by Dalá'Valannía

"Magic and Murder" is a collection of epistles written by an Erpheronian Noblewoman to her sister, sheding light on the pleasures of the nobility in Voldar. Women's talk, gossip, you might say, but of the most entertaining kind... If you always wanted to know what's happening at Voldarian parties, here are all the details... - But wait, there is more: See behind the facade and discover how a deadly plot thickens...


Letter 7 written in the
Month of Passing Clouds

y dearest Sister,

Since you have obviously neglected to ask Father to forward me the coins that I have instructed you to in my previous letter, I have thusly taken the measure of writing to our good Brother instead and hence, he has very kindly sent me the store of money I know you keep under your bed for your frivolous purchases of silver combs and ribbons.

Our Brother has kept some of your pin money for himself but naturally and I cannot begrudge him that since he has kept his word and forwarded me the remainder. I hope you are not too downcast by this turn of affairs for it is not thievery. I prefer to think of this act as a generous loan from one dearest blood-kin to another. Moreover, what use have you for some many silver combs, as your hair is as thin as a goblin’s babe? I trust you will see the good sense in my words and be glad that your money now is being used for a far, far worthier purpose!

Now, back to my letter proper. Do recall that I had been earlier waylaid in a disgusting fetid alleyway by Alram, a groper who, in truth, was a Ximaxian wizard masquerading as one of Countess Hronia’s said gropers, to find out the nefarious deeds of our Cousin Kyiri.

The ring, which she had given me as a token of affection between two loving Cousins (Hah! As loving as a Giant Rock Snake would be I daresay is more of Kyiri’s style), is a magic one that is sucking the essence of my languid youth away from myself and into Cousin Kyiri! After Alram has informed me of the horrid and dangerous predicament I am in, I had resolved to confront Cousin Kyiri and make her undo this despicable spell and take the blasted ring off my finger.

“Better not. No telling what she’ll do to you if she knows that you’re onto her,” Alram told me, rubbing his scraggly chin contemplatively. “Turn you into a frog and keep you in a cage until the spell runs its course most like.”

“A frog? A FROG?!” I was understandably displeased by this consideration for being magically transformed, a swan would have been infinitely more dignified to my status rather than an ugly, slimy amphibian!

“Or a toad. Toads are easier. I don’t know why. The masters at Ximax said so. Something to do with the warts I think…” Alram muttered distractedly while I gazed upon him with some aversion.

“Well then, tell me how do I stop Cousin Kyiri?” I demanded. “I assure you, good sir, that I have no fancy to stand by idly while an old hag steal my much-vaunted beauty and youth from me!”

“The masters of Ximax taught me a spell meant to counter Kyiri’s spell. It is called ‘The Counter-Spell to Counter Spell a Spell that is used to Steal a Maiden’s Virtue to be Invested in a Wicked Sorceress’s Own Body for Really Vile Purposes’." Alram brightened. Then he was downcast again. “But I would need to be within Kyiri’s immediate vicinity to cast the Counter Spell.”

“That can be done very easily,” I said eagerly. “Cetin, that brazen hussy, has smuggled her lover into the house before. I caught them behaving in a most unseemly manner on the kitchen table once and made her tell me how she did it. That is, I made her tell me how she smuggled her baseborn beau in and not how she managed to position herself in that extremely uncomfortable and awkward-looking arrangement upon the table. I would never deign to be so vulgarly improper as to inquire about that. Even if I think it would be very taxing on one’s waist and back. The man looked happy enough though...”

Here, I observed Alram’s eyes glazing over again so I hurried on with my explanation of how to smuggle him into Kyiri’s house.

“In any events of amazingly limber chambermaids, I found out that Cetin had stolen the key to the backdoor from the housekeeper and made a copy of it for herself. I shall appropriate that key and bring you inside without anyone the wiser.” I do so dislike praising my own accomplishments, yet, I cannot help but say I do astonish myself with my astuteness sometimes, Brydda!

Smiling modestly and preparing to repel any fulsome praises from Alram for my quick thinking, I looked expectantly at him.

