Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pages from the Cthonique Library: Stone Chronicles

A history of the various kingdoms of the Fangs, telling of their respective rises, and declines, ending with the gradual creation of the two kingdoms that now exist, the Utgardi Stonefangs, and the Regni Ironfangs.  An entire chapter is given on the building of and flooding of Kitvekh, sacred city of the Trolls.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pages From The Cthonique Library: The Five Wives of Spenger of Hencsh.

A delightful little romp about a wealthy merchant and his debauched household.  Spenger of Hencsh, a man of great wealth and immense political power, uses it to achieve the satiation of his immediate desires, including by having his uncle, a prominent Abbot, granting him a dispensation to marry more than once.  Spenger starts out bad, and gets worse, growing ever coarser and more spiritually wretched as things progress, his household becoming a den of vice and wicked schemes.  The tale ends with his death, and his family's utter ruin.

The book is highly suppressed for its perceived loose morals.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 12

"We move now," declared Armida as she entered the main room, glancing around to see who was gathered there.  "Friend Porone--you have been invaluable throughout all this."

Porone gave a bow.  "As I live to serve your ladyship, these kind words are immeasurable..."

Armida smiled at that. "Don't be so thankful," she noted, as her hand went to a small bracelet kept on her other wrist.  "I'm afraid I have more to ask of you."

The fat Erl gave a bow. "Then ask it."

"Take Rhea to a safe and secure location," she stated.  "One that's far from here."

The younger companion turned to Armida in surprise.  "What?  I... I thought you wanted me to help with..."

Armida shook her head as she untied the bracelet.  "No.  This is... a gamble.  If we succeed--well, then our hopes and dreams for so long have been fulfilled.  If we do not..."  She coughed.  "Well, I wish to know that somewhere, something of us is left to take up the struggle."  She stared the younger woman in the face.  "Is this clear?"

Rhea bit her lip, and gave an unhappy nod, and then walked over to Porone's side.  She paused a moment, to look at her.  "I love you, mother."

Armida gave her an indulgent smile.  "You love entirely too many people, my dear," she noted.  Porone took Rhea and lead her by the hand from the house.

Tisiphone frowned.  "You are... truly worried, my lady," she whispered quietly.

"If Lord Mansemat and his crew have proven anything over the years it is that they have a knack for surviving the apparently impossible," replied Armida fiddling with the loosened strip of the bracelet.  "And frequently coming out stronger from them."  She smiled to herself.  "Still..." She raised her hand to the heavens and then snapped it down, that single strip having become a lash.  "That's true of me as well, isn't it?"

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 11

Falerina sipped the little cup of milk that been placed before her.  After a moment, she smiled.  "This is very good," she whispered.  She glanced up at Armida.  "Did you put honey in it?"

Armida gave the Dev a dull nod.  "Honey, and cloves, and a few other things.  I'm glad you liked it."  She peered at Falerina intently.  "So... tonight then?"

A slight and mocking smile came to Falerina's face.  "Mmmm-hmmm.  Castle Terribel is very old.  And Enkidu Cthonique put it up using old magic. It works by the old rules.  Oh, the rest of the family have added to it, but that's the core.  And the great days, the times of power... "  She took another sip of her milk.  "Well, it follows the rules, like anything else.  At midnight, the door opens.  All we have to do is go through it." 

"And Mansemat and the others?" asked Armida quietly.

Falerina giggled.  "They don't even know it's there."  She lay her left hand on the table, her fingers tapping out a happy little rhythm, while she sucked the crook of her right thumb.  "Not even Nisrioch and Morgaine, who think they're so smart.  But I found out.  Just like I found out all sorts of things about Mount Qaf.  Because everyone always ignores me, and forces me to keep busy, and I'm smarter than they realize, much, MUCH smarter, and I figure out ways to kill them."  She bit her lip, and then had another long gulp of her milk.

Armida nodded.  "Indeed. How difficult for you."

Falerina slammed her mug back onto the table. "I get by," she said.  "And then I get even.  First the Cthoniques.  Then the rest of the Necklace.  And then we finish off with my father, and my stupid sister."  She looked at Armida eagerly.  "Does that sound good?"

Armida managed a weary shrug.  "It sounds peachy to me, dear."  She glanced at Falerina.  "Enjoying your milk?"

