Hello? Is there a light shining in this hole in Cauldron where I’ve been trapped so long? This is where the scribbler forgot me. If Quartz thinks he’s having a difficult time in that crystal coffin, he should see what it’s like to be truly forgotten. No, this is not part of my character conflict in Trouble at Caerac Keep. Nor is this where I lived at the story. Quite the opposite, I used to be in the top of Daeric Nevalyn’s tower at the edge of the Keep. No, he didn’t keep me prisoner! I was his student, his ward. I lost my parents when I was quite young. Daeric took me in, became my father and my ward. Yes, he was actually my father in another universe. He isn’t in this one. At least I don’t think he is, although we look very much alike. For years, he was the only family I had, until I found Kyra. I felt safe in Daeric’s tower, certainly safer than I’ve ever been in Caerac Keep. Only Daeric disappeared. The tower no longer feels safe. Happily Kyra revealed herself in the form of a tiny dragon, warning me of perils to come. I’ve kept her hidden thus far. I’ve been asked by Lord William, Earl of Caerac to investigate his Keep along with a strange group of younglings my age. Most of them make me very uncomfortable, yet working with them is important. Daeric isn’t the only one who’s disappeared. People are going missing, including ones close to individuals in my little team of investigators. There’s a rumour that it’s the Vampire Corwyth responsible for the disappearances. He’s risen from his chained crypt to create an army of the undead to take his revenge upon his former friend, Caerac’s Keep. I don’t wish to believe this, yet I know better than to doubt tales of vampirism. I’ve been having dreams, dreams of a mysterious youth who comes to me at night, leaving me in a languid state of exhaustion. There are now two tiny red holes on my neck and on my inner thigh. I’ve seen those marks on other people in the Keep. I’m familiar enough with the legends to recognize the signs of a vampire bite. There is at least one in Caerac Keep, perhaps more. What if vampires are responsible for the disappearances? It doesn’t help that I’ve enjoyed these strange dreams or that I feel like I’m falling for my nocturnal visitor. What if he’s responsible for Daeric’s disappearance? I can’t tell my companions about this. I neither know them well enough or trust them with this secret, yet I need to talk to someone. I fear what Faith would do if she found out. She’s an extremist and already dislikes me for being Serpent-Born. Ariadne doesn’t take me seriously because I’m male. This leaves Varwyth or Ansel. I’m not sure if I wish to confide in either of them about my dreams. Ansel is too young and Varywth, well, there’s something about Varwyth which raises the hairs on the back of my arm. Not that he isn’t fascinating, but is he someone I can trust? I’ll have to wait and see. While doing so, I’ll administer the elixir Daeric concocted to those with the same mark as myself. I’ll talk to people, find out what they know, do my best to investigate the disappearances. Find out of it’s really a vampire behind all of this. I don’t want it to be a vampire. I really don’t want it to be my vampire. I have no proof of this. Why are some people going missing and others are being bitten? If this vampire goal was to build an undead army, wouldn’t he take everybody? Or some being chosen for immortality and others are just food? Why was Ariadne and her missing sister having strange dreams? How did vampires managed to defeat a Point on the Horn of the Unicorn, such as Hope? Her power is supposed to be very effective against the undead? For that matter, how did anyone manage to abduct Daeric from his own tower? All these questions point to a formidable foe with some sort of holy magic. This means our enemy is a cleric or a paladin. I’ve got to find something to back up my suspicions. I wonder if I could question my nightly visitor, ask him directly if he has anything to do with the disappearances? I wonder what he’d say. Would he tell me if he was? Probably not.
