Once again, Christopher faces the other boy in black velvet while the steam of the Cauldron rises around them.
Christopher: So here we are.
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.
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.
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.
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…