Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Madam Mousenip

Quartz squints at the little mouse perched with great dignity on the chair opposite him. 

Quartz: So you’re the mouse queen. (mutters under his breath) Another ruddy queen. At least this one is tiny.

Madam Mousenip: (letting out a fierce chitter of disapproval) Be more respectful, dwarf. With just one nip, I can transform that hideous countenance of yours into one of stunning beauty. 

Quartz: Eh? (blinks) Was that supposed to be a threat? (His beard bristles) And who are you calling hideous?!

Madam Mousenip: Or I could increase your ugliness a thousandfold. It’s your choice. 

Quartz: Ugliness!? (He smooths his beard into place, fussing his whiskers.) I’ll have you know some find my face quite…fun. (He paused, wrinkles his nose at his own words.) Gah, I’ve been spending too much time with Nimmie Not. 

Madam Mousenip: What was that? Did you just claim to have a fun face?

Quartz: Some think so. Anyway that was rude. Calling me ugly like that.

Madam Mousenip: And looking down at me, muttering under your breath wasn’t rude?

Quartz: Right. Guess I’ve got issues with queens, particularly ones with magic. Worked out of some of them, but I guess they still prick. 

Madam Mousenip: And I happen to have issues with human faces. 

Quartz: I’m not human. I’m a dwarf.

Madam Mousenip: That’s close enough to human. Human faces strike me as being quite hideous. I’m getting used to them, but they’re still a shock.

Quartz: That so? And what’s a beautiful face?

Madam Mousenip: A handsome muzzle, a strong pair of teeth, expressive whiskers, and above all, a fine pelt of fur. 

Quartz: I’ve got a fine pair of whiskers. (Once again he fusses with them.)

Madam Mousenip: (sniffing) They’re just not expressive enough. Curling or twirling your whiskers is an art. (She sighs, her own whiskers drooping.) My Mousetrick was so adept at twirling his whiskers. Cheesecurd said it was sinister, but I thought it quite charming. 

Quartz: You say he was adept at it. Did he tangle his whiskers or something?

Madam Mousenip: Indeed he did not! (drawing herself up with haughty offense) He’s just not around to twirl his whiskers any more. 

Quartz: He didn’t die, did he? Wouldn’t put it past that scribbler to kill the main character, though I doubt she’d do it in a romance. 

Madam Mousenip: No, he didn’t! Mousetrick got a happy ending in Seven Tricks. And I’m happy for him, though he deserved better.

Quartz: Did he now?

Madam Mousenip: (fur bristling) Are you trying to trick me into giving away a spoiler? 

Quartz: No, ma’am. This talk isn’t supposed to be about Mousetrick at all. This blog is for secondary characters.

Mouse Mousenip: (chitters in a fury) How dare you call me secondary? I am a queen!

Quartz: So was Oriana, yet she was a secondary character. In both Fairest and Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins. 

Madam Mousenip: I marvel that a queen would tolerate being treated as a secondary character.

Quartz: (mutters) Right. I was more a secondary character than Oriana in Fairest.

Madam Mousenip: I suppose one can only expect so much from a human queen. This Oriana was a human queen, wasn’t she?

Quartz: She thought she was. I had my doubts. She had magic, too, magic she wasted on curses. 

Madam Mousenip: You seem to dislike this Queen Oriana intensely. Is that why you’re being so rude? I remind you of her? 

Quartz: Aye, a bit.

Madam Mousenip: And how exactly am I like this human?

Quartz: You put on airs when someone frightens you. 

Madam Mousenip: Are you suggesting that your frighten me, dwarf?

Quartz: Aye. You wouldn’t have threatened to bite me otherwise. 

For a moment the mouse queen quivers with fury before slumping, all anger running out her. 

Madam Mousenip: Can you blame me? You’re much bigger. And you put out traps for my kind.

Quartz: Aye, I can see what you’re saying. No, I don’t blame you for being frightened. 

Madam Mousenip: Well. I suppose that’s as close to an apology as I can expect from you. In return, I’ll conceed that you had a point. I shouldn’t have called you ugly. Or hideous. Or threatened to bite you when we first met. 

Quartz: Suppose that’s as close to a peace offering as I can expect from you. 

Madam Mousenip: Good. (flicking her tail) I feel like we’re finally establishing a dialogue. Maybe you won’t set out traps. 

Quartz: Maybe you won’t steal food. 

Madam Mousenip: Hmmph! As if the humans deserved that sausage. Or that cheese. 

Quartz: Now who’s giving away spoilers? 

Madam Mousenip: It’s not as if I’m giving away much. Honestly, I don’t understand my prince. Why fall for a human? Even if that human could assume a smaller, more attractive shape?