Once I went by the name of Magdalene. Once I was an advisor to queens and a friend to sorcerers as we struggled against the Shadow of the Serpent. Not anymore. I am no longer sure of my former self, her gender, the Order of the Dragon, and the course of action I dedicated myself to long ago. I encouraged Daeric Nevalyn in his rebellion against his mother, his liason with Padraig. I persuaded Xian, Nevalyn’s ambitious protege to plot against her master. Daeric and Padraig fell in love, bringing their powers together with mine to block the Serpent. Xian united the fractious queendoms, including the power-hungry Zenobia of Kalanthia against Nevalyn. We succeeded in banishing our enemy, locking her in a mystical prison or so we thought. Nevalyn had a way of returning. She always had a way of returning. It’s frightening how much Kyra looks like Nevalyn. Ever as a child, the likeness was clear, a likeness more than skin deep. A fragment of Nevalyn’s power, of her consciousness lived on in the little girl. Yet there was so much more to Kyra than just being Serpent-Born. She was kind, impulsive in her need to help others. There was a potential for so much good in this child. The same was true for Stefan, the other Serpent-Born I ended up caring for. Stefan was so like Daeric. I guessed that Daeryth, Daeric’s twin did not die without issue. Both of them ended up as foundlings at the Dragon shrine I taught at. Only Stefan disappeared. The Sister of the shrine grieved, only to say that children such as these often led short lives. There was no attempt to find him. I would have done something, only the shrine was raided by paladins of the Order of the Dragon not long after Stefan went missing. Being golden-haired marked Kyra as Serpent-Born which made her the property of the Imperatrix. The little girl was taken away with a slave collar designed especially by Zenobia’s artisans. I tried to stop them, but these Dragons were ready for my resistance. I barely avoided getting collared myself, managing to escape, yet failing to take Kyra with me. Not that I was about to leave her in Xian, now Imperatrix Serena Jasior’s hands. I contacted an old ally of mine, Peregrine. With her help, we managed to free Kyra from the Dragons. Kyra and I have lived in the shadows since. Only Kyra decided to step out of them when she saw Prince Stephen Jasior fighting a duel in the ring against a hapless enchantress who would win his hand in marriage. All part of A Suitor’s Challenge, which Kyra has decided to take on, especially when she recognized the prince as our lost Stefan. Now we’re up to our ears in intrigue. I dislike what I’ve seen of the Order of the Dragon which I helped form, the direction it is going in. Its temples are too rich, its members are corrupt, and more willing to enslave or force anyone with enough magic to serve them. They’re becoming as bad as the Serpent herself. Not to mention Xian and Zenobia have let power go to their heads. It may be time to interfere in the world again, to contact old allies, and to do something about the current state of Ouroborous. The Dragon help us all if we’re forced to act.
Where am I? Who am I? Everything has been confused since I opened a Door and started following a path through the Shadow Forest. I came here to search for Damian Ashelocke. I didn’t really want to find him, but Christopher and Gabrielle needed him. Perhaps this was part of the problem. I never wanted to find Damian myself. Juno, Gryluxx, and Hebe, they just wanted Christopher to open a Door. I came along with him to protect him. Only I made a right mess of that particular task. At some point in his story, Stealing Myself From Shadows, I was separated from Christopher. I’ve been trying to find him. Only someone else, something else found me. I changed afterwards. I lost…something. I can’t really say anything more. I’m still out there, wanting to be found, yet someone already found me. Nothing will ever be the same.
We are Ouroborous, the core of a world unheeded by those who walk upon our scales, thinking it is the the earth beneath their feet. We are the coiled serpent within the ground, yet we are the foundations of that ground, the soul lurking within it. Our people’s conflict is our conflict. Their suffering is ours. A girl once broke off a piece of us, reshaped it in her image. Yes, Nevalyn is part of us now, yet she was always part of us, just as her son is or anyone who lives within our grasp. We are Omphalos, waiting for everyone in the darkness within our encircled form. Our people tear us apart as they rip at each. It’s a serpent’s nature to swallow our prey, which sickens many of our life forms, yet they sicken us as well with their behaviour at times. Yet if they’re part of us, their sickness is ours as well. We sicken, nurture, and destroy as part of our cycle. We change depending on the various perceptions our people have of us. We exist long before all other life forms died out. We were the Goddess’s Firstborn, the Dragon was our child before She decided to purify Herself and stamp us out. She changes, too, even as we change. We all circle each other, part of a never-ending myth which keeps changing. In some form or the other, we always exist. We conflict with the agents of our creatrix, yet they are as much a part of us as they are of Her. We are often demonized. We are more than a demon, we are part of eternity, yet we are less in the eyes of those who perceive us. We are the legend, which is reinvented in the mind of our children. Always we endure.
