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Gizmo

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Freedom City Guidebook

Freedom City PBP: A How-To Guide

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  1. Set Sense Motive: 1d20+3 23 Sekhmet Sense Motive: 1d20+2 15
  2. "Um, excuse you," Set scoffed, casually taking a step to one side to get out of the way of Sekhmet's nimble dodge. "Tis but one failed god and one fetish streamer and both are me. Prolific and multitalented! Sekhmet hangs about mostly to romance dragons and Miss Neko tis a wholesome delight." The godling kept her hands curled in front of her like exaggerated paws while sauntering in a lazy circle so that Faster Pussycat couldn't keep both Sekhmet and herself in view simultaneously. She made no aggressive move but something about the singsong cadence of her voice made her irritatingly difficult to ignore. "Do you not consider yourself a fetish steamer? Imposter syndrome must be a terrible burden for you! Keep up your best efforts and surely you'll one day make it on Only Nyans! Ha, you see what I did there?" The other Heliopolian was considerably more to the point. Sekhmet's right fist erupted in golden flame as she pulled back before driving her fiery knuckles directly into the cat burglar's jaw with enough force to rattle bone. She made a move to grapple and pin Faster Pussycat with her other hand but stopped short and slid back a step instead as she noted that the abrasive thief wasn't as shaken by the blow as expected. Whatever power suffused her made her more resilient than her feckless attitude suggested. The warrior goddess sized up her opponent more carefully. "...why scribe a calendar on they garb?" "Right?! Your theming tis a dreadful mess. I appreciate Tura Satana as much as the next genderfluid sexpot but you wouldn't call the reference topical now would you!"
  3. Sekhmet Delaying until after Set. Set Standard Action: Feint Faster Pussycat: 1d20+16 32 Move Action: Taunt Faster Pussycat: 1d20+16-5 26 Set Up: Transfer benefits of Feint to Sekhmet Sekhmet Standard Action: Unarmed Attack vs Faster Pussycat; Power Attack 5: 1d20+7-5 6 Hero Point from Set: Unarmed Attack vs Faster Pussycat; Power Attack 5, HP Reroll: 1d20+7-5 15 That's a DC 27 Toughness Save, with solar fire descriptors and Affects Insubstantial 2 and Incurable if it's relevant! Reaction: Initiate Grapple vs Faster Pussycat: 1d20+16 20 (With Improved Grab)
  4. Set Initiative: 1d20+3 14 Sekhmet Initiative: 1d20+5 18
  5. Set clapped his hands in genuine, childlike delight when Neko unleashed her skin-crawling illusion. "Oh, classic! Love the pop of colour, too many default to black-on-black but one needs variation or the definition of the legs gets lost in the writhing mass." In her lioness form Sekhmet shifted from foot to foot and narrowed her eyes at arachnids disappearing under the door, less enthused. She stood back up to humanoid form when Faster Pussycat opened the door so that she could properly glare down her nose at the self-aggrandizing thief. "Thee desired adversarial attention, reprobate," the goddess growled, flexing the fingers of her hands one at a time where they hung at her sides. "What then do thee intend now tis gained?" In the tense atmosphere Set looked between the imposing Sekhmet, enthusiastic Neko and smug Pussycat before giving a harrumph and snapping his fingers, much as their young streamer had done. The godling's form shifted in a heartbeat to a feminine presentation, white linen bordered in blood orange wrapping itself around her chest and sandals lifting slightly with a kitten heel. Lacquered nails lengthened to sharper points to imply claws and a pair of feline ears sprouted atop her head, brick red at the base to match her dreadlocks and fading to black at the tips. After a moment of consideration she added a black ribbon collar with a scarab-shaped bell hanging against her clavicle. "Can-nya-t stand to be left out," she explained sotto voce to Neko, bouncing on her heels enough to produce a little jingle.
  6. "Aye, and an additional cat themed rejoinder," Set added largely to himself, just to feel included. "On the perils of curiosity or the finer points of recovering from a fall, mayhaps." The chaos deity followed a step behind Sekhmet as the taller goddess in turn followed Neko, fingers laced behind his brick red dreadlocks. Once the elevator reached the top floor Sekhmet dropped forward onto all fours, her form rippling on the way so that it was a lioness' claws that tapped softly against the hotel's flooring. Burning golden eyes narrowed as she stalked silently from door to door along the hallway, sniffing the air for anything out of place that might give away their quarry's location.
  7. "A hack!" Set answered immediately, pointing an accusatory finger into the air for emphasis. "Self-aggrandizing, artistically void, appropriative little--" "She seems as though familiar but I have no firsthand knowledge of the apparent thief," Sekhmet spoke over the tirade, putting one hand tipped by sharp, manicured nails to the side of the godling's head and pushing him to the side so she could better address Neko. "Though I remain unclear what offence 'Faster Pussycat' has made her ill manner bears address." Looking down at the girl her golden eyes glowed with an ember of internal flame while her lips parted in a thin, predatory smile. "Tell me what thee have seen, little sister and I will show thee how lionesses hunt."
