We are fast approaching the finale of Diceborn: Secrets in Stained Glass, which airs Sunday, August 20th, 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern, but before that we have one more piece of prose content for you, an excerpt from Maevis Elariel's journal. Secrets in Stained Glass Episode 4 spoilers follow!
For our backers on Patreon, we also have posted episode 4 Narrator notes, the original murderboard, and full challenge rules.
From the Journal of Maevis Elariel, undated, early 1009 FE
Still, the question lingers, did he ever really love me?
I’ve always prided myself on my ability to discern lies from truth. I’ve been surrounded by liars my entire life, and count myself among their number. I was born into the lie of a broken empire pretending to be a paradise. I was raised by the lie of warring kin pretending to be a family. I became the lie of a woman who could find meaning in beautiful things.
A lie is like a stained glass window—obscuring reality with a pretty amusement. People will tolerate even the most obvious of falsehoods if they don’t want to see the ugly truth. Everyone knows the most detailed tableau as a poor imitation of the real thing, but if you don’t open the window to look outside, you’ve still been fooled. Are we so desperate for delusion that we accept a few panes of colored glass as proof that our world isn’t broken?
Love can be the prettiest lie of all, I think. But if it's not true, what was he hiding?
I spend my life surrounded by people, but somehow I always feel terribly alone. Everyone tries so hard to impress me, to be liked by me, but no one shares who they really are or forges real connections. People are so quick to nod in agreement that it doesn’t feel like they’ve even heard what I am trying to say.
When I first met Ches, I saw a jaded man angry at the world (not really an enticing romantic prospect). From the start he struggled to control his emotions. He was so transparent with who he hated, I felt confident I knew how he felt about me. Though abrasive, his direct honesty seemed to cut through all the fluff and posturing, meeting me on common ground as just another person. It felt like he saw far more of the real me than anyone at court. Even at the most turbulent points of our relationship, I never doubted that Ches loved me. At least, not until his betrayal.
The night of the fire remains vivid to me. I’ve replayed it in my mind so many times, both waking and dreaming, that reciting what happened feels like learning lines for a play. If I could paint I think I could capture it in frightening detail, but words will need to suffice.
The family gathers in the formal meeting room. I come in late, just as Julian finishes his presentation. When Julian speaks to his passions, I think I see what Jenna sees in him. Julian and Ches are alike in that way, and Jenna too. All three will do whatever it takes to forge vision and dream into reality.
Charisse follows me in and I give her hand a small supportive squeeze. She moves to join her sister, who is conversing quietly with my mother against the far wall, gazing out over the black stillness of the lake.
My grandmother sits at the head of the table, eyes flitting towards me, barely revealing a reaction at Charisse’s appearance, though she is not among our expected guests this evening.
My brother, Vasha, is preparing to tear into Julian’s proposal. I can tell from the way he’s set his jaw. My father and I share a glance—he sees it too, and pinches the bridge of his nose, preparing for the coming storm.
And Ches looks at me, sees me. The same way he saw straight through the haze of smoke and my veneer of frivolity the night we met. His lips quirk into the barest hint of a half-smile. It’s a secret expression, meant just for me. At the time I thought that smile said ‘I love you’. Now I can’t tell if it was a sorrowful apology, or if he found my deluded trust in him amusing.
The storm comes, but the flurry isn’t of Vasha’s make. Ches steps out of Julian’s shadow and slams a pouch into Vasha’s chest. My brother is thrown across the room and pinned against an interior wall.
Everyone begins to respond in slow motion. My father looks to me first, then to grandmother, to mother, and last to Vasha. He, at least, chooses me.
Before anything can happen, the room shakes. The windows come crashing in with a rush of flame. I see my mother, Blythe, and Charisse struck down by sparkling shards of stained glass. Fire and smoke erupts from the hall and part of the floor collapses. Flames fill the gap. The library below is already an inferno. We’re trapped.
Before I can tell if I’m falling or standing firm, my father has me in his arms. I can tell from frantic movements of his eyes that he’s burning atium. In moments I’m down in the inner courtyard.
There’s another crash, and Vasha and Ches explode out of the side of the building, both trailing smoke as their momentum douses the flames on their burning clothing. I can’t reach them without a proper anchor, but I burn iron anyways to trace their trajectory, trying to track each Push. Ches lures Vasha low, and then Pushes against a lamp on the exterior wall, driving both of them through a window into the east wing, which is also now being consumed by flames.
My father doesn’t hesitate. He ignores the duelling Coinshots and is already shooting back to the wreckage of the meeting room. The entire structure seems to be collapsing. Dimly, I hear shouts and the clash of weapons coming from the front courtyard.
I instinctually find several anchors I could use to vault myself over the manor to see what is happening, but my body is frozen. My eyes just dart back and forth, west wing, east wing, west wing, east wing. Will father return? Will Ches?
At some point Addison finds me. She was walking the gardens at the time of the blast. She wraps her shawl around my trembling shoulders, but her words fall on deaf ears. I’m begging the Lord Ruler and the Deepness both to please not take them both from me tonight.
Eventually, my father stumbles out of the burning wreckage. His clothes are rags and he’s covered in burns. It’s obvious only pewter is keeping him standing. His hands are bloody—he’s been fighting.
“I’m sorry Maevis…” he says, pausing to cough. “I… I couldn’t save them. I tried, but there… there was too much...” He coughs again and stumbles slightly. He reaches for a single metal vial, but recoils as he grasps it. The glass is still hot from the fire and burns his hand. In slow motion, my father’s salvation slips through his fingers and shatters against the unforgiving cobblestones.
He meets my eyes as his pewter runs out, and he collapses.
There’s another crash. I’m still burning iron, so I see a blue line streak off through the air and into the distance. I can’t tell if it's Vasha or Ches.
The destruction is so complete that the obligators who survey the scene the following morning can’t determine an accurate body count. Charisse’s remains are identified by the large Venture diamond Straff gave her as a wedding gift. Straff doesn’t come in person to collect his wife’s remains, but I see one of his men carefully lay the diamond in a sturdy lock box.
The obligators who examine my father’s body tell me he died of smoke inhalation—that without pewter, his lungs couldn’t cope with the damage sustained during his frantic attempts to save his family.
“I love you.” That was the last thing Ches said to me. We were in my room the night before the fire. At the time I thought he meant it—I thought that the only person I shared my real self with loved me. But now when I ask the darkened roof above my bed whether the person I knew was real, or a finely crafted stained glass fabrication, I get no answer.
(Portrait Sketch by Elisgardor)
Edited by Chaos