Conversations with Christopher: Cinders

Christopher sits facing a girl with dirt in her hair, her cheek, smudged over all her ragged dress. There’s a track of dusty footprints leading to her chair, visible even in the mists of the Cauldron.

Christopher: You’re Cinders, right? The protagonist of At Her Service?

Cinders: That’s right. (She rubs a cheek, leaving it even more smeared.) I had another name once, but I don’t particularly wish to remember it. That name brings back too many memories of the old mistress of the chateaux where I live.

Christopher: You mean your stepmother. 

Cinders: Neither she nor I liked the notion of her as my stepmother. We both did our best to forget it. She was simply the former mistress of the chateaux, never my mistress. My mistress is the Lady Ariella. 

Christopher: The former mistress’s daughter, your stepsister?

Cinders: (She flushes a bit.) I’ve never thought of the lady as my sister and I hope she doesn’t either. My feelings are, um, quite different. 

Christopher: How do you feel about her?

Cinders: She’s my life, the center of my world. I’m never happier than when I’m caressing her ankles, helping her into her glass slippers?

Christopher: Why do you think she wears glass slippers?

Cinders: I have no idea. It’s a mystery just as why she grows pumpkins, hollows them out, and carves them is a mystery. Or why she invites monks coming to save her soul or swindle her out of money into her library and starts arguments with them when she could simply turn them away at the chateaux door. 

Christopher: You and your mistress live at this chateaux which she runs?

Cinders: Yes, it belonged to my father until my stepmother persuaded him to will it to her.

Christopher: Should this chateaux have been your inheritance?

Cinders: It’s complicated. My father’s ancestor swindled his niece out of it, who would have inherited it with an ancient law about only men owning property. The Lady Ariella and her mother are direct descendants of this niece. By blood, they have a better claim than I do. The former mistress wanted this chateaux and I can’t help wondering if anything she wanted that badly could be a good thing. She left nothing to chance, seducing and marrying my father into willing his chateaux to herself and her heirs which didn’t include me. 

Christopher: It did include the Lady Ariella, however, and you ended up a servant. 

Cinders: My father was very insistent in his will that his wife had to care for me, that she couldn’t turn me out. In the Lady Ariella’s mother’s mind, I got no less than she was obligated to give. 

Christopher: You don’t resent this?

Cinders: I resent the former mistress. She wasn’t any kinder to the Lady Ariella than she was to me. The Lady Ariella was the one she had expectations for, expectations of grandeur, which Claude continues to remind her of.

Christopher: Claude?

Cinders: Officially they’re the footman of the household but their job is more involved than that. Claude manages the entire household and spends a lot of time with the staff of the royal court. I think they were the former mistress’s spy. Claude plays the part of a man but could be a woman just as easily. I think they find some of the notions of gender ridiculous but they’re constantly trying to match the Lady Ariella up with the prince. 

Christopher: Why?

Cinders: I think it’s that law my father’s ancestor came up with to disinherit his niece. Claude is worried about it coming back to disinherit my mistress. This is why they keep trying to coax her into outtings with the prince, get her to marry the prince. Claude would very much like the Lady Ariella to be queen someday while the Lady Ariella would rather give up the chateaux and become a wandering adventurer than marry that man. 

Christopher: How do you feel about it?

Cinders: I’d hate to see my mistress disinherited or shamed. Above all, I want the Lady Ariella to be happy. She’d be miserable married to the prince. Too many people think the key to a woman’s happiness is marrying a prince. I’m not sure if Claude has been able to let go if this persistent myth. They might have been happy marrying a prince. I’m not sure if Claude would even have to love their husband. I think the whole organizational challenge of running a kingdom fascinates them. 

Christopher: Not your mistress, though. Nor you.  

Cinders: I’ve seen the headaches she gets, running the chateaux, trying to settle all the debts my father left, ones her mother wasn’t able to get the better of. She doesn’t want or need even bigger headaches. The prince and what he represents are the biggest headaches of them all. I want to help relieve my mistress of her headaches, not intensify them. 

Christopher: Is that all you want?

Cinders: I’m happy to be close to my mistress, to look at her ankles, to have an excuse to touch them when she puts on her glass slippers. This is why I’m grateful for the peculiar footware even if I don’t understand it.

Christopher: It sounds as if you’re happy as you are.

Cinder: Oh, I am. I don’t think my mistress understands that. Sometimes she looks at me with this strange expression or says odd things which make me wonder if she feels like she stole my inheritance from me. If she ought not to be doing more for me. 

Chistopher: She might. You may have been the mistress of the chateaux if your father’s wife hadn’t seduced it out of him. 