  8. "Probably should have gone self-employed, then," LaMarr remarked mildly, folding his arms and leaning back against the counter in the posture Ashley had come to recognize as his 'real talk guidance councillor' body language. "If being the Patriot is just a job title then damn right better than half the turkeys out there don't think you deserve it and charitably, half of those, you're never going to change their minds. 'Cause you are the damn queer Patriot. And you're the lady Patriot. And the Vietnamese Patriot - alright, Vietnamese American, Louisianan, you know what I mean - and the meta Patriot and the short Patriot and whatever else and there's always going to be some joker who couldn't do the job for ten seconds who thinks one of those is the only reason you got the nod." He raised both hands in a broad shrug. "@#$% that guy. Which you already know. You're just hung up on the queer thing for the same reason you don't like using your powers where people can see: you got real good for a long time at ignoring those parts of you and passing 'cause you had enough visible stuff to deal with and that taught you to be ashamed. Not judging, that doesn't go away overnight, from experience. Just don't give me this 'less than' bull."
  9. "Of course one should announce a successful heist, tis a 'calling card', a staple of the form!" It didn't take long for Neko's sensitive hearing to pick up a familiar raised voice in the hubbub of the crowds. "But if the audience knows not what was stolen, what reason have they to care? Tis about panache not... cheap mystery box engagement!" The streaming teenager caught sight of Sekhmet first, the tall woman scanning the crowd over most of their heads while flatly ignoring the incensed ranting of the animated figure beside her. "And another thing! Who dons a salacious cat burglar motif and randomly tosses in a sex-shaming throwaway line as sendoff? Where be the internal consistency?! Anna would never." Set somehow extended the last word over several extra syllables while Sekhmet spotted Neko and made meaningful eye contact, dragging the offended godling along in her direction.
  10. "Haven't even been able to connect to my printer in months," LaMarr replied as he held the invitation at arms length where his aging eyes could better focus on it and waved in the direction of a bulky, light grey appliance at the end of a console desk. "Always been more for a 'march' than a 'parade' but I've done the marshal thing a time or two. Means a lot to a lot of people and I didn't hate being in a spot to tell cops to lose the uniform or @#$% off." He set the invitation down and looked over the the chair to gauge Ashely's reaction. The younger woman wasn't here to have someone pussyfoot around with her feelings and he was happy to show her that respect. "That what you're worried about?"
  11. Set made a strangled noise of distress in the back of their throat as Copycat skipped off to speak directly with Persephone, keeping a practiced smile in place rather than wincing as the disingenuous debutante presented their host with a suspicious souvenir. In fairness I would have given the pin a scarab design to be a literal 'bug' so glass houses, mayhaps, the godling silently admitted to themselves, studiously looking elsewhere into the milling crowds while keeping the interaction in the periphery of their vision. Skillfully using the selfie they'd just taken to backtrack to Copycat's social media account - mentally noting how they would optimize it for search engine results - Set tapped out a quick direct message before secreting their phone away once again: of course 'repayment' here may mean transmogrification into a thematically ironic pest species or that WAS a pass in which case mayhaps discuss a hall pass system with your absent partner??? endeavour not to die!! Feeling that should have fulfilled any moral obligation to warn their new friend away from dangers of espionage which she seemed to be familiar with already anyway, Set sashayed toward the catering to see if there was anything accommodating their dietary restrictions.
  12. Set arrived at the panel to which he'd been invited early enough to spend a bit of time taking photos and signing autographs for the attendees waiting in line then head backstage in the small theatre participate in the tech check. He may have been a deity of chaos and the unexpected but he was also a Ra-damned professional. Today that meant sitting in on a live table read for an episode of a comedy web series that reedited and dubbed over a popular anime from the early aughts. The show had a very liberally interpreted ancient Egyptian theme but was mostly about children competing in card game tournaments under increasingly dramatic and unlikely conditions; Set was primarily interested because it was a veritable goldmine of catchphrases and reaction images. For her part Sekhmet had made her disinterest in watching Set perform explicitly clear and said she would find a more palatable way to pass the time, such as staring unblinkingly at a blank wall. The lioness had not volunteered that one of the numerous television shows which she had consumed in its entirety thanks to a bounty of streaming service subscriptions was premiering the first episode of its upcoming season at the conventions and she determined to be in the audience. Certainly being a head or two taller than most of those in the crowds between rooms helped as she strode imperiously toward her goal, other attendees understandably hastening to get out of her way.
  13. Teagan was the only one close enough to hear the low rumble of approval deep in Sekhmet's chest that her flirting earned her. Even behind the dragon's cloak the downward wandering on her hand was perhaps less subtle. "Tis my pleasure to introduce the Lady Teagan Delphyne, Incendiary Majesty of the Great Wyrms and a deft hand with a mace." If the goddess had prepared those honourifics ahead of time she hadn't mentioned them to her pridemate. "The Arrowhawk is of a lineage of mortal warriors such than even the Aesir were unable to avert their eyes far enough up their own rears to avoid acknowledging her prowess and deeds," she provided to Teagan with a roll of her eyes for Osla's benefit. Sekhmet's experiences with the Asgardian pantheon over the eons had admittedly been a mixed bag but between Set's rumourmongering and Anna's tales of going-ons in Bedlam City she'd kept informed enough about the archer's circumstances to feel uncharitable. "And beside her stands Princess-Ambassador Thalia of the Atlantean Royal Family, wielder of the dire trident Undertow." She gave the weapon itself a skeptical once over. "In truth I thought thee best suited to honest grappling and blows but tis a handsome enough weapon."