Quartz: That was definitely a spoiler. 

Madam Mousenip: Squeak! I’d better run before I reveal any more!

(She leaps off the chair and scampers away.) 

To read more about Madam Mousenip (and Mousetrick’s) misadventures, go to…

Nine Star Press: 

https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon:

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279

#RainbowSnippets: Seven Tricks

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 different LGBTQIA+ snippets of story, go to…

For my own, Mousetrick will continue to speculate about the mysterious beauty of his dream in Seven Tricks…

Ah, he had to be a prince of some sort. Perhaps a prince of the wooden dolls? Some of the humans kept such poppets as toys or slaves. Not much of a royal title.

The beauty bared his teeth at me in a seductive show of defiance. Never had I seen such an enormous, toothy jaw.

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

Nine Star Press:

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon:

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279

Paula’s Prompts: Wednesday Words

On May 5, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving spicy food, an old bicycle, and a long nap.

This poem was the result…

Sleepy after consuming all that spicy food

I settle down to a long nap

Only to be disturbed by the rattling of an old bicycle

Turning the corner, accompanied by hooping and hollering

Intent on drawing as much attention as it can

No matter how reluctant we are to give it

I can hear the noise all the way in my bedroom

The death rattle of metal coming apart

The scream of the protesting pedals under crude laughter

Or are the pedals protesting at all? 

It’s been so long since I rode a bicycle

I still carry scars from the times I tried

Overlapping memories of the wind in my face

Enjoying the break as I coasted down a stretch

The noise from this bike rider keeps me from sleep

Something in his laughter makes my gorge rise

That spicy food isn’t nearly as good on the way up

How can anyone stand to listen to that rider?

The way his bike rattles as if it’s about to fall apart

Yes, I can hear its protests over the shouts

That bike makes me ache all over in sympathy

Reminding me that I’m still in one piece

Even if I’m not sure how long this will last

Better do what I can while I still can

While I’m still holding together, able to move

Move just a little closer to all I want to finish. 

Conversations with Christopher: Dyvian

Christopher wanders beneath trees, the ground beneath his feet sparsely covered with flowers. 

Christopher: Now I feel as if the Cauldron is becoming the Shadow Forest.

The trees open up into a clearing with a pond. Light sparkles upon the water’s surface becoming different colors. 

Christopher looks at a rose pink, deeping into red. He can almost see a person’s anger, their passion in the crimson. He gazes into the green to behold a love, nurturing other loves, allowing it to spread and grow, revitalizing everyone around it until the green began to yellow with fear and jealousy. He looked into the reflected blue of the sky, so wide, so encompassing. The blue darkens as it descends, going deeper, beyond the fallen tears into tenderness, wisdom, even more complex feelings until the hue itself is swallowed by darkness. Christopher watched the blue and the red overlap, becoming purple, passion and vigor melding with emotional depth. 

All of these colors, swimming and sparkling across the pond, are reflected in Christopher’s eyes. 

Christopher: It’s as if this place, this pool is a part of me. It’s the embodiment of Danyel and Tayel’s color game where different hues become character traits, aspects which might infuse a person. 

Dyvian: That’s because this is where the twins were born. Perhaps you were conceived here as well. 

Christopher turns to see Dyvian stepping out of the shadows of the trees. His white blonde hair is crowned with dark green leaves instead of flowers. He’s dressed in what seem like a black robe, but it’s actually a very dark green, shimmering with hints of color. 

Christopher: Were you born here as well?

Dyvian: (with a secretive smile) I was certainly reborn in this place. As was Damian. 

Christopher: (bows his head and shivers) Where is he? Did you and your shadow leave anything of him behind?

Dyvian: Shadows always leave something as you know only too well.

Christopher: Something. Not someone. Not the same someone. 

Dyvian: Change always brings a kind of death. Something has to end for something to begin.

Christopher: Damian didn’t end. 

Dyvian: No, he didn’t. My Leiwell suffers to this day from Damian’s continued existence. 

Christopher: It’s a suffering every shadow brings upon himself. Or herself. Themselves.

Dyvian: If the shadow is capable of such suffering.

Christopher: Are you capable of it?

Dyvian: Of course. I simply refuse to let my own pain interfere with my goals. 

Christopher: Acknowledging your own pain allows your goals to evolve. 

Dyvian: Or to be abandoned. Doubt can be a fatal thing when you’re bringing about a rebirth. 

Christopher: Is that what you’re doing, Dyvian? Bringing about a rebirth?

Dyvian: What do you think, Happily Ever After? 

Christopher: Creating a godling could be considered a rebirth. 

