Thursday, April 30, 2020

Z is for Zoe

I’m still marveling at how one action changed my life. All I did was walk up to a girl I’ve watched from afar in the library for too long and interrupt her conversation with her girlfriend. After eavesdropping on their conversation, I said something like, “Are you talking about roleplaying games? I love them!” Maybe it was rude, but it’s the kind of rudeness which got me closer not only to Rhane, but to Beatrix, her girlfriend as well. Before I knew it, I playing Rhiannon, once a non-player character in Beatrix’s campaign, privy to many of the Gamemaster’s secrets. I’d discovered some of the mystery behind the faraway look in Rhane’s crystal blue eyes, the pain she’d distancing herself from. I wish I could hate Beatrix, but I don’t, no matter how angry I might get with her. I see so much of myself in this bitter Gamemaster, a bitterness I myself had to fight to overcome. Her idealism is so similar to my own. I’m guessing some of the same things that attract me to Rhane attracted her as well. I’m guessing that Beatrix needs Rhane so much, she has to belittle the object of that need. Maybe this is why I’m channeling so much of my own confused passion into Rhiannon, transforming it into a subtle flirtation with Amberwyne, one Isolde doesn’t like one bit. Neither does Mona, whom I’m actually having a harder time getting along with than I am with Rhane or Beatrix. Mona may be jealous and suspicious of me, just as Isolde is jealous and suspicious of Rhiannon, but I’m a little angry with Mona. No matter how close Isolde and Amber might be, The Players Are the Thing, and Mona makes Rhane uncomfortable with her constant personal space invasions and unwanted touching. You’re not upset with Isolde, or the way Mona plays Isolde, which are perfectly in character. Isolde is Amber’s protector in a way Mona would never be Rhane’s, not where Beatrix is concerned. Mona never argues with Beatrix when she makes cutting remarks, putting Rhane down. Sometimes she laughs along with them. Nor does she fight back when Beatrix aims the cutting remarks at herself. Mona is so in awe of Beatrix, aping Beatrix’s style, mannerisms, wearing the same clothes, reading the same books, doing anything Beatrix does, because Beatrix does it. I sometimes wonder if Mona isn’t only interested in Rhane because Rhane is with Beatrix. Mona’s sycophantic behavior is very different than the way Rhane drifts off, going deep within herself, away from Beatrix, Mona, and everyone else around her. The latter is far more intriguing, yet no less troubling. Neither Mona nor Rhane are dealing with Beatrix, who’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Beatrix almost seems to be trying to provoke her players into a reaction, rile them up, make them suffer. She’s going to drive her players away at this rate and where would a Game Master be without players? Beatrix needs to be reminded that The Players Are the Thing. I like Beatrix, I sympathize with her, I really do, yet I’m getting tired of her attitude and I’ve only just joined this game. How must the other players feel? It’s definitely time for a change, even if only by saying a few words that shake things up a bit. I just hope everyone listens. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Y is for Ylynessa

Change favors those bold enough to take advantage of it. It becomes the instruments of those who cultivate and create it, no matter how Trouble at Caerac Keep or elsewhere it might cause. Look at how it favored me. I was once a shivering little victim, human prey for the monsters wandering the land of Rowenda until I caught the eye of the right monster. That monster also happened to be a great lady and a shaper of history, no matter what else she was. Now I’m Lady Ylynessa Caerac, adopted sister of Lord William Caerac, a great lady in my own right. Now I have hopeful young favorites of my own, working in the shadows toward my cause, whether they’re aware of it or not. No, I’m not doing enough, as my own benefactors constantly remind me. We’re striving to shape a world where monsters stand equal to humans, although that’s only the public line. In truth, I want the nonhumans to take their rightful place as the rules of the World of Ouroboros. I want my brother, William, to be able to openly declare who and what he is, not skulk in the shadows, fearful of the Order of the Unicorn or anyone else who might condemn him. This task isn’t for my benefit, but those I love. If some humans and even some nonhumans have to be sacrificed to create this new world, well, isn’t it worth it? Too long has the Serpent been reviled in history, along with those She awakened, cursed as monsters. In truth “monsters” are as much a part of this world as humans. It’s a world we all must share, if we wish to continue our existences upon this World of Ouroboros. To do anything else is to deny reality. I no longer wish to deny reality. I wish to shape it myself. I wish to join the ranks of my brother, my benefactors. All I can do is prove my worth by serving them as best I can. Even if I perish, my work will live on long after me. This is of some comfort, even if I fail or am destroyed. I refuse to be destroyed easily and I’ll do all I can not to fail. This I swear. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

