Paula’s Prompts: Wednesday Words

On April 7, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a duck, a bucket, and a headache.

This poem was the result…

He watches the ducks float by on the pond

Tucking in his legs and tail

Maintaining an absurdly duckish posture

They quack in his general direction

Mocking his mockery

He lets out a low, shrill hiss

Maybe it’s meant to be threatening 

He sounds like a tea kettle boiling over

Until he loses interest

Finds himself distacted by a bucket

Half-empty buckets are a terrible temptation

He nudges it with his paw

I barely rescue it and its contents in time

Now he’s sniffing at my teacup

Nudging the saucer with his nose

Getting honey on his whiskers

Ready to bat my water glass with his paw

He’s giving me a headache

Yet I can’t imagine life without him

The streaking furry presence

With a curious paw in everything. 

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Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Nimmie Not

Quartz frowns, whittling at a bit of wood in his hand, seated in a wooden chair as the mists of the Cauldron rise around him. There’s an air of anxiety, of fear, a slight warbling sound which might be a voice crying. My voice. 

Quartz: Silly scribbler. Today is supposed to a happy one, right?

Nimmie Not: Yes, yes, it is!

BAMF! There’s a cloud of yellow smoke and a wiggling kobold in Quartz’s lap. 

Quartz: Gah! (He drops the knife and the carving which disappear into the smoky ground.)

Nimmie Not: Happy Anniversary, my bearded beauty! Come here, yes, you will!

He throws his arms around Quartz. They both disappear along with the chair. Dwarf and kobold reappear, doing an odd jig in the mist which now starts to flash with colors like a strobbing disco ball. A jaunty tune plays in the background. Nimmie Not twirls a reluctant, stumbling, yet not entirely uncooperative Quartz across the dance floor. 

Quartz: (remembering his dignity and remembering to refuse to show any sign of enjoying himself too much with Nimmie Not) Not our anniversary, you daft fool! It’s the scribbler’s!

Nimmie Not: (stopping) Oh. 

The music stops, turns into Amethystium’s Ascension. Rising above the mist, we can see spires of a castle or is it simply a rooftop surrounded by trees. 

Nimmie Not: Happy Anniversary, scribbler! (He smiles, spreads his arms, and mutters out of the corner of his mouth) Just what did she do which we’re commemorating? 

Quartz: Created us one for one, you capering fool. Only that’s not why today is special for her as you well know. 

Nimmie Not: Of course not. Every day is worth celebrating the creation of we two, yes, indeed, it is. We make every time special.

Quartz: Right. If every day was special, there would be no special. Ow, I’m making my head hurt. 

Nimmie Not: Refrain from that, my dearest dwarf. You wouldn’t want your head to fall off and sold to gnomes. That happened in a pumpkiness webcomic long ago to our scribbler, yes, it did. 

Quartz: That would explain a lot. Today is when she married her husband. They’ve been married for thirteen years. 

Nimmie Not: That’s a blink of an eye to us, my precious fusspot. 

Quartz: Remember the scribbler is human, even she herself forgets that sometimes. 

Nimmie Not: Absent-minded of her. 

Quartz: She’s always been like that. She’s trying to ground herself a bit more since she has to. She’s about to lose something precious. 

Nimmie Not: Oh ho, what might that be? It’s always useful to know our scribbler’s weaknesses, yes, it is. 

Quartz: One thing is time. She’s going to lose a lot of time what with the changes that lie ahead. 

Nimmie Not: Ooo, I don’t like the sound of that! (He began to tap the ground with his belled toe.) This means less time for us. 

Quartz: Aye, I fear that, too. 

Nimmie Not: You said time was one thing. What’s the other thing she might lose?

Quartz: (pressing his lips together) Her home.

Nimmie Not: I’m certain that’s a sore matter for you. 

Quartz: It’s natural in the scribbler’s world to pay for certain things when you have a home. She and her husband may no longer be able to pay the costs for living in their home. 

Nimmie Not: (hopping a little closer to Quartz: Doesn’t it make you feel all snug and safe not having to worry about such things?

Quartz: Right. (scowling) I always have to worry about such things. 

Nimmie Not: Now, now, I gave you a home. You and your brothers are snug and safe at that cottage I provided for you. I didn’t charge you a cent, it was a gift. 

Quartz: Aye, it may have been a gift, but I’m guessing there will be a cost.

Nimmie Not: Ooo, don’t pout, my grumpy, oh, no! Let’s be positive, offer our scribbler a gift on this happy day while troubled times loom over her. Now what would the perfect gift be, hmm?

Quartz: No need to ask. Going to give her what I always give her. Ideas.