Dyvian: As could the creation of Danyel and Tayel. Who were you tryng to give a happy ending with them? Map and Ashleigh? Or yourself?

Christopher: Leiwell, perhaps? I was so angry with him. The cruelest thing I could do was to give him someone who could make him happy. 

Dyvian: Because happiness is fleeting? You’ve just admitted that the happiness you offer, your godhood is a lie.

Christopher: And yours isn’t?

Dyvian: Oh, I’m no god as your little Danyel reminded me. I’m much more of a devil, deceiving people into believing I’m a god. Only I never meant to deceive them. Did you?

Chirstopher: All I wanted was to get Damian back.

Dyvian: Instead you stole yourself back, only to be reborn as a concept. A misleading concept. 

Christopher: While you simply peddle misleading concepts. 

Dyvian: Seraphix and I mislead no one. Not one Follower. We gave them the means to become their own desires in return for faith and love.

Christopher: You mean you tempt your Followers into becoming their own temptations. 

Dyvian: Every god can become a devil, Christopher. Especially if they’re someone else’s god. Think about it. 

Steam rises from the pond. Colored flame leaps from the water’s surface, curling and flaring out. 

Dyvian lets his long heavy robe slide off to expose his naked body. He walks into the fiery water. The steam rises, surrounding both him and the pond, enveloping them. 

Christopher: (closes his eyes) As if you’d ever let me forget. No matter what you may twist rebirth into, it’s still a moment of hope. I have faith in Danyel and Tayel, faith that they’ll find the hope, even if I’m as lost as you are in the haze. 

He pauses to breath in and exhale. A plume of colored steam cuts through the haze, revealing a tranquil pool filled with shimmering light. There’s no sign of Dyvian. 

Christopher: We don’t have to stay lost, Dyvian. I hope you remember this. 

The pool doesn’t answer. 

Like my style of writing? Here is a link to my published works…

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

#RainbowSnippets: Seven Tricks

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 different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

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For my own, Mousetrick will reveal his cunning plans, wait, are they actually romantic designs?! in a snippet picking up where he left off in Seven Tricks…

What I wished for was a bit more romantic and complicated.

I’d had a dream involving our coming Christmas, but it wasn’t of me ascending the throne, oh no. I’d dreamed of an endless supply of tissue, scattered about the giant shrubbery humans insisted on covering with baubles.

Not that the shredded paper was what I desired, although there was enough for all my subjects, saving the king-size portion for myself.

No, what I wanted was the exquisite creature standing half in and half out of a giant box left open on the floor.

Wooden was he, keeping his arms and legs stiff and motionless in his bright red coat and green trousers. Wispy white hair stuck out of the crown on his head and square chin.

There you have it…love at first sight! Or would that be whisker-twitch? If you’ve seen The Nutcracker, you may be anticipating tragedy. Don’t worry, though…this is a romance! To read what happens next, go to…

Nine Star Press: 

https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon:

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279

#QueerBlogWed: The Offer, Part 2

On June 30, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a foul odor, a soft hum, and a job.

It spawned A Godling For Your Thoughts freebie story so large I had to break it down into parts. This is the second part…

“Godlings?” Danyel was baffled by Gryluxx’s words. Young gods? Where would anyone find such a thing? Well, it might be possible in the Shadow Forest but many godlings? 

  The humming returned, becoming a soft chuckle. 

   All you need is me

   Me, me, and lots of me. 

   “Godlings are coins, you little fool! Don’t you know anything about the currency?” Gryluxx lept to his feet, too outraged by Danyel’s ignorance to hide it.

    “The quick to toss insults are those to whom they apply,” Tayel growled, crossing his arms, mimicking Danyel’s posture. “Those desiring something should dress their words in courtesy.”

   “I may be rough in my speech, but I’m offering you what you desire, little Eye.” Gryluxx avoided Tayel’s gaze. “I’m here to offer you, both of you a job. A chance to earn enough godlings that your precious Leiwell never has to go crawling to our lord again.”

   These words froze Danyel in place. Images of Leiwell returning home; pale, weaking, trembling, unable to move after serving their lord. He hoped he and Tayel had freed him when they tore free a lost piece of their older brother who’d taken root in the Shadow Forest. He’d returned other pieces of Leiwell, enough to restore their brother a semblance of his strength, but what about the rest? What if Leiwell were to start serving their lord again as he wished to?

   “Strange since you seem to enjoy making others crawl,” Tayel growled, dropped his arms to seize one of Danyel’s hands. His own was icy cold. 

   “Is that what you want?” Danyel gazed down at Gryluxx below. “For us to crawl before you?”

   “Ha, ha, you’re too amusing, little Hand.” Gryluxx let out a forced chuckle, rubbing his hands together, and taking a step back. Danyel’s question seem to have caught him off guard. “I want to get to know you. I’m curious about you. I made the vest and breeches I’ve seen you running around in. I designed the boots for your delicate little feet, getting your measurements from our lord before I ever laid eyes upon me.” He fixed a beady eye upon Danyel. “I’ve fitted many a special order made especially for Leiwell which our lord has allowed no one else to see other than him.” He allowed his tongue to dart out of his mouth to touch his hairy upper lip. 

   Danyel swallowed, feeling the anger flare up in his belly, constricting his innards. 

   “Our lord talks about the residents of the Old Cottage constantly. The beautiful creatures living there with the power to make the impossible…tangible.” Gryluxx withdrew his tongue into his mouth and winked. 

   Yes, he’d done that, hadn’t he? Danyel thought of the rocks he’d picked up in the Shadow Forest, such a simple task. Only it shouldn’t have possible.

    “Our lord speaks of you so often, it’s impossible not to be curious.” Gryluxx waved a finger in a sly fashion at the twins. “He regrets that he hasn’t won your hearts, minds, and bodies the way he had his submissive, pliant Leiwell’s.”

   Danyel felt the growl escaping from his throat before he heard it. The rage was bubbling up in him, making him quiver. This was nothing like the quiet power of the Dance which absorbed the anger and violence of others, redirecting it. This was a helpless fury, vibrating through his body, shaking him with its desire to rend and tear. 

    *Danyel!* Tayel was in his head, soothing him with his cool presence, calming the vibration. *This creature wants our helplessness. He wants our pain and rage. I can sense this hunger in him, stirring at your open reaction. Don’t give him what he wants.*

   Danyel reached out to his brother, taking his hand in his, letting its coolness flow through his fingers, drinking down his calm. He breathed it in, letting it soothe him. 

  “Have you gotten what you want?” He straightened up, gazed down at the man whose bushy eyebrows were coming together in a scowl. “Do you think you’re getting to know us?”

  “How sweet the way you two support each other, like lovebirds with the same face.” Gryluxx pucked up his mouth as if he’d been sucking on a lemon. “You must have no need for anyone but each other, not even your older brother. You’d let our lord have him if it maintained your quiet little world where you can be together.”

   The temperature dropped, making Tayel’s hand feel like ice. Danyel pulled away to see his brother glowering at Gryluxx, eyes glittering once more. 

   “Leave.” Never had Tayel’s voice been colder. “Your stench is making the very air unbreathable.”

   “Oh, my, did I strike a note of truth?” Gryluxx grinned at Tayel, all fear gone. “I think I like you, my cute little perverts. My offer stands. Come to the last cottage at the end of the road if you’re interested in taking it. That cottage is not only my home, but my shop. I’ll be waiting.”

   After uttering his parting words, Gryluxx disappeared in a yellow-green cloud of smoke which reminded Danyel of the torches he’d seen leading up from…or down to…the tower’s basement. Only that had been beyond the Door. The foul odor intensified. 

   “Ugh!” Danyel waved his hand in front of his face. “Do evil wizards have to use such stinky magic?”

   “Foul odor, foul heart.” Tayel wrinkled his noise. “He may fancy himself the keeper of secrets, but his smell reveals all.”

  “Stinky or not, his offer did make me wonder.” Danyel looked down at their entwined hands. “If we took the job he’s offering, earned those godlings, maybe we could support ourselves without Leiwell’s lord.”

   “Danyel! You’re like a mouse who keeps wandering into the same trap, lured by the same cheese!” Tayel glowered at him. “Shadows lured you beyond the Door and almost devoured you, using Leiwell as bait. Word is spreading about what you can do, bringing predators sniffing out your weakness. Stop letting yourself be lured!”

   “Aren’t you a little tempted yourself? To find a way to free Leiwell from his lord?” Danyel turned to look directly into his twin’s eyes. “Don’t answer. I know you are.”

   “And I told you before, we can’t make Leiwell’s choices for him.” Tayel avoided his brother’s gaze but his lower lip trembled. 

   Danyel reached out to grab his twin’s chin with his hand, forcing him to look at him. “No, but we could do something to see that he had more choices than returning to his lord.”

   Tayel stared at him, the silver light dying in his eyes. He didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. 

   Danyel released his brother’s chin and dropped his own. “I want so badly to free Leiwell. I thought I had. Now I’m no longer sure. What if there any more pieces of him lost in the Shadow Forest? Pieces of Leiwell that his lord is keeping?”

   “You may never find those pieces, no matter how long and hard you look.” Tayel kept his voice soft, speaking in a more direct manner than he usually did. “All you may lose is yourself.”

