Z is for Zenobia

A Suitor’s Challenge is nothing for Zenobia, Empress of Kalanthia. Did we not forge the chain which bound Nevalyn herself, giving Serena Jasior the opportunity to become Imperatrix? Wooing one little Serpent-Born prince is nothing, even if Serena holds him close to her breast. She ought to remember to whom she owes her throne. Any rivals are nothing to us. We are more powerful than them all. We shall win this challenge. We are the true Imperatrix. Once Stephen Jasior is ours, we will be the only Imperatrix. No Serpent-Born girl is going to stop us, no matter how powerful or charming she might be. She is just one more thing Serena has which should be ours. We will not be denied what is ours. No one can stand against us for long. 

Advertisement

Y is for Yuri

I’ve tried to warn Westerleigh many times. His obsession with Elizabeth Hartford is heartbreakingly dangerous. I ought to know. I’ve read my ancestor’s journals. Judith Cross was just as obsessed. I don’t want ‘Leigh to suffer the same fate she did, but A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. Judith fell under its spell while painting it. Westerleigh seems to suffer from the same spell. All of the passion Judith poured into capturing her lover’s soul on canvas seems to be a kind of magic. Can love separate a spirit from a body? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, seeing Elizabeth Hartford in my dreams. I even thought I saw her at my window. Her face seems different. Empty. Hungry for something she can’t find. I doubt she’s looking for me. I fear what will happen if she finds Westerleigh. If something of her spirit lingers about Hartford Hall. 

It would be a dream come true if ‘Leigh could find her, connect with her. I just hope it doesn’t turn into a nightmare. 

X is for Xian

Once I was Xian before We became Serena Jasior. Once I was a fearful servant at the maw of the Serpent, worshipping Her glory. We took some of that terrible glory into Ourselves, uniting the lands in an empire against the Serpent. We became those lands’s Imperatrix, their weapon against Her. 

Now We seek weapons, human tools of Our own among the Serpent-Born. We hold them to Our breast even when they may bite Us. We become Xian once more to earn a tender young Serpent Born’s trust when she faces A Suitor’s Challenge. This challenge will devour her before she even steps into the arena to confront what burns within our Stephen’s eyes. She needs Xian to navigate those perils and We need her. 

Thus We…I…become Xian again. Remembering what it was like to singular and small. Remembering what it was like to struggle and hope. 

It’s both frustrating and intoxicating. It cannot last, yet can anything? We…I…simply hope to build what will endure for as long as it can. 

W is for Westerleigh

A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. Elizabeth Hartford’s mesmerizes me. Never have I forgotten the first time I met her painted gaze. It has haunted me ever since, whispering to me in my dreams. I found every scrap of writing Elizabeth consigned to paper as well as the journals of Judith Cross; Elizabeth’s lover and the artist who captured her on canvas. Yuri, Judith’s descendent has helped me find these. I’m convinced Elizabeth is calling me back, through Fiona, her mortal descendent, reaching out for her female kin. There’s one problem. I may be kin, but I’m not female. Fiona believes I am. What would she do if she knew the truth? Would I still be invited to Hartford Hall? Would a little deception hurt? I want so badly to go and I rather enjoy cross-dressing. Yuri feels I make a very pretty girl and is willing to help me dress the part. I’m more than willing to play gothic heroine in spite of Yuri’s warnings about the fate of such heroines. I just hope I don’t disappoint anyone. 

V is for Vanessa

Stealing Myself From Shadows, what a quaint concept. I took myself back from the hollow doll living in the tower. I became more than I ever could be as a mortal girl, a dependent of the tower’s master. I became arachnocrat. I don’t give A Godling for Your Thoughts? Why should I? I can drink your life, give you eternal beauty if you’re worth it. If you’re willing to be My Tool, My Treasure. Why do you spurn me? Why do you act like I treat your cousin badly? Silly pathetic pervert, why would I look twice at her when you are before me? All the beauty of the master of the tower shining within you, yet you, Damian, are destined to become my prey. No matter what godling Melyssa fancies she’s become, she’ll be caught in a Web of Inspiration when she returns. As will you. Only then will My Cusps Overfloweth when you both return to me. 