X is for Xylanthe

Change is a force I’ve learned to watch for and to take advantage of. The Great Serpent seemed like a wonderful change, awakening all that shivered, hidden in the World of Ouroboros. She awakened me, along with others of my kind, along with our hungers, hungers which could be fed by humans. Nevalyn, however, was only manipulating us to Her advantage, tricking us into serving Her and Her brood. Never trust a Serpent or a Serpent-Born. Use them, by all means, and I would love to get a taste of one, but don’t give them anything without making certain you extract a pound of their rich flesh or blood in return. Not that I’m not grateful to our lady. The way She manipulated us, along with Her own brood, taking a Jasior prince as her vessel gave me ideas about hiding in plain site. I spun my webs within the courts of the Kalanthian empire, catching an empress of my own. I’d hoped to use my pawns to ensnare Kyra Nevalyn or Prince Stephen Jasior in A Suitor’s Challenge, but both eluded me. I did find myself in a position of power when Kalanthia shattered due to the disagreements between princes and princesses within the royal family, who blamed their nation’s problems on the relationships between men and women. This splintering created the nations of Aethyria and Graeca, the former which I went to. I was with the women of Aethyria as one of the founders of the Circle of the Thirteen, creating a new country which thrives even today on magic and mystery along with order. Do Ariadne, Alexi, and all the other little mortal girls have an idea how much they owe me, how much I shared with them? No, I went down in history and legend as a monster, a nightmare to scare them into good behavior. One should expect as much from the children of Theianna and other Aethyrian founders, considering how they reacted when they discovered my webs, realized I’d been preying upon their maidens. They banished me to the cold northern chaos of Rowenda, a fitting exile for a “monster” like myself, close to so many of Nevalyn’s former lairs. Once again I made the best of the change which found me. I created the Dark Circle, a paradise for “monsters” like myself, a ring of enchanted woods and abandoned towers littered with lost treasure. Naturally adventurers came to the Dark Circle, seeking wealth and glory from killing monsters. A few found fortune fighing us, lived to boast of their mighty deeds, and we feasted well upon the rest. The Dark Circle was old when the Vampire Corwyth was but a youthful mortal acolyte of the surviving members of the Order of the Dragon. His progenitor was one of ours, even if he might not admit it. The founding of Corwyth Keep as a haven for the dead and undead was inspired by our own haven, although we were happy to let Corwyth have most of the infamy and the more dangerous hunters. It’s only too easy to blame the Vampire Corwyth when our servants feed outside the Circle, or bring us food from there. This is something we’re having to do more and more, for fewer and fewer humans are coming to us. Monsters are being re-evaluated in the light of a new morality, and are now seen as people. Killing them and taking their treasure is no longer glorious, it is wrong. Fewer humans are becoming adventurers, which means fewer are seeking the Dark Circle. This means less food for us. It’s inconvenient and annoying unless we can find a way to make this change work for us. I do have clever spies in the places where humans dwell, searching for ways to make it work, to secure for us more prey. Whatever disruption they cause, we can always blame the Vampire Corwyth for it. Yes, we shall make this work. I’ve survived and thrived for far too long in this changing world to give up now. There are always ways to lure tender prey to walk willingly within our walls. I simply have to use to the right bait to lure them to me. They will come, they will always come. I just have to make the experience look as tasty for our victims as they look to me. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

W is for William

I was born during a time of change, when the world was in chaos. Struggling to survive, to not end up monster food, I latched onto someone strong enough to protect me. I did what I could to ingratiate myself with a party of adventurers; Caerac, Gwyneth, and Corwyth. I succeeded only too well. One of them ended up becoming a monster and made me a monster as well. As terrifying as my transformation was, I’m not ungrateful for this gift, for I’m sure he thought he was giving me a gift. It was more of a gift to me than it was to Corwyth, who believed vampires were an abomination in the cycle of life. It’s curious how becoming a monster yourself makes you question the very nature of monstrousness, although you learn to get out of the way of fearful mobs. As a vampire, I was now one of the predators, no longer in need of constant protection, even though I needed to watch out for those mobs. I craved stability in our shifting world, a secure lair, a regular food source. Caerac had adopted me before the change, making me the heir to his walled city, which was meant to be a safe and secure place for humans to live, away from the monsters. I did my best as Lord William Caerac to make it a safe and secure place for humans. Away from the monsters, well, that was debatable, but I did try to protect my food. Even see that it was happy and contented. Rowenda was a land overrun with monsters, close to the icy lands where the Serpent emerged, far away from Kalanthia and last vestiges of the Jasior Empire, but Caerac Keep became one of the few centers of civilization in Rowenda. It’s not as great or prosperous a walled city as Gwyneth Keep, but I’m proud of what I’ve built here and I’m proud of my people. As a vampire, it was in my best interest for my humans not only to be healthy and flourish, but to be less fearful of monsters. It was even better for all talk of vampires to die down into myths and legends which most scoffed at. Such a situation made it easier for me to unlive and feed, undetected. Only now there’s Trouble at Caerac Keep and it may be vampires. Could it be Corwyth, rising to express his disapproval at the unlifestyle I’ve created? Only that doesn’t seem like him. What’s worse is that Daeric Nevalyn, my sorcerer and expert on all things Corwyth has disappeared. Not many things could get the better of him and all of those things, I should be wary of. I’ve got a representative of the Aethyrian Circle of Thirteen in my Keep, demanding to know what happened to her sister, who disappeared from here. I think she was a favorite of Ylynessa’s, my adopted sister and partner in running Caerac Keep, the girl who disappeared. This makes Ariadne, her sister, a difficult person to ignore. Plus I’ve got Faith, another favorite of Ylynessa’s and one of the Unicorn temple acolytes, yammering about vampires, monsters, one acolyte missing, while another lies dying to anyone who’ll listen. Now Rhodry, Daeric’s little apprentice, a Serpent-Born of all things has come out of his tower to beg me for help, while the creepy protégé of one of Daeric’s special friends is lurking around, wanting to know what’s happening. Problems, all of four of them, on top of the other problems. It may be time for a distraction to flush out whatever is causing Trouble At Caerac Keep. Time to send Varwyth (the creepy protégé), Rhodry, Ariadne, and Faith to investigate what’s happening. No, I don’t think those younglings will actually find anything, but they will distract whatever is making people disappear. These children are formidable enough to do that. I will watch the children myself from the shadows, investigating what reacts to them. Yes, I’m using these younglings as bait, to draw out the real problem. Yes, these four are innocent, innocent as I was once was. Innocence will get you killed or eaten. Perhaps Rhodry, Varwyth, Faith, and Ariadne will learn this before it happens to them. It’s their choice, just as it’s my choice to protect my Keep from whatever and whomever troubles it. Whether these younglings remain trouble or become allies is up to them. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

