We played the setting of Butterfly Princesses of the Swordlands by Richard Kelly, but since we were online, I switched out the mechanics with a heavily modified version of the Lasers & Feelings ruleset. The Swordlands are bucolic valleys populated by faeries with butterfly wings, each of whom is a princess in line for the Monarch’s throne. Princess Necritia is a macabre mage with death’s head moth wings who seeks to promote the essential but much maligned decomposers of the forest. Princess Comma has tan spotted wings and seeks to organize the Swordlands to be less chaotic and more like the ordered ants. Princess Periwinkle has metallic blue wings with orange accents like the leaf-wing butterfly, and she just wants to bring everyone together in love and friendship. Princess Monarsis is an artiste with purple and emerald wings who wishes to make the Swordlands itself into a work of art. Finally, Princess Fortuneflame is a creature of the forests and hunter whose wings resemble those of the purple emperor butterfly.
Our story begins at a birthday party for Comma at her families abandoned bee-box estate. We each present our gifts to the birthday girl, but inside Monarsis’s gift of flowers emerges an orchid mantis in pink, whose dignified and precise movements grab Comma’s attention. At the end of the night, the mantis (whose name is Chrysalla) makes an offer to all the Swordlands—she would willingly serve as regent until the princesses mature and are ready to vie for the throne, allowing them to properly enjoy their youth. Monarsis and Comma find the idea especially appealing, but Necritia is dead set against it, already feeling excluded and slighted by how we all have treated her, with her dust and spores floating everywhere, during the party. Periwinkle escorts Fortuneflame and Necritia outside together to defuse the situation.
Later, sitting outside, Comma and Periwinkle discuss the possibility of a Mantis Regent. Comma’s is enthusiastic, but Peri worries about how much disagreement this could create, and what do we even know about what Chrysalla might do as regent. When Comma mentions the human threat, Fortuneflame, who had been perched above them in a tree, mocks them for believing in such myths, but then Monarsis and Chrysalla arrive. Asked questions by Periwinkle, Chrysalla states she wishes to make the Swordlands more ant-like, but that humans are immaterial, a phantom threat, prompting Comma to think she should be Monarch. Fortuneflame finds this prospect very unappealing, so she visits Necritia and convinces her to campaign for Queen herself on a promise of equality for all, mushroom and earthworms and princesses alike. Recognizing the threat, Monarsis visits Comma to argue for the Mantis Regent and discuss her attachment to the ants. It comes out that Monarsis doesn’t believe in humans, but knows that Bigfeets are real, which could be an ally against humans if they turn out to be real. When Chrysalla arrives, they discuss what the mantis may do—seeking a balance between the chaos of anarchy and the rigidity of ant-archy.
Our story concludes at a political rally with a debate between Necritia and Comma. Necritia plays to the crowd with talk of equality, and Comma tries to argue for learning a bit about productivity from the ants. Fortuneflame interrupts telling Comma that people do believe in equality and that means acceptance, so it is okay for her to admit that she is part ant, no one will judge her. Mainly join in, admitting to being mixed, including Fortuneflame herself, Monarsis, and various members of the crowd. Upset, Comma runs off crying, but by this point, all the ado has activated something in Necritia, who has unconsciously begun to emit some narcotic spores that mellow everyone out. Chrysalla comforts Comma, asking her what she would say to any little princess in the crowd who may be part ant, to which she replies: “everything will be okay.” Monarsis marvels at how beautiful everything has become and yells out about seeing such beautiful wings. Periwinkle arrives at this point, opening the door and seeing everyone in their euphoric state, puddled together about the room. “Finally,” she says aloud and joins her sister princesses.
After this, all the princesses agree to make Chrysalla the Mantis Regent. But what happens next? Some of us believe that Chrysalla will eventually work her way through the Butterfly Princess population, eating us one at a time for years. Others think that Chrysalla may demand regular sacrifices of male mantises for her enjoyments, but surely will otherwise lead us to years of peace and prosperity.