Once my shadow spread across every land, yet I was born mortal, sensing I was meant to be so much more. I made the most of my frail flesh, breaking of a fragment of the World Serpent and making it part of me. Only I got sentimental. I shared my power with my apprentices. They in turn got greedy. One dared to set herself up Imperatrix, uniting all of the frightened little queens in an alliance against me. Xian thought she’d vanquished me. All she defeated was my mortal form, banishing me. Ah, my dear, I always had a way back through my own flesh and blood, whom you willingly wedded. Once again, you got greedy. Instead of killing or sealing away my descendants, you sought to make them your tools of magic, your Imperial slaves. Did you think that little collar you and Zenobia worked so hard on could stop them, let alone me? Through the Serpent-Born, my power lives on. Through them, I can return. Just consider that, my dear traitor as you tremble on your throne, filled with stolen power and vitality. I will return. And when I do, I will suck the life force from you and all of your tools. Just watch and sleep the sleep of the hunted. I shall return.
Once I was Melyssa Ashelocke. I grew so tired of her, so tired of the expectations placed upon her. Tired of not being a proper arachocrat, of constantly disappointing my mother. Tired of my forbidden passion for a lady obsessed with my rebellious cousin, Damian. I walked away from it all. I found Seraphix long before any of the Followers did, oh, yes. Seraphix was our god, mine and my Sisters long before They decided to manifest once more in these talismanic, tailored forms of coins and wishes. Seraphix was the God of Balance. When our godling began regaining power in Omphalos, I offered Seraphix Their name, my memories of Their temple. In doing so, I lost some of my recollections of that time, only to gain other, more important ones. Find your center. Fight the monster within. This was what our master always taught us. Only our master betrayed her own teachings. She gave into her monster. I’m not sure what happened after that. I’m not even sure if I survived what happened. Somehow I found myself here in Omphalso with a mother, a father, or a brother. I’m certain they’re not my true relations, but for some purpose we were brought together as a family. I’m seeing faces here in Omphalos I recall, faces of my Sisters, even the face of my lost master. Once I craved to remember that time, what I’d lost, to recreate it. Only I’d like recreate myself as well. Something broke me. I could put myself back together again with Seraphix’s aid or rebuild myself better than before. All of the lost pieces are coming together. Seraphix is the key to bringing them together. Once I become one with my god, I can become my own ideal. Someone stronger than either of my mothers, stronger than the arachnocrats. Only I’m afraid of what’s emerging from this fusion, this change. I’m afraid of what she’ll be. Fear is dangerous. Doubt is dangerous, especially in the rituals we’re performing to become true Followers of Seraphix. I can’t help my doubt, though. It lingers like a poison. It doesn’t matter. I won’t let my doubts stop me. This time I’m special, one of the chosen. I won’t be a disappointment. Not again.
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Phaedra will be picking up where she left off last Sunday in A Symposium in Space…
Agathea of one of the wealthiest, most prominent citizens of the Intergalactic Democracy. One who could arrange to have my poems broadcast over the biggest billboards that glowed in major cities on major planets.
“The Agathea?” I asked for clarity. “The third-time winner of the Tragedy award? The one who funds and owns most worlds’ rights to the image of Aphrodite?”
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Why, hello there. I’m ‘Lyssa, Melyssa’s better half. Well, perhaps not better. I’m still the person she longs to be, the one who lives as she wishes and takes what she desires. I’m the part of Melyssa created by her wish, through her union with Seraphix. I’m repressed piece of Melyssa Ashelocke who longs to sink her fangs into the arachnocratic ladies’s collective neck. Only someone is intefering with our development, our ritual with Seraphix. Might have known it would be some fool of a boy, only I caught a whiff of my cousin in his soul. Ugh, must Damian always get in the way? Not that he hasn’t helped from time to time, but this is my existence which is at stake. I need Seraphix to get stronger, I need the Followers. Once I’ve completely manifested, I’ll deal with the arachnocrats and Seraphix, but I need to manifest, to become alive enough to accomplish those things. There’s no way I’m going to let Damian Ashelocke or his precious Christopher stop me. Not this time.
