Conversations with Christopher: Rhodry

Christopher: Let’s continue where we left off last Monday. How far have you gotten on your mission; you, Ariadne, Faith, and Varwyth?

Rhodry: Not very far. Faith and I do end up raising Lord Caerac himself from the dead to ask him a few things, only to discover he’s already been resurrected.
Christopher: I wonder who did that?

Rhodry: The same person who’s been raising skeletons and other undead around Caerac Keep. Everyone thinks vampires can’t be far behind, especially when so many people are falling ill with puncture wounds on their neck. (He rubs his own neck.)

Christopher: Specifically Lord Corwyth.

Rhodry: Did I mention he was Serpent Spawn, too? I’ve seen pictures of him. He looks like he could be related to Daeric and myself.

Christopher: What happened to Corwyth, according to the legends?

Rhodry: Some say he lies in wait within Corwyth Keep, others that he’s trapped there behind a barrier his former companion, Gwyneth erected. Others say that Caerac and Gwyneth staked him, trapping Corwyth within a crypt which remains hidden. Vampires are immortal and very hard to kill, so he may well be still around.

Christopher: He could have risen from wherever he’s been lying in wait.

Rhodry: It’s possible, but Lord William Caerac doesn’t believe it. The rumours about Lord Corwyth rising is one of the things he wants to disprove. He doesn’t want everyone in Caerac Keep living in fear of vampire attacks.

Christopher: You said you didn’t believe it was him either, judging from what you’ve read.

Rhodry: I’ve, um, also had a lot of dreams about Corwyth. (He blushes again.) Much of what I’ve been dreaming has turned out to be true. Like what I dreamed about Alexi and Ariadne, or Faith.

Christopher: Who do you think is behind the disappearances?

Rhodry: Someone who knows necromancy. Someone who wants us to think it’s vampires. Someone who is trying to get us to look in the wrong direction.

Christopher: What’s the right direction?

Rhodry: I’m not sure, but I’m afraid the enemy is a lot closer than any of us realize or want to realize.

Christopher: Are your dreams hinting at this?

Rhodry: My dreams and a feeling that we’re overlooking something vital.

Christopher: Where are you looking?

Rhodry: Around Lord Corwyth’s estate, Daeric’s tower, the docks. We find monsters, we find people who’s gone missing, but we don’t find Daeric, Alexi, or Hope. (He frowns, his forehead puckering.) There’s not many people who could have taken Daeric. Alexi was a magic-user in training. Hope had clerical powers. This means it was someone very strong or…

Christopher: Or?

Rhodry: Someone they trusted, that they thought was a friend or an ally. Someone who could catch them unawares.

Christopher: It sounds like you do suspect someone.

Rhodry: The Dark Circle.

Christopher: What’s the Dark Circle?

Rhodry: It’s a ring of stone to the south not far from Gwyneth Keep. Once it was a Dragon Temple, but now it’s overrun by monsters, organized and dominated by the Spider Xylanthe, once an Aethryrian leader.

Christopher: This sounds like something Ariadne…and Alexi…might know something about.

Rhodry: It is. The Dark Circle is said to have agents in every land once part of the Jasior Empire, including Rowenda. Nor are its members allies of the Vampire Corwyth.

Christopher: Meaning they might be plotting trouble and trying to point the finger at Corwyth as the source?

Rhodry: And away from themselves and whoever their agent is here in Caerac Keep. Undead aren’t the only monsters we’ve found while investigating, holding something of the missing people prisoner.

Christopher: What about the victims themselves? What did they say?

Rhodry: They’re convinced they were intended as food or soldiers for the Vampire Corwyth’s army, but they seem a little too convinced.

Christopher: Like someone tried to convince them of this? Perhaps magically?

Rhodry: That’s what it looks like to me. Faith is only too willing to believe it’s vampires, but so is the Lady Ylynessa Caerac.

Christopher: Lady Ylynessa Caerac?

Rhodry: Lord William Caerac’s sister. Faith is a favourite of hers. She gives a lot of her time and support to the Unicorn temple. A huge nonhuman activist, yet the lady doesn’t feel any of this sympathy for the undead.

Christopher: There’s a lot of that particular double-standard going around.

Rhodry: Yes, there is. Almost like someone is trying to reinforce it.

Christopher: Do you really think so?

Rhodry: I’m still trying to figure out what I think.

Christopher: Good luck.

Rhodry: Thank you.

