The bit with Cleveland Normandy and our swordfight was the only real adventure on the way to Oordport, with the exception that when we got there and found Miss Capillarie’s true love, he was enjoying the company of a young woman named Roxanne. I personally didn’t think this Roxanne was anything to write home about, but I suppose there is something to the old saying ‘a decent looking girl in the hand is worth a beautiful one in a faraway city’. I didn’t stick around to find out how things worked out with Megara and beautiful, sweet Henri, instead leaving just as she was beating him about the head and shoulders. I noted that Roxanne had wisely made a hasty retreat, no doubt unable to match Megara either in beauty or in fisticuffs.
I left Oordport, which is a lovely city only about a third the size of Antriador and is chiefly in the business of sheep, forthwith. That is, I left forthwith. Not that the sheep were forthwith, which doesn’t even make any sense, now that I think about it, so never mind. I stopped just outside the city wall at a little meadow to let Hysteria, who was still a bit upset, eat some clover and take a drink of water. I intended to ride her much harder on the way back than I had on the way there. While she was thus engaged, I took a pleasant nap beneath a tree. When I was well rested, having dreamed only manly dreams, and so was my noble steed, which is to say Hysteria, I set off once again.
I made good time, especially considering that most of the trip was taken in darkness. Lyrria is one of the few lands where a trip in darkness is easily made. The roads are paved with nice smooth stones and the wild beasts and robbers have for the most part been chased away. I arrived at the gate of Antriador less than twenty four hours later, and reached the playhouse just as the audience was filing in to their seats.
Mr. Burbage, a fine gentleman despite having been in his youth an actor, stood outside the playhouse door watching as the crowd filed in. If anything, there were more people here to see my work than there were on opening night and that gave me a warm feeling deep inside as I thought of my ten percent of gross ticket receipts.
“Mr. Burbage,” I said, as I tossed a coin to a stable boy to have Hysteria taken care of. “I heard about what happened to our lead actress. Have you put the understudy on in her place?”
Burbage rolled his eyes. “You know she’s not right for the part. She’s too dark and too tall.”
“What matters that?” I cried. “She knows the words! The words are the important part! The show must go on!”
“My dear Buxton,” said he. “Fret not. The show will go on. The show has gone on for more than a week since I saw you last. Fear not. I have hired an actress for the lead role, and she is perfect if I do say so myself.”
“I hope you are right,” said I.
“I am right. I believe that I am right, and more importantly the audiences believe that I am right. Attendance has been up every day since the unfortunate tree incident. That didn’t hurt either. You know there really is no such thing as bad publicity.”
“You know better than me,” said I. “And that is something I almost never say.”
I took the side door entrance into the theater and found a comfortable seat in the upper gallery so that I could watch it along with the throngs of my many fans. I didn’t have long to wait for the lights to dim and the curtain to rise revealing the stage decorated to resemble the streets of the great city of Illustria. The actors playing the parts of street venders wandered around on stage, among the citizens, singing their lines. Then came the first bit of excitement: Penny the thief cuts the purse of the apple vendor and leaves the stage. Then the new actress playing the lead part stepped on stage. She was tall and striking and moved just as a sorceress should move. She sauntered across the stage and delivered her lines.
“It’s a lovely day in Illustria, the jewel of Aerithtraine, nay the very jewel of all Celestria. The people are happy. The kingdom is prosperous. The king sits well upon his throne.”
Next, the actress playing Luna came onto the stage to deliver her soliloquy, wherein she spills her heart so the audience can feel her loneliness. The sorceress then casts a spell of love upon her and she leaves, giving the sorceress a chance for to give her own speech, setting up the plot of the play.
“There you see magic. But it is a small thing for me. I am Myolaena Maetar, the court magician—sorceress, thaumatageur, prestidigitator, diviner, seer, mystic– I am spellcaster, mage, conjurer, and necromancer. I am all that.
“I am she who keeps the kingdom running well. I am she who keeps King Justin on his throne. I bring prosperity and fair weather. I am all that.
“I can read minds! I can shape creations of matter and energy. I can brew potions of love or hate or death. I can let you fly through the air, or stew in your own juices. I can summon up the wise men of all the ages, or the most horrifying monsters. I am all that… and a bag of chips.
“I should be openly acknowledged as the mighty ruler I am. I should be Queen. But though I am not, I have cast my spells and laid my plots. I am like the spider in the center of a vast web. And I will devour my prey, after my own fashion.”
It was only as she delivered the final line “And I will devour my prey, after my own fashion,” that I realized whom I was watching. The actress playing Myolaena Maetar was none other than Myolaena Maetar herself.