Falerina nodded.  "As I said, it was yummy and good."  She began to raise her hand, only for it to begin to shake, and quaver.  As the Dev's eyes went wide with growing terror, it fell uselessly to her side.  She stared at Armida in shock.  "What... what did you do to me...?" Falerina whimpered.

"I drugged you, you imbecile," answered Armida flatly, looking Falerina in the eyes.  "Not too much, mind you.  Just enough to let me do this..."  Falerina grew stiff under the power of Armida's mismatched eyes.  "Right!" called out Armida.  "Come in!  I've got her under for now!"  A group of her women entered.  Two of them approached the Dev, while the others began paint symbols on the walls.   Falerina's face became a silent mask of rage as the two women stripped her of her jewelry. 

"Make sure you get it all," said Armida, keeping her eyes locked on Falerina's.  "Whatever her talents as a magician, in the end, our little friend's greatest gift is for keeping powerful charms and talismans on her person."  She glanced at the others.  "And make certain you get those wards up right.  I do not want this halfwit ruining things on one of her idiotic little rampages because she simply apported out of this..."

Falerina gulped slightly.  "Don't... don't be mean to me!" she whimpered. 

Armida gave a contemptuous snort.  "Well, it appears you do have a high natural resistance to poisons, darling," she said.  "I'd say I'm impressed, but really, I've lied to you enough over your stay, and frankly, I'm completely tired of it now."

"You still need me!" Falerina keened.  "You need a Cthonique for it to work!"

"But you're not even a real Cthonique," muttered one of the women.

"Marriage counts!" protested the Dev.  "It does!  I checked!"

Armida rolled her eyes.  "Let's just say we have an answer to that problem when it comes."  She chuckled.  "Truth be told, Ashurana, you never--"  She wrinkled her nose suddenly, and took a sniff.  "What... what is that smell?"

Falerina gave an ashamed pout.  "I... had an oopsie."  As Armida stared at her in a mixture of disgust and pity, the Dev bit her lip.  "I couldn't help it.  You were scary."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 10

Mansemat took a long whiff of the dish set before him, then glanced at Breus.  "Very nice.  Do I detect a a hint of raisins?  Cooked in rum?" 

"You might," answered the seneschal with a smile.

The Dark Lord grinned.  "Ahh.  It's so good to know that in peace and war, the great tradition of the midwinter pudding continues unabated."

Viviane rolled her eyes.  "Yes, Manny.  Pudding--the greatest thing in existence."

"Hey, don't knock it till you try it."  Morgaine slouched into the dining hall.  "Hey, guys.  Sorry if it's been awhile.  Been researching things.  By talking to dead people.  It's kind of intense in an awful way."

Viviane chuckled.  "Honestly, I'm just happy to see you haven't been plastered with cobwebs after so long."

Morgaine shrugged as she got into her seat.  "Ehhh... there were a few but I got them right off."

Viviane blinked.  "Ummm... wait, I was... joking... that was..."

"Yeah, but I'm a stationary object that's about room temperature," said Morgaine.  "Really, when you think about it, it's pretty obvious." She glanced at the pudding, and picked up her fork and knife.  "Oooh--do I smell rum raisins?"

"No pudding until everyone is here," stated Mansemat firmly.

Morgaine scowled and stuck out her tongue at him.  "You are mean."  She glanced away.  "By that measure we shouldn't eat until Nissy gets back, and he's across the river..."

Mansemat sighed.  "Just the family in the castle, who should be here..."   There was a sudden pop as Malina appeared, at which point Elaine and Antea entered through a side door.

"See," said Elaine.  "I told you this was the right way."

"I bow to your superior knowledge of this great Castle," said Antea respectively.

"Hey everyone!" said Malina cheery.  She sniffed.  "Ooooh!  Yummy pudding!"

"Indeed," said Antea, as she pulled up a seat.  "Is that... raisins that I smell?"

Viviane laughed.  "You are definitely all family."

"And that is the point of this gathering," said Mansemat.  "A reminder that we Cthoniques stick together.  And love our tasty, tasty midwinter puddings."

Breus nodded. "You want me to serve it, Your Magnificence?"

