Christopher sits facing a fidgety young dwarf in age and looks similar to Garnet from his ginger whiskers to the alert way his nose twitches. Only while Garnet squirms in unease, this dwarf does so out of curiousity and an inability to sit still.
Christopher: You’re Jasper, aren’t you? The youngest of Quartz’s brothers except for Garnet.
Jasper: Right, right. (He looks around with great interest.) Say, just where are we? I can see nothing but mist.
Christopher: We’re in what the scribbler calls the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration.
Jasper: Cauldron? Is all this mist steam? Are we slowly being cooked?
Christopher: Only in a metaphorical sense. On the other hand, this place is made of metaphor, imagination. It’s where our scribbler’s ideas come to a boil, so yes.
Jasper: Really? (looking more intrigued than afraid)
Christopher: No, not really. Do you think we’d be able to sit here, talking, if we were being cooked?
Jasper: So it’s only metaphor, imagination…I don’t get it.
Christopher: Neither do I. Not entirely. What this place serves as is somewhere between stories where characters from different universes can come together and talk.
Jasper: Like you and me? Just who are you, Christopher?
Christopher: I’m not sure myself. (He gestures to his slender body, currently clad in a black velvet vest and making trousers, his coppery-golden wavy hair which curls around his ears.) I think this used to be my form, but I didn’t dress this way. I picked this up when I was with Damian.
Jasper: Damian? Who’s he?
Christopher: Someone very precious to me. Someone I lost to the Shadow Forest.
Jasper: The Shadow Forest? Is that like the Forest of Tears?
Christopher: I’m not sure. What’s the Forest of Tears like?
Jasper: Your darkest fears can come to life and menace you. I’ve already seen three goblins, an orc, and a troll flitting between the trees. No garden gnomes, though. I guess only Garnet can see them.
Christopher: You’re afraid of goblins, orcs, and trolls, I take it?
Jasper: Very. We ran away to a different mountain to get away from them along with other dwarves. Who knew we could summon them from our own fears? I haven’t seen them anywhere close to our cottage, though. That’s our new home, where I live with my six brothers. We were lead there by a kobold, only a dragon stopped us along the way. Isn’t that exciting?
Christopher: Err, definitely exciting. Possibly terrifying.
Jasper: Oh, aye, as my older brothers would say. We all shook and fell on our faces, except for Quartz. Our oldest brother has stones; huge, terrifying stones.
Christopher: Meaning Quartz did something different?
Jasper: He talked to it! He actually talked to the dragon once Nimmie Not…that’s our kobold guide…introduced them. Quartz called the dragon Prue. Can you believe it? It’s short for Prunella.
Christopher: To be truthful, I’m not sure what to believe these days.
Jasper: I know, I know! A dragon ought to be called Firestorm, Hurricane, Thunderwyrm, or at least Smoke. Whoever heard of the dragon named Prunella?
Christopher: Well, I’ve never heard of one called Thunderwyrm either.
Jasper: You know what I mean. Anyway Quartz actually made a bargain with this dragon so we could live in the Forest of Tears. It seems Prunella is the Forest’s guardian or something.
Christopher: Really? What’s Prunella guarding?
Jasper: (pauses for a moment) That’s a very good question. I thought it was the Forest itself but maybe it’s something in the Forest. Or someone.
Christopher: Guess that’s one of the mysteries in your Forest of Tears. If it’s anything like the Shadow Forest, there will be many mysteries.
Jasper: I’m still wondering if the Forest of Tears is anything like your Shadow Forest. What’s the Shadow Forest like?
Christopher: The dream wood we wander in dreams and daydreams, slipping out of reality to walk our paths beneath its trees. It’s not just trees, even though I call it the Shadow Forest. It can be anything you imagine. Chances are if you’ve ever dreamed or lost yourself to your thoughts, you’ve entered these woods. This is how most visit the Shadow Forest, but if you have a wish strong enough, you can find a Door and cross over body and soul.
Jasper: Shards! That sounds mysterious!
Christopher: Always, not to mention perilous. You may enter through a Door with your mind, body, and spirit whole, but you seldom exit intact. The shadows always steal a part of you.
Jasper: The shadows?
Christopher: What those who walk the paths leave behind. Those who wait beneath the trees for life, breath, passion, memory, and clarity.
Jasper: You’re not being any less mysterious.
Christopher: It’s a mystery to me as well, even though I used to a shadow. Before I was, I don’t remember opening a Door to the Shadow Forest. I don’t remember much of who or what I was until Damian pulled me out of the darkness.
Jasper: And now this Shadow Forest has your Damian.
Christopher: He created a Door through a painting of me. He disappeared into the Door.
Jasper: I’m getting this chill down my spine while you’re telling me this.
Christopher: I always get one whenever I remember it. It was a chilling moment.
Jasper: I’m sure, which is why I’m chilled myself, even though it wasn’t my story. We have the same scribbler. I live in a different Forest than you but it’s still an enchanted Forest. I have a bad feeling it’s going to take someone from me, someone precious.
Christopher: Keep those you hold precious close. Watch over them.
Jasper: I’ll try, but is that enough?
Christopher: Not always. If your Forest of Tears does take someone from you, don’t give up on them. Keep searching for them even if it’s in a place you’d never think to look.
Jasper: Well, that sounds cryptic, but thank’ee. I’ll keep that in my mind.
Christopher: Good luck to you and your brothers.
Jasper: The same to you. I hope you find your Damian.
Christopher: I hope so, too.