   “I can’t stop trying, Tayel.” Danyel raised his chin and swallowed. “If Leiwell’s lord was worthy of his love, I wouldn’t feel so desperate. I just have this feeling that no matter how much that man believes he adores our brother, he’s going to use him up, swallowing every bit of him until there’s nothing left.”

   “And Leiwell may just let him, especially if he thinks it will help us along with his lord.” Tayel kept his voice low, yet it still trembled. 

   “If there’s any chance of saving him from this fate, I can’t ignore it.” Danyel caught Tayel’s hand, caressing his fingers. “Even if I distrust the one offering it.”

   Tayel sighed, not saying anything more. There wasn’t anything more to say. They both knew Danyel would be heading to that cottage, even if he went alone. 

   There was no way Tayel would let him go alone. Danyel sensed this, too, hating himself a little for the feeling of relief this certainty brought. 

   He didn’t want to face Gryluxx alone. Being separated from Tayel had been hard enough in the Shadow Forest. He didn’t want to do it again, even if he might be acting like a fool mouse, going to the cheese in the trap, even though he should know better. 

   This time he’d listen to Tayel before he reached too far. At least that what’s Danyel kept telling himself. Here’s hoping it was true. 

Conversations with Christopher: Duessa Part 2

Duessa Ashelocke stood in the shadow of an arbor covered with flowers, dressed in layers of black silk, slit along the side to allow for for her extra arms, hidden by flowing sleeves. She no longer peers through a veil while watching the boys playing in a garden surrounded by roses. 

Christopher stands at her side, dressed in a long black tunic with a vest and trousers. A tiny gold clasp in the shape of cup is at his neck. He glances from his silent companion to the boys running in the sunshine. 

One of them is Damian. The other is himself. The other boys are just shades, vague outlines he can hear and feel, chasing each other. 

Except for one. Dressed in the same short white tunic as Damian and Christopher, he weaves a crown of flowers. Rose petals are caught in his white hair. Older than the rest, he watches Damian and Christopher from under lowered eyelids. 

Christopher: Poor Dyvian. I don’t think I realized how alone he was in the Gardens of Arachne.

Duessa: Dyvian was the only one who remembered the time before the Gardens. Unlike you.

Christopher: I didn’t even remember Dyvian. Or the Gardens. 

Duessa: You were the perfect blossom, ready to spread your petals in our warmth. Raised by two women, innocent of male influence, you were able to start afresh and truly grow. All of us savored the experience of watching you ripen.

Christopher: I remember you watching. (He rubs his arms) It made me shiver, even though it was never cold in the Gardens. You frightened me, but I enjoyed the fear. The way you made me feel was somehow…delightful. 

Duessa: It’s our gift from Arachne, a gift we arachnocratic ladies offer our Marriage Feasts. It’s only natural to fear the predator who marks you as prey. We make certain our chosen morsels enjoy our anticipation of consuming you right along with us. 

Christopher: (turning to Duessa) Is that all it was?

Duessa: (glancing back at him from from four pairs of lowered eyelashes) What else would it be?

Christopher: Dangerous as you are, you’re extremely handsome. I found you very attractive. As much as I could find anyone attractive. 

Duessa: As attractive as you found my nephew?

Christopher: Damian isn’t really your nephew, is he? Any more than I’m Vanessa Ashelocke’s brother. 

Duessa: No. 

A young woman appears at Duessa’s other side, dressed in white robes to match the lady arachnocrat’s black ones. Only Vanessa only has two arms at this time, her long dark hair falling in curly waves down her back. 

Van doesn’t appear to even notice Christopher. Nor does she glance at Duessa. Her attention is fixed upon the two boys playing in the garden. 

Vanessa: You’ve got your eye on Christopher, don’t you?

Duessa: More than one. Can you blame me? Seldom have I been in the proximity of a more appetizing tidbit. 

Vanessa: Is that all he is to you? A tidbit?

Duessa turns slowly to look at the younger woman.

Duessa: And just what is he to you, Vanessa?

Vanessa: I did as you asked. You presented him to me as my new little brother. I saw his eyes and assumed this was the truth. 

Duessa: And what else did you assume?

Vanessa: That he was family. One of us. 

Duessa: He’s also a boy. A very beautiful boy, but one day he’ll grow up to be a man, unless we can save him from such a fate. 

Vanessa: Why did you ask me to treat him as my brother if all he was was a future Feast?

Duessa: How else were you to treat him?

Vanessa closes her eyes. Unlike Duessa, she has only two of them. This is a more human Duessa than the one Christopher last saw. 

Vanessa: I would have preferred not to love him, knowing you would eventually take him. 

