I am Shelley, long-neglected character in a Work in Progress called On the Other Side of the Mask. Trapped in Paradise, the city of the Goddess, guarded by the lands of the Pale Lords, cut off from the outside world are we, yet word of that world trickled in, along with the magic and energy of their poets and artists. To seize a little of that magic for ourselves, Byron and I chose names from a couple of poets who were champions of freedom. The power of that magic surges through us, a might capable of challenging Paradise. First Byron and I were put in the Cathedral Choir, later we were given to a Pale Lord to be tamed. Now we struggle within the mad labyrinth of this estate, which plays tricks on our minds, seeking to seduce us. Byron and I must believe in our own strength, for we are only as strong as we believe ourselves to be. Nor are our captors as lost to human sympathy as they think themselves. As they seek to make us their, we must remind them of that humanity. Kindness and a clear mind will enable us to see without self-doubt, to truly find our way out of this place. Once Lord Ruthvyn is no longer a monster, he shall cease to be our predatory captor. We must reawaken the man we once was at every opportunity, even as he attempts to cage us, transforming us into his trapped songbirds. It will not be easy as our rage rises at his attempts to steal our freedom. Rage is one more thing we must strive to control together. I hope Byron understands this.
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Pausania is going to interrupt Phaedra where she left off last week in A Symposium in Space…
“Once again, you’re showing your naiveté, your complete lack of any galactic sensibility.” Pausania glanced upward at the ceiling. Perhaps she was asking the ancient goddesses to give her strength. “There’s only one Agathea. No one else can use her name without incurring a fine as epic as her tragedies.” She smacked her slim hand against her forehead.
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Hello? Is there a light shining in this hole in Cauldron where I’ve been trapped so long? This is where the scribbler forgot me. If Quartz thinks he’s having a difficult time in that crystal coffin, he should see what it’s like to be truly forgotten. No, this is not part of my character conflict in Trouble at Caerac Keep. Nor is this where I lived at the story. Quite the opposite, I used to be in the top of Daeric Nevalyn’s tower at the edge of the Keep. No, he didn’t keep me prisoner! I was his student, his ward. I lost my parents when I was quite young. Daeric took me in, became my father and my ward. Yes, he was actually my father in another universe. He isn’t in this one. At least I don’t think he is, although we look very much alike. For years, he was the only family I had, until I found Kyra. I felt safe in Daeric’s tower, certainly safer than I’ve ever been in Caerac Keep. Only Daeric disappeared. The tower no longer feels safe. Happily Kyra revealed herself in the form of a tiny dragon, warning me of perils to come. I’ve kept her hidden thus far. I’ve been asked by Lord William, Earl of Caerac to investigate his Keep along with a strange group of younglings my age. Most of them make me very uncomfortable, yet working with them is important. Daeric isn’t the only one who’s disappeared. People are going missing, including ones close to individuals in my little team of investigators. There’s a rumour that it’s the Vampire Corwyth responsible for the disappearances. He’s risen from his chained crypt to create an army of the undead to take his revenge upon his former friend, Caerac’s Keep. I don’t wish to believe this, yet I know better than to doubt tales of vampirism. I’ve been having dreams, dreams of a mysterious youth who comes to me at night, leaving me in a languid state of exhaustion. There are now two tiny red holes on my neck and on my inner thigh. I’ve seen those marks on other people in the Keep. I’m familiar enough with the legends to recognize the signs of a vampire bite. There is at least one in Caerac Keep, perhaps more. What if vampires are responsible for the disappearances? It doesn’t help that I’ve enjoyed these strange dreams or that I feel like I’m falling for my nocturnal visitor. What if he’s responsible for Daeric’s disappearance? I can’t tell my companions about this. I neither know them well enough or trust them with this secret, yet I need to talk to someone. I fear what Faith would do if she found out. She’s an extremist and already dislikes me for being Serpent-Born. Ariadne doesn’t take me seriously because I’m male. This leaves Varwyth or Ansel. I’m not sure if I wish to confide in either of them about my dreams. Ansel is too young and Varywth, well, there’s something about Varwyth which raises the hairs on the back of my arm. Not that he isn’t fascinating, but is he someone I can trust? I’ll have to wait and see. While doing so, I’ll administer the elixir Daeric concocted to those with the same mark as myself. I’ll talk to people, find out what they know, do my best to investigate the disappearances. Find out of it’s really a vampire behind all of this. I don’t want it to be a vampire. I really don’t want it to be my vampire. I have no proof of this. Why are some people going missing and others are being bitten? If this vampire goal was to build an undead army, wouldn’t he take everybody? Or some being chosen for immortality and others are just food? Why was Ariadne and her missing sister having strange dreams? How did vampires managed to defeat a Point on the Horn of the Unicorn, such as Hope? Her power is supposed to be very effective against the undead? For that matter, how did anyone manage to abduct Daeric from his own tower? All these questions point to a formidable foe with some sort of holy magic. This means our enemy is a cleric or a paladin. I’ve got to find something to back up my suspicions. I wonder if I could question my nightly visitor, ask him directly if he has anything to do with the disappearances? I wonder what he’d say. Would he tell me if he was? Probably not.