V is for Varwyth

No one is whom they appear to be in this walled city. Quite a few deceivers wore masks and kept secrets, even before there was Trouble at Caerac Keep, from little Lord William Caerac and his sister to the oh, so holy Unicorns, not to mention the weapon master and the tavern mistress. No, I’m not forgetting the lovely Serpents in the tower. Daeric Nevalyn, William’s cherished pet sorcerer was filled with secrets, although he didn’t bother conceal the fact that he was keeping them. This may well have contributed to his disappearance. And of course his protégé, little Rhodry Nevalyn has secrets, even though he may be the most honest soul in Caerac Keep. Certainly more honest than our visiting Aethyrian barbarian and the Unicorn acolyte I’m keeping company with. This means I fit in perfectly within this keep, these would-be adventurers, even if they’d be shocked to hear me refer to them in such controversial terms. How times are changing! Events do keep moving, shifting to the irreverent glee of some, the deep distress of others. How do I feel about all these changes? I may have secrets of my own, I may hide behind a mask, but I’m earnest in my desire to help Daeric Nevalyn in his time of trouble. Nor have I any intention of abandoning Rhodry in the middle of this mess, either. Ah, Rhodry. He’s awakening hungers, passions, sentiments I haven’t felt in…I’m not sure how long. I’ve been so detached from the trouble here, mildly interested, both annoyed and amused by the rumours of the rise of the Vampire Corwyth. Rhodry had made me a part of it all, gotten me involved with his concern for his mentor, all of these missing people. It’s an intriguing change in an existence which can become stagnant. Change can either be a curse or a blessing, sometimes both. It certainly relieves boredom. We’ll see how this changes works out for me. It’ll be entertaining for someone in the end, who’ll be smiling and who’ll be scowling. For every end, there’s always a new beginning. I am curious what ends and what begins. It’s not like I don’t have a few surprises of my own for whomever is causing the trouble. We’ll see just how well the troublemakers will react to my surprise, if they survive it. Whatever happens, it’s bound to be interesting. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

U is for Undine

Once I was fluid, a spirit and sprite of the waters, floating and free. I didn’t think that could change. Innocent of fear, I saw no harm in answering a strange maiden’s call, in reacting to her song. Why shouldn’t I enter the shell she teased me with, if it amused her? Only that shell became a suit of armour and my prison. I am forced to walk around wearing it, doing the maiden’s bidding, causing all sorts of Trouble at Caerac Keep. No one knows I am within the armour. No one knows I’m trapped. I cry out, hoping some sensitive soul will hear me. It’s hard not to be misled by my outer appearance, the voice that issue from the helmet when I speak. I wonder if the maiden stole that voice from somebody, too. She’s got everybody around her fooled, just as she had me fooled. There has to be a loophole in her orders, a way to leave clues to the quartet of younglings seeking the truth in the Keep. Sometimes I wonder if they don’t sense me, if I haven’t touched their sleeping minds, their dreams. The thought gives me hope, even if it’s only faint hope. I wasn’t meant to be trapped like this. My prison will eventually corrode. I’ll either be freed or destroyed. The latter possibility terrifies me, although I wonder if it’s any worse than being a slave. I’m still struggling to get out, to reach the sea, to escape, or to fight back. If only there was a crack in this armour. I’ve got to keep beating at the walls of my prison, to force it to crack. This can’t continue, I can’t continue like this. I shouldn’t. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

