.

  • Alexa gapes.

<Pandora> You're an important part of the testing process.

<Alexa> "What?"

<Pandora> I want to know if the world has enough goodness in it to survive.

<Pandora> That means doing battle with its defenders.

<Fiona> "That doesn't make any sense at all."

<RandBrittain> Fiona still has Rebirth, yeah.

<RyanSherbrig> "Hmmm. I don't suppose you would allow a recess of, oh, say, 8 hours to properly prepare for a duel, then?"

<Pandora> It makes as much sense as what most of our colleagues believe.

<Pandora> Oh, you can have plenty of time. This isn't going to be a formal duel.

<Pandora> This is war, after all.

<Pandora> I just thought I'd drop by to explain my intentions.

<Alexa> "Goodness? What about humanity?"

<Pandora> Well, as things stand, sometimes I think they'd suffer less if they were dead.

<Pandora> But if they want to rise up and kill me to prove me wrong, that's fine too.

<Pandora> Stranger things have happened, albeit only like, three times.

<Alexa> "But…"

  • Pandora smiles.

<Pandora> I just wanted to let you know where I stood.

<Alexa> "But why this way?"

  • Pandora shrugs.

<Pandora> This is just sort of how it shook out.

<Pandora> Plus I wanted to surprise you!

<RyanSherbrig> "Well, we appreciate the heads up, as well as doing it… relatively discreetly."

<Pandora> Oh, yes. So, are you going to out me?

<Pandora> I know the Phoenix will have forbidden it.

<Alexa> "Out you? I don't even know you."

<Pandora> This seems very predictable to me, but who can say?

<Pandora> Anyway, if you ever decide to switch sides, let me know.

<Alexa> (Alexa means she doesn't know enough about Pandora to out her, rather than disowning her, but the ambiguity is intentional.)

<Pandora> I'll put in a good word for you.

<Pandora> Or possibly a bad word? Not sure.

<Fiona> "I don't think we really care either way"

<Alexa> "I… I just wanted you to come back."

<Fiona> (Fona is not the sort of person who says things like 'also, fuck you', but if she was, she would be doing that)

<Pandora> I thought you might, so I did!

<RyanSherbrig> (Ryan's toying with the idea of Words of Command and soul-scouring sunbursts. But he doesn't think Alexa would approve.)

<Pandora> Instead of, you know, arriving for the first time on my pale horse with my army in tow.

<Ebba> (not to mention that new improved pandora will be at least as indestructible as old pandora)

<Alexa> "I still don't understand why it has to be this way. If you're tired of suffering, why not just quit? Why take everyone else down with you?"

<RyanSherbrig> (Who knows? Maybe Fiona has all the Rebirth now, and the new Pandora just has… um, pale horses and an army of monsters.)

<Pandora> To see if they deserve it or not.

<Alexa> "Deserve? Deserve?!

<Pandora> I know it seems rough that I'm murdering you, but inside I really really want you to stop me.

<Fiona> (I think Fiona's at 3 or 4 points of rebirth)

<Pandora> That is my #1 outcome.

<Alexa> "You've been here how many thousands of years, and you believe in deserts? No-one 'deserves' anything! There's life and death, and hope and fear, and fire and light and shit happens.

<Alexa> "'Deserves' doesn't come into it."

<Pandora> I'll rephrase myself.

<Pandora> I want to see if it's all going to end for the best or go to Hell.

<Pandora> Actively trying to destroy everything is just hurrying the process up.

  • RyanSherbrig tries to subtly, while Pandora and Alexa are distracted talking, communicate with Ebba/Fiona via ASL.

<Alexa> "And how will this stunt of yours demonstrate anything?

<RyanSherbrig> "So are we attacking now, or what?"

<RyanSherbrig> (Will spend 2 AMP to help with the discretion part of that)

<Alexa> "How do you know the Horsemen aren't just feeding you a line?"

<Pandora> I'm pretty sure they aim to destroy the world, so I'm happy.

<Pandora> …in a general sense.

<Alexa> "So just how can you tell if things will end 'for the best'?"

<Ebba> (trial by combat, of course)

<Pandora> If the world fails to end, my faith will be restored.

