Once more Christopher faces a slight boy like himself with ruddy golden-hair falling to touch the shoulders of his black velvet vest. A white tunic peeks out from underneath the dark covering. He wears matching pants with a pair of scuffed boot. A troubled expression wrinkles his smooth brow as he gazes back at Christopher with eyes that shimmer from blue to golden and back.
Christopher: You said you’ve all had troubling dreams. Who’s all of you?
Rhodry: Faith, Ariadne, and myself…we’ve all dreamed of being trapped, seeing the eyes of our lost loves ones through another’s. Someone who is crying out for help, but we can’t tell who it is. My companions feel this dream is somehow the key to what’s happening, even Varwyth.
Christopher: Your companions being Faith, Ariadne, and Varwyth? The ones you’re investigating the Trouble at Caerac Keep with?
Rhodry: Yes. I’m not sure why Varywth isn’t having the dreams, yet he appears to be aware of them, particularly mine. He’s a powerful sorcerer who’s dropped hints of having been a cleric once, something I didn’t think possible. Varywth has arguments with Faith regarding her own beliefs as a Unicorn. Sometimes I’m not sure of he’s being passionate or poking fun of his passion along with her own. He doesn’t mock her dreams of her lost sister, no matter how caustic he’s being, or any of our dreams.
Christopher: Tell me a little about Faith. Who is she, assuming she’s a she?
Rhodry: Yes. She’s an acolyte at the Unicorn temple. No, more than that. She’s a Point of the Unicorn’s Horn, something she’ll explain with painful incoherency if you ask. She’s one of three Points, the two other two being her sisters, Hope and Charity. They’re not actually sisters, but they grew up at the Unicorn temple at Caerac Keep together. They were raised to embody the Unicorn’s virtues they were named for.
Christopher: Did Faith, Hope, and Charity have other names before they became acolytes or were they born at the temple?
Rhodry: Yes, they had other names. No, they weren’t born at the temple. Charity had a family, which went missing when Hope did. I’m not sure if Faith ever had anything other than the Unicorn temple and her sisters. Now Hope is gone and Charity lies in the middle of a mysterious sickness many fear was a vampire’s attack.
Christopher: Was Charity attacked at the temple?
Rhodry: She sickened there, yes.
Christopher: Are vampires considered undead in your world? Do clerics have any power over them? I’d think a Unicorn temple might be warded against them.
Rhodry: Yes, yes, and yes. This is why everyone at the temple, including Faith is frightened. In fact, Faith is inclined to blame Daeric and myself for what’s happening.
Rhodry: We’re Serpent-Born. As far as Faith is concerned, Daeric and I are abominations, the source of all that’s evil and monstrous. Never mind that vampires may have been a clerical error as much as an act of the Serpent.
Christopher: How so?
Rhodry: Long ago, Kyra Nevalyn and her beloved Prince Stephen Jasior did something to seal the Serpent’s power. Kyra won’t tell me everything and the legends contradict each other, but there are hints that vampires rose because the Order of the Unicorn rose. Because of what the Unicorns did to break the power of the the Order of the Dragon along with the Serpent.
Christopher: The Order of the Dragon and the Order of the Unicorn are both religious organizations, aren’t they? Wide-spread ones?
Rhodry: That’s putting it mildly. They dominaed the world. Only the Order of the Dragon believed in keeping the various powers of the world in check, such the Serpent. The Order of the Unicorn were the champions of all that pure and virtuous, devoting themselves to protecting them from anyone who might harm them, including the Dragons. These were their purposes…in theory.
Christopher: While in practice?
Rhodry: Both became too powerful and were corrupted by that power. The Dragons tried to enslave and harness those they were keeping in check. They created mystical chains for the Serpent-Born, keeping them as enslaved pets and weapons. The Unicorns tried to exterminate the Serpent-Born, the Dragons, and anyone else they deemed monstrous and impure. Faith would argue only extreme Unicorn sects would advocate murder in the name of the Goddess. Her temple would never do such a thing, only treat myself and others like me as if we weren’t people.
Christopher: It sounds like you and Faith are having difficulties in getting along.
