Christopher sits facing a short, stout woman whose chair has become a divan she settles the ample folds of her loose blue gown, clinging to her generous bosom, waist, and arms. The woman has her graying hair gathered in wisps in what’s meant to be a regal arrangement, yet falls loose in wayward strands. She allows her hands to flutter in what would be a graceful dance if they didn’t move with such agitated cheer, flashing the golden rings on her left hand, the silver ones on her right. Almost every single one of them sports a stone. The left flashes its ruby, emerald, amethyst, sapphire, and prismatic-diamond gleam in Christopher’s eye, forcing him to duck his head. It’s easier to look at the right; the more subdued eroding blue of the bornite upon her ring finger, flanked by topaz and turquoise, spreading out to tourmaline and opal soberly represented in silver.
Juno: Oh dear, what a gray, depressing, murky place I’ve found you in, my poor dear! (She flutters her hands, flashing rings, allowing them to dance over her chest, spreading out to the expanded space around her, reaching for Christopher himself.) Does your mother know you’re here? I’d be quite distressed my Hebe were to be lost in all this mist, she’s such a gloomy girl to begin with, taking all those cups home and smashing them, how messy, how wasteful! I can’t imagine all this gray haze would do her any good, any more than it does you any good, oh no! Does Gabrielle know you’re here, Christopher, tut, tut!
Christopher: Yes. For the past three weeks she’s been visiting.
Juno: Oh my, I can’t say I approve, not at all. Such a dreary place is ill-suited for a charming young lady like ‘Brie, nor should a lovely lad like yourself linger in this…just what is this dreadful spot?
Christopher: This is the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, our scribbler’s blog. For her characters, this is where the walls between worlds thin, allowing denizens from different universes to talk, to peek through the veil of existence at our scribbler’s world.
Juno: Well, I suppose this center of glumness is useful. It’s a bit like the Shadow Forest, isn’t it, dear?
Christopher: In a way. Ideas cooking within our scribbler’s imagination come to a boil which we, her characters express.
Juno: I’m not particularly fond of the notion of being cooked, dear, and neither should you. Why, I remember a nasty little man who cooked up his own son in a pot, serving him to my husband, myself, our children, and all our relatives, dear me, so dreadful! We punished that horrid little man properly for being such a bad host, yes, we quite outdid ourselves, restoring the son to life almost as whole as he was, giving him a beauty alluring enough to catch the eye of my brother, not the one you’re thinking of, another brother. Ah, the things we could do, sweetmeat, we were beyond amazing. We were gods. Only I digress, it’s very easy to get carried away by the past, and why shouldn’t we? Why, if the Cauldron is bubbling with inspiration, I should be able to restore myself to my former glory!
She lifted a ringed hand, watches her fingers lengthen, growing stronger. The wrinkles and sagging flesh upon her face, neck, and arms tighten, regaining the smooth gloss of youth. The messy hair upon her becomes a perfect coif, a peacock feather jutting from it. Her gown takes on a luxurious sheen.
From the mist emerges a magnificent temple with columns, filled with different stone representatives of her, the woman sitting opposite Christopher. Christopher discovers he’s sitting on a divan himself. A low table in between them, covered with glistening fruit.
The changes only last for a moment. Mist rises from the ground and the alcoves of the temple, swallowing columns, statues, alcoves, the table and fruit, the temple itself. Juno’s flesh sags, her arms and fingers thicken, and wrinkles pop out on her face. Her hair returns to its graying, wispy state.
Juno: No. There’s not enough power, not enough faith to retore me. People simply don’t believe in Juno anymore. I’ve been reduced to this sad old woman. (She slumps in her divan.)
Christopher: (leaning forward from his own divan for it has remained) I don’t think you’re sad. You’re one of the most cheerful people I’ve met. Certainly one of the Navel’s more cheerful customers.
Juno: You haven’t met that many people, dear, and the Navel’s customers are only a few. Still thank you, but I’m well aware of whom and what I am. As for being cheerful, well, there’s little point in letting myself fade even further into regret the way my husband has. Or to rage against the past as my daughter does, no, no. I must be content with my lot, yet alert for opportunities to improve it, yes.
Christopher: Have you found them? Opportunities, that is?
Juno: Tut, tut, you naughty boy! Telling you that could be considered a spoiler! (She wags a finger at him.) All I’ll say is I’ve been made very interesting offers and I’m not going to ignore them, oh, no. You shouldn’t either, dear. You should take what’s offered when it comes, you truly should.
Christopher: (drawing back) What do you mean?
Juno: Oh, dear me. (She flutters, covering a hand over her lips before allowing her fingers to their dance around the surrounding space) You do wish to find Damian, don’t you? To rescue that wayward charmer out of whatever toothy predicament has gotten hold of him?
Christopher: More than anything. Only I’m afraid he doesn’t want to be rescued. This may make him impossible to find, especially in the Shadow Forest.
Juno: Now, now, don’t you go doubting yourself! Isn’t your will as strong as Damian’s?
Christopher: I don’t know.
Juno: Tut, tut, what kind of attitude is that from a young boy like you? Why, when I was a goddess, young men strutted and flaunted their beauty, constantly boasting of their strength and will.
Christopher: I’m being honest. I don’t know if my will is as strong as Damian’s. I wouldn’t be here if not for Damian.
Juno: Children turn on their benefactors, even their very creators all the time. Why, our father tried to swallow me along with all of my siblings, the brute! After he’d sawed off his own father’s privates, tossing them into the sea. (She wrinkles her nose.) You would believe the trouble that came out of that. No, much as I wince at my husband’s choices, rebelling against our father wasn’t one I regretted or one I wished to make him regret. Sometimes you have to go against those close to you even if it means the end of everything you know.
Christopher: (raises his own hands in protest) I’m not trying to go against Damian. I’m trying to save him.
Juno: Of course you are, dear. Of course you are. You keep telling yourself that.