Fang & Thorns: The Rivals
"They're either best friends or mortal enemies, and it's nearly impossible to tell (laughs)."
A postcard with blue watercolors and a black inked illustration of a bridge over a canal. At the top right hand corner is a line of script: “Greetings from” above a line of block letters: “Sylva Canālis”
Pages from a file on Amarali, current Miscēre of the Insidiae family (who represent Insidiae Visinage, the arts district of the city Sylva Canālis)
The first page includes a depiction of Amarali - short and mussy pastel green hair, tan skin, and brown eyes, wearing a slight grimace, dark green double-breasted suit, and gold coiled serpent mask. A long swath of black fabric with a gold scale pattern begins at the mask, loops behind them and into their suit jacket, before emerging as a train from the side of the jacket. The page reads in a mix of written and printed script:
INSIDIAE INSTATEMENT… 7th year of Archein Aksana’s appointment
APPOINTMENT… 13th year of Archein Aksana’s appointment
DEPOSED AND/OR DEATH…
Amarali was abandoned as an infant in the arts district, Insidiae Vice, and taken in by the university (despite strong disapproval from the former Archein). After fourteen years they were brought into the Insidiae family, with the intent to cultivate them into a Miscēre. Within six years they took up the coiled serpent mask.
They claim to be unavailable four nights of the week, with the family’s blessing, but are always available for an errand from the Archein.
-Terse, lacking charm
-Disinterested in information (though sometimes asks questions about origins)
-Uneager to strike but always follows through
Still visits the university
The second page is a handwritten letter, with a dark red seal stamped with a serpent pattern. It reads:
c/o The Insidiae Family
The Delecta Prodesse Estate
The Archein Visinage
The child bearing this letter is to be instated into the Insidiae family under the order of Archein Aksana Insidiae. We are ever-grateful for the Archein’s grace and understanding of our position first harboring the child, and understand the dues we and the child owe for that support early in the Archein’s appointment. The child seeks instatement to repay those dues.
We and the child understand the terms of this instatement and will cease direct contact with each other. They have been instructed in the manners of the Insidiae family and fully accept the Insidiae family as their own, closer than we or their birth family ever could have been. They give the Archein their full loyalty.
Our greatest respects,
Gail Bordem, University Rector
Hetty Bordem, Museum Head
Pages from Archein Yarrow Gwntle Respite’s file on Nymphaea Sorrel Gwntle Respite, current Miscēre of the Gwntle Respite family (who represent Gwntle Respite Visinage, the fashion district of the city Sylva Canālis)
The first page includes a depiction of Nymphaea—long black hair in a ponytail with an array of gold embellishments, light tan skin, and reddish eyes hidden behind a gold mask with a red rose. He wears a floor-length red skirt and tie, gold waistcoat with a rose pattern, black shirt, and grey suit jacket. Written over their picture in gold ink is
“cunning, slow to rile, good with flowers
clever with secrets
callous and brutal
courteous and gracious when needed”
The rest of the page reads in a mix of written and printed script:
Nymphaea Sorrel Gwntle Respite; Miscēre
Birth... Sorrel Abert, 7th child to the Abert family of the Gwntle Visinage
Instatement in the Gwntle Respite family… the 23rd year of Archein Yarrow’s appointment
Appointment… Miscēre, the 25th year of Archein Yarrow’s appointment
Deposed and/or death…
Nymphaea was found by Miscēre Abelia as a potentiate for joining the Gwntle Respite family. After a month of observation, and with Archein Yarrow’s approval, Miscēre Abelia approached the Abert parents to offer him entry into the family. The parents quickly agreed.
Under the tutelage of Miscēre Abelia, Nymphaea has quickly risen in the ranks. They show great aptitude for diplomacy, deception, and danger.
His secrecy extends to the Gwntle Respite family too, however, and he is often known to sneak out at night for reasons unknown. Miscēre Florian has confirmed that they are not meeting with the family of any other Archein, but has been unable to track them into the city. The matter continues to be under observation.
The last page (out of three) of a dictated interview between an unnamed interviewer and Nymphaea. At the bottom is attached a snapdragon. The interview reads:
INTERVIEWER: You've risen in the ranks of the Gwntle Respite family quite quickly, all the way from an untitled child of the house to a Miscēre. What can you tell us about that rise?
NYMPHAEA: Well, I'm naturally cute and charming! But that's not enough. I worked very hard from the first day I arrived here to prove that I was useful. I did jobs that the others didn't want to do, I used my cute little kid charm to my advantage (laughs) and sort of took everybody a little unaware. I think my hard work surprised people, and before I knew it I had a Miscēre mentor and was rising up the ranks. I'm really grateful for the position I'm in now.
INTERVIEWER: Do you miss your family from before?
NYMPHAEA: I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, but I suppose I can dredge it up for you. I was the youngest in the family, and I was basically always an annoyance. I was too loud, too quiet, they had no time to listen to my stories or play my games. I wore hand-me-downs, ate leftovers, and was generally forgotten except on family picture day. They were relieved when the Gwntle Respite family took me in, and so was I. And once I was here, I really got to hone my talents in a way I couldn't before. I don't regret the path my life has taken one bit.
INTERVIEWER: And, I'm sorry, just to confirm: How old were you when you made the rank of Miscēre?
INTERVIEWER: I've heard a rumor there's some contention about you missing the Archein Insideae's birthday party recently. Would you care to comment?
NYMPHAEA: Well, I'm always the life of a party. I think she was slighted by the loss of my charm and wit at her party.
NYMPHAEA: Of course, there was also that trouble with the Museum that happened the same night. While I obviously had nothing to do with that trouble, I think it certainly compounded the faux pas of my absence. That horrible event really made the night so tough for that family, and I so regret that I wasn't there to lend my support.
INTERVIEWER: So are the Gwntle Respite and Insideae families close?
NYMPHAEA: Well, you know how it is in politics. They're either best friends or mortal enemies, and it's nearly impossible to tell (laughs). They're the guests of honor at nearly all of our parties, of course.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you so much for talking to us today, Miscēre Nymphaea Sorrel Gwntle Respite.
NYMPHAEA: Certainly! And to thank you for your time, I've got a little bouquet here from our gardens.
INTERVIEWER: Oh! Thank you-- do the snapdragons mean anything?
NYMPHAEA: Flowers always do. Have a wondrous day!
I’m continuing to ask that you donate to one or all of the following orgs, which focus on queer and trans youth and Black trans people. Please also look into your local Black Lives Matter chapter (here’s BLM in DC) and assist their mutual aid efforts through donations and other support as needed. If you’re able I ask you to especially consider setting up a recurring donation, not just dropping some money once.
Britt A Willis writes this newsletter, now occasionally with the help of Dee Harris, and is a playwright, game creator, and designer. You can find out more about their work at brittawillis.com or follow them on Twitter @feelingfickle. They write and design Miscēre Amarali Insidiae’s letters and ephemera.
Dee Harris occasionally writes here as Nymphaea Sorrel Gwentle Respite (the one, the only), and is a game designer, amateur comic creator, and professional Game Master in Washington, DC. You can follow them on twitter at @d_was_there. They were told by Britt A Willis that they "had to write a bio" and that they "couldn't just leave the darn thing blank". Note from Britt: they also drew the character portraits for this newsletter! How multi-talented, how rude!