Cinders: I’m very glad I’m not. I’ve seen how difficult it is to run a chateaux. I’m not convinced it was worth all the effort Lady Ariella’s mother went to, seducing and coaxing my father. He could be a very mercurial, difficult man and what did she get in return for a lifetime of pandering to him? A number of drafty rooms which are never warm and a pile of debts. I can almost see why she was so violent with me. What a disappointment being mistress of the chateaux must have been. My status may have been reduced with my father’s debts but the cinders are far warmer than the rooms I used to sit in. Lady Ariella settled the debts her mother didn’t, but the chateaux is still drafty. 

Christopher: You mean it. You’re truly happier in the cinders.

Cinders: While my father was alive, it was very hard to avoid his wife. She had a way of faking smiles while looking at me with cold eyes which sucked all the joy out of a room, something my father was oblivious to. The better moments were with Ariella, playing with her, keeping company with her, but her mother always tried to separate us. When my father died, his wife stopped trying to smile but she got violent. Ariella put heself between her mother and myself, directing me towards the cinders. Seeing me so dirty seemed to mollify her mother. The cinders turned out to be a refuge.

Christopher: Are they still?

Cinders: (squirming) The Lady Ariella has a touch of her mother’s temper which sometimes gets the better of her. She’s never invaded my sanctuary. Her demands of me as a servant are light, lighter than her mother’s were. I probably do less work than my mistress herself does. I certainly don’t have the headaches. Now I can be near my mistress without anyone trying to part us except for Claude from time to time. We might have been parted forever if we’d been stepsisters and I’d stayed a lady. One or both of us might have been married off. As my Lady Ariella’s servant, I have an excuse to always be near her. 

Christopher: Perhaps one day you won’t need an excuse.

Cinders: You really think so? I have a hard time imagining such a thing.

Christopher: You never know.

Cinder: I suppose not. 

#RainbowSnippets: Wind Me Up, One More Time

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples of LGBTQIA+ fiction, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

For my own, Nathalie and Grace continue where they left off last week in Wind Me Up, One More Time…

“True, but Verity’s hands couldn’t keep up with her heart.” Nathalie stood up, straightened her back. “To keep making clothes and toys, she needed more hands to keep working. People all over the world, not just in Verity wanted what she sewed.”

“This is why the train was built, right?” 

Like what you’re reading? Want more? Here are buy links…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/wind-me-up-one-more-time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple: 

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

#QueerBlogWed: Hidden Truths Part 3

On September 9, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a new recipe, thread, and a sudden silence.

This enormous Fairest freebie story was the result, so enormous that I’ve had to break it down into segments…this is the last part.

By the way, this a freebie story for Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins as well as Fairest as you may have guessed. 😉

She backed away from the doorway and beckoned, inviting the witch over the threshold. A foolish thing to do, aye, as Quartz would say, but cleverness and guile could be exhausting. 

“I know this cottage with its spacious interior,” Oriana murmured, stepping over the threshold, carrying the basket with great care. “The imp wished me to have it vacated once I became queen for a Person of Interest and his family. It was the price for my magic mirror.”

Ah, it was exactly as the girl feared. The magic mirror had been a gift from Quartz’s jealous lover. All this heartbreak could be part of the kobold’s revenge but he couldn’t have known Blanche would be collapsing on Quartz’s door or that Quartz would take her in. Could he? For that matter, how could he or anyone else be sure his actions hadn’t set in motion the events which set Princess Blanche into flight? If he hadn’t given Oriana the magic mirror, Blanche might never have sought refuge in the Forest of Tears. 

One’s brain ached, simply trying to contemplate it all. 

“This is where that Person of Interest lives with his brothers.” Blanche gestured to the table. “They sit here every morning before they go to work in the mines, digging up beautiful stones so often overlooked and scorned, like the quartz crystal.”

“Quartz, that is the name of this Person of Interest.” A glint sparkled within Oriana’s bright blue eyes, a dangerous glint. “He appears to be of interest to you as well.”

“He took me in. He’s been a father to me, a father to replace the one who was taken.” Blanche gazed back in steady reproach. “It’s a simpler life, an easier life than the one I left.”

“Simpler.” The queen uttered the word as if it was obscene. 

Blanche turned from her to gesture to the cauldron. “Here is where I prepare breakfast and dinner for the seven dwarves who spend all day in the mine. I find myself worrying more about how much they enjoyed the meal than I ever did about any courtiers whom approached me with a petition.”

“Many a petition is no more than self-serving rot.” Oriana inspected a sturdy wooden chair and the cauldron in turn, frowning. “Yes, I listened to every one with a smile, but only one in ten wasn’t an ode to a particular courtier’s self-importance and a way to bolster it.”