#RainbowSnippets: My Tool, My Treasure

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples from different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/?ref=group_header

For mine, Leiwell will pick up where he left off last week in My Tool, My Treasure…

This was why they were all here, the Followers of Seraphix. Only was it truly for Dyvian’s sake? Leiwell doubted many of them cared about his lord or Seraphix for that matter. Each villager who’d accepted Seraphix’s talisman wished to use their newly created god to gain their heart’s desire. Every Follower yearned to be transformed into their own ideals, using the power they’d fused into their coins and channeled into wishes. They’d thrust their prayers upon Seraphix themself, shaping them like helpless clay.

Conversations with Christopher: Rhodry

Once again, Christopher faces the other boy in black velvet while the steam of the Cauldron rises around them.

Christopher: So here we are.

Rhodry: Yes.

Christopher: You were going to talk about the current version of yourself that’s involved in one of many works in progress our scribbler is in the middle of.

Rhodry: It’s strange. I used to be Rhodry Mavelyne back in the Keep. rhodrymavelyne is the name the scribbler uses on Twitter, tumbler, NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, Archive of Our Own, a dreamwidth account, as well as a now defunct livejournal.

Christopher: Who are you now?

Rhodry: In The World of Omphalos and Trouble at Caerac Keep? Rhodry Nevalyn.

Christopher: Nevalyn, is that one of the major villains in The World of Omphalos?

Rhodry: The major villain. Nevalyn is known as the Great Serpent who tried to swallow the world. Oddly enough, our world itself, Omphalos, is considered to be a great serpent, coiled on itself. The name Nevalyn is feared to this day. There was a woman who lived in the far north, worked magics unlike any seen in this day and age, whom could resurrect the dead, mentally dominate nonhumans and anyone with a trace of magic in them. She was tall, wore black, had pale skin, long, wavy golden hair, and eyes which changed from blue to golden.

Christopher: Like yourself.

Rhodry: Those with golden hair and changing eyes are called Serpent Spawn. Prejudice isn’t as bad in my day and age as it was in Kyra Nevalyn’s, a famous Serpent Spawn who dared to woo a Jasior prince back when the Jasior Empire existed and the Imperatrix was alive. If you looked like me, you could be grabbed by the Order of the Dragon, the Empire, or the neighboring Kalanthian Empire, shackled with an enchanted colllar and used as a tool for the public good.

Christopher: That’s no longer true, I’m guessing.

Rhodry: Some good came from the Jasior Empire collapsing, Kalanthia shrinking, and the swarms of monsters rampaging from the north. Or perhaps I should say nonhumans.

Christopher: Are you still being swarmed?

Rhodry: Not really. The Age of Adventurers is over. This was when Caerac, Gwyneth, and other wanderers armed themselves, taking the fight back to the lairs of the shapeshifters, undead, and other nonhumans carving out a home for themselves down in warmer, human-occupied lands. The Keeps, the walled cities rose, bringing a measure of stability to those living within them. Daeric’s tower is right outside Caerac Keep, which was built by Caerac himself.

Christopher: Daeric?

Rhodry: My guardian. He doesn’t seem to age, but he’s lived in that tower for I don’t know how long. He raised me since I was a small child. Daeric must be family since he looks enough like me to be my older brother.

Christopher: Does he have golden hair and changing eyes, too?

Rhodry: Yes. He’s also considered Serpent Spawn. I’m told he doesn’t get as much trouble as he used to. There’s a lot of sympathy in the Keeps for those formerly considered to be monsters during the time of the Jasior Empire and the Age of Adventurers, due to nonhuman activism, particularly among the acolytes in the Unicorn temples. Only those acolytes are more concerned with kobolds whose treasure was taken by adventurers than Serpent Spawn.

Christopher: You still face a lot of prejudice, don’t you?

Rhodry: It’s better in the Keeps, the walled cities than outside. Outside, people still call nonhumans monsters and claim that they attack them. Not a lot of people live outside. It’s mostly farmers and most farms aren’t too far from a Keep. Caerac Keep isn’t as sophisticated or enlightened as Gwyneth Keep to the south, but it’s still better than outside. Those outside tend to be armed, strike first, and ask questions later.

Christopher: Met a lot of people who wander outside the walls of Caerac Keep, have you?

