Antriador is quite a beautiful city. Sitting on the coast of South Lyrria, which is to say the southern coast of that land that used to be the Kingdom of Lyrria but is now a collection of highly competitive city-states, beside azure ocean waves, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, it is one of the most delightful spots in the world. More important to me was its reputation as a center of the arts, for I am famed adventurer and story-teller Eaglethorpe Buxton. After having held-up all winter at an Inn in Brest, which is to say the country up north, writing a play– a most wonderful play, if I do say so myself, I had come south to Lyrria to produce it. Antriador boasts some sixty playhouses, so I was able to find one that was appropriate, which is to say tasteful enough and yet inexpensive enough for me to lease.
Opening night was wonderful. The playhouse was packed, the upper levels with nobles and wealthy merchants along with their richly dressed wives or their scantily clad mistresses, or sometimes both, and the lower house thronging with commoners who paid two pennies for standing room. My play was a success. Of course, there was never any doubt about that. The actors all did their jobs well. The audience laughed in the right places, sighed in the right places, and wept for joy in the right place for it was after all, a comedy. “The Ideal Magic” was going to secure the fame of Eaglethorpe Buxton, which is to say myself, and make me rich at the same time.
When the stage lights had gone out, and the audience had left the theater, and the stage hands were putting away the sets, I walked down the street to the Singing Siren for a pint. It was very late and most of the patrons had retired, which is to say gone home if they were locals or gone to their rooms on the second or third floor if they had taken rooms, but the Siren stays open all night. That is not to say that it is a noted hot spot. The Fairy Font, or the Reclining Dog, or even the Wicked Wench are much livelier in the late hours. But the Siren does stay open all night. This particular night, there were one or two people lurking in the shadows– doxies and cutpurses who had finished their evening’s employment mostly. I didn’t know the barkeep, which is not surprising, considering the turnover at such establishments. I ordered a tankard of ale and took a seat in the center of the room.
Suddenly the door burst open and a woman strode into the tavern. She was striking. Tall. Blonde. Flashing blue eyes. They were flashing– literally flashing, which is really not normal at all. Of course if her eyes hadn’t been flashing, I wouldn’t have noticed them. There was all that bare skin to distract me. She wore a leather outfit that was more of a harness that an article of clothing. The lower portion was a sort of loose leather skirt made of strips of material which, though hanging down almost to her ankles, exposed most of her legs when she moved. The upper portion was little more than pair of suspenders and two small leather cups.
“Which of you low-lives is Eaglethorpe Buxton?” she snarled.
I stood up and stepped toward her, at this point still more aware of all the bare skin than either the flashing eyes or the glowing wand in her hand.
“What would you have with him, my lovely lady?” I asked.
“I am Myolaena Maetar, and I’m going to skin him alive!” she hissed through clenched teeth.
“I, um, oh. Well, he was here a minute ago,” said I. “You just missed him.”
“You are not him?” She pointed the wand at me, its violet halo hanging just below my nose.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” said I. “I am Ellwood Cyrene, hero and adventurer.”
I had been forced by the situation to think on my feet. When I thought that a sorceress was going to kill me I had, as you have no doubt surmised, substituted my own name, which is to say Eaglethorpe Buxton with another name, which is to say Ellwood Cyrene. I suppose that it is not surprising that this name would pop into my head first, for Ellwood Cyrene is my greatest friend and has traveled much of the world with me. He was in fact, the inspiration for the first dozen or so of my stories. We have faced countless dangers together and I have saved his life more than once. Truth be told, he has saved mine more than once too… or twice. Maybe thirty times.
“What are you thinking about,” asked the sorceress.
“I’m thinking about Eaglethorpe Buxton…”
“… and I’m not thinking about Ellwood Cyrene, because that is me, and I don’t sit around thinking about myself, who is Ellwood Cyrene.”
“Ellwood the Queen?”
“No. Ellwood Cyrene.”
“No,” she said. “Ellwood the queen. That’s what it means. Cyrene is an old elvish world for queen.”
“No, no, no,” said I. “Cyrene is a very manly name, and so is Ellwood, which is good because Ellwood Cyrene is a very manly man. He has done many great… um, which is to say, I have had…um.”
“Yes, I have heard of you.” She lowered the wand and stepped closer. “But you are acquainted with this Eaglethorpe Buxton?”
“Oh, we are the best of friends. He has saved my life on countless occasions and…”
“So if I killed you, it would cause him pain?”
“We’ve had a bit of a falling out. No, we’re not really that close anymore.”