Somewhat my surprise, Alram did not rejoice at this singular piece of luck but shifted his feet from left to right, looking even more uncomfortable.

“Well, there is another difficulty…it would be preferable if your Cousin Kyiri be…unconscious when I cast the spell…”

“Unconscious? Why ever for?”

“You see, her powers are much stronger than mine and I cannot promise that she will not use a Counter Counter-Spell to Counter my own Counter-Spell and render that Counter-Spell useless while her Original Spell remains intact…” he admitted.

“Then pray, can you not use a Counter Counter Counter-Spell in return to Counter her Counter Counter-Spell??” I fair shrieked with frustration at his incompetence.

“Technically, no, because I know of no other Counter Counter Counter-Spells. My masters only taught me that particular Counter-Spell for Countering Counter Counter-Spells before I left Ximax for this task. And let me assure you, learning ‘The Counter-Spell to Counter Spell a Spell that is used to Steal a Maiden’s Virtue to be Invested in a Wicked Sorceress’s Own Body for Really Vile Purposes’ is no simple task either! Why, I was the only one in my class to successfully master the Counter Spell with all my limbs intact. The others… they exploded rather nastily and messily.”

“Oh, what good are you then if you know of no Counter Counter Counter-Spells?” Tears rose into my eyes and I rummaged in my reticule dreadfully in vain for a handkerchief for I could feel the horror of my nose starting to run as well.

I could NEVER sniff in public like some common merchant’s daughter! Mark my words well, Brydda, a pearl-like tear or two rolling slowly down a gentle girl’s cheek is a vastly appealing sight to melt any hardened rake’s heart but a dripping and reddened nose is just as sure to drive them away with disgust!

“Ye Gods, do not turn into a waterspout now.” Alram fished into his pocket and brought out a none-too-clean looking piece of rag and shoved it at me. “Cheer up, I’ll think of something.”

“And I will be very dead by the time you do that, thank you.” I glared at the rag with repugnant revulsion and delicately wiped my nose on a sleeve instead. “I have to go, Kyiri will get suspicious if I stay out too long.”

“Right. I will think of something, I swear by all the Gods there are. And I’ll need to speak with you again. How do I do that without Kyiri knowing?”

“The Society of Voldarian Ladies for the Betterment of Tavern Wenches is marching upon the tavern Ye Drunken Sod in three day’s time to show disapproval against any Excessive Molestation Against Tavern Wenches. I could join in the march and contrive to meet you there...what is it? Why are you staring at me like that? I do not have a spot on my nose, do I?!” Seized by a fearful presentiment, I brought my hands up quickly to hide any offending digits.

“The Society of Voldarian Ladies for the Betterment of Tavern Wenches…that’s utterly preposterous.”

“I’ll have you know that the tavern wenches do not think so,” I told Alram frigidly and left the filthy and sordid alleyway at last although my second-best gown has been irrevocably ruined!

As I slowly walked back to that Giant Rock Snake's den, my thoughts were in a broiling turmoil. The thrice-damned ring chaffed at my finger constantly now that I knew it for what it actually was. And the consideration that I have neglected to pack a second-best gown to replace this existing second-best gown weighed heavily on my mind. A very trying day indeed, Brydda! Was any maiden, in the first bloom of her youth and so admired by many eligible men and can wear a modish pink hat to perfection on golden tresses, so trampled as me? I think not!

So troubled was I, an innocent and unknowing victim to the reprehensible magical machinations of Voldar, that I quite forgot to curtsey in return when I passed Lord ________ who bowed most stylishly to me. Even though I could clearly hear his corset stays creak under his clothes when he bowed. A corpulent man can be a distressing sight but sadder is the one in a corset laced too tightly!

And it was in such a bothered state of mind that I reached Kyiri’s abode. Upon reaching the gates, the servants spied me and a great outcry went up about the house.

“Miss Clissa! It is Miss Clissa! Miss Clisssssssssssa is baaaaaaack!”

