Full Name: Augustus Ekphrasis
Appearance: Augustus is a middle-aged Chairoscuran with black rings around his eyes that make him look sleepy, a head of short, scruffy hair, and several days' worth of white stubble on his chin and cheeks.
Likes: Cooking, political activism, food, the sky, clouds, stars
Dislikes: Being stuck inside Chiaroscuro, phantasmal jellyfish miasma, wind
Cook, Professional rabble-rouser, prisoner
Favorite Food: Anything he makes himself
Spirit Animal: Panda
Spirit Vegetable: Daikon Radish
Little Known Fact: Several councilmen frequented Augustus’s shop before his arrest, and offered to put in a good word for him at his trial. They recanted this promise, however, when other council members accused them of accepting “bribes in the form of food”, which of course brought to mind the specter of the Great Dumpling Scandal, which no councilman would ever want to be associated with.
Augustus was, of course, hatched and raised in Chiaroscuro. He inherited a noodle shop in the lower levels from his father, and soon mastered the art of cooking, becoming renowned for his delicious meals (at least, renowned in Chiaroscuro). Seen as an even-tempered and easy-going guy, many a shadow goblin came to confide in him over the years, asking his opinion about everything from marriage problems to business advice to the ever-looming Shadow Crisis. He eventually fell in love with and married one of Chiaroscuro’s few farmers, who grew food in the hidden crags and valleys of the mountains to the north. On several special occasions, she procured permission to take Augustus out of Chiaroscuro, which was when he first saw the sky. Though the two shared several happy years together, his wife fell ill during an outbreak of sickness, and died; since then, Augustus has considered himself a life-long widower.
It was years later that Augustus got into trouble with the Chiaroscuran Order of Law. It started when he began telling his customers his ideas about contacting the human Empress and letting the chips fall where they may. Though this idea was likely to get them all killed, his customers laughed it off as a joke; no one, especially Augustus, would be crazy enough to do such a thing. When he plastered copies of the letters he had drafted, addressed to the empress and containing several threats, all over the walls of his restaurant, that got the authorities' attention. They told him to cease and desist, not giving it a second thought. When he was caught by a portal official, trying to leave the city with his pockets stuffed with such letters, he was slapped with a fine, and when a passing Chiaroscuran fisherman saw him outside Chiaroscuro, heading for the border, he was finally arrested and thrown in jail. “Public menace” was his crime, and his trial was set for several weeks in the future (the Chiaroscuran Order of Law was caught up with a series of murders at the time, so one little letter-writing lunatic had to be put on the back burner). By the time the killer was caught and Augustus's evidence started to be sorted through, Chiaroscuro was again distracted by a sudden and completely unexpected turn of events…
Meet the Empress!
Full Name: Meg (Megumi) Ottavarima, aka “The Empress”
Appearance: Meg, or “the Empress”, as she calls herself, is an unhealthily scrawny, short Chiaroscuran. Her face is half black and half white (the separation runs diagonally down), and her yellow eyes have a far off, dreamy expression.
Likes: History, shiny things, being important, memories, Augustus
Dislikes: Being forgotten, putting forth effort, wind
Historian, thief, prisoner
Favorite Food: Black jelly soup
Spirit Animal: Jellyfish
Vegetable Fruit: Blueberry
Little Known Fact: She saw Sebastian in his cat form in the hall a couple times, when he was on his way to the Council Chamber. She thought he was pretty adorable, but didn't think that was the sort of thing you should tell a king, especially when his adorableness is due to a curse.
Meg once worked in the palace, studying all she could about Chiaroscuran history, as well as the writings on the Empire that had been copied and recopied from “The Academy Collection” over 260 years since the Ancient Shadows had first come to Chiaroscuro. Even though she had her own apartment in the palace (her father having been vanished during a Shadow Incident, her mother dying during the outbreak of the great sickness that ravaged the city during her childhood), she couldn’t help but long for the things she had heard about in the Empire, and the things she imagined. While all architecture in Chiaroscuro was black and white, the Academy Collection spoke about vermillion palaces, green-tinged copper roofs, and mosaics in every color of the rainbow (rainbows were something often mentioned in books of poetry and art, but never described. Meg supposed they must be something like blown glass sculptures, with lots of colors twisted together). She was certain, too, that all of these buildings must be surrounded by flower gardens—because who wouldn’t be surrounded by gardens if they could—and spent long hours imagining what it must be like to live in the Empire, especially in the Imperial Palace, home (or once home) of the Empress Hypatia Mbaga, a just and noble queen by every author’s estimation.
The longer she walked the white walls of the palace, the more she imagined life in the Empire, and the more lonely she felt, spending hours immersed in the world of a far away and long ago country. She wondered how it must feel to be the Empress, loved and adored and looked up too, and began to visit memory merchants, asking specifically for memories to be concocted of what she imaged: gardens, beautiful gem-encrusted houses, life within the walls of the palace—the Imperial, not Empyreal one. The more time she devoted to these, the less and less she cared for real life. Food tasted like ash in her mouth, and she only ate enough to stay alive… or not? What was life—the white walls she found herself in, or the colored ones she could remember? Eventually, she had taken so many memories that she forgot which were her own and which were fabrications. She forgot if she were the Empress, who she knew on a rational level had died hundreds of years ago, or Meg Ottavarima, who seemed never to have lived at all.