Rhodry: Well, no. There’s Aggie or Angharad, who runs the Tipsy Hedgehog, the local tavern in Caerac Keep. She may well be nonhuman herself, given how very short she is and she used to adventure. Her old sword hangs over the bar and she refuses to take it down, no matter how often Faith comes into the bar and tells her she’s taking pride in an immoral life as a thief and a killer.

Christopher: Faith?

Rhodry: One of a triumvirate of paladins in training known as the Points of the Unicorn. Faith isn’t her real name. She and her two ‘sister’ acolytes, Charity and Hope assumed the names when the Temple Matriarch chose them for the honor. Faith is only too active on nonhuman rights awareness and bringing the Word of the Goddess to all of us poor, lost monsters. Not that her compassion extends to any of the undead. Part of her training is banishing or destroying the undead. In this, Faith isn’t any different than the adventurers she berates.

Christopher: I get the impression you don’t like Faith very much.

Rhodry: I wish she’d stay out of my head.

Christopher: Huh?

Rhodry: Faith regards Daeric and myself as Serpent Spawn. She’s just waiting for me to do something evil. Plus she sees Daeric as being a whore, Lord William Caerac’s whore in particular. Only I’ve been having these dreams where I see things from Faith’s perspective, the monsters she always senses around her. It makes me feel just a little sorry for her and why should I feel sorry? I haven’t done anything wrong. Nor has Daeric.

Christopher: What does she think Daeric has done?

Rhodry: Sorcery. Raised the dead. Seduced Lord William Caerac into being his pawn. Lord William is no one’s pawn. He is very close to Daeric, though, and listens to his advice. Perhaps they are intimate, I’m not sure. Daeric’s relationship with Lord William is why Daeric has had so little trouble living on the edge of Caerac Keep.

Christopher: Only trouble is coming, isn’t it? That’s the name of your story, Trouble at Caerac Keep.

Rhodry: I start having these dreams, very, err, sensual dreams about a vampire’s visits. They’re followed by dreams of a couple of girls in Aethyria I’ve never met along with Faith. Not long after, Daeric disappears. Nor is he the only one. People all over Caerac Keep are disappearing. One of the girls I dreamed about, Alexi disappeared. The other Aethyrian girl, Ariadne comes to Caerac Keep looking for her sister. Faith’s own sister in training, Hope vanishes as well. Charity, Faith’s other sister, falls ill of a mysterious sickness that seems a lot like the attack of a vampire. That such a thing could happen to someone at a Unicorn Temple scares everyone. The undead aren’t supposed to be able to enter temples and holy sites.

Christopher: Do you think that might be a myth?

Rhodry: I think there’s a lot about the undead and vampires we don’t know. The Vampire Corwyth in particular.

Christopher: Who is the Vampire Corwyth?

Rhodry: A Rowendian legend based off some history. Corwyth was one of the last members of the Order of the Dragon after the fall of the Jasior Empire and the Order of the Unicorn wiped them out. He traveled with Caerac and Gwyneth as an adventurer, banishing the undead, laying the dead to rest until a vampire caught him and turned him. After that, he started organizing the undead into armies or communities. He created Corwyth Keep, a walled city filled with nothing but the undead, who no one can enter which lies to the west near the coast. At least that’s what the tales say. No one alive has ever been to Corwyth Keep.

Christopher: Someone dead might have, though, or someone undead?

Rhodry: Rumours are spreading that the Vampire Corwyth has risen, is gathering a great army of the undead and other monsters to conquer Rowenda. This is why people are disappearing, they’re food for this army. Or possibly recruits.

Christopher: Do you believe this?

Rhodry: From what I’ve read of the Vampire Corwyth, it doesn’t seem like his style. He prefered to seduce, persuade, and influence than outright conquer, once he became a vampire. Only how much of the legend is true? What is actually going on? This is a mystery I am trying to solve, along with Ariadne, Faith, and Varwyth.

Christopher: Who is Varwyth?

Rhodry: Um, he’s the student in various mystical arts of an old friend of Daeric’s. (He blushes) The lore he’s familar with, the rituals involving the undead that not even Faith or the Mother at the Unicorn Temple have heard of are truly breathtaking. I suspect he has access to lore from the lost Order of the Dragons. Seldom have I met anyone so fascinating, err, I mean the things he knows are fascinating.

Christopher: (stifling a chuckle) I see.

Rhodry: Only he can be a little disturbing, almost frightening at times. The way he looks at me as if I were a pastry or something good to eat sends shivers down my spine.

Christopher: (raising an eyebrow) What kind of shivers?

