Checkerboard Ball 2021



2 years, 8 months ago


Welcome one and all to the Checkerboard Ball 2021!


New Year's EVEnt featuring sixteen pairs chosen somehow... Wait, 'somehow'?

More like, 'somewhere'.

That somewhere is Rapture, but that somewhere is also the Healing Den's main ballroom. Didn't know the Den had a ballroom? Neither did Baeris and Kalkin. It had rested unused and forgotten for quite some time. But after last year's sudden snowfall and reappearance of winter themed dragons galore, it appears that the Den got it into her head that it was time to do something slightly different. Maybe she was bored, though truth be told it was more she was wanting to do something extra special. With Keenan and numerous other dimension-hopping individuals now traipsing around her halls once more, the Den has taken it upon herself - and now down in Rookery Earth's Rapture facility, there is quite a large offshoot where one certainly hadn't been before.

Keenan noticed this immediately, of course, along with some of his kin and descendants. Under the sea by miles, somehow this place holds treasures untold, and secrets aplenty. Keenan is exceptionally good at keeping secrets, particularly when they are not his own. So he kept his mouth shut, until the right moment.

When dragons arrived early, it was clear that they wanted to arrange things for themselves. A stage here, warm and protected sands there. A frame of balconies sprouted around the area, suited to human-sized beings, as well as padded nooks for dragons of all sorts. At one point, singing could be heard, which perked not only Keenan’s ears, but his once and future fiancée Rhea Mercer’s. As a singer herself, she saw fit to head over to that new dome. She came out with a broad smile and cell samples from several disparate dragons who had hit it off while practicing their duets or choruses.

Though there was much going on around the Rookery, in the form of fighting the Combine on the surface and airspace, survival in the desert and mountains... Down here, in this slightly-musty Vortally-preserved sea-floor city, things seemed sedate, even pleasant.

A far cry from its history, one might recall, easily seen remnants of ruined passages and husks of the old structures no longer in use off in the murky distance. But for now, those things can be forgotten. Because for now... there was a strong sense that the Den and this stage ... the Stage? Had something to say.

They said it in bright spotlights on black velvet carpet. This was an event for all: dragons, bipeds, whoever might show up and behave themselves accordingly. For this is a formal affair, black-tie and fancy-dress! Though neither of those things should be forced to follow conventional ‘rules’, there is the distinct aura of no-judgment-here.

Keenan found a large card in his hand. It wasn’t there a moment ago, but now he looked at it with curiosity as well as Vortal scrutiny. The Den had made this, but there was something else lingering on that aura - the Stage - a place that some of those at Carramba had hinted at but he’d never been to himself. An entire dimension, dedicated to entertainment and events? Possibly, but apparently it could also form intimate venues, rehearsal and audition rooms. So now it was putting itself together with the Den and Rapture, for something very, very impressive.

The checkerboard black and white card had (slightly hard to read) text on it, intimating an event that would be held on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, though perhaps early and late-comers would be accepted as well - you know how that goes, with these multidimensional time-traveling concepts. It was very strongly hinting that formalwear could include whatever might pass for a species or culture, though black-and-white was preferred as a color scheme. Behavioral requirements however, would be firmly enforced. No bar brawls, catfights, or attempts at genocide welcome. Well maybe a couple catfights. Maybe a little bar brawl here or there. But no dangerous assaults please! (Keenan chuckled, thinking on Wilson and his Vent club being repeatedly invaded thanks to the Mad Gods in Paragon, they were still finding bits from those kicking around the corners...)

He turned the card over, and read a few of the other suggestions, and gave a lopsided grin at them. Chess pieces? Not necessarily costumes, but certainly thematic. Oldey-timey new years extravagance, hopes and dreams for the next year. Bubbly, finger-foods as well as a fully stocked wet bar and buffet. And, what Rhea was probably most excited about: a draconic review with music and songs performed by dragons as well as local non-dragons. He knew that her musical troupe would be there, Keenan looked forward to seeing her sing again - it had been too long. And it had been exactly ‘never’ since he’d heard dragons singing? On a stage?

While he was pondering how this would all play out, Keenan caught motion between the dimensions in the corner of his eye, and spotted Kalkin as he lifted several pieces of machinery from one hall to another - the same hall, in disparate dimensions. Baeris walked carefully up to Keenan and just stood there watching the dark skinned man, as he was joined by a couple others from both the Den’s side and Rapture.

“Dare I ask?” Keenan said, and Baeris took in a deep, measured breath.

“You can dare, but I still couldn’t answer. Whatever it is they’re working on - I mean aside from the obvious dragon genes over there,” she nodded toward Rhea who was giving orders to the Den’s on-site dragon lab assistant Nin’kelel as well as several of the Rookery’s draconic scientists and their human companions. “I have no idea and I do not want to know until it’s over.”

