And here is the final part of this freebie story for The Players Are the Thing. Thank you for the inspiration, P.T. Wyant!
Fidessa played with a long, curling lock of hair the shade of amber wine, raising it to her lips. “Why did you leave me? We were perfect.”
“Passion of a lifetime.” Amber’s words would have been arch and flip if they hadn’t been laced with heartache. “Some things passion can’t ignore.”
“What, the angry spirits attracted to your artist’s work by my curses?” ‘Dessa pouted a little. “None of those statues would have turned into monsters if she’d been more careful.”
“How was Isolde supposed to be careful?” Amber pulled away, feeling the old anger which made her pull away to begin with. “She knew nothing of magic or the power she was shaping with her hands. She had no idea what she was up against. Nor did her buyers.”
“It’s not like I knew it would get that bad,” Fidessa fiddled with her rings, biting her lower lip.
It wasn’t a guilty expression. Amber recognized that particular quaver from the moment their relationship started to fall apart. It was an angry one. A jealous one.
“None of those statues would have turned into monsters if you hadn’t planned it.” Amber slid out of bed, gazing at her clothes lying on the floor.
She didn’t reach for them. Not yet.
“I didn’t like the way that artist looked at you,” ‘Dessa lowered her eyelashes, almost growling the words. “Even worse was the way you looked at her.”
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed,” Beatrix muttered against Rhane’s cheek. “The way Mona looks at you.”
“Jealous?” Rhane surprised herself with the archness of her tone as she nestled against Beatrix. It was wonderful to talk to her again. To hear her lover’s voice without the sarcastic edge.
Once it had been witty, verging upon charming. Only that edge did its best to cut everyone, including Rhane.
“Annoyed. Annoyed that she’s so pushy, yet backs off whenever I say anything about it.” Beatrix sighed. “You’re not helping, encouraging this romance between Amber and Isolde.”
“Amber and Isolde have a very good relationship. A solid friendship with a certain amount of unresolved sexual tension.” Rhane sighed. “I feel it when I’m playing Amber, but I don’t feel it for Mona.”
“I’m not sure if she realizes that.” Beatrix heaved a huge sigh. “You know she and I had something. A long time ago.”
“Really?” Rhane gave her a sideways glance. “I’m surprised it’s not you she’s looking for excuses to touch all the time.”
“She’s too intimidated by me.” Beatrix turned luminous dark eyes upon the ceiling. “I guess being in my game was her way of being close to me, but I thought she enjoyed playing.”
“She did. We all did.” Rhane forced herself to find the courage to say the next part. “We did until you stopped enjoying it.”
Beatrix stiffened, lips twisting until she let out a sigh. “Was it that obvious?”
“You kept trying to push the plot. You stopped listening to us, giving us time to roleplay.”
Rhane pressed her lips to her lover’s chest to soften the blow. “You keep running the game, but it’s like you’re going through the motions.”
Beatrix shut her eyes. “What do I do? I used to love this game. I don’t want to stop. I want to love it again.”
Rhane took a deep breath, lifting her head a little higher. “Try to remember why you loved it. Maybe you should, err, cleanse your dice while you do?”
“Cleanse my dice?” Beatrix opened her eyes to give her a sardonic squint. “You think my dice are cursed?”
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Rhane coaxed. “Think of it as a psychological exercise. Something to refresh yourself.”
Beatrix released a breath in a half-laugh. “Maybe you’re right.”
“Is that what you’re up to, Amber?” Never had ‘Dessa’s voice been more menacing. “Trying to warn your little player and her fool of a gamemaster about the dice I’ve imbued with my power?”
Amber froze, trembling a little at that tone. “It’s not right. They created us, Fidessa, in order to enjoy themselves. To help work out some of what’s troubling them through roleplaying. Is that so bad?”
“They made us their toys!” Fidessa rose from her bed, pulling the purple covers around her, eyes flashing. “Toys in a game for their amusement! Just who does that arrogant girl think she is?”
In the anger was a vulnerability, a weakness. If Fidessa was Beatrix’s creation, she shared some of her heart, her dreams. Her vulnerabilities. She was a reaction to them.
Just as Amber was to Rhane’s. What made Rhane precious to Amber offended Fidessa.
“A lover.” Amber met her lover’s eyes, trying to connect with whatever they had which had just brought them together. “A lover who was losing hers and trying to get her back.”
For a moment something which might have been sympathy flickered in ‘Dessa’s beautiful eyes. It vanished the next moment, consumed by fury.
“My existence, my feelings for you are a mockery to her. Something to amuse herself with.” Fidessa rose to her full height, towering over Amber. “Maybe you can forgive her, but I never shall.”
“What are you going to do?” Amberwyne tensed, aware she was naked, not carrying any weapons. She could call upon magic, but this was ‘Dessa’s tower. She’d have the advantage.
“Why would I ruin the surprise?” The enchantress offered her a smile which was pure mockery. “Especially since you seem intent on protecting that gamemaster and her players.”
Amber reached down to pick up her clothing. “What if I offered to stay if you promised not to harm them?”
For a moment, ‘Dessa stared at her. “They mean that much to you?”
Too late did Amber realize her mistake. Her lover was biting her lip, a lip trembling with angry jealousy.
“They’re our creators.” Amber fumbled for the right words to convince ‘Dessa to stay her hand. “They’re part of us. Please, ‘Dessa. Hurt them and you hurt us.”
“Oh, I’ve only just begun,” Fidessa hissed. “I’ll need to become especially creative, considering how special these girls are to you.” She make a mocking bow of her head. “To us.”
“‘Dessa-“ Amberwyne tried again, reaching out for the other woman. “Please-“
“Get out.” Fidessa turned her back. “Get dressed and go. Never plead with me again. Not unless you’re truly willing to come back.”
“And what does that mean?” Amberwyne picked up her clothes, hugging them to her chest.
“The very fact that you’re asking means you’re not ready.” The enchantress stood stiff and rigid. “You still have other things you value more. Like that artist. Like those girls.”
“‘Dessa, those girls and their happiness are tied to us!” Amber tried one last time. “If we hurt them, we hurt ourselves.”
“We’ll see.” Fidessa tightened the velvet spread around her. “We’ll just see about that.”