Rhodry: Um, complicated ones. (He turns even redder.)

Christopher: (taking pity on him) So the four of you; Ariadne, Faith, Varwyth, and yourself team up to find your missing loved ones and the source of the Trouble at Caerac Keep. I’m impressed with how pragmatic you and Faith are being, considering you dislike each other.

Rhodry: Err, it wasn’t our idea. Lord William Caerac ordered us to work together to uncover the mystery, in spite of our objections. We all objected, except for Varwyth.

Christopher: I wonder why he didn’t?

Rhodry: I’ve been wondering that myself…

To be continued next Monday…

#RainbowSnippets: My Tool, My Treasure

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples from LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/?ref=group_header

For my own, Leiwell will be continuing where he left off in My Tool, My Treasure last Saturday. This will be just a little longer than six sentences, but they’re very short additional sentences. 🙂

Dyvian lowered his head, fixed his pale gaze upon Leiwell. He stretched his arm out from his voluminous sleeve towards his creation.

“Come to me.” His words rang with a musical clarity. Seraphix breathed their energy into his Voice, reinforcing his conviction.

Leiwell took a step in the direction of his master, the one he owed everything to. Yes. This was why he was here.

Conversations with Christopher: Rhodry

Christopher sits facing a boy wearing a black velvet vest over a white tunic and matching trousers, golden hair falling in curling waves to his shoulders. The boy’s eyes are currently dark blue.

Christopher: (looking down at his own black vest) We’re dressed very similar.

Rhodry: (eyes shifting from blue to golden) That’s because I was originally meant to be the one who met Danyel on the other side of the Door in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower. I knew the twins long before you did, met them back in the Keep. I was the one with the intimate connection to them. Only you, Damian, and your Tarot-inspired, ambient fantasy world was combined with the twins’, while I was hurled into The World of Omphalos, which got dropped into a hole and forgotten. (He raises a golden eyebrow at Christopher.) You got to keep the outfit I was wearing in the scene where I met Danyel.

Christopher: (flushes) Be fair. The story wasn’t The Hand and the Eye of the Tower when you were in it. It was Stealing Myself From Shadows or Stealing Himself From Shadows. It was my story, only I was evicted from it.

Rhodry: And restored to it. Not only was Stealing Myself From Shadows resurrected as a novel in its own right, I was evicted from the novel I was in, only to be replaced by you. That novel became The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, transformed into the second book in the series; Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest. A series in which you and Damian had major parts, along with Leiwell, the twins, and Dyvian while I was dropped into a hole. There’s nothing fair about this!

Christopher: Err, you were given a place in The World of Omphalos. Your part was resurrected, along with a story the scribbler was working on long ago, Trouble at Caerac Keep. Some of the raw concepts of that story became the framework of The Keep; an interactive story/roleplaying game you played a major part in.

Rhodry: You’re trying to distract me by getting me to talk about my origins. (He looks a little mollified, though.) Fine, I’ll let myself be distracted. I was created for a specific fantasy roleplaying campaign long before The Keep, although different versions of me were used in other roleplaying games.

Christopher: Your family played a major part as villains in that roleplaying campaign, didn’t they?

Rhodry: Yes. This carried over to The Keep, although the nature of my family’s villainy changed. It became more morally ambiguous, more fluid, connected to vampires and dragons rather than blood magic.

Christopher: You still have a connection with vampires and dragons in Trouble at Caerac Keep, don’t you?

Rhodry: (opens his vest, exposing a couple of a couple of puncture wounds on his pale throat) Kyra, are you there?

A tiny golden reptilian head pops out of the vest to fix a bareful, slitted eye upon Christopher.

Kyra: Finally. It’s good to get out of the hole.

Christopher: Now you’re actually Kyra Nevalyn, the main character in another of our scribbler’s works in progress, A Suitor’s Challenge, right? Your story took place in The World of Omphalos, centuries before Trouble at Caerac Keep. In your story, you were a human-shaped girl, only a little older than Rhodry, who looked a lot like him. How did you end up a dragon?

Rhodry: I’ve been wondering the same thing.

Kyra: No comment. I’m not answering any questions until the scribbler returns to my story and answers my own! (She dives back down under Rhodry’s vest.)

Rhodry: She’s a little shy. Either that or she doesn’t know the answers herself.

Christopher: How did you end up with her?