Nimmie Not: (clapping his spindly hands together) Oh, you clever dwarf! I shall do the same. She does love her inspiration, doesn’t she?

Quartz: That she does. Happy Anniversary, scribbler. And to you, Don. Thank you for supporting her all this time so we could come into existence, lad. 

Nimmie Not: Who are you calling “lad”? We were born from the scribbler’s imagination. We’re much younger than her husband. Not that you’d know to look at him, the handsome rogue, mmm, yes. 

Quartz: Don’t flirt with our creatrix’s husband, especially on their anniversary. (His eyebrows bristle and rise.) In our worlds, our stories we’re at least a century old, remember?

Nimmie Not: Really? (claps a hand to his cheek) Where did all that time fly away to?

Quartz: Mystery to me, too, kobold. (He actually smiles at the kobold.)

Nimmie Not falls over his own feet in surprise. 

Quartz’s smile gets a little wider. 

#RainbowSnippets: At Her Service

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

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

Being so close to her made me breathless. I almost forgot what I was saying. 

“Go on.” She sounded a little breathless herself. Her face was inches from my own. “Why don’t you want the chateaux?”

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Paula’s Prompts: Wednesday Words

On March 24, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a tent, an empty box, and the first flower of spring.

This poem was the result…

I look at the empty box

Enjoy the first flower of spring

I remember springs past, staring at an open tent

Watching a server within pouring glass after glass of wine

Grabbing a little brie and bread off a plate 

Innocently unaware of any danger of touch, of contact

Perhaps I should have been more wary

I was so entranced, looking at that distant flower

Standing in a row, in front of a line of blooms

Bursting with color, petals unfurling under a blue sky

Talking to a stranger standing beside me while sipping wine

There was no fear, no danger in standing too close

I thought, “This is what life should be all about”

“Drinking wine, eating cheese, enjoying the sight of the flowers”

A perfect moment in spring to be savored

I look back at that moment, a preserved snapshot of memory

Wistful, wondering if I took such moments for granted

I tried so hard not to, but perhaps I did

I’m still glad I got to experience that morning

Even if I’m unsure if anything like it will happen again. 

Conversations with Christopher: Leiwell

Christopher sits upon his chair which has become a throne carved with the bone and rose pattern. This goes well with the black velvet tunic and leggings he wears, the same attire he wore when Damian pulled him out of the darkness, an event he’s never been able to let go of, an event which defined him as Christopher. No matter whom else he might be, or how much his eyes swim with the purple, ruby, golden, silver, red, and blue colors of their memories. 

Those eyes fix themselves upon the young man sitting opposite, a young man wearing the very same black velvet tunic and leggings as himself. This young man keeps his dark head bowed, his pale face downcast, his emerald eyes fixed upon something at his booted feet. 

Christopher: So. You’ve come to me here. 

Leiwell: (for it is Leiwell, the youth who Danyel and Tayel know as their older brother) Do you want me to beg for mercy? I will even if I have no right to. 

Christopher: Why would I ask for that? (The colors swim in his eye, gathering in a single rose-purple tear.) I’ve felt your hunger, your desire to exist. And you, you ought to feel exactly what you’ve taken from me. 

Leiwell: He took himself from you. It would take more than me than to swallow Damian Ashelocke’s existence entirely. 

Christopher: Damian gave you existence as much as he gave it to me. As much as I gave it to Danyel and Tayel. 

Leiwell: Please don’t hurt them. They’re innocent. You above all others should understand that.

Christopher: Should I? Is any creature of shadow innocent? We feed on memories, emotions, the very energy of those whose company we keep. We consume everything which makes a person whom they are. 

Leiwell: Even when we ourselves become substantial, finding our footing in a tangible world, we still hunger. We still feed on others and we feed on each other. 

Christopher: It’s not Danyel and Tayel’s fault. Is that what you’re trying to say? Nor is it mine. Nor is it yours.

Leiwell: Who do you blame, Christopher? Whose plight do you require to satisfy your hunger, a hunger to fill the emptiness where Damian once was?

Christopher: Perhaps no one but Damian himself can, the Damian who pulled me from the shadows. Perhaps I blame him as much I need him. 

Leiwell: He gave you this existence as much as he gave it to me.

Christopher raises his head, eyes glittering in fury, but not with the silver triangles which sparkle in Tayel’s when Leiwell’s little brother is enraged. No, these are swirling silver curls mingled with the gold and bloody rose in the other youth’s remarkable orbs. Leiwell can see his own face drenched in those colors, caught in the spiral. 

He doesn’t look up to meet his own tiny warped reflections caught in those eyes. He keeps his head bowed, showing no sign of defiance. 

