Z is for Zenobia

We came to the scribbler while she was Blogging From AZ as an idea. An idea for the representative of another power in the World of the Ouroborous, the power of the Kalanthian Empire. Unlike Serena Jasior’s empire, Kalanthia still exists at the time of Trouble at Caerac Keep. Even if it is smaller, much smaller than it was when we lived and reigned. Our nation still kept some of its power. Without that power, Serena Jasior never could have crushed the Serpent and declared herself Imperatrix. Not that she shows any gratitude for it. By all rights, she should have offered her brother’s hand in marriage to us, creating a single empire. Instead she allows the prince to engage in destructive duels, encouraging a kind of matrimonial free-for-all, dangling him in front of potential suits. We don’t play such stupid games. To make this self-made Imperatrix even more insulting, she keeps the choicest Serpent-Born slaves to herself. She would never have been able to keep them, if we hadn’t provided the collars which she could control their power. We have done so much for this world and Serena Jasior, yet she rewards us with ingratitude. We bring so much to the scribbler’s stories, yet she denies us our rightful place at the center of all things in A Suitor’s Challenge. The situation is intolerable. Dead dwarves aren’t the only one who can demand their share of attention. The scribbler is going to find this out, mark our words. 


Y is for Yuri

I came into being along with the concept of A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. I was Westerleigh’s support outside the Hartford family. Someone who wasn’t detatched from his idol, yet could see her with clearer eyes than ‘Leigh. I’d see this obsession before, in the journals left behind by my ancestor Judith Cross, the artist who painted Elizabeth Hartford’s painting. Judith was closer to Elizabeth than anyone, her lover and confidant. Elizabeth broke her heart, leaving Judith herself a broken woman. Perhaps whatever is left of Elizabeth can smell Judith’s blood in me. That’s why her undead corpse lingers around the window at night, even if Elizabeth’s soul is bound to her painting. I wonder if that soul isn’t also bound to ‘Leigh, that ‘Leigh welcomed a sinister ghost into her heart and soul, one that’s feeding on ‘Leigh’s love, his very life force. The object of ‘Leigh’s obsession is a danger to both of us. A danger we must fight. I’d burn Elizabeth’s portrait, but I fear I’d burn Westerleigh’s soul along with it. Nor am I sure that this would stop Elizabeth Hartford’s walking corpse. Pray that ‘Leigh and I will find a way to stop her in A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. Pray that ‘Leigh will want to stop her. 

X is for Xian

I came into being during this Blogging From AZ April Project, the first time the scribbler participated. 

We’d been around for years before that as Serena Jasior. We were inspired by one of the scribbler’s favorite celebrities, a particular part she played. Only we changed into something completely different in the scribbler’s imagination. We became a queen, an empress, an imperatrix uniting a beleagered fantasy land against an army of monsters. 

This fantasy land became the World of Ouroborous. 

I, Xian, former student of the Serpent Herself was born during this Project as part of Serena’s past. The Serpent was the intelligence behind the monsters. I turned against my master to save the world She threatened. 

Why shouldn’t we reinvent ourselves afterwards as Serena Jasior? Why shouldn’t we claim that same world as our prize and rule it? Just as we’re claiming Kyra Nevalyn.

This may seem sinister, but both the world and Kyra require guidance. Which is why I’m leaving Serena and the royal we behind. Once again I don the mask of Xian in order to earn Kyra’s trust. I needed to become a private individual to do so. Xian is a private individual and a private person. Serena Jasior is not. Sometimes I see them as two different people, even if they’re both roles I play. 

Hopefully we will get a chance to play both roles for you, dear readers, once the scribbler finishes A Suitor’s Challenge. 

W is Westerleigh

For every portrait of legend, there is a pair of worshipful eyes drinking in the legend, taking into their hearts and mind, giving it new life. 

Our scribbler has always been fasciated by movies, books, or TV series where a portait has mesmerized its viewers. When the mesmerization becomes the plot of the story, giving the portrait life, sometimes in an unearthly fashion. She herself wanted to write such a story. Only she didn’t want it to be a romance so much as an idealization, a veneration for the portrait’s subject. She has venerated many a person over the years, only to be disappointed herself.