Rhodry: I found this tiny dragon-shaped version of Kyra during a freebie story our scribbler wrote and posted at the Formerly Forbidden Cauldron (inspirationcauldron.blogspot.com) in response to one of P.T. Wyant’s Wednesday Words prompts (ptwyant.com). Not that I mind. When I was first created, I had a ferret companion named Freckie. This feels like returning to my origins.

Kyra: (muffled from inside Rhodry’s vest) I am *not* a ferret!

Rhodry: I was also descended from dragons, my powers sometimes taking on a draconic form in The Keep. This feels like an homage to that backstory as well.

Christopher: You’ve got a lot of backstory, don’t you? It must be confusing keeping track of it all.

Rhodry: Yes, which is why I try not to blame our scribbler for taking her time with my story. She’s trying to write a version of me that’s consistent with Trouble at Caerac Keep, the tale she’s telling right now. (He smiles, his eyes shifting from golden back to blue.) It’s so much easier to blame you, since you keep distracting her with Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest.

Christopher: Err, why don’t you come back next week? You can tell me more about Trouble at Caerac Keep, the story you’re in now?

Rhodry: (continuing to smile) I’d like that.

#RainbowSnippets: My Tool, My Treasure

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples from LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/?ref=group_header

For my own, Leiwell and the mysterious speaker will pick up where they left off last week in My Tool, My Treasure…this is just a little longer than six sentences, for clarity’s sake…

 

*You mean they weren’t already?* Leiwell thought back, putting as much sarcasm as he could into it.

Light reflected off all of the talismans, hanging around necks, pinned in hair, the mark of Seraphix. Seraphix had been with every person present. Seraphix had sensed the unresolved yearning in their hearts. All wishes would be granted if they would just follow Seraphix.

The coin against his flesh grew hot. Leiwell pressed his fingers against it, only to feel a scorching pain. The small, metal disc hissed.

He snatched his hand away, feeling his index finger vibrate with a pain that was almost sensuous.

 

Me Me Monday: Character Crush

There’s a party going on in the Cauldron. All of my characters mingle amidst the mists, arguing, talking, dressed in various degrees of finery. At the heart of it all stands Christopher, dressed in black velvet. To his left is Damian, wearing a white poet’s shirt and leather pants. To his right are Danyel and Tayel, wearing their pale green and blue vests over white tunics, gray trousers, and dove gray boots.

Christopher: (considering this past year and all that’s happened) We never finished our story.

Danyel: Not My Tool, My Treasure. Perhaps we’ll finish it this year.

Damian: I wouldn’t get too hopeful if I were you.

Tayel: Scribblers are distracted creatures. At least ours is.
Damian: Look at everyone who’s here to distract her.

Quartz stomps over, his six brothers trailing behind him. He crosses his arms and glowers at Christopher.

Quartz: I’ll have you know this. If that scribbler hasn’t finished my story by April, Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins is going to be her Camp NaNoWriMo project. Not My Tool, My Treasure. Got it?

Christopher: You’ll have to convince the scribbler of that.

Quartz: Oh, I’ll convince her all right.

Damian: (smiles with poisonous sweetness at Quartz): I’m certain Nimmie Not will be delighted to hear how much quality time you’ll be spending together.

Nimmie Not: (appears in a puff of yellow smoke, arms around Quartz’s neck) Indeed!

Quartz: (jumping, stumbling while his brothers scatter) Gah!

Nimmie Not: Come, come, my delectable grump! (He snuggles closer to Quartz.) It’s a shiny new year! Let’s celebrate in style! (Both the skinny kobold and the dwarf he’s clinging to disappear.)

Opal: Harrumph! (collecting himself) If that brother of mine is going to be romanced as the lead in a novella, I still say I should take over Secondary Characters Speak Out. After all, I’m still a secondary character!

Garnet: I am, too.

Other dwarves: As are we!

Opal: Quiet, you lot!

Tayel: One secondary character cannot simply step in for another.

Danyel: He’s right. (in an aside to his twin) That was surprisingly straightforward.

Tayel: Surprise and straightforward aren’t unknown to me.
Both Danyel and Damian raise their eyebrows at the exact same moment.

Christopher: I’d agree, Opal. Besides, just because Quartz is no longer a secondary character doesn’t mean he’ll be giving up his blog.

Damian: Quartz may well encourage other secondary characters to revolt and become main characters. I mean, look at you. I’m guessing that’s what you really want.

