(Christopher is in the Cauldron, having a conversation with his beloved Damian Ashelocke. It doesn’t matter if he’s really there or not. Christopher misses him enough to talk to him, to imagine the questions he might ask. Or is Damian truly there?)
Damian: I was just thinking about Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After. Just what are they?
Christopher: The beginning of all stories and the end everyone hopes to get. I’m not sure if anyone outside the Gardens of Arachne considers Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After to be a whom as well as what.
Damian: Why did we start seeing them as a whom? Where did Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After first come from?
Christopher: The Shadow Forest, perhaps? Its mists do creep into our former gardens. This was why Stefan Ashelocke called his realm ‘Mystere’.
Damian: Yes, but the Shadow Forest is composed of dreams, stray thoughts, imaginary creatures and places. Didn’t someone have to fantasize about Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After in order for the two of them to become Arachnian legends? Or were they once real people?
Christopher: Just what is ‘real’? I’ve had dreams, visions of storytellers and legend crafters, gathering together around a legendary fountain to compete against each other in their art. The victor would become Once Upon a Time, ultimate crafter of story. He’d control the fountain and all the other fountains of creation itself.
Christopher: Or she. Or they. It doesn’t matter who or what you were. To become Once Upon a Time, you just need the art and mastery to spawn legends.
Damian: This sounds a bit like being a deity or becoming one.
Christopher: It may have been. Only you could have very humble beginnings and still become Once Upon a Time. Like I said, it was less about who you were and more about what you can do.
Damian: And Happily Ever After?
Christopher: He was the prize all the participants in legends strove to carry off or obtain for themselves.
Christopher: Or she. Or they. It depends of the desires of those involved in the legend, the form Happily Ever After takes. (He looks away from Damian, his cheeks coloring.) I’ve always seen Happily Ever After as a he. A particular he.
Damian: (His own cheeks colour as well.) Always?
Damian: Your Happily Ever After could disappoint you. He might be not turn out to be what you expected.
Christopher: That’s the problem with being Happily Ever After, any form of Happily Ever After. (He smiles sadly.) It’s impossible to live up to others’ expectations of you.
Damian: One would think being Happily Ever After would grant some sort of powers to live up to such expectations. Something to help him fulfil his role.
Christopher: You would think so, wouldn’t you? Such powers mean nothing if Happily Ever After can’t use them. Or if he misuses them.
Damian: Does Happily Ever After misuse his powers?
Christopher: All too often.
Damian: How does he stop? Or learn to use those powers more wisely?
Christopher: That’s a riddle I’m still struggling to figure out.