March 17, 2024

The Last Princess

Previously: Thorley

"I shouldn't have left him." Gabriel's tone was dead as he pulled open the drapes at the inn, letting the morning light through. His movements were stiff and jerky. "I was the last to see him alive before he hurled himself from the balcony."

"There's nothing you could've done," Cyprian told him, half-groaning as he painfully took a seat by the fire. "You can't save everyone, cousin; I keep telling you that."

"You don't understand, cousin," Gabriel turned to him, coming towards the prince and taking off his cloak. He tossed it over another chair. "Thorley was the viscountess's ninth betrothal. Her people think she's cursed." He paused, as though realizing. "She's probably devastated right now."

"Perhaps," Cyprian nodded stiffly, his voice tight. "But her misfortune may be our gain. You say this viscountess is the same girl who survived the dragon at Aurea?"

"Yes," Gabriel. "Elodie, and her sister Floria."

"Yet Elodie was the only one officially proclaimed royal blood," Cyprian pointed out. "She was the only sister to marry Prince Henry. That makes her the last real Princess of Aurea."

Gabriel cringed. "She hates that, Highness."

"But it's the truth," his cousin pressed. "Which means if you wed her, you could unite our kingdoms, and end the war."


Previously: Shades of Darkness

Bayford Hall was lit up when Gabriel arrived, much to his surprise. The chandelier was lit, along with the fire and multiple candelabras. The servants had decked the gloomy hall in flowers, and now they milled about the room, carrying trays of wine goblets.

It was an improvement upon the dreary hall; he could see now that the walls were actually painted blue; set against the backdrop of the blue walls, the colorfully dressed guests were actually quite elegant.

He spied the Viscountess Bayford near the window with a tall, slender man who was admittedly very handsome. Lord Thorley had tousled blond hair and a dazzling smile, and he looked the dashing hero in his cerulean doublet embroidered in silver and gold...while the Viscountess was still wearing black.

Shades of Darkness

"You can't wear a yet another black dress, not tonight of all nights; I forbid it," Mother Dorgan proclaimed, walking into Alinor's bedchamber uninvited. Lady Bayford was only in her undergarments, standing before her mirror with her long hair down.

"Leave," Bess shooed away the lady's maid. "I will tend our Lady Alinor."

"Did you wash your hands?" Alinor demanded, still gazing upon her reflection. "I refused to attend the betrothal party smelling of meat."

Maiden, Mother, Crone

If Elodie Bayford was a cold fish, her mother was a lady of stone.

Lady Alinor Bayford was dressed in a long black gown and adorned with wooden jewelry painted black. Gabriel had heard a few things about the Widow Bayford, that she was a woman of great age and beauty, and despite having lost her husband almost a year ago, she refused to remarry.

Standing in her main hall by the fire, she was reading a letter. After making a small of noise distaste, she tossed it into the fire.

"Morning, Mother," Elodie greeted. Mother and daughter looked nothing alike, on account of being stepfamily. "Sleep well?"

"Of course, not," came the weary reply. "You?"

"Never. Another proposal, I take it?"

"Worse," another older woman cackled, as she devoured a large steaming platter of sausage and bacon. She was clad in blue, like the priestesses, but her robes were finer, and she wore furs, her neck and fingers adorned in gold and gems.

"You know, I sorely miss the days when no one knew who we were," Alinor sighed deeply, rubbing temples. Like her daughter, she had the look of one who didn't sleep. She shot the other older woman a look. "But then Mother Dorgan had to go and open up that damned temple."

Gabriel's eyes widened. So...this is the famed temple mother.

The Little Girls of Bayford

Previously: The Thing You Hate

The gate guards instantly recognized the Lirian heraldry, and let the royal entourage through without incident. The prince's gilded carriage was preceded and followed by over two dozen knights on horseback, accompanied by several heralds.

Even though it was night and the streets were mostly empty, their grand entrance was noticed right away. Windows opened and candles were lit as the procession made way towards the temple.

Elodie Bayford was awake. She was always awake these days; sleep didn't come easily to her anymore. She and the temple maidens watched in surprised awe as several knights in full armor brought in a man on a makeshift stretcher. He was tall, dark-skinned, covered in sweat and haphazard bandages.

"And who might this be?" she raised an eyebrow.

"His Highness, Prince Cyprian of Liria," the patient's young companion announced. He was a regal fellow, if not so tall as the knights. Elodie figured he was probably a squire.

"A royal patient," she mused. "It's been a while since we had one of those. Avice," she said to a young woman, "boil some water and tell Edith to bring fresh cloth. Those wounds will need cleaning before we can begin." She turned back to the prince's companion. "And you are, Sir...?"

