[Note: Rowan’s name was initially hidden by the codename “Ash.” Though I’ve changed the text to reflect how I will no longer be protecting them, you will still see ‘Ash’, meaning Rowan, in the screenshots below. The same is true of Vali’s former moniker, which was formerly ‘March’ and also of Sage’s former moniker, which was ‘Asra.’]
It’s been a while, dear audience, since I’ve gone down the Volatile, Vile, Vali rabbit-hole. And just in time, too! In the past few weeks, he’s attempted not one, but two idiotic acts of sabotage.
The first, was attacking my (not so) fictional novel with an inflammatory, false review. Also, he had never read my book. I’m willing to bet that he has no interest in reading anything of mine unless he doesn’t have consent to.
Many of my friends and readers have retaliated by buying the book, which you can find here.
Another pathetic attempt at vengeance (or perhaps censorship of this very blog) was made at my job. My actual day-job. Which is, of course, hardly better than doxxing. This absolute parasite complained to my hotel chain, pretending to be a guest, to try and get me in trouble.
This plan was doomed to fail from the very beginning. First of all, he used my pronouns. Which, yes, good and proper of him, but I use they/them. Any non-binary fucker in hospitality and retail know that customers tend to pick a binary for you. Also, he used my name. My name is bloody Xanthe. Do you think any guest can guess how to spell my name on a one-off? My name-tag has been lost in the lining of my blazer since before the pandemic, unbeknownst to this absolute imbecile. Another damning thing is that nowhere in my profile is it listed where I work. Nowhere. Which is all the GM cared about once this complaint was launched.
But the most damning, most easily attributed evidence left behind?
He actually used his legal name and his entire fucking address to leave the complaint, like an utter nonce.
And these are just the recent moves, possibly to intimidate me into not speaking out about his earlier misdeeds. And altogether this backfired, for I’m only getting louder.
Here’s the thing; my predecessors to this host position may have been cult-bait, but I am cult-repellent. I am irreverent, I am mocking, I am a pretentious bastard and I am the Last thing Vali ever wants to go up against. But hey, I’m enjoying the increase in royalties.
But enough about current events. Flashback to Rowan, weak and feverish, having spent the entirety of the night before trying to talk Vali out of suicide. Vali didn’t seem to offer much in the way of an apology, aside from what’s addressed to me below:
Arkady and I were furious at Vali, and eager to talk with Rowan about how absolutely abhorrently their new beau had acted. But with Rowan sleeping off a high-grade fever, looking dazedly around while being hand-fed by Arkady– it didn’t seem the time.
It was only another day before Rowan was destined to fly home, with Arkady remaining with me for the week following. You’d think that Vali would be biting at the bit to make sure Rowan was home safe, but…
That’s right. Vali took a sleep aid when he knew he was picking Rowan up at the Buffalo airport later on, stranding them two hours away from Rochester. Luckily, Sage, Rowan and Arkady’s long-time friend, came to the rescue and picked Rowan up. That opened up an entire conversation for Rowan’s first impression of the now-infamous Vali.
“First of all, I thought he was a fucking catfish,” Sage laughed. “He got into my car the first time I met him and I was like, ‘Who the fuck is this?'”
Arkady and I had been sitting huddled in my flat, on the nest of blankets and mattresses I’d assembled into a makeshift double-bed. Sage was on speakerphone, and we were venting about this slimy scumbag as if expelling a poison we were only vaguely aware was in our system. “Does he edit his photos that much?” I asked.
On Facebook, Vali was quite the looker. In fact, that was how we’d first entered each other’s circles. All alternative, queer, internet hobby models seemed to know of each other. I edited my photos whenever facial dysphoria was hitting me extra hard, but I’d always make sure that it still looked like me. Obviously, not everyone followed the same rule-of-thumb.
“Oh yeah. I didn’t know who the fuck it was! And also, he reeked. I had to roll the windows down. I don’t know if he just doesn’t believe in deodorant or what, but damn.”
Arkady collaborated that fact. It was petty things we were gleefully giggling at, the type of criticisms you might find in cosplay conventions. The conversation didn’t take long to turn more serious. We told Sage about the four-hour long suicide threat, then Sage exchanged their own tale. “We were all hanging out at my house one time, and Rowan and Vali were play-wrestling, and then it just turned into them intensely making out. At first, I kind of joked, like, ‘Haha, get a room, guys.’ They were on top of each other. Like, I’m asexual– sometimes sex-repulsed, I was mad uncomfortable. And Vali actually had the nerve to look at me and say, ‘We’re not being sexual, so this shouldn’t bother you.’ After that, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m actually tired, you all should go home.’ But I was pissed.”