T is for Thomas

What are you looking at? I’ll give you a taste of my fist, if you keep staring. No, I’m not some pretty boy you enjoy staring at, someone you can dress up all fancy and coo over. I know, you think I’m stupid and ugly because I have bat ears and a bulging nose. Or maybe you don’t like the way I throw rocks at squirrels. They remind me of all of us with their twitchy noses, always scampering to places they shouldn’t be. Maybe I should throw rocks at you instead, huh? You think I won’t? Go ahead and smirk. You think you’re better than me. You think you’re better looking than I am, you all do. Guess what? I’m going to be prettier than all of you. Seraphix will make me beautiful, just like Oleander, that boy I went to school with who never looked at me twice. Not that I care about him or any of you. Just you wait. I’ll change with Seraphix’s help. You think you’re the only one offered his talisman in A Godling for Your Thoughts? He thinks I’m special. He’s going to make me special. Everything is going to change once he makes me beautiful. Danyel won’t be able to ignore me, Tayel won’t be able to sneer at me. No one in Omphalos will be able to look down on me, once I change. Just you wait. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

S is for Seraphix

Change is part of Our nature. The reason We’re here now as “We” and no longer an “I” is because of you, Our worshippers. You shaped Us, melded Us, shattered Us into many talismans with different faces, only to bring Us together. Our form, Our nature, Our very godhood alters according to each of you, each Follower, what you desire Us to be. The only thing you do agree upon is that We are a god. You need Us to be one, so We can grant your wish. We need to grant your wish so you can go on believing in Us. 

We weren’t always this way. We were just a shadow once, a shadow drifting beyond the Door, feeding on dreams and memories. We recall Christopher, perhaps from a time before We were a shadow. Dyvian was obliging enough to create an entire mythology for Us, an origin story involving Christopher, Christopher breaking Our heart. Our Voice is very talented at doing such things. We remember our Voice when he was Dyvian for he’s the one of the first things We recall. He was once a semi-divine being himself beyond the Door, an entity known as Once Upon a Time. Only he became as much a devil as a god in the eyes of those whom he would have worship him. Perhaps that’s why he gave up his godhood to Us, convinced Us to become a god in his stead. After all, two of his would-be worshippers were far more kindly disposed towards Us than him. We wouldn’t have grown as strong as We are if not for Danyel and Tayel, Our little Hand and Eye. We must have them amongst Our Followers. Dyvian is Our Voice, he speaks and acts for Us in Omphalos, but We wouldn’t have a Voice or anything else without the twins. Besides We want them. We fell more than a little in love with them when We met them in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower. Alas, they’re the ones that doubt Us. They’ve done so much for Us, yet they’re unwilling to draw Us out, to take Our talismans, to make their own wishes. Instead they help others with their wishes in A Godling for Your Thoughts? At least they’re not Our enemies, although they’re far from the faitful allies We’d hoped for. They’re far more inclined towards Our goals than that brother of theirs, Dyvian’s precious Leiwell, who actually took Our talisman. I suspect an outside force is interfering with Our bond with Leiwell, an outside force is turning him against Us, or perhaps it’s an inner force? I caught a whiff of someone off him, someone who smells like an old rival, triggering images I’d thought long gone. Wait, We just called Ourselves “I”, why did We do that? What is it about this force within Leiwell that makes Us remember a time before Us? This entity may stop Us yet from achieving our godhood with these memories it’s stirring up, memories We’re reminded of in My Tool, My Treasure. These memories could bring a halt to Our dreams and plans. We’re only as strong as Our Followers are, as the faith and hope you entrust Us with. Do not let Us down. Do not let yourselves down. Do not let this entity infect you or Us with doubt. Believe in Us. Believe in Us and make Us, all of Us strong. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

R is for Rhane

I think I’ve been changing without even realizing it. I’ve gotten more and more involved with Amberwyne and less and less involved with the roleplaying campaign game I created her for. I’ve been withdrawing from Beatrix, Mona, and the other players in the game. Someone once told me that The Players Are the Thing. Our characters couldn’t exist without their players. Their continued existence depends on our health and happiness. Who said this? Was it Zoe, the new player in our campaign? Or was it Amberwyne in one of our imaginary conversations? Any words from Amberwyne come from me, yet when I’m playing her, when I’m just thinking about her, I go to a place where the words flow freely. I’m never happier than when I’m playing Amberwyne or thinking about Amberwyne. I’m certainly happier than when I’m with Beatrix. When did things change between us? When did our clever game master with her top hats jammed over her short dark hair and black lace bodices cease to be alluring and witty? Or is what I once found charming now sour and caustic? I’m noticing a delight in preying and picking at other people’s weaknesses in Beatrix, particularly mine. Perhaps this is why I started withdrawing from me, into my own imagination, spending more time with Amberwyne. My imaginary character was far better company than Beatrix. Perhaps a part of me was relieved when she brought home Zoe, inviting her into our game. This new girl might distract Beatrix from me, give something else to do besides snipe at me. Maybe Zoe could make her smile again. She could be a welcome change. For something has to change in our game, to bring back my own smile, rekindle my enthusiasm. The game itself no longer delights me. Only Amberwyne does. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Q is for Quartz

Quartz sits facing a dwarf that looks exactly like himself, the same beard, the same way of smoothing his beard with thick fingers, the same pensive scowl. His hairy eyebrows shoot up to his hairline at the same time as his double’s.