"Of course I do," said Mansemat.  "It's pudding.  With rum raisins, at that."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 9

A cold wind was blowing off the Murkenmere, making the banners of the Easter King in the camp down beneath the walls of Joyeuse flutter and wave so quickly it made the eye hurt to follow it.  Sacripant Fenswater shuddered and shivered, as he warmed his hands on the coals in the brazier before him.   "Glad you're not down there, I wager!" came a hearty voice.  The Marsh Erl turned to see Constans Mu standing nearby, a large furred muff on his hands.  Sacripant nodded.

"Well, yes, as then I'd be a prisoner of the Easter King," he said.

Constans chuckled at that.  "Oh, that would be terrible.  Those bastards are savages, through and through."

Sacripant shook his head.  "I always thought you people got along better than this..."

"Well, technically," noted the Sacristan, raising a finger, "most of them down there are your people.  Just all... converted into proper worshipers of the Holy Light and all that."  He shrugged.  "But really... well, you see how it is in Leonais.  And the Free Cities.  And... well, the Concordat is something else.  But the Easter Kingdom..."  He clicked his tongue.  "Nasty place. Wouldn't want to live there.  Makes nasty people."

Sacripant raised an eyebrow.  "You do realize that Justinian's from the East, right?"

"Breakers on the fringe," noted Constans.  "That's how we get people there.  Not like the real Easter Kingdom.  Farther in, it's wild.  Very unpleasant place."

Sacripant stood there blankly.  "I'm from the Accursed Marsh.  There are large portions of it that consider roads a fascinating, and revolutionary idea."

"Well, yeah," said Constans.  "They are.  Change everything.  A really good road is amazing.  Takes a lot to build, and some places, it's tough to do. Same way in the northern fens.  Ground's soggy, so we just use little footpaths.  And boats."  He glanced at the two fleets assembled in the river. "Little boats.  Not big ones like over there."

"You've never seen the ocean, have you?" asked Sacripant.

"Once, when I was very young," replied Constans.  "Very wet as I recall."

The Marsh Erl chuckled to himself.  "That's about right."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 8

Morgaine sat in her chamber, legs crossed, and eyes closed.  She sat as still as a corpse, which made sense, as this was what she more or less was.  She did not breathe, and the only sound was the buzzing of a single fly.

"Is this an actual attempt to impress me?" noted Nerghal.  "Because it isn't, you see."

Morgaine cracked an eye open.  "Nope.  Not thinking about you at all.  Or rather, I wasn't, until you started acting like a jackass."  She glanced around the room.  "Are you going to materialize, or am I going to keep talking to someone invisible while feeling crazy?"

"Oh, not simply feeling," said Nerghal, as he flickered into view.  "But as you are my favorite grandniece, I'll indulge you..."

"I suppose saying I'm your only grandniece is just being annoying," muttered Morgaine.

"Yes," said Nerghal.  "Also inaccurate.  A few of my older sisters had children of their own, after all."

Morgaine gave a frustrated groan.  "I hate our family tree.  It's so... annoyingly large.  Even with all the recently pruned branches."

The spectral figure shrugged. "Yes, well, one tries."

"It'd have been better if you hadn't," muttered Morgaine.

Nerghal stiffened at that.  "The family was in a bad way, in those days.  Oh, things were fine on the outside, but...  Shaddad came from somewhere, and it wasn't simply from me.  There was... a rot..."   He sighed.  "Oh, never mind.  I'm never sure if I'm telling the honest truth or simply feeding you my rationalizations.  Truth be told, I was a fool to think I was standing outside of it all when I did it."  He shook his head.  "Just another part of the badness, really."  He glanced at her again.  "So what are you doing then?"

"Research," she answered.  "About our mysterious cloaked friends on the other side of the river."

"You have to be more specific," said Nerghal.  "Most everyone on that side wears cloaks for some reason."  He frowned.  "I think it's the damp, really."

Morgaine stared at him for a moment.  "I meant the Stylites," she said at last.  "In case you really were puzzled.  And weren't just being an ass again."

Nerghal merely smiled at that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 7

Porone Belltower walked through the streets, wrapping his scarf around his throat.  It was late autumn, and the cold had reached Marsillion's Folly.  It was a hard cold, the kind you felt in your bones--the kind of cold that actually made Porone glad he'd gotten some weight on him over the years.  It is good insulation, after all, he thought with a shake of his head.  On the whole... I've done well for myself...

He could remember the boy he had been in the tower, small, weak and frail. But I had wits, I had luck, and I had the opportunity...