<Alexa> "What if it fails to end but you're not around to see it?"

<Pandora> Technically possible, but I'm hard to kill.

<Alexa> "More importantly, how can we ever tell it's not going to end tomorrow? The world can fail to end today. That's good enough for me."

<Alexa> "Why can't it be enough for you?"

<Pandora> Historically, "be good and you will be happy" is something people say so that you won't question why they're on top.

<Pandora> And even if they mean it it probably isn't true.

<Alexa> "That's *not* what I'm saying, and you know it."

<Pandora> You can call me impatient, I guess.

<Pandora> I've been doing this longer than you, and it's gotten wearing.

<Alexa> "You don't know if the world will end, so you'll end it yourself? I call that selfish."

<Pandora> I speak from experience when I say that everyone dies sooner or later.

<Pandora> They get over it.

<Fiona> (Fiona has noticed Ryan's communications and is intentionally not responding)

<RyanSherbrig> (I was wondering.)

<Alexa> "So? Dying is not the same as a … a frozen eternity in a Horseman's saddlebag, or whatever it is that happens out there."

<Pandora> No, but living kind of is.

<Alexa> "You really have lost it."

  • You are now known as HollyhockGod

<RyanSherbrig> "I concur, Alexa."

<RyanSherbrig> "Ebba, Alexa, with me! Fiona, grab the scarab and flowerwalk to the Fire Isles!"

<Ebba> "I doubt arguing philosophy will accomplish anything at this late juncture"

  • RyanSherbrig shapeshifts into a tiger and tries to rip Pandora's throat out.

<RyanSherbrig> (As a mundane action. The throat-ripping, that is.)

  • Pandora looks offended.
  • Fiona glances over to see what Alexa is doing
  • HollyhockGod pauses to figure out what Pandora's stats are.

<HollyhockGod> How many CP do you each have, these days?

<RyanSherbrig> (I was hoping the same as they were! But, you know, maybe not, in which case, we'll find out. Or at least Ryan will.)

<HollyhockGod> It's like Exalted. If you sell your soul for power, you should, you know, get some power.

<Alexa> (We're at 39, I think?)

<RyanSherbrig> (Hmmm. Let's see, I got… a HS up, glorious, and shapeshifting (2). So I think we're 7 over our base?)

<RyanSherbrig> (Oh, maybe I'm two down, then.)

<Ebba> (if we started with 30, we'd have 39 now?)

<HollyhockGod> I think you started with 32.

<HollyhockGod> So 41, so Pandora should have about… I dunno…

<RyanSherbrig> (Really? I'm pretty sure it was 30… not counting Eternal for free.)

<RyanSherbrig> (Regardless, feel free to give her as many stats as you feel appropriate, and then horribly Negative-Gift-murder Ryan or whatnot.)

<Alexa> (41 times 4 = 164. ;))

<RyanSherbrig> (He knows this is a little bit foolhardy)

<HollyhockGod> So what do the rest of you do?

<Ebba> (crack fizz pop The avalanche has started. Iit is too late for the pebbles to vote)

<RyanSherbrig> (Stand in shock? Facepalm?)

<Alexa> (Alexa kind of wants to wait to see what Pandora's doing — if she set off her Purifying Flame, maybe a Major Destruction of Fire could cancel it?)

<RyanSherbrig> (Just remember. If anyone asks, we uncovered her as a deciever-shard.)

  • Fiona conjures a flower while waiting to see what Alexa decides to do

<HollyhockGod> What Aspect are you attacking with?

<RyanSherbrig> A mundane action! The shapeshifting was my miraculous.

<RyanSherbrig> But hopefully a mundane tiger-mauling is still at least somewhat significant a threat.

<RyanSherbrig> (I'm really hoping at least Ebba helps out)

<Fiona> (Ebba, the other useful party member!)

<HollyhockGod> You're all useful!

<Alexa> (Oh, screw it. Pick up the torch, Lesser Creation of Fire plus 1 Pen to burn her face off with it.)

<Fiona> (not that Alexa isn't also normally useful too)

<HollyhockGod> Fiona is just habitually peaceful.

<HollyhockGod> Your attacks seem to work!