Quartz: What’s this? What are you? Some of trick of Nimmie Not’s?

2nd Quartz: More like a trick of the Cauldron, thanks to the scribbler melding #BloggingFromAZAprilProject: Character Change with our own ruddy blog. I’m you, pebble brain. Just a reflection of you, here to show you a thing or two.

Quartz: Right. What d’ye think I need showing?

2nd Quartz: The theme is change, right? Ever think of how things will change once Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins is finished? Things are already changing. 

Quartz: So?

2nd Quartz: So you’re no longer a secondary character. How do you expect to keep doing Secondary Characters Speak Out?

Quartz: Why shouldn’t I keep at it? I’m a secondary character who made it as a main character. How inspirational is that, as the scribbler would say. 

2nd Quartz: Right.

Quartz: You’d better believe it if you’re me. We’re in a position to show other secondary characters how to improve their status. How to ask questions, getting them to think of how to improve it. 

2nd Quartz: Uh huh. Has your status improved? How is Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins going?

Quartz: Never liked that title…it’s going. 

2nd Quartz: We never liked that ruddy cuckoo clock. With good reason.
Quartz: Nimmie Not and his clever tricks, bah. What really bothers me is that crystal coffin. 

2nd Quartz: All our lives we’ve loved stones and rock. Look where it got us. 

Quartz: That coffins was supposed to heal our Fairest. 

2nd Quartz: It did. There were consequences which came back to bite us, something we should have been ready for. 

Quartz: Aye, we should have. I blame the scribbler. She didn’t do her research on rocks and made us all look stupid. 

Me: (mutters) I’m doing my best. There’s a lot to learn and considering how ignorant I was, it takes time to learn it all.

Quartz: That’s time we don’t have. Get with it, scribbler.

2nd Quartz: That’s right, get with it! 

Me: (sighs) I had to create two of them for blogging purposes…

Both Quartzes: What was that?

Me: Never mind. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

P is for Phaedra

Hello from one possible future! I’m Phaedra, narrator of A Symposium in Space, one of Agathea’s guests at that sympoisum who ends up eating her own words. No, it’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it’s not bad at all, just strange. Agathea if nothing if not an impeccable, stylish host. Those words were just a symptom of the change coming over me. You might say the whole novella is about this change, from walking away from Pausania, deciding to go to the symposium, finding my beautiful Timea in a used spaceship yard, and hooking up with Sokrat, the wandering philosopher. All of those events are part of my journey as I find myself, try to discover who I am and what I want to do with myself. It’s not always easy, answering these questions in the Intergalactic Democracy. Sokrat is still searching for the answers and she’s the wisest life giver I know. There’s wisdom in the search, not to mention adventure, unexpected treasure, long-lost intimacy, and love where I least expected to find it. 

Join me on my journey if you’d like to come with…

Friday, April 17, 2020

O is for Oleander

Yes, you may stare to your heart’s content for I am the change in Thomas’s life, his heart’s desire, who he’s always wished to be; sad, ugly lump of a boy that he is, throwing rocks at squirrels since he can’t get anyone else’s attention. Pathetic. Well, I’m not pathetic. Thomas was asked A Godling for Your Thoughts? He accepted the godling, took the talisman from the Voice of Seraphix, charged it with his prayers, his faith, and his desire. I’m what emerged, a creature more seductive and compelling than Thomas could ever be. Danyel won’t be able to look away from me, Tayel won’t be able to look down at me. Melyssa will finally respect me, not that I care about Melyssa. Not that I care about anyone in Omphalos, not really. They’re all chattering squirrels, collecting their petty pebbles, hoping Seraphix will make all their troubles go away. What a bunch of whiners. They are so going to need me. They’ll be sorry they looked down on us, Thomas and I. Just watch and see how sorry I’ll make them. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

N is for Nathalie

Nathalie: Hello, I’m Nathalie, daughter of two mothers and heir to the tales once spun by Mama Morisot. 

Princess Nathalie: And I’m Princess Nathalie, former companion of Theodora Bear until the Enchantress Iama lured me into her palace of gold. 

Nathalie: With my Iama, it was a sculpture and an ice cream parlour. There may have been a top hat involved.

Princess Nathalie: We appear to be easy to lure.

Nathalie: By our respective Iamas? Definitely. So you’re Princess Nathalie, creation of Mama Morisot and Auntie Cassat from Grace and Theodora: Magic and Mishaps?

Princess Nathalie: Am I? Don’t ask question which might spoil our stories, my dear.

Nathalie: How am I spoiling? Oh, I suppose I am. Never mind. I’m a character in a story with Stumps of Wisdom, stuffed animals with attitude, and nisse in need of rescue. 