Leiwell: I’m not sure if I can give Damian back to you. What I carry of him inside is yours. I’m willing to feed you. Just don’t harm my brothers. 

Christopher: Damian could have been my brother or my lover. He was everything to me. Everything. I never expected him to feel the same, yet he never expected him to fall so easily. 

Leiwell: What makes you think he did? Dyvian and I were his prey as much as he was ours. I’m convinced that what happened was part of his design. 

Christopher: Poor little shadow. Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?

Leiwell: Think twice before you feel too sorry for him. He laughed at me when I came into existence, gloated as if he’d won. I can still hear his laughter ringing in my mind every time I dream. 

Christopher: There are consequences to feeding or taking. Your own master told me that. Damian wanted to be stronger than Duessa Ashelocke, stronger than any arachnocrat whom might choose him as a Marriage Feast. 

Leiwell: Or you. Perhaps he preferred to give him power to us than to the ladies of your garden. 

Christopher: Did he, now?

Leiwell: I could be lying but I’m not. He wanted vessels with whom he could invade the Garden. 

Christopher: And he chose you.

Leiwell: He couldn’t bear to take you. Take a look at his art, Christopher. It reveals Damian’s true heart. 

Christopher: There’s something sickening about hearing about Damian’s true heart from your lips. 

Leiwell: It’s equally sickening you look at Danyel with those eyes…or you look at him in some other form. Tayel, too, but Tayel at least has some sense of whom and what you are. Danyel sees you through the prism of his own innocence.

Christopher: As he does you.

Leiwell: (convulsing as if in pain) Don’t. Don’t torment me with this. 

Christopher: (lowering his own head and smiling sadly) Don’t torment me with your closeness to Damian and his heart. (He hugs himself, the mist coming to wrap itself around him a blanket, swallowing him and his throne.)

This time it’s Leiwell who’s left alone in the mist, staring at the empty space where Christopher was. He hugs himself, mirroring Christopher’s own action. 

Leiwell: I understand, I truly do. Talking to me is almost too painful to bear, yet who can understand us better than each other? We’ve each taken a hostage, someone dearer than anyone, yet we’re not indifferent to our hostages. I just hope you care enough about Danyel and Tayel to leave them alone. (He raises his head slowly, green eyes bright with tears.) I’ll tear you apart if you harm them, even if it tears me apart. 

#RainbowSnippets: At Her Service

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 sample various LGBTQIA+ samples by different authors, go to…

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

For my own, Cinders and Ariella will continue where they left off in the expanding version of At Her Service…

She brought a basin of water in a delicate porcelain dish covered with rose petals. I didn’t remember ever seeing it before. She or her mother must have brought it. 

“It can be very cold, especially when people don’t want you around.” Perhaps these words were too blunt but Ariella nodded. She knelt at my feet and squeezed the rag within the dish, before beginning to dab my face with it. 

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#QueerBlogWed: Paula’s Prompts

On March 31, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a lost prince, a windstorm, and laundry.

This freebie story for my Work in Progress Trouble at Caerac Keep was the result…

You’re a lost prince, Ansel.” He could hear the sweet, warbling voice of the other boy whispering to him over the howl of the windstorm. Only it was no ordinary storm. This wind had the many eyes, teeth, and claws of the Dark Circle. It ripped at the residents of Gwyneth Keep, ignoring doors, locks, and sometimes wards, searching for a particular prey. 

“I don’t know why Xylanthe would want me.” He’d never heard the name until the boy said it, gesturing to a terrifying picture of a woman with many arms and eyes. Xylanthe had once been an Aethyrian witch, part of the Circle of the Thirteen which guided and governed the secretive land of Aethyria. It was said to be a land of women whom separated from the broken empire to follow their own ways. Not that he was sure if Aethyria was any more isolated than Rowenda, divided into walled cities of varying security. Gwyneth Keep was supposed to be most civilzed of the lot. Not any more. 

He wasn’t sure what the boy with the bright blue eyes and silky strawberry blond hair said next as he pressed his hand. Reassurances or warnings? Only these words surfaced from his memories over the howl of the wraiths riding the wind:

“Never forget that your mother is a direct descendent of Gwyneth herself. Gwyneth was not only the founder of this Keep, but the daughter of a daughter of Serena Jasior, former Imperatrix, the one whom held the empire together with her dying breath. Your heritage is a proud one, leaving you many hopes to live up to.”

“You shouldn’t.” He pressed the boy’s fingers in his own, aware that he was dreaming, his head lay upon the bar counter, yet he still wanted to reassure the other youth. That howling was only part of his dream, yet it felt so real. “Mother may make much of our heritage, hers and mine, but you look far more like a prince than I do, Kevin.”

