Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Z is for Zoe

The Players Are the Thing, even if Beatrix has gotten too drawn into the game and her dice to see that. One player in particular is my thing, even if she isn’t mine. The first time I caught a glimpse of Rhane’s honey-wheaten hair tumbling like a cloud around her face and gazed into her crystal-blue eyes, I would have done anything to get to know her better.

Anything included following her, spying upon her talking to her girlfriend, and offering to join their roleplaying campaign. I’ll admit, I’ve gotten distracted with Rhiannon, my character; the way she spies for Amberwyne and Isolde, and spies upon them. I can understand why Rhane is so smitten with her own Amberwyne.

The game isn’t as much fun of late. Beatrix is getting more and more short-tempered as she fingers her black, purple, and dark blue dice. Something about those dice sends a shiver up my spine. Even Mona is noticing Beatrix’s attitude and she puts up with almost anything from our Game Master.

I’ve started to dream about Rhiannon fighting a black smoke coming from Beatrix’s dice. In those dreams, Rhiannon is trying to warn me the dice are cursed.

It’s just a dream. All this talk of cursed dice is just my imagination or a gamer’s superstition. It’s not as if my character is real. None of it is, is it?

Monday, April 29, 2024

Y is for Yuri

A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words, a thousand screams, a thousand silent warnings. None express all of these more than Elizabeth Hartford’s portrait.

Oh, I can understand the glamour, the mystique, the force of personality emitting from that painting. My ancestor, Judith Cross, captured all of these in this portrait she labored over of Elizabeth, her lover, her muse.

Westerleigh has conveyed these qualities often enough in his writing, his poems, and the way his blue-green eyes light up whenever he talks about Elizabeth. The topic of Elizabeth makes ‘Leigh even more beautiful, even more bewitched, and utterly untouchable. After all, he’s devoted to his Elizabeth, as devoted as any mortal lured away by faeries.

I fear Westerleigh will suffer as bitter a fate as any of these enchanted victims. I can’t explain the fear I feel when I listen to Elizabeth’s poems, her letters, when I look at reproductions of her painted eyes. Something has been captured in all of these, something with a menacing life of its own.

How can I speak of these things when Elizabeth makes ‘Leigh radiant with joy, when she inspires him like nothing else? His obsession is captivating. He is captivating. He has certainly captivated me. I want to draw Westerleigh in graphite, charcoal, colors, try to reproduce his every expression as he speaks of his enchantment. I listen to his voice, lost in the timbre, unaware of what he’s saying.

Such a guilty pleasure I got out of dressing Westerleigh up as a Gothic heroine to fool his cousin. If I hadn’t fallen for ‘Leigh before, I certainly fell for him when he turned to me, skirts swirling about his legs while the blue in his eyes washed out to green.

Of course Westerleigh’s obsession is contagious. Of course I cannot help but wonder about the woman who’s the object of obsession of the man whom maddens me. At the same time I cannot help resenting the haughty noblewoman who looks down at her admirer from the canvas.

If ‘Leigh looked at me the way he does at Elizabeth, I don’t think I could bear it. What a relief, what a grief that he doesn’t.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

X is for Xylanthe

Once I was one of Thirteen guardians for an angry princess who allowed gender to divide her from her twin. The other twelve maidens took it amiss when I fed upon that princess, leaving nothing, but a statue behind.

They wanted to be stone, eternal guardians. They wanted a symbol to inspire them all. Aethyria didn’t want to live without Graeca. I granted my sisters’s wishes along with my princess’s. Were they grateful?

No, they drove me out of the land we guarded, the land named for our princess. They accused me of being less than undead, a monster who preyed upon the living. They said I’d made a pact with the Spider, the Owl’s accursed rival, far worse than any Serpent or Unicorn.

True, I cannot deny any of this was true. Who were they to stand in judgment upon me? They’d been women, the same as me; warriors, weavers, scholars, hunters, poets, and healers. We all gave up our humanity for immortality. A life sealed in stone, watching over future generations in Aethyria wasn’t enough for me.

I traveled north, to a land where the Serpent once walked and the Spider hid. I formed a Dark Circle between Rowenda, Aethyria, and Graeca. Each land was named for a spoiled little hero, doomed to hang from my web, feeding my hunger.