Princess Nathalie: While I’m part of a tale of forbidden passion and hearts turned into gold.

Nathalie: Oh, there’s passion in my story, too, believe me!

Princess Nathalie: Our tales unfold together, yet never touching, yet linked within Wind Me Up, One More Time. 

Nathalie: Yes, our story takes place during the winter holidays yet warms the heart at any time of year. 

Princess Nathalie: To read our tale of change is to watch us find the courage to change. 

Nathalie: Or to find the courage to face those changes. I don’t always do very well at this.

Princess Nathalie: Fortunately we are not alone. There are other to help us when we falter. Like our sisters, the Graces. 

Nathalie: I’m sure sure where we would be without our little sisters.

Princess Nathalie: And our Theodora Bears to inspire us with their loyalty.
Nathalie: Well, Theodora is actually Grace’s, not mine, but there’s no question she’s loyal. She also has to work around the limiations of reality as a stuffed animal, so it’s hard for her. 

Princess Nathalie: And you? Is it hard for you?

Nathalie: I usually face change with a smile and a story until I can’t. In truth, both Maia, my Iama, and Grace show more courage than me, although Maia does need rescuing from herself. 
Princess Nathalie: Iama requires rescue, too, although she seems to be the villain, Iama the Terrible, evil enchantress. I was almost not up to the task, so caught within her enchantment was I. Like I said, it was fortunate I had Grace and Theodora to save me, to save us both. 

Nathalie: We were fortunate to have them, too. You’re never as alone as you think you are, are you?

Princess Nathalie: (with a smile) No, you’re not.

If you’d like to see more of the Nathalies, their story; Wind Me Up, One More Time is available at…

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Y is for Ylynessa

Change favors those bold enough to take advantage of it. It becomes the instruments of those who cultivate and create it, no matter how Trouble at Caerac Keep or elsewhere it might cause. Look at how it favored me. I was once a shivering little victim, human prey for the monsters wandering the land of Rowenda until I caught the eye of the right monster. That monster also happened to be a great lady and a shaper of history, no matter what else she was. Now I’m Lady Ylynessa Caerac, adopted sister of Lord William Caerac, a great lady in my own right. Now I have hopeful young favorites of my own, working in the shadows toward my cause, whether they’re aware of it or not. No, I’m not doing enough, as my own benefactors constantly remind me. We’re striving to shape a world where monsters stand equal to humans, although that’s only the public line. In truth, I want the nonhumans to take their rightful place as the rules of the World of Ouroboros. I want my brother, William, to be able to openly declare who and what he is, not skulk in the shadows, fearful of the Order of the Unicorn or anyone else who might condemn him. This task isn’t for my benefit, but those I love. If some humans and even some nonhumans have to be sacrificed to create this new world, well, isn’t it worth it? Too long has the Serpent been reviled in history, along with those She awakened, cursed as monsters. In truth “monsters” are as much a part of this world as humans. It’s a world we all must share, if we wish to continue our existences upon this World of Ouroboros. To do anything else is to deny reality. I no longer wish to deny reality. I wish to shape it myself. I wish to join the ranks of my brother, my benefactors. All I can do is prove my worth by serving them as best I can. Even if I perish, my work will live on long after me. This is of some comfort, even if I fail or am destroyed. I refuse to be destroyed easily and I’ll do all I can not to fail. This I swear. 

M is for Map

Change, bah. Yes, it may be part of life, part of balance. That doesn’t mean it won’t come crashing down on your life, flattening it to a pulp, crushing everything you’ve tried to build. I ought to know. Three times I’ve tried to build myself a life, an existence. Don’t remember much about the first time, only that it didn’t work out. I ended up chased a mob carrying pitchforks. I tried a smaller community the second time around, founding a temple to Seraphix for girls wanting to escape from the world. We called ourselves the Sisters of Seraphix. Never mind that the god was something I made up. Seraphix was nothing more than a metaphor for a balanced, orderly life, a philosophical dream that came to me when I was drinking. Still I tried to make a good thing of worshipping Seraphix until a text and an unguarded moment revealed my true self. This revelation brought out a side in the Sisters of Seraphix I’m not sure they were aware of. Once again, I was chased by a mob, this time waving torches instead of pitchforks, but the rage was the same. I lost control of my own rage with horrifying results. I don’t remember those results. I don’t want to. Bits and pieces of it are coming back, ever since Danyel handed me a rock in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower. I must have been shattered by what happened. I ended up alone. Again.