Opal: Hmph! Like I’ll ever become one. My younger brother with his fear of garden gnomes is more likely to get a story.

Garnet: (perking up) I am?

Opal growls something under his breath and stomps away. The other dwarves clomp after him.

Damian: If every secondary character got their own story, we’d be overrun.

Danyel: I doubt the scribbler would be able to remember them all. Speaking of characters forgotten, are we all Blogging from AZ this April?

Christopher: We’ve hardly been forgotten and yes. Every year it’s been about us, come April, hasn’t it? The same characters only with a different theme.

Tayel: Similar faces, wandering through the elements of shifting facets.

Danyel: What shifting facets are we wandering through in April 2020?

Dyvian chooses to make his entrance, drifting towards Christopher, Damian, and the twins, dressed in black velvet himself. Phaedra stands at one side, stiff in a russet jumpsuit while Iama is at the other, completely relaxed in her midnight and gold gown.

Dyvian: The theme for Blogging for AZ will be Character Change. What would you change about yourself if you could?

Phaedra: We’ll be back for the challenge, even though our stories are finished and published.

Iama: Only it won’t be little Maia participating this year, but myself. I am the true Iama, after all.

Dyvian: (He allows his eyes to linger on the twins for a moment) I look forward to sharing a blog with you once more, my little ones. (He makes a slight bow to Christopher and Damian before backing away. Phaedra moves in step with him, offering a little nod. Iama moves with them, neither bowing nor nodding. She simply gazes at Christopher with hooded eyes.)

Christopher: (watches them go, releasing a breath) Well, I wonder which Nathalie and Grace will be blogging in April? There are now two of them in Wind Me Up, One More Time.

Damian: We’ll find out in April, unless the scribbler experiences unexpected difficulties which keep her from the project. Tayel, you look pale. Well, paler.

Tayel: Come close to the hungry darkness and the darkness steals life and colour.

Danyel: Not to mention we get to look forward to sharing a blog with him. Again. (shudders)

Damian: You already share a story, an entire series with him.

Danyel: Don’t remind me. (He shudders again.)

Christopher: Remember, I’m not all that different from Damian.

Danyel: No, you are. Different that is. You may be similar beings, but you and Dyvian are very different people.

Tayel: The appetite remains the same.

Danyel: Christopher tries to control his appetite. Dyvian allows his to rule him and dictate his plans.

Damian: It’s a good thing Leiwell isn’t here to hear you say that.

Danyel: He’s here.

Tayel: (nods across the room)

Leiwell stands, dressed in white, black, green, cutting a handsome figure as he chats with other characters from Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest. He’s keeping an emerald eye fixed on his little brothers.

Danyel: You didn’t think he’d miss this party, did you?

Christopher: Definitely not. Especially since Tayel is right. You should be careful around me. I’m guessing that’s why your brother is keeping an eye on you.

Damian: Leiwell is always keeping an eye on them. And he’s in a pretty position to criticize you about your appetites, all things considered.

Christopher: I know. (He touches Damian’s hand.) I’m going to get you back, I swear it.

Damian: (allows his fingers to caress Christopher’s) Hopefully we’ll all get a chance to satisfy our appetites. Or not satisfy them. Quartz and Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins is only one part of the competition.

A young man wearing a short tunic approaches, followed by a slightly older man, wearing even less.

Troile: Yes, what about our story, Aissa and Polyxena? It has been completed, yet remains unpublished.

Christopher: After Aissa and Polyxena was rejected twice, I think our scribbler wanted to look it over, polish it up. Maybe read Song of Achilles. After all, she’s using Hamilton, Graves, and Homer as her main sources of research for your story.

Damian: She was thrown by one of her favourite scenes in Hannibal between Hannibal and Will, where they draw a parallel between themselves and Achilles and Patrocles. The scribbler has become such a Hannigram fan, not to mention a fan of Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, the moment gave her renewed respect for Patrocles. Not to mention a desire to do Achille’s love for Patrocles justice.

Achille: (who is the second man) I’ve always loved my Patrocles. This doesn’t make me love my Polyxena less.
Troile: (touching his hand) You’ll have a chance to prove both. (mutters) Not that Patrocles has much respect and even less less love for me.

Achille: Perhaps some resolution between the two of you should be reached in the underworld. Just as I achieve a measure of resolution with your brother.

Troile: We’ll need to suggest this to the scribbler. The mightiest of the Achaens and a prince of Troy are certainly equal to any drubbing of the imagination some grump of a dwarf might give her. (The two of them stroll off, arms linked.)

