Christopher sits facing three dwarves. The first has a salt and pepper black beard and heavily lidded dark eyes. The other two have ginger beards. One of the latter has especially thick hands and big feet. The second has impeccably combed side whiskers and a perpetual smirk lurking on his lips.
Christopher: You’re Quartz and Opal’s younger brothers, aren’t you? Along with Garnet’s older brothers. Perhaps you could introduce yourselves?
The dark-haired dwarf doesn’t speak. He just blinks slowly.
The first ginger-beard shuffled his feet with a scraping sound that makes Christopher grit his teeth.
Second Ginger-Beard: The dark-haired fellow is Onyx. He almost never speaks. The ugly chap here is Sardonyx. He may not speak, but he makes plenty of noise.
Sardonyx balls one meaty hand into a fist and slams it against the other.
The nameless ginger-bearded dwarf leans back in his seat before he continues.
Second Ginger-Beard: As you see, I’m more civilized than either of them. You may call me Agate, little shadow. Might say I’m the civilized center in a crowd of boorish brothers.
Christopher: You can call me Christopher. How are you the civilized center?
Agate: Better to call myself that than the middle child. Again more civilized. Be grateful you’re talking to me. I’m the most sociable of the seven dwarves.
Christopher: Is that so?
Agate: Oh, please. Quartz would rather spend time with rocks than people. All Opal does is grumble. Onyx and Sardonyx refuse to talk. Jasper has the attention span of a squirrel while Garnet whimpers about garden gnomes and pulls out his own beard. I’m the most normal member of the family.
Onyx lifts an eyebrow and just stares at Agate.
Sardonyx unclenches his fist and begins to tap his fingers against the arm of his chair in a mocking tune.
Agate: (scowls) Right. Neither of you think I’m normal, nor pleasant company. I’m still better company than either of you, not to mention more normal than any of us.
Christopher: That could get lonely.
Agate: Oh, I find ways to amuse myself. (He allows his smirk to grow.)
Onyx shuts his eyes and frowns.
Sardonyx rolls his eyes and lets out a loud sigh.
Agate: My brothers may not like them, but they amuse me.
Christopher: Are they caught up in these ways when you find them, willing or not?
Agate: Heh, you catch on fast. That’s right.
Onyx opens one eye, gazes at the haze above his head, as if asking it for strength.
Sardonyx lets out a snorting chuckle.
Agate: (spreading his hands in a gesture of innocence) I’ve got limited sources of amusement. Although there’s always the Forest of Tears, lying right outside our cottage.
Onyx opens his other eye to fix both of them upon Agate in a sharp look of reproof. He shakes his head.
Sardonyx scowls, balling his hands into fists and slamming them against his legs.
Agate: Heh, Opal doesn’t like it when we wander in the Forest of Tears. Neither did Quartz. Always warning Jasper not to do it, he was. (He glances at his brothers.) These two lumps agree.
Christopher: You don’t.
Agate: Like Jasper ever heeded Opal’s warnings any more than he did Quartz. Why should I? I get bored, looking at nothing but my brothers all the time.
Christopher: Is the Forest of Tears less boring?
Agate: Well, Garnet keeps babbling about things in the Forest, watching us. I never saw anything.
Christopher: Nothing at all?
Agate: Well, the Forest of Tears is odd. I’ve had odd visions as a result. So has Jasper. Guessing it has more to do with us, our own fears than anyone else.
Christopher: Don’t underestimate the power of your own fears, especially in an enchanted wood.
Agate: Heh, I hope so. The hope that something is lurking beneath the trees keeps me going back for more.
Onyx and Sardonyx rolls their eyes at that exact same moment.
Agate: Oh go on and be boring! You always are. Quartz might have been odd and Garnet is downright batty, but at least they’re interesting. Well, Quartz was interesting.
Christopher: You don’t think Quartz is alive then?
Agate: I don’t know what to think so I don’t.
One pair of black eyebrows while another pair of ginger shoot up to receding hairlines, while the weathered faces below give Agate similar expressions of exasperation.
Agate: At least I’m honest about this. Like either of you have any idea what’s going on either. All we know is Quartz is in that crystal coffin and he’s not getting out.
Christopher: You think he’s dead.
Agate: I don’t know. It’s beyond me.
Onyx and Sardonyx both bow their heads.
Christopher: What do you think happened to Quartz?
Agate: The witch’s curse consumed our girl. After that, it reached out and throttled our brother. Dead or not, it’s got him in his clutches. If he’s not dead, he might as well be. Another thing we can blame on bloody Oriana.
Onyx and Sardonyx nod in vigorous agreement.
Christopher: Only Quartz awoke the sleeping princess. Shouldn’t someone be able to awaken Quartz?
Agate: We all saw what happened when Quartz tried to break the bloody curse. He only made things worse. Best not to mess with that crystal coffin.
Onyx and Sardonyx bob their heads once more.
Christopher: You may have to mess with that coffin. What if Quartz needs your help escaping it?
All three dwarves stare at Christopher as if he’s sprouted a second head.
Christopher: Is it that unreasonable to think you could help him? He’s not the only one of you seven capable of working with a stone’s energies. Or stones.
Agate: Now you’re starting to sound like Garnet. Messing with the stones is what got Quartz in that coffin to begin with!
Onyx and Sardonyx both bow their heads in agreement.
Christopher: Are you sure?
Agate: We shaped that coffin into its present form after finding something quite different in the Forest of Tears. Quarz was the one who guided us. Without him, we don’t know what in the shattered shards we’re doing.
Onyx and Sardonyx slump forward, not looking at anyone.
Christopher: Did Quartz know what he was doing in the shaping?
Agate: No, I’m not sure if he did. This may be why he’s where he is now. Anything we try could male things worse. For all we know, he’s still in the middle of the shaping. Maybe he’ll wake up himself. We just have to be patient.
Onyx sits up, looking miserable, still not meeting anyone’s gaze.
Sardonyx stays bowed, although he starts to shuffle his feet while still sitting.
Agate: Besides Opal doesn’t want any of us even going near that coffin.
Christopher: That won’t stop all of you.
Agate: (smiles with a sharp gleam in his eyes) No, it won’t. Just because we shouldn’t mess with that coffin doesn’t mean I won’t.
Onyx shakes his head and places a warning finger on his lips.
Sardonyx lifts his face and regards Agate with beetled ginger eyebrows. His shuffling turns into stomping.
Agate: Right, I know you’re all curious. What really happened to our brother? Don’t you want to know?
Neither Onyx nor Sardonyx answer.
Agate: We may find out. Whether you want to or not.
There is continued silence.