I've blogged about trilby else so many times, how much I appreciate his talent and how closely his kinks dovetail with my own. This afternoon I decided to reread one of my favorite trilby stories, Pawn. I won't try to convince you it's one of his best, and it's probably not one of his most popular. But it draws me in more deeply than just about anything else he's written, even after all these years. The heat and the pathos are more palpable than just about anything else I've read.
If you choose to read "Pawn" for yourself, you should know a few things going in. This isn't just a wank piece - as if trilby ever wrote such a thing in the first place! There's prologue and epilogue, quite a bit of it - and in between is a steadily deepening gulf of mindless eroticism. If you like fantasy in general, you'll appreciate the work trilby put into his world building and the care he took with the finale of "Pawn." If, on the other hand, you're just there for the MC, I advise you to focus on the three Witch Queens and Eshwe without working too hard to keep track of everything else.
Eshwe is the heart of the story: an ordinary soldier who volunteers for a suicide mission that just might save her country. The Witch Queen Lirytas has already enthralled one of the other two Queens in her neighborhood (to incredible effect - everything to do with Shilwan is deliciously squirm-inducing) and now she's angling for the third. But Queen Keris has a secret with the potential to save herself and her people. All she needs is an envoy willing to sacrifice herself in revealing that secret to Lyritas. You see, no one who comes near Lirytas can ever be trusted again. They might seem free when they return, and they might even think they're free, but Lyritas's power is too great to take for granted. Keris can't gamble on her envoy's safe return; she can't even gamble on her envoy returning at all. And perhaps, from the envoy's point of view, that would be for the best. At least that way she'd still be alive.
Eshwe, as I said, volunteers for the suicide mission. And it's her personality that makes this story as special as it is. From the very first scene, we know she's less resistant to mind control than some of her comrades; and we quickly come to suspect that she's attracted to the idea of surrender. But she does have one thing going for her in the coming battle: she is deeply, deeply loyal to Queen Keris.
And oh, how that loyalty is tested. Lyritas' methods are so seductive, and Eshwe is so clearly tempted to succumb. Besides, what's the point of resisting when she can't go home anyway and Lirytas could just as easily strip Keris' message from a will-less mind as well as a free one? Yet Eshwe still fights on, sometimes gaining ground, sometimes losing it, sometimes falling so far she even fantasizes about Keris herself falling into slavery. That's how deep Lyritas takes her, just in toying with her.
What do you do when you're fighting a battle you don't entirely want to win? What do you do when your only possibility of survival lies in surrender? trilby is too skillful a writer to spell it out so bluntly, but it's there for the pondering if you want to ponder. And if you don't, there's always Shilwan to shiver over. I've been doing that myself, for years.