Christopher: You see who else we have to compete with for our scribbler’s attention? Troile and Achille aren’t the only ones.

A slender young woman with rippling amber tresses falling over her shoulders marches forward, tugging a slighter, heavier woman with honey-coloured hair. The first woman favours Christopher, Damian, and the twins with a smile.

Amberwyne: How about that? Grace and Theodora’s story wasn’t just finished, it was published. It gives me hope for our story; The Players are the Thing.

Rhane: (fixing dreamy blue eyes upon the boys present) Yes. Yes, it does.

Amberwyne: Although that hope may soon die if the scribbler’s attention is stolen once more. It would be courteous if you’d actually spare her a little time for us. (She gives Christopher a pointed look before leading Rhane away.)

Damian: (laying a protective hand on Christopher’s shoulder) And that’s not the last of them.

A couple of boys, only slightly older than Danyel and Tayel approach. One has shoulder-length dark curls, while the other has auburn ones.

Byron: I’m not sure why Amberwyne is complaining. The Players Are the Thing has enjoyed more attention than The Other Side of the Mask.

Shelley: We did make an appearance in freebie stories due to the prompts of Paula Wyant.

Christopher: Our scribbler has been thinking of you. Her recent Hannibal and Hannigram obsessions have put her in a state of mind to return to Paradise, the pale lords, and their victims.

Damian: Associations of elegant horror, after all.

Byron: I’m not a victim. I’m well aware that Quartz’s story will receive attention first. People are actually clamouring for his story.

Shelley: Ours should gain interest with more attention. The scribbler knows where to submit Quartz’s story. She’s no longer certain ours is a good fit with the publisher she planned to send it to. This slowed her down.

Byron: Many things slow her down. Is it too much to wish for a little more attention? That’s all I ask.

The two boys move away, only to have a golden-haired youth the same apparent age as Christopher approach.

Christopher: Speaking of a lack of attention…hello, Rhodry. (looks down, abashed)

Rhodry: Hello, Christopher. (His voice is even, but his eyes glitter golden.) It must be nice to have taken over the Cauldron every Monday for conversations. I can hear them, you know. Down there in the hole where the scribbler left me.

Damian tightens his grip on Christopher’s shoulder and gazes straight at Rhodry with unspoken menace.

Rhodry: You think you frighten me, Ashelocke? I’ve been intimidated by far worse than you.

Damian: Being trapped in the hole has made you bold, Nevalyn.

Christopher: Stop, both of you. I can understand how Rhodry feels, Damian. Rhodry, I’ll have you by for a conversation. Maybe it will get our scribbler thinking about Worlds of Omphalos and Trouble at Caerac Keep again.

A tiny dragon pokes her head out of Rhodry’s tunic and gazes at Christopher with a golden eye that glitters as balefully as his does.
Kyra: I’ve been in the hole, too, along with Rhodry. I’d really like to know how I turned from a girl into a dragon. My own story, A Suitor’s Challenge, has yet to be told.

Damian: Blame Hannibal.

Christopher: I don’t think it’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s fault or his TV show’s that Kyra Nevalyn is a dragon.

Damian: Perhaps not. I blame them for distracting our scribbler from our stories and filling her with Hannigram fics.

Christopher: If it wasn’t Hannibal, it would be something else. I think our scribbler needed a distraction.

Damian: Maybe. I still wonder how long we’ll have to wait for her attention to return.

Rhodry: You know nothing of waiting, Damian Ashelocke. You’re always on the scribbler’s mind, you and your ambient Tarot-inspired fantasy universe. All the while, World of Omphalos gets neglected. (He stalks away, petting the little dragon.)

Christopher: Once again you see all the competition we’re up against and this isn’t even all of it.

Danyel: Our scribbler sure has a lot on her mind. It’s a wonder she remembers any of us.

Tayel: Sympathizing with her distraction only intensifies its chaotic power.

Damian: He’s right. Don’t encourage the scribbler’s distraction. Encourage her instead.

Christopher: Now that sounds like a good New Year’s resolution for all of us. Encourage the scribbler.

Danyel: Yes!

Tayel: We’ll sparkle amidst murk and eddy of conflicting interest.
Danyel: Which means we’ll do our best.

Damian: Oh, I’m sure we all will. Best of luck, everyone, in encouraging our scribbler.

Everyone: Here, here!