Keenan furrowed his brow a little, and squinted more than just his turquoise colored eyes. “The Den did this... herself didn’t she?” He corrected himself a moment later, “and the presence of that other, the Stage, it’s made itself known at Carramba on more than one occasion so it doesn’t really surprise me that it found its way here. But...”

Baeris took another deep sigh, “I’m pretty sure it’s the Labs.”

At that, Keenan drew in his own slightly-surprised breath. “Ah. I suspect that we haven’t seen the last of their interference then. It feels... busy in there.”

Baeris closed her eyes and muttered, “I think they’re doing more than just putting a venue together, to be honest. Something much bigger, but...” She shrugged and turned to look around Rapture in order to find a drink or something. “But since it’s not mine, or yours, maybe it’s someone else’s.”**

“Dammit, it got in?” They both jumped a little at Kalkin’s surprised shout, not just because of its volume or sudden appearance, but because it came from behind them in a dark hall leading to the food court nearby. He looked ... concerned. “You didn’t see it,” he didn’t even ask, he had taken a glance at this pair and knew they were in their own little world of conversation. “Well, nothing for it now, we’ll see what happens...”

“Is... there something wrong and will it interfere with operations here?” Keenan grew a little stern.

“Oh no, no, you’ve already got ... these, this one knows where it’s supposed to be, so it’ll go home soon enough.” He pushed his fingers through his long black hair, “pretty sure it will anyway. Pretty sure it just wanted to be part of what’s going on.”

“What is going on?” Both Baeris and Keenan asked, but Kalkin said nothing, had a huge stupid grin on his face as he shook his head and sauntered back into the stage’s dome.

“Couldn’t you, you know,” Baeris waggled her fingers, “read his mind or something, and find out?”

Keenan’s lips betrayed a very similar grin to Kalkin’s when he said, “where would the fun be in that?”

They let the genetic engineers, singers and dancers, dragons and questionable ethics do whatever it was they were doing, and waited for the big night to arrive.

** Spoiler alert: it is Ty’s. **

The outcome before this big year-ending shindig is that a new ‘place’ has been created thanks to the interdimensional locales known as the Healing Den, the Labs, and this other rarely spotted place that crept in from The Endings - The Stage. We know what the Den is like: a big floating asteroid hollowed out who knows when and having been used by a variety of people over the centuries, but mostly known as a hatching sands and dragon raising spot. The Labs, a slightly more recent addition, much more active and interactive with its inhabitants. With the Stage now, an additive performance property has been mixed in. Not just for the actual ‘stage show’ however, it knows what use just the right venue can be.

And that’s why there is a tiny new dimension - one which may have begun decades ago and been gestating all this time? A spot of eternal Winter, with snow and ice, auroras and gift-giving. Frost on windowpanes blurs traditional candles being lit in reverence, and holiday trees that sparkle with multicolored lights. Though the skies are often painfully clear and bright with an invisible sun glinting off the bright snow or dotted with pinpoints of Winter constellations (no matter what world they might be seen from)... Most of the time, they are blustery with sleet or blizzard winds, perhaps calm with a delicate snowfall coming down.

But all of the time, it is Winter. And in Winter, it comes to rest ‘somewhere’. A place where speedy dimension travelers are carried by dragondeer or kirin, to gather around warm fires and share hot cocoa, open presents, and bring each other happy tidings from every world.

It is called The Drift - not merely because of the snow on it moving in endless piles. But because it moves through time and space with the same ease as the Den or the Stage. It is where and when it’s needed most, and it drifts to a halt at Ryslen, waiting for its turn.

The Checkerboard Ball has only a couple hard and fast rules:

Behave yourselves

Clean up nice

Be prepared for the unexpected

You don’t have to show up in costume or with a thematic story - just in something nice that you’d want for a fancy-dress ball preferably in black or white, silver, pearl, steel, whatever - shades of grey and little color. That’s not saying don’t invite your colorful dragons or people - far from it. Also, ‘formalwear’ may include a full tuxedo or ball gown, but also might just be a snazzy top hat or ribbon, but please leave those gaudy ‘2022’ plastic light-up glasses at home... Also... maybe leave the young children home too. While they might be fine for a while, they will need to stay up pretty late, and often get a touch cranky. Childcare services are available in the Rapture exit...

The theme of ‘checkerboard’ is mainly for the dragons, as they are dramatically black, white, and all shades between. Will there be a ‘King’ and ‘Queen’? Their Pawns and Rooks? Well, maybe. More or less however, be prepared to see a lot of dragons. If you want ‘generic’ dragons there WILL be plenty. PLENTY. There are no limits. If there is a donor parent that doesn’t belong to me - the owner of that dragon may request offspring from their nest!

