There’s a party going on in the Cauldron. All of my characters mingle amidst the mists, arguing, talking, dressed in various degrees of finery. At the heart of it all stands Christopher, dressed in black velvet. To his left is Damian, wearing a white poet’s shirt and leather pants. To his right are Danyel and Tayel, wearing their pale green and blue vests over white tunics, gray trousers, and dove gray boots.
Christopher: (considering this past year and all that’s happened) We never finished our story.
Danyel: Not My Tool, My Treasure. Perhaps we’ll finish it this year.
Damian: I wouldn’t get too hopeful if I were you.
Tayel: Scribblers are distracted creatures. At least ours is.
Damian: Look at everyone who’s here to distract her.
Quartz stomps over, his six brothers trailing behind him. He crosses his arms and glowers at Christopher.
Quartz: I’ll have you know this. If that scribbler hasn’t finished my story by April, Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins is going to be her Camp NaNoWriMo project. Not My Tool, My Treasure. Got it?
Christopher: You’ll have to convince the scribbler of that.
Quartz: Oh, I’ll convince her all right.
Damian: (smiles with poisonous sweetness at Quartz): I’m certain Nimmie Not will be delighted to hear how much quality time you’ll be spending together.
Nimmie Not: (appears in a puff of yellow smoke, arms around Quartz’s neck) Indeed!
Quartz: (jumping, stumbling while his brothers scatter) Gah!
Nimmie Not: Come, come, my delectable grump! (He snuggles closer to Quartz.) It’s a shiny new year! Let’s celebrate in style! (Both the skinny kobold and the dwarf he’s clinging to disappear.)
Opal: Harrumph! (collecting himself) If that brother of mine is going to be romanced as the lead in a novella, I still say I should take over Secondary Characters Speak Out. After all, I’m still a secondary character!
Garnet: I am, too.
Other dwarves: As are we!
Opal: Quiet, you lot!
Tayel: One secondary character cannot simply step in for another.
Danyel: He’s right. (in an aside to his twin) That was surprisingly straightforward.
Tayel: Surprise and straightforward aren’t unknown to me.
Both Danyel and Damian raise their eyebrows at the exact same moment.
Christopher: I’d agree, Opal. Besides, just because Quartz is no longer a secondary character doesn’t mean he’ll be giving up his blog.
Damian: Quartz may well encourage other secondary characters to revolt and become main characters. I mean, look at you. I’m guessing that’s what you really want.
Opal: Hmph! Like I’ll ever become one. My younger brother with his fear of garden gnomes is more likely to get a story.
Garnet: (perking up) I am?
Opal growls something under his breath and stomps away. The other dwarves clomp after him.
Damian: If every secondary character got their own story, we’d be overrun.
Danyel: I doubt the scribbler would be able to remember them all. Speaking of characters forgotten, are we all Blogging from AZ this April?
Christopher: We’ve hardly been forgotten and yes. Every year it’s been about us, come April, hasn’t it? The same characters only with a different theme.
Tayel: Similar faces, wandering through the elements of shifting facets.
Danyel: What shifting facets are we wandering through in April 2020?
Dyvian chooses to make his entrance, drifting towards Christopher, Damian, and the twins, dressed in black velvet himself. Phaedra stands at one side, stiff in a russet jumpsuit while Iama is at the other, completely relaxed in her midnight and gold gown.
Dyvian: The theme for Blogging for AZ will be Character Change. What would you change about yourself if you could?
Phaedra: We’ll be back for the challenge, even though our stories are finished and published.
Iama: Only it won’t be little Maia participating this year, but myself. I am the true Iama, after all.
Dyvian: (He allows his eyes to linger on the twins for a moment) I look forward to sharing a blog with you once more, my little ones. (He makes a slight bow to Christopher and Damian before backing away. Phaedra moves in step with him, offering a little nod. Iama moves with them, neither bowing nor nodding. She simply gazes at Christopher with hooded eyes.)
Christopher: (watches them go, releasing a breath) Well, I wonder which Nathalie and Grace will be blogging in April? There are now two of them in Wind Me Up, One More Time.
Damian: We’ll find out in April, unless the scribbler experiences unexpected difficulties which keep her from the project. Tayel, you look pale. Well, paler.
Tayel: Come close to the hungry darkness and the darkness steals life and colour.
Danyel: Not to mention we get to look forward to sharing a blog with him. Again. (shudders)
Damian: You already share a story, an entire series with him.
Danyel: Don’t remind me. (He shudders again.)
Christopher: Remember, I’m not all that different from Damian.
Danyel: No, you are. Different that is. You may be similar beings, but you and Dyvian are very different people.
Tayel: The appetite remains the same.
Danyel: Christopher tries to control his appetite. Dyvian allows his to rule him and dictate his plans.
Damian: It’s a good thing Leiwell isn’t here to hear you say that.
Danyel: He’s here.
Tayel: (nods across the room)
Leiwell stands, dressed in white, black, green, cutting a handsome figure as he chats with other characters from Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest. He’s keeping an emerald eye fixed on his little brothers.
Danyel: You didn’t think he’d miss this party, did you?
Christopher: Definitely not. Especially since Tayel is right. You should be careful around me. I’m guessing that’s why your brother is keeping an eye on you.
Damian: Leiwell is always keeping an eye on them. And he’s in a pretty position to criticize you about your appetites, all things considered.
Christopher: I know. (He touches Damian’s hand.) I’m going to get you back, I swear it.
Damian: (allows his fingers to caress Christopher’s) Hopefully we’ll all get a chance to satisfy our appetites. Or not satisfy them. Quartz and Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins is only one part of the competition.