It was nice that Arkady and I weren’t the only ones who’d had a bad feeling about this abusive relationship. We would at least be a united front for whenever we confronted Rowan about it, and I was gathering information. And as Arkady assured me, Sage’s first impressions were never wrong, and Sage had liked me on first introduction. It all tracked.
Vali was a danger.
See, to further complicate things, a large reason as to why I was so attached to this group was because of all of the system counter-parts Rowan made for me (purposely? Non-purposely?? Jury’s still out) . They ‘channeled’ a father of my past-life, Arannan– someone who called me his son, someone who took it as his duty to protect me and guide me. (Who has been strangely silent throughout recent events.) They’d also channeled my late girlfriend. Perhaps the most damning, they insisted they were able to meet long-time, dubiously ‘real’ friends of mine, like Aberle and Sound. Using the basis of my Bioshock: Infinite-esque theory of alternate universes, they boasted they were able to ‘go into the other plane’ and interact with these people. Even date and sleep with Aberle, as in–outside of my body, they’d said.
The stakes could not have been higher. Rowan and Arkady were the first ones since Kirra and Apollo to profess that they could have access to and interact with these friends, when it was otherwise such an isolating endeavor.
Rowan had also facilitated the marriage between Arkady and myself in Faerie. And also– also they’d recently given birth to my twin sons.
You didn’t misread that.
See, Arkady and Rowan had always spoken of Faerie– another dimensional plane, much like how I thought my inworld was, where they had several children who all had grown to adulthood in Faerie time. Arkady even ‘led’ me to Faerie on my birthday the previous autumn, holding my hand as I closed my eyes and let myself wander to a new part of my inner world that resembled his. Arkady served on the court as the king of Asgard, and Rowan as the Unseelie Fae King. So, as Rowan and I were never ones to shy away from being physically intimate with each other, this led to myself– and Arkady– simultaneously impregnating Rowan exclusively in that other realm.
So, I had children with them and Arkady– twin boys. I’d never wanted children, but I quickly stepped up to the plate to be their storyteller and bad influence. When Rowan would later tell me that the twins were asking about me, “Xan???” I about melted.
“Wow, Xanthe.” Every reader on the planet is probably going. “It not only looks like you were in another cult, but a really fucking weird one. So, after the Sonic one and the Trinity Blood one, you fell for it a THIRD time?”
Those weren’t even my only family ties to this group. Arkady and I had discovered that we’d been lovers, brothers or twins many times in past-lives. My Silas and his Inalis. My Kajmir and his Thorne. My Jasper and his Jack. His Visarden Blackthorn had memories of being an intimate friend of Oscar Wilde’s. Always loving each other, always protecting each other. And it wasn’t only past lives, invented in either my system or Arkady’s. But there was and is this feeling that I’d known him before. It was as if my very soul recognised Arkady. It’s easy to scoff at ‘twin flame’ theories until you feel something that bloody certain.
It felt as if it were inevitable, Arkady and I finding each other again– and that all of the universe’s trials would be worth it if we could only orbit each other as we were meant to. The utter bliss he gave me– I could get drunk off of it. I’d even take it over expensive champagne, and that’s saying a lot. And I don’t think that was manipulation, conscious or otherwise, on our parts. We’d had so many conversations, even of obscure childhood things or odd habits with dubious origins, saying ‘Same!!!’ back and forth. We finished each other’s sentences. He could even sense when I was on my way for a surprise visit!
Both of us would lie there for hours, talking about how we always thought there was a large void in our childhoods where the other one should have been.
“We were robbed,” Arkady would always say, as we would look at how alike we looked as children, or how strangers would ask us if we were related.
There was such thrilling relief at finally being understood, even down to the ‘other worlds’ that we escaped to. Especially given that I was a Frankenstein’d creation from Phisoxa’s imagination– the thought that my patchwork soul made from broken parts had a companion!
Rowan had voiced envy at Arkady’s and my closeness. “I wish I had a twin.” And Arkady would always crow back with, ‘You’re just mad because that makes you the oldest!’ Rowan had, of course, flirted with me before, seeming to want to complete the triad, but I wasn’t romantically interested in them at the time.
And gods, they really tried. Not only had they channeled a late partner of mine, but they’d also baited Oscar with information about Isola Wilde, a beloved sister of his who had died at the age of six. And poor Oscar actually believed them. Anytime Arkady and I had discovered a past life together, Rowan was, weeks later, chiming in about how they were also there too. With… more nebulous details and such. Things that didn’t seem to ring as true as what Arkady was saying did.
If it was bait on Rowan’s part, it didn’t work.
So, of course, that’s when Vali came in.
“Rowan believes they’re Vali’s dead twin,” Arkady finally confessed to me.