  14. "Though I may not have a reputation for honesty, a reputation for subtlety would be even less deserved. Were I 'making a pass' you would not have to ask," Set clarified dryly, tapping the lacquered, talon-like nails of one hand together. The answer seemed largely for Jean's benefit, the angle of Set's eyebrow expressing clearly to Ashley that the godling was fully aware she hadn't misinterpreted them in the first place but was willing to leave her to whatever game she was playing rather than pushing the issue. Certainly they didn't let it distract them from upholding immaculate selfie etiquette. "Plenty of vulpine deities, spirits, avatars, so on, so forth." With a snap of their fingers Set's humanoid head was replaced with one with a long snout and tall, thin ears pointing straight up, with night sky black fur shifting in an ombre into their brick red dreadlocks. Certainly there were elements of fox in their appearance, though not enough to put to it the name of specific animal. "But then I know a visitor from beyond the proverbial city walls when I see one, aye?" They resumed their human appearance with another snap. "One expects you'd have your own pantheon of gods, oh pulchritudinous plus-one. We do tend to get just everywhere given the chance."
  15. Set's expression froze in a polite if strained smile at Copycat's explosion of enthusiasm, eyes darting across the masked woman's face as though trying to determine if this was some surreptitious cry for help. Perhaps that distraction explained why the godling wasn't fully able to keep the grimace from their own face at Rainshadow's interruption, hands pulled back with wrists tilted up and fingers curled. As the large fellow floated away they shook their head, briefly raising their eyebrows expressively. "What a thoroughly unpleasant individual. Who walks up to strangers at a party and announces his outfit was 'off-the-rack'? Ra's shapely buttock." They reached back to shake out their five foot long dreadlocks, golden ornaments clicking softly. "Now! Absolutely we're going to take a selfie because obviously. But mayhaps tis not the ideal setting to make an affectation of fawning devotion, oh feline fangirl. Too many of the guests have seen too much of the real thing, aye?" Set positioned themselves between Ashley and Jean to pose for the photo, leaning in and speaking around a perfect, practiced grin. "Be shenanigans afoot? You can tell me, I've been know to pull a fast-one or two myself."
  16. "You aren't wrong but mayhaps you shall find something new to experience on the other side of the window pane, oh serval skeptic," an amused voice opined from over Copycat and Predator's shoulders. The speaker was only a little taller than Ashley but all slim, runway model proportions to her more solid, athletic frame. Thick, brick red dreadlocks reached all the way down to their ankles, combining with a wild, feathery mane of light red to frame angular features topped with a filigree-thin golden tiara that curved upward into a pair of points a bit reminiscent of Jean's ears. A knowing smile of too-white teeth was bracketed by silver lips but attention was inexorably draw to eye shadow that seemed to shift and roil in the light, cut through by two pencil-thin lines of blood red and leading to piercing storm grey eyes. Delicate chains leading from rings on their fingers to golden armlets and finally disappearing into that mane tinkled quietly as they bowed with a flourish, dipping one long, bare leg out at the same time. A trail of sand skated across the floor to follow their foot as it arced, solidifying into a crystalline stiletto heel the moment the movement ended. "Apologies for interrupting; gauche, I know!" As they straightened it was easier to see the sleeveless leather romper that made up the core of their outfit, cut through with diamond-shaped openings like a more robust fishnet that revealed the darker flesh beneath. This close both women could see that the fine, sparkling body glitter catching the light from their new acquaintance's skin was in fact tiny scales in a mix of ruby red, gleaming gold and light-devouring black. "But tis so heartening to see such a cute couple celebrating their, well, bestial inclinations on a grand stage!" Their new friend made a little gesture with one hand, fanning out fingers tipped with talons with an ombre from black to red and running them through their mane. "Tis the place, certainly. These be the people of Chiron and Asterion, aye? The point being I love everything about your whole vibe, truly." It likely wouldn't have been lost on either of them that the redheaded individual hadn't bothered to introduce themselves, nor had they heard the operatic singer at the entrance announce them.
  17. Kimber laughed cheerfully at Legatus' question, rotating backward from her floating position. Avro added several brassy meows of his own, not necessarily following the conversation but wanting to be included. "Oh, bud, you're so sweet to be worried! Truly truly, that's so thoughtful." The phantom righted herself fully while the star field portions of her dress seemed to twinkle a little brighter. For a moment the curving silhouette of her torso behind those semiopaque layers looked like the outline of a skeleton instead but maybe that was just a trick of the diffused light. "Like I said, I know when to cheat. Anybody who wants to tell me where I can or can't go is going to have a tough night, but thank you."