<Alexa> (Bad sign.)

<HollyhockGod> Pandora's wounds bleed and her skin begins to show burns.

<Pandora> Ouch.

<Alexa> (It turns out to be Anna Beauregarde in disguise!)

<Pandora> I didn't actually mean to start outright battle here and now, but fine.

<RyanSherbrig> (Awkward!)

<Pandora> Maybe Phoenix will forgive you.

<RyanSherbrig> "I think it's you that will have to worry about her forgiveness."

<RyanSherbrig> (in Tiger-growls)

  • Pandora erupts in blinding fire and light.

<HollyhockGod> You're suddenly surrounded by light and heat. It makes it rather difficult to see, except for Fiona who has her own personal zone of safety.

<HollyhockGod> You hear Karen's voice in the distance, saying "What was that?"

<HollyhockGod> Fiona, your action.

<Fiona> I'm going to wade through the light and heat to get to the centre (preferably while the miracle is a miracle rather than real)

<HollyhockGod> You move forward, but she isn't where she was.

<HollyhockGod> Ebba?

<HollyhockGod> Okay, Ryan, if Ebba is impassive?

<RyanSherbrig> Hmmm.

<RyanSherbrig> (Can I justify attacking Pandora to save humanity as service to the light?)

<Alexa> (First we have to find her!)

<HollyhockGod> Reasonable!

<HollyhockGod> But it has to be "great service" to get you MP.

<RyanSherbrig> (I'm attacking someone with unknown, possibly excrucian powers! The one thing that can threaten an Immortal!)

<HollyhockGod> Sure, but you don't get points unless you accomplish something.

<RyanSherbrig> (I hurt her, that's sort of an accomplisment. I was mostly hoping I could use the 4 MPs to back up an aspect-attack.)

<HollyhockGod> Try harder!

  • RyanSherbrig aspect-0 tiger-sniffs out her location, and another mundane lunge.

<HollyhockGod> Hey, that's a good idea!

<HollyhockGod> She's moved backwards and to the side, but you sniff her out.

<HollyhockGod> Lunge!

<HollyhockGod> You slice into her achilles tendon, and she drops to one knee.

<Ebba> (sigh, called away)

<HollyhockGod> Alexa?

<HollyhockGod> Called away for the night?

<Alexa> (Give Ebba a go first?)

<HollyhockGod> Very well. Your turn, Ebba.

<HollyhockGod> Or are you called away still?

<Fiona> (it is a mystery)

<HollyhockGod> Alexa, maybe you should go

<Alexa> (Will a Lesser Destruction of Fire suffice to put out the heat and light?)

<HollyhockGod> It's impossible to say.

<RyanSherbrig> (Maybe Ebba is off doing crown control with Exemplar grace and tea-serving skills until otherwise noted?)

<RyanSherbrig> (Crowd, even.)

<Alexa> (Major Destruction, then. 3 DMPs.)

<HollyhockGod> It has to be 4.

<Alexa> (Oh, so it does. 4 then.)

<HollyhockGod> You vanish the light, and find Ryan slicing Pandora's achilles tendon.

<Alexa> (As a mundane action, shouting back to whatever's left of the party: "Deceiver shard! Emergency!")

<Alexa> (But I think we need to get the scarab off her and back to the Phoenix ASAP *without* letting Pandora actually die.)

<RyanSherbrig> (Deceiver shards: the excuse that keeps on giving.)

<HollyhockGod> "Guards! Lukas!" shouts Elizabeth Eliza!

<HollyhockGod> She appears at the balcony door.

<Pandora> Wake.

  • Pandora stomps her foot.

<HollyhockGod> The castle walls and floor start to grind alarmingly.

<HollyhockGod> Ryan, you find the floor starting to eat your feet.

<Ebba> (ok back)

<Ebba> (assuming pandora still works in the normal fashion, shell show up after death at the scarab, right?)

<RyanSherbrig> (It's definitely what Ryan is hoping.)

<RyanSherbrig> (Hence his whole shouted plan.)

<HollyhockGod> Ebba's turn, then?

<Ebba> (but since she is carrying it around I'd assume she either has a plan, or it doesn't work like that anymore)

<Ebba> (but it seems that she doesn't have protection from direct miracles?)