I remember pausing for a sharp intake of breath. We’d had, altogether, a fun day. I had access to the rooftop pool of the DeSoto, which was a perfect area to pass the time in the Savannah mid-May. Swimming back and forth, occasionally meeting in the middle and kissing, holding each other, bridal-style, aided by the weightlessness of water.
We were exchanging stories– Arkady telling me about how shaken and confused he was when he’d apparently yelled at me.
“I remember that,” I recalled airily, as if that hadn’t been damn-near haunting me for a month and a half. “You don’t remember any of it?”
Arkady had shaken his head. “No, I don’t remember why I said that or anything. Like, Vali was saying some similar things behind the scenes, how you were being selfish for not moving–… I… I honestly don’t remember what I was thinking.” He seemed startled and remorseful.
I could almost hear Andrew of the Methusilla, years before. “I do apologise, Xanthe. I don’t remember what quite came over me.”
Even more disturbing, he finally let me know that Rowan and Vali were so often together that Arkady felt as if he’d hardly even seen his own fiance since Vali had moved in. When he did, there were just odd, tense fights about whether Arkady handed them a glass of water, or laundry, or some other such thing. He’d even noticed that, though Rowan was on the mend, they hardly checked in on him at all throughout the day.
“I texted them good morning hours ago, and they hadn’t bothered responding.”
I’d bitten my lip. “Yeah, that’s–… pretty much all I’ve gotten from them since Vali moved in.”
Out of sight, out of mind.
That’s when Arkady had dropped the bombshell. “Rowan believes they’re Vali’s dead twin,” I’d seen Vali talk about his twin before. I’d seen posts about how this beloved sibling had died of an overdose at the ripe young age of 15– in some posts, 16. In one post, 17. There were no photos, no documents, no proof that the story itself had existed prior to 2018. But I didn’t know that then.
I think I was first confused by the timeline. Rowan and Vali were near the same age, so the idea of Rowan having been his twin while also… existing, was a bit complicated, but they were also the Unseelie Fae King, so how long was I really going to think about this?
But Jesus, if Rowan had it in their head that they were really this bloke’s dearly departed twin, that came back to save him from his doomed Arizona relationship– like how do you even say, ‘Well, nevermind, actually’ to that?
This was becoming more worrying by the minute.
At one point, I toweled off momentarily to check my phone. After all, Rowan’s and my post-op beach pic was definitely getting attention. That’s when I tapped on my group chat and saw this:
I knew immediately that Rowan didn’t mean to do it in this reality. It was to be the way that they had married Arkady and I together two months before in Faerie. Something spiritual, eternal. Even when Arkady and I would be on break two years later, we were still considered married in Faerie. He’d told me so. My twins assure me we still are, unless Rowan decided to rewrite marital laws in Faerie specifically to spite me. “Hey, um, [Arkady]? You’re going to want to look at this. Come out of the pool, just a moment.”
I remember him asking what was going on, and I’d refused to say it out loud. It was as if I felt he wouldn’t believe me if I hadn’t shown him the text. His phone was acting up, so I’d passed him mine.
His eyes widened. “What?” He darted for his own phone, then called Rowan. “Hey, Love? I think you– I think you and Vali are taking this too fast.” He spoke haltingly, quickly. I could actually feel the ice in his veins as if it were in my own. “There’s, ah– there’s been a lot I’ve been wanting to talk to you about the relationship and I think– I think you should just– take a second.” His left arm was crooked, raised above his head as he spoke, as if reaching for something. He finally settled on his wet, black hair.
Arkady had Rowan on speakerphone, so I could hear as well. “What… What do you mean?” I’ll never forget the tone of Rowan’s voice. It wasn’t only puzzled, but it was like they were trying to grasp the English language.
“I just– don’t think– this is a good idea.” He exhaled sharply. “We’ll talk when I get back.”
“I… I think maybe you’re… jealous…??” There was that tone again, as if Rowan was reading from a script in a language they didn’t quite understand.
Arkady looked stricken. Hell, we’d both cheered on their relationship with Vali on before all of this. “I’m not jealous, Rowan! I just think– I just think that this should wait. We’ll talk when I get home, okay?”
He hung up and looked at me desperately. I looked back at him, just as tensely. I’d found heaven on earth, a situation so seemingly catered to my far-off dreams so exactly that I’d often felt dizzy at considering the odds. But suddenly, it was blooming into an unlikely, perfect storm of a nightmare– a nightmare it seemed that I’d lived before.
Vali responded later in the day, being as mature as we’d come to expect in those days.
I remember after, we were too anxious to do much of anything. I was into the wine. I was remembering… a lot about my ex, stuff I felt like I’d forgotten. “Did I ever tell you,” I asked Arkady in the safety of my flat one night, “what exactly happened between myself and my ex?”