“I couldn’t smile the way you could. Not the way I smile at these seven brothers, wondering whether they’re happy or not, if I made their day a little better.” The girl took a deep breath before meeting her stepmother’s eyes. “I’ve never cared about anyone this much other than you.”

“Care must be nourished and given ample opportunity to grow.” The queen gazed at the quiet hearth under the cauldron. “How can you expect it to flourish in the face of empty sentiment, which was all your father and his court ever gave you?”

“You cared or gave the illusion of caring. You made it seem simple.” What had always been a source of great admiration and envy dropped from her lips. “You seemed to care about my father and his people the moment you laid eyes upon them, or touched their hands.”

“Oh, but I didn’t. Not really. Smiles came easily but not caring. I may have convinced myself that I did, but the affection came easily and left just as quickly.” Oriana began to pace the kitchen with slow, swaying steps. “You may have learned the art of caring far more seriously than I did just as you learned the art of keeping things tidy.”

“You taught me well.” The girl moved away from her, did a little spin herself, allowing her wooled skirts to flare. “The best of you lives on in this cottage, Oriana. She lives on in my daily life.” She stopped, fixed her dark blue eyes upon the cobalt ones of her former lover. “I am finding the best of myself in that life as well.”

“I won’t interrupt your journey of self-discovery. It appears I already have a place here, even if I am not involved in your life at all any more.” The queen turned her back on her step daughter and began to dig through the basket with one hand. “I simply don’t want to leave things between us as they are.”

The girl watched her with wary suspicion as the queen removed an apple from the basket. Not the hard, green one she remembered, the heart of the hunter, the heart of the queen. No, this one was red, ripe, and glistening, just inviting a hungry mouth to take a bite of its crisp flesh. 

“We loved each other once.” Oriana held out the apple in a trembling hand, keeping her moist blue eyes upon the girl. “Whatever passion grew out of our feelings, there was once love between us, my snow-white beauty. You can’t deny it.”

Oh, her own eyes were growing hot and itchy with unshed tears. “Please don’t, Oriana. You broke me. I’m still picking up the pieces.” 

“Consider this a token of my acceptance of your new life.” How steady, how carefully checked the queen kept her emotions, but the girl could feel her trembling. She trembled right along with her. “Please. You don’t have to take it, just take a bite. This way, a little piece of me will stay with you, even as we lead separate lives.”

Never had Oriana seemed more beautiful, the embodiment of the growing dawn, yet so fragile, so liable to shatter. The tear-filled softness of her gaze was irresistible as it had always been to Blanche, and yes, the girl was still Blanche, even if she tried to deny her. 

Unable to look away, she reached blindly for the apple. She lifted it to her mouth, took a bite. 

The foulest sweetness filled her nose, her mouth, her entire head. It traveled through her body, pulling her into a swoon she couldn’t resist. Green smoke filled the air, her mind, swallowing the present. The very last thing she heard was her former lover’s laughter. 

“As if I’d ever let these dwarves have you! You’re mine, even if you have to sleep a hundred years to prove it!”

Yes, sleep, sleep sounded so inviting, an escape from this poison, an escape from her own heart, an escape from everything. She couldn’t think of a reason to resist it, nothing strong enough to stand against the urge to give it. 

The girl collapsed, falling into sleep, hoping dark dreams wouldn’t follow her. 

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Gryluxx

Quartz sits, smoothing his beard, scowling at the rings on the fingers of the man sitting opposite him. Gryluxx isn’t that much taller than him in black velvet robes, plus he sports a scraggly beard he ought to be ashamed of, biting his lower lip, tongue touching his lip, beady eyes darting all over Quartz. Quartz keeps looking at those rings, silver on his left, gold on his right. Not all of them have stones, two have pearls, two have nothing, but the rubies, emeralds, and especially the opals are bothering him. 

Gryluxx: I can see you’re admiring my rings. (He waves his fingers so the glitter from the stones will flash in Quartz’s eyes, making him blink.)

Quartz: (wincing and scowling some more) That’s not it. They’re what I’d expect but they bother me. They all bother me, especially the opals.

Gryluxx: Opals happen to be my favorite stones. 

Quartz: Don’t even think it. 

Gryluxx: I’ll think what I please, dwarf. Just what did you think you could stop me from thinking?

Quartz: Nothing. Doubt you’ve got the shame to stop thinking it. 

Gryluxx: I have nothing to be ashamed of, dwarf, least of all my rings. 

Quartz: Those rings bother me. 

Gryluxx: And why would my rings bother you? Surely you’ve mined such rocks yourself or are you so poor a miner?

Quartz: You don’t mine pearls. You fish them out of the water. 

