U is for Una

Once I was a lady every bit as fine as Duessa Ashelocke, not to mention far less monstrous and unnatural. Once I had a handsome knight at my side, devoted to my protection. Together we strove to turn a beautiful and idealistic young lord away from the shadows, back to the light. That lord was Stefan Ashelocke, Duessa’s husband.

Duessa changed all of that. She reduced her lord and husband to a statue, a standing monument, a memory she drained all else from. She sucked the life out of my knight, turning him into a toy and a snack. As for me, she saved the worst fate for me. She gave me wings, only to rip them to shreds. She turned me into a monster as hideous as herself, only to break me, force me to cringe in servitude at her side.

I’ve never forgotten or forgiven Duessa Ashelocke for anything that she’s done. She taught me how much things can change for the worst, but she’s not immune to the fickle fingers of fate herself. She may rule the Gardens of Arachne, keeping her private, predatory paradise for herself and her ladies, apart from men, raising their Marriage Feasts apart from any male influence whom might inform them of a purpose beyond satisfying their brides, but that is only for now. There will come a reckoning. He is already here. Damian Ashelocke is that reckoning, for why else would he resemble Stefan Ashelocke so closely? His power and his doubts will clear the fog cutting Mystere off from the rest of the world, unless that task falls to Dyvian Ashelocke. Dyvian, who seemed so obedient and submissive, yet had plans of his own. Dyvian, who allowed himself to be drained of his vitality as a Marriage Feast, transformed into a statue, yet has returned as a shadow more powerful than any I’ve ever seen. Dyvian plays both god and devil, such a dangerous game, almost as dangerous as the ones Christopher and Damian play. How delightful. Once I would have balked at toying with such forces, but I’ve been corrupted by such forces myself. Anyone who wields them could be My Tool, My Treasure. I welcome sources of power capable of bringing Duessa Ashelocke down, no matter how perilous. See how I’ve changed, how much she’s changed me. I play the part of her cringing servant, I let her think she’s broken me. It’s true, Duessa has broken my heart. Every jagged fragment that remains is a dagger I’ve aimed at hers. All I need is an opening, a chance to strike. She’ll discovered how cruel tools and treasures can be.

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