And that was what kept him in the Necklace, in the end.  That opportunity he'd been given.  That is how they bought my life.  They gave it to me.  That was what kept him spying on a sad old men like Astynax, who was only of interest because of the information the Chain of Gold sent to him gave an inkling of what they were planning.

We need them for their funds, he thought.  And their occasional bit of intelligence.  But damn it, they are a nuisance.  He scowled and stepped into Armida's.

Tisiphone was there, playing her lute as he walked in.  "Good evening, Friend Porone," she said, fingers dancing nimbly on the strings.

He nodded at her, realizing the foolishness of the gesture just as he did it, and went to warm himself by the fire.  "Good evening, Friend Tisiphone."  He glanced around the room.  "Where is everyone else?"

"Tending to our guest," answered the blind woman with a smile. 

Porone bit his lip. "Ahh."  He rubbed his hands as the fire warmed the chill out of them.  "The Chain of Gold still doesn't know about her," he stated after a moment.  "Or rather, they've said nothing of it to Astynax, and as it all flows to him anyway, that means they aren't planning to do anything in the near future."

"Very good," she said.  "And very soon, that will not matter."

Porone considered how to reply to that, and decided not to.  He sat himself down by the fire, and took a long breath.  "Is there any chance I could have a pot of wine?"

Tisiphone gave a smile.  "I've been warming some for you."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 6

"So, how goes the war?" asked Antea Cthonique, as she leaned on the battlements of Castle Terribel.

"Oh... you know," said Elaine.  "Like a war, I guess.  Bloody, and slow, and awful.  The damned Easter King is threatening to invade the bits of Leonais that went our way.  Because of some tangled complicated claim they have on the area that Pelleas has explained is utter nonsense."

Antea considered that.  "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?  He's the King of Leonais, after all."

"Well, yeah, but the Pescheours have been ruling Joyeuse for centuries!" she snapped.  "It's the capital of Leonais!  It's where the Peschours keep all their stuff!"

"You... seem to take this rather personally," noted Antea.

Elaine sighed.  "Well, they are my ancestors," she muttered.  "Even if they came to me through the awful ball of evil that is Amfortas."  She spat at the mention of the Prince's name.  "And most of them were actually pretty neat.  Do you know they hated the Holy Emperors as much as any Nightfolk did?"  She pointed emphatically.  "I mean--one of them actually kept the skull of the general they sent to get his submission on the walls of Corbenic.  And would point to it whenever they sent another guy to make them submit."

Antea looked at her intrigued.  "What happened to it?  The... skull.  To be perfectly clear."

"His grandson lost it playing dice," replied Elaine.  Antea's rainbow-hued eyes went wide.  "My very early ancestors tended to be cash-poor.  And exceedingly fond of gambling."

"I would say that keeping the skull on the walls would suggest that in the first place," noted Antea.

Elaine considered that.  "Yeah, they were crazy bastards. Only in a good way, instead of a creepy evil way."

"Ahh.  I have a few Ashurana ancestors like that," noted Antea.  She frowned slightly, as she considered things.    "A very few, really."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 5

"There's my little girl!" said Viviane cheerfully, as she wrapped her arms around Malina. 

The little Dev rested her head on her stepmother's shoulder.  "I missed you, Mommy Viv!"

"Mmmm, you're getting so big," muttered Viviane cheerfully.  She glanced at Meg Mowton, seated nearby.  "So, how was...?"

"Very good, Badb," answered the older witch.  "It's been a pleasure and a honor to care for your daughter by adoption."

"Well, thanks, Meg," said Viviane, as she let Malina go, "and naturally, I thank you for taking care of Malina's education in this long and difficult time..."

"Oh, she's been really, really good at it!" said Malina cheerfully.  "I'm much gooder at using spells than I was before!  And she's shown me all sorts of neat tricks!  Like this one!"  She clapped her hands together.  A large gust of wind blew through the hall, creating a twirling vortex in room's center.  It began to make a loud howling noise that sounded like several hundred people screaming.  Malina grinned broadly at Viviane.  "Isn't it wonderfuller?" she shouted. "I actually made it louder than what Meg taught me to do!"

Viviane forced on a grin.  "That's... sure something."  She glared at Meg who smiled broadly back at her.  "Could you maybe... make it stop, perhaps?"