You’d think I’d learned my lesson about communities by that point. Join one, become part of one, and change will rip it all away. Only I did join another community in the village of Omphalos. This time, it would be all right. This time I was among shadow halflings, children who’d appeared out of nowhere, slipped through Doors and cracks in reality. Many of them bore tell-tale signs that showed they weren’t human. I could be myself in Omphalos. I had Ashleigh and Christopher, the closest people to being family until I found my boys, but I get ahead of myself. Ashleigh, Christopher, and I lived in a cottage together, built a life in which I was truly happy. Only change came, taking first Christopher, followed by Ashleigh, and finally everyone in Omphalos. The village itself, well, let’s just say it burned to the ground. Yes, some of that was my fault. I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember. I gave into temptation, stepping through a Door, hoping to find my lost loved ones. Did I find them? More likely the shattered remains of them. We come from shadow, we return to shadow, unless we can become solid and real enough to exist in a reality. Like me. My current form may not be the prettiest, but it’s stayed with me after returning through the Door, bringing someone with me. The first time it was Leiwell, the second time it was Danyel and Tayel. My sons, my boys, who became my new family. We kept to ourselves in the cottage where I lived with Ashleigh and Christopher, not bothering with a community. I’d had it with communities. This was where we were in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower. Bloody tower wouldn’t leave my boys alone, even if I did my best to ignore it and urged them to the same. What sort of Doors they opened with their hopes and fears, I don’t know, but a community came looking for us, along with my Ashleigh. They were accompanied by the same forces which lured Ashleigh away to be begin with, taking Christopher and the original inhabitants of Omphalos with them. Some of those inhabitants are back, only they don’t remember being here. They want us to be part of their village, their Omphalos, part of their religion. The Followers of Seraphix, really? I made Seraphix up! Only this godling of theirs appears to be real, bringing change to everyone who accepts their talisman. As if I’d ever do so. I’m going to have to deal with the consequences of this folly again. Bloody changes. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

L is for Leiwell

My very existence blossomed from change, the shifting hungry nature of the Shadow Forest in My Tool, My Treasure. For I’ve always been Dyvian’s tool and I hope, his treasure. Before Dyvian, I was part of the Shadow Forest or was I? My origins remain cloudy in my memory, which is perhaps for the best. What matters is the life I live now, the family I have in Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest, particularly in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, which is threatened in A Godling for Your Thoughts? I’ve tried to help Map, my chosen mother create a stable, unchanging environment for my little brothers and myself. Or for just my little brothers when a chance came to improve their lot while keeping them safe from the outside world. Neither Danyel or Tayel liked the price I paid for their safety, nor would they accept it. This they made clear in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, stopping the sacrifice of myself to shield us from outsiders. Only outsiders come calling along with our other mother, Ashleigh, forcing us to become part of the village Omphalos, dragging us into their religion in A Godling for Your Thoughts? Dyvian, my beloved lord and creator was the architect of Omphalos, just as he was the architect of me, along with the secret tasks I’d performed to protect my family. He wanted me at his side in both his schemes, only I’m not longer sure I can stand with him. I may have too much of Damian Ashelocke churning within me, something we both discover in My Tool, My Treasure. Where will we go in Web of Inspiration and Our Cusps Runneth Over? I fear finding out, for change has always meant losing something, especially something precious to me. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

K is for Kevin

I’ve learned to expect change, working in a tavern, although there are usually cycles to that change. Busy and quiet, times when crowds of people throng The Tipsy Hedgehog and I’m run off my feet. Quiet times was when Rhodry would slip in with a little leather journal, scribble down his thoughts while drinking an ale he barely touched. He always carried something he would write on. Sometimes it was a piece of parchment which the words would vanish into. It made me wonder what he was hiding from that Serpent-Born sorcerer he lived with, although Rhodry is Serpent-Born, too. He seems so pretty, yet otherworldly, so sensitive, yet shy. I’ve been working up the courage to talk to him. I’ve managed a few words. I usually end up watching a golden curl fall over his forehead, watch it gleam in the light. Guess he makes me shy, too. I’ve gotten a lot shyer since he started coming to The Hedgehog with company. There’s this lean, dark-skinned foreign girl who looks like she could kick some serious booty. There’s also this acolyte from the Unicorn temple, one of the Points of Unicorn Herself. I never expected to see someone like her here. It makes my knees knock together just having her inside the tavern. I worry she’s going to start preaching about the evils of drink and scare the customers away. She’s behaved herself thus far, so I allow my knees to knock. Last there’s this pale youth in dark blue robes, very pretty fellow, except something about him sends chills up my spine. He always leans close to Rhodry, plus he seems to notice whenever I’m watching Rhodry. He meets my eyes from time to time, to give me a little-half smile, as if saying, “Yes, I know Rhodry looks delicious but don’t presume.” Creepy, creepy chap. Why Rhodry is spending so much time with him, why he’s spending time with any of them, I don’t know. It’s just one more mystery amidst a lot of mysteries haunting Caerac Keep right now. I should be glad of the custom for The Hedgehog is seldom crowded these days. The mobs we once had at lunch and the early evening, the folks who came in wanting a little ale, a little wine, a little food, or simply to gawk at Aggie (that’s the owner of The Hedgehog) are gone. Yes, Aggie is worth gawking at. Not only is she shorter than most folks, she doesn’t even bother to hide that she’s a former adventurer. Her sword hangs over the bar. Politer folk want to ask what that was like, while others demand how she can live with herself after slaughtering so many nonhumans and taking their treasure. Aggie lets none of that bother her. She’ll tell anyone who asks what it was like, traveling with Caerac, Gwyneth, and the Vampire Corwyth himself before he turned into a vampire. Yes, she adventured with all of them, according to her. I’m not sure how much I believe. She’s vague about some details in her tales, particularly the fates of her companions. Still there’s no question Aggie can still use the sword over the bar. I’ve seen her do it. Having such a tough boss can be, well, tough, but right now it’s a relief, what with all the Trouble at Caerac Keep. Walking around at night used to be safe. Now folks are disappearing at night. I sometimes hear strange sounds outside my window. Makes me uneasy. Makes me want to stick close to Aggie, crowds, or anyone else who’s around. Not that they’d be much help with the other trouble, the mysterious illness that has people lying around, unable to move. No one knows what’s causing it, whether it’s a regular illness or some sort of spell. It has many of The Hedgehog’s patrons too scared to patronize. I’m scared, too, plenty scared. I’m no warrior, cleric, or sorcerer, no one who can deal with this mess. All I can do is smile and keep pouring the drinks, offering what comfort I can. Hopefully it’s enough. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