I’ve lost track of the number of heroes I’ve feasted upon. They came to me in packs, known as adventurers. They sought the treasures I’d taken from fallen heroes and princesses. Every once in a while, I’d let one go to tell the tale, to show off the riches he’d won in the Dark Circle. It encouraged more adventurers to brave my web.

Now adventuring is reviled as wicked along with winning treasure by killing monsters. I grow hungrier and hungrier as a result. I have to be more subtle to draw my prey to me, letting my strands reach out far north, to cause Trouble at Caerac Keep.

If my servants serve me as well as they should, I should feast as never before on the choicest victims. Alas, good servants are difficult to come by, especially in that wretched walled city far north of here.

All the while, I grow hungrier.

Friday, April 26, 2024

W is for Westerleigh

A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words and Elizabeth Hartford’s portrait spoke volumes to me; even before I saw it in person. Poet, philosopher, storyteller, and sorceress who set her own style, she left behind reams of writing I poured through as a child. Her words and image inspired me, yet she remained a mystery. Nothing evokes that mystery, that sense of her more than the portrait her lover, Judith Cross, left behind. The portrait hangs in Hartford Hall and now my cousin, Fiona Hartford; heiress to all that Elizabeth left behind, is inviting me, another heiress to share in that fortune. There’s just one problem. I’m not an heiress, I’m not even a girl. Yuri, Judith Cross’s descendent and an artist in their own right, can make me look like an heiress, a heroine out of a Gothic novel, if I’m willing to deceive my cousin. I want this so badly, to go to Hartford Hall, to live where Elizabeth once lived; breathe in the same air Elizabeth once breathed. Yuri fears my fate will be like a Gothic heroine if I go, that danger and disappointment await me, but it’s a chance to get closer to my idol. I would risk everything to get closer, no matter what sinster secrets Fiona may be hiding.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

V is for Varwyth

I came to Caerac Keep, cloaked my mystery, shrouded in secrets. I offer my hand in friendship to the children William has chosen to chase down Trouble at Caerac Keep. He regards my hand with suspicion of one’s who’s ruled from the shadows for too long, prickly that his power may be taken from him. As if I had an interest in his toy walled city. I do have an interest in whom is circulating rumours that the Vampire Corwyth has risen. This is why I put up with little cleric’s tantrums and the Aethyrian maiden’s influence. They should be more grateful that I’m aiding them to find their lost ones, even if it’s only because Daeric is lost. I’m as anxious as Rhodry is to find him. I’m as concerned as Wiliam is about what could have made the Serpent-Born sorcerer disappear. All of this is an opportunity to get closer to Rhodry, my Rhodry, even though I haven’t revealed he’s mine yet. I tell myself this, even though there’s a part of me agreeing with Daeric’s choice to lock him away in a tower, away from hot-headed clerics and smiling barmen who might take him from me. I relish a chance to watch him, to find out what’s capable of, even if our other companions continue to get under foot. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for far too long. They’d better not spoil it. Enough. I am trying to be discreet, even if my temper is sorely tried at times.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

U is Undine

I cry out in my captivity. I sing to sympathetic souls in their dreams, hoping they’ll come to me, hoping they’ll free me. I’m part of the Trouble at Caerac Keep, but I’m in trouble too. I may have seen A Suitor’s Challenge in my prouder days, but where is my pride now? Bound within this shell, I do wicked deeds, but I cry out for mercy. I sing for freedom. Please, Alyx. Please, Rhodry. Please, Faith. Please, Ariadne. Come and find me. I beg you all. Come and find me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

T is for Troile

The home is doomed. My selfish brother angered gods and Achaens alike with his choices.

Troy isn’t without allies among the gods. I’m not without allies. If only Ganymede’s voice carried as much weight as Hera, but he’s decided to champion me by sending to the side of an Achaen whom might also be an ally.

Achille delights in battle. He might well delight in Troy’s destruction along with my own. His friends and loved ones are our enemies.

Everyone and everything dear to me is in danger from him. As Troile and Achille, we’re fated to fight each other.

As Aissa and Polyxena, can we challenge that fate? I pray we can, but how can we succeed in skirts when our swords are destined to clash?

The gods only know how we’ll free ourselves from the tangle of tragedy the Fates have waiting for us.