Duessa: (smiling a little sadly) This is where you’re wrong, my dear. You should love your Marriage Feasts. Give them all the love in that one night you’d devote to a husband in a lifetime.

Vanessa: Only Christopher isn’t my Marriage Feast. He’s something else. Someone else. 

Duessa: What…who is he?

Vanessa: Someone gentle. Someone who makes me feel gentle myself. It’s nothing like what I felt for my older brother, Stefan. It’s far from what Redcrysse made me feel. 

Duessa: And how did Redcrysse make you feel?

Vanessa: Like his very presence was crushing me. I had to push it off, push through it in order to breathe. Only I couldn’t ignore that presence. I enjoyed Redcrysse’s touch, yet I hated it. Every time he did it, he was changing me, turning me into a toy, an object to be played with. I became less human each time he did it. If I was going to lose my humanity anyway, I preferred to be a monster, capable of devouring the one who did this to me. 

Duessa: (smile growing, showing a hint of fang) So did I, my dear. So did I. 

Vanessa: Damian inspires some of the same fear. Oh, I hunger for him every time I breathe him in. I want to catch him and hold him while he’s still young and beautiful. Crush him before he becomes something which could crush me. Perhaps it’s because he looks so much like Stefan. I fear what he’ll become. Best to gobble him up first. 

Duessa: Impatience only spoils the Marriage Feast.

Vanessa: So you say. Only there’s no impatience with Christopher. Just a heartbreaking sense that he’s somehow good. Too good for this Garden. Too good for me. (Tears glimmer in her rose-colored eyes.) I can’t explain it. He makes me want to be better, to be just as good for him.

Christopher (watching, listening, tears luminous in his own eyes) Oh, Van…

Only she’s already fading away. If she was ever there, standing next to Duessa. 

Duessa: She did love you. Vanessa Ashelocke might not have been your actual sister, but she loved you in a way I never did.

Christopher: No. (rubbing his eyes) She was my sister. I will always think of her as being my sister.

Duessa says nothing, simply bows her head in acknowledgment. 

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

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

#RainbowSnippets: Seven Tricks

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 different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

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

For my own, Mousetrick will continue where he left off last week in my Nutracker-inspired holiday tale, Seven Tricks

“Only by succeeding at seven tricks will you possess what you desire.”

She herself had become our sovereign through seven capers of her own, earning the name Mousenip for delivering tiny bites, which left cheese looking unscathed and humans whimpering. She’d nipped a human princess once. The bite turned the girl’s face into something so beautiful her people fainted at the sight of her. That was Madam Mousenip. Kind even to hideous giants.

I flicked my whiskers in humble acknowledgement of the Mouse Queen’s words.

In truth, winning the throne was what she desired, not I. 

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

Nine Star Press:

https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279

#QueerBlogWed: The Offer Part 1

On June 30, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt which involved a foul odor, a soft hum, and a job.

This freebie story for A Godling For Your Thoughts? was the result which I’m wondering if I can’t rewrite and insert into the body of the main story…it turned out to be so large, I had to break the story into parts. This is the first…

It was hard to hear the soft hum even as it tickled the inside of his ears, soothed the faint ache brought about by so many strangers talking, making noise, always around. As excited as Danyel was to meet the new residents of Omphalos, their presence was tiring. Everyone spoke in such a loud voice, thrusting their faces close, sometimes pinching Danyel’s cheek or his ear. No wonder Tayel and Map shrank away from their neighbors. 

     Take this voice, rising with shrill self-importance above the others, raw as a crow’s caw: “Little boys, little boys, you’d better listen to me!” 

     A foul odor filled the air, drifting up through the window sill from something or someone standing below the Old Cottage. 

     Wrinkling his nose, Danyel peered at the grimy window of the attic from which he and Tayel could see the world…only for it to swing open. 

    He leaped back, for the stench was almost overwhelming, filling his nostrils with dirt, dust, and all things rotting. 

     The odor came from a squat, oily-faced man dressed in long black robes with a neatly trimmed goatee on his narrow chin. A silver coin with a demon’s face upon it dangled from a chain around his neck. 

      The man looked up straight at the window and crooked a long finger brandishing a red ruby at him. “Come here, little Hand of Seraphix. I want to talk to you.”

     “What do you want?” Danyel shrank from the window. The last thing he wanted to do was get any closer to this man. “Why are you calling that?” 

     “Playing coy, are you? Seraphix itself has blessed with Its favor, did you think you could keep that to yourself?” The man grinned at him, baring yellow teeth. “To be touched by a godling leaves a mark, a scent, an odor which no one can miss, so deep is Its touch.”