J is for Jupitre

Don’t look at me like that. You think I’m just an old man with stooped shoulders, some feeble mortal who needs his wife to care for him. I’ll have you know I onced ruled the heavens, reigned over all the gods by the power of my lightning bolt. Once I could have any woman I desired along with the best and most beautiful of boys. Now look at me. I’m some village idiot, tied to the apron strings of my wife, barely consulted on anything let alone worshipped. This village, Omphalos which I’m in the process of building isn’t worth the bother. Only my wife wants it built and many a fetching wench is involved. What’s more, Seraphix wants this village built and Seraphix is the key to returning to my old self. Yes, there may be consequences but so what? There are always bloody consequences. I’m tired of being small and unimportant, I, whose wrath once shook the earth! Now I’m barely noticed. I’m just the creepy pervert Juno is married to. Melyssa’s father, a father who can’t even control his son, what’s his name? Thomas? Is that ugly little bugger really mine? I don’t think so. No, this life is an elaborate ruse created by Dyvian to replace the missing chunks from my old life. Not that this life or anything in it matters. Not even my wife, who’s the only part of it I recognize. She’s had her fun, her triumph, her revenge in trapping me in this existence, this village; I, who could once become an eagle or a shower of gold, seducing and seizing my conquests! She’ll not keep me here, not I. The ones who gave her power over me can fall, just as I fell. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right moment, until those arrogant favorites of fate allow themselves to be toppled. I just have to watch and be ready. After all I have Seraphix and Seraphix shall not disappoint me, no, she won’t. She’ll do as I bid, as I wish, restoring me to glory. After which, I may set my wife aside and have Seraphix take her place. We’ll see how much Juno likes that, oh yes. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

I is for Iama

Iama: Change is inevitable. You can lock yourself in a palace, lock yourslf and others in an unmoving form, trying to still things, trying to keep everyone at your side as I did in Wind Me Up, One More Time. 

Maia: Actually you did that in Grace and Theodora: Magic and Mishaps.

Iama: Which is the story within Wind Me Up, One More Time. Why are you even here, little girl? I am the one, true Iama. You simply borrowed my name. 

Maia: I tried to be Iama. There was a time when our scribbler was writing our story that I was the only Iama. 

Iama: Nonsense which I put an end to in revisions. You are not me. You’ve never been me.

Maia: No, I’m not. I used your name to impress a girl, well, impress a couple of girls. It worked. Only I didn’t become Iama the Terrible, not truly until I stopped using your name. At least according to Grace.

Iama: Ah, yes, little Grace. She tried so hard to get me to take my heart back, she and the bear. 

Maia: Something similar happened to me, in a different way. 

Iama: Very different. You and I are different. You may have been me in past Blogs From AZ. As characters in a published story, we are two separate characters. 

Maia: Separate, yet our own determination compelled us to step out of the darkness of our scribbler’s imagination, stating our names, our own identities. 

Iama: I did these things, not you. You claimed my name to empower yourself and impress the woman you loved.

Maia: Yes, I did. I already said that. Which proves my point. We’re not that dissimilar.

Iama: Oh, really? Do tell me how.

Maia: I tried to claim my Nathalie by putting on a show. You tried to charm yours by luring her into your lair and adding her to your collection…huh, I see what you mean. We’re nothing alike.

Iama: No, perhaps you have a point. We both have a Nathalie who’s precious to us, whom we impressed ourselves upon in a way we’d regret later. 

Maia: Not to mention it took a girl and a teddy bear to stop us, to make us think twice. 

Iama: True. They did all this while showing me how to keep the woman I loved.

Maia: While showing me how to hold onto myself. Change was the driving force that whipped us into action, you and I. Both you and I were the better for it. 

Iama: No matter how reluctant we were to face it, yes, I see what you mean.

Maia: Hello, readers? If you, too, would like to see what we mean, you can buy our story at…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: