Our name is known among the peerage of Terre D'Ange as well as an anguisette knows the kiss of pain on her skin. We are the bright mark among the alabaster skin, the kiss of the weal among the pleasure of lust. We are the Shahrizai. Among our line is that of Kushiel himself. We are his scions and those closest to the great god of redemption. Through suffering, forgiveness may come. Through suffering, greatness can be born. We know this better than anyone. When we gamble, it is a large sum we bet. When we seek to gain, the largest profit is ours. No plan has ever been created in our minds without some failsafe to back it. Those who play with us play a dangerous game. Those who lose to us forfeit everything. Those who win are few and far between.

Specifically speaking, my name is Raoul Shahrizai. I bear the mark of my family. I have the same blue-black hair and the same deeply hued sapphire eyes. I wear the same mask of chiseled perfection on my visage as the rest of my kin. We are a beautiful clan, jealous and almost incestuous. Our beauty and lineage is closely watched, preserved, forced through a needle thin line of what is and is not acceptable. I am the first born son of Mavros Shahrizai and Camilla L'Envers. I have a half sister, Olette, two years younger than my seventeen and gotten of a Valerian adept in the Court of Night Blooming Flowers. She has the mark of my family, too, but the disposition of her mother, too yielding to assume her rightful place among the rest of us. A whore's unwanted get - that stigma seems lesser these days.

Most notably, I have a cousin Dorelei, the Dauphine of Terre D'Ange. She is the daughter of Queen Sidonie and King Imriel. Imriel is one of the most famous among us, the son of a traitor who grew to do exactly as she planned even if it was not how she planned it. Officially amongst us, Melisande is a blight upon our house. Secretly, however, she is a hero who put a Sharazai on the throne of Terre D'Ange and gave our clan back the majority of influence that has been ours since the days of Elua. More of us take shelter in the City of Elua these days.

He is also the foster son of Comtesse Phedre no Delauney de Montreve, a former servant of Naamah and the only anguisette in living memory. She is a hero of the realm and many speculate that this is the only reason anyone consented to allow a traitor's child to wed the heir of the realm. To be fair, I have heard the stories and it seems to me that he earned the right to follow Elua's precept: "Love as thou wilt." Of Phedre I only know of the stories they tell. Of her consort Joscelin, I know that the Casseline has followed Phedre into hell and followed the example of Cassiel, even if not all of his rules.

That is the difference between his mothers. One lives her days out in exile and the other lives still as a hero. She is older now, the autumn of her life has begun, but I have seen Phedre and know that her beauty will not fade. She walks with Dorelei in the Palace betimes, speaking softly with her. I have noted her from the corner of my eye and I have seen the scarlet mote that rests in the dark recesses of her left iris. Like the rest of us, I sometimes speculate what it would have been like to make a genuine Chosen of Kushiel sing like the instrument she is. Only Melisande among us knows. And now that Dorelei is getting to be of age to play the game of courtship, many of our number spend even more time at court and all of us have seen the great woman, still beautiful after all the time and trials. Ysandre de la Courcel spends a lot of time in Alba now that she is no longer on the throne. In the Spring, she and Drustan, the grandparents, make their way here and we receive them with fetes and flowers alike. Alais visits with them every few years and thus the Royal Family remains close and much the same as it ever was.

It is too peaceful in the City of Elua now. Without someone to commit to a plan, the happenstance of life is too mundane to note. I watch the events of the city fall as they may and with no one to pull the strings the marionettes fall flat. Phedre, the consummate hero, is past her prime and unable to play the games she once might. Without an opponent, the game might be less fun but it would certainly be easier.

My name is Raoul Shahrizai and I am bored.