     “Envy gnaws like a rat at a little heart.” Tayel stood at his side, eyes glittering with silver light as he glowed down at the evil wizard below, for that’s what the stranger seemed like. 

     The humming grew louder, soothing pulse. Danyel could hear the song within it, breathing words in a voice very like Christopher’s: 

Take care and be strong

Beware and hear the song

Learn from the raven’s caw

Listen and he’ll reveal

All the treasures he would steal

From the tower’s waiting maw.

     The song awakened the warmth within Danyel’s hand, sending a soothing calm through his entire body. He was no longer afraid. There was a reason for the stranger being below, things he and Tayel could learn from him, even if the stranger was up to absolutely no good. 

    “Who are you?” Danyel looked down at the grinning man below, the raven? His eyes were beady and sharp, like a predatory bird’s. “What do you want?”

    “Oh, that’s better, little Hand. Introductions first.” The man made a slight bow, his sharp eyes darting from Danyel to Tayel. “I have many names, but Gryluxx will do. You may call me Gryluxx. I have held many occupations, but the official one I hold in Omphalos is tailor.” He stood up and made a little spin, black robes swishing around him, showing a hint of calf covered with dark hair. “I was our lord’s tailor, but he brought me here to this village your mother is building to serve its needs and to serve Seraphix.”

  Their lord, of course this unpleasant stranger was here because of the lord. The lord who’d dominated and nearly destroyed Leiwell’s life, now needing cast his shadow over all life which had gathered here. 

   “You seem more like an evil wizard than a tailor.” The words slipped out before Danyel could think better of them. “Did you serve our lord in that capacity as well?”

    “Danyel!” Tayel hissed under his breath. It wasn’t wise to be rude to an evil wizard even if you were being honest. 

    “Oh ho, you cheeky brat! Here your twin was supposed to be the observant one!” Gryluxx stopped spinning and grinned again at Danyel, but his beady eyes were hard. “Take care how you address a powerful wizard. With one snap of my fingers, I could turn you and your brothers all into songbirds.” 

    “Those capable of true enchantment do not waste so much time on words.” Tayel looked down his nose at the interloper, his own warnings forgotten. “Do not waste any more of ours.”

    “Such cheeky brats. If I had you in my power, I’d teach you to respect it.” Gryluxx glowered at both of them. “Keep up this sassy attitude and I’ll just walk away, never giving you the chance to seize your heart’s desire.”

   “And just what do you think we desire?” Danyel crossed his arms and leaned against the window. Tayel was right. This man talked and threatened far too much to be truly scary. 

    “The same desire you used to open a Door to the Shadow Forest, becoming the Hand and the Eye.” Gryluxx waggled a knowing finger at both twins. “To save your beloved brother from hungry shadows and our loving lord alike.”

   Danyel stiffened. He could almost feel the chill fingers of the Door reaching for him, pulling him through into the waiting darkness, the darkness he’d only escaped by discovering the power within him. “How do you know about that?”

    Tayel made a low, growling noise. The silver gleam of his eyes spat unearthly light. “Choose your next words with care.” 

    Gryluxx stared at Tayel, swallowed. He fell flat upon his face and groveled, whimpering. “Sweet Eye, pretty Eye, I meant no offense. I simply know many things you might find useful.” He raised his head cautiously, not daring to look directly at the window. “For instance, it will take many godlings to save your brother, to keep Leiwell from his lord. More godlings than you possess.”

Conversations with Christopher: Duessa Part 1

Christopher walks by fountains, roses, fewer flowers than he remembers, fewer statues than he recalls. Everything is familar, including the grand estate he approaches. It’s no longer a ruin with roses climbing its walls. 

Two gargoyles lean over the stone steps leading up to the great wooden doors, glowering at visitors. One visitor in particular. A young woman dressed in white with a veil covering her auburn hair stands at the foot of the stairs. 

For a moment, Christopher doesn’t recognize her. Not with only two arms. 

Christopher: My Lady Duessa?

Duessa Ashelocke turns, for it is indeed she. Only two amber eyes look back at the slender youth approaching her. Lips far less red than the ones which once kissed him, sucking out his vitality, part in a wistful, all-too human smile. 

Duessa: Hello, Christopher. I see you’ve found this place along with my past self. 

Christopher: Your past self?

Duessa: I wasn’t always an arachnocrat. I had a wish. A wish that the Spider granted. 

Christopher: The Spider?

A spider crawls over a nearby bush, busy with its prey caught in the web. She wraps her cocoon around the butterfly, its colors vanishing into its sticky prison. 

Duessa: Juno once told me that the spider was female. She devoured her lover’s vitality without killing him or hurting him. This inspired the Marriage Feast. 