Perhaps I’m an expression of that idealization and disappointment. Perhaps our scribbler is channeling some of those feelings into me in A Portrait is Worth a Thousand Words, making them a major part of a ghost story and a gothic vampire tale. I was originally going to be a gothic heroine, worshipping my idol, my ancestor Elizabeth Hartford, the subject of the portrait I’m mesmerized by. Only I evolved into a cross-dressing boy, pretending to be a long-lost Hartford heiress so Fiona will let me into Hartford Hall. Mine is an unveiling where Elizabeth’s spirt and I gradually reveal the truth to each other. 

Will we ever forgive each other for our deceptions? Especially when Elizabeth’s bloodthirsty corpse has risen from her grave without her spirit to stalk the one person dearest to me? 

Our scribbler finished a short version of A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words, but it didn’t tell the whole story. Not the story we were trying tell. I keep hoping our scribbler will steal the time to expand it, finding opportunities to flesh out the feelings waiting to be released inside us both. Pray that she will. 

V is for Vanessa

When the scribbler first imagined the relationship between the Lady Duessa and our delectable Damian, it was quite twisted. Yes, it was a sexual and emotional one where Duessa controlled him in every sense. Part of him enjoyed it, another part of him rebelled. Only the scribbler got soft and sentimental. She didn’t want to let Duessa become the monster she could have been, which she has sometimes been in times passed. When the Gardens of Arachne began to bloom in earnest in her imagination, so did Duessa’s ideals and her betrayal of those ideals. Yes, the garden was meant to be a softer place of gentler creatures, but she wanted Duessa herself to have a soft spot for Damian. This meant our Guardian of Gardens created a potential problem in the boy she raised as her nephew when she could have cultivated the perfect Marriage Feast. Damian became Duessa’s weakness, the male indulged as no other blossom in the Gardens. Even if other arachnocrats were warned by Duessa herself against indulging in such weaknesses for our male kin, lest they grow up to be men who would ravage and trample the Gardens. Duessa hid behind the title of being Damian’s aunt even though she’s not Damian’s aunt. Even though Damian is the very image of her former husband, my brother, the first Marriage Feast. 

Of course she’s in denial. This is where I came in. I was created to express that arachnocratic hunger, a hunger for Damian’s beauty and power. For if I were to devour him, I could challenge Duessa’s hold over the Gardens. 

I suppose this hunger may be something twisted within me, given how much Damian looks like my older brother. I don’t remember Stefan very well. I’ve chosen to forget life before the Gardens of Arachne. The Gardens are everything to me. I revere the rules Duessa chooses to flout when it’s convenient for her. I gave her Christopher who was like a brother to me as her Marriage Feast. Perhaps I can’t forgive Duessa for sparing Damian when she refused to spare Christopher. After the speech she made to me, to pressure me into giving Christopher to her. I revere the sanctuary the Gardens are supposed to be for women and the gentlest of boys. We arachocrats became monsters to protect that sanctuary. Why does Duessa and her family keep endangering that sanctuary by disregarding her own laws? 

Melyssa, Duessa’s daughter is perhaps worse. She keeps watching the other arachnocratic ladies with hungry eyes, not the blossoms. It’s against the whole order we’ve created in this Garden. Melyssa keeps calling me Van. It’s so much less dignified than Vanessa. I try so hard to be dignified, to keep up the air of an arachnocrat. To be worthy of the Garden. Only whenever Mel calls me Van, I get this strangely warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Not the sort of emotion one of the Spider’s should cultivate. 

Wait, did I just call Melyssa Mel?!

U is for Una

My very first origins came from the scribbler studying Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene in college. The names Una, Duessa, and Fidessa remained with her over the years, coming back in to strike in The Keep. 

No, I was never part of this Keep. I think the scribbler recalled another faerie named Una when she saw the sad, plain forms in comic books of faeries stripped of their glamour. Aspects of all of these came together when the scribbler first Blogged From AZ, becoming me. I emerged, the broken fae servant of Duessa Ashelocke with shredded wings. 

I wasn’t always this pathetic thing. Once I was a lovely lady with a handsome knight at my side. Once I shared a bed with Stefan Ashelocke himself. 

