Christopher stands amidst the mists of the Cauldron, rising and writhing around him.
A figure strides through the fog toward him, long, full skirts swishing with the clicking of tiny shells embroidered upon them. The same shells give off a faint gleam from the fishnet veil over the fedora on top of the woman’s head.
Christopher: Hello, ‘Brie. Won’t you take a seat?
A wooden chair appears, sitting in the mist a few feet from Christopher. Flowers, pumpkins, and a tragedy/comedy mask are carved into it.
Gabrielle stops and regards the seat.
Gabrielle: I like it, but the rest of this place is a bit gloomy, isn’t it? Let’s change the setting.
She does a twirl. Sunshine bursts out of the mist, revealing a blue sky. Gabrielle continues to spin.
Christopher finds himself standing in what appears to be a vineyard. Other bushes sport berries and flowers.
Gabrielle: (pausing for a moment) I do love a good garden, don’t you?
Christopher tries to move away from the bushes, but it’s too late. A blossom starts to wither. A berry rots. A grape shrivels within moments while the leaves on the vine dry and crack.
Christopher: ‘Brie…(he looks up, multicolored eyes swimming with a childish anguish)
She starts to spin again, a little faster. Her fedora and veil disappear, releasing her long golden hair. Her skirts darken into a lush forest green.
She stops spinning and raises her hands toward Christopher. Energy crackles within her fingers, a power he can hear and feel more than see.
A wreath of grape leaves appears upon Christopher’s head, matching the wreath which is now upon hers.
A fresh berry ripens to replace the one which rotted. A new blossom comes to full flower. The leaves on the vine stretch out, greener than ever. Tiny plants sprout out of the ground at Christopher’s feet.
Gabrielle: (raising a golden eyebrow, looking every inch a queen without any jewels, gold, or silver, just the bounty of the earth) The Empress’s crown. You might have seen something like it in Damian’s artwork. It can’t hold the corruption you carry back forever, but it can keep it in check for a time.
Christopher: (reaching up to touch the leaves in wonder) I’ve never heard of it.
Gabrielle: (allowing a grin of pure mischief to creep over her face) You wouldn’t. I just made it up.
She lets out a throaty laugh and seats herself in the chair Christopher gestured to, which transported itself to this new setting. A couple of pumpkins sit at her feet.
Christopher finds a chair waiting for him opposite his adopted mother. His traditional pattern of roses, thorns and bones writhe out of the legs and arms, only his seat is wooden, not stone.
Christopher: You’ve got to show me how you do that.
Gabrielle: (leaning back in her seat) Come, come, this is the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, Christopher! It’s not all that different from the Shadow Forest.
Christopher: All things are possible here. (Once again he reaches up to touch his wreath.) Even so, I didn’t think this was possible!
Gabrielle: All things are possible. Besides I know a trick or two. They have their price, but giving you the Empress’s crown is worth it, even if it’s just for this blog.
Gabrielle: (cocking her head) Why? Because you needed this moment. (She pointed upward with one finger.) Because you and I are in need of some fresh air.
Christopher: Why this particular setting, this look? Not that it doesn’t suit you.
Gabrielle: (blue eyes become a little dreamy, contemplative) I adore strong women, women who strive to improve themselves while sharing their magic. I’ve striven to be one.
Christopher: (blinking in surprise) You’re the strongest woman Damian and I know. Even the Lady Duessa respects your strength.
Gabrielle: (waves a hand and chuckles) Once you anticipate Duessa’s desires, she’s not that hard to impress. (Her smile fades into something somber.) I’ve had mentors who were far more difficult than she. They expected perfection.
Christopher: That sounds impossible.
Mist begins to rise from vines, climbing up and clearing. A bell begins to toll in the distant. A hill is revealed. A church or temple perches on top of the rolling green.
Christopher starts. Gabrielle closes her eyes with a look of pain creasing her brow.
Christopher: (gazing up at the church) ‘Brie, are we somewhere you used to live? Somewhere you miss?
Gabrielle: Miss? No. (She opens her eyes.) Haunted by? Yes.
The sky overhead darkens with clouds and oncoming night. The vineyard disappears.
Christopher and Gabrielle now sit in a courtyard. Only Gabrielle’s seat in upon a raised dais. Her skirts and gown have turned pure white. A long veil conceals her face.
Four pillars stand in each side of the courtyard. Four veiled figures move past Gabrielle. One lays a long fingered hand possessively upon her shoulder, just for a moment.
Veiled Figures: (in a soft sing-song chant) Heavenly directions. Guide us. Show our way through the darkness.
The four figures disappear.
Gabrielle: (reaching up to touch the spot where the figure laid her hand) Perhaps I should have become a direction like my mentors wished me to. Only I had no direction at the temple.
Christopher: What do you mean? (He sits up straight, looking around the courtyard in fascination.)
Gabrielle: Never mind. It’s no longer important.
She stands up, pulling back her veil, freeing herself from it. Her gown darkens, turning a rich ruby red. She lets out a throaty laugh and spins around in the courtyard.
Feathers start to fall from the sky, pure white feathers. Christopher catches one in his hand. It starts to blacken in his palm.
Gabrielle: That’s right.
She stares up at the falling feathers with a look of pure challenge. Her red robes become a black, high-necked tunic over dark trousers with black boots reaching up her calves. She takes a feather, points it at the sky.
It transforms first into a wand. A blade rips its way through the tip, changing the wand into a sword.
Gabrielle: Nothing remains the same. Nothing turns out how you expect it to, not exactly. There’s a purity even in the darkness you could never see. I challenge you with my life, Rafaella!
Christopher stares at his adopted mother as if he’d never seen her before. In a way he hasn’t. Not this side of her.
Gabrielle lowers the sword. Rust rapidly begins to coat it, only it’s not rust. It’s wood. The sword becomes a staff. The staff turns into a snake, writhing and hissing in her hand.
She drops it. The snake slithers off the courtyard in a huffy fashion.
Gabrielle: My mentor. One of the ones who expected perfection. She’s never had much of a sense of humor.
Gabrielle does another pirouette. Her severe dark attire vanishes. Skirts once more flare around her legs, clicking with tiny seashells as do the ones adorning the veil over her fedora.
The mists rise and the courtyard vanishes. Christopher and Gabrielle stand on a cobblestone street lined with shops and cottages. Over one dangles a painted sign of a rounded belly with a navel.
Gabrielle: (gazing around Omphalos fondly) Sometimes I think I left my home, but I haven’t. My home is here.
Christopher: I wonder if you’ll ever tell me your whole story.
Gabrielle: (winking at her son) I wonder if you’ll ever tell me yours.
Christopher: It’s still happening.
Gabrielle: As is mine, Christopher. (She walks over to the boy, slings an arm around his slim shoulders.) As is mine.
Mother and son walk toward the door of the Navel. Gabrielle opens it. The two of them go inside before the Cauldron’s mists take the street, the cottages, and the shops, enveloping them in gray whiteness.
Omphalos is gone for now, but it will be back.
It always comes back.
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