Christopher: (shivers) Damian always suspected that the Marriage Feast, the ritual every boy in the Gardens of Arachne went through was your idea. Not a decree of the Spider’s as Vanessa insisted. Or a condition to maintain the mists which protect the Garden. 

Duessa: Oh, Van didn’t lie. Those Feasts were Arachne’s decree. Along with a condition for maintaining the mists. Only I was the one who created that degree and that condition when I made a pact with Arachne. To gain power, power enough to save us from our lord. 

Christopher: Your lord? (Christopher looks up at the estate.) This looks like Castle Ashelocke, but it has no lord. 

Duessa: Oh, there was a lord until I devoured him. Lord Stefan Ashelocke was my first Marriage Feast. 

The gargoyles cracked, crumbled, falling in chunks. Duessa stood among them untouched. Her torso began to ripple. Two additional arms ripped their way out of her shift. She used them to tear the veil off her head. 

Two additional eyes open upon her face. They are rose-purple and hungry. 

Rose and thorn began to climb the ruined walls with rapid speed. 

Christopher turned around and ran. Ran away from the estate into the rose bushes. They lined a path which his feet took. He ran, turned, ran, turned, only to find himself in an open courtyard. 

At the center of it stood a beautiful man of stone, chin lifted, lips spread in a secret smile. 

Duessa knelt at the base, crumbled black skirts pooling around her, all four of her arms wrapped around the base. 

Christopher stops, giving the lady and her stone lord space. For it is Lord Stefan Ashelocke’s statue Duessa clings to. Only it’s more than just a statue. It’s all that remains of Duessa’s husband after the Marriage Feast. It’s all that remains of any boy after a Marriage Feast. 

Duessa: (lifting her head to look up at Stefan’s immobile white face) I became an arachnocrat once I devoured my husband. Once I did, the mists came to surround the Gardens. 

Christopher looks up at the clear blue sky. 

Duessa: (rising to her feet) The sun always shone in the Gardens while the mists kept all trouble away. Only the ones who wished to be part of my court found us. 

Christopher: Your court?

Duessa: The arachocratic court. (She reached out a hand.) Do you wish to see? 

Christopher: (glancing down at his fingers) I promised this hand to another.

Duessa: You were mine before you were Damian’s. (She let out a light laugh.) Or perhaps you were always his. You belonged to someone else before either of us. Do you wish to see them?

She gestures to the path behind Christopher. 

Christopher turns slowly to see mist rolling down the hedge, swallowing the flowers on either side. 

Out of the mists walk a couple of hooded women. Each holds the hand of a small boy with a tousled head of coppery-golden hair. 

Christopher: (gazing at the child in astonishment) Me?

Duessa: You. (She smiles at the two women.) Welcome to the Gardens of Arachne. What do you offer the Spider?

Both women tensed at the sight of her. 

Woman 1: (tightens her dark fingers around Christopher, muttering) We’re not here to offer anything. We just got lost. 

Duessa: (nodding) Perhaps you did. This child, however, belongs to the Spider. This child needed to find the Gardens. 

Woman 1: As if!

Woman 2: Wait. Let him decide. 

Duessa: (kneeling in rustling taffetta to look into little Christopher’s face) You’re an Ashelocke. I can tell by your eyes. 

The small boy with the heart-shaped face looks at her with eyes as rose-purple as her second pair. He nods. 

A second boy appears behind the statue of Stefan, an exquisite little boy with black curls dressed in black velvet and a starched white lace collar. He has the same rose-purple eyes fixed almost hungrily upon Christopher. 

Christopher: (the older version) Damian.

The little boy runs forward, past his aunts. He makes a quick bow to the two women. 

Damian: Don’t worry. I’ll take care of him. Always. 

This promise makes the second woman relax a little, but not the first. 

Duessa: My nephew is lonely. (She glanced down with a slight smile at Damian) He seems to have taken to this boy you’ve brought us. 

With slow hesitation, the child Christopher slips his hands free of the two women to move closer to Damian. 

The first one lets out a low cry, only to have her companion pull her back into the mists. 

Duessa: It was a mistake to let go of her so quickly, Christopher. Not if you wanted to remember her. 

The mists and the women disappear. The rose-lined path appears once more, leading out of the courtyard. 

Christopher, the older Christopher spun around to face Duessa. Shock and anger play across his face. 

Duessa: (nodding slowly) Your life, your past, everything about you changed, Christopher. You became an Ashelocke. Our Ashelocke. 

The young Damian took one of the young Christopher’s free, trembling hands in his own. 

Slowly, hesitantly, little Christopher smiled back at him. 

(To be continued next Monday…)