  18. "Thank you!" Kimber returned the compliment with a broad wink and an extended index finger pressed into her cheek. "I'm not too worried about Hades, honestly. Rules of hospitality are a whole thing for Olympians, they're sort of like fae that way. Don't outstay your welcome, don't take what isn't offered and you're probably fine. Like, eighty-twenty. Well, seventy-thirty at least." She shrugged expressively and tapped her scythe pendant. "That's the fun thing about being mortal or mortal-ish! Way easier for us to break rules when we feel like it!" The poltergeist waved a hand to Legatus. "You're a teenager, eh? Think of it like a house party, you don't just invite your friends when your parents are out of town, you invite everybody and then you're the kid who throws the radical parties for the rest of the school year!" Kimber pointed her thumbs horizontally outward and shimmied in the air with a light laugh. "Hades has had a pretty embarrassing, like, century or two. If I had to guess I'd bet this whole thing was his wife's idea, just to give everybody something else to talk about, y'know? Olympians and fae, also a lot like high schoolers, come to think of it!"
  19. Sekhmet gave Thaelia a respectful nod of acknowledgement, nudging Teagan behind the dragon's cloak, then returned Osla's smile, as warm and nonthreatening as her pronounced canines allowed. "Aye, Jónsdóttir. The mantle of the Arrowhawk has suited thee well, I see, and thee the mantle," she observed with an appreciative tilt of her head, golden eyes of a connoisseur tracing the archer's litany of scars. "Thy father be well?" Well over their heads Argus snorted audibly and she looked up just long enough to give him a withering albeit not entirely unamused glare. "Set will be about, for better or ill, I expect. Thy uncle's extremely public..." she turned her attention to the Atlantean princess and gestured broadly at the festivities, "...going-ons was taken as a challenge. My intent was to ignore them as best able."
  20. "The princess be of Olympian stock." Sekhmet leaned in to answer Teagan in a polite murmur. "Expect her to take thee up on the offer." The warrior goddess made no move to step away, allowing her hip to bump lightly into the corseted dragon as the younger guests arrived, absently slipping a hand under the cloak to rest on the small of her back. She sniffed the air lightly as Eira spoke and her eyes narrowed slightly but she left any questions unspoken, instead nodding deeply at the young woman's appropriate show of deference. She didn't bother to produce her own invitation for the giant. "Guardian Argus." "Lady Eye," the towering maître d' greeted in a gravelly rumble, bobbing in acknowledgement. "A pleasure after so many eons. Your sister is well?" Skehmet snorted and gave Teagan a sidelong glance as though Argus had just proven an earlier point. "As ever. I shall impart to Hathor that thee asked after her health." He adjusted his proportionally massive bowtie with surprising dexterity and allowed one corner of his mouth to twitch upward for a brief moment. "Obliged. And Dragon Delphyne, welcome," Argus continued, returning Teagan's invitation. The many-eyed giant paused as he looked between the two women before asking with a note of resignation, "What chance that I am not called to break up a brawl afore the festivities' end?" He spotted Thaelia approaching from the water's edge and squeezed two of his eyes shut with a sigh like an earthquake.
  21. Avro's feline front paws appeared on the edge of Kimber's handbag as he leveraged himself upward to get a better look at Grimalkin as she introduced herself, making a brassy trumpet sound of curiosity and leaning forward to sniff the air. Fortunately the poltergeist had a very casual relationship with gravity and momentum so the manticore kitten's shifting weight did nothing to upset her gently floating repose. "Hi! That's me but you can just call me Kimber; I'm experimenting with like a 'just going by my regular name' phase." She gave Lynn a little wave with translucent blue fingers. The North Ontario in her own chipper tone was no less subtle than the changeling's own accent. "Nice to meet you! I love your dress, your boobs look amazing." Kimber paused for a moment with a small frown, glanced to Aquaria then seemed to realize she wasn't going to get the second opinion she wanted from that direction. "Jams, is that weird to say? I may be spending too much time in the castle."
  22. Ghost Girl “Ooh, I should have checked what the weather was going to be like in Greece,” Kimber Storm exclaimed with a snap of her translucent blue fingers. The poltergeist floated a few handspans above the boat’s railing, affecting a seated position with her legs crossed. Her sleeveless dress wrapped tight around her chest and torso, glittering royal blue sequins on one side and inky black shot through with a subtly shifting star pattern on the other. Great ruffled balls in layered blue and black topped each shoulder with a third, smaller ruffle at her left hip, below which the dress’ layered skirts billowed outward. By the time the skirt reached her knees it had transformed into dark clouds; at her ankles it had faded away to wisps of mist that trailed about her kitten heels. The retro, youthful aesthetic of the dress was shifted by the slight transparency of the black sections, the form beneath outlined faintly in starlight. She’d put her hair up in an elaborate style with a miniature top hat fascinator that matched her dress. The lenses of the little pince-nez balanced at the tip of her nose looked like a pair of obols over her eyes. He scythe shaped necklace hung on a longer chain than normal, dropping into the valley of her cleavage. A scorpion-like tail lashed back and forth excitedly from the top of her handbag as Avro’s little, simian face peeked over the edge, intrigued by all the goings-on but not sure about all the water involved. He’d been well behaved so far, albeit a little nosey about curious sniffing their satyr liaison before getting on board. Neither Jessie nor Tarva had been overly eager to attend such a busy event even before the considering the hosts and likely ulterior motives but if an underworld god was throwing a party Kimber felt a responsibility to show undead face. Besides she hadn’t been about to let Aquaria go on her own. “You look— well, you smell great. You let me know if any mermaids are trying to start anything, eh?”