"Walling," he replied. "Lord Gabriel Walling. The prince is my cousin."

Prologue: The Thing You Hate

Previously: Dramatis Personae

What a horrid place.

As the sun slowly died in the west, Lord Gabriel Walling looked out upon the barren wastes of the North. He saw no rivers, nor trees, nor even animals roaming the wild. He briefly wondered if the North always looked like this, or if the people had simply killed and cut down everything of use.

The wind was harsh and brittle as the lands it swept over. It was barely Autumn's End, yet he could feel the cold sinking into his bones. Gabriel leaned out the carriage window and as they rolled towards the great walled city of Bayford. Having stood for centuries, it was likely once a small settlement built out of immediate necessity, because the placing made no sense to him. Instead of standing atop a hill, it lay within a dip. And it wasn't built upon a lake or near a river.

City of Bayford, deep in the North Wilds
Closing the carriage window, he sat back against the seat and said reassuringly, "Not much longer now."

His older cousin, the towering Crown Prince of Liria, couldn't hear him, of course. His body had been riddled with arrows, and though all his wounds were bandaged, the healing was going poorly and he was trapped in a fever that wouldn't break.

It made no difference. They'd finally made it to Bayford, where the famed Blue Priestess could heal any wound. Cyprian would be healed, and the line of succession would remain intact.

Ten Little Lords

Ten Little Lords takes place about a year after the events in Damsel.

February 18, 2024

Please Don't Reboot "Buffy". Reboot "Sunnydale" instead.

Ever since Dolly Parton said producers were still working on the Buffy reboot, something's been bugging me.

I was in Facebook group recently talking about The Vampire Diaries, and instead of the usual rants about what they did wrong, we were actually talking about the (few) things they got right. And I said I loved how they fleshed out the lore of Mystic Falls, which was one thing sorely missing about Sunnydale on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What we know about Sunnydale reads like basic trivia: it sits on a Hellmouth, it's a demon magnet, and there are a handful of people and events we learn about over the course of the series, but nothing ever really feels fleshed out. Even worse, we often learned something specific for an episode that was never referenced before, then never referenced again. I found that particularly annoying.

Now, we're never going to recapture the magic of the original show, certainly not that special magic of the first three seasons. Buffy was the first of its kind in an era now long gone. We're not getting that time period back. So instead of trying to get that back, let's move forward. Step One: reboot the lore of the town and this time, properly flesh it out. The theme of that "one special girl in all the world" has been since done to death. I would keep the Hellmouth element, but instead of the rehashing the very tired Chosen One trope, just (re)introduce us to a town full of demon hunters who once drove the demons out, only for them to return.

And for the love of God, just bring back the original actors. We don't need new (read: younger) people. We just need to do right by the ones we already have.

January 11, 2024

How I Think Carmy/Claire Should've Been Handled

***Spoilers Ahead***

While I'm glad The Bear won awards again (congratulations, Ayo Edebiri!!!), I'm gonna be honest...Season Two was not better than Season One. There were questionable dips in the writing that could've been easily avoided if Hollywood wasn't so addicted to cheap male fantasy.

In a show where every angle, every color, and every song choice is so carefully chosen, there's no room for cheap male fantasy. This show is better than that; The Bear itself is literally a gourmet offering in television, and the Carmy/Claire "romance" was like day-old McDonald's wedged between elaborate courses. For me, it caused Season Two to drag at times, and what's wild is that with a few tweaks, their interaction could've been so much more meaningful.

December 30, 2023


What interesting company I've come to keep.

It was one thing for an Elven hedge mage to be invited to the occasional imperial ball at the Winter Palace. It was another to actually attend an audience with the Orlesian Empress herself.

Across from Solas was Celene Valmont I, a frosty blond whose face he'd never seen, courtesy of her ever present silver mask. Seated upon her silk-covered chaise, she was a tall, regal woman for whom he had no love; like so many of her ilk, Solas found her to be a weak, lying hypocrite deeply reliant on the talents of others.

In this case, the "others" were Solas and a senior templar knight by the name of Cullen Rutherford. Cullen was a deep, serious man with dark blond hair. He wore heavy armor and a fur-rimmed cloak. He was from Fereldan, which explained both his fashion sense and his hygiene.

In light of recent events, he was also the new liaison to the royal court from the Chantry. And while Solas was technically the senior magical advisor, in this particular scenario, he knew was merely to be seen and not heard.

November 30, 2023

Yeah, I'm Not Done Talking about Found

Previously: Not Enough People are Talking about NBC's Found (2023)

First off, congrats to the cast and crew of Found; they just got renewed for a second--and hopefully longer--season.