Kevin. Yes, this was his name, the lazy bartender who’d fallen asleep. Why was he calling someone else by this name?

“You’re a fool for thinking so, but I’m hoping others will make the same foolish assumption.” The boy softened his words with another squeeze of his hand. Tears swam in his eyes. How prettily his curls embraced the side of his face, the nape of his severe mage’s collar. Kevin’s soft hands might have been a lord’s, but also a scholar or a magician’s. “That’s why I’m going to take your place and you’re going to take mine. When the Dark Circle comes for you, they’ll find me instead.”

There was a bright flash of light, erasing everything…making Kevin blink at the reflection off the mugs and glasses behind the counter. He was himself, plain old Kevin, bar hand at The Tipsy Hedgehog in Caerac Keep, not Gwyneth Keep. He’d never even been to Gwyneth Keep. Visitors to Maggie’s tavern claimed it was twice as big, had at least three taverns, several shops, more than one wealthy merchant…and was a lot more dangerous than Caerac Keep. After all, the southern walled city might have close to Kalanthia, and a port to other lands, but it was an easy creep to the legendary Dark Circle where all sorts of monsters gathered. 

Only Kevin wasn’t supposed to call them monsters. Not everything that Maggie had once founght and hunted with her sword when she’d been an adventurer, not a tavern mistress. 

Maybe her tales were going to his head, along with all the other tales the patrons were telling. Otherwise why would he dream about some pretty wizard calling him a prince and putting a spell on him to persuade him he was a humble tavern hand?

Except Kevin didn’t remember much of his past. Not before Maggie had found him. 

Was it possible he’d just experience a memory? Oh, it was too fantastic. He, Kevin was a lost prince. Only his name hadn’t been Kevin. Kevin had been the wizard’s name. The wizard who’d taken his place during some sort of an unearthly windstorm involving wraiths. 

Wraiths. They’d become almost as mythical as vampires. Except Maggie swore they existed. 

What if what he’d dreamed truly was real? What if this other Kevin was in some sort of trouble, trying to protect him from whatever danger had threatened…oh, what had been his name?

Ansel. 

“Kevin?” Maggie’s call brought him back from his thoughts. 

“Sorry. I seem to have fallen asleep.” He watched Maggie come in the backdoor, hoisting what appeared to be a basket of laundry. 

“Most of the flowers outside died from the chill but a few struggled to stay on the vines a little longer.” Maggie carried the basket to the private rooms behind the bar which she and Kevin occupied. 

“I’m not surprised.” Maggie’s flowers were hardy much like she was herself. She was one of the shortest women in Caerac Keep, so short people whispered she had nonhuman blood. Regardless of her height and careworn face, her arms were solid muscle. Maggie had been an adventurer once and didn’t bother to hide it, no matter how much it might shock people. Yes, she used to make a living via her sword. Yes, she had killed kobolds and goblins, taking their treasure. You should have seen what they kept their lairs and whom they’d stolen it from. No, she wasn’t apologizing for anything she’d done, no matter how much people might whisper murderer, thief, thug behind her back. If Lady Ylynessa herself came to The Tipsy Hedgehog with Herm the Goblin, having Herm recite his tale of woeful cruelty at the hands of adventurers, she’d tell him a tale or two herself. Or twenty. Lady Ylynessa and Herm had learned the error of even trying to shame the tavern mistress for her past as an adventurer. They’d never returned to The Tipsy Hedgehog after their first attempt. Herm might badmouth Maggie to whomever would listen, but he hadn’t slown down business at the tavern. The food and the ale were too good, plus Maggie’s controversial past made visitors all the more eager to hear her tales. She’d traveled all other Rowenda far from Caerac Keep and had visited Gwyneth Keep several times. 

“Maggie, have you ever heard the name Ansel in connection with the nobility at Gwyneth Keep?” Kevin ventured. “Someone descended from the Imperatrix herself?”

“That sounds like the son of the Duchess of Gwyneth Keep.” Maggie frowned a bit, narrowing her eyes at Kevin. “Sickly lad, much like his mother. Only pride keeps the Duchess on her two feet, pride in her descent from Gwyneth and Serena Jasior. Not she’s got much else to be proud of. Gwyneth Keep is a dangerous place nearly overrun with monsters.” Maggie never bothered with the word ‘nonhumans’. “Even before Lord William made this place safe, Caerac Keep was never as bad as Gwyneth Keep. Far too close to the Dark Circle, that place. Its corruption ate at the very foundations Gwyneth lay. Once a Keep’s walls are corrupted, it’s done for.”

