Christopher sits facing the same young woman with wheaten-honey hair and distracted blue eyes he spoke to last week. She gazes into the mists, mists which previously revealed visions.
Rhane: It’s strange, seeing Amber here. I thought I had to be playing the game to see her. Or writing about her. Or dreaming about her.
Christopher: You mentioned this game before, a roleplaying game. Is that something like this?
The mists clear to reveal a couple of androgynous boys with shaggy golden hair standing on a pebbled path leading through roses, passing by a gazebo.
Danyel: (for it’s the twins who’ve appeared in the vision, summoned by Christopher’s thoughts) This character. She’s full of passion, anger and determination. The color red.
Tayel: Depths of feeling and sorrow swim within her, a sea of feeling. She’s blue.
Danyel: What if she’s both? She could be purple.
Tayel: Passionate yet tempered by depths of feeling. Perhaps.
Danyel: Purple it is. Where do you think she is?
Tayel: On a forest path. She follows it until she reaches a cluster of purple flowers.
Danyel: The path doesn’t end there, does it?
The twins continue to talk about their character and their story while following their own path through the flowers. The mists swallow them.
Christopher: Like that?
Rhane: (smiles) Yes and no. When we roleplay, it’s also a game. Like this.
The mists part to show a table. Another Rhane sits at the table with a bunch of ten-sided dice in varying shades of violet, rose, pink, or lavender.
Another woman with tousled dark hair sits a little too close to her, sporting a t-shirt with an angry girl in black leather holding a stake. The dice in front of her are all black.
Rhane: That’s Mona. She plays Isolde, a sculptor who became a warrior and Amberwyne’s protector.
A second image appears over the dice of a tall, muscular woman with very short white hair and bluish white skin, dressed in dove-gray leathers. She carries a club.
Rhane: Her weapon changes, depending on her need. It was a gift from her master.
The club shifts, becoming an axe which Isolde swings with ease. She whistles and disappears.
Rhane points to another girl on her other side, a girl with long, black curls and inquisitive hazel eyes. A jade pendant hangs around her neck. All of her dice are shades of green or gold.
Rhane: That’s Zoe. She joined the game late, took over an NPC which Beatrix used to run, Rhiannon.
A woman concealed in a long black cape with a gleaming violet eye filled with mischief, long hair the same violet as her eyes winked at Rhane and Christopher before she disappeared.
Rhane: It seems like she noticed us, but you can never tell what Rhiannon is thinking or how much she knows. She seems to always appear when we need her, even if she isn’t always around.
Christopher: You called her a NPC. What’s that?
Rhane: A NPC is a non-player character. This is someone the Game Master runs rather than a character created by one of the players. And speaking of the Game Master…
A girl wearing a top hat over her short dark hair and a black bodice sat facing the other girls at the table. Dark blue dice with a murky look were scattered in front of her.
Rhane:…that’s Beatrix. She’s the creator of the world our characters are part of.
Beatrix: A creature made of crystal rises from the lake next to the village. People scream and run away from it.
Christopher and Rhane can hear the faint sound of people screaming coming from another vision, slightly overlapping the one of the girls at the table. They can see a creature of stalagmite rising from the waters, fixing cold amethyst eyes upon the fleeing villagers.
Mona: I’m going to walk right up to it.
A tall figure in dove-gray leather walks toward the monster, the opposite direction most of the villagers are going. A red cape flutters from her shoulders.
Christopher: She wasn’t wearing that before.
Rhane: She got one to match Amberwyne’s.
Rhane: (the Rhane at the table) I can’t let Isolde face this alone. I’ll go with her.
A second figure wearing a red cape over the russet vest, amber tresses falling over it, walks beside Isolde.
Zoe: Not me. I’m sticking to the shadows and out of sight while I tail these proud fools.
Beatrix: Roll your dice fo stealth. Let’s see how quiet you can be.
Zoe picks up her green dice, shake them in her hand, and casts them upon the table before her. Some of the numbers are high, but some are low.
Rhane: You want to roll high in this game. The more high numbers you get on the dice, the more your character succeeds.
There is the slight blur of a figure moving from the shadow of cottages, trees, and fleeing villagers.
Rhane: (the one sitting opposite Christopher, watching both of the visions) This is what happens when we game.
Christopher: All of that?
Rhane: Well, we’re all imagining the village and the crystal monster. Along as what our characters are doing while we decide to do it. Whether or not we succeed in doing anything depends on the dice, how well we roll.
The monster lets out a tinkling, almost musical moan. Amber pauses in her stride, frowning at the sound.
Rhane: (in the chair, explaining to Christopher) Beatrix creates the story and the setting our characters find themselves in. We react to that situation with our characters.
Christopher: Sounds like magic. Or storytelling as a group.