<Alexa> (Hmm. Good point.)

<Ebba> (or is just putting up an act)

<HollyhockGod> Being burned with fire is not a direct miracle.

<Ebba> (as always, I will assume it is a diversion)

<Ebba> can I try a realm miracle to check that our chancel isn't under attack, or something?

<HollyhockGod> Sure.

<HollyhockGod> I don't know how many RMPs you need, but nothing seems wrong in the Fire Isles.

<Alexa> (Could we assume that was what Ebba was doing last turn?)

<HollyhockGod> Sure. Take an action for this turn, then.

<Ebba> lesser div is 3, isn't it? so I'd need to spend 4

<HollyhockGod> It's 2.

<Ebba> (not that I'm doing anything with those miracle points, anyway)

<Ebba> (and doesn't pandora explode with great fire?)

<HollyhockGod> Previously that was so!

<Ebba> (but we'll assume Alexa is on that)

<Ebba> so we'll try nabbing the scarab

<HollyhockGod> Mechanics?

<Ebba> (aspect 3, pen 2)

<HollyhockGod> Ebba snatches the scarab from her neck!

<HollyhockGod> Ebba snatches some scarabs.

<HollyhockGod> Oh, there we go.

<HollyhockGod> Strange.

<Ebba> who's up next?

<HollyhockGod> Um, Pandora is.

<Alexa> (Er, what happened with the scarabs?)

<Ebba> let's see somethnig good, then

<RyanSherbrig> Didn't Pandora do her 'wake' thing?

<HollyhockGod> Oh, right

<HollyhockGod> Fiona?

  • Fiona takes the scarab from Ebba, then flower steps home

<Fiona> (assuming Ebba only got one scarab)

<Fiona> (what did happen with the scarab/s)

<Alexa> (Yeah, I'm worried about that.)

<HollyhockGod> Fiona vanishes into her special effect.

<HollyhockGod> That was merely my client lagging out.

<Alexa> (Oh, righto.)

<Alexa> (Is the scarab making a ticking sound, then?)

<HollyhockGod> Fiona, you appear back in your conservatory, where all is quiet.

<HollyhockGod> Ryan, your move.

<HollyhockGod> Er, wait, Elizabeth has a move.

<RyanSherbrig> Hawk form! Mundane eye-rending action!

<RyanSherbrig> Or, see what she does.

<HollyhockGod> She moves to cover you with her Auctoritas.

<HollyhockGod> And shouts "Karen!"

<HollyhockGod> Karen appears at the door, but her action can wait.

<RyanSherbrig> Ah, in that case, I shall keep the Brightly Burning Tiger form, and continue with mundane mauling.

<HollyhockGod> The tiger is still stuck in the floor.

<RyanSherbrig> Miraculously, I shall create some magical-soldiers by Fiona, just in case. Realm miracles don't use distance costs, correct?

<RyanSherbrig> Feet of light, teeth of bone!

<HollyhockGod> No, but you don't know where Fiona is.

<HollyhockGod> Oh, very well.

<HollyhockGod> Alexa!

<RyanSherbrig> (I'll just spend 4 RMP and FLOOD THE CHANCEL with such super-soldiers.)

<RyanSherbrig> (You never know.)

<RyanSherbrig> (And we did get the 'many' upgrade to our magical inhabitants.)

<HollyhockGod> Oh, right, you are the King. I forgot.

<Alexa> (It's good to be the King!)

<Alexa> (Um.)

<RyanSherbrig> (Sometimes!)

<Alexa> (Are we okay with killing Pandora on the assumption she'll appear in our Chancel?)

<Alexa> (Even if we can manage it, that is.)

<RyanSherbrig> (That was kind of the plan. I'm hoping the activity will alert the Phoenix that something is up, and she'll take steps to intervene.)

<RyanSherbrig> (Especially if Pandora appears at ground zero, so to speak.)

<HollyhockGod> Alexa's action, either way.

<Alexa> (Okay. Sticking the torch in Pandora's hair as a mundane action, then going Elemental.)

<Pandora> Arrrrgh!