Kevin shivered a bit at his boss’s words. “And this Ansel lives in the middle of all that bad.” He recalled the howls of the wraiths in the windstorm, how they seemed to call and laugh with the voices of the dead. “I feel sorry for him.”

He visualized the delicate youth with the light in his hands. The other Kevin. Only Kevin found it easier to imagine him as the lost prince. That young man had the same fragile beauty as Rhodry. It was hard to think of someone like him in such a terrible place. 

“When the Dark Circle comes for you, they’ll find me.” The words floated to the surface of what might be his memories, uttered with the other Kevin’s voice. 

Those words made him shiver again. If he existed, what had happened to this other Kevin? Was he in trouble?

He might be if he’d taken Kevin’s place. If Kevin actually was a lost prince, suffering from memory loss because of a spell this boy had cast upon him. It was enough to make him laugh, except Kevin couldn’t remember most of his life. Trying to was like a painful itch he couldn’t scratch, a wound he needed to leave alone. He’d never questioned this itch, leaving it alone…until now.

“Maggie, where did you find me?” He’d never asked this before because of the itch. “Was I in Caerac Keep itself?”

“At last you’re curious. I’d wondered at you not asking before.” Maggie chewed on her lower lip. “The sorcerer Daeric found you wandering near his tower.”

“He wouldn’t like that.” The sorcerer didn’t want strangers near his lair or his apprentice. It was one of the reasons Kevin had only seen Rhodry at The Tipsy Hedgehog, never the tower he shared with his master. “I was pretty hopeless at everything when I first started working here.”

“You learned fast, even if you acted like you hadn’t done a day of manual labor before. You were willing to do what I asked, in spite of your clumsiness at the start.” Maggie reached over to pat Kevin’s arm. “I’m proud of how far you’ve come, Kevin.”

“Yes, but don’t you worry about where I came from?” he persisted. “I could have been in some kind of trouble or have been trouble myself.”

“Not from what I’ve seen.” Maggie shook her graying head with emphasis. “You’re a good lad, Kevin. Your past only matters to me if it matters to you.”

This was just another sign of the tavern-keeper’s stubborn loyalty. Once she decided you were one of hers, she wouldn’t budge. This was both touching and worrying. 

“Do you think my memories will come back?” he wondered out loud. “Especially if someone, well, enchanted them away?”

Now she was the one looking at him with concern. “Do you think your memories were enchanted away?”

“Perhaps.” Kevin touched the bar, looked down at his roughened hands. Hardly the hands of a nobleman, let alone a prince, but perhaps those of an adventurer. “I had a dream. It might have been a memory if somone took my memories, making me someone else. Only I think it was done to protect me.”

“If someone did that to protect you, you’re going against your protector’s wishes in trying to get them back.” Maggie squinted at him with even more worry. 

“Only my protector may be in trouble himself.” Kevin bit his lower lip. “I’m not sure if I should leave him in it.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, lad.” Maggie heaved a slow sigh. “If you’re right, you’ve got a hard choice ahead of you. To accept his or make your own.”

She shuffled away to the backrooms, leaving Kevin to gaze at the bar’s counter, his own reflection in its polished surface. Even if he wasn’t sure whom the young man gazing back at him was anymore. 

Conversations with Christopher: Dyvian

Christopher sits upon a stone seat, carved with bones and roses, wearing open white tunic, black trousers, and boots. He rises and looks up. 

The seat disappears. The clouds of the Cauldron part, revealing a painted ceiling of rosy clouds kissed by gold, touched by silvery gray against the endless pale blue. Only this sky isn’t empty. Fleshy figures and slender ones, clad in loose tunics and skirts which flutter and float reach for reach other across this sky. 

Dyvian: You may recognize some of the models. You may even recognize yourself.

Christopher: Did you paint this yourself?

Dyvian: Now why should the lord of a palace paint his own ceiling when he has hungry, desperate servants eager to do it for him?

Christopher turns to look at the man standing across the hall, for they both appear to be a hall. Dyvian is defintely a man, even if his chin is devoid of the facial hair males outside the Garden of Arachne possess. He no longer wears the loose tunic or flowers in his long, silvery-white hair he once did in the Garden of Arachne. Those long locks are shorter, held back with a bit of black ribbon. Dyvian dresses in a midnight-blue long coat over a midnight green vest, both so close to black they might fool the eye into seeing only black. A shimmer of color gives the cloth away. Long black leather boots cover his feet. 

Christopher: You’re cultivating a more sinister appearance than you used to.