Once I went by the name of Magdalene. Once I was an advisor to queens and a friend to sorcerers as we struggled against the Shadow of the Serpent. Not anymore. I am no longer sure of my former self, her gender, the Order of the Dragon, and the course of action I dedicated myself to long ago. I encouraged Daeric Nevalyn in his rebellion against his mother, his liason with Padraig. I persuaded Xian, Nevalyn’s ambitious protege to plot against her master. Daeric and Padraig fell in love, bringing their powers together with mine to block the Serpent. Xian united the fractious queendoms, including the power-hungry Zenobia of Kalanthia against Nevalyn. We succeeded in banishing our enemy, locking her in a mystical prison or so we thought. Nevalyn had a way of returning. She always had a way of returning. It’s frightening how much Kyra looks like Nevalyn. Ever as a child, the likeness was clear, a likeness more than skin deep. A fragment of Nevalyn’s power, of her consciousness lived on in the little girl. Yet there was so much more to Kyra than just being Serpent-Born. She was kind, impulsive in her need to help others. There was a potential for so much good in this child. The same was true for Stefan, the other Serpent-Born I ended up caring for. Stefan was so like Daeric. I guessed that Daeryth, Daeric’s twin did not die without issue. Both of them ended up as foundlings at the Dragon shrine I taught at. Only Stefan disappeared. The Sister of the shrine grieved, only to say that children such as these often led short lives. There was no attempt to find him. I would have done something, only the shrine was raided by paladins of the Order of the Dragon not long after Stefan went missing. Being golden-haired marked Kyra as Serpent-Born which made her the property of the Imperatrix. The little girl was taken away with a slave collar designed especially by Zenobia’s artisans. I tried to stop them, but these Dragons were ready for my resistance. I barely avoided getting collared myself, managing to escape, yet failing to take Kyra with me. Not that I was about to leave her in Xian, now Imperatrix Serena Jasior’s hands. I contacted an old ally of mine, Peregrine. With her help, we managed to free Kyra from the Dragons. Kyra and I have lived in the shadows since. Only Kyra decided to step out of them when she saw Prince Stephen Jasior fighting a duel in the ring against a hapless enchantress who would win his hand in marriage. All part of A Suitor’s Challenge, which Kyra has decided to take on, especially when she recognized the prince as our lost Stefan. Now we’re up to our ears in intrigue. I dislike what I’ve seen of the Order of the Dragon which I helped form, the direction it is going in. Its temples are too rich, its members are corrupt, and more willing to enslave or force anyone with enough magic to serve them. They’re becoming as bad as the Serpent herself. Not to mention Xian and Zenobia have let power go to their heads. It may be time to interfere in the world again, to contact old allies, and to do something about the current state of Ouroborous. The Dragon help us all if we’re forced to act.
Where am I? Who am I? Everything has been confused since I opened a Door and started following a path through the Shadow Forest. I came here to search for Damian Ashelocke. I didn’t really want to find him, but Christopher and Gabrielle needed him. Perhaps this was part of the problem. I never wanted to find Damian myself. Juno, Gryluxx, and Hebe, they just wanted Christopher to open a Door. I came along with him to protect him. Only I made a right mess of that particular task. At some point in his story, Stealing Myself From Shadows, I was separated from Christopher. I’ve been trying to find him. Only someone else, something else found me. I changed afterwards. I lost…something. I can’t really say anything more. I’m still out there, wanting to be found, yet someone already found me. Nothing will ever be the same.
We are Ouroborous, the core of a world unheeded by those who walk upon our scales, thinking it is the the earth beneath their feet. We are the coiled serpent within the ground, yet we are the foundations of that ground, the soul lurking within it. Our people’s conflict is our conflict. Their suffering is ours. A girl once broke off a piece of us, reshaped it in her image. Yes, Nevalyn is part of us now, yet she was always part of us, just as her son is or anyone who lives within our grasp. We are Omphalos, waiting for everyone in the darkness within our encircled form. Our people tear us apart as they rip at each. It’s a serpent’s nature to swallow our prey, which sickens many of our life forms, yet they sicken us as well with their behaviour at times. Yet if they’re part of us, their sickness is ours as well. We sicken, nurture, and destroy as part of our cycle. We change depending on the various perceptions our people have of us. We exist long before all other life forms died out. We were the Goddess’s Firstborn, the Dragon was our child before She decided to purify Herself and stamp us out. She changes, too, even as we change. We all circle each other, part of a never-ending myth which keeps changing. In some form or the other, we always exist. We conflict with the agents of our creatrix, yet they are as much a part of us as they are of Her. We are often demonized. We are more than a demon, we are part of eternity, yet we are less in the eyes of those who perceive us. We are the legend, which is reinvented in the mind of our children. Always we endure.
Once my shadow spread across every land, yet I was born mortal, sensing I was meant to be so much more. I made the most of my frail flesh, breaking of a fragment of the World Serpent and making it part of me. Only I got sentimental. I shared my power with my apprentices. They in turn got greedy. One dared to set herself up Imperatrix, uniting all of the frightened little queens in an alliance against me. Xian thought she’d vanquished me. All she defeated was my mortal form, banishing me. Ah, my dear, I always had a way back through my own flesh and blood, whom you willingly wedded. Once again, you got greedy. Instead of killing or sealing away my descendants, you sought to make them your tools of magic, your Imperial slaves. Did you think that little collar you and Zenobia worked so hard on could stop them, let alone me? Through the Serpent-Born, my power lives on. Through them, I can return. Just consider that, my dear traitor as you tremble on your throne, filled with stolen power and vitality. I will return. And when I do, I will suck the life force from you and all of your tools. Just watch and sleep the sleep of the hunted. I shall return.