  23. Sekhmet As Teagan’s great wings crashed against the air to hold her in place for a moment a smaller shape of golden brown fur and liquid muscle dropped from between her shoulder blades. The lioness landed easily on all fours despite the height and began to stand up onto her hind legs with languid grace, cast in shifting silhouette by the fires of the dragon’s own transformation. Open-toed heels in gleaming gold would have been lost amidst cascades of crimson fabric if not for their prodigious height, emphasizing sculpted calves and adding to the warrior goddess’ already imposing stature. The blood red legs of her pants were slit much like Teagan’s dress so that flowed like gushing arteries as she moved, belted with a broad strip of black silk held together by a palm-sized wadjet eye cast in gold. Her jacket was the same sanguine colour, fitted tight to her rib cage then flaring out slightly at the waist, displaying a dark expanse of defined abdominals and generous cleavage that caught the light with a faint glistening. The lapels were broad, inlaid with a sunburst pattern that framed the stretch of bare skin and wrapped around the back of her neck. A thin, almost transparent chain held the jacket closed just under her bust, dangling perfect red gemstones in the shape of droplets of blood. One golden eye glowed with internal light, enhanced by the dramatic layers of colour worked into her eyeliner and shadow, an ombré of black to gold, while the other eye was hidden behind asymmetrical black bangs highlighted with a strip of tawny colour. Her lip colour was liquid gold as well, apart from a dab of blood red in the middle of her lower lip, surrounding a flash of perfectly white, arrestingly sharp teeth. Each ear was pierced with a spiral of dark, ridged bone, wider in back with the points facing forward. As Sekhmet straighten she adjusted the cuffs of her jacket idly before clenching her fists and summoning yellow, solar fire around her fingers. These she traced through her own hair, creating a crown of flame reminiscent of their hosts’ laurel wreaths but turning upward near her temples. Between those points a slowly rotating sun disk hung suspended in front of her forehead, born of the uncompromising fires of creation to match the unyielding destruction exemplified by her pridemate’s conflagration. She doused the flames about her hands with a casual flick of her wrists and eyed the lectern ahead of them with a narrowed gaze.
  24. Tiamat and Sekhmet - Extremely Frilly, Wildly Impractical The moment Sekhmet, Mistress of Dread and Lady of Slaughter, had known she was in trouble was when the tailor with whom Teagan had arranged an appointment asked what she would normally wear to a formal event and responded to ‘the blood of her enemies’ with only a polite laugh and expectant look. It would have been overstating to say she felt fear. A timeless and eternal being born of the very concept of battle with the fires of the sun itself roiling in her veins, she was fundamentally incapable of feeling something as petty as fear. Looking between the full-length mirrors and mannequins draped in gowns that filled the private ground floor studio however she was forced to concede that a sort of anxious discomfort may not have been out of the question. Batting irritably at the asymmetrical bangs that fell over one of her luminous golden eyes she turned to the muscular redheaded woman to her right. “I could attend in lioness form. Attire cannot be at fault if there be no attire. Tis tactically sound.” Teagan, the great and fearsome Wyrm, was taking visible pleasure in Sekhmet’s discomfort. “You could,” she agreed, “if you wanted to be mistaken as someone’s exotic pet or familiar. That might get you enemies enough to slake even your need for their blood, but it isn’t really that kind of party. Which is a shame,” she added, eyeing a garment more for its cloth than its cut. “They should throw those parties. This one’s probably all finery and no brawling. Have you really never crashed a fancy party? No showing up feeling powerful, wilting the proud and unworthy mortal fools?” Sekhmet narrowed her eyes to distinctly feline slivers. “For the majority of mortal reckoning the appearance of a lioness at a bacchanal inspired far more than ‘wilting’.” She folded her arms under the bust of her shendyt, became immediately too aware of the practical but simplistic garment and dropped her hands to her hips instead. “In that age I appeared as a beast large enough to blot out the sun, imparting the terrible knowledge that Ra had turned his blessed sight from their irredeemable sins. Such parties were utterly, awesomely ‘crashed’.” The warrior goddess clenched a fist before her for emphasis. “These fools don’t care about Ra, and are almost certain to be looking to sin,” said Teagan, grinning a grin that said she might be the latter herself. “Not that you should dress for them, anyway. They shouldn’t wilt because you dressed to wilt them, they should wilt because that’s what happens to mortals who gaze upon true glory.” At some point, her eyes had become slitted, some old memory or another stirring in her lizard brain. “As they should, in truth. Dress to feel powerful and beautiful and glorious - I will. If they do not already know who you are, they will be reminded, and all the better.” Grumbling under her breath Sekhmet shot a glance at the tailor, who was studiously busying themselves with organising a drawer of shears and tape measures, maintaining the conceit that they couldn’t overhear the imposing women’s conversation. With a huff she squared her shoulders and turned her singular focus on the array of dyed fabrics on display. “‘Dragon stuff,’ then. Very well!” She punched her clenched fist into the opposite palm. “Pride demands nothing short of excellence, truly naught to do with thy appeals to sin and beauty and so forth, thy understand.” Before that characteristically subtle bit of flirting could be reciprocated, the