Gryluxx: You dig them out of oysters. Pearls form due to an irritation in the shell. It’s why pearls are among my favorites. They’re beauties born of irritation.

Quartz: Right. As you say, not my element. 

Gryluxx: Not your element? That’s not what I said, what are saying? Are you referring to water?

Quartz: Water is tricky. Not like earth or rock. 

Gryluxx: Ah, yes. Water is the element of tears and emotions, making it all the more worth mastering. 

Quartz: Trying to master tears and emotions, are you?

Gryluxx: Absolutely, along with the power they generate. Emotions are the perfume, the offering to the Shadow Forest which creates Doors. They’re the key to controlling others and uncovering the secrets they hide. 

Quartz: Right. I can see that’s real interesting to you. 

Gryluxx: And just what’s interesting to you? You said my rings bothered you.

Quartz: Stones have voices, pulses which you can listen to if you bother. 

Gryluxx: Indeed. That’s why I’ve chosen the very best stones. 

Quartz: Those aren’t the best. Too many humans, goblins, and dwarves place a high value on emeralds and rubies, turn into symbols of status, fighting over them and dying for them. 

Gryluxx: Because they represent status. They represent my status. 

Quartz: Yet the opal is your favorite stone. 

Gryluxx: Some legends consider it unlucky. I prize them for the misery they cause.

Quartz: He doesn’t cause misery! (He stops himself, realizing he was shouting.) I mean, opals lack the strong innards I’ve felt in other stones but this doesn’t mean they’re bad. Yes, they can oblivous to certain things, but they’re not bad stones. 

Gryluxx: Why, you personalize the opal to quite the extreme, my dear dwarf! Perhaps it’s because if personal associations you have with this particular stone? I get the impression an opal makes you think of someone very close to you. 

Quartz: Get all the impressions you like. What worries me is what you’re planning to do with all these impressions. Or maybe you just like knowing things other poeple don’t. 

Gryluxx: Clever dwarf! You’re called Quartz, aren’t you? That’s your namestone. So much variety and power is in the rock you can draw upon with such a name! 

Quartz: Maybe. 

Gryluxx: I’m guessing your Opal has the qualities of his stone as well. Perhaps he’s grumpy or unlucky? Or perhaps he’s a tool. (He raises his hands.) Rather like my rings. That’s why they bother you.

Quartz: Those stones in your rings absorb things from metal and flesh. Maybe I just don’t like what I sense your rings are absorbing from you.

Gryluxx: And what would that be, dwarf?

Quartz: Something rank, predatory, yet petty. Something which is sucking out the stones light and song, forcing them to sing their wearer’s notes. 

Gryluxx: These rings are my tools, my adornments, dwarf. What’s more, they are mine. I do with them as I please.

Quartz: And just what do you please? What do you want?

Gryluxx: I told you already, you little fool. Weren’t you listening? No, I don’t think I’ll tell you any more. I’m only telling you this much because you’re from another world. It’s unlikely yours and mine will ever meet. 

Quartz: Shards, I hope not! I pity Christopher having to share a world with you. I doubt handling you is fun. 

Gryluxx: Or maybe I’m the one handling him? (He leers a bit at his own comment.) 

Quartz: Right. (He waves away the leer as if it were a bad smell.) Don’t underestimate him just because he’s small and skinny. 

Gryluxx: My dear dwarf, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t underestimate Christopher. And this includes his beloved Damian, his false mama Gabrielle, his panting Peter, and those whimpering twins. 

Quartz: Meaning?

Gryluxx: I know what Christopher truly is. I don’t allow my wits to be befuddled with who he is. A state you’re entirely too prone to. 

Quartz: You sure of that, huh?

Gryluxx: My dear dwarf, your sentimental associations with opals are only too telling. 

Quartz: The way you talk about Christopher is telling, too. Just what are you planning to do with him? 

Gryluxx: Oh, no. (He wags a finger, the index finger with a gold ring and some sort of flat talsiman upon it which makes Quartz shiver.) I’m not giving away that particular tidbit of information even if you’re from another world. 

Quartz: Thought not. (grumbles under his breath looking worried) 

#RainbowSnippets: Wind Me Up, One More Time

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples from different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/permalink/4891166200953403/

For mine, Nathalie and Grace are going to continue where they left off last week in Wind Me Up, One More Time…

“Mama Morisot and Auntie Cassat got the idea for Grace and Theodora: Magic and Mishaps from Verity’s bears. Women still continue to sew them by hand in this factory.”

“I can’t blame Verity for losing her heart.” Grace looked up at the window, picturing a bear sitting there instead of a big doll, a bear Nathalie would let her take home. “I’d lose it, if I had all of her bears, looking at me with their button eyes, wanting to be hugged.”