Some specifically require a human bond, some are more flexible for what species, up to and including other dragons or none at all. Some which do want a bond don’t have to have one, and others are perfectly fine with a group, duo, team, or pack. These dragons have already hatched by the time the event starts - and any who require a bond at hatching will be handled ‘somehow’. So feel free to send characters of any breed, dragon, sentient mop, whatever... As long as it cleans up nice and wants to be here for a dragon, they’re welcome. As long as the other dragon or bond is fine with it, multiple bonds will occur if appropriate though not really a guarantee as I don’t know how many will show up. Those who do not require or want a bond may be sponsored either to a specific person/creature who takes care of them, or to an agency overall where you get to decide who winds up being their roommate...

Everyone who attends is offered (and can decline) a goodie bag. As a heads up, this will contain mostly normal ‘party bag’ items like a popper and whistles and a specially made enamel pin showing the event’s distinctive checkerboard and a 2021 in upright script. But also ... they have flitter eggs. So once I figure out how that can be done (and have art) they will be described and handed out closer to the event. They are, in fact, what Kalkin and a few others have been working on. And yes. There is a complication. Shhh. The upshot is: you can have as many as you have candidates or attendees, and that includes those who aren’t going to be bonding or sponsoring.

This event can hold literal thousands, so feel free to throw whoever you wish into your stories, or hint that they’re there somehow so I know ‘so and so isn’t alone tonight’, etc.

The event will happen as close to New Year’s Eve and Day as possible, though I will try and make sure that it’s not overlapping too closely with any other events. Link for the application will go up closer to the event to give you as much time as possible to interpret the theme and also do everything else we’ve all got going.

** Added 10.17.21 **

The Kings, Queens, and other such roles of the event

There are three sorts of dragons available, and I don’t mean ‘breeds’. There are the Pieces, the Pawns, and the Knockoffs.

Pieces are ‘full sized’ dragons who are the results of either natural, semi-natural, or spliced breeding at the event. Personality based assignment to the roles of ‘black King, white Bishop’ and the like, may ensure that your characters get just the right Piece to complete their ‘game’. They play by the normal rules of submission and have standard requirements and expectations for paging.

Pawns and Knockoffs on the other hand are smaller and entirely unnatural: someone got a hold of the dragon offspring of each clutch, and engineered them to be ‘suited to the environment’. That is to say, they’re Lian-sized, and colored appropriately to the Event and nothing but the Event. They are not technically part of the clutch or proper siblings to the Pieces... but they can turn into one. They do not necessarily follow the same rules as the Pieces, as they may or may not need bonds or even sponsors. They will still potentially be assigned ‘pawn-like names’ (Black Queen’s Bishop’s Pawn, for instance).

Pawns are fertile, though they are too small to breed with anything bigger than 4’ shoulder sized. In order to keep them as Pawns, they need to follow the clutch-based formalities (do they require a bond normally? sponsor to another dragon? those kinds of things).

Knockoffs are infertile, and are intended as a filler or ‘trophy dragon’ if you want to collect the set of all 16 arts, but don’t have time or energy to page things fully. Notably: Knockoffs might turn into Pawns, it’s an effort-based thing for everyone. If you really, really love that specific one you got from the grab-bag and put any amount of effort into paging them, their status will elevate from Knockoff  to Pawn if you so desire. If you don’t, then nothing to worry about, they’re not breedable unless requested. (Database entries I am so very, very sorry. We’ll figure this out later. Possibly just amend the ID to end in P or K because P will always be breedable and K is not.)

Those who will get Full Pieces:

Character Role Play - I don’t have the energy but if you all do, by all means tell me who participated and shoot me a link as it will strongly influence bond/sponsor stories.

Character Bonding or Sponsoring with story - these will certainly warrant any given specific image, and will get the most appropriate personality or one seeking a particular kind of person to walk away with.

Stat Page Bonding or Sponsoring - I’m absolutely fine with this, maybe there will be something that just jumps out at me or maybe they’ll be equally generic, who knows?

Those who get Pawns:

Random Bonding or Sponsoring - If you don’t have the time, or want to be surprised with an attendee who shows up at your doorstep with an obnoxiously colored small dragon, here’s your chance. But you have to run with it, if you want a Pawn proper.

Those who get Knockoffs:

Collect-The-Sets - Want one of each line-art, without any fuss? No problem. They will possibly require me to include a blurb about any needed bond, but since these aren’t full dragons they don’t have to.