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.
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.