Rhane: It is, but the dice determine our fate.
The two overlapping visions of the girls sitting at the table, the two women confronting the monster shimmer in the mist.
Beatrix rolls her dice. The monster leans forward, amethyst eyes gleaming.
Amberwyne: I know you. I’ve seen you in Fidessa’s castle.
Rhane: The big bad in our roleplaying game, an enchantress intent on strewing curses across our path, causing discord in the land. ‘Dessa used to be Amberwyne’s mentor and lover.
Rhane: (blushing, gazing at the girl in the tophat a little sadly) Beatrix and I worked out this elaborate background for Amberwyne and ‘Dessa before the game ever started. We even roleplayed it a little one on one.
The Rhane at the table clutches a handful of dice.
Rhane: Does Amber recognize this creature?
Beatrix: Roll five dice.
Rhane puts down several of the ones she has clutched in her hand until she only holds the deepest purple, the deepest violet. She casts them, coming up with all tens.
Christopher: (murmurs) Even learning about this for the first time I know that’s impressive.
Rhane, Mona, and Zoe all cheer. Beatrix smiles a little, but the smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Somehow the frostiness of her own crystal beast is reflected there.
Beatrix: Yes. You remember this one from Fidessa’s nightmare palace, how she shaped it from clouded crystals, smoky with the unwanted desires and impulses of fledgling enchanters who forgot to cleanse them. It was her pride and joy.
Amberwyne gazes at the crystal beast, her lower lip trembling a little.
Isolde: (turning to look at her companion in concern) Amber! What is it?
Amber: I remember this creature. It’s one of ‘Dessa’s.
Isolde: (thinning her mouth in a grim line) Of course it is. Everyone we go, we seem to find her handiwork.
Beatrix: This creatures does have a weakness, one you carry close to your heart.
Amber raises a hand to clutch at something hidden beneath her tunic.
Beatrix: (smiles with a measure of seductive wickedness) Only you’ve gazed upon it for too long. Roll for your wisdom or willpower. Your choice.
Rhane at the table flushes, smiles, and gulps all at the same, gathering her dice up. She shakes them in her hand. She casts them upon the table before her.
Rhane: Uh, oh…
Amber’s eyes begin to flutter. She sways on her feet.
Isolde: Don’t blame the trolls…Amber! (She shifts her club to one hand, uses the other to steady her companion.) Amber, what is it?
Rhane: Can I warn Isolde?
Beatrix: (still smiling) Roll your dice.
Christopher: She seems to be enjoying your misfortunate.
Rhane: She does take a certain sadistic pride in her monsters, but it deserved. Her monsters are often interesting and they make the game more intense.
The Rhane at the table rolls her dice again. This time, the numbers are higher.
Amberwyne: (forcing the words out) I think I’ve fallen under the spell of its gaze…
Beatrix: Amberwyne, you find yourself thinking of ‘Dessa. Missing her. What did you think you were doing, leaving her? Why are you even here?
Mona: Oh, no. Isolde is keep a firm grip on Amber.
Zoe: I think it’s time for Rhiannon to cast counter curse, see if she can dispell the creature’s hold over Amber. I’ve made sure I’m not too far from Amber and Isolde.
A figure peers behind a building at the swaying figure of Amber, at Isolde trying to steady her. She whispers something, making gestures with her gloved fingers.
Beatrix: (frowning) Roll your dice.
Zoe gathers up quite a few of them, shakes them in her hand, and tosses them onto the table. Very high numbers appear.
Beatrix rolls a large number of dice as well, but her numbers are not so high.
Zoe: At this moment, Rhiannon is going to leap out from the shadows to stand on a rooftop, facing the creature. Amber and Isolde can now both see her.
Beatrix: (grumbling) I guess you don’t need to roll for this since it’s your specialty.
The figure leaps up, dark cloak unfurling to reveal her lithe figure, lavender hair blowing in the breeze.
Mona and Isolde: Show off.
Christopher: (chuckling) What happens next?
Rhane: I’ll have to roll to see if Amber can shake off the spell the monster has cast upon her. When it’s my turn.
Christopher: You’re casting and recasting spells with dice.
Rhane: For our characters, yes. Beatrix is doing the same for the monster. Only it’s just a game.
The image of the the monster, the village it menaces, and the village’s defenders fade into the mist.
Rhane: At least we thought it was just a game.
Christopher: You’re not so sure now.
Rhane: It was as real as we wanted it to be. Perhaps we let it get too real. Or perhaps it wasn’t real enough.
The image of the girls sitting at the table is swallowed by the mist.
Christopher: Your wishes effected how real this game was? It sounds like you’re in the Shadow Forest. Or on the edge of it.
Rhane: I keep telling you we’re not in the same universe. We just have the same scribbler.
To be continued next week…
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