Duessa took all of that from me; my beauty, my knight, Stefan, and the beautiful baby boy we had. Don’t believe her or the scribbler when they try to show you it was my fault. Yes, Duessa was actually Stefan’s bride, but I knew and loved him long before she ever cast her muddy brown eyes on them. She used to have only one pair before she drained Stefan’s strength, becoming a monster. Don’t believe her when she says we would have killed Duessa and her infant daughter. The only way for Stefan to free of the shadows stalking him was to offer them a sacrifice in return. Don’t believe her when she says I destroyed my own wings trying to thrash my way out of her web. There wouldn’t have been a web if she hadn’t made a pact with Arachne. Perhaps my knight did abduct Dyvian from whatever home he had before I saw him, pointed out his beauty to Redcrysse. Yes, we gave him to Stefan as a gift, but he didn’t seem unhappy. Perhaps we were a bit cruel to him, but it was just a bit of fun. Duessa has no sense of humour. She never has. Both she and Vanessa took Redcrysse’s jokes far too seriously. None of this excuses what Duessa did. She’s hardly a tragic heroine, great predatory spider that she is. She simply got the better of us, but I may yet get the better of her. Just read Tales of the Navel and find out. 

T is for Troile

I was inspired by a mythological character named Troilus, but mine is a different tale to tell. I have another name in Aissa and Polyxena. When I don skirts and the guise of a woman, I become Polyxena of Troy. 

Does this shock you? Polyxena has become a Trojan princess of legends Achilles achieved as much passion for as he did her brother, Troilus. I have a secret to reveal, they’re both me. 

This secret dawned upon the scribbler when she realized Polyxena wasn’t in The Iliad. My Achaen, my mightiest of the Achaens, my Achille had another reason for withdrawing from the Trojan war, another motive for picking a fight with Agamemnon. It was me. Cressida or Briseis was the one who transformed me into Polyxena, dressing me as a woman so Achille and I could meet. 

You might say the contradictions in mythology inspired my story along with Achille’s. Our scribbler looked between those contradictions and found our story. Found how Ganymede, former prince of Troy and cupbearer of the gods sent me to the Isle of Scyros so Achille and I could meet. He himself was there in skirts, pretending to be Aissa. It was a disguise which wasn’t to last, but it inspired my own as Polyxena. 

Love in skirts, how different his feelings for me were than those he held for Patrocles! Not that the latter weren’t strong. I saw a very different side, a soft side of Achille, a side which perhaps playing Aissa brought out of him? For donning skirts and putting aside our manhood taught us things we might never have learned otherwise, bringing us close together. Even if we did clash with swords at the end. 

Only this is a tale waiting to be revised and told by our scribbler. May she finally find the time to tell it, of what truly happened between us. May our feelings finally be vindicated within this tale. I pray to the gods it shall be so. 

S is for Shelley

Three sources came together to create me.

One was our scribbler reading a collection of poems by the poet Shelley, followed by a couple of biographies. She was not only enchanted by both, but struck Shelley’s unreasoning fear of his father, a mystery which was never explained. She was also struck by Lord Godwin’s comment about the poet, “Ah, but he is beautiful! A pity he is evil!” Or something very similar to that. 

An interesting comment to make about the man who ran off with his daughter, a man who often came to his rescue when Lord Godwin was in debt. How complex emotions can be, even about those who are a danger to us…or our salvation. 

The residents of Paradise bow their heads every day to pale lords who drink their blood and life in the service of their Goddess. We’re expected to obey, but we’re terrified. Byron and I are rebels, regarded as evil, yet the pale lords covet us for our spirits, our creativity, the beauty they feel they can cultivate in us. Lord Ruthvyn seeks to cage us for all of these reasons in On the Other Side of the Mask. I don’t think he can forgive Byron or myself for the bond we’ve formed with each other, even as he drinks in our emotions, the sight of us. Perhaps we remind him of something he himself once lost. 

The legend of Shelley reached even me, a poor orphan who belonged our Lady of Paradise’s choir. The only thing I ever had was the right to choose my own name. I chose to be Shelley, to echo his rebel song in Paradise. The rebel song Byron and I sing together was inspired by one of his poems. We both choose our names to imbue some of the spirit of those who’d carried them before. 

The second source for me was a roleplaying game in which humans were kidnapped by the fae, trapped in their surreal world; escaping to find they were no longer human. They’d imbued some of the mad beauty of the cage they’d been imprisoned within. They could never escape, not completely. They could never know when they would be recaptured. 