Like what you’ve read? Want to read more? Here are buy links…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/wind-me-up-one-more-time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple:

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

#QueerBlogWed: Our Hidden Truths Part 2

On September 9, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a new recipe, sudden silence, and thread.

This enormous Fairest freebie story came to me as a result, one I’m telling in segments…

No. Not her. Not here. She still trembled in aftermath of the song’s sweetness, yet it had filled with the sentiment Quartz himself expressed. 

The silence was sudden and somehow menacing. 

The girl shivered and hugged herself, listening. Yes, she could hear the light tread of feet, so much lighter than the seven dwarves’s boots. 

Her heart pounding, the girl went to the door and flung it open. 

“A good morning to you, my pretty maid!” An old woman with a weathered countenance beamed at her, all her wrinkles wreathing into smiles. As if they could hide her true face or her voice. “Will you look at my wares? I have a comb to straighten those lovely raven tresses, a girdle to tighten around your slender waist, and an apple to bring color to your pale cheeks.”

“Oriana,” the girl whispered. There was no mistaking that striden, yet silken tone which seduced every ear. “I see you’ve found me. I wasn’t sure if you’d look.”

“You think I didn’t care enough to look?” The illusion of wrinkles didn’t pass from Oriana’s cheeks, but they were marks of care, misery, and heartbreak as much as age. “I see you scorned the consideration of others when you scorned my heart.”

“Your heart?” Oh, to have a tongue for sarcasm and harsh laughter, like Quartz possessed! Not this weak, soft murmur which was almost an echo of Oriana’s own. “I saw your true heart when you tried to rip mine from my breast.”

Such a terrifying creature of wiry muscle, claws, and teeth, yet it collapsed so easily within its own poison. The sight of the hunter still haunted the girl’s nightmares. 

Oriana said nothing, simply dropped her head, clutching her basket in her wrinkled hand. Why did she persist in this illusion of age, the beautiful queen who’d fallen so in love with her own reflection to the exclusion of any rivals? 

Just how much of it was illusion? How much time had passed in the Forest of Tears? The girl had been so lost in the ritual of daily cooking and cleaning, using it to block out a sense of anything else. Just how long had she been at the seven dwarves’s cottage?

“You tried to kill me.” Oh, why couldn’t she raise her voice, show a hint of a witch’s hate, a witch’s power, the things Oriana claimed were hers? The girl who’d once been Princess Blanche saw little evidence of that strength now. “You tried to take my heart from me, tearing it from my breast.”

“You ran away from me.” How soft and broken the queen’s voice was. “I felt as if you’d already ripped out mine.” She lifted a hand, her free hand in the direction of her princess, stretched out imploring seeking fingers which clutched only air. Such delicate, dainty palms, yet roughened with daily labor as the girl’s were. “I couldn’t escape from you. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was you.”

“Not every time.” The girl who’d once been Princess Blanche lifted her chin with an echo of the bleak authority she’d once possessed, but why was she bothering with such pretenses? Better to turn away but she couldn’t, could she? She’d never been able to turn her back on Oriana. “You must have seen a life of wealth, a golden crown, perhaps even the king himself.”

My father. She didn’t say it. She no longer believed it even if he was the man who sired her. Quartz was her father, the chosen father of her heart. The crown and all the pretenses it represented be cursed along with those whom coveted it. Such irresponsibility. Princess Blanche had been born to that crown, yet the girl denied this identity along with everything else Oriana tossed her aside for. Such selfishness, such darkness. She was no longer sure how much was Oriana and how much was herself. 

Oriana lifted her head, gazing at the girl, perhaps seeing some of this darkness for the first time mirrored back at her. For one who gazed so often into the glass, the queen could be surprisingly blind. 

“I tried to be what I was supposed to be, to want what I was supposed to want. Perhaps I achieved my wish or thought I had.” Oriana blinked teary-blue eyes at her. “My Blanche, my beautiful snow-white princess, I couldn’t be your lover without bringing you shame.” She clutched with her free hand at the basket under her other arm. “I thought I’d try to love you as a mother instead. My mirror suggested as much.”

“Your mirror?” A prickling unease lifted the hairs of the girl’s arms. 

“You saw its magic, its revelations.” The queen bowed her head once more. “The cruel truth it offers whether you wish to see it or not.”

“Quite the cursed treasure.” Blanche almost glanced back at the seven dwarves’s cuckoo clock, too often rude and vocal, now engaged in an almost sinister silence. “Where did you come by this mirror?”

“An imp gave it to me as a gift. He heard me weeping when my own stepmother locked me up, trying to keep me apart from you.” Oriana studied the basket, fingering the weave, smiling at something she couldn’t see. “He bade to look into it long enough and it would show me visions of my heart’s desire.” 