Dyvian: (making a slight, courtly bow) I am what my servants need me to be, what Leiwell wishes, and the twins expect. A lord and patron capable of doing what he must to provide for them in exchange for their devotion. I am more than I was before my Marriage Feast. (He smiles with a certain sinister contemplation.) You could consider me a Map of sorts. 

Christopher: You do enjoy your double-meanings. 

Dyvian: As do you…Happily Ever After.

Christopher: (making a slight bow of his own) So did you paint the ceilings?

Dyvian: (his smile widening) Some of them with help from a loyal and talented servant. 

Christopher: Leiwell. 

Dyvian: Leiwell assists me in many things. As do Danyel and Tayel, although they don’t realize it. 

Christopher looked down from the fleshy figures, some of whom could be patrons of the Navel. And yes, he can see Damian’s ebon hair and fair flesh, reaching out for a youth who might be Tayel. Or Danyel. Or maybe himself. He lowers his head, to see the rich, reddish wood of the walls. Shapes are carved into them, some human caught in a familar mesh of roses, brambles, and bone. 

Christopher: Why this design?

Dyvian: You know why. Beauty has to be sacrificed in order for beauty to bloom.

Christopher: It’s a contradiction. 

Dyvian: Don’t you thrive on contradictions, Happily Ever After? At least I don’t lie.

Christopher: Don’t you?

Dyvian: Heh, you may be right. (His smile becomes a grin.) At least I try to keep my lies honest. 

Christopher: Another contradiction. 

Dyvian: Our existence is filled with contradictions. I’m simply trying to make it beautiful. 

Christopher: By living as a lord. 

Dyvian: By using that living to provide for those precious to me. I own the land where your spirit is bound, Christopher. I have your Eye and Hand. 

Christopher: (raising a hand and winking, for he has two eyes) Do you?

Dyvian: Yes, you didn’t have to give up anything, did you? Someone or something else did. 

Christopher: What’s that supposed to mean?

Dyvian: You would know better than I. All right. I have the Eye and the Hand, not your Eye and Hand. They’re still precious to you, even if they’re no longer part of me.

Christopher: They’ll always be part of me. This is how I know you don’t have them. 

Dyvian: Heh, perhaps I don’t. I have their brother, though, and he has someone else precious to you. 

Christopher: I don’t believe you. It’s not possible to own someone, even if you consume some of their essence. They become part of you as much as you become part of them. 

Dyvian: Do they really? Leiwell gave himself to me willingly. 

Christopher: And he owns you as much as you own him. 

Dyvian: Touch the wall, Christopher. 

Christopher: Just what are you up to?

Dyvian: Touch it and find out. 

Christopher moves to one of the carvings of a rose. He lay a tentative finger upon it, only to hear a whispered plea. He withdraws his finger.

Christopher: The wood is alive.

Dyvian: Everything in the Shadow Forest is alive. What you dream can come true. A soul may be trapped in wood or perhaps just a memory. A shadow can become a good. Only is this true on the other side of the Door? 

Christopher: Perhaps the edge of a Door, near where a Door is…or where a Door is being created. 

Dyvian: Exactly. We can live on the fringe of reality in the vicinity of a Door, even if we came from the Shadow Forest itself. We can even bring things through from the other side.

Christopher: Is this what you’re trying to do?

Dyvian: I’m trying to discover what we’re capable of, with our thoughts and wishes. I’m trying to see if we’re capable of creating our own communites…or gods.

Christopher: Is that all you want?

Dyvian: What more do you want? To take back reality from those who’d deny it to us, whom condemn us for being monsters? To drain them the way of the Brides of Arachne drain their Marriage Feasts so we can become real? 

Christopher: Is that what you want?

Dyvian: There are unhappy consequences to taking things as you well know, Happily Ever After.

Christopher: You haven’t let that stop you…yet.

Dyvian: (chuckles) This is why I like you, Christopher. You’re as twisted as I am, but you’re only just learning how twisted. 

A mist rises from the floors, starts spreading across the painted ceiling. Figure by figure is swallowed by mist, ending with Damian. The same mist swirls around Dyvian, concealing him. Everything disappears except for Christopher. He’s left standing alone in the mist. 

Christopher: (very softly) I hope not. 

#RainbowSnippets: At Her Service

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 various samples from LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

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

For my own, Ariella and Cinders will continue where they left off last week in this expanding version of At Her Service

“You’re a very strange girl…Cinders.” She took me down the hall to her own chamber. It was as drafty as the rest of the upper rooms of the chateaux but it was filled with the scent of her presence. “Don’t you want the chateaux for yourself?”

I waited, breathing in her warmth, the slight sheen of sweat mingled with flowers. I wasn’t sure if it was hers or mine.

