Phase 6: Important Foreshadowing
Staring at herself in the mirror in her private rooms, Luxanna Crownguard was the very image of beauty. Her curly hair was mostly done up in a bun, save for two locks which were allowed to dangle in front of her face. She wore an elegant silver tiara with inlaid emeralds, the same green as her eyes, and her billowing white dress had dozens of tiny prisms woven into the fabric. With a tiny effort, she could play with the light around her and make rainbows dance over the dress. She was a lovely young woman, dressed in the finest and most regal fashions, and she was sure to break the hearts of many young bachelors of Valoran. Her maids, Delia and Bethsheba, stood on either side of her and beamed with pride at their lovely mistress.
But such loveliness concealed a terrible secret.
Her bedroom door opened with a crash as Lux’s mother, Brickianna Crownguard, charged in. She was three hundred pounds of meat and muscle in a billowing indigo dress. Lady Brick’s eyes, tiny little eyes with tremendous fury and concentration, gave each of Lux’s maids one withering glance. Delia snapped to attention, turning to face her lady’s mother fully, while Bethsheba, unprepared for the very focused anger of the Crownguard matriarch’s gaze, suffered a massive cardiac event and died instantly.
“Luxanna!” Lady Brick shouted.
Lux swallowed, but steeled herself and turned to face her mother. “Yes, mother?”
Lady Brick stamped into the room. She looked Delia up and down. “Where has my daughter hidden it?”
Delia averted her eyes from the matriarch, unable to bear eye contact. “I…I do not know what you…”
Lady Brick breathed in and out slowly. They were deep breaths, menacing breaths, breaths that said “I’m going to kill you.” Lady Brick also blinked her eyes in a way that reminded everyone that no one would ever question her for killing a servant. Her gall bladder also produced bile in exactly such a way as to communicate that Delia had really ought to just come clean.
“Delia,” Lux urged, desperately but in vain.
“I’m sorry, my lady…” Delia said. “It’s…it’s in a hidden pocket near her waist.”
“Delia!” Lux cried, but too late. Her mother was on her already, and with surprising deftness, Lady Brick’s huge meaty hands found the compartment in Lux’s dress. Before Lux could raise a hand in protest, her mother had pulled out her secret treasure: a steak and cheese sandwich with peppers and onions, still hot and wrapped in wax paper.
“Daughter…” Lady Brick whispered in disappointment.
“Mother, I…I’m sorry.”
“What would happen if people knew, Lux? Can you imagine the shame, the infamy that you would bring down on this house if it were made known that our daughter was a…was a…”
Lux’s face twisted in shame and anger. “Go ahead, say it! Say what I am, mother! Or are you that disgusted?”
Lady Brick stared in empty despair at the steak and cheese. Delia ran weeping from the room.
“I’m a SNACKER, mother!” Lux screamed, tears in her eyes. “The gods may damn me for it, but I AM A SNACKER! Look!” She opened another compartment, hidden in the billows of her skirts, and pulled out several cookies and a cheese croissant. “Look at your lovely daughter, mother!” She twisted these words with malice as she threw these snacks at her mother and reached into another hidden pocket, pulling out a whole apple pie with streusel topping. She threw this to the floor. “Look at me!”
“This is what you came to see, isn’t it? Then see it now!” Lux cried, opening her purse to reveal about a quarter pound of really good raw ground beef, grass-fed heritage stuff from a top-quality rancher, hardcore snacking indeed.
She kept digging into her pockets and throwing her hidden snacks to the floor, a bag of chocolate bonbons here, a life brook trout there, until her rage and grief overcame her and she fell to her knees, sobbing. And as Lady Brick came over to console her daughter…Lux began snacking.
The Crownguards were not all smiles and sunshine. They were a very old family, and while they had always prided themselves on their virtue and loyalty, Lux’s ancestors had seen many of the worst periods of the Rune Wars, and war, particularly all-out magical war, has a tendency to wear on virtue and loyalty. Five hundred years ago, the family was led by the Baron Felix Crownguard, known variously as Felix the Fat, Fat-Ass Felix, and Baron Fatty Fatty Pieface. His appetite for snacks was matched only by his aptitude for the dark arts, and he made ample use of the latter to satisfy the former. Under the guise of defending Demacian glory, Baron Felix provoked many wars and performed many less-than-honorable deeds to fill his coffers and, thus, his pantries. While his sins were many and various, by all accounts his greatest atrocity was his last, when he assembled a cabal of his most loyal and fearsome rune-priests to turn the neighboring city-state of Gustacia, along with all its lands, structures, and inhabitants, into decadent chocolate fudge. He and his sorcerers feasted, thinking they had exterminated the Gustacians to the last man, and so they allowed themselves to glut themselves completely on fudge and to fall into a deep, victorious fudge stupor. This, of course, is the subject of Dalarhune’s Fatty Fatty Pieface at Gustacia, which further details the publically known version of what followed: Felix was struck by a powerful curse, fueled by the dying vengeance of an entire city-state, and he proceeded to devour each of the rune-priests who’d been involved, then all of his soldiers, then all of his riches, and finally himself.
The Crownguards had long since distanced themselves from their ancestor, and no one held the modern Crownguards responsible for his wrongdoings; that had been the Rune Wars, after all, and most noble houses had some ancestor or another who’d done insane, genocidal things back then. It had been the nature of the time, as it was the nature of the time now to forgive and forget the sins of the barbaric past.
What wasn’t well known, though, was that Felix hadn’t just been hit with a curse – he’d gotten hit with a bloodline curse, right in the face, and those take an awful long time to forgive and forget. It had diluted over time somewhat, and it sometimes skipped a generation or two, but Lux had gotten it bad. She had the hunger of a Void beast, insatiable and ravenous, and while she had received enough training and undergone enough soothing rituals that she would probably not be in any physical danger, there were other concerns. For instance, as she prepared to step into society as a grown woman, might it be a little put-offish that Lux might just up and eat a whole bag of flour in one sitting, or wake up in the middle of the night and order as many as five omelets before going back to sleep?
She was a snacker. This was a new age and all sorts of things were becoming acceptable, but some things were still uncouth and unattractive. And as Lux looked down at her gown, once so beautiful, now covered in grease, hot sauce, and ground beef, she supposed she knew what side of that line she stood on now. A snacker. Oh, gods. Where, oh where, would they ever find a bachelor who could accept that?
Lux burped, wiping her tears away with one greasy hand. She nodded. “All right,” she said to her mother. “All right. Get the maids back. Let’s…I’m ready to go out.”