frantic jingling of bells interrupted as the studio’s front door was thrown open with enough force to collide loudly with the wall. A gorgeous dark skinned woman with a shaved head and bright golden eyeshadow and lipstick strode inside, arms laden with a half dozen massive boutique shopping bags. She wore a flattering turquoise sheath dress that ended perhaps two handwidths from her cinched waist and dramatic floating heels with broad, hoof-like toes. “Cherished sister!” she cried, throwing both arms over her head despite the apparent weight of the bags she carried. “Despair no more! I departed the moment I heard thee were being forced to attempt glamour.” Sekhmet regarded the newcomer with a raised eyebrow and mouth slightly ajar. As the announcement continued her other eyebrow raised in a mixture of realisation and disbelief. The bald woman paused for a beat then lowered her arms to drop the bags to the studio floor with a bright laugh of inspiration. “Ah! My sense of charity overcame my impeccable decorum!” She flourished with both hands and her eyes blazed with a familiar golden light. Above her head a pair of spectral horns formed from the same light, creating a great curving crown that ended in two upturned points above her forehead. Between those points a disk of stellar flame gracefully rotated, suspended in the air. “Ta daaaaah!” Teagan crossed her arms, tilting her head back an inch to regard the new god. Behind her, the tailor - no new hand at their business - decided it was time for a lunch break and quietly disappeared somewhere into the back of the building. “Sister, huh,” said the dragon; her nostrils flared slightly as she got the smell of it. “Do you think the Master Mage gets an itch when one of you steps over the Pact? I bet it itches. Do tell about your charity.” Clapping her hands the latecomer turned to Sekhmet with wide-eyed delight. “Is this the…?” She mouthed the word ‘dragon’ as though Teagan weren’t standing directly in front of her. “Glory to Ra, thee be darling! Fret not, some deities know to grace the mortal plane without making a whole fleshy incident of things,” she assured the glowering redhead with a pursed smile. “Tis one of my high priestesses, Nailah. Observe!” The glowing horns and sun disk faded and her golden eyes took on a deep brown, nearly black colour. The woman’s demeanour changed completely in an instant, mouth set in a serious line and gaze cool and composed. “She Before Whom Evil Trembles,” she greeted Sekhmet with a deep - and impressive, considering her footwear - bow from the waist. “I am honoured to be of service to both my goddess and yourself.” As she straightened the golden accoutrement flared back into view. “Truly, how perfect, aye? Nailah finds time to be a priestess and a professional model and an accolade winning designer! Love her to bits.” Sekhmet rubbed her temples and unclenched her jaw with tremendous effort. “Teagan Delphyne, I present my treasured sister, Lady of Contentment: Hathor.” “...if my sister showed up unannounced,” Teagan slowly mused, “I’d probably try to kill her. Is this a god thing, where you have to be nice?” She was looking at Sekhmet, genuinely curious, though she didn’t let Hathor out of her line of sight entirely. “Do you want her thrown out, with plausible deniability? I didn’t hear ‘world-class fighter’ on that list, and priests and gods the worlds over have always found it pretty convenient to blame the dragon anyway. You could return the favor later.” “Oh!” Hathor placed the fingertips of one hand delicately to her chest in surprise. “Thy usually go for the soft-spoken, intellectual sort, beloved sister. She seems rather… toppy. Mayhaps tis a better fit, given past attempts! I like her!” She gave Teagan a much shallower bow than her high priestess had affected. “Dragon Delphyne, thee have my assurance I came seeking no unseemly brawl.” When she met the other woman’s eyes again however, there was a certain predatory hardness to them that made the family resemblance clear for the first time. “Should any injury be done to my Naliah, however, I should be bound to demand severe recompencence.” Sekhmet let out a long groan and stepped partway between them. “None shall be slaying anyone’s sibling,” she insisted, looking skyward for patience. “Why did thee come, hallowed sister?” That earned her a huff and a pout as Hathor stomped one foot lightly. “As I said, to help! We cannot have thee arriving to the Olympians’ event wearing just…” She gestured vaguely to Sekhmet from head to toe. Cheering immediately she made an excited little hop. “I bear gifts!” Holding up one index finger to forestall any further arguments she bent down to retrieve something out of one of her shopping bags. “Here!” Her twin tilted her head slowly to one side, regarding the strips of pearly white material being held toward her, too pliable to be leather but stiffer than cloth. “Belts? Or bracelets?” “Eh? Nay, tis the whole outfit,” the horned woman clarified after a nonplussed blink. She held it in front of herself to illustrate, looking to Teagan for support. “Forgive the wordplay but we do not mean to pussyfoot around, surely!” Teagan had rolled her eyes at deific threats, and had just started to turn away unneeded after Sekhmet stepped in, but the almost-an-outfit Hathor was holding up caught enough of her attention to turn her head back around. “<Maybe the pun loses something in translation,>” she said in pitch-perfect Old Egyptian - almost an apology. And then, in English, “You should keep that one. Maybe not for the gala, but I bet you’d feel powerful in it.” She was grinning and her teeth were too sharp to be human, arms unfolded and hands tucked into her jacket pockets. “I don’t know if it screams ‘fearsome warrior god cat’, though. I was once lectured for an hour on how the outfit should suit the wearer and the occasion both, and it’s been pretty good advice so far.” Hathor returned the strappy garment to its bag and slid it toward