"Only when it wants to stop!" said Malina cheerfully.  After a few minutes, the vortex gradually began to weaken and grow quiet.

Viviane's eyes went wide.  "Ahh, that's..."  She coughed as the thing finally went silent.  "...Something..."

Malina nodded enthusiastically.  "I can't wait to show it to Daddy!"

"Mmm... hmmm."  Viviane spread her arms.  "Now, who wants another hug?"

"Oooh!  Oooh!  I do!  I do!"  said Malina turning to embrace her stepmother again.  Viviane smiled, and then fixed her eyes on Meg Mowton in the proper du Lac fashion.

After a moment, the older witch stood up and left the room.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 4

Porone Belltower stared at the old man, who stared at the little cube-like treat before him suspiciously.  "So... what did you say this is again?" muttered Astynax quietly, resting his head on the table.

"Locoum," replied Porone, trying to suppress an urge give his leg a kick to keep it from going to sleep.  "It's from Albracca."  He looked at the old man hopefully.  "I got a whole crate of it with my wine shipment last month."

Astynax had picked up the cube and was eyeing it from various angles.  "Hmmm.  Albracca.  A decadent city, you know.  Very decadent.  If you understand me."  He favored Porone with an exagerrated wink that made the merchant wish he hadn't.  "I visited in my youth with some cousins.  Oh, we had a merry season, we did!"

"I can imagine," said Porone.  "After all, I've been to Albracca on numerous occasions.  Though not with my cousins."

Astynax had brought the locoum to his nose and sniffed it.  "Not with your cousins?" he noted absently.  "Why you should, sir, you should.  They would like it.  My cousins enjoyed our trip.  And where are they now.  Dead!  Dead and dirt!   All I've left is memories."  He gave a mournful sigh, and popped the locoum into his mouth.   After taking a chew, he gave a surprised smile.  "I say!  This is rose candy! Why didn't you say so?"  His eyes shut in rapturous delight.  "Why, my father used to bring it to us, when he returned from trips abroad.  Ahh, happy days.  Happy days."  He peered at the merchant suddenly.  "Do you have anymore?"

"A great amount," noted Porone.  "I'll send it to you.  As a gift."

"Very generous.  Very generous."  Astynax turned back to his papers.  "I will mention this in my report to the First Link.  The Pendant will be most pleased.  I'm always saying, Friend Belltower may be of low birth, but he is of high quality.  High quality, sir."

Porone did his best to indicate pleasure at the old man's comments.  "They've been rather quiet lately," he said softly.

""Who's been quiet?" asekd Astynax, glancing around the room as if looking for the undisclosed participant in their conversation.

"The Pendant," answered Porone.

Astynax settled down.  "Oh, oh, yes.  Well, you know, Friend Belltower, the war, and all that.  It makes things... odd, you know.  Very odd."  The old man brought his hand to his chin and mused on this.  "Do you have anymore rose candy?"

"Not on me at this moment, Friend Astynax," said Porone with a sigh.

Astynax nodded.  "What about some spirits?"

"Such as the bottle I already gave you?"  Porone gestured to the tall, full bottle that lay at the old Magnate's elbow.

"Oh, yes," said Astynax with a broad smile.  "Well, anyway, Friend--there are great things afoot.  Of that much I am sure."

"They've told you that?" asked Porone.

Astynax's face went through a rapid series of expressions that Belltower had a hard time classifying.  "Well, no, not really.  It is more... something that one feels.  In the air." 

"Of course," said Porone with a dull nod.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 3

Snow was falling in Monfort as Nisrioch made his way through the streets, the Duke by his side.  He glanced at  the brightly colored banners hanging from walls and windows. "Oh, yes, there are all sorts of harvest festivals going on back home now," he noted.   He turned to regard the Duke.  "Of course, we rarely have this sort of decorations.  Symbols of your faith, yes?"

Gurnemanz nodded. "The staff of Ramiel, in his aspect as the Rain-giver, and the sickle of Sofiel, as well as the  horn of plenty of Saint Kore," he declared.  "Great and holy symbols of life and the harvest."

"And what's that?" asked Nisrioch pointing to a large image that looked like a little huge-headed man with an acorn cap for a hat.

"The Harvest Hob," muttered Gurnemanz, looking away embarassingly.  "He brings gifts and sweetmeats for all good boys and girls during the Harvest Festival."