“It showed you me,” the girl who’d once been Blanche murmured. “It showed you myself.”

“It suggested an answer, to change the nature of our relationship. To charm and beguile everyone so they’d no longer suspect us.” The fair-haired maiden bit her lower lip. “To woo them into accepting our love without suspicion.”

“And you decided to do that by seducing the king.” The girl sighed. “And you became queen yourself.”

“It was what countless girls dream of marrying a king, becoming queen. It was unbearable.” Oriana let her hand slip from the basket. “You disappeared. I am barren, barren as my love for your father turned out to be. Other arrangements have been made for an heir.” The queen shook her graying golden head. “Not that I care about such things, not any longer.”

“Sad to see a queen and a princess no longer caring about a land they should both love.” The girl who was no longer Princess Blanche, who no longer deserved to be Princess Blanche sighed. “Let me show you what I do care about.”

Conversations with Christopher: Gryluxx

Christopher faces a thick-set man dressed in long black robes, almost like a monk’s, hood fallen back to reveal a narrow beard face sporting a hooked nose with flaring nostrils and sharp raven-like eyes that dart around the setting with acquisitive greed. He scowls to see nothing but mist around his chair and the boy opposite, lower lip jutting out from his neat little beard. Each of his dusty fingers sports a ring, silver on the left, golden on the ring. The two on his thumbs are plain bands while pearls adorn his thumbs. An ornate spider web emeshes an onyx on his middle fingers, a serpent clenches an emerald in its jaws on the ring fingers while the index are the only which don’t match. A demon’s silver maw opens to reveal a ruby on the left, while the same demon in gold swallows a curious flat coin with a rune on the right. This demon’s face is reproduced in a larger form in the medallion hanging from a silver chain hanging around his neck, a bestial expression of lust and mockery upon its fanged countenance. 

Christopher: You are Gryluxx, aren’t you? You live In Omphalos. I’ve seen you in the Navel a few times.

Gryluxx: You know perfectly well whom I am, you impudent child. You’ve served me in the Navel enough times to remember me. 

Christopher: I don’t think I have. You’ve entered the Navel, stared at me, spoken to Gabrielle, Damian, and Peter. Never me. You’ve browsed through the shelves, constantly watching me. You’ve whispered to Juno and Hebe when they’ve been present, never taking your eyes off me. You’ve never spoken to me directly. 

Gryluxx: And you think I’m about to tell you why, here and now, when we’re alone in this desolate realm of yours? 

Christopher: It’s not actually my realm. It’s our scribbler’s blog. 

Gryluxx: Say what you will. I’ll tell you nothing, little shadow. If you desire information, you must meet my price.

Christopher: You know what I am. 

Gryluxx: I can smell your power. It has a unique bouquet of darkness speckled with the sharpness of Damian Ashelocke’s light. Just how is Damian doing with that light of his, hmm? I understand his aunt doesn’t approve of it at all. 

Christopher: You know Damian’s aunt?

Gryluxx: Quite the dreadful spider lady is Duessa Ashelocke, yet ravens have a taste for spiders from time to time. Did you know our scribbler once called me Raven before she decided to rename me Gryluxx? I’m the one character she’s never been able to like. (He rubs his hands together, not bothering to hide his glee.)

Christopher: This doesn’t appear to make you unhappy.

Gryluxx: I do enjoy making people squirm. I’m pleased to add our creatrix to our victims. Gives me such a wicked little tingle of power, oh, yes. 

Christopher: And this is what you truly want. Power.

Gryluxx: Why do you think I covet information, hoard it, collecting secrets? Knowledge is power, little shadow. Nothing delights me more than knowing what others are hidding, what they cannot accept. Unless it’s the struggle upon my victims’s faces as they try to decide how much they want my information. Or the moment when I finally make them crawl to get it. 

Christopher: You speak of your victims. Who are they?

Gryluxx: Don’t give me that look of distaste, little shadow. We all have our victims, even you. Damian was yours. Peter was, too. 

Christopher: (He takes a deep breath, tries to stop his fingers from shaking, for the sight pleases Gryluxx entirely too much.) How so?

Gryluxx: Very good, little shadow. You didn’t give too much away. I’ll tell you, since you already know the answer to that. Or perhaps you don’t care to be reminded of that answer? You fed off Damian’s light and life to become solid in the world you found a place in. You fed off Peter’s adoration and attention to try to validate your pathetic existence at the Navel. You feed off Gabrielle’s vanity and loneliness to satisy your own. 

Christopher: I’m not sure if that’s true. If it is, perhaps all people feed off each other, feed off their loneliness in exchange for company or something else. 