Like my style of writing? Want to read more? Here are buy links to my published works…

https://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

#QueerBlogWed: Paula’s Prompts

On March 10, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a black feather, a magic mirror, and a beggar.

This freebie story for Fairest and Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins was the result…

After kneeling on the floor, gathering grim and dust to her skirts, it took Oriana a moment to see the black feather clinging to them. 

A black feather for discontent. This was the sort of nonsense her stepmother didn’t want her talking about, along with treasures at the end of rainbows, or the perfect snow white skin of the king’s daughter. 

“Your mother fancied herself a magic user, powerful enough to master the energies of a storm.” The lady had scowled, armed crossed. “Nearly broke your father’s heart. You wouldn’t be thinking of trying to break mine, would you?” She glowered in an almost threatening way at the girl. “It was his dying wish I’d look after you.”

Looking after Oriana involved severe discipline and an attempt to curb any whimsy on her part. Her stepmother needn’t have worried. Oriana had no intention of breaking anyone’s heart. Her own was fixed upon an object of devotion she could never possess.

She reminded the moment she’d been ensnared. Back when her father had been alive, she’d visited the royal palace. Few people got to see the Princess Blanche. Ever since her mother died, she’d been a recluse, hiding away in her tower. 

Oriana had snuck into the royal garden, curious about the blood roses the dead queen had grown. It was said she’d pricked her finger while holding the infant princess, staining her lips with blood. The little maid’s mouth has been crimson ever since. 

How perfectly monstrous. Oriana was secretly delighted by the legend, secretly delighted by this reclusive royal whom refused to meet with the court, remaining a mystery. 

She’d looked up at the tower, only to see a girl her own age. The maiden hadn’t been looking at her. Long, ebon tresses tied with purple ribbons fell over her shoulders, framing a face as pale and perfect as a statue’s. She gazed at the distant sun with a melancholy yearning which struck Oriana in the breast with a pain she’d never felt before. 

This had to be the Princess Blanche. Yes, she was indeed a monster. The beauty of her face, the graceful hands touching the window sill, the parted red lips shouldn’t belong to any human girl. It belonged only to statues and paintings, things that could never be touched. Things ordinary human girls like Oriana was unworthy of. 

She ran away, returning to her parents, never telling anyone about that moment. She refused to let herself dwell upon this fear, this feeling of unworthiness, yet she could help thinking what would it be like, to kiss those red lips? To touch that pale cheek, run one’s fingers along it? Would the princess’s flesh be as hard as the marble it resembled? Or would it be soft?

She tried to distract herself from her fixation by being playful, laughing as often as possible. Her father thought her a coquette, too flighty for deep thought. As did her stepmother even now. Losing her father left Oriana at her mercy of a surrogate mother with a low opinion of her, determined to put the girl in her charge to some practical use. Perhaps forcing Oriana to do the work of a servant was an attempt to cure her of her flightiness. The Lady Malina was no stranger to housework herself, having come from a merchant family whom married their way into impoverished nobility, something she tried to keep quiet. Appearances were after all everything. 

Which was why Oriana was content to keep up the appearance of being flighty. People tended to underestimate the flighty.

Keeping her expression schooled, she plucked the raven from her threadbare gown, carrying to the threshold of her father’s door, stopping in her tracks at the sight of the ragged little man sitting there. 

He appeared to be a beggar, wearing a muddy green waistcoat, a tattered coat, and slippers that were worn through. Once his attire had been festive, but the colors were faded, matching the weary wrinkles upon his brow. 

“Sweet maiden, can you spare a crust for a poor beggar?” There was a hard glint in the little man’s eyes, a suggestion that if Oriana gave him anything, he’d be back for more. 

Her first inclination was to shut the door in his face. Her stepmother had warned Oriana against allowing tramps into her father’s castle. As far as the Lady Malina was concerned, such vagabonds were nothing but trouble. Just as she was convinced nothing good would come of her stepdaughter’s daliance with the Princess Blanche. It wasn’t as if Oriana could marry the girl, bettering Malina’s position at court. Since Oriana’s father passed away, her stepmother had her eye on the widowed king himself. It would hardly do if her stepdaughter was caught with the princess. Again. 

Why should I govern my life to please her? Oriana thought with some anger. Blanche and I only attract attention because we’re a striking pair, as fine as any man and woman together. Why should we be regarded with such distaste because we’re both girls. Too much was distasteful to the Lady Malina. It made Oriana question her judgment on all things including vagabonds. 

She decided to open the door a little wider, laying a finger upon her lips while meeting the beggar’s bright eye. 

“Come around the backway where the ivy gathers,” she whispered. “It’s the entrance to the kitchen. I’ll make you some porridge.”

