Avert your eyes, peasants, for I am not simply a lady. I am an arachnocrat and an Ashelocke, the first and foremost in Arachnia, Mystere. Or I shall be, once Duessa is out of my way. Our link to the Spider and guardian of mists which protect us has gone soft. Soft and hypocritical. All that talk, urging other ladies to be willing to sacrifice their brothers, sons, and nephews, so our sisters, daughters, and nieces would always have a haven away from the corruption and decadence of men. Duessa herself has become the most corrupt and decadent of the lot. Her daughter and heir, Melyssa, is a weak pervert, possessing all of her mother’s flaws. Mel is simply too unschooled to hide them. Duessa may conceal her weaknessness, but they’re revealing themselves over time. Does she not lavish knowledge and affection upon Damian, a mere male? It would be another matter if she simply took him as her Marriage Feast herself. Yes, Duessa claims he’s her nephew. I doubt this claim. There’s something in her eyes when she looks a him, a hunger that’s not a passion one feels for one’s kin. Not that there’s any doubt Damian is an Ashelocke. He resembles Stefan, the First Feast too closely for his blood to be doubted. Perhaps this is the reason for Duessa’s hunger and hesitation when she looks at Damian. She didn’t hesitate with Christopher, my poor little brother, who was much sweeter and more docile than Damian. I know how to handle that headstrong youth, even if Duessa is too soft to do so. I will Feast upon Damian myself, drinking his life force and power. Once I do, I’ll take Duessa herself. By the Spider, I sound as perverse as Mel! No matter. Passion in the pursuit of power is never pathetic, even if it is perverse. Didn’t Dyvian once say something like that to me? Why am I thinking of Dyvian? He stands in my garden now, unaging, still, and beautiful. True, he was once delicious. The taste of him still lingers in my mouth, yet that is but a treasured memory, nothing more. Why do I feel like it’s not? Why am I avoiding the spot where he stands in my garden? Not that he’s the only one who haunts my dreams. Melyssa keeps stalking me, only she’s very different than the pathetic misfit who shunned Marriage Feasts, although she still has only two arms. Something about her is different, a disturbing sensuality, a power wafting off her like exotic perfume. She whispers to me that I’m going to be her first Marriage Feast. What nonsense! A lady cannot be another lady’s Marriage Feast! Yet am I not contemplating something like this with Duessa, in order to take her magic? Can it be Melyssa yearns to do something similar to me? I’m afraid, yet I’m shamefully excited. Let her come. Let both Dyvian and Melyssa stalk me in my sleep. Once I take Damian and Duessa, we’ll see just who does the stalking.