U is for Una

Stealing Myself From Shadows is impossible so I entrust my hopes, dreams, my revenge to others. One is particularly My Tool, My Treasure for he is the son Duessa Ashelocke stole from me in her avarice and appetite. Damian Ashelocke is the weapon capable of slicing through my enemy’s Web of Inspiration for all he wishes to be the spider at the center of it. Only when he does will My Cusps Overfloweth. Only then will Stefan Ashelocke, Redcrysse, and myself be avenged. 

T is for Troile

I am Troile, Trojan prince whose birth is under a cloud, a cloud which generates mistrust and a curious favor. 

He is Achille, the mightiest of the Achaens, bound by love, bound by honor, and driven by his passions. 

As men and warriors on opposite sides, there’s little change of those passions being anything other than lethal. Of the two of us being anything other than enemies. 

As Aissa and Polyxena we could become so much more. This is a time when the skirt may accomplish more than the sword. More than one life may depend upon our feminine wiles if we can learn to use them. For the gods themselves have gotten involved in our conflict. Might won’t be enough to shield us from their wrath, their whims. 

I’m going to need to get in touch with a part of myself most men dare not explore. Fortunately Cressida is here to help me find the Polyxena within Troile. As is Achille, who has already found the Aissa within him. 

S is for Shelley

On the Other Side of the Mask the true face of Paradise lies, wanting to lift its hidden beauty to the sun. This is why I sing, this is why Byron and I sing together. Let Lord Ruthvyn trap us in his mad estate, befuddling our wits in his labyrinth of art. Let his servants threaten us with a future of becoming inanimate parts of his collection. The song goes on, even when I lose my voice. It will bring light, thought, and will to even the sleepiest corners of Paradise. It’s something those corners cannot deny. For they belong to the light as much as to the darkness. We all do. 

R is for Rhodry

There’s Trouble at Caerac Keep. It’s taken my mentor and kin, Daeric Nevalyn away. It’s creeping up the walls, whispering in the wind. It’s spiriting people away, sucking the spirit right out of them, leaving them in a swoon. Just as it visits me nightly, sending me into a swoon of ecstacy I dare not speak of. It’s hatching out of an egg, whispering to me of A Suitor’s Challenge centuries ago, a trouble brewing before there was a Keep. 

I’m not sure if all of these troubles are linked or not. I’m going to find out, even if I have to work with companions who believe I’m evil, incapable, or some sort of snack. I just hope I can keep Kevin, the bartender at the Tipsy Hedgehog and the closest thing I have to a friend far from this trouble. For I fear trouble is coming for all of us. When it does, it’ll be wearing a very different shape than the one too many assume is its truth. 

Q is for Questioning

I’ve used names as if they were masks. Now I question them all as well as the people I thought I was. Who am I? What am I? More importantly what purpose do I serve in the World of Ouroborous?

I’ll help Kyra with A Suitor’s Challenge even thought I fear for her. My innocent students, Kyra and Stefan. They didn’t deserve to be swallowed by the Serpent, enslaved by the Dragons or a scheming Imperatrix. What point is there in power if it cannot protect those without it?

The Serpent in all Their ambiguous totality isn’t enough for Their people. The innocent need a champion, a god who’ll protect them and what’s pure in Ouroborous. Even if it leads to Trouble in Caerac Keep centuries later, even if fractures the world, the Dragons must be stopped. They shouldn’t be allowed to round up children, carrying them off in chains. They shouldn’t be able to stop those who remember from passing on their tales, giving the listeners a chance to think about them. 

The Dragons are almost as big a problem as the Serpent. Daeric Nevalyn is right. Something needs to check them as well as his eternal mother, slithering within the hearts of her brood. 

I agree with Daeric, yet I question what we’ll do to stop these forces. I’ve already given up a measure of my self and strength to do so, pouring what’s left into questions. Questioning is whom I am now. Questioning is what I’ll be.