Rhodry: It’s strange. We grew up in similar situations. Isolated, surrounded by books, undergoing vigorous training; I in my tower, she in her temple. Due to whom and what we are, it’s hard to tolerate each other. I’ve been making an effort, but she doesn’t even bother. Varwyth is more than quick to defend me. I almost pity Faith when he strikes back. Plus Ariadne is there to laugh at Faith and myself for both being barbarians. Not that she’s in a position to laugh. She grew up almost as isolated as Faith and I did.
Christopher: Ariadne being your last companion?
Rhodry: Ariadne is a foreigner, a sort of living Aethyrian weapon sent by the Circle of the Thirteen to find her lost sister.
Christopher: You just raised a lot of questions with all that! First you called Ariadne a foreigner, then a living Aethyrian weapon. Explain?
Rhodry: Ariadne grew up in Aethyria, a land southwest to Rowenda where Caerac Keep is. I call her a living weapon because she can fight bare-handed in a fashion which seems like magic, but is the result of vigorous training in Aethyria.
Christopher: And you said she was sent by the Circle of the Thirteen? What’s that?
Rhodry: The thirteen witches who form the ruling body of Aethryia. From what Ariadne has said…and from the visions I’ve had of them in a dreams…they stay in a state of meditation which leaves them like statues except when they have something to say or do. They transported Ariadne to Caerac Keep in an instant, just like they transported her sister, Alexi, some months ago before Alexi disappeared. Only Ariadne is having a hard time adjusting to Caerac Keep and we’re having a hard time adjusting to her.
Rhodry: Yes, Alexi had visited several times…she was one of the few people I knew and was used to visiting other lands. Ariadne has never been out of Aethyria. Aethyria is a very different place than Rowenda. It was part of the land of Kalanthia, the heart of the empire until Kalanthia split. Only the southernmost core remained Kalanthia. The other fragments became the lands of Graeca and Aethyria. Neither believe in the Unicorn Goddess. Ariadne has a very cynical view of the Unicorn, much to Faith’s distress. Plus Ariadne keeps gawking at me.
Christopher: Because you’re Serpent-Born.
Rhodry: And because I’m a boy. Everyone is female in Aethyria.
Rhodry: There are a few people between or without gender, but no men. Just as there are no women in Graeca. The split between Aethyria and Graeca with Kalanthia was due in part to gender prejudice. All the men went to Graeca, all the women went to Aethyria, and never do they meet, except to propagate during Marriage Week. They get together for a festival along the border where men and women couple wearing masks. Any Aethyrians whom participate and find themselves with child keep the babies if they’re girls. If they’re boys they’re given to the Graecans. This is why there are no men in Aethyria. Ariadne, who’s never been beyond the border is seeing men…and boys…for the first time. She’s gawking at us. Along with laughing at anything she finds odd or barbaric. Which can be annoying.
Christopher: So Ariadne, Faith, and Varwyth are your companions and three of you share dreams.
Rhodry: Yes. Sometimes Alexi is in them. Alexi traveled and was a witch herself. She was having dreams of an ancient evil rising which she felt could be stopped if she came to Caerac Keep. Only Alexi disappeared herself and now we’re dreaming about her. I think we’re seeing Alexi through the eyes of her captor, but that captor is also a captive. It’s a mystery. We keep stumbling into mysteries.
Christopher: And you, Ariadne, Faith, and Varwyth are the ones who have to solve them?
Rhodry: Well, we are being aided by Lord William of Caerac Keep and his sister. Plus we have allies like Kevin and Maggie.
Christopher: Who are Kevin and Maggie?
Rhodry: Maggie is a former adventurer herself, although she runs a tavern now called The Tipsy Hedgehog. Kevin…(Rhodry blushes a little)…Kevin is often at the bar there. He’s got red hair, freckles, and the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. Um, he and Maggie often hear things which they pass on to us. Only I worry they may get into trouble with whatever is causing the trouble by helping us.
Christopher: Good luck in resolving that trouble. It sounds like you’ll need.
Rhodry: Thank you. (rueful smile) I will.