Notes from the Studio

The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty-Seven.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Seven       On the far western edge of the ruined plain that was the realm of The Lord of Darkness and of Death, there was once a great river.       A deep river and wide, one that once flowed swiftly past.        This river was and ever had been all that separated the Land of Summer’s Twilight from that of The Dark Lord’s kingdom. Between its two high banks flowed all the blood that was ever shed on Earth or beyond, in the Faerie Realms. Without The Queen to renew the life of her land, the once mighty river was no more. Now resting between its banks was only a deep layer of fine, pale red powder.       Turning her gaze wearily away from the lands on the far distant bank that were The Queen’s true domain, the root witch squinted up into the Janet’s face. “I kin what you would ask, girl. This river has served ta separate the two kingdoms since time itself was ever born.”       Her eyes wide with wonder, Janet asked, “Two kingdoms of Faerie? I…I don’t understand.”       Mother Hainter laughed, “And why would you, human? There would be nae need.”       Thomas, carefully choosing his words, tried to explain something that was certain knowledge to those who called the Summer Lands their home. “The blood… it ran here to serve as a reminder that all things must die, even an immortal.  Between the two lands it has always flowed. And it always will, or… should…” Janet nodded her head, responding to his logic. “Until our bloody queen’s mind was gone.” Then looking behind them at the steadily advancing wave of pursuers, she added, “After the fucking Lord of Darkness and Death tried to claim both kingdoms for his own.”        Nodding agreement, Thomas continued, “Never was there

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The Queen of Summer’s Twight, Chapter Twenty-Six.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Six       In the long journey afterward, Janet became certain that when its long-forgotten architect had finally looked upon his bitter construction of darkness and endless twisting passages, he must have been pleased by the success of his cruel art.        Because it was their only hope to find safe passage through the labyrinth, Janet gave herself over and over again to The Queen. Each time, no matter how brief, left her weaker than the last. Only Tom’s arm, circled tightly around her waist, lent support to Janet’s weakened body, allowing her to stay on her feet.        Without The Queen’s advice, though, she was certain that they would have wandered endlessly through an infinite number of silent rooms and long passageways until, their strength depleted, they would have lain down where they stood and slept a long, final sleep.        *********       Warily placing her trust in The Queen’s all-consuming desire to be whole once more, Janet eventually found herself standing outside a tall arched doorway that opened into the chamber where the monstrous Willow tree reared from its pool of black water. In a tangle of hoary roots, Janet saw her mother asleep, nestled in the dark, honey-colored arms of the moon-mad Queen.        Instinctively, Janet rushed forward. Her only desire was to gather her mother in her arms, but sensing another presence in that chamber, she stopped and looked cautiously around.        The wizened bottle witch, Mother Hainter was balanced on a long, low-lying limb of the great Willow just above the sleeping figures, staring inquisitively back at her. Scattered across the root-floor at her feet were a multitude of small bottles, some blue, some green and some a dusky amber color. She squinted her good eye, looking past Janet and spoke, “Ah, it’s you, is it, Thomas. You

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The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapter Twenty-Five.

© Charles Vess 2019 Chapter Twenty-Five       Far away, down long silent corridors, Janet tossed in her sleep. Abruptly, her eyes blinked open as two soft tongues began to lick her face. In the total darkness of the cell, she was unable to see whatever impossible thing it was, but from either side of her head, she heard soft panting. Small paws pushed at her arms, and soft fur brushed her face. Janet whispered into the utter darkness, “Who…What…what are you?”       “Well, then….” The first voice intoned.       “you are awake…” Another voice emphatically added.       “at last.”        “Perhaps you were having…       “such lovely dreams…       “that you wished…       “to stay amongst them forever?       “But your story…”       “will never…”       “find…”       “its proper ending…”       “if you do.”       “Trust…       “us…”       “now.”       “And…       “close…       “your eyes so that you may see.”       Hesitantly, Janet did as the voices asked, and suddenly she saw a vision of two sleek silver foxes staring up at her, their eyes lit with avid curiosity. Janet rubbed her eyes and muttered, “Are you just more damned nightmares come to haunt me in this horrible place?”       Ignoring the girl’s doubts, one fox creature spoke. “Janet…”       Followed quickly by the second, “why do you bide here…        And then both joined together in chorus, “still?”       Janet wrapped both her arms protectively over her chest, “Bloody hell, you think I want to stay here?”       As the two silver foxes turned to casually look at one another. The air around them seemed to shimmer, as if a second reality slipped softly over the first. Now there were two small, elegant women standing before her, one inches taller than the other with slanted eyes, both a matching green. Their hair was long and silvery, held back from their brows by simple circlets made of brightest gold. Both solemnly considered

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