Gryluxx: Exactly. You grasp my point, little shadow. 

Christopher: I wonder if another great joy of yours isn’t reminding people of this and making them squirm. 

Gryluxx: Perhaps. I wonder what I remind Danyel and Tayel of when I make them squirm, hmm? You and Leiwell have been sad protectors to those vulnerable little creatures. 

Christopher: What? 

Gryluxx: Oh, no. (He wags a finger, the index finger with the golden ring sporting the talisman.) I’m not giving you any information about the twins free. Or anything else for that matter. 

Christopher: Just what are you offering? You gloat over making the twins squirm, but it could be over something petty and small. Something Danyel and Tayel may not even have noticed. 

For a moment Gryluxx’s smirk falters. He glowers at Christopher, dropping his hands, clenching the arms of his seat. 

Christopher: Why the air of secrecy? Perhaps the true secret is there’s not much to hide.

Gryluxx: Isn’t there? (Gryluxx’s smirk returns.) I wonder. I’ll let you wonder, too.

The two of them glower at each other. 

#RainbowSnippets: Wind Me Up, One More Time

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read different samples from various LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

For my own, Grace and Nathalie will pick up where they left off last week in Wind Me Up, One More Time…

“They were like the bear in Mama’s story, right?” Grace had read all of Mama’s stories with all the pretty pictures Auntie Cassat painted. They’d been among the first books she’d read or that she remembered reading. Mama herself was becoming more distant and fuzzy as Grace got a little taller. She wasn’t about to forget anything about Mama’s stories.

“Exactly!” Nathalie beamed at her sister. 

Like what you’re reading? Want to read more? Here are buy links…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/wind-me-up-one-more-time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple:

https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

#QueerBlogWed: Our Hidden Truths Part 1

On September 9, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a new recipe, thread, and sudden silence.

This freebie story for Fairest came to me as a result, crossing over with events summarized in my story. This tale turned out to be huge, so I’m breaking it down into segments…

Perhaps she could try a new recipe. There were edible berries ripening outside in the Forest of Tears. She’d tried popping one into her mouth without suffering any sickness. Reckless, yes, but the girl wanted to prove she was worthy of the name Quartz had given her; The Fairest of Them All or simply Fairest. 

Tears prickled behind her eyelids. Oriana had coveted that title so desperately but what had it mean to her? Quartz was certain it was the sum of a person’s deeds, but the girl’s host was a romantic. She was coming to realize this about the dwarf who’d allowed her into the cottage he and his brothers shared, the same dwarf whom followed kobolds into the unknown and talked to dragons. Quartz believed in the best of people, no matter how much he might protest. 

The girl who’d once been Princess Blanche no longer could. She’d seen into the jealous heart of the golden beauty of the dawn, embodied by the most beautiful of women. She’d seen the heart’s gaping, hungry maw, hollowed out by malevolence. She’d watched it collapsed into bubbling flesh, condensing into a sour little green apple. What had that mouth filled with jagged teeth been in the end, but a forced smile, squashing every question, every enraged protest, every poisonous trickle of malice behind a mask of sweet compliance? Only poison rotted the mask from within, melting and distorting its fair countenance. The mask had become a monster, but the monster endured so short a life, hunting down her prey. Even the monster eroded from within. How little was left of it. 

The girl wound thread after thread around a spindle with especial care, wrapping the mass of stranfs around her hands, letting them engage in this constructive action. She could quiet her mind and heart when she kept her fingers busy. There was also that recipe to think of with the berries. She could make the dwarves’s morning porridge all the more interesting with them. 

She began to hum, winding the strands around her hands but there was already music in the air. A low, lovely voice drifted in through the window, a girl’s voice, coming closer and closer: 

“Who is the fairest of them all?

You, me, or her?

In castle, cottage, or circle small

What will you endure?

Are you fair of face and eye alone?

Or is your fairness true?

When under the sleeping curse you lie

What will change into?”

She dropped the spindle and the threads to the ground, dimly hearing them clatter as the song came to an end. 

Conversations with Christopher: Jupitre

Christopher sits facing a weathered man with stooped shoulders and a scraggly beard…the condition of that beard would make Quartz scowl and mutter. The man wears a stained leather tunic gathered at the waist and hanging low on his upper thighs, revealing muscular, mottled legs. His eyes are the same stormy gray as Hebe’s.

Christopher: You’re Jupitre, aren’t you? Juno’s husband?

Jupitre: I’ve been many things, both mighty and terrible. To think I’d live to be defined by Juno, by my marriage to her! Quite the triumph for Juno, worth many a gloat…never thought I’d live to see such humilation. 

Christopher: What would you rather be defined by?

