By: Anthony DiPalma
He wore a crown he stole from his brother,
And he sat on his throne of blood and bone.
He torched all their homes, hovels, and holdfasts,
And he put all our heroes to the sword.
The villain knew exactly what he was,
And he knew exactly why he was born.
Black cloaks and black blades and black prophecies,
A false king to serve the will of his god.
He was written to deliver terror,
And fear to test the strength of the hero.
A two-dimensional antagonist,
Born on the commuter rail to Boston.
He had men to kill and speeches to give,
He was hardly sympathetic at first.
Then, halfway through the creative process,
He died because the writer changed his mind.
Joric never imagined he would set foot inside Sybille von Ellrich’s estate.
Lowborn men like him did not have a place among the nobility, he knew, yet still he marveled at the sight before him. Lady Sybille’s ballroom was lit bright by three great glass chandeliers hanging overhead, each holding a dozen candles that shone like gleaming stars. Beneath the vaulted ceiling sat massive tables piled with enough strawberry tart and honeycakes to feed an army, too. Surrounding him were alabaster walls covered in rich oil paintings worth more than enough coin to pay for his own ship. Then, as if Joric had not already been tempted by the splendor before him, it was said that Sybille von Ellrich’s basement held over a thousand coffers stuffed with gold and gems. And it would all be his the moment he cut her throat.
Hugo hated the tavern.
It was loud, filthy, and the air lingered with a musty aroma of piss and bitter ale. The drinks were cheap and the women cheaper, but neither the drinks nor the women were worth his time. The wooden floorboards were softened with rot and droplets of water dripped from the dampened rooftop. Despite its poor condition, the tavern was bursting at the seams with all sorts of people. They danced and sang until their feet went numb and their throats went dry. Hugo would not partake in such festivities. His head was pounding harder than the drums in the far corner of the room. He should have known it would be like this. Even these festering holes were always packed on the advent of the capital’s Nine Feast Days.
Down in the deep, the dead kings dreamt.
Jenora knew they should not have been there. It was cold and dark in the tomb under the mountain, but at least the timeworn caverns sheltered them from the summer storms. Outside, raindrops drummed against ancient steps of sand and stone while lightning split open the skies. War horns of thunder sang their song to all who would listen. Gusts of wind howled and screamed, as if nature itself was begging them to turn back from the shadows ahead….
Bethany used to read stories every night.
Long stories, short stories, novels, verses, fables, folk tales, all. She played the characters, too. Sea captains spoke with surly speech and courtly ladies had lovely little lilts in their voices. Every evening she came to the attic where I stayed and every evening she brought a different book. Father allowed it, but our uncle certainly had some objections. He called it a slippery slope. He felt that if I knew how to read, I would learn how to write, and if I knew how to write, I would learn how to leave pieces of myself for the world to see. This would cause people to ask questions. “The wrong sort of questions,” he would say. The sort of questions that angry mobs tend to only answer with pitchforks and fire.