She shut the door quickly and hurried away. 

****

The beggar appeared at the kitchen door, carrying a large square package flat enough to be a painting. 

“Many thanks, sweet maiden, many thanks.” He collapsed onto the kitchen stool near the hearth, stretching out his spindly legs. Faded yellow stockings clung to them. “I’m trying to find a home for the vain bauble I’m lugging around, but it’s fastidious about the company it keeps, yes, it is.”

“A vain bauble that’s fastidious about its home?” Oriana was intrigued, but kept her tone playful, scooping a generous portion of porridge from the cauldron. “It sounds almost like something enchanted.” 

“Oh ho, you’re a crafty one, you are!” He sat up abruptly and reached out to grab the bowl. “What I carry is indeed enchanted, a magic mirror, no less.” He drank down the contents in his dish with a noisy slurp. “It has exacting tastes, desiring a maiden of surpassing magical potential whom could be the fairest of them all.”

“The fairest of them all?” An image of Princesss Blanche’s snow-white skin, sapphire blue eyes framed by lashes as ebon as her hair came to mind. “Isn’t that a matter of taste in itself?”

“Oh, indeed, my crafty maid, quite!” He chortled into his empty bowl, setting it upon the table. “Ah, but this mirror can transform whomever looks within into the ideal she wishes to see. It will make its owner the fairest of them all, fair enough to stand tall among even those she feels unworthy of. You might say it gives confidence to its chosen, yes, it does.”

“Confidence to its chosen.” Oriana was unaware she’d repeated the words. She imagined gathering all the light of the sun into her body, making herself luminous, worthy of her name. Making the lovely princess turn to look at her, enslaved by her beauty as Oriana had been enslaved by Blanche’s at a glance. 

“I can see such confidence appeals to you, my crafty one.” The little man leaped down from her seat, eyeing her from head to toe. “I might be willing to give you this mirror, my dear. See if it takes to you, for a price.”

“And what price would this be?” Oriana arched her brow. This might well be a trick about to be played upon her by a vagabond. If so, he’d chosen the wrong girl. Whatever wealth Oriana might have possessed belonged to her stepmother. Her father had left everything to her. Perhaps he expected her to steal one of the Lady Malina’s jewels and give it to him. She couldn’t help smirking a little at the very thought. 

“Oh, how you smile, my dear! Do you think I mean to rob you?” The little man spun around in a circle. For a moment he seemed less dusty, less threadbare. Golden sparkles clung to his clothing, his toes. “No, all I ask is that you give me a cottage which lies in the Forest of Tears once you become queen.”

This made Oriana throw back her head and laugh out loud. “Is that all? Now you claim this mirror has the power to make me queen?”

“Oh, aye, it can give you beauty so spellbinding the king won’t be able look away!” The little man nodded with vigorous energy. “He’ll have to have you and no one else. Just as you have to have the Princess Blanche and no one else.”

The laughter died on her lips. Oriana stared at this impertient stranger who’d uttered the secret she’d never dared, a secret which could ruin her. “You presume a great deal, little man.”

“Oh, how fierce you get! Quite a queen you’d make, yes, you would!” The little man tapped his long nose. “An impoverished noblewoman can’t marry a princess, but a queen can do what she like, eh? A queen would be in a position to get very close to the princess and no one could say anything about it, could they?”

“By marrying her father?” The notion was twisted, but many considered a maiden desiring another maiden to be twisted. Perhaps it was time to embrace the twisted. “I have no wish to wed the king.”

“Ah, well, perhaps the mirror can give you beauty enough to catch the eye of the princess you desire.” The little man winked again. “Hang it in your bedchamber. Keep it safe and hidden, sneaking glances when you get the chance. Just see what happens. See what you change into.”

See what change into. The words sent a thrill of excitement through Oriana. 

“All right.” She gazed at the flat package. “I accept this mirror. If I do become queen, I’ll do as you ask. I’m not promising, however, that I will become queen. Is this acceptable?”

“O ho, quite acceptable, more than acceptable, it’s quite amusing!” The little man chuckled again and picked up the package, thrusting it at her. “Just wait and see, my dear. Gaze in that mirror and you’ll see the very beauty of the dawn you’re named for. Your princess will see the same.”

Oriana chuckled, not believing a word of this. Refusing to let herself believe a word of it, or to let herself feel her heart starting to beat a little faster. 

As if this mirror could give her beauty equal to Princess Blanche’s. Beauty powerful enough to ensnare her. 

Like the little man said, the thought was amusing in its seductiveness. She would laugh her out of it if she let herself take it too seriously. 

She wasn’t going to change that much.