<Alexa> (Alexa's tears vanish as she bursts into flame.)

  • Pandora embraces Alexa tightly as her flesh sears.
  • Alexa embraces her back.

<Pandora> Remember…

<HollyhockGod> Karen shouts "Stop!" and conjures ice, encasing Pandora instantly.

<RyanSherbrig> (And Alexa?)

<HollyhockGod> The sudden change in temperature difference does its work.

<HollyhockGod> Alexa is left untouched.

<HollyhockGod> But Pandora's body cracks and shatters.

<Alexa> (Damn.)

<Alexa> (Presumably Karen used enough Pen to overcome Alexa's Auctoritas?)

<RyanSherbrig> (Presumably.)

<HollyhockGod> "Another Deceiver?" asks Elizabeth Eliza?

<HollyhockGod> "Are you harmed?" asks Karen.

<HollyhockGod> Incidentally, nothing is happening on Fiona's end.

<Alexa> (Surprise.)

<Ebba> (that seemed very easy)

<RyanSherbrig> (Tricky. But at least we verified that.)

<Alexa> (So there's a big block of ice on the balcony with bits of Pandora being cooked by an Alexa-shaped flame inside it, next to a tiger stuck in the floor?)

<RyanSherbrig> (Or maybe she just had a false scarab.)

<Ebba> let's see about getting you unstuck

  • RyanSherbrig glows back into his 'costume', away from the foot-eating bits of the balcony.

<RyanSherbrig> (Next time we face Pandora: She has a foci for preventing elemental and shapeshifting gifts. The heck with Immortal!)

<HollyhockGod> Killing a suicide themed Noble isn't so terribly hard.

  • Alexa starts melting her way out of the ice.

<HollyhockGod> Karen thoughtfully dispels it and rushes to check you out for wounds.

<Alexa> (Are any of us wounded?)

<HollyhockGod> Um, no.

<HollyhockGod> Alexa is the only one who really *can* be wounded.

<Alexa> (Yay me!)

  • Fiona escorts scarab to a convenient volcano access point, hits it with a destruction of rebirth, and drops it in.

<RyanSherbrig> (Monothaia: "OM NOM NOM NOM")

<HollyhockGod> The scarab goes red-hot in your hand. The miracle fails to take effect.

  • Alexa de-Elementals and slumps to the ground, face in her hands, crying.

<HollyhockGod> Karen gently takes your shoulders. "It's all right," she tells you. "It wasn't real."

<Fiona> (huh.)

<Fiona> (I should probably go now)

<RyanSherbrig> "That wasn't the Pandora we knew."

<HollyhockGod> A voice whispers into Fiona's mind:

<HollyhockGod> "I believe now you have two things that belong to me. Take good care of them until I return."

<Alexa> "Uh, thanks, Karen. I'll … be okay."

<Fiona> (laters people)

  • Fiona has quit (Disintegrated: Fiona)

<Alexa> (Seeya!)

<Alexa> "Thanks for your help."

<Alexa> "Ryan, did it work?"

<RyanSherbrig> "Hmmm. None of the soldiers are reporting anything unusual. It appears that she didn't reappear there."

<RyanSherbrig> (I assume I can ascertain that with a few lesser divinations on the chain of command.)

<HollyhockGod> The crowd bustles around you, offering support and bandages.

<HollyhockGod> Yes.

<HollyhockGod> Rhys appears to offer Ryan a stiff drink, and he thoughtfully brought tea for Ebba.

<Ebba> I'm not sure what her objective was there

<HollyhockGod> Possibly it was what she said it was- to let you know her intentions.

<Alexa> "Oh, so sorry for ruining your party, Liz. I hope we didn't cause too much damage."

<RyanSherbrig> (I think it's exactly what she said it was, yeah.)

<HollyhockGod> "You don't need to worry about it, Lady Fortis."

<RyanSherbrig> (And I must be off for work as well! Thanks for game, all.)

<HollyhockGod> Elizabeth Eliza quells the awakened castle with a gesture.

<Alexa> "Alexa, please."

<Alexa> (Ciao!)

<HollyhockGod> Yes, this was fun.

<HollyhockGod> I guess the story is over.

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