Good day. I am Kyra, protagonist in a Work in Progress known as A Suitor’s Challenge. In this, a beautiful young prince has offered his hand in marriage to whatever suitor can best him in magical combat. It’s a foolish challenge to accept since Prince Stephen Jasior is very powerful and he slays whomever loses. He may be the adopted heir of the Imperatrix, Serena Jasior, who brought together the Alliance of Queendoms to battle the Serpent. Whomever marries him shall also become Serena’s heir. The temptations of power and the prince’s beauy is enough to lure many a hopeful into the Circle with him. Not one has survived. This prince shows no mercy towards those unworthy of him. Who would want such a husband? Only I looked into his eyes and saw a familar soul. Stefan, my childhood friend, whom once stood between me and the Serpent’s hunger. For the Serpent once resided me in, constantly whispering temptations to me. Stefan lured Her out of me with promises to do what she wished if She left me in peace. I never saw Stefan again. I don’t know what happened after the Serpent left me and went into Stefan, or why She was even in me to begin with after Serena defeated her. How Stefan came to be Prince Stephen Jasior is a mystery to me. Only I looked into his eyes and I saw the Serpent within. Laughing. Delighting in devouring the life and power of every suitor who dared to step in the Circle with Her vessel. Taunting me with Her presence for Stefan was still trapped within her, unable to cry out a warning. I can’t leave him like that. I have to help Stefan, even if it means becoming the next fool suitor who challenges Prince Stephen Jasior. Only I’m no one, a golden-haired Serpent Born, who only just escaped from imperial chains with the help of my companion, mentor, and friend, Questioning. If I’m to become a royal suitor, I need a sponsor. There are challenges I must meet before I even face Stephen and the Serpent within him. There are allies I must cultivate, even if I don’t trust them. The only person I trust is Questioning. In the highly visible position of being Prince Stephen Jasior, Questioning is in as dangerous a situation as I am. Old enemies are becoming aware of them even as they become aware of me. All the while the Serpent is lying in wait within Stefan. Waiting for me.
Why, hello there, my dears, how nice of you to drop by and see me, tee hee! No, neither this place nor I are what we once were, dear me, no. Yes, I used to be more worthy of my name, living like a goddess, ruling over the heavens, married to the most powerful of the lost. I was quite powerful myself in those times, not to mention beautiful. I was worthy of a golden apple meant for the fairest among us. It’s not my fault that the judge was a weak-willed sneak, easily bribed. Tee hee, did I ever fix him and his people! Ah, that was so long ago. Now I appear to be a flabby, aging woman with sagging cheeks and graying hair. Oh, my, it’s so easy to underestimate me like this. I’ll admit it makes me giggle, even while it makes me cry. I live in Omphalos, a village turning into a town on the edge of reality. I have a little cottage there I share with my deranged daughter, poor dear. My husband used to live with us, but he escaped. Does he really think he can hide from me? Such a silly creature! Alas, I’ve had to strike a bargain with some rather unsavory monsters, although they do have style. One of them keeps quite the handsome realm, filled with gardens and beautiful boys. I have to admit, I like her style. I can also see her reasoning in becoming a man-eating monster, one who doesn’t even allow boys to grow up to be men. I wonder how much trouble was caused by the men who worshipped my husband, not to mention my husband himself, the gods like him, and the goddesses who tried to emulate him. Too often they became monsters. Maybe it’s time for monsters to eat them. These cycles do keep happening over time. My husband truly owes my daughter and I a debt, even if he’s now too weak to accomplish anything. Something must be done, something to regain some of our former strength, yet reshape it into something a wee bit more progressive. And what better place to begin this process than the Shadow Forest, wouldn’t you say? It’s just a matter of collecting our pretty key and getting him to open our Door. We just need to say the right thing to persuade him to do this and I think I have a few ideas about that, oh, yes. There may be a teensy bit of conflict, but I don’t anticipate too much, oh no. I’m not that diminished in charm and persuasions, plus I’ve still got a few surprises in this old body. As peaceful as this snug little sojourn in dear Omphalos has been, I think it’s time to make a few changes. Given the quality of poor, lost souls who find themselves here, it appears the changes are already coming. All sorts of things are popping out of the realm of imagination, manifesting in various forms at the Navel, oh, my! It makes me wonder just how apart those two things are, imagination and reality. Oh, yes, if you can reshape yourself in the dream realm, just what will you come out as? I may have to give up something to gain something else, but what else have I ever done, pray tell? I’m quite excited to see what can be accomplished beyond the Door, yes, indeed, I am! Not to mention certain wayward husbands can only run so far. I will find him, oh, I will, indeed. We shall see, won’t we, who’ll truly be in charge once I do.