"How charming!" said Nisrioch.  He glanced around.  "And look--they've put images of him everywhere!  It's so strangely delightful..."

"It is a crass debasement of this holy day!" proclaimed Gurnemanz.  "For goodness sake, in my day, we remembered it was the gods we celebrated on the Harvest Festival, not some strange little freak distributing candy!  We'd sing grave songs, drink wassail, and pray!"

Nisrioch blinked.  "What's wassail?"

"It's a drink of hot cider, mixed with mead, and spices!" said Gurnemanz.  "It is not only tasty, but healthful, warming the drinker, and filling him with good fellowship."  He shook his head.  "At least, if it's well-made it is.  But no one mixes it right these days!  No one!"

"That is too bad," said Nisrioch quietly.

Gurnemanz narrowed his eyes. "You're humoring me, aren't you?"  He pouted. "I tell you, I get this from my wife, my elder sons, and my grandchildren!  And now you!" He sighed and shook his head.

"I am not!" said Nisrioch.  "I am completely sincere.  It is always a tragedy when a fine tradition passes away.  Especially one involving tasty, alcoholic drinks."  He sighed.  "So, so tragic."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 2

"You know, if I had a choice, I'd never leave this place," said Mansemat quietly, as he gazed out the window.

"Well, then we'd have never met," noted Viviane seated at the table.  "So shame on you, Manny, for mocking our love."  She wagged her finger.  "Shame."

Mansemat rolled his eyes.  "Sometimes I do wish I'd been more aware of how sarcastic you could be before I married you."

Viviane raised an eyebrow.  "I thought that was one of the things you loved the best about me?"

"Not when it's aimed at me," replied Mansemat.

"Shame," said Viviane lightly.

Mansemat sighed and glanced back out the window.  "It really was more of a general statement.  About... this war, and the like.  A few months, and we'll be right back into it."  He turned quickly.  "Have I told you how irritated the Easter King is making me?"

"Many times," said Viviane.  "And I'm in total agreement.  The Easter King is irritating and his Easterling guards are irritating, and they're also all very nasty, and I don't like how..."  She shut her eyes.  "That man is still alive and squatting in the north of Leonais like some sort of crazy spider.  Which I've also told you.  So let's stop having this discussion, and just... enjoy it here!"

Mansemat stared at her for a long moment. "That was the entire point of what I just said!"

"Then you should have just said it!" replied Viviane.  She regarded him a moment, then wagged her finger.  "Shame!"'

Mansemat blinked.  "What was that for?"

"What you were about to say," answered Viviane casually.  "It was a preemptive shaming."

Mansemat considered a remark on that, decided against it, and went back to gazing outside the window.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Merry Season--Part 1

Elaine stretched her arms out as she entered her room.  "Man, it's been forever since I've been here!" she said, glancing around.  She found herself raising an eyebrow.  "Has someone been in here?"

"Yes, Your Estimable Grace," said Eurydice.  "I have."  She coughed as Elaine gave her a sidelong gaze.  "You do need to clean a room every now and then, even if no one is using it.  For the dust."  She shuddered slightly.  "And the cobwebs."  The young maid's face became a grim mask.  "Oh, especially the cobwebs."

"Right."  Elaine nodded nervously.  "Thanks for that."

"No need to thank me for that," said Eurydice.  "To fight the accursed leavings of the spider is a le Fidele's sacred duty."

Elaine nodded again, sitting down on her bed.  "Right.  Right."

Eurydice's head turned slightly, as she craned her neck to keep the bed in view.  "How's the matress?  Comfy?"

Elaine patted it.  "Yep.  Yep.  Feels very... nice."

Eurydice crossed her arms.  "Very good." 

"You know," said Elaine, "Justinian sends his..."

"Well, look at the time!" said Eurydice loudly, turning around.  "I have candles to light in the Great Hall!  Immediately!" 

Elaine rose as the maid darted out of the room, following her out the door.  "It's a simple message!" she noted.

"Candles!" shouted Eurydice.  "Immediately!  I-mmediately!"  Elaine watched her dart away, and then shook her head as she headed back into her room.

"Well, she's... about as crazy as usual," noted Elaine to no one in particular, then sat back down on the bed.  After a moment, she lay down, and shut her eyes.  "It is good to be back.  For a while, anyways."