Jupitre: Does it matter? It’s gone, my definition, the symbol of my power, along with the power itself and all the authority that goes with it. 

Christopher: What symbol is this?

Jupitre: To think, child, you would have to ask. Once I would have made you suffer for such ignorant discourtesy. Now ignorant discourtesy is all I can expect, if not sympathetic malice from my wife and daughter. 

Christopher: Sympathetic malice?

Jupitre: They know what I suffer; Juno and Hebe have also dwindled and diminished to a lesser degree. I was far greater than either of them, I was the greatest. How they delight in my powerless state, take positive glee in having me at their mercy. 

Christopher: You still haven’t said what the symbol of your lost power is. 

Jupitre: You still haven’t shown an ounce of sensitivity or wit. It’s the lightning bolt, child. The lightning bolt was once my scepter, the symbol and source of my power. It quickened in my hands, allowing me to cast down my monstrous father and his brood. With this power in my hands and thighs, I ruled the heavens and my own kind. I took whom I wished as my bride, sported with whomever struck my fancy, siring greatness in the process. I became the father of legends. All greatness came from me. Mortals worshipped and feared me…as you clearly don’t. 

Christopher: How did you lose this power?

Jupitre: It vanished when the prayers and sacrifices diminished. Mortals stopped worshipping me. Once they feared to stop, for I would punish them severely for neglecting my festivals, my prayers, for not buiding temples. Punishment wasn’t enough. Mortals turned to other deities, other forces. They didn’t just stop fearing me, but all of the gods. Perhaps they guessed our strength came from their sacrifices? No, they were never that smart. Only we gods were bigger fools than they were. We didn’t realize how much we needed mortals and their faith. When the sacrifices and prayers dwindled, so did we. The symbols of our status and power vanished. 

Christopher: Yours being the lightning bolt.

Jupitre: Without it, I am what you see. A wreck of a man, washed up in Omphalos along with everything else mortals no longer need. 

Christopher: Why do you say that? 

Jupitre: You work at the Navel, boy. Just how much trash has accumulated on your shelves, junk appearing suddenly which nobody wants. 

Christopher: Somebody usually wants what we have. Somebody usually comes for it. 

Jupitre: Lucky you. It’s not just objects that appear, and it’s not just at the Navel. Fallen deities like me appear in Omphalos along with other diminished creatures, shadows of what they once were. That’s how Juno, Hebe, and myself ended up in Omphalos. That’s how you ended up there. 

Christopher: Actually Damian summoned me.

Jupitre: Did he now? What he summoned was the ruined remains of whom and what you once were. Believe me, I know. 

Christopher: Maybe that’s true of me, but not everyone in Omphalos. Not everyone is ruined remains. 

Jupitre: How defensive you’re getting. That’s speaks more truth than your words.

Christopher: Gabrielle isn’t the ruined remains of anything!

Jupitre: Oh, yes, she is. Gabrielle can smile all she wants in the confines of her little shop, but she’s just a fraction of what she once was or could be, something Damian was acutely aware of. That’s why he left her. 

Christopher: Damian wasn’t ruined remains either!

Jupitre: He would have been if he’d stayed but he didn’t. 

Christopher: Is that you think? Omphalos ruins people along with attracting the ruined?

Jupitre: Look at me. I once ruled the heavens. Now I’m too tired to move or care. It’s all Juno’s fault. She’s drugging me with that blasted tea. 

Christopher: Could you move if you wished to?

Jupitre: You haven’t tasted her tea, boy. It’s just a shadow of ambrosia but it’s as close to it as I’m going to get. Duplicitious shrew. She’s always scheming, that wife of mine. 

Christopher: To do what?

Jupitre: To keep me to herself. To keep me from sporting with anyone else. I suppose it’s gratifying that she still wants me this much, even if I chafe at her restrictions. They won’t hold me forever. 

Christopher: What are you planning to do?

Jupitre: You’d love to find out, wouldn’t you, child, so you can go telling tales to my wife? Choose your allies with care. I won’t remain this ruined, wreck of a mortal. A window of opportunity will open for me or a Door. Along with the opportunity to change. 

Christopher: Of course. You’re looking for a Door. 

Jupitre: Isn’t everyone in Omphalos? Except for Gabrielle, the cunning wench. I wonder why she isn’t looking?

Christopher: Watch how you speak of her. She’s wise enough not to go seeking Doors which is more than I can say for you.

Jupitre: To think I’d live to be threatened be a delicate slip of a boy…watch your tongue. I will not be threatened by the likes of you. What you consider to be wise, I see a lack of ambition. A lack of ambition which drives bolder souls away. 

Christopher: Boldness can show a lack of wisdom. 

Jupitre: Not to me.