Teagan while Sekhmet gave the dragon a reproachful, betrayed look. “Mayhap thee the best hold onto that until an opportune time then, friend dragon.” Out of the corner of her mouth but still easily heard by everyone in the studio the fertility goddess added, “Tis a matching collar and leash within as well.” “Hathor.” She puffed out one cheek and scrunched up her nose, placing her hands on her hips in a familiar pose. “Thee be my dearest sister, I cannot rest easy without the assurance thee be having good sex!” In the same perfunctory sotto voce she added to Teagan, “Twas a dry spell.” Sekhmet clenched both hands and mimed strangling the air in front of her. “Hathor!” “In so much as the Sahara be a ‘dry patch’.” “Hathor, I swear to glorious, vengeful Ra–” The visiting twin raised both hands above her head again with a put upon sigh. “So very sensitive! Very well. Thy have a better idea for ‘suitable’ garb?” The goddess of battle looked about the studio space for a distraction from imminent deicide. One sandaled foot tapped faster and faster with impatience until in desperation she stalked over to a mannequin near the street-facing window wearing a high necked, lacey wedding dress with puffy sleeves and a ball gown skirt of genuinely impressive volume. “There, extremely frilly, wildly impractical. ‘Fashion’, or what have you,” she grumbled gesturing to it with a grimace. Teagan’s grin nearly split her face, shiny pointed dragon teeth filling a jaw too small to hold them as she threw back her head and laughed; not a malicious sound, but a deep noise that couldn’t be held back by even a dragon’s bite. It took her a moment to get that back under control, and another to make her teeth less menacing. “‘Tis a wedding dress,” she said, still amused. Her accent had slipped entirely, falling back into something old and vaguely Celtic. “A grand and impractical thing, an impression to be sure, but you’d want something to raise eyebrows and not questions. And you might need a bride or groom to match you in the set.” A couple of rumbling chuckles followed, but even a dragon had the decorum to clear her throat and stop antagonising a god. “No.” A more modern accent again, familiar deep tones of American with hints of Britain. “I’m no great fashion designer, I haven’t the patience. But I’ve had my ears talked off by princesses and courtiers and courtesans, and even I think you worry too much about the…frills.” She gestured at the dress, and others like it, snorting. “Pick a theme. A goal. If you wish to dress yourself in blood, seek a dress that clings and flows like blood might. If you wish to be a goddess of war, look to the uniforms of the military. To be a lioness, seek a lion’s pelt and colors. Then make it your own - add, remove, change, dress it in Egyptian gold to shine against the skin. Get the advice of those who do know fashion, once you know where to start.” She grabbed the edge of the dress she’d looked at earlier, pulling it out to gesture at the fabric, dark red and heavy. “There was a dress where I am from - near to your medieval, I suppose - with cloth much like this. I was thinking to begin there, a long and corseted dress in my colors, but split and slitted to show off a warrior’s legs and arms. The original was fine clothing, but with changes and fine jewelry, I could be no princess born but a fearsome and savage dragon queen. You see? Not practical, but powerful.” While Sekhemt’s grimace stretched into a look of weary resignation at the laughter, Hathor’s golden lips formed an appreciative ‘oh’ as Teagan described her thoughts on an outfit. After a long deep breath the lioness deity rolled her neck as if preparing to lunge and pulled her own lips back from pronounced canines. “Blood red,” she said without preamble, with the force of a general giving an order. “Tight at my waist, broad belt or sash, loose in the legs. Slit in front to the knees so the fabric falls like life from the neck of an antelope.” She walked purposefully to the counter toward the back of the studio and grabbed the pencil and pad of paper the tailor had abandoned to start recording her instructions. “Matching jacket. Wide… folded part. Lapels. Wide lapels with a golden sunburst design, around my neck then down to here.” The almost violent scratching of the pencil into the top several sheets of paper paused so that she could indicate her lower abdominals. She paused to give Teagan a significant look. “Bare beneath. To display a warrior’s physique.” The look she gave Hathor carried an almost imperceptible hesitation. “Mayhap the goddess of cosmetics would lend assistance in that arena.” Her sister looked genuinely surprised for the first time since barging into the studio but quickly covered with a light clearing of her throat. “Mayhap that could be arranged, aye. Also…” Hathor retrieved another of her bags and sifted through its contents. “Naliah predicted you would like this. She shall be impossible tonight, alas!” She stood back up with a delicate, almost transparent chain stretched between her hands. Bright red gems hung from the piece at irregular lengths and intervals, forming a beautiful if macabre illusion of falling droplets of blood. “Twas intended as a necklace but instead a clasp for thy jacket, I think. Poor manners to ravage some poor mortal’s sanity by display more of thy ‘warrior’s physique’ than intended, esteemed sister.” Hathor crossed the studio to present the jewellery to Skehmet, who gingerly accepted it in silence, holding it in her upturned palm as though it were much heavier than it were. Teagan made an appreciative rumbling noise, stepping closer to eye the gems and chain. “It’s a fine gift,” she said, red eyes reflecting red jewels, “and a prescient one. It would make a fine clasp, and draw the eye nicely without…exposure.” She seemed amused by the idea. “Your priestess has good taste in accessories, and must know skilled artisans.” Phantom horns and glowing eyes fading, Naliah nodded to Teagan with