A young man wearing a short tunic approaches, followed by a slightly older man, wearing even less.
Troile: Yes, what about our story, Aissa and Polyxena? It has been completed, yet remains unpublished.
Christopher: After Aissa and Polyxena was rejected twice, I think our scribbler wanted to look it over, polish it up. Maybe read Song of Achilles. After all, she’s using Hamilton, Graves, and Homer as her main sources of research for your story.
Damian: She was thrown by one of her favourite scenes in Hannibal between Hannibal and Will, where they draw a parallel between themselves and Achilles and Patrocles. The scribbler has become such a Hannigram fan, not to mention a fan of Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, the moment gave her renewed respect for Patrocles. Not to mention a desire to do Achille’s love for Patrocles justice.
Achille: (who is the second man) I’ve always loved my Patrocles. This doesn’t make me love my Polyxena less.
Troile: (touching his hand) You’ll have a chance to prove both. (mutters) Not that Patrocles has much respect and even less less love for me.
Achille: Perhaps some resolution between the two of you should be reached in the underworld. Just as I achieve a measure of resolution with your brother.
Troile: We’ll need to suggest this to the scribbler. The mightiest of the Achaens and a prince of Troy are certainly equal to any drubbing of the imagination some grump of a dwarf might give her. (The two of them stroll off, arms linked.)
Christopher: You see who else we have to compete with for our scribbler’s attention? Troile and Achille aren’t the only ones.
A slender young woman with rippling amber tresses falling over her shoulders marches forward, tugging a slighter, heavier woman with honey-coloured hair. The first woman favours Christopher, Damian, and the twins with a smile.
Amberwyne: How about that? Grace and Theodora’s story wasn’t just finished, it was published. It gives me hope for our story; The Players are the Thing.
Rhane: (fixing dreamy blue eyes upon the boys present) Yes. Yes, it does.
Amberwyne: Although that hope may soon die if the scribbler’s attention is stolen once more. It would be courteous if you’d actually spare her a little time for us. (She gives Christopher a pointed look before leading Rhane away.)
Damian: (laying a protective hand on Christopher’s shoulder) And that’s not the last of them.
A couple of boys, only slightly older than Danyel and Tayel approach. One has shoulder-length dark curls, while the other has auburn ones.
Byron: I’m not sure why Amberwyne is complaining. The Players Are the Thing has enjoyed more attention than The Other Side of the Mask.
Shelley: We did make an appearance in freebie stories due to the prompts of Paula Wyant.
Christopher: Our scribbler has been thinking of you. Her recent Hannibal and Hannigram obsessions have put her in a state of mind to return to Paradise, the pale lords, and their victims.
Damian: Associations of elegant horror, after all.
Byron: I’m not a victim. I’m well aware that Quartz’s story will receive attention first. People are actually clamouring for his story.
Shelley: Ours should gain interest with more attention. The scribbler knows where to submit Quartz’s story. She’s no longer certain ours is a good fit with the publisher she planned to send it to. This slowed her down.
Byron: Many things slow her down. Is it too much to wish for a little more attention? That’s all I ask.
The two boys move away, only to have a golden-haired youth the same apparent age as Christopher approach.
Christopher: Speaking of a lack of attention…hello, Rhodry. (looks down, abashed)
Rhodry: Hello, Christopher. (His voice is even, but his eyes glitter golden.) It must be nice to have taken over the Cauldron every Monday for conversations. I can hear them, you know. Down there in the hole where the scribbler left me.
Damian tightens his grip on Christopher’s shoulder and gazes straight at Rhodry with unspoken menace.
Rhodry: You think you frighten me, Ashelocke? I’ve been intimidated by far worse than you.
Damian: Being trapped in the hole has made you bold, Nevalyn.
Christopher: Stop, both of you. I can understand how Rhodry feels, Damian. Rhodry, I’ll have you by for a conversation. Maybe it will get our scribbler thinking about Worlds of Omphalos and Trouble at Caerac Keep again.
A tiny dragon pokes her head out of Rhodry’s tunic and gazes at Christopher with a golden eye that glitters as balefully as his does.
Kyra: I’ve been in the hole, too, along with Rhodry. I’d really like to know how I turned from a girl into a dragon. My own story, A Suitor’s Challenge, has yet to be told.
Damian: Blame Hannibal.
Christopher: I don’t think it’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s fault or his TV show’s that Kyra Nevalyn is a dragon.
Damian: Perhaps not. I blame them for distracting our scribbler from our stories and filling her with Hannigram fics.
Christopher: If it wasn’t Hannibal, it would be something else. I think our scribbler needed a distraction.
Damian: Maybe. I still wonder how long we’ll have to wait for her attention to return.
Rhodry: You know nothing of waiting, Damian Ashelocke. You’re always on the scribbler’s mind, you and your ambient Tarot-inspired fantasy universe. All the while, World of Omphalos gets neglected. (He stalks away, petting the little dragon.)
Christopher: Once again you see all the competition we’re up against and this isn’t even all of it.
Danyel: Our scribbler sure has a lot on her mind. It’s a wonder she remembers any of us.
Tayel: Sympathizing with her distraction only intensifies its chaotic power.
Damian: He’s right. Don’t encourage the scribbler’s distraction. Encourage her instead.
Christopher: Now that sounds like a good New Year’s resolution for all of us. Encourage the scribbler.
Tayel: We’ll sparkle amidst murk and eddy of conflicting interest.
Danyel: Which means we’ll do our best.
Damian: Oh, I’m sure we all will. Best of luck, everyone, in encouraging our scribbler.
Everyone: Here, here!