“Of course it is me,” I replied testily as the servants tumbled over themselves to bring me up to Kyiri’s rooms. I would have rather avoided Kyiri at this moment, knowing now that she is a wicked sorceress with terribly unbecoming dyed hair now, but avoidance, I knew, would only raise further suspicions.

Kyiri was sitting in her favorite chair, wrapped in a pale-lavender robe with her hair piled high. When she saw me enter, that previously cold countenance she had directed towards me the past few days melted away and she breathed a large sigh of relief.

“Clissa! My sweet girl, where have you been? I swear I have been, upon this very hour, worrying myself to a debilitating incline! Cetin, that silly girl ran home, shrieking madly that several masked men have abducted you! I fainted right away when I heard and was only just been revived to my senses. Thank the Gods that you are safe, my dearest!”

Safe for you to continue leeching upon, yes, you old hag, I thought as I submitted to her hateful embrace. I also briefly contemplated sinking the ornamental dagger that hung over the fireplace mantel into Kyiri’s bony back but since Alram had not deigned to inform me of any potential consequences in killing the spell-caster, I decided to stay my hand with some prudence. Not to mention, bloodstains are so hard to wash away and I’ve already ruined my second-best gown enough as it is!

Ah, but how splendid it would be to have the sharp point of the knife sink like butter into Kyiri’s flesh! I have never stabbed anyone but I cannot imagine that skill is much needed in such an endeavor. Pick up a blade, aim and stab. Repeat if there is necessity. Does that not sound entirely undemanding in its execution to you? Furthermore, with my undeniably good looks, superior breeding and impeccable fashion panache, I am sure that I would gain the sympathy of any arbitrator, perhaps, even the empathy of the Sovereign himself, and be acquitted of any wrongdoings!

As if it had read my feelings, the odious ring that will not come off squeezed itself around my finger and I glared hatefully at it.

“My dear child, whatever happened to you? Tell your Cousin Kyiri all about it.” The sorceress clutched my arm and drew me down to a chair next to hers. If I had not found out her true intentions in keeping me near her wretched, wrinkled, sagging body, indeed, I think I would have been taken in by her act and construe her motives as nothing more but pure solicitousness for my well being.

“It was but only a persistent beggar. Cetin, silly chit that she is, ran away in a fright, mistaking that malodorous destitute as an abductor!” I told her in as light a tone as I could manage.

“But the state of your dress! Those stains!” A doubtful light shone in Kyiri’s eyes as she listened to my story.

“Oh, that was heedlessness on my part!” I laughed carelessly. Two can play the same game, oh my amiable Cousin!

“I tripped in the mud, trying to get away from the beggar. Disgusting creature! He reeked most offensively, not unlike rotten turnips!”

You would have been proud of my dramatic talents, Sister! For I presented the façade of a snobbish, supercilious, empty-headed twit of a girl to Cousin Kyiri to perfection. Naturally my real self is far kinder and self-effacing than what I appear to the sorceress now but one must suppress one’s true qualities in times of grave menace.

Leaning over, Cousin Kyiri pinched my cheek sharply and smiled again, revealing a mouth of teeth. I endured her pinch docilely though her touch caused my skin to crawl disagreeably.

“So young and so fresh, like morning dew,” she murmured. “It is good that it had been just a…beggar. Nothing more. You are a guest under my roof and I would not want any harm to befall you while you are here.”

“No, Cousin Kyiri. I would not want that either,” The words forced themselves stiffly from my lips. “I am tired and with your leave, I would retire to bed.”

“Of course. Off you go, little one.” Kyiri languidly reclined back into her chair. “Oh, before you sleep, inform Maris to bring me my potion.”

“Your potion?”

“Yes, all these excitement have quite given me the headaches. The potion helps me sleep through the long night and soothe my delicate nerves,” she said.

I curtseyed and hurried out the door.

And now that I am safely in my bedchamber, I write this clandestine letter to you with growing excitement and an idea thrumming through my veins!

Brydda! I have a Plan!

I remain
ever your brilliantly clever Clissa

Letters written by Dalá'Valannía View Profile