a faint smile. “I’m gratified to hear you say so.” With Sekhmet’s hands occupied she retrieved the pad of paper on which the goddess had been writing. “I’ll have this taken care of,” she stated in a light tone that managed to be deferential without stopping to ask for permission. “Along with Ms. Delphyne’s ensemble.” She retrieved a tape measure from the counter as well, extending it with a whip crack. “I have a good sense of your measurements already but if you’ll allow?” The dragon and the priestess held eye contact for a moment before Teagan gave her an uncharacteristically respectful half-nod. “If you can make or acquire that,” she said, pulling off her leather jacket and gesturing at Sekhmet’s ruby-red gift, “I’d be a fool to refuse.” Her boots came off too, heavy as they were, and she dropped the jacket over top of them and held her hands to her sides for the tape. Naliah did her work with a practised efficiency, jotting down the results in shorthand before tearing the sheets from the notepad, folding them in half and tucking them into the top of her sheath dress. Once she’d put everything else back down on the counter the sundisk and horns blazed back into view above her shaved head and Hathor folded her arms. “Truly, I did not even need to be here! Ugh, forever unappreciated.” “Thy priestess shows far greater skill and competence, aye,” Sekhmet agreed without hesitation, almost managing to maintain her deadpan as she mirrored her twin’s folded arms. “However, there may have been - arguably - value in thy presence.” Hathor stuck her tongue out and made a rude gesture before her expression turned a bit more serious. “Infallible Ra would grant thee at least leave to return home briefly. Another could watch the Deceiver, surely.” The warrior goddess paused briefly before slowly replying, “Tis… more complex. We two could speak more often though, aye. I do miss my favourite sister.” “Well, obviously.” Hathor’s exaggerated petulance returned with a broad wink and she made ready to leave the studio. “Naliah and I have a date with a pint of gelato so I shall leave thee to wait about for the return of this shop’s owner. I assume thee have nowhere else to be.” Sekhmet made a rude gesture of her own. “Take thy parcels with thee, at least,” she demanded, gesturing the remaining oversized shopping bags on the studio floor. “I named them gifts, so gifts they be,” Hathor shot back over her shoulder. “Beside, tis naught within that I would be caught wearing.” Teagan waited for Hathor to leave before shrugging her jacket back on, frowning thoughtfully at the front door. “I admit,” she said, slowly, “to some sibling envy. I wasn’t kidding when I said I would have tried to kill mine. You and yours seem…kinder, perhaps. Less…” She shrugged, flatly miming the stabbing of a dagger into someone’s stomach. “I would not take her for my own, I think, but it’s nice to see.” “In Heliopolis we would have come to blows somewhere about the usage of the phrase ‘toppy’,” Sekhmet admitted with an eyeroll powerful enough to move her whole head. “But there, in our full glory, the consequences of such be a different sort.” She moved to idly nudge one of the abandoned bags with a sandaled toe. “Twas different in ages past, when we were two sides of the same blade. After the Pact, there was little for me to do while Hathor remained ever popular, ever beautiful, ever…” Sekhmet made an all encompassing gesture in the air. “Playful banter became mean-spirited and cutting. I could not tell her in as many words but being on the mortal plane has given me purpose. Perspective.” She looked toward Teagan. “Among other things. Mayhaps was far-sighted Ra’s intent all along.” Kneeling to inspect one of the bags, Teagan pulled something halfway out to inspect it; the bit of gentle cloth had aspirations of being a dress when it grew up. “I have met several gods, and suspect more of them could do with the perspective. No coincidence, I think, that her priestess was more capable than her in everything but banter, even while being possessed.” She released the garment back into its bag, standing up and looking around the shop - and its still-absent keeper. “Still, I think we got what we came for, and more besides. Are you suitably excited for your useless frills and bloodless party?” “Suitably excited for thy corset, aye,” Sekhmet replied blithely, sticking her tongue out in an expression that now immediately reminded Teagan of Hathor’s behaviour. She continued with a huff, allowing, “Mayhaps some entertainment will be had, after all. In preparation, I would hear more of thy exploits ‘crashing parties and wilting the proud,’ aye? An enticing turn of phrase.” “Where I am from,” said Teagan in her best - if not wholly serious - storyteller voice, “few were so proud and in need of humbling than lords and kings. And yet, time and again, they forgot a cardinal rule of party-throwing: never forget to invite the local gods and dragons…”
  25. “Ah!” Set pointed at Merlin in surprise not when the the simian social media manager appeared but when he ‘spoke’. “I understood your meaning!” “Thy make thy command of language known often,” Sekhmet grunted flatly at the shorter godling, taking a reflexive sniff in the capuchin monkey’s direction. She settled her weight on her heels with the contentment of a predator deciding to tolerate a prey animal’s continued presence for the time being. Set nodded and waved a hand in a hurried circle. “Aye, aye. God of foreigners and outsiders, naturally.” He gave Neko a meaningful look but breezed past to the topic that currently had his interest. “But tis not my own prodigious gifts at play! Our concealed capuchin content creator cleverly communicated concept with counter-causal chitchat!” He paused to consider his own alliteration. “Stretching, admittedly. The meticulous Merlin sidestepped language altogether with a terribly tidy bit of spell work. Colour me curious.”
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