This inspired our scribbler’s idea for Paradise, the enclosed city ruled by pale lords no one could escape. It also inspired Lord Ruthvyn’s estate, its labyrithine ways, its living art. The way reality itself doesn’t seem entirely solid on his grounds. Byron and I are not the first caged “songbirds” his lordship has kept in his home. The mystery of what happened to the others, a fate Byron and I could share is one of the mysteries we confront in On the Other Side of the Mask. 

The third source is what our scribbler read of Lord Ruthven in her world and the relationship he had with the poet Lord Byron. Byron loathed Ruthven, yet the two lords are often linked together due to Dr. Polidori’s The Vampyre. This inspired out host, a boy once very much like my Byron and myself. Only this boy lost his song. He seeks to find it again in Byron and myself. Who knows how many others he tried to find it in? Perhaps that song is the key to Lord Ruthvyn’s lost soul. Perhaps it is the key to opening the Gates of the Paradise we are trapped within. I hope so. Pray that Byron and I find a solution in our story. We’ve lingered in limbo for far too long. 

R is for Rhodry

I was the first. The scribbler’s first character to emerge from a roleplaying game. 

I’d been in many. A table-top campaign and one-shots, inspiring fanfic on the part of our scribbler. Years later, I and my entire family were revised and transported to The Keep; an interactive writing/online roleplaying project. House Mavelyne went from being a noble family of blood mages to a branch in a powerful dynasty, entwining itself with other player’s noble houses and bloodlines. Ours was ruled and guided by a single vampire against Unicorn clerics and a dragon enemy (created and controlled by another player). Caught in the middle, I became one of several youths who took place in the Keep’s Library, a neutral institution. At The Keep, I became Rhodry Mavelyne.

Yes, that’s where our scribbler’s nickname and handle, rhodrymavelyne comes from. It comes from me. Once upon a time, I was a major part of her life. 

Sadly that has changed when I changed again. 

I’ve transformed into Rhodry Nevalyn, one of the Serpent-Born descendents of Nevalyn herself in Trouble at Caerac Keep. Our story is a fantasy mystery work in progress, taking place in the Worlds of Ouroborous centuries after A Suitor’s Challenge. Some of my original conception has been revised, including a special familar. Our scribbler is revising some of her oldest materal for this project. 

The problem is I have to compete with Christopher and Tales of the Navel for her attention. Christopher took Danyel, Tayel (who used to be Dayel), and Leiwell away from me, making them part of his Shadow Forest. I can’t help being resentful of that. His story took on a deeper meaning for the scribbler. Mine isn’t nearly as strange or complex. 

Not that it’s all bad. I have companions in Trouble at Caerac Keep I didn’t. Only I don’t trust them. They don’t trust me either. At least one of them despises me. It’s hard not to miss The Keep sometimes. It’s hard when my story keeps getting put aside. At least I know the scribbler won’t forget Trouble at Caerac Keep or me. 

Q is for Questioning

Someone like me was always part of Kyra’s story, Daeric’s story, and the Serpent’s story. Someone as old as the Serpent Herself, old enough to advise Kyra as she matured into the fantasy story which would become the work in progress; A Suitor’s Challenge.

I snapped into focus when our scribbler first Blogged From AZ, right after she came up with the title A Suitor’s Challenge for Kyra’s story. I became not only Kyra and Stefan’s mentor, but instrumental in the overthrow of the Dragon and the rise of the Unicorn. The Unicorn’s power was the one thing which could counter Nevalyn, Serena, and Zenobia’s ambitions, checking them. She seemed stronger and less morally ambiguous than the Dragon or the World Serpent, more likely to champion the innocent. There was a terrible judgmental cruelty underlying her protectiveness, leading the world to feel the stamp of her hooves and the painful thrust of her horn. I feel guilty thinking of the Unicorn. Her conviction was the answer to my questions and I was questioning everything. I abandoned my former name and chose this one. I stopped pretending to be a human woman, allowing myself to become myself. At the same time I didn’t know what that self was or what I believed in. All I am certain